Lectionary Commentaries for April 12, 2020
Resurrection of Our Lord

from WorkingPreacher.org


Gospel

Commentary on Matthew 28:1-10

Judith Jones

Matthew’s resurrection story contrasts the life-giving power of God with death-dealing human authority.1

[Looking for commentary on John 20:1-18? See this commentary for Easter Sunday by Alicia Myers.]

Just as the crucifixion narrative echoes Jesus’ temptation in Matthew, so the resurrection highlights themes first raised at Jesus’ birth. Herod reacted to the threatening announcement that a new king had been born by trying to exterminate him, sending soldiers to kill all the babies in the region.

After the crucifixion, when the religious and civil authorities have at last succeeded in their quest to kill Jesus, they react to the threat of his resurrection by sending soldiers to seal the tomb and guard his dead body. But the God who shakes the earth cannot be stopped by armed guards and an official seal. The story that begins with fear ends with overwhelming joy. Jesus’ birth is shadowed by many deaths, but Jesus’ death brings the promise of resurrection life for all.

Matthew’s version of the resurrection story is distinctive in several ways, including the detail about the guards at the tomb and the earthquake, the conversation with a single angelic messenger (rather than with the young man described in Mark or the two angels mentioned in Luke and John), and the identity of the first people to hear the news of the resurrection. In John, Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb alone (John 20:1, 11). In Mark, she is accompanied by Mary the mother of James and by Salome (Mark 16:1). Luke agrees that Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James were there, but he has Joanna and the other women with them present as well (Luke 24:10).

According to Matthew, the first witnesses to God’s triumph are two of the same women who watched Jesus die. Having seen Joseph of Arimathea bury Jesus, Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” now come again early on the first day of the week to look at the tomb (unlike the other Gospels, Matthew says nothing about their bringing spices to anoint Jesus’ body). Mary Magdalene’s identity is clear, but who is “the other Mary”?

Earlier Matthew described her as “Mary the mother of James and Joseph” (Matthew 27:56). According to Matthew 13:55, two of Jesus’ brothers are named James and Joseph. In all likelihood, then, “the other Mary” is Mary the mother of Jesus. Though the evangelist’s decision not to identify her explicitly as Jesus’ mother may seem odd, the effect is to emphasize not her biological relationship to Jesus, but her role as his disciple.

In both Mark and Luke, the women find the stone already rolled away from the tomb when they arrive. In Matthew, however, the women experience the earthquake and see the angel descend, roll away the stone, and sit on it. The guards quake with fear at the events unfolding before them. Ironically, they react to the opening of the tomb by becoming like dead people.

The angel’s first words, expressed with a present imperative in Greek, strongly contrast the guards with the women: “Don’t you be afraid,” or “As for you, stop being afraid.” The angel is commanding them to reject their current state of fear, for his news brings great joy: “I know that you are looking for Jesus the crucified one. He is not here, for he was raised just as he said.” The resurrection has already happened. The stone has been rolled away not to let Jesus out, but to let the witnesses in.

The angel sends the women to bear the news to the disciples, along with an additional message: Jesus is going ahead of them into Galilee, and they will see him there. The angel does not specify exactly which disciples they are to tell, though interestingly, he does not single out Peter (compared to Mark 16:7).

Matthew 27:57 describes Joseph of Arimathea as “discipled to Jesus,” using the verb from the same root as the Greek word for disciple, and Matthew 27:55-56 identifies the group of women who witnessed the crucifixion from a distance as “those who followed Jesus from Galilee to minister to him.” Throughout the Gospels, following Jesus means becoming a disciple. Luke says that the women told the news “to the eleven and to all the rest” (Luke 24:9), and Matthew may also have this larger group of disciples in mind.

In any case, the women immediately, “with fear and great joy” obey the angel’s command. Mark has them reacting with fear and silence, but in Matthew they run to announce the world-changing news. On the way, Jesus meets them and reiterates the angel’s command to stop being afraid. He is alive and present with them. Why should they fall prey to fear? Why should they leave room for anything except worship and overwhelming joy?

Jesus has one final command for them: “go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me” (Matthew 28:10). But whom does Jesus mean by “my brothers”? The final scene in Matthew shows the eleven disciples meeting with Jesus in Galilee, so at minimum Jesus is sending the women to tell the eleven. Given that one of the women is Jesus’ mother, it would be quite natural to assume that he means for her to tell James and Joseph and Simon and Judas as well (see 1 Corinthians 15:7, where Paul says that Jesus appeared to James). But are the women bearers of a message intended only for men?

