Lectionary Commentaries for April 16, 2017
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.

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!


Alternate Gospel

Commentary on John 20:1-18

Robert Hoch

John’s “first installation” of the resurrection appearances includes the following journeys to and from the tomb:

  • Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb and back to Simon Peter and the Beloved Disciple (1-2);
  • Simon Peter and the Beloved Disciple go to the tomb and then back to their homes (3-10);
  • Mary, just outside the tomb, meets the risen Christ and is commissioned by him to bear witness to the resurrection, thus leaving the tomb behind (11-18).

A quick look at how the narrator develops these three “journeys to and from the tomb” suggests a dramatic climax with Mary’s commission and testimony in verses 17-18. Mary’s departure and testimony “unseals” the meaning of the empty tomb, which is otherwise unexplained.

Early in the morning, before light, Mary goes to the tomb. She sees that it is open — she sees that the stone is rolled away, but she does not go inside. She sees, she runs, and she reports what she understands from what she has seen: “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him” (verse 2).

Mary does not “recognize” Jesus as Lord, at least not yet. Other powers — a “they” — have taken a body from the tomb. For her, the memory of Jesus’ death, his internment, had solidified into a reality. This report instigates the journey of the two disciples, Simon Peter and the Beloved Disciple, which extends the question of Jesus’ whereabouts but, most importantly, Jesus’ resurrection identity, and the nature of faith itself, namely believing with and without seeing.

The Beloved Disciple runs faster — is this a comment on his particular relationship to Jesus? — than Simon Peter, but when he arrives at the empty tomb, he stops. The narrator states unambiguously that he did not go in. Why? Was he afraid of what he might see? Or what he might not see? Does he remain outside the tomb for similar or different reasons from Mary?

Simon Peter, who had been following the Beloved Disciple, comes from behind and goes inside the tomb. The Beloved Disciple is still standing outside the tomb. Simon Peter sees the linen wrappings “lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself” (verse 7).

With the evidence in front of them, their eyes see, but only the Beloved Disciple is said to believe: “[he] also went in, and he saw, and believed” (verse 8b).

What is the relationship between what the Beloved Disciple saw and his response? Not much, according to Gail R. O’Day: “… the beloved disciple believed because he already believed.”1

Maybe believing the promise “finished the race”, while Simon Peter’s curiosity led him into the tomb but no further. In any case, the narrator does not say whether Simon Peter responded to what he saw with belief or unbelief. The result of this “sighting” leads both disciples to return to their homes (verse 10).

What do we make of the differing conclusions of the disciples or the absence of a conclusion from Simon Peter? Perhaps it is simply that the writers of the gospel are not primarily interested in apologetics, or in explaining how the resurrection happened, or whether evidence for it was compelling. They are mostly concerned to show the reader that it happened.

If anything, the gospel writers present the reading community with narratives designed to provoke the reader’s response. The resurrection of Jesus might be condensed to a few spare details (as in Mark’s account) or may include extended narratives like John’s or Luke’s. Either way, the texts pose a similar set of questions for the reader: How do we respond to the empty tomb? Have we skipped merrily from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, with barely a regret to darken our way? Or could we be instructed by the honesty of Mary who went to the tomb expecting to find a corpse? She is the one who invites the disciples, and perhaps us as well, to the empty tomb.

Simone Weil, the French philosopher and mystic, sounds as if she might be a friend of Mary’s tears:

Affliction contains the truth about our condition. They alone will see God who prefer to recognize truth and die, instead of living a long and happy existence in a state of illusion. One must want to go towards reality; then, when one thinks one has found a corpse, one meets an angel who says, ‘He is risen.’2

Perhaps Mary represents one who goes to just this reality. She expects a corpse … nevertheless, she persists.

John’s first installment of the resurrection has not reached its completion. The narrator uses a by now familiar formula for the journey of faith. Consider the call of the first disciples in 1:39-42 or the woman at the well, who “left her water jar at the well and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?’” (John 4:28-29).

The last example foreshadows this text, which reserves the Easter testimony to Mary Magdalene. The Beloved Disciple went home, as did Simon Peter. But Mary remained at the opening of the tomb.

Mary wept. Are we to recall Jesus weeping outside the tomb of Lazarus? It seems all too easy, on our side of the resurrection story (and on Easter Sunday!) to make light of Mary’s bewilderment. Jesus wept, too. Perhaps because of this, Jesus will be revealed to her before anyone else. The disciples, including the Beloved Disciple, went to their homes. Other disciples will be found in another house, one locked with fear. Mary’s eyes were locked in the darkness of grief.

