Commentary on Acts 10:34,36-43; Colossians 3:1-4 or 1 Corinthians 5:6-8; John 20:1-18
IF CHRIST IS NOT RISEN, then our faith has no meaning. Easter, not Good Friday, is the climax of Holy Week. The resurrection is not just an appendix to Jesus’ death, a “proof” of his divinity.
Jesus leads the way by going through death to a life that can never be taken away from him again. “We know that Christ, being raised from death, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.” And that life is shared with us. “I have come that they may have life, life in abundance”, says Jesus.
The message of Easter is first communicated by the empty tomb. The death of Jesus was an observable and observed fact by both friends and enemies. No one saw the resurrection. It did not involve resuscitation of a corpse.
The first witnesses that something had happened were women. And what they saw was not Jesus but his empty tomb. They were puzzled and alarmed. Then Peter and the Beloved Disciple go to investigate. They find the empty tomb as the women reported. Peter just sees a loss, the absence of a body. But the other disciple sees with the eyes of one who loves and he sees a void filled with the presence of the Risen One. (Our lives too may seem to be marked by absence and loss but those who see with the eyes of love may see them filled with the presence of the risen Lord.)
The Beloved Disciple sees the empty tomb and believes. He sees what cannot be literally seen. He suddenly understands the teaching of Scripture and the words of Jesus that he must “rise from the dead”. Every disciples who loves Jesus is one who sees — and believes with all his/her heart in a Risen Lord.
Same and different
It is clear from the Gospel accounts that the Risen Jesus is the same person who died on the cross. It is equally clear that he is so different that his followers have difficulty in recognising him. In various post-resurrection scenes he does not even look the same. For Jesus now has the face of Everyone.
He is known and recognised only by faith. The basis of that faith is the fact of the empty tomb and the extraordinary transformation of the disciples. They were not expecting to see their Master again. At the time of his arrest and execution, they had fled in all directions. They were terrified and in hiding.
When they finally did realise that he was still with them, even if in a very different way, they were transformed from fearful people to a group overcome with joy and enthusiasm and afraid of nothing. They were now ready to endure what their Master had gone through, to give their lives for Truth and Love, and many of them did so.
How to find the Risen Jesus in our own lives?
How are we to share in all of this? In the reading from 1 Corinthians today we are reminded how at the Jewish Passover the Jews were expected to throw out all the old, leavened bread and to prepare new, unleavened bread. The fermentation caused by the leaven, the yeast, was seen as a kind of corruption. As Paul says, “You must know how even a small amount of yeast is enough to leaven [i.e. corrupt] all the dough”. (Remember the parable Jesus told about a small amount of leaven penetrating the whole batch of dough?)
So, Paul goes on, “Christ our Passover has been sacrificed. Let us celebrate the feast, then, by getting rid of all the old yeast of evil and wickedness, having only the unleavened bread of integrity and truth.” Easter is not only a time for celebration, for bunnies and Easter eggs, for new clothes and fancy bonnets — it is also a time for deep inner renewal.
It is a time to recommit ourselves to the meaning of our Baptism and Confirmation. We need to remember that as we break and share together the unleavened bread of the Eucharist, we share the Body of Christ, and that body embraces both Jesus and the whole community.
Finally, Peter in the First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles speaks of the mandate that follows from the resurrection. He and his fellow disciples are to proclaim the Good News about the Risen Jesus. The Jesus who will give new life to every single person who accepts him as Lord, who accepts him as the Way, Truth and Life. Peter and his fellow disciples are called “apostles”, people sent out on a mission, “ambassadors for Christ”, Paul calls them.
We, too, share that mission. We are not just disciples, followers of Jesus. We are also meant to be his living ambassadors. No one will know about Jesus and what he means for our lives unless we tell them.
Many people got baptised yesterday. Not a single one of them came to the Church without the intervention of some Christian(s) somewhere. The Good News about Jesus is not to be kept a secret. There are many people out there waiting to hear it. They are depending on you and me, members of Christ’s Body, to tell them.