The King of Kings and the king under the car park
It may be that the Easter story takes on a special significance for us in Leicester this year. In the story, Jesus is laid in a tomb and three days later those who were closest to him discovered the body missing. The tomb could not contain Jesus. His presence, his spirit and his very life continued to make itself felt and, 2,000 years later, Christians feel and experience that life and seek to share it with others.
Unexpectedly, this year the story of our city seems to be almost intertwined with the story of a body and with a debate about the kind of tomb he should be laid in.
This newspaper has reflected that debate and shown us how deeply felt are the views people hold about where Richard III should lie and how his grave should be marked.
Rationally speaking, these are simply the last fragmentary remains of an individual whom none of us knew and whose story belongs to the remote past. Why then such passion, indignation and desire to signify his life and his death in a particular way?
Presumably, because in some way the spirit of Richard III lives on. In some way his short life is not extinguished by his death. In some way his life and his story have meaning beyond the grave.
If that is true for Richard III, Christians believe it is true for every human being. Our life is not defined and contained simply by the short span of time on this Earth.
Through the Easter story, we are given a picture of the highest possible degree of human living as seen in Jesus Christ. In him, the gap between what it is to be human and what it is to be divine was bridged. The love of God shone through him undimmed and undistorted.
The extraordinary conviction of the first followers who found the tomb empty was that a life lived so close to the love of God could not be extinguished by death. Further, they came to believe if this was true for Jesus Christ it is true potentially for every one of us who seek to live the loving life he led.
I welcome the debate about Richard III and his final resting place. It is a reminder to us all of the ultimate significance and dignity of every human life, including those who are not kings or whose names do not appear in the newspapers.
If Easter is true it is true for every one of us. Our life extends beyond the grave into an eternal life with God.
When Richard III is reinterred in Leicester Cathedral, that truth will be affirmed and celebrated as the truth about King Richard and as the truth about us all.
A very happy Easter to you all.
By the Rt Rev Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester