Well I have thunk my thoughts… Four Wednesdays in a row starting at what-in-the-world-o’clock for Thought For The Day live from the Beeb!
Have a guess if this statement is true or false: I’ve been in trouble with the law this past week. Now some of you are thinking – might be true, he sounds a bit dodgy. Some of you are thinking – never! that wee innocent minister with his Honesty Box cafe?
So let me give you the details: I was driving home, late at night. Long hard day at work, ready to collapse, but I realised I was about to run out of petrol. Just made it to the petrol station, and as I turned back out on to the main road there was a ‘No Right Turn’ sign. But there wasn’t a soul to be seen on the road at that hour of the night – so i turned right. And then – the dreaded flashing blue lights in my mirror. Nicked, fair and square!
So what do you think now, True or false? I’m willing to bet you all believe now that it is a true story (and it is!) – and it’s the details that convinced you. The practical details – the long day, the late night, the petrol station, the road sign – but also the psychological details – you can put yourself in my shoes at the end of a hard day, weighing up the small risk of disobeying the sign against the strong call of a comfy sofa and a cup of tea.
That’s how we mostly decide if a story is true – when not just the physical practical details add up, but when it feels true psychologically, when people act and react in realistic ways.
The Easter story is the biggest ‘True or False’ in the whole of history. Did Jesus rise from the dead? – if it’s true, everything changes; if it’s false, we’ve wasted a lot of time and energy for the last 2000 years. But to me, the stories of the people who witnessed and walked through the first Easter absolutely have that ring of truth.
The physical details add up – the dates, the places, the timescales – but more than that, the people involved react the way I think I would react if someone who had died was alive again. There’s no sudden acceptance, no-one just says “oh! well that’s all right then”. We’re told that the women who find the empty tomb are “trembling and bewildered” and say nothing to anyone because they are afraid. Thomas demands physical proof, to touch the nail marks in Jesus’ hands and side. Even as Jesus barbecues breakfast on the beach, the disciples don’t dare ask “Is it really you?”
As the story progresses, as they become convinced, I become convinced. But in case I’ve lost all credibility now you know my criminal past, answer for yourself: Jesus is alive – death is defeated – love has won… amazing, shocking statements – can they be true?