THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS FROM THE GRAVE
(A biblical reflection on EASTER SUNDAY, 27 March 2016)
Gospel Reading: John 20:1-9
First Reading: Acts 10:34,37-43; Psalms: Psalm 118:1-2,16-17,22-23; Second Reading: Colossians 3:1-4
Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached to the tomb first; and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; he saw the line cloths lying, and the napkin, which has been on His head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not know the scripture, that He must rise from the dead. (John 20:1-9 RSV)
We come to church today knowing that the prayers, readings, homily and music will all tell of the Resurrection of Jesus from the grave. This is the good news of Easter Sunday, which we prepare for and celebrate each year. In this sense our annual celebration is very different from the first Easter. That day the apostles didn’t know the victim would become the victor. They felt that the victim would remain a victim, and they would see no more of Jesus.
For the sake of speculation, suppose Jesus had not risen up bodily from the grave. Would Christianity have flourished to become the great world religion it is today? Founders of other major religions such as Abraham, Confucius, Buddha, Mohammed, etc. did not rise up bodily from the dead, yet their religious doctrines spread and continue to this day. Thus the Resurrection probably was not absolutely essential for Christianity’s beginning and survival.
The Resurrection therefore should not be the sole criterion by which we judge the authenticity of Jesus and His teachings. Although our belief in and love of Jesus does not depend entirely on the Resurrection, it is nonetheless the best evidence we have for our belief that He is God and can do anything He wishes.
Notice that His major rejections took place before the Resurrection – Peter’s denial; Judas’ betrayal; Pilate’s unjust sentence and the feisty opposition of the Scribes and Pharisees. Had these people witnessed the Resurrection, they could never have stood in opposition to Him. Therefore we, the post-Resurrection people, should be firm in our faith, for we have experienced His overpowering glory.
The reaction of the disciples on the first Easter Sunday was very curious – almost humorous. They ran directly to the spot where they were told Jesus wasn’t. They did not know where He was, but for the time being they were more interested in precisely where He was not. Once they knew where He wasn’t, then they remembered and understood what He had said about rising from the dead. They now knew that He was alive and well, just as He had said.
Dead men do talk, for after His death Jesus said, “Do not be afraid,” and “I am with you all days even unto the end of the world.” The Resurrection is God’s stamp of approval on the words and deeds of Jesus. It is good news for all who must face the grave.
Note: Adapted from Rev. James McKarns, GO TELL EVERYONE, A Commentary on the SUNDAY READINGS Cycles A-B-C, Makati, Philippines: St Paul Publications, 1985, pages 213-214.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, what words of praise can I offer You? Death has been swallowed up in Your victory. Your divine life is now alive within me. Lord Jesus, I will love and praise You forever. Amen.
Jakarta, 25 March 2016 [GOOD FRIDAY]
A Christian Pilgrim