It is important to point out that grammatically the Greek word translated as “brothers” could equally well be translated as “brothers and sisters.” Greek uses masculine plurals for any group that includes males, even if the group is comprised of nine women and one man. Though there are no women among the eleven, Matthew clearly includes women in the larger group of Jesus’ disciples. Furthermore, the shift in language from “disciples” to “brothers” recalls the scene in Matthew 12:46-40, where Jesus asks who his mother and brothers are and then answers his own question by saying, “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother (26:50). Disciples have become family.

Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus, commissioned by Jesus himself, become the first apostles. With great joy, they obey Jesus’ command, bearing witness to the risen Christ. The Gospel that began with a man afraid to marry his disgraced betrothed and a fearful king who tries to kill potential rivals ends with overwhelming joy. Jesus’ command to the women becomes a command to all of us: Stop being afraid! God has defeated death. Rejoice, and share the good news!


Notes

  1. Commentary first published on this site on April 15, 2017.

Alternate Gospel

Commentary on John 20:1-18

Alicia D. Myers

John 20:1–18 divides into two parts: verses 1–10 and 11–18.

[Looking for commentary on Matthew 28:1-10? See this commentary for Easter Vigil by Judith Jones.]

In the first portion, Mary arrives early in the morning at Jesus’ tomb. Unlike Synoptic accounts, where Mary is joined by other women to anoint Jesus’ body, here Mary is alone and Jesus’ body has been anointed for burial twice already (12:1–8; 19:39–42). Mary’s solitude, walking to the tomb even before the sun rises, emphasizes the sorrow of the moment. Like Mary of Bethany in John 11, this Mary is in mourning. When she sees an open tomb, it does not bring about the memories of Lazarus’ resurrection, but rather a logical assumption: an opened tomb signals a tomb robbery! Unfortunately, such acts were well-known in antiquity, so much so that tomb robbery was listed as a heinous crime in rhetorical handbooks and was a trademark of pirates in ancient novels.

Rather than looking into the tomb, Mary runs away from it (20:2). Assuming Jesus’ body has been stolen, she seeks help from two disciples: Peter and the Beloved Disciple. Peter’s inclusion seems odd; does Mary (or anyone) know what Peter did in the courtyard? The last time he appeared, it was while denying Jesus three times (18:15–27). In contrast, the Beloved Disciple stood by Jesus even as he hung on the cross (19:25–27). These disciples race to the tomb, their presence together already signaling Peter’s future reinstatement and Jesus’ gracious forgiveness (21:15–19). There is room for both faithful and failing disciples in the family of God because of this forgiveness and love.

Mary’s desire for comfort from these two disciples, however, will leave her empty. Both men eventually look into the tomb and see that Jesus’ body is gone. Even the Beloved Disciple, who is said to “believe” in verse 8, offers no words of hope to Mary. Instead, all three disciples are scattered (see also 16:32). The men “returned to their homes,” while Mary remains outside the tomb, weeping. In fact, given the sequence of events in 20:8–10, it seems probable that the Beloved Disciple “believed” Mary’s report of Jesus’ body being stolen rather than believing in the resurrection, since verse 9 continues: “For as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.” If the Beloved Disciple “believed” in the resurrection at this point, his silent return home is cruel, and a significant departure from his otherwise inquisitive and helpful character in John 13 and 19.

In 20:11, Mary is again alone at the tomb. We can imagine light has begun filtering into the garden around her. Her sorrow brings to mind Jesus’ final words to his disciples in 16:20: “Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain but it will turn into joy.” To emphasize his point, Jesus uses the image of a woman in childbirth to describe his disciples’ sorrow; but, like a new mother holding her living child, they will also rejoice. “And,” Jesus says, “no one will take away your joy” (16:21–22). Mary, crouched beside the tomb, is that woman laboring in sorrow. But, soon, she will experience the beginnings of unending joy.

In contrast to the silence Mary received from the fleeting disciples—who ran to the tomb only to later abandon her there—Mary is visited by three beings in 20:11–18. Two angels are the first to acknowledge her pain: “Woman, why are you weeping?” (verse 13). Seemingly blinded by her tears, Mary does not hesitate to answer the angels, not showing the fear so characteristic of other angelic visitations in the Gospels and unbothered by their sudden presence in what was before an empty tomb. When she turns and sees Jesus a few verses later, she overlooks his identity as well. Jesus repeats the acknowledgement of her blinding pain, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” (verse 15).

