356 views | Rev Dr. Vitalis Anaehobi | April 4, 2021
1. 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(Jn20:3-9). Taken from Easter Sunday’s gospel for today.
2. Resurrection from death is a new phenomenon different from resuscitation that we find in the Old and New Testaments. A number of people were brought back to life in the scriptures. These people came back, lived like normal people and later died. Resurrection was quite a different thing which no one has ever witnessed. Jesus was the first case and nobody witnessed his resurrection. What we have in the gospels are merely descriptions of signs that accompanied the resurrection.
3. Peter tried to resolve the puzzle by saying that”in the body he was put to death and in the spirit he was raised to life (1Pet 3:28). St. John in today’s gospel presents us with a scenario which shows that nobody would claim to have witnessed the resurrection of Christ. He talks of Mary Magdalene coming from the tomb to say that”they have taken the Lord away to an unknown place.” When Peter and John ran to the grave they only saw an empty tomb. An empty tomb does not prove the resurrection. It only confirms what the woman said, namely that the body is not there. The allusion to resurrection will only come when Peter and John entered the empty tomb to notice two things of great symbolism: the burial cloth was on its own and the napkin that covered the head was folded and laying apart from the burial cloth. We are told that they saw and they believed. Now what did they see and what did they believe? In the Jewish tradition, the napkin that a master uses at table has its own language. A master may be at table and something comes up warranting his leaving the table. When this happens, the master would either leave the napkin any how or have it well folded. If it is not folded it means that he has finished eating and the slave can clear the table because the master will not come back. If he folds the napkin it means that he is still around, he is not going far, he will still come back to continue with the table.
4. So when the disciples saw that the napkin was folded they understood that Jesus has not finished, he is still around, he is alive, he is coming back. With this they began to recall his teachings about his rising from the dead and prophesies about the messiah. All these reinforced the conviction that he was alive. Subsequently, Jesus would show himself to them in ways that were beyond the experience of resuscitation: he appears and disappears behind closed doors, he eats and could be touched and yet he is beyond the normal person. All these strengthened their belief to the point that they all gave their life to defend the truth of the resurrection of Jesus. When threatened their response was: “we cannot stop talking of what we have seen and heard.”
5. The symbols of the resurrection of Jesus, notably the empty tomb, the folded napkin and the post resurrection apparitions are all symbols of hope for us. The empty tomb shows that he triumphed over death. The angel affirmed this to Magdalene: ‘Why look for the living among the dead. He is not here, he is risen.’ As long as the tomb remains empty we can count on Jesus in our tribulations. The napkin clearly shows that Jesus is still with us. He has not abandoned the world. He is around and we can count on him in times of trial. The apparitions are another strong beacon of hope for us. Jesus explained the scriptures to the Emmaus disciples and proved that he is alive and they recognized him in breaking of bread. We can still recognize him today in the Eucharistic breaking of bread.
6. You must have noticed that the resurrection faith is not built on ordinary eye witness of the event. It is built on symbols and apparitions. These have withstood the test of time as many people continue to move the world forward because of their faith in the risen Christ. People have given up their lives to defend this faith. What have you done in defense of your faith in the resurrection? Just as the life of Jesus continues after his death, so will yours continue after your own death. Begin now to build up treasure for yourself. Stand for your faith and support those whose faith is put to trial in anyway that you can.
May the resurrection power flood your life with light.
@Vita, Easter Sunday, 04/04/21