Saint Mark and the Resurrection
and the lion
There is the Gospel of Mark and there is Mark the Gospel Writer and Preacher of the Gospel. We probably think first of the Gospel he has handed on to us. The Church’s observance of his Feast today and scripture readings put an emphasis on his preaching and his working with other leaders in the Church — Peter, Paul and Barnabas. We wish here to focus on him as a believer, a person in communion with Christ. Remember the written Gospel is an offshoot or the live preaching which the Apostles and evangelists carried out. So Mark lived the faith before he wrote it.
Since we have concentrated so much on his written form of the Gospel we categorize him as living 20 years or so after Jesus’ death and resurrection, sitting at a table with pen in hand. Oh, by the way, the lion appears in the photo above because Mark’s written Gospel begins with “a voice in the desert” like a roaring lion and “God’s kingship is at hand” like the lion king of the jungle. But for us today we ask whether we can see any connection between the man Mark and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Was he involved in it in those early days? Did the resurrection have any effect on Mark’s life? There is some speculation here, yet what we know of Mark’s later life he believed and taught that the risen Christ is here with us. Did he know from personal experience?
The problem is that Mark’s name does not appear in the Gospels. We first hear his name in the Acts of the Apostles 12:12 when Peter was miraculously freed from jail he went the house of Mark’s mother, later Mark travels on mission with Paul and Barnabas. But back in the Gospel of Mark there is an unnamed young man who could very well Mark himself (Mark 14:51-52). The young man was in the Garden of Gethsemane with the group of disciples when Jesus was arrested. The soldiers tried to apprehend this young man but he escaped letting go of his simple garment as the soldiers grabbed him leaving them with a piece of linen in their hands. This somewhat strange description, some brush away as symbolic of the linen cloth in which the body of Jesus was wrapped when placed in the tomb. I believe it was Mark’s own factual account of what happened to him personally. If this so, then Mark was with Jesus at the time of the crucifixion and because the disciples used the house of his mother as a gathering place he probably was in the company of Jesus’ friends, maybe even at the Last Supper (contrary to Da Vinci’s painting). For some reason the “young man” followed Jesus to Gethsemane right after the Passover Supper. Mark, then, shared in the ups and downs of those first days and hours of crucifixion and resurrection. He experienced firsthand the resurrection of the Christ. Coupled with Peter’s preaching Mark was well qualified to write his Gospel.
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Gamaliel, Scholar of the Law
One member of the Sanhedrin, however, a Pharisee called Gamaliel, who was a teacher of the Law respected by the whole people, stood up and asked to have the men taken outside for a time. Then he addressed the Sanhedrin, ‘Men of Israel, be careful how you deal with these people. Some time ago there arose Theudas. He claimed to be someone important, and collected about four hundred followers; but when he was killed, all his followers scattered and that was the end of them. And then there was Judas the Galilean, at the time of the census, who attracted crowds of supporters; but he was killed too, and all his followers dispersed. What I suggest, therefore, is that you leave these men alone and let them go. If this enterprise, this movement of theirs, is of human origin it will break up of its own accord; but if it does in fact come from God you will be unable to destroy them. Take care not to find yourselves fighting against God.’ His advice was accepted; and they had the apostles called in, gave orders for them to be flogged, warned them not to speak in the name of Jesus and released them. And so they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, glad to have had the honour of suffering humiliation for the sake of the name. Every day they went on ceaselessly teaching and proclaiming the good news of Christ Jesus, both in the temple and in private houses. (Acts 5:34-42)
In keeping with our pattern of studying the men and women in the scripture accounts of Jesus’ resurrection we have come to a person whom I have admired for years. He is little known to us — mentioned only twice in the New Testament. As far as we know he never called himself Christian. But he had much to do in the establishment of the early Christian community. He was known outside Bible circles and evidently well known in his own time. Beside the reference given above Saint Paul listed him as his teacher (somewhat like telling what college he attended — the “Harvard” of his day) in Acts 22:3. His name is Gamaliel.