The conversation here parallels in many ways Jesus’ first collection of disciples from John 1:35–42. Jesus’ question: “Whom are you looking for?” is the same one he asked in 1:38: “Whom are you seeking?” The disciples also call Jesus “Rabbi” or “Rabbouni” (“my Rabbi”), and in both cases the author translates the title as “Teacher” (1:39; 20:16). Jesus also names disciples in these stories: “Mariam” in 20:16, and “Peter” in 1:42. Finally, in both scenes disciples go to share the good news of Jesus’ presence with “brothers”: in John 1:41, Andrew goes to his biological brother, Peter; in 20:17–18, Mary is sent as the first apostle to Jesus’ newly reborn “brothers,” the disciples (see also 3:5–8).

Yet, there is a significant difference between these two scenes as well. In John 1, the disciples collected by Jesus will “remain” or “abide” with him physically; they follow him to stay in the same place. In John 20:17, however, Mary is explicitly told to “let go” of Jesus’ body so that he can “ascend” to his Father in heaven. Mary’s physical reaction to cling to Jesus is entirely understandable, and it emphasizes the corporeal reality of Jesus’ raised body. Jesus, though, tells Mary this is not the time to remain physically with him; she cannot follow him quite yet (13:36–14:7). Instead, now is the time to go and tell the good news of Jesus’ resurrection. Mary, in full obedience, does just that (20:18).

In many ways, we can relate to Mary. We have experienced the sorrow of Good Friday together and, now, we meet the resurrected Jesus and begin to rejoice. But Jesus also tells us we cannot remain in the garden, clinging to him. Instead, we must continue to trust his word and go. While we cannot be with Jesus physically just yet, we rejoice and experience his presence by means of the Holy Spirit he breathes over us as a community, a newly-founded family of God, blessed by believing even without sight (John 20:29–31).


First Reading

Commentary on Acts 10:34-43

Jerusha Matsen Neal

“How is it,” the preaching professor inquired, “that you can prepare a sermon manuscript and deliver it word for word, then sit down surprised by what you said?

How are you changed by what you preach?” The classroom was silent, so I could hear the whispered response of the student behind me. “Jesus is in the house,” she breathed.

There may be no better summary of why Easter matters to preachers.

For all of the early church’s insistence that the resurrected, ascended Jesus sits at the right hand of God, Eastertide preaching doggedly testifies to Jesus’ living activity in the world. Jesus’s “in the house” presence is more than a metaphor in Acts. For all of the book’s insistence on his ascended absence (Acts 1:9, 2:34, 3:21), Jesus is oddly present on the scene. He pours out the Spirit (2:33), he heals (9:34), he preaches (26:23). He is even visible and audible when he chooses to be (7:56, 9:4-6).1

New Testament scholars used to maintain that Acts told the story of the church after Jesus had left the building.2 It was a succession narrative, authenticated by the church’s ability to imitate and re-narrate Jesus’ story.3 Acts was a WWJD (“What would Jesus do?”) sort of text. This view has been especially influential for preachers who believe in the power of stories. According to this homiletic school, the power of Christian faith lies in the repeating, translating, and reliving of Jesus’s narrative—which is certainly not a bad place to start. But oddly, Jesus is more than the church’s stories about him in Acts. He is more than a preacher’s charismatic retellings.4 He is more than script and sermon—he is Savior. In Peter’s words, he is a present-tense “Lord.”

This Eastertide, the lectionary gives preachers a gift: six descriptions of post-resurrection sermons. For homileticians like myself, it’s a crash course in how early preachers structured homilies, wrestled with biblical texts and understood their preaching roles. But if this is all we take away from a study of the sermons in Acts, we’ve missed the forest for the trees. Acts gives narrative descriptions of what preaching looks like when “Jesus is in the house.” They are sermons where Jesus’ story is marked by Jesus himself, and preachers are changed in the process.

Acts 10:34-43 is “exhibit A.” Peter preaches the story he knows to preach. He is prophetic and specific. He has already traveled a long theological distance in the handful of days since he was told to eat unclean animals on a rooftop (10:13). He “truly understands that God shows no partiality,” (10:34) but the God who raised Jesus from the dead apparently wants more than Peter’s “understanding.” Though the lectionary leaves out verses 44-48, any preacher of this text knows what’s coming. God interrupts Peter’s sermon with the same Holy Spirit that interrupts Jesus’ baptism—the same Spirit promised (2:39) to those baptized at Pentecost. Peter is taken aback. This Gentile household is not only “acceptable” to God. Their worship of God through Spirit-inspired speech means that they have been included in the faith community—and critically, the choice to include them was not Peter’s to make. God chooses Cornelius’s household to be “witnesses” to Jesus’ risen presence. One can almost hear Peter swallowing hard before he takes decisive action. “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit?” (Acts 10:47) he asks. The church has never been the same.

