So, unless we’ve been living in a cave for the last week, we’ll know the earth-shattering news that David Moyes is no longer the manager of Manchester United. Well, it’s probably earth-shattering to Mr Moyes.
After Sir Alex Ferguson hand-picked him as his successor, he was dubbed ‘The Chosen One.’ The messianic overtones were unmistakeable. Now, of course, he’s The Sacked One. The great hope of continued, and greater success, evaporated quicker than Aston Villa’s hopes of being anything other than mediocre (can you spot my team in there?). And now the great Man Utd folk hero, Ryan Giggs, has stepped up to lead the team for the final few matches. And now there is hope again. The change has been made, and now comes the expectation to play ‘the Man Utd way’ (whatever that is).
While this was going on, I was preparing to preach on John 20:19-23. It is the evening of the resurrection, and we find the disciples locked up in a room out of fear. Mary had reported seeing the risen Jesus, and Peter and John had witnessed the empty tomb, but still they were terrified and confused. All their hopes had rested on Jesus; they thought he was the Messiah. But the Messiah looked like he had failed. That wasn’t in the script.
This was a movement dead on its feet. The religious leaders knew what they were doing when they went to the Romans for Jesus’ execution. They didn’t just want Jesus dead, they wanted him humiliated. They wanted his followers, anyone who had held out any hope in him, to know that there was no hope. There was no going forward beyond the cross.
But then came the empty tomb, which changed everything.
And into that locked, fear-filled, stood Jesus. And to this group of men who had run away, even denied him, Jesus showed the nail marks and declared peace to them. And then he said this: “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” (John 20:21)
For me, this is one of the proofs of the resurrection. This group of broken, humbled, sorrowful men and women would be the messengers of God’s kingdom and Jesus’ death and resurrection. They would change the world through their message of God’s love and forgiveness in Jesus. What could have changed them so dramatically except for something extraordinary? Only the resurrection provides a satisfactory answer.
Maybe Ryan Giggs can turn Man Utd’s season round at the end; maybe a new manager can ring the changes. But it’s only Jesus who can change the world, only his death and resurrection that can make us right with God. Amongst all the false messiahs, all the things we put our trust in and think will satisfy us, amongst all that the world offers, there’s only one who is the real deal – the one who is the way, the truth and the life.