CHOSEN READINGS: Acts 10: 34-43. 1Corinthians 15: 1-11. Gospel. St John 20: 1-18.
PREFACE: In Johns Gospel we find a reference to, “The Disciple Jesus Loved”, many Theologians recognise this disciple as John the Gospel writer. Jesus loved all his followers, but it’s accepted as the indirect way John chooses to refer to himself.
THOUGHTS: May I preface with a quote from Archbishop Michael Ramsey’s book ‘The Resurrection of Christ’?….“In the resurrection the new world of the Holy Spirit touches the old world of the flesh, but touches it as a tangent touches a circle, that is, without touching it”.
Perhaps, more obviously, the Gospel of John’s account contains vivid details that are likely to have come from eyewitnesses, adding weight to its authenticity. For example, we are told that the beloved disciple outruns Peter and gets to the tomb first, probably because he is younger. We are also given the actual Hebrew word that Mary Magdalene uses to address Jesus, “Rabbouni”, and very precise details about the cloth which had been round the head of Jesus, rolled up separately from the rest of the grave clothes….The people in the Gospel come across as authentic characters, which seems to fit what we know of them from elsewhere. Peter, impulsive as ever, rushes straight into the tomb, while John the beloved disciple holds back…. Mary Magdalene’s deep attachment to Jesus, fits with Luke’s (8:2) account that Christ healed her from some demonic affliction. The description of her behaviour seems very authentic, for it is what would be expected of someone in deep distress. All she can do when talking to angels, and Jesus himself, is repeat the same concerns she expresses to the disciples, about wanting to know where her Lord’s body is, unable to focus upon anything other than her fear that grave robbers have stolen his remains….She also stays beside the tomb weeping even when the disciples return home. Her tears obscuring her vision, possibly contributing to her failure to recognise the unexpected return of the risen Christ.
Then there are the details that would surely not have been included if the story had been invented. The future leaders of the Church are described as not understanding the scripture that jesus would rise from the dead….Hardly a glowing description for these, would be, pillars of the faith. Also, as a woman’s testimony was not taken seriously back then, it is unlikely that anyone would invent a story in which the first witness to the resurrection was a woman.
Details yes, but details which give good reason to believe in the resurrection. Christ’s appearance can’t just be explained away as some sort of mass hallucination just because the tomb was empty! Quite obviously, neither has his body been stolen. For what grave robber of the period would take the time to neatly roll up the grave cloths? And what explanation could there be for the transformation of the disciples? They are previously described (Jn 20: 9) as neither expecting the resurrection, nor understanding Christs teaching about it, yet these timid unbelieving men went on to preach the resurrection, convinced enough to risk and give their lives to evangelise it’s message.
The resurrection is central to our faith. It means Jesus was and is the Son of God and has power over sin, death, forgiveness and reconciliation, with the spiritual power and capability to be with us here and now. Enabling us all to proclaim with confidence this Easter – Alleluia! Christ is risen….He is risen indeed, Alleluia! Amen