But like the Samaritan woman Jesus meets at the well, Mary Magdalene will eventually leave her grief at the tomb. Where she has known tears, she will be given shouts of joy. Jesus commissions the woman who weeps as the woman who proclaims: “‘I have seen the Lord’” (verse 18b).

Raymond Brown wonders if, when she tried to “hold onto” Jesus, she was trying to return to the way things were before Jesus’ death.3 If she had clung to the Jesus she once knew, could she ever proclaim the Jesus she suddenly recognized as her Lord and God? What are we holding on to in this post-resurrection world? Our grief? Nostalgia for the past?

Jesus appears next in a house filled with fear — but he will not be conformed to fear.


Notes:

Gail R. O’Day, “The Gospel of John” in New Interpreter’s Bible, volume 9 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995), 873.

Simone Weil, “The Love of God and Affliction” in George A. Panichas, ed., The Simone Weil Reader (New York: David McKay Company, Inc., 1977), 463.

Raymond Brown, “John: 23-21” in The Anchor Bible (Garden City: Doubleday & Company, 1970), 1014.


First Reading

Commentary on Acts 10:34-43

Elisabeth Johnson

This text is part of a much longer story about Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10. Both the historical and the literary contexts are important to understand its significance.

The story begins in the coastal city of Caesarea — a seaport built by Herod the Great and named for Caesar Augustus. After 6 CE, when the Romans deposed Herod’s son Archelaus and sent a Roman prefect to rule over Judea, Caesarea became the seat of Roman government in Judea with a considerable Roman military presence.

In this city lives a man named Cornelius, a centurion of the Roman occupying army, a division known as the Italian Cohort. A centurion was a professional officer in the Roman army, the commander of a group of about 100 soldiers. Nothing more is said about Cornelius’ military career. Instead, this Gentile military officer is described as being a devout man who feared God, who gave alms generously, and prayed constantly to God (Acts 10:1-2). Later in the story, he is described as “an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation” (10:22).

Cornelius is among a group of Gentiles that Acts calls “God-fearers,” Gentiles who were associated with a synagogue, participated in Jewish worship and prayers, and even supported the synagogue financially. In order to become full-fledged proselytes of Judaism, however, these Gentiles would have to follow all of the commandments of the law of Moses, including circumcision for men. It seems that there were few Gentiles willing to go that far.

One place where this became an issue among the faithful was in table fellowship. Unless Gentiles were willing to adopt all of the Mosaic laws about food preparation and which foods were clean and unclean, Jews could not eat with them. In fact, Jews were not even allowed to enter Gentile homes so that they would not become “unclean.”

Knowing all of this makes what happens in this story of Peter and Cornelius all the more astonishing. One afternoon while praying, Cornelius sees a vision in which an angel of God tells him to send for a man named Peter who is staying in Joppa. While Cornelius’ men are on their way to Joppa to find Peter, Peter is praying on the roof of the home where he is staying. He falls into a trance and sees a vision of a sheet coming down from heaven with all kinds of animals on it, both clean and unclean. He hears a voice saying, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat” (10:13).

Peter is shocked. On this sheet he sees all kinds of animals that he has learned from birth are not to be eaten. “By no means, Lord,” Peter says, “for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.” The voice speaks again and says, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” This happens three times, and the sheet is taken back up into heaven (10:14-16).

Just as Peter is puzzling about what to make of this strange vision, the men sent by Cornelius arrive, ask for Peter, and tell him about Cornelius’ vision. Peter and some of the other believers go with these men to Caesarea, where Cornelius has gathered a large group of family and friends to hear what Peter has to say. But first Peter listens to Cornelius tell his story, and as he listens, the meaning of his own vision becomes clear. Peter believes that God has shown him that he should not consider anyone unclean.

This is where our text begins. “I truly understand that God shows no partiality,” Peter says, “but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (10:34-35). He then proceeds to tell Cornelius and his household the story of Jesus, emphasizing God’s action through Jesus and the universality of his mission, for “he is Lord of all” (10:36). Jesus went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil; although he was put to death, God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear to certain witnesses, who are now sent to proclaim the promise of forgiveness to all who believe (10:37-43).

Unfortunately, our text stops here, with Peter wrapping up his short sermon. But what happens next amazes everyone and is crucial to understanding this story: “While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles.(10:44-45).

