This weekend is Saturday the 19th and Sunday the 20th of April. Easter Day.

The University of Johannesburg choir sing Ukuthula; Peace in this world of sin the blood of Jesus brings. Redemption in this world of sin the blood of Jesus brings.

Imaginative contemplation is a way of getting to know and even meeting Christ in the gospels.  The ultimate goal is personal encounter with him.  Take your time with this kind of prayer – don’t rush off at the end.  God is in no rush, so stay and share with Him as much as you need to.

First we familiarise ourselves with the passage.

Spend a minute letting God look at you or be with you in any way that God wants.

Notice how you are at the start of prayer: what is on your mind? What is in your heart? How is your body today? Acknowledge how you are before God.

What are you seeking in this prayer? Do you want to taste the joy of Jesus risen? You may need to put aside your own preoccupations for a while in order to enter more fully into this time of prayer.  Ask God to know something of the joy of Jesus.

Our scene begins as night gives way to the first light of dawn and the two women are approaching the tomb where Jesus was placed on the Friday. Notice these shadowy figures as they make their way to visit the body. Put yourself into the scene and walk with them... It might be that you are one of the women. You might find it more natural to watch from a discreet distance. So, where are you in this scene, and who are you? What do you see? The women. How they are moving. The sky with signs of dawn. The surroundings as you enter the garden where the tomb lay. Do you notice the sound of birds beginning their morning song? What other sounds are there?What are you wearing? How do your clothes feel? And the temperature? Smell the air on this new day. Do you notice the mood? How are these women feeling as they make their way to the corpse of the one they loved? How are you? Take your time with all of this.

Then something happens which Matthew’s gospel depicts in dramatic terms - an earthquake and the appearance of an angel. For you is this a literal happening or a metaphor? What is going on inside you? An angel rolling away the stone and sitting on it - a face like lightning - a robe white as snow. What are you experiencing here? What is happening in you? And then the angel speaks to the women in familiar terms: “There is no need for you to be afraid.” How does the angel say these words? “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.  He is not here, for he has risen, as he said he would.” How are they – and you – reacting to this revelation?

Then, the invitation to see the place where he lay. In your own time, go to the entrance of the tomb, place your hand on the rock, look inside. What do you see? What do you not see? What is the feel of that place?

The angel continues with instruction to go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has risen from the dead and now he is going before you to Galilee; it is there you will see him.’  Now I have told you.” How is all this said? How is it affecting the women? “Filled with awe and great joy the women came quickly away from the tomb and ran to tell the disciples."

So the women depart at speed. What about you? Do you go with them or watch them go? How are you moved or not by what has just happened? 

It’s not over yet.  Before they even leave the garden they run into Jesus himself, coming to meet them. Watch this encounter - don’t try too hard to see Jesus.  You may only get an outline or a sense of him. What look does he give the two Marys? How do they look at him? Can you tell what this is like for him? He greets them. “And the women came up to him and falling down before him, clasped his feet.” Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers that they must leave for Galilee; they will see me there.” You hear this instruction being given - what are you noticing about Jesus? 

These events happen in a cascade - most of us would need more time to process what has happened here. We cannot rush our own experience of the resurrection. Why not go back to any part of this event where something important was going on for you and stay there a while longer?