What does Acts 10:34-43 have to do with Easter?

  • The Easter God is not a God who can be enclosed and narrated in a story about the past. God’s Easter work is ongoing. This does not undermine the specificity and uniqueness of Easter morning. It simply refuses to treat that event like a “ship in a bottle,” observed and analyzed, but carefully corked. Jesus lives, and God is still in the business of choosing “witnesses” to Jesus’ resurrection life—apparently in unexpected places.
  • The heart of Peter’s sermon—that Jesus is “Lord of all”—is an affirmation that cuts two ways. Part of the claim is political. Peter is preaching to a Roman centurion who would have acknowledged Caesar as Lord.5 But it is also a challenge for Peter, who is recognizing that Jesus’ Lordship has implications for the jurisdictional boundaries of Peter’s faith community. If Jesus has overcome death, imperial power and cultural identity are no longer determinative. Easter touches ethics. Taking the resurrected body of Jesus seriously leads to Peter to take the bodies of others seriously and privilege the reign of God over empire.
  • All of this changes Peter. He had not imagined himself baptizing uncircumcised centurions. He hadn’t anticipated that preaching about resurrection would introduce that level of theological and practical risk. When the Spirit falls, however (Acts 10:44), Peter’s narration about resurrection is interrupted by the Resurrected One, and his vocational call is rearranged.

Most preachers I know will be preaching the gospel text on Easter morning, even if they commit to preaching Acts over Eastertide. I close this commentary, then, with a word to preachers themselves.

This Easter week, as you write your sermon on the gospel text, allow this passage from Acts to shed light on your own preaching ministry:

  • How is it that your sermons move from telling Christ’s story to bearing the marks of a risen Lord?
  • How is God’s Easter work rearranging your role, your community, and your witness?
  • How are you being changed by what you preach?

Notes:

1 Beverly Gaventa summarizes the tension between Jesus’ presence and absence in Acts. Acts (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003), 34-5.

2 For example, Ernst Käsemann,“Ephesians and Acts,” Studies in Luke-Acts, eds. Leander Keck and J. Louis Martyn (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996).

3 Charles Talbert, Reading Acts: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles (Macon: Smyth & Helwys, 2001).

4 Willie Jennings speaks of an intimate relation between a disciple and Jesus in Acts, a joining of “his or her body to the risen Savior,” Acts (Louisville: WJK Press, 2017), 9.

5 Kavin Rowe reflects on the affirmation of Jesus’s Lordship in light of the context of the Roman Empire, World Turned Upside Down: Reading Acts in the Graeco-Roman Age (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).


Psalm

Commentary on Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Jason Byassee

I cannot read this psalm without singing it.

If you have a favorite sung version of the psalm, start by singing it, and then turn to interpretation. For me, it is the monks of Mepkin Abbey singing exultantly, at a fast clip, in a roar of voices. To belabor the obvious, songs are meant to be sung. Sing first—offer these words from God back to God in doxology. Then interpret. The order of things is important.

To read the Bible well, you have to keep flipping backwards. Christians tend to get stuck in the New Testament—evangelicals typically in John or Paul, mainline liberals in the Synoptic Gospels. But the New Testament is merely a reader’s guide to the Old. Hardly a word can be understood without flipping back. This psalm shows us how to read the Bible. It is a song of victory. Jesus embodies this psalm of victory with his triumphal entry (118:19-20, 26). Other New Testament writers describe all of salvation with a glance at this psalm—the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone (118:22). But, of course, a glance back at Psalm 118 is not back nearly far enough yet. We keep reading backwards all the way to the shores of the sea, the women singing in triumph, the Egyptian horses and chariots cast aside, Israelite slaves liberated. The tang of salt on their lips, nothing but dry dust on the bottoms of their feet, they haul out tambourines and recount God’s deeds of glory (Exodus 14-15). Any trip into Exodus recalls God’s grace in creation as well—the one who frees slaves also . Side glances to Isaiah and Ezra are appropriate as well (Isaiah 25:6-8, Ezra 3:11). The Bible is a book of praise from back to front. Once you wander in there, you keep going deeper. How can we keep from singing?