The most astonishing “conversion” in this story is that of Peter and his companions regarding their understanding of how God is at work. These Jewish believers understood Jesus to be the Messiah, the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel. It is not that they didn’t think Gentiles could become part of the family of faith — Jews welcomed Gentile converts. What astounds them is that the Holy Spirit and the gift of faith came to these Gentiles without them first becoming Jews, without them being circumcised and adopting the law of Moses. The Holy Spirit has been poured out on them just as they are — as Gentiles. “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” Peter asks (10:47). The assumed answer, of course, is a resounding “No!” Cornelius and his household are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (10:48).

This is a major turning point in the book of Acts and in the history of the church. One of the next big questions to work out is this: If Gentiles are becoming part of God’s people without first becoming Jews, what does this mean for table fellowship? Can Jews and Gentiles eat together? It took many years and struggles for the early church to work this one out. The conclusion eventually reached was that yes, Jews and Gentiles can eat together. However, this required Jewish believers giving up long-standing taboos in order to welcome strangers to the table. Gentile Christians everywhere are beneficiaries of that bold new direction the early church took, that daring step forward in mission under the prodding and leading of the Holy Spirit.

One direction a sermon might take is to ask, where is the Spirit leading us today? What strangers is the Spirit calling us to welcome? Do we welcome only those who are already like us, or who are willing to become like us? Or are we willing to be changed for the sake of welcoming new people and new generations? Are we willing to loosen our grip on long standing, dearly held traditions, that may present obstacles to welcoming others to the table?

Another direction might be to focus on the fact that this story of Peter and Cornelius is a genuine dialogue. Peter tells Cornelius about Jesus only after listening to Cornelius and hearing how God has already been working in his life. Peter’s listening helps him to understand the vision he was given on the rooftop and to discern the new thing that God is doing.

It is, after all, about what God is doing. The Spirit is always way ahead of us, just as the Spirit was way ahead of Peter, working in the lives of Cornelius and his household long before Peter showed up or had a clue what God was up to. The Spirit blows where it wills, often breaking down barriers long thought indestructible and opening up new possibilities for drawing all people into God’s loving embrace.


Psalm

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

Karl Jacobson

Psalm 118 is called a “song of victory” in the New Revised Standard Version, and it invites Israel (and all who read/pray/hear it) to join its voices to that of the psalm, and to say — to announce, sing, proclaim — “The Lord’s steadfast love endures forever.”

This call to praise of God begins with Israel, “let Israel say,” but continues in verses 3 and 4 to locate that call in the worship leadership of the priestly “house of Aaron,” and is extended beyond Israel to include “those who fear the Lord” (it is a bit strange that the Revised Common Lectionary cuts verses 3-4 from the reading; I would suggest including them).

This psalm is a radically inclusive invitation to all the peoples of the earth to join in the praise of the Lord.

Psalm 118, and the portion of it which is our reading for Easter morning, has three familiar sing-song verses:

Verse 1: O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;

his steadfast love endures forever! (a common paean of praise in the Psalms)

Verse 22: The stone that the builders rejected

has become the chief cornerstone. (quoted in Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10-11; Luke 20:17, Acts 4:11; and 1 Peter 2:7)

Verse 24: This is the day that the Lord has made;

let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Strung together, these three familiar verses set the tone for Easter morning. God’s steadfast love endures forever, even in and through death, bringing new life. Christ, the stone that has been rejected, becomes the foundation of a new reality. And this, even this, precisely this, is the day which the Lord has made; new creation, new life, new hope.

There are two other verses which highlight how fitting Psalm 118 is for Easter Sunday, verses 15 and 16. Here again is an invitation of sorts, in the description of the “glad songs of victory” which the people are lifting up (presumably fleshing out the call to praise “O give thanks to the Lord, for the Lord is good….”):

There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous:

“The right hand of the Lord does valiantly;

the right hand of the Lord is exalted;

the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.”

In the Psalms, the power of God’s right hand is at first associated specifically with God’s saving acts in history, and then comes to stand as symbolic language for God’s protection and comfort of the troubled in general.

In Psalm 118:15 and 16, the “right hand of the Lord” occurs three times, and is “exalted,” for having done “valiantly.” This language derives from the exodus event. One of the earliest examples of this phrasing comes from Exodus 15:6, the Song of the Sea:

Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power —

your right hand, O Lord, shattered the enemy.

That this phrase is explicitly tied to the exodus event in Psalm 118 is supported by 118:14 as well,

The Lord is my strength and my might;

he has become my salvation.

