The passion and death of Jesus initiated a process through which the old order was passing away and a new was dawning.
At the death of Jesus, Matthew reports that many strange events took place: darkness, earthquake and holy people rising from their tombs. Similar events occur in Matthew’s story of the resurrection of Jesus.
“Towards dawn on the first day of the week”, the women who had stood firm through the tragedy of the Cross, Mary Magdala and the other Mary go to visit the sepulcher of Jesus. The setting of the following events “towards dawn” on the first of all Easter Sundays promises the reader that the women will find more than a sepulcher. A new light is breaking into the darkness of the night.
For a moment the women on their journey are forgotten, as a series of “end-time” events are reported as happening at the tomb. In a way similar to the events surrounding Jesus’ death on the Cross, there is a violent earthquake. An angel of the Lord descends from heaven, rolls away the stone and sits upon it. Through his angel, God enters the story. The description of the angel “his face was like lightning, his robe white as snow” adds the terror of the moment and the guards, collapse to the ground like dead men. At the cross the Gentiles came to faith in Jesus, here the guards are part of the description of an anticipated “end-time”.
The angel speaks to the women, assuring them that they need not fear. They need no longer search for the crucified one. He has been raised. The tomb, the place of death, is empty. However, it is not enough simply to gaze in awe at an empty tomb. The women are commissioned to carry the Easter proclamation to the disciples: “Go quickly and tell his disciples, He has risen from the dead, and now he fore you into Galilee, it is there you will see him.”
The women recognize they have been touched by the action of God: it is the reason for their awe. They are also filled with great joy at the privilege given to them. But on their way back to the disciples, the risen Jesus meets them and they fall down and cling to him. He greets them, and repeats almost exactly the same message as the angel, commissioning the disciples to go into Galilee. However, there is an important difference. While the angel told them to speak to Jesus disciples, Jesus himself refers to them as my brethren. It is not failed disciples who must go to Galilee; it is a group of people who once again belong to the family of Jesus.
Earlier in the Gospel the disciples had forsaken Jesus and fled. All such failures have now been forgiven. The broken bond has been healed. The resurrection of Jesus has completed the turning point of the ages which began with his death. Now the women are filled with joy; now the sinful disciples are restored to the family of Jesus. Shortly he will indeed meet them in Galilee, to send them out to the whole world.
May Easter lead us to awe and joy as we recognize the greatness of our God who raised his Son to life that we too might have life, no matter how often and how seriously we have fled from Him.
By Fr. John Cef Ledesma
Meditation: But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. – 1 Corinthians 15: 20-22
You will succeed in Jesus Name!