This psalm may have had its origin as a song of gratitude for deliverance from a tight spot. Literally. I remember a children’s book I read once where the protagonist was a spelunker who got caught in a cave. His arms were wedged against his body, he could not go forward and could not go back. His only hope was for someone else to appear and pull him out from behind, where he’d come from. My chest tightens now to think of it (why do we read these things to children?!). It is a dilemma from which there is no self-initiated escape. The only deliverance can come from outside, elsewhere, by another agent. For the psalmist, that deliverance has come. The only response can be gratitude. In fact, the psalmist all but insists that all others join in the thanksgiving. The children of Israel, that is, all the chosen (118:2). The children of Aaron, that is, the priests leading the people in worship (118:3). All who fear the Lord—that is, those beyond the chosen who admire Israel and her God (118:4). Let all the earth rejoice. For God has shown divine hesed once more—that is, divine tenacity, clinging to the covenant even as Israel clings to other would-be sources of hope,   refuses to let go of a world that refuses to be embraced. Rejoice. That steadfast love is unending.

The reversal of fortune the psalmist describes is nothing short of a war victory. Think of the ongoing remembrance of victory in World War II in Allied nations, especially as the last of those veterans die off. We still cheer to camera footage of celebrations in the streets. Who doesn’t love a victory? But as American basketball coach Bobby Knight liked to say (a dubious source for a quote in a biblical commentary, I grant, but bear with me): everyone wants to win. Not everyone wants to do what is necessary to win. Israel bargains with God often. That’s what prayer is. And in those bargains, Israel can be a little manipulative. The bargaining goes like this: God, I’m in trouble, near death. You like praise, in fact, you love it. If you let me live, I will praise you. You will get what you want: praise. I will get what I want: life. This is a win/win God, can we not make this happen? The deal has been struck in Psalm 118, and now the psalmist recounts the Lord’s saving ways (118:17).

But there is a further step in this psalm, a step into frail flesh and blood. One Old Testament scholar calls verses 19-27 “the festival of the saved,” a title upon which it would be hard to improve.1 Orthodox Christians recite this psalm during the Paschal liturgy on Holy Saturday Eve. A priest will stand outside the door of the church and demand entry. As he knocks, we can hear Christ himself battering down the gates of hell, and lifting out Adam and Eve. There is no refuge from Christ’s grace if he will storm the very gates of the netherworld to save. The church’s memory of Jesus’ entry into the gates of Jerusalem is with this psalm. He bumps along on a humble donkey, acclaimed by children, not an obvious war hero, but a religious fool, bound for his doom. The Lord’s “valiance,” celebrated in some of these verses, is understood strangely—as a punishment so severe it is a giving over to death (verses 17-18). But precisely this is God’s strange way of saving Israel and so the world. The stone we reject, God places at the cornerstone, building the entire temple upon it (118:22).

I started by arguing that to read the Bible well, we have to flip back. Of course, we must also flip forward. Christ’s saving work among us is complete, but it is not consummated. He has yet more work to do. One day he will enter the gates of holiness anew. He will have in his train all his strangest and most unlikely friends—the poor, children, those not seen or noticed or loved in this age. And maybe, by the gritty grace of God, he will bear us also in his procession of the preposterous. Who knows? Stranger things have happened—as a church gathering on Easter knows. 

 


Notes:

  1. Frank-Lothar Hossfeld and Erich Zenger. Psalms 3. (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2011), 230.

Second Reading

Commentary on Colossians 3:1-4

Valerie Nicolet-Anderson

When I read passages such as these, I always wonder how they will be heard by the people sitting in the church.

The language of Colossians 3:1-4 is very imaged, metaphorical. It talks about “being raised with Christ,” about “Christ being seated at the right hand of God,” about the “things of above,” about the final revelation of Christ which will mean the revelation of the Christ believers. The language of this passage reflects a very particular worldview, and it is sometimes a struggle to detach this language from its particular historical context in order to understand it today. And yet this operation is necessary, otherwise we run the risk of making the language of the Bible in general sound completely alien to men and women in the 21st century.

So I want to begin by saying a word about the language used by the author of Colossians (whether in this case the author is Paul or not, does not really need to concern us here. What seems clear is that, if Colossians is not by Paul, it is by someone who puts himself in a tradition and perhaps a school informed by Paul). The entire context of the passage is marked by apocalyptic thought. For the author of Colossians, Christ has inaugurated the end times. While Christ has now found his proper place at the right hand of God, on earth, it means that Christ believers are called to reflect this new time in their behavior. They cannot continue leading their lives as if things had not radically changed. They need to embody the eschatological community that Christ has founded. They have died to the old way of understanding the world, and themselves, and their real life, is now embodied in who they are in Christ. This eschatological identity is not immediately accessible to the people around them, since, in reality, Christ believers do not look different outwardly.