So, in certain psalms the “right hand” of God is connected invariably to the power of the exodus event specifically (Psalms 74:11–13, 77:12-21), and similarly to God’s work in settling the people of Israel in the Promised Land during the “conquest” (Psalms 78:54; 80:16, 18).1

In other psalms this phrase takes on a more general sense of comfort and care that is found in God’s right hand. For example, Psalm 63:5-8,

My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,

and my mouth praises you with joyful lips

when I think of you on my bed,

and meditate on you in the watches of the night;

for you have been my help,

and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.  

My soul clings to you;

your right hand upholds me.

And, again, Psalm 139:10

Even there (at the farthest, unknown limits of the sea, verse 9) your hand shall lead me,

and your right hand shall hold me fast.

Borrowing this exodus language explicitly, the Jeremiah promised a new “exodus,” in the return from Exile:

Therefore, the days are surely coming, says the Lord, when it shall no longer be said, “As the Lord lives who brought the people of Israel up out of the land of Egypt,” but “As the Lord lives who brought out and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the land of the north and out of all the lands where he had driven them” (Jeremiah 23:7-8).

Much as in the Psalms, Jeremiah uses what God has done in the past to imagine and make sense of what God is or will do. And so, too, for those proclaim Christ’s death, each Easter, until he shall come again

The true and final “new exodus” of the Resurrection is effected by God’s “right hand.”

This is the Lord’s doing, and it is indeed marvelous in our sight.

This is the new day that the Lord has made, a day of unparalleled rejoicing and gladness.


Notes:

1. See also Psalm 44:4: “For not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm give them victory; but your right hand, and your arm, and the light of your countenance, for you delighted in them.”


Second Reading

Commentary on Colossians 3:1-4

Sarah Hinlicky Wilson

It’s Easter Sunday and you get to choose from: a) John 20, in which Mary Magdalene is called by name by the risen Lord, b) Acts 10, in which Peter summarizes in a mere ten verses the whole story of the Jesus up to and including his resurrection, and c) four curt, allusive, poetic, and wrenched-out-of-context verses from Colossians. Tough choice!

This snippet of Colossians has, as an Easter text, everything against it: “Seek the things that are above.” This passage sets all the wrong bells ringing. It sounds gnostic, as if we were to eschew the material filth that weighs down our souls and peer into the great ether of Platonic purity. It sounds like religiously justified absenteeism from real life, scorning the workaday vocations of family and state and economy to dwell daintily in a celestial starscape. It sounds like that most scorned version of Christianity, “pie in the sky by and by,” heavenly hopes to the exclusion of earthly engagement. “Set your mind on things that are above” — what are you, some kind of snob? Too holy for the likes of us down here?

Of course, none of the foregoing is an accurate reading of this portion of Colossians, or of the Epistle as a whole, though it’s hard to garner that from these verses standing alone. The immediate run-up to the exhortation to keep your sights set high is a warning against competing forms of false religiosity.

In Christ, you died to the “elemental spirits of the universe” (Colossians 2:8, 2:20), so why do you carry on living as if you were enslaved to them? Christ redeemed you and forgave you, so why do you keep thinking that mere “human commands and teachings” (2:22) like “food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths” (2:16) with their “appearance of wisdom” (2:22) count as good religion? The worship of creaturely spirits and blind observance of human traditions are the things that are “below.” They are the alternatives to “the things that are above.”

“Things above” refers to what comes from the true God, the Father, and “his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (1:14). The point of the exhortation is that we should give our attention and worship to the true God instead of pretenders to the throne. But it in no way suggests a gnostic or a falsely pious disdain of the created world.

Actually, and rather surprisingly, Colossians suggests that heaven and earth were in the same boat, so to speak. Christ came to reconcile “all things, whether on earth or in heaven.” He did so not by lordly fiat or a miraculous airlift of the worthy out of the domain of suffering but by “making peace by the blood of his cross” (1:20), “in his body of flesh by his death” (1:22). You can’t get any more this-worldly than a body bleeding to death on a cross.

Those who are now transferred into the kingdom of light, the church, are to grow to maturity in their faith and their life together, “being knit together in love” (2:2). They should cast off the flesh in confidence that the body will be raised — a distinction that needs to be made continuously and tirelessly. Colossians 3 carries on from its entreaty on behalf of the “things above” to talk about the sins of this life that need to be crucified, the proper virtues to exercise in fellowship, and the nature of the relationships between spouses, parents and children, and masters and slaves — reciprocal and centered around Christ at every point. Having the mind set on “things above” is no escape from the tasks and struggles of this earth. It’s rather having the Star of Bethlehem to orient one’s journey.

