Breaking Open the Word
April 9, 2023
“And so it begins…” moaned the Jewish official. No truer words were ever spoken. The news of Jesus’ Resurrection spread like wildfire. The resurrection of Jesus marked the beginning of a new way of life centered in Christ Jesus, who died but now lives forever. By virtue of Jesus’ victory over sin and death, believers are offered a new perspective. Jesus’ cross and resurrection changed forever the way we look at death; it changed the way we look at life, at this world and at one another.
Our new outlook fills our hearts with JOY as we sing “Alleluia!” This powerful word, “Praise God”, that was buried throughout all of Lent, is sung over and over at Easter. Jesus is VICTOR! The battle has been won! The Kingdom of Heaven is open to all God’s children whose choose to follow His beloved Son, Jesus. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Happy Easter!
Each Gospel tells the Resurrection story from a different perspective. However, they all share the same miraculous message, “Jesus is ALIVE!” In John’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene arrives at the tomb before sunrise. It is still dark, just the way it was at the beginning of time before God said, “Let there be light.” (Genesis 1:3) A new light is about to shine, and a new creation is about to appear.
The grave is open. The large stone had been rolled away. Mary quickly assumes grave robbers have stolen Jesus’ body. However, the Lord said to the prophet Ezekiel, “I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves” (Ezek. 37:12). God opened the grave of His only Son.
Mary quickly runs to tell Simon Peter and the beloved disciple, John.
“They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him” (John 20:2). Immediately, the two men run to the tomb. John arrives first, remains outside, looks in the tomb, and sees the linen wrappings lying on the floor. Peter rushes into the tomb and sees the linens lying there but also sees the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head folded in a separate place. John enters the tomb and immediately believes what he sees…Jesus is alive.
Why does John believe immediately? Because John is "the one Jesus loved." Throughout John's gospel, Jesus revealed Himself to those He loved. It is John’s unwavering faith, as displayed at the foot of the cross, and his love for Christ led him to be first to understand the empty tomb. John received the love of Jesus and acted upon it during his life. This action is greatly rewarded with understanding, faith, and immeasurable love.
We read in John 19:39-40, “Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews.” This detail is very important as we read the resurrection story in the Gospel of John. If a grave robber had removed the body of Jesus, would they first have stripped the body of the linens?
Myrrh was used in the burial process as a form of glue. It adhered the linen to the body in a firm and permanent way. It would have been very difficult and time consuming to remove these linens from the body. And the linens and the cloth covering the face were apart from each other. The face cloth was folded in a place by itself. A grave robber would not have time to attend to such details while trying to steal Jesus’ body.
The beloved disciple realized, by the orderly arrangement of the burial cloths, that Jesus’ body had not been stolen but that He was indeed risen. Why? The rolling up and placement of this face cloth related to a common practice used by servants and masters at the time of Jesus.
When the master was finished eating, he would rise and leave the “napkin” crumpled in a ball on the table. The wrinkled, discarded napkin indicated to the servant “I have finished.” If, however, the master left the table with the intention of returning, he would crease the napkin into folds and leave it beside his dishes. This was a message for the servant not to disturb the table because the master had indicated: “I am returning.”
John upon seeing the face cloth remembered Jesus’ words, “I am going away, and I will come back to you” (John 14:28). That morning, Jesus repeated the promise, with symbolic gesture of leaving His face cloth rolled to the side. Jesus had returned. The beloved disciple saw and believed.
Theme in our Life Today
Those who fully believed during the time of testing were those who said ‘yes' to the Lord. Those who abandoned the Lord in His hour were the last to come to faith. The Lord loved all who followed Him completely. But who received Christ’s love and acted upon it?
The scene of the empty tomb resulted in two reactions: skepticism (Mary Magdalene) and faith (the beloved disciple). Many experiences in life present us with the same options. If our faith is rooted in love of Jesus, we respond to life’s challenges with faith and trust. The beloved disciple shows us that love for Jesus gives us the ability to detect Jesus’ presence. When our faith is built upon an encounter with the person of Jesus and His tremendous love for us, our natural response is to love Him in return. When love is the bond we share, we can overcome all obstacles, experience the presence of Christ with us and trust in God’s providence.
The beloved disciple was nearest to Jesus at the Last Supper (13:23-26); he remained at Jesus’ cross with Mary and was entrusted by Jesus with her care (19:25-27). He was first to believe in Jesus’ resurrection at the empty tomb. It seems that his faith is less the result of human effort and understanding than the effect of Christ’ love within the disciple. John was drawn to Christ without fear, he loved Jesus with every ounce of his being.
We were created for this loving encounter with God and for eternal life; Jesus has erased the reality of death. Our earthly death is simply a door through which we pass, into eternal life. We have nothing to fear. Jesus loves us, forgives us, and journeys with us throughout our lives, and into eternal life. This is the good news of Easter. This is our Easter joy! Today, is the day to open our hearts to Christ. To invite Him into our heart to live as the source of our love and our life.
Prepare for Sunday
Our journey through the Paschal Triduum has prepared us to experience the JOY of Easter! The greater our encounter on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday…the greater our Easter JOY!
Invite the Holy Spirit to open your heart to receive the unconditional love of our Lord and God, Jesus Christ. Only when we surrender to LOVE we will be the person God created and calls us to be.