EASTER SUNDAY (27 March 2016)
Gospel notes by Michael Whelan SM
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.” (Luke 24:1-12 – ESV)
All four Gospels are remarkably similar in their accounts of the resurrection. Luke, like the other three Gospels, emphasizes that it is very early in the day – see Mark 16:2, Matthew 28:1 and John 20:1. Luke, like John 20:1, gives a brief mention to the stone being rolled away; Mark 16:3 and particularly Matthew 28:2, are much more concerned about the stone.
they went in: Luke is emphatic here. Perhaps he is emphasizing the credibility of the woman as witnesses – a credibility that is impugned later by the men when the women tell them what they have witnessed. The men say “these words seemed to them an idle tale”. Actually this translation does not do
justice to the originally Greek word used. Johnson explains: “Although it resembles the theme of the incredulity of Thomas in John 20:24, this note is
distinctive to Luke, as is the strange remark in 24:41 that they “disbelieved for joy.” The term lēros (“nonsense”) could scarcely be more condescending. It forms the basis for the English word “delirious.” There is a definite air of male superiority in this response. We remember from 9:45 that the disciples could not grasp the fact that Jesus had to suffer, and were afraid even then to ask Jesus about ‘his word’, just as now they refuse to hear ‘these words’.” (Op cit, 388.)
they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus: Only Luke is explicit about this detail – the body was not there! The other Gospels are more implicit and indirect, nonetheless communicating the same message.
the Lord Jesus: “The title ‘Lord Jesus’ is omitted in some mss, but is probably original. Luke likes to use ‘Lord’ of Jesus in the narrative (e.g., 10:1; 11:39). The title kyrios is particularly associated with the resurrection in early Christianity (e.g., 1 Cor 12:3; Phil 2:11), as we see from Acts 2:36. Luke will use ‘Lord Jesus’ again in Acts 1:21; 4:33; 8:16.” (Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke, The Liturgical Press, 1991,386-387.)
they were perplexed about this: It is worth noting that the fact of the empty tomb of itself does not lead to faith. That fact must be interpreted. Indeed, it must be set alongside the appearances of Jesus – see Luke 24: 35 & 36, Matthew 28:9 & 28:16-20, Mark 16:9-19 and John 20:14-17, 19-23, 26-29 & 21:1-23.
they remembered his words: “Like the rehearsal of the prophecy itself, this is unique to Luke’s account. Something more than “prophecy/fulfillment” is at work here. The words of Jesus are regarded as critical for understanding the events, providing a first interpretation that shapes their very perception.” (Luke Timothy Johnson, op cit, 388.) See the note above on the disciples’ dismissal of “words” from the women.
The Australian Jesuit, Gerald O’Collins, writes: “Christianity began with a very specific message: the crucified Jesus had been raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:3-5; Acts 2:22-24) to become the effective Savior (Romans 4:25) and ever-present living Lord of the world (Romans 10:9; 14:9; 1 Corinthians 12:3; 16:22; Philippians 2:8-11). The entire New Testament was written in the light of this new faith. Redemption from sin and the risen life to come depended on Jesus’ personal resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17), a reality on which all Christians agreed (1 Corinthians 15:11; Acts 2:32) and which structured their very account of God (1 Corinthians 15:15; Galatians 1:1). They recognized that if they were wrong about Jesus rising from the dead, they would be the ‘most pitiable’ of all people (1 Corinthians 15:19) and could only grieve like all those ‘who have no hope’ (1 Thessalonians 4:13).” (Gerald O’Collins SJ, “The Resurrection of Christ”, Joseph A Komonchak et all, Editors, The New Dictionary of Theology, Gill and Macmillan, 1987/1990, 880.)
On Easter Day we celebrate the very heart of our faith: Jesus has risen! The liturgy of Easter Day is the central liturgy, it is the source of everything else we are and do as Christians. Any moral vision, any belief, any law that we might develop as Christians, must ultimately find both its energy and direction from the resurrection.
The Christian life is the life of Christ. St Paul says, “I live now, not I but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:19); John says, “Abide in my love” (John 15:10); Luke says the two disciples on the road to Emmaus “recognized him in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:35); Matthew says, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters you do to me” (Matthew 24:31-46); the Acts of the Apostles says, “the whole group of believers was united heart and soul” (Acts 4:32).
Pope Benedict reminds us in the opening words of his first encyclical, Deus caritas est: “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” We could also add, “Being a Christian is not the result of an argument”. St Paul told the Philippians that “Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Philippians 3:12). We are urged to live so that Christ Jesus can take hold of us.
Let Jesus’ resurrection come alive in your heart and mind. Pray for that. Contemplate that. Seek that in your days. In Luke’s Gospel we hear the angels in the empty tomb speak the most amazing words: “He is not here, he has risen”. Repeat those words frequently in the coming days. He is risen!