A common Easter exchange is “Christ is risen! — He is risen indeed!” A Colossians variation on the theme might be: “You have died! — I have been raised with Christ!” Both assertions are true, and true at the same time. Colossians is all about the stereoscopic vision that comes from the resurrection. You see yourself as dead, and you equally see yourself as alive. You carry out the business of this earth in public and in broad daylight, yet your life is also hidden with Christ in God. When Christ is revealed in his glory, you also will be revealed in the same glory, despite your status as sinner transferred from the kingdom of darkness.

How can you set your mind on the things above while living on the earth? By the double vision of the Christian faith. Faith gives us the lenses to see reality aright and accordingly act, obediently, and joyfully.


Suplementario Evangelio

Commentary on San Juan 20:1-18

Heydi Tatiana Galarza Mendoza

Historias de encuentros necesarios: Un discípulo sin nombre, un hombre maduro confundido, una mujer que llora inconsolablemente y un crucificado…

[¿Buscas un comentario sobre San Mateo 28:1-10? Fíjate en este comentario para la Vigilia Pascual de William A. Andrews.]

En este texto nos encontramos ante una sucesión de eventos extraordinarios que derivarán en el hecho sobrenatural por excelencia: la resurrección de Jesús. Los relatos anteriores a este episodio narran la dramática muerte de Jesús, el maestro. Es un momento que encierra dolor, humillación, despojo, impotencia y finalmente muerte. Este tipo de muertes prematuras, marcadas por señales estigmatizadoras, duelen más aún. Los ojos de las y los que veían este episodio aterrador estaban llenos no sólo de lágrimas sino de total desesperanza. Por esta razón se comprende que, en la primera escena de esta narración, cuando María Magdalena llega en la madrugada de aquel domingo al sepulcro de Jesús y ve la piedra removida, presiente lo peor, porque a quien le quitan toda esperanza, mira en cualquier suceso sólo oscuridad.

María, en toda su desesperación, corrió hasta donde estaban los amigos más íntimos de Jesús. De entre todos, Pedro, junto a aquel misterioso discípulo sin nombre, corrieron hacia el sepulcro.

El detalle que no podemos eludir en este evento es que todo estaba sucediendo en la madrugada del primer día de la semana, como indica el texto. Estaba amaneciendo; María va al sepulcro inventando pisadas entre una media oscuridad. Y más aún, sale corriendo, quizás tropezando, cuando va a dar el aviso de que algo malo estaba pasando. En esa misma semioscuridad, Pedro y el otro discípulo hicieron lo propio; se pusieron a correr acompañados de su tristeza y su desazón.

En la segunda escena, sucede el primer evento poco lógico ante los ojos humanos de los dos discípulos: estaban en el sepulcro todos los implementos mortuorios: los lienzos y el sudario… pero él no. Lo asombroso es que aquel discípulo sin nombre “vio, y creyó” (v. 8). Lo que Pedro pensó, sintió o intuyó quedará para siempre en la semioscuridad de aquella madrugada.

El evangelio cuenta que hasta ese momento no habían comprendido que Jesús vencería a la muerte, y con ella a todo el cúmulo de perversidades que el ser humano es capaz de cometer.

En la tercera escena, el relato continúa con la salida del sepulcro. Tanto Pedro como el otro discípulo siguen su camino en silencio, mientras María seguramente los veía alejarse sin entender lo que sucedía. Ella, como en el momento de la crucifixión, se quedó allí, con el llanto que sólo tienen quienes aman profundamente. Y sin detener el llanto, se acercó hacia dentro del sepulcro. Allí sucedió un nuevo suceso extraordinario: se encontró con dos ángeles, que para María eran sólo extraños que preguntaban por su llanto. “Se han llevado a mi Señor,” respondió María (v. 13).

Era “su” Señor, su maestro, su amigo. Era parte de su vida, de aquella vida en la que, con seguridad, había aprendido, junto a Jesús, que podía confiar en el otro, en los otros, porque ellos confiaban en ella. Aquella vida en la que, a pesar de las múltiples circunstancias de su cultura, religión y tiempo, ella se sentía sostenida por este grupo que más tarde sería el primer movimiento cristiano: su comunidad, su familia. Ese espacio en el que todos y todas querían comprender lo que Jesús predicaba y proclamaba, y las razones por las que sanaba (cf. Mt 4:23). Ese espacio en el que muchos y muchas esperaban poder actuar en consecuencia… aunque en esos momentos, estaban invadidos e invadidas por el inmenso temor de que si seguían los pasos de aquel maestro, podrían correr su misma suerte.

