In tonight’s Gospel we are told of two types of Resurrection experiences: one of angels, and one of the Risen Lord himself; with the one being basically a repeat of the other. What are we to make of this?
The angel’s message to the women is: ““Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said.” (Matthew 28:5-6) We have all had this experience; we have all heard this message brought to us through the Lord’s messengers … brought to us by various apostles, evangelists, and more especially by ordinary Christians living good lives that proclaim their belief in Jesus risen from the dead. (C.f.: Isaiah 6:8; Rule of St Benedict 2:12) All these people do the work of angels. (C.f.: Mark 1:13, 31) For many of us, we do not know what to make of what these people are telling us. Our response is often no different to those two disciples at the end of Luke’s Gospel who said: “And now, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive.” (Luke 24:22-23) That someone has risen from the dead is so truly amazing that we are more inclined to dismiss it. And yet, the people who tell us this are good people, whose good lives perhaps we even envy: we would like to be like that. And, often they are people we know and love and respect, that we do not want to just dismiss them, and so we let it just sit there as a question: What are we to make of all this?
If we let it just sit there as a question, we will come to experience Christ risen, come to know who he is and where he is, such that we can confess: “My Lord and my God.” (John 20:28) For left to ourselves, life is often just too hard. Even today in this ‘luck country’ of ours, one of the richer ones in the world, there are many now who are struggling not just with how to feed ourselves and our families, but with even how to keep a roof over our heads so as to keep the prospect of homelessness at bay. In the face of so much hardship, how do we maintain hope? For if there is no real promise that things will turn out okay in the end, that ‘all will be well’ (Julian of Norwich: Revelations of Divine Love.), then life will be what it always was: hardship and struggle till at last we come to our end and lie in the grave — why would we do this? And yet, there are some who even in the face of trials can go on living good, hope-filled lives: how do they do this?
If we really want to live and to know how to live, if we truly want what they have, the Lord will come and show us how. (Rule of St Benedict Prologue:14-21) This is a personal experience, the culmination of a desire for life that sees us trying to live the good life (Rule of St Benedict Prologue:18; 7:67-70), that will convict us/convince us that he is living and that he is Lord. (John 20:27; Acts 10:40-41) This experience that will show us not only how to live, but how, by our lives, to even do the work of angels: to proclaim to others the good news that “He is Risen!” (Matthew 28:7; Isaiah 6:1-8) This is the Lord’s own doing, and so we need not worry about trying to get others to believe — that is the Lord’s doing (c.f.: Luke 24:15-16); ours is but to proclaim, more in how we live than by words (c.f.: Rule of St Benedict 2:12), that “He is Risen!” and, in this way to prepare the way for the Lord to come to them. (Matthew 28:9-10; Luke 10:1) So, we can understand the ending in Mark’s Gospel (c.f.: Mark 4:11), which puts it this way: ‘And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.’ (Mark 16:20) The sign is the Lord ‘coming to meet them’ (Matthew 28:9; Luke 24:15); ours is but to proclaim: “He is Risen!”
So, Go, and by your life proclaim that He is Risen! Happy Easter!