The Lord is Risen: An Easter Reflection | Daily News

The Lord is Risen: An Easter Reflection

“On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the scripture that He had to rise from the dead.”

Exegesis:

In the Gospel scene of this Easter day, all attention is confined to Mary Magdalene.

At first, she seems to visit the tomb alone. But her later words, “We do not know…” suggests that she has not gone alone.

Here the ‘We’ is not a genuine plural; it reflects an oriental mode of speech whereby plural is used for singular (cf. R. Bultmann). Also the use of ‘we’ is a regular mode of John’s writing as already seen in 3, 2.11 – “we know”: Nicodemus is referred to as ‘we’ and so is Jesus, as ‘we’ (cf. E. L. Bode).

Mary Magdalene having taken one look at the tomb runs to Peter and the other disciple to tell,“They have taken the Lord out of the tomb.”What Mary thinks is that either enemies or robbers have taken Jesus’ Body. So the theme of robbery dominates in the narrative.

The robbing of tombs was so common at that time and she fears such robbery. The copy of the decree of the Roman Emperor Claudius (41-54 AD), discovered at Nazareth, orders capital punishment for those destroying tombs, removing bodies, displacing the sealing or other stones – (cf. BARRETT, The New Testament Background). Selected Documents (London, 1957) 15. Such official action had to be taken because the robbing of tombs was so common at that time.

The Nazareth Inscription reads: “It is my decision [concerning] graves and tombs—whoever has made them for the religious observances of parents, or children, or household members—that these remain undisturbed forever. But if anyone legally charges that another person has destroyed, or has in any manner extracted those who have been buried, or has moved with wicked intent those who have been buried to other places, committing a crime against them, or has moved sepulchre-sealing stones, against such a person, I order that a judicial tribunal be created, just as [is done] concerning the gods in human religious observances, even more so will it be obligatory to treat with honour those who have been entombed. You are absolutely not to allow anyone to move [those who have been entombed]. But if [someone does], I wish that [violator] to suffer capital punishment under the title of tomb-breaker.”

Nevertheless the details of the state of the burial clothes – “… and the cloth that had covered his [Jesus’] head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place” – emphasize that the tomb is not robbed and cause the beloved disciple to believe, “… he saw and believed.”

The story does not end there. The Risen Lord – the One missing in the empty tomb, the One who left His burial cloths behind in the tomb – begins to appear to them and then they will see and believe. The light of Easter will shine on their hearts, darkened with disbelief and then, they will all become Easter people.

Contextualization:

Mary Magdalene is named, in the Passion Narratives, as one of the female disciples present at Jesus’ crucifixion and death. This was the time Jesus would have wanted His disciples most. So she remained with Him with greater loyalty right up to the bitter end looking on either from a distance (Mark 15:40; Matthew 27:55; Luke 23:49) or near the cross (John 19: 25).

This was also the only thing she could do at that moment. But in God’s plan it was going to be the ‘foundation’ for being able later to function as witness to the Resurrection: i.e. if she was to be witness to the Resurrection then it was important that she could attest the truth about Jesus’ cruel death.

Then dawns the next more significant and climactic scene where the role of Mary Magdalene together with other women is highlighted in all the Gospels – Mark 16:1-8; Matthew 28:1-10; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-2,11-18. Here we see how she participates in the Resurrection. In lists of female disciples, she is often mentioned first just as in lists of the Twelve Peter’s name comes first.

This consistent pre-eminence is because of Mary’s important role related to the Resurrection and her fidelity to Jesus to the end. The Church has thus duly honoured, in the sacred Page, her vital role.

What did the Evangelists expect by depicting so adorably the figure of Mary Magdalene? The Gospels were addressed to Christians of whom a vast multitude had been brutally martyred since Nero the Roman Emperor. The Christian Communities had to endure this severe testing. Some Christians, especially the leaders, left the faith, due to persistent persecution.

Hence the Evangelists portrayed the image of Mary Magdalene in a way to encourage the Christians in faith in Jesus.

The Martyrs of Mannar in the days of the Portuguese and the martyrs of Jaffna like Dom Pedro under the Dutch rule remain within our shores a fine example of Christian discipleship which stood firm against all winds of persecution.

May the unfailing fidelity of Mary and our local martyrs – including those who were killed on April 21– be a tower of strength to our daily following of Jesus in all times and seasons.