Why the Easter story is different from the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears

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I’m not fussed about porridge. In fact I prefer my breakfast oats to be softened up with some fruit juice rather than warm milk. So I’d be unlikely to eat someone else’s porridge, like Goldilocks.

Not that anyone believes the story of Goldilocks actually happened.

Though I guess there is a moral to the story: don’t leave your porridge unattended (especially if you are a bear).

That’s the thing about stories like that. Whether or not they actually happened, you can draw some kind of lesson from them.

And I guess we can draw plenty of insights from the Easter story too:

  • Friday presents the contrast between the triumph of  jealous hatred and the fragile beauty of forgiveness;
  • Saturday allows us to reflect on the silence of dashed hopes and disillusionment;
  • And Sunday comes to mean the renewal of hope and the eventual triumph of goodness.

Life itself is full of metaphor: as I write, the apple tree in our garden has begun to blossom – new life for a new season, no matter how dull and dreary the winter may have been.

But Easter is more than metaphor. And while it is not less than the lessons of forgiveness, hope and goodness, it has to be more than them too. For one thing, those virtues of forgiveness, hope and goodness are not abstract concepts: they are embodied in the person whose story is celebrated at Easter.

For another, the New Testament writers are at pains to emphasise the reality and physicality of the Risen Christ. They were not inventing a story to teach moral lessons, they were reporting what had been seen and heard.

Take the fish.

The one Luke talks about in Luke 24. As Jesus suddenly appears to his startled disciples, he tells them that he is no ghost. ‘Touch me and see,’ he says – words that took on particular relevance in John’s account of Doubting Thomas. A ghost does not have flesh and bones.

It was still a bit hard to believe. But the disbelief was not the bitter disbelief of cynicism: it was the too-good-to-be-true disbelief of joy (see Luke 42:41).

At which point Jesus asks for something to eat? Was he hungry (three days is a long time without food)? Or did he just want to underline the point that he had physically risen from the dead?

Whatever the reason, New Testament writers such as Luke, Paul and John seem pretty convinced about what was seen and heard: to the point that Paul was prepared to say that if Christ is not risen, our faith is in vain.

As the Nicene Creed puts it,

[The Lord Jesus Christ] was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered and was buried.
The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.

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