The advice given by Gamaliel in the above passage sheds light on what a learned Jew of Jesus’ time can teach us Christians about the Covenant and the God of the Covenant. It seems that Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea followed Jesus, too, because they saw how he exemplified the Covenant and the practice thereof. This can make us pay more attention to the “Jewishness” of Jesus. Gamaliel, deeply knowledgeable and faithfully dedicated to the God of the Covenant in summary gave this recommendation based on faith: If God is not behind the work of Jesus his followers and his movement will dissipate when he dies; if God is behind the work of Jesus his death will not stop his followers nor the movement he began. Therefore, since we have not determined yet whether this comes from God we should give the followers of Jesus room to prove themselves as faithful to the Covenant. Therefore he advised the Jewish Council to be leniate to them, otherwise you will be on the wrong side of the fence when it comes to religion. Wonderful advice for us on many occasions ourselves.
So Gamaliel was a scholar in the Law, i.e. the Law emanating from the Covenant. He had an accurate sense of it. People recognized him as such. The love of the God of the Covenant was in his heart and he exhibited it in ordinary life’s relationships. He was down to earth and practical.
Gamaliel knew that the followers of Jesus were talking and teaching about the death of Jesus and that his resurrection overrode it so that Jesus was alive and active as they spoke. God would be still working through him if he is doing God’s work.
The remarks of Gamaliel showed this line of thought: if the God of the Covenant is involved he is the eternal God, never dies, nor will his love and plan of salvation of mankind ever cease. Such a God enables his faithful ones to live beyond death. To this day Christ has not stopped bringing pardon and eternal life to his people, us included.
Such is Gamaliel’s stature that the Eastern Orthodox Church considers him Saint Gamaliel (Feast Day August 3rd). Keep his advice in mind. You are bound to need it someday.
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The Angels and the Resurrection
The forgotten persons in the scripture accounts of the resurrection and what happened afterwards are the angels. We know them from other places in the Old Testament and New. But their roles in the Resurrection accounts give us a better idea of the might deeds of God in the lives of Jesus and the first disciples and every generation since.
Here are some of the verses. Keep in mind they come from different sacred authors. Remember the angels are representatives of God himself. What they say or do, God is speaking and doing. So the angels give us and show us the word of God. Perhaps by paying closer attention to what they said and did, the mystery of the Resurrection will be more revealed to us.
And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it MT 28:2.
Why was it rolled? For mobility sake. We think that it generally took more than one person to move the stone. Being mobile meant that there would be more than one burial there (the family). Was the tomb ever used for someone else after the resurrection? We do not know. It said the angel of the Lord descended from heaven. Whose angel was it? The title Lord in these accounts usually refers to Jesus, the risen Lord. Recall that at the Annunciation scene it says: The angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah and to the shepherds (Luke 1-2). Or the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph (Matthew 1-2). In the Old Testament the expression angel of the Lord was a way of saying God communicated with man. No matter what, the Lord above was the one who brought about the Resurrection of Jesus — the Father raised him from among the dead.
Then the angel said to the women in reply, “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay (Mt 28:6).
The famous Easter phrase: Fear not — for God is with you (many places in the scriptures). I know…how did he angel know it if he were up in heaven? He knew exactly what the women were doing from their hearts — searching for the Christ and that Jesus died by crucifixion. The crucifixion and resurrection go together in the Easter Mystery. Again the angel puts the resurrection in the passive voice: has been raised. Understood by the Father. The angel invites the women to come take a look, not that they would find Jesus there but the place where Jesus had been.
But the angel does not want them to linger there (at the empty place). He tells them: Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ Behold, I have told you.” (Mt 28:7) This angel now makes angels out of the women, i.e. messengers. Do it quickly, no delay in explaining the situation to the disciples so they would not have to worry and feel dejected. The angel ends up by saying I have told you, that is the word of God delivered to the disciples. You recall how much the risen Lord Jesus made about understanding the scriptures, what they were told.
From John’s Gospel Chapter 20:11-15 the angels are clothed in white sitting inside the tomb at the head and foot of the slab where they had put the body of Jesus — kind of like standing guard (although now sitting since their job was accomplished). It is a posture of respect for the dead and that they were there the whole time Jesus was in the tomb. We may think of them as witnessing Jesus being raised from the dead. They knew what had happened and knew it to be a joyful event. That prompted the question to the women: why are you weeping. Mary could not see clear for her tears. She thought at first the angels were part of the gardening crew, possibly who robbed the grave. Jesus reassures her that what happened would bring great (Easter joy).
But Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?”…
Later in the Acts of the Apostles we hear of two other occasions involving angels: 1) when the apostles miraculously were released from prison by an angel and sent on mission to teach the people what the life of Christ brings to mankind (Acts 5:19); 2) later when Peter was arrested and bound by chains and angel led him out of the prison [the incident gave name to our Cathedral] (Acts 12:6-17).
