The Resurrection of Jesus (A)
Jesus died on the afternoon of Good Friday. Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus, after smearing his body with spiced ointment, wrapped it in a long linen cloth which they bound on with bandages. They wrapped the head of Jesus in a separate cloth. They laid his body in a tomb or burial cave which was in a nearby garden. They then rolled a large stone across its entrance.
Guarding of the tomb
The next day, that is Holy Saturday, the Jewish rulers went to Pilate and asked for a guard of soldiers to be placed over the tomb. Pilate gave his permission for sentries to be posted, and the Jews sealed the stone to the mouth of the tomb with clay seals so that if anyone tried to move it, the seals would be broken and they would know (Matthew 27:62-66).
Joseph and Nicodemus had had very little time in which to bury the body of Jesus, and so Mary Magdalene and two other women, after spending the Saturday quietly as it was the Sabbath, set out very early on the Sunday morning with more spiced ointment. They did not know about the guard of soldiers and while they were on their way they wondered who would roll away the stone for them (Mark 16:1-3).
When they came to the garden, however, there were no soldiers there and the first thing they noticed was that the stone had already been rolled away to one side. Hurrying into the tomb they found themselves face to face with an angel who was sitting on the right hand side. The women were terrified but the angel said, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him” (NRSV, Mark 16:4-6). As they looked they saw that the body of Jesus was no longer there. Jesus had been raised from the dead.
Directly they heard the angel’s message, they ran back into the city to tell the disciples the wonderful news, but the disciples did not believe them. They thought they were either mistaken or were imagining things (Luke 24:9-11).
Peter and John visit the tomb
Peter and John, however, decided to go at once to the tomb to see for themselves and they went running off together with Mary Magdalene following them. John arrived first but did not go into the tomb. When Peter came up he went straight in. The body of Jesus had gone, but the linen grave wrappings lay flat in their place. The cloth, in which the head of Jesus had been wrapped, was rolled up untouched. Then John also went into the tomb, and he saw and believed that Jesus was risen from the dead (John 20:3-8).
The body of Jesus had changed in the night and he was raised to a different level of existence, leaving the linen cloths undisturbed, and the tomb empty. He was set free from the restrictions of the natural world yet had the power to make himself present within it.
Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene
After seeing inside the tomb, Peter and John then went back to their homes. But Mary Magdalene stayed behind at the tomb crying because she could not understand what had happened and was afraid that the body of Jesus had been stolen. Then she saw someone standing near her and heard him ask, “Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?” Mary did not recognise Jesus and thought that he must be the gardener coming to start his day’s work. She said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away”. The reply she received was one word, “Mary!”, and then she recognised the voice and knew that it was Jesus. She turned to him and said, “Rabbouni!” which means ‘Teacher’ (NRSV, John 20:11-16).