This is “Christ’s Appearance to Mary Magdalene After the Resurrection” by the Russian painter Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov, completed in 1835. CNS photo/Wikimedia Commons

God's Word on Sunday: Jesus’ message is more vital than ever

  • April 10, 2022

Resurrection of the Lord (Year C) April 17 (Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Psalm 118; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-18)

The message that the apostle Peter preached after the Resurrection was short but powerful. He stuck to the facts, relating the many good things that Jesus had done and the souls He had helped. More importantly, Jesus was empowered by the Spirit and God was with Him.

Strangely omitted from the lectionary reading are two verses that reveal an important part of the message. God shows no partiality; anyone who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to Him. This is important, for it connects with Peter’s insistence that Jesus is Lord of all, which is at the heart of His proclamation. Jesus came for everyone and continues to do so, despite human attempts to channel or block His spiritual power.

The message of Jesus was not acceptable to all, and many felt threatened. It involved change, especially in ways of thinking. The fear of many resulted in the crucifixion of Jesus, but it was impossible to kill the man or the message. God raised Him on the third day, and He was allowed to appear to His followers. Jesus commanded His followers to proclaim that He had been designated the judge of the living and the dead. His credentials were the prophecies that pointed to Him and the Spirit-filled deeds that He had manifested among them.

The urgency and power of this message has waned over the centuries. Today it might elicit snickers or yawns from some or unenthusiastic intellectual assent from others. But the message is still alive if we choose to hear it. The proclamation offers a new beginning — forgiveness of sins, both individual and collective — following a radical change of mind and heart. Rather than being worn out or outdated, the message is still vital and is needed more than ever. The world needs a new beginning, and it starts when we open our hearts and accept the gracious mercy of God.

Acceptance of this mercy means living in Christ — living in this life as if we were already with Him in the heavenly realm. Seeking the things that are above does not mean turning our backs on life or the needs of the world. It is part of our renewal of heart and mind — seeking and living by the values and principles of our Christ-revealed spiritual path.

Most of the followers of Jesus were utterly bewildered and traumatized by His arrest and death. This was not in the job description of the Messiah. And they were even more confused by talk of rising from the dead.

It must have been a shock when Mary Magdalene reported to them that the tomb was empty. After a sprint to the tomb, Peter and the Beloved Disciple confirmed that it was indeed empty, but they did not quite know what to make of it. The Beloved Disciple “saw and believed” but the text does not report exactly what he believed.

The two returned home, not quite knowing what to do next. Mary Magdalene remained alone to weep at the tomb. Two angels and finally the unrecognized Jesus asked a gentle, chiding,question: “Woman, why do you weep?” They might have added “don’t you get it” or “don’t you see?” Death is done — Jesus lives. She was caught up in the empty tomb like the others and did not yet see its significance. It was only when Jesus called her by name that her eyes were opened. Jesus charged her with carrying a very important proclamation to the others. He was ascending to “my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Gone was the separation and distance between humans and God or any sense of exclusion.

This represents a momentous change in human/divine relationships. Those who pattern themselves after Jesus are not only children of God, but also brothers and sisters of Jesus and of one another. It can sound trite until we contemplate its implications and apply them. Unfortunately, many have yet to truly take this message to heart. If and when we do, our lives and the world will be transformed.