All in all the angels need some watching. They continue to be messengers of God for our sake. God is with us through them. Some of the early Christians thought the just released Peter knocking at the door was an angel.
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Thomas still on our minds
God won’t let us forget Thomas the Apostle from last Sunday and his my Lord and my God. It does not do him justice to call him Doubting Thomas. He was a man of faith, deep faith, deep Easter faith. He did not live in isolation. In the lockdown of the Upper Room (the Cenacle) he was crowded in with the others. From the Easter morning accounts we know that Mary Magdalene ran back from the empty tomb and told Peter and John. The news got around quickly in their small group. Thomas was there that morning also and he was there when Peter and John returned with the same puzzling message. His life was then and had been for almost three years tied up with the other disciples. So what does his Easter faith tell us about the believing in the risen Lord and the Church?
You recall that his “sin” was not believing the others joyfully proclaiming they had seen the Lord. Jesus in his mercy and love brought him not only to have faith in the resurrection of the Christ but also to have faith in the word of his fellow Christians. Here it is quite evident that faith in Jesus and faith in the Church go together. This is expressed in our Creed. So in the final lines of the Apostles’ Creed we profess: I believe in the holy catholic Church… In the Nicene Creed we even give profession of faith in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church… So we in our time of faith hold to the same beliefs as did Thomas and the others — Mary Magdalen, Peter, John and Mary, the Mother of Jesus, etc.
This leads us to a rather important part of our faith life — staying close to the other believers, joining them in joyful celebration, e.g. the Eucharist, encountering them at Mass united in faith, living the body of Christ, the Church. We cannot call ourselves believers in Jesus without believing what fellow believers show in their lives and prayer about Christ, the Living One. We have Thomas and his temporary absence from the community to thank for bringing this home to us. This Easter is laying open before our eyes what the Catholic faith brings us. And we are glad.
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One of the things I believe we all remember about the happenings of Easter is what we heard last Sunday (Second Sunday of Easter, the Octave) from what is called The Doubting Thomas Gospel. At that time I showed that it should be called The Gospel of the Believing Thomas and the Mercy of God. We seem to think the bad things — his doubt — instead of the more important gift of faith from the loving Father. Now that the word of God has brought up the name Thomas we want to include him in the list of prominent persons at the time of the resurrection of Jesus.
John the Apostle and Gospel writer among the four Evangelists mentions more than his name. Thomas certainly was dedicated to Christ and was brash about it. He was in the forefront more than once — somewhat like Simon Peter. When Jesus decided to go to Judea at the death of Lazarus, some advised against it because of the threats Jesus had received there, it was Thomas who said: Let us also go to die with him (John 11:16). At the Last Supper when Jesus spoke of his own death as he passing to the Father, Thomas wanting to go with him said: Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way? Jesus replied with the words we all also know: I am the way, the truth and the life (John 14:5-6). So when we hear the events of the first two Sundays of Easter our ears perk up at the name of Thomas. But do not forget his faith at the mercy of God should be what we remember about him the most.
There is one more thing that John brings up about Thomas that is worth noting —his name. Thomas was not his given name. We believe his parents named him Judas (see John 14:22 and the notes in the New American Bible). The name Thomas was based on the fact that he was a twin, which comes across to us in the Gospel as Didymus. So Thomas is a nickname. Jesus himself gave nicknames, e.g. Simon became Peter (John 1:42). So did the early Christians, renamed Joseph Barnabas (Acts 4:36) to indicate his change in life’s mission — a person’s name indicated who they were (in God’s eyes). John does not mention such details about Thomas without some deeper meaning. So he is to be Twin. Who is the other twin? Is it you or I? Could it be that we all are Thomas’ twin? What we hear about Thomas, e.g. his doubting, is our own experience, too. Hopefully what we hear about his faith in the mercy of God is ours as well. It is our Easter faith for which we are searching for a deeper understanding. Thomas, the Twin, opens our eyes more and more. So when we pray at Mass in the company of the Apostles, think of Thomas and is acceptance of God’s merciful love.
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The Church, during the Easter days, has been concentrating on the sacred scriptures of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We have been picking out the names of those who appear in that part of the Bible to see the change that took place in their lives because of the resurrection. The name of Nicodemus has come up with regard to the burial of Jesus.
