I can remember when our children were young, we would take them into Nanna’s garden on Easter Sunday, then armed with small baskets they would go on an Easter Egg hunt, discovering as they travelled small eggs that the ‘Easter Bunny’ had left. Sometimes, a symbol becomes stronger than the reality it is there to explain. It can be difficult for parents and grandparents, with the story of the bunny and chocolate, to explain that the real reason for Easter Sunday is the resurrection of Jesus. Someone recently explained to me that many British children think that Easter Sunday is the celebration of the Easter Bunny’s birthday.
I have been trying to work out if this actually counts as ‘fake news’? President Trump has been popularising the idea in his Tweets, objecting to the work of journalists; then UK politicians have been catching on, using the label to describe something they don’t agree with. However, on Face Book and other internet sites, it seems so easy to fall for fake news. There are all sorts of fake news stories out there, covering everything from politicians to the Pope!
Fake news can be: false information deliberately circulated ignoring truth, but with the hope of pushing extreme political causes. Or, it can be information that journalists spread unknowingly. It may also be, an unintended error which moves into the popular mind. Do you remember the headline ‘Freddy Star ate my hamster’? That never happened! The important thing about any story is whether it can be verified or not. This can only really be accomplished by our checking the evidence in a number of places and taking time in doing so.
Now, when Jesus of Nazareth died on a cross and rose from the dead, which is the basis of what Christian believers call ‘Good News’; there were some, who were keen to promote a different story, 1st Century fake news, as it were. There were soldiers guarding the tomb of Jesus and when the resurrection happened they fainted with fear, but afterwards the soldiers told another story. ‘Some of the soldiers guarding the tomb went back to the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened. The chief priests met with the elders and made their plan; they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers and said, ‘you are to say that the disciples came during the night and stole his body while you were asleep. And if the Governor should hear of this, we will convince him that you are innocent, and that you will have nothing to worry about.’ The guards took the money and did what they were told. And so that is the report spread round … to this very day.’ Why not read the account and decide for yourself whether this is good news or fake news? It is found in Matthews Gospel Chapter 28. Happy Easter! Christ is risen!