Eugène Burnand’s 1898 painting of Peter and John running to the tomb on the morning of the Resurrection. Photo from WikiArt

God's Word on Sunday: Jesus delivers a message of brotherhood

  • April 14, 2019

Resurrection of the Lord, April 21 (Year C) Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Psalm 118; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-18

It is said that a picture can say more than a thousand words. That is certainly the case with Eugène Burnand’s stirring and evocative painting of the race to the empty tomb on Easter morning.

Mary Magdalene brought word that the tomb is empty. It is dawn; the wind is blowing, and a young and beardless Beloved Disciple leans into the wind, as does an older and bearded Peter. The wind sweeps their hair and they squint as they race along.

The Beloved Disciple’s hands are clasped as if in prayer or entreaty, while Peter clutches nervously at his cloak.

Peter’s haggard face mirrors fear, awe and puzzlement. The Beloved Disciple’s face is a mixture of anxiety and emotion. There is also the stirring of hope on their faces.

When they reached the tomb, it was apparent that Jesus had risen, as the rolled-up face cloth indicated. Even though they affirmed that the tomb is empty, they still did not fully understand.

Death and rebirth have always been and always will be a tantalizing mystery.

This was the beginning of the Easter experience — the word went forth from that morning to the ends of the Earth. Peter and others proclaimed throughout Judea and Galilee the power of God working in and through Jesus, His many deeds of kindness and healing, and His death and resurrection.

The proclamation had one purpose: to convince people that He was from God and was the judge of the living and the dead in whom they should believe. The proclamation then is the same as the proclamation now and the call to discipleship has not changed.

We need not wait until death to experience the new and transcendent life of the Resurrection.

Colossians urges us to seek the things that are above and to set our minds on them rather than being distracted by culture-bound and carnal ways of thinking.

We can begin to think and act as if we have already risen and are with the Lord, and if we do, it will be so. A spiritual and transcendent way of thinking changes everything, especially how we experience life.

After Peter and the Beloved Disciple left the empty tomb, they returned home, leaving Mary Magdalene alone and weeping.

They didn’t fully understand and neither did she. Even the presence of two angels in the tomb did not comfort her.

They asked her in a pointed and challenging way why she was weeping. If she really understood, she would not weep, and if we really understood, perhaps we would not weep as much. Even after Jesus approached in the early morning light and asked her the same question, she supposed that He was the gardener.

She had a typical reaction: Someone has taken the body; dead people do not come back to life. It is only when Jesus spoke her name that she experienced a flash of recognition.

His mission was not yet complete — He still had to ascend to the Father — so He cautioned Mary not to cling to Him. But He had a mission for her. She was to be an apostle to the apostles and carry a particularly important message to them.

The world had changed, but so had humanity’s potential relationship with God. Throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus had referred to “My Father” and “My God,” but now He was ascending to “My Father and your Father, My God and your God.”

Jesus invites us to share the same relationship that He has with God. The key to this experience is following the Way of Jesus and abiding in Him always. The recognition that we share the same Father as Jesus should make a tremendous difference in our lives.

We should relate to Jesus as if to a brother — He is there to support and encourage us.

If we all share a common Father, then hatred, cruelty and selfishness have no place and we should look upon others as sisters and brothers. The quality of our faith is measured in our ability to take this message to heart and live it out.

The world was new and fresh on Easter morning. If only we could recapture that sense today. Perhaps we can lean into the wind and race to the tomb, knowing that our lives will never be the same.

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