After this, Joseph of Arimathea, secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus. And Pilate permitted it. So he came and took his body. Nicodemus, the one who had first come to him at night, also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about one hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and bound it with burial cloths along with the spices, according to the Jewish burial custom. Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried. So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day; for the tomb was close by. (John 19:38-42)
The name Nicodemus pops up who shows himself faithful to the Jewish tradition in lovingly caring for the burial of Jesus. We know we have heard his name before — actually twice more in the Gospel of John. John 3 where Jesus and he have a lengthy dialogue and in John 7:45-52 where Nicodemus defends Jesus before the Jewish Council (Sanhedrin) with little effect because they said no prophet can come from Galilee according to the scriptures. So let us go back to these earlier passages in the Gospel of John and see what kind of man was Nicodemus so that we realize better what effect the resurrection of Christ had on the believers.
Chapter 3, and I must say the famous Chapter 3 (God so loved the world…), is placed at Passover time, immediately following Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple during which John refers to a better understanding of things after the resurrection. So, too, with Nicodemus. We have reached a point in our Easter journey that the Church directs us to pay attention to the Holy Spirit in God’s work. Back in Chapter 3 in his conversation with Nicodemus Jesus teaches about being born of the Holy Spirit. And to the credit of Nicodemus the passage shows that he already was being born from above without realizing the Holy Spirit was at work in him. Through the Holy Spirit Nicodemus was able to recognize the presence of God in Jesus. This is why he came to him at night. Nicodemus already sensed that he was at odds with some of the other Jewish leaders. He was afraid to follow Jesus openly at that time. Such was not the case at the death and burial of Jesus. The power of the risen Lord had matured his faith and removed the fear by giving him Easter peace. The faith journey of Nicodemus not only makes us think of the work of God’s Spirit in us but also how long that Spirit has been working. We were born from above for a long time ago.
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SAMPLE OF HOME PRAYER FOR SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER
[Before entering into the sample Sunday prayers, you may wish to familiarize yourself with the scripture commentary which is provided on this homepage in the Blog, just beneath this opening Tweet, on the right.
Today’s homily is a quasi homily because the ideal homily takes much of its meaning from its actual setting in a “live” liturgy in which the Holy Spirit is at work uniting the body of Christ. This communion together is part of the reality of a homily within the action of the liturgy itself. It is offered here to bind together your small group of prayer on this Lord’s Day. The scripture commentary is meant to give some background to what God is saying and doing at this particular time.]
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Peace be with you.
PENTENTIAL RITE to let the Lord prepare our hearts for pure worship
Heavenly Father, infinite in merciful love — Have mercy
Lord Jesus, ;your love is everlasting — Have mercy
Spirit of the Holy God , renew your Covenant love within us — Have mercy
Let us pray:
Lord, our God, whose merciful covenant love never ceases, every year as the Paschal feasts and celebrations recur you inflame the faith of the people dedicated to you. We pray you, increase the grace you have already bestowed on us that we all grasp with adequate understanding
by what baptismal washing we have been cleansed,
by what spirit we have been confirmed in our rebirth,
by whose blood we are being given redemption at the table of the Lord Jesus.
Listen to the sacred scriptures:
[Go to the Today’s Readings section below on this webpage and the commentary in the Blog.]
Silent Reflection and/or share comments.
Homily Written for the Web —May it enhance your prayer and worship of God this day.
TOWARD A HOMILY FOR SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER
Blessed are you, Thomas, because you believe.
Why do we go to church on Sunday?
Of all things on a Sunday when we cannot gather in church because of the danger of spreading the rampant virus the word of God speaks to us about the significance of Sundays in the life of Christians. The tradition of gathering on the first day of the week has been handed on to us. Now we are being called this day to revisit the reason for coming together to celebrate the Eucharist in the presence of our risen Lord.
What gets us started in this direction is the simple fact that John the Gospel writer makes mention of events which occurred on the evening of the first day of the week immediately following the death of Jesus and what occurred one week later on first day of the next week. He certainly had in mind the practice of Christians coming together for worship on Sundays.
What makes this so meaningful for us is that traditional practice of the faith this way has been temporarily suspended. So two questions arise: why is this practice so important — really vital — and how are we to make this practice of our faith more a part of our lives once we are able to return to this tradition?
Surprisingly the person in the Gospel that opens our eyes to what God did then and is doing now is the Apostle Thomas. Doubting Thomas not only shows his weakness and lack of faith but makes manifest the merciful love of Christ toward him and how Thomas accepted pardon and forgiveness. He is a saint to remember.