Ethical orientation of Colossians

To understand the ethical implications of the apocalyptic age, it is necessary to consider what comes directly before and after Colossians 3:1-4. Immediately before, the author of Colossians asks a question that sounds very much like something that Paul could have asked: “if with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world?” (Colossians 2:20). Readers familiar with Paul will recognize the concern for being in the world without belonging to the world. This is another sign that the eschatological age has begun.

In the eschatological age, the Christ believers have abandoned their beliefs in the elemental spirits. Exegetes have long debated what the “elemental spirits of the universe” represent. It seems plausible to see here a reference to philosophical discussions concerning the elements that organize the universe, elements that could also be understood as having magical powers, and as controlling various relationships in the world. Whatever this expression specifically means, it is no longer part of the reality of the Christ believers. It can thus also no longer serve to organize their lives. Because of this change in who/what is controlling the basic orientation of their lives, the Christ believers need to embody a new ethic.

Now, as Colossians 3:1-4 makes clear, it is Christ who decides how they need to behave and treat each other. Concretely, their new orientation needs to be concretely translated in abandoning specific behaviors. As Colossians 3:5 states: “Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil, desire, and greed (which is idolatry).” What I find interesting in this list of behaviors to abandon is that these are stock expressions of Greco-Roman ethics in late Antiquity. Even in what the author of Colossians says before, we hear the echoes of a pagan philosophy that probably advertised a similar behavior: “All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings. These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-imposed piety, humility, and severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in checking self-indulgence” (Colossians 2:22-23). For the philosophies that the author of Colossians condemns, the same behaviors criticized in Colossians 3:5 are condemned. Stoic philosophers aimed at controlling desires, mastering passions, in order to lead a life of contentment and peacefulness.

Thus it seems important to notice that what distinguishes Colossians from other Greco-Roman philosophies of the time is not so much concrete behaviors. The difference lies in a basic orientation of the person, in what motivates the ethical behavior. For the author of Colossians, the Christ believers have to modify their actions because they now belong to Christ and recognize that he has inaugurated the eschatological age. It is only if they have this proper orientation, this correct self-understanding, that their actions can reflect their new identity. Otherwise, these actions have the potential to be misunderstood as the behavior of any respectable Greco-Roman philosopher of the time.

And for us?

For us, this distinction between concrete actions and basic orientation in the construction of ethics is key. It means social and cultural circumstances condition the concrete actions that are condemned. They are not what needs to concern us most, because these concrete actions can change according to the culture, society, and time in which we live, and need to be redefined depending on what evils most assail our world (today, we could think in terms of injustice, inequality, racism, discrimination on the basis of gender or sexuality, rather than in terms of fornication or impurity). What remains timeless and can help us articulate a Christian ethic is the question of who orients our freedom, who is the ultimate referent of what we do, as a Christian community. And this referent, for the author of Colossians, remains Christ, in the first century and in the twenty-first century.


Suplementario Evangelio

Commentary on San Juan 20:1-18

William A. Andrews

En esta lectura nos enfrentamos con el primer Día de Resurrección según San Juan.

[¿Buscas un comentario sobre San Mateo 28:1-10? Fíjate en este comentario para la Vigilia Pascual de la Prof. Martha Milagros Acosta Valle.]

Vamos a detenernos a reflexionar sobre este texto en particular, sin apurarnos a combinar y armonizar las perspectivas de los cuatro evangelistas sobre la resurrección de Jesús. De esta manera no se nos perderá la palabra que se nos ofrece en San Juan para este tiempo. Por un lado, es normal que queramos borrar las diferencias entre los evangelios cuando se trata de una historia tan familiar. ¿Cuántas veces no hemos leído y escuchado la historia de la Pascua? En mis cuarenta y tres años, nunca he pasado una Pascua en otro lugar que no sea la iglesia. Por otro lado, San Juan—como los demás evangelistas—tiene su propia historia que contar con sus particularidades y detalles. Este año será una Pascua como ninguna otra y San Juan tiene un mensaje para nosotros/as en este particular momento en su versión de la historia.

