Easter Sunday is the climax of the gospels and of the Church’s year. The gospels show remarkable consistency in their accounts of the events of Easter Sunday. Firstly, Mary Magdalen in John’s gospel, the women, in the other three gospels, find the tomb empty. Secondly, Peter visits the empty tomb; and thirdly, later in the day, Jesus appears to the disciples.
The “very early” and “while still dark” indicate sometime between 3 and 6 am. The Sabbath ended the week, as in the first Creation Story in Genesis, (2,3). The “first day of the week” was the day after the Sabbath. Later, in the apostles’ preaching and the creeds, Easter Sunday also came to be called the “third day,” i.e after his death.
John names only Mary Magdalen as going to the tomb. Matthew names two women and Mark and Luke name three. John does not tell us why Mary came to the tomb, nor mention anointing the body of Jesus, as Mark and Luke do.
John, while not mentioning the sealing of the tomb with a stone at burial, here mentions the stone being moved away from the tomb. According to John, Simon Peter and the other disciple accompanied Jesus during his passion, even if Peter did disown him. It is fitting, therefore, that they should be first to hear about Jesus’ body being missing and to come to believe in the resurrection.
Although outrun by the beloved disciple to the tomb, Peter’s getting priority of entry to the tomb acknowledges his special position among the apostles. On entering the tomb, he sees the cloths used to wrap Jesus’ body. At burial the body was probably placed on a shelf in the tomb and the cloths are lying on that shelf. The beloved disciple on entering the tomb not only sees the cloths but also believes in the resurrection. The one who has priority in his love for Jesus has priority too in believing in his resurrection from the dead. As in the race to the tomb, so in believing, Simon Peter follows the beloved disciple. Frequently in the gospels, Peter doesn’t get things right, the first time around. Up to this moment they had not understood the teaching of scripture, (possibly Ps. 16,10; Hos. 6,2), that he must rise from the dead. Now they begin to appreciate it. It is their Emmaus moment. That belief transformed them.
The resurrection of Jesus is the Father’s seal of approval on all that His beloved Son has done to save us in that first Holy Week. It is Jesus’ victory over sin and death and the foundation of our hope to share in the resurrection, too, when we die. The resurrection makes us Easter people full of life, love, gratitude and joy, in the present, and full of hope for the future. That first Easter Day shows us that every Good Friday in our lives, too, will have an Easter Sunday if we believe in the love and power of the risen Lord.
How does belief in the resurrection influence your life? your attitude to death?
How does it affect your attitude to your body?
How do you witness to the resurrection and all that it means in your life?
I wish you a very happy, joyful and life-filled Easter. “We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song.”
Father Geoff O’Grady