The great difference between the two Sundays for Thomas was his absence (or non-presence) with the new community and the presence of the risen Christ both times. What changed the heart of Thomas to be a believing disciple was the encounter he had with Jesus on the second Sunday was his exchange in person with the risen Lord. Christ himself offered Thomas mercy and he accepted it. Christ let Thomas touch him and his wounds and spoke so gently and lovingly Believe. We can picture Thomas for his part as falling to his knees and saying directly face to face to Christ My Lord and my God. As best we know Thomas never again missed the liturgical assembly of God’s people on the newly named Lord’s Day.
So how are we going to respond to my two questions above when this crisis is all over — hopefully soon in the coming weeks? Am I going to spend some time reflecting on the origin and background of our Christian Sunday tradition of Mass? Secondly, am I going to observe the Lord’s Day with greater conscious and loving participation at Mass?
Briefly now, do I know the history of God’s people from ancient times involving the first three Commandments of the Covenant regarding worship of God as he wants its? Am I familiar with the place of the Last Supper in Jesus’s renewal of the Covenant through his death and resurrection? Do I understand the transition of the early Christians and all Christians thereafter from Saturday worship to Sunday worship? Do I realize and teach my children that Sunday Eucharist is a “must” in living the Christian way of life and reaching eternal life? That it is not just an option according to our wishes?
To the second question what is my resolution regarding my participation in the Eucharistic celebration on Sundays? Am I going to prepare myself to listen more closely to the word of God by reviewing the Sunday scriptures before going to Mass? Am I going to teach myself to know that it is the real living Christ present at Mass in his word, in his priest, in his Body and Blood, and in his assembly of believers? Am I going to make a greater effort to “take home from Mass” the effects of encountering Christ there and putting it into practice in my daily life so I can return the next Sunday in greater praise of God?
This is God’s word to us this day. Is it going to make a difference as it did in the life of Thomas the Apostle?
Blessed be God! Blessed be his Easter people!
I believe in God the Father almighty…
We conclude with this prayer together:
Let us pray
for the Church in the United States, looking forward to the lifting of the restrictions.
for our bishops, near and far, to lead us in the name of Christ the Shepherd
for all our faithful departed, especially those taken from us in recent days
for those developing remedies for the virus
for first responders and all those caring for the sick in medical facilities and at home
for those who in one way or another take care of our essential needs
for family and friends who have been supportive during these trying times
In Jesus’ name we pray for ever and ever. Amen.
Our Father, who art in heaven…
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
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Mary Magdalene and the Resurrection
The scripture writers have not told us everything about Mary Magdalene that we would like to hear, e.g. her former life. What they have told us is that she plays a significant role in the Easter event. In his wisdom God has not revealed everything about her so that we focus on what is most important — her relation to the risen Christ. To highlight her given role in life and in the life of the Church let us take a brief look at that first Easter morning and the days thereafter. It is from the Gospel of John, Chapter 20: 1-2.11-18
On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.”
But Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and what he told her.
The risen Jesus compares the past with what the future will be. We know from other passages in the Gospels that others did homage to Jesus by clasping his feet, e.g. John 12:3. Mary Magdalene is said to have done this herself (Matthew 28:9). Here in John’s Gospel Jesus says: stop holding on to me. This is generally taken to mean that things have changed in the life of Mary Magdalene and in the lives of all believers. These words to Mary was Jesus’ way of telling us that now, following his resurrection, we must lead a “new” life and that the old way of clasping Jesus’ feet in a worldly way has been replaced by homage to the heavenly Christ with emphasis on his divine power and glory. An example of the change can be detected when we break bread together with him. We did not have the Mass as such before.
So I believe this shows that what is important about Mary Magdalene is not her past but how the merciful love of Jesus changed her life preparing her for eternal communion with him in heavenly glory. The Resurrection does make a difference.
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The Sadducees and the Resurrection
Thanks once more to the loyal opposition to Jesus and his disciples and the questions they proposed to Jesus, whose responses clarified much of our faith in the resurrection. The scripture at Mass today (see below) tells of the arrest of Peter and John because they were teaching that the resurrection is due to Christ Jesus whom the Father raised from the dead. The Sadducees strenuously denied the resurrection of the dead and just days before Jesus’ death and resurrection confronted him with the outlandish case of seven brothers-in law marrying the widow of a brother who had died. This scenario they used to ask who would be married to her in heaven and thus denying the resurrection. Keep in mind the difference between resurrection of the dead and the resurrection of Christ, although the two are connected. The resurrection of the dead is our resurrection brought about by the Father raising his Messiah to glory — the Eastern Icon of Victory touches on this. You will find he scripture account in the first three Gospels as occurring after Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem that last week (Matthew 22:23-33, Mark 12:18-27, Luke 20:27-40).
So how do the Sadducees help us with our Easter faith?
Follow Jesus’ responses:
1) From the burning bush at the time of Moses we know ours is a living God and we are joined to him in covenant. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Jesus’ added comment was that they did not understand the scriptures (as they thought they did) nor the power of his Father. As Easter people we, too, need to understand the scriptures more as Jesus insisted upon.
2) The risen life will be different than life here on the earth. Jesus said: At the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like the angels in heaven. The risen life is by the power of God, not the power of human generation. To this John expressed it in his Prologue: But to those who did accept him [Word made flesh] he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God. This corroborates the scriptures which state that God raised his Son from the dead.
3) In the Acts of the Apostles the Sadducees saw the connection between Jesus’ resurrection and our own. The Apostles’ preaching clearly revealed this, e.g. see Peter’s discourse on Pentecost and his call to be baptized and joined to the risen Christ. So the necessity to arrest the Apostles and try to stop their preaching resurrection (both of Jesus and his followers) show how important is our faith in the risen glory of Jesus. So when we celebrate Easter we are not just praising God for raising Jesus from among the dead, but also that we are destined to share in our Lord’s resurrection. That is our faith, too.
4) The Sadducees asked about the seven husbands’ case during Jesus’ final days. This gives us the opportunity to understand what was going on in our Lord’s mind and heart as he knowingly approached his own death to be followed by being raised by the Father. He trusted his Father completely and evidently from his human side came to understand the Father through the sacred scriptures and Israel’s heritage. This is why he wants us to follow him in that regard and put our trust in him and his Father’s covenant love.
God helps us and teaches us in many ways — even from those who oppose us.
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Role of Peter in the Manifestation of Jesus’ Resurrection
A couple of days ago I directed your attention to the prominent role of John the Apostle on the First Easter and the ensuing days. His deep faith and love enabled him to grasp quickly that Jesus was alive and that this fulfilled the scriptures of old.
Today we want to take a look at Peter and his faith and role among the first Christians. He has from day one enlightened the Church in witnessing and explaining what God has done and expects of us. Peter was the first one to enter the empty tomb. Mary Magdalen had been there outside and then got Peter and John to come and see. John got there first but waited until Peter arrived to let him enter first. This shows Peter’s place which the others knew Christ had given him. When the pilgrim disciples from Emmaus returned to Jerusalem that First Easter evening they were immediately told that they knew Christ had risen because he had appeared to Simon. They trusted him and his authority. The Church has also been listening to the Acts of the Apostles and the early days of Pentecost and the following ones. Here Peter is the one who speaks out and gives the first of his discourses telling the others who Jesus was and is since the Father had raise him from among the dead. (We usually hear that Jesus was raised from the dead and I think most people consider this as revivication or resuscitation, i.e. he is brought back to life, something like we can experience happening in a hospital. See today’s blog on the Eastern Rites’ icons which present the resurrection of Jesus from the perspective of his going down to Hades/Hell, the underworld of our deceased ancestors.) So I think better to speak of Jesus being raised from among those in the realm of the dead. Jesus joined the dead persons to become like them in order to raise them to new life. Peter speaks this way at Pentecost citing the psalm of David: you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld and in curing the crippled man: The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead [the mass of humanity who died before Christ]. In addition to these two discourses, Peter adds three more such explanations of the faith that the Father raised Jesus from among the dead.
Probably the most memorable of the resurrection accounts was that of the appearance of Jesus on the seashore for breakfast, when he asked Peter three times Do you love me and showed him mercy by giving the command that Peter feed his sheep.
Our grasp of the meaning for us of the resurrection of Jesus would have been much less without Peter and his leadership role. In practical terms we might say: If we did not have the witness of Peter’s grasp of the Father’s raising his Son our Easter faith would be less rich. His fellow Christians could say the same. We are grateful to Peter to be forward looking as far as the resurrection of Christ is concerned. Easter is about the future. It is a rebirth. Peter knew how to answer the question what are we to do from his listeners. The same holds true today.
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