María responde a esos seres de luz con llanto y oscuridad en sus ojos, y ni siquiera ellos pueden iluminar la penumbra en la que estaba. Entonces nos encontramos con la última escena. Llega el momento del último sorprendente suceso, capaz de destruir la frágil y orgullosa lógica humana. Alguien por detrás le repite la pregunta: “Mujer ¿por qué lloras?” (v. 15). Ella, con la paciencia casi infinita de una mujer que está cansada por el dolor, responde una vez más. Y es en ese instante que el gran encuentro se da ante los ojos de aquella mujer triste, paciente y consecuente. Un tono de voz, sorprendentemente conocido, dice su nombre. Cesa el llanto, amanece, vuelve la luz. Es Jesús quien está delante de ella; María expande su vida una vez más, porque está viendo a su amigo con vida.

Este encuentro es un espacio de profunda intimidad. La mujer escucha su nombre y sólo atina a responder “¡Raboni!” que significa “mi maestro” (v. 16). Sí, es “su” señor y “su” maestro que está vivo y ha tenido la delicadeza de presentarse ante ella. Lo que sucede después se puede entender como un gesto de emoción de María, pues Jesús le dice “suéltame” (v. 17). Posiblemente María se había acercado a Jesús para abrazarlo, acariciarlo, sentir el cuerpo vivo que estaba mirando. Ese contacto humano que sin excepción necesitamos todas las personas en los momentos decisivos de nuestras vidas, cuando se dan encuentros que trastocan vidas y cambian la historia.

En este contexto, en este momento de cercanía entre Jesús y María, en este momento de complicidad entre los dos, encontramos en las palabras de Jesús un importante embalaje teológico: “Aún no he subido a mi Padre; pero ve a mis hermanos y diles: ‘Subo a mi Padre y a vuestro Padre, a mi Dios y a vuestro Dios’” (v. 17). Jesús no sólo envía a María a proclamar la buena nueva por excelencia, la de que ¡él vive!, sino que también le permite ver el sentido de esta buena nueva: aquellos y aquellas que lo siguieron, quienes escucharon y creyeron en él, son sus “hermanos.” En otras palabras, Jesús le está diciendo: “Somos familia, María. Este Dios al que llamo Padre es mío y también de ustedes.”

La orfandad humana, desde ese momento, ha perdido todo su sentido.

Dentro de este espacio de intimidad, detengámonos ante esta frase: “Mi Padre y vuestro Padre, mi Dios y vuestro Dios,” una magnífica expresión de brazos extensos y de familiaridad. Expresión sumamente valiosa que descubre la familiaridad y también muestra solidaridad. Nos encontramos con un Ser que siendo Dios, se hace humano, y con unos humanos que con toda su fragilidad aceptan ser hijos e hijas de aquel Dios y hermanos y hermanas de su enviado.

Estos importantes encuentros se dan entre vidas que antes fueron extrañas: personas sin nombre, sin esperanza, sin consuelo. Entre hombres y mujeres cuyo contacto era visto con recelo por su cultura. Encuentros decisivos que son capaces de hacer comprender a estos y a aquellas que se puede apostar por los sueños y las reivindicaciones; por tiempos y espacios de vida más digna. Encuentros que nos muestran la responsabilidad de construir lazos fuertes de solidaridad en espacios de muerte, sufrimiento y lejanía.

Ayer y hoy la vida espera este tipo de encuentros. Cuando la muerte temprana acecha a cada instante. Donde, sin pensarlo mucho, estamos ante un pueblo sirio que es desinstalado de su tierra y sumergido en las tinieblas, el dolor y la desesperación. O cuando las políticas obscenas de algunos gobernantes generan muros en lugar de puentes. Cuando todas estas cosas suceden, es momento de levantarse de madrugada, caminar, correr, secar el llanto y esperar… entonces serán tiempos de resurrecciones, de cercanía, de complicidad, de abrazos, de anuncio, de puertas abiertas y de equidad. Porque sólo a través de esos encuentros seremos capaces de comprender y, aún más, de contemplar a un crucificado que vuelve a la vida para seguir tejiendo la historia, donde en la rutina de lo cotidiano y la soledad encontramos la calidez de la solidaridad y lo comunitario.