¿Qué significa proclamar la resurrección en este tiempo de COVID-19? ¿En este tiempo de “distanciamiento social”? No podremos congregarnos para celebrar en nuestras iglesias en este día tan especial para la cristiandad. Tantas emociones surgen de nuestras mentes y almas. Quizás ahora, más que nunca, debemos hacer una pausa y escuchar más de cerca lo que nos dice San Juan.

“El primer día de la semana…” (v. 1)

Como en los otros evangelios, María Magdalena llega a la tumba mientras está “aún oscuro” (v. 1). A diferencia de los demás, en San Juan ella parece estar sola. Las ideas populares de que ella es una mujer “pecadora” e incluso prostituta no tienen fundamento bíblico. Además de su papel en las narrativas de la Pasión (Mateo 27:56-61; Marcos 15:40, 47; Juan 19:25), San Lucas nos dice que ella es una mujer galilea a quien Jesús liberó de siete demonios (8:2). De Juan 20:1-18 solo podemos concluir que ella es la primera persona que llega a la tumba y la primera discípula que proclama las buenas nuevas de la resurrección (v. 18).

María descubre la piedra “quitada” (v. 1) y corre para decirles “a Simón Pedro y al otro discípulo, aquel a quien amaba Jesús” (v. 2). No sabemos los pensamientos ni los temores de María hasta que ella informa a los discípulos que “se han llevado del sepulcro al Señor y no sabemos dónde lo han puesto” (v. 2). ¿Cuál es el sujeto del verbo “sabemos”? ¿Se refiere a la comunidad? ¿Es el rastro de la actividad editorial por la cual se incorpora la tradición—como en San Marcos—de que hay un grupo de mujeres? Hay un sentido de urgencia marcado por el verbo “corrió” (v. 2), que se refleja también en la acción de los dos discípulos de salir corriendo hacia la tumba (v. 3). ¿Tiene miedo de que alguien haya robado el cuerpo como en una tradición más antigua (cf. Mateo 27:63-66; 28:11-14)? Además, ¿a dónde corre para encontrar a Pedro y al otro discípulo? Del episodio siguiente (20:19-29) sabemos que los discípulos están “reunidos por miedo” (20:19). ¿Por qué esos dos discípulos? ¿Quién es el discípulo sin nombre “a quien amaba Jesús”? El texto guarda silencio sobre todos estos asuntos.

“Salieron Pedro y el otro discípulo…” (v. 3)

El informe de María nos lleva a la segunda escena. Igual que María, “corrían” con urgencia a la tumba (v. 4), pero proceden de diferentes maneras. Aunque supera a Pedro, el discípulo amado se detiene al llegar a la entrada del sepulcro (v. 5). Pedro, conocido en San Juan por su entusiasmo e impulsividad (13:9; 18:10; 21:7), entra de inmediato (v. 5). Encuentra la tumba vacía, pero no como si alguien hubiera robado el cadáver. La ropa del entierro está cuidadosamente envuelta, y San Juan proporciona una descripción meticulosa que nos recuerda el episodio anterior de Jesús resucitando a Lázaro (11:1-44). De hecho, en el original griego se usa la misma palabra para el “sudario” en el que habían estado envueltas las cabezas (11:44; 20:7). Esta conexión les indica al lector y a la lectora que Jesús ha salido de la tumba, pero a diferencia de Lázaro, bajo su propio poder.

Con la entrada del discípulo amado en la tumba, llegamos a un clímax teológico de la narración: Él “vio, y creyó” (v. 8). La conexión entre la vista y la creencia se extiende por todo el evangelio de San Juan, pero el significado no está claro en este caso. ¿Qué cree él? El verbo no tiene objeto explícito. ¿Simplemente cree en el informe de María? ¿Él cree en la resurrección? A estar por la declaración explicativa del siguiente versículo—“Aún no habían entendido la Escritura: que era necesario que él resucitara de los muertos” (v. 9)—lo último parece poco probable. Él cree en la tumba vacía, y tal vez en que Jesús vive, pero esto no significa que creyera en la resurrección. Las dos primeras escenas de la narración son sobre la tumba vacía (vv. 1-10). Solo en la tercera escena (vv. 11-18) la resurrección entra claramente en la vista de quien lee. La creencia de los discípulos se completará en el siguiente episodio (20:19-23), pero mientras tanto, simplemente “volvieron los discípulos a los suyos” (v. 10). No se menciona que compartan las buenas noticias ni que se alegren por su experiencia. Todavía no conocen al Cristo Resucitado. María será la primera con ese privilegio en el tercer y último episodio.

