Signpost for Sunday April 16, 2017 Easter Day: Jeremiah 31:1-6 or Acts 10:34-43, Colossians 3:1-4 or Acts 10:34-43, John 20:1-18 or Matthew 28:1-10.
In our church services, we will read either from John’s or from Matthew, so it seemed appropriate to look at both of them. The stories told of the resurrection in the two gospel readings differ in a number of ways, but they are the same in their fundamental statements.
Matthew’s description around the crucifixion-resurrection time is complex and includes earthquakes, shining angels, two Mary’s, a guard set around the tomb, and an attempt to spread a story that the body had been stolen. The women meet Jesus, hold his feet and worship him. He sends them to tell his brothers to go to Galilee and they will see him there.
John’s version is more carefully written, involving one Mary, who tells Peter and another disciple that the body has been taken away. The two disciples set off at a (competitive?) run to the tomb, and some detail is given about what they found inside. Mary obviously found her way back to the tomb, since, after the two disciples had gone home, she had a conversation both with two angels dressed in white, and also with Jesus himself. She is instructed not to hang on to him, but to tell the disciples about what he had said.
There are differences in the accounts, which may seem to cast doubt on the veracity of the story. However, it seems to me that he these may well be accounted for partly by making the reasonable assumption that the authors were writing for different groups of people, and consequently had not included all the information that was available to them. It is also possible that there was so much going on that no-one had access to everything that had happened.
There are significant similarities: the tomb was open and empty; the resurrected Jesus was not a wraith, he could be held; there were two angels; women were recognised as the first witnesses (against the normal practice of the time), and there are no conclusions offered about what the consequences would be.
The resurrection formed the centre of Peter’s message to Cornelius, as recorded in the passage from Acts. Paul went further, seeing the public declaration of faith in baptism as an image both of death and resurrection, and its consequence as a new life.
Every Easter, as we remember and celebrate both the death and resurrection of Christ, we are faced with a recurring question, demanding a new answer:
In this messy and changing world how can we live the life of Christ?