Back in 1917, two cousins lived in a town called Cottingley in England. Their names were Elsie and Frances – Elsie was 16, and Frances was 10. Frances’ mum told her never to play down by the river that was nearby their house but Frances disobeyed and went there anyway. One day, she slipped and got her feet wet. When she went home, her mum was very cross, and asked her why she’d gone down to the river. Frances answered that she’d gone down there to see the fairies! Of course, no-one believed Frances, but her cousin Elsie said that she’d seen the fairies as well! Later that day, the girls borrowed Elsie’s dad’s camera and went into the woods and, later, they developed this picture:
(Do a Google Search for “The Cottingley Fairies”)
Soon, people were discussing the girls’ pictures across the country – some people believed them, and some didn’t. The girls were clear though – they really had seen fairies and had taken pictures of them.
(Ask) Who here believes the girls?
But, in 1982, 65 years after they took the photographs, the girls, now old ladies, admitted that they’d faked the pictures, and that the fairies were just dolls that they’d stuck to the logs.
Have you ever tried to convince someone that something ordinary was something much more exciting?
We can read in the Bible about how a group of people did the opposite thing – they tried to convince everyone that something extraordinarily amazing was something else – and it happened just after Jesus died…
1The Sabbath was over, and it was almost daybreak on Sunday when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2Suddenly a strong earthquake struck, and the Lord’s angel came down from heaven. He rolled away the stone and sat on it. 3The angel looked as bright as lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4The guards shook from fear and fell down, as though they were dead.
5The angel said to the women, “Don’t be afraid! I know you are looking for Jesus, who was nailed to a cross. 6He isn’t here! God has raised him to life, just as Jesus said he would. Come, see the place where his body was lying. 7Now hurry! Tell his disciples that he has been raised to life and is on his way to Galilee. Go there, and you will see him. That is what I came to tell you.”
8The women were frightened and yet very happy, as they hurried from the tomb and ran to tell his disciples. 9Suddenly Jesus met them and greeted them. They went near him, held on to his feet, and worshiped him. 10Then Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid! Tell my followers to go to Galilee. They will see me there.”
11While the women were on their way, some soldiers who had been guarding the tomb went into the city. They told the chief priests everything that had happened. 12So the chief priests met with the leaders and decided to bribe the soldiers with a lot of money. 13They said to the soldiers, “Tell everyone that Jesus’ disciples came during the night and stole his body while you were asleep. 14If the governor hears about this, we will talk to him. You won’t have anything to worry about.” 15The soldiers took the money and did what they were told. The Jewish people still tell each other this story.
So, the two girls in our first story saw something ordinary – a few dolls in a forest – but they made it out to look amazing! Meanwhile, in the story of Jesus’ resurrection, the guards saw something amazing – Jesus was back from the dead! But they spread a story that made the amazing out to look ordinary. However, as Jesus started to show Himself to the people around about – more than 518 – their story started to look a bit suspect.
Please remember this Easter that the Easter story is amazing! We talk about it so much that we forget that it’s incredible, and not made up – but those things are true! This is not the made-up story of a couple of English schoolgirls, or even a group of fishermen 2000 years ago – this is true! God’s son, raised to life, at Easter, for us!