“Pero María estaba fuera llorando…” (v. 11)

La escena cambia abruptamente a María en la tumba. Su viaje de regreso no se narra, aunque algunos detalles se destacan en la versión de San Juan. Primero, dice que María “lloraba.” De hecho, se lo menciona tres veces (vv. 11, 13, 15). Esto puede aludir a las promesas anteriores de Jesús: “lloraréis y lamentaréis… vuestra tristeza se convertirá en gozo” (16:20) y “ahora tenéis tristeza; pero os volveré a ver, y se gozará vuestro corazón” (16:22). Segundo, cuando María mira, mientras lloraba, hacia la tumba y ve a dos ángeles sentados donde había estado el cuerpo (v. 12), ellos no hacen un anuncio de la resurrección. En cambio, los ángeles vuelven la atención a la tumba vacía y al dolor de María (v. 13). El significado de la resurrección es revelado por Jesús mismo (v. 17). Tercero, solo San Juan incluye los detalles de las posiciones de los ángeles en los lugares donde se colocaron la cabeza y los pies de Jesús en la tumba(v. 12).

Después de este intercambio dentro de la tumba, María se da vuelta y ve a Jesús parado allí, pero no lo reconoce (v. 14). Esto crea una tensión dramática. La pregunta de Jesús llama la atención sobre el dolor de María y la falta de reconocimiento. María piensa que es el “jardinero” (v. 15). El momento de revelación ocurre cuando Jesús pronuncia su nombre y ella responde exuberantemente con el título íntimo “maestro” (v. 16). El siguiente versículo sugiere que ella intenta tocarlo o que lo toca (v. 17a). El lector o la lectora no pueden estar seguros/as, pero Jesús le manda inmediatamente a María que lo suelte “porque aún no he subido a mi Padre” (v. 17b).

Jesús también le encarga a María que sea la primera en dar las buenas nuevas de su resurrección, específicamente que él sube a su Padre (v. 17c). Esto evoca el tema joánico de Jesús “levantado.” La glorificación de Jesús comienza con la crucifixión, pero no se completa hasta que resucita y asciende (cf. 3:14; 8:28; 12:32, 34). También hay una intimidad en las palabras de Jesús: “mi Padre” y “vuestro Padre” … “mi Dios” y “vuestro Dios;” y cuando Dios glorifica a Jesús, los discípulos se convierten en sus “hermanos” (v. 17). María obedece y da un informe completo: “la noticia de que había visto al Señor, y que él le había dicho estas cosas” (v. 18).

Sugerencias homiléticas

Mientras que nosotros/as y nuestras congregaciones nos encontramos en cuarentena, sabemos algo del miedo e incertidumbre que sentían los primeros discípulos. ¿Cómo podemos celebrar la resurrección sin una clara visión del futuro? Es decir, ¿sin una esperanza concreta? La lectura de San Juan en este Día de Resurrección nos ofrece dos respuestas, o sea, dos maneras de seguir adelante hasta que la esperanza sea más evidente.

Primero, hay un enlace entre la fe y la vista así como lo hay entre la tumba vacía y la resurrección misma. María tiene una experiencia de la tumba, pero no la entiende ni la cree hasta que Jesús la llama por su nombre. Asimismo, los demás discípulos no van a entender ni creer de veras hasta que estén en la presencia de Jesús (20:19-20). Quizás por primera vez nuestras iglesias estarán vacías en este Día de Resurrección, pero de todas maneras es cierto que Cristo ha resucitado. Hay que buscar nuevas formas de ver la presencia de Cristo y de escuchar su voz. Sea con medios tecnológicos o con familia en nuestros hogares, sí se puede.

Segundo, podemos aprender algo sobre la disciplina de lamentación en esta lectura de San Juan. El episodio entero está enmarcado por las lágrimas de María Magdalena. Así como Cristo no ignoró las lágrimas de María Magdalena, tampoco ignora nuestras lágrimas. Hay momentos tan abrumadores que no nos alcanzan las explicaciones ni las respuestas. En tales momentos, la tradición bíblica nos permite y provee un modelo de lamentación. Aun Jesús lloró (Juan 11:35) y también se lamentó en la cruz (Mateo 27:46; Marcos 15:34). En este Día de Resurrección hay mucho miedo, incertidumbre, e ira por las circunstancias y la condición del mundo. Debemos dejar espacio para las lágrimas, los gritos y los lamentos. Son expresiones fieles en el momento, hasta que llegue el tiempo en que Cristo nos llame y nos consuele de nuevo.