Lectionary Commentaries for April 4, 2021
Resurrection of Our Lord

from WorkingPreacher.org


Gospel

Commentary on Mark 16:1-8

Ira Brent Driggers

The Sabbath now complete, three of Jesus’ women disciples approach his tomb with the intention of anointing his body (in deference to certain Jewish funerary customs). With this final act of devotion, they will close the curtain on a once promising but now tragic story. 

Only the curtain will not close. The women discover the tomb not only already open but empty —or rather occupied by the wrong figure. Inside the tomb they encounter a mysterious “young man,” an angelic messenger. 

The messenger leads with pastoral assurance: “Do not be alarmed.” He then shows his understanding: “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.