The gospel text (Matthew 28:1-10), which is not a report of the resurrection itself of Jesus, details however some of the circumstances that surrounded His resurrection. In a way, they complete our reflections on the meaning of Christ’s Passover as the foundation of our own sharing in the Paschal Mystery.
A heavenly event
OF course nobody was there to witness the
actual unique phenomenon of Jesus rising from the dead. That is why the early
Christians’ resurrection accounts focus more on the appearances of the risen
Lord, and also on the empty tomb. First the evangelist gives the detail that
the discovery of the empty tomb was introduced by a great earthquake,
indicating that the event of the resurrection of Jesus had repercussions in the
very foundations of the Earth. Next there was the involvement of heaven in the
coming down of an angel who rolled back the stone covering the entrance to the
tomb and sat upon it, bright as a lightning and his clothing white as snow,
resembling the heavenly appearance of Jesus transfigured on the mountain (Matthew 17:2). The messenger from God was like a sentinel to ensure the proper signification of the empty tomb to any witness.
The whole experience was tremendous and terrifying, and the guards were shaken with fear and collapsed down like dead men. The women, who had come to see the tomb that first day of the week, the third since Jesus died on the cross and was buried, were reassured by the angel: “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified.” Then the angel made the grand proclamation of the Easter message apropos the empty tomb: “He is not here, for He has been raised just as He said.” And the women were asked to see for themselves that the tomb indeed was empty: “Come and see the place where he lay.”
A message of new life
The tomb no longer possessed in its hold any body. Jesus is raised by the power of God! He is living, not dead! This proclamation of the mystery of the resurrection was first announced to the women devout followers of Jesus. And the witness of these women has become the foundation of the message of the resurrection (Mark 16:1-7; Luke 24:1-2; John 20:11-18), although the witness of women in rabbinic Law was discounted. The proclamation of Jesus’ resurrection is also a commission instructing the women to share this heavenly event to the disciples of Jesus and to direct them to go to Galilee, thus the witness by the women would be confirmed by Jesus’ appearance to the disciples in Galilee. Jesus’ ministry is directed back to Galilee, where it began and where it would be brought to completion.
As the women hastened to carry out the task given them
to announce to others the resurrection, they encountered Jesus. And as He
greeted them, they approached Him and paid Him homage embracing His feet. The
empty tomb with the subsequent
appearance of Jesus has now shared with the women its risen Lord. Jesus spoke to them the same words as did the angel: Do not be afraid! And the commission was repeated to the women to direct the disciples to meet him in Galilee. In this certainty that Jesus is alive and there with them, His followers are now to live a fellowship with Him which means total identification with His own mission for the whole world.
Alálaong bagá, Jesus risen has carried out his Passover from death to life in God’s glory, from this world into that eternal union with the Almighty. The way is now open for His followers and all believers to pass over into what truly lasts forever, to share in the victory of Him who is “the life and the resurrection.” We are initiated in our crossing through the saving waters of baptism, where we die to sin and rise up to new life in Jesus Christ. In this journey from darkness into light, we are like Abraham who, to follow God’s call, must relinquish all that one holds dear in this life, all our hopes and dreams, because God must be our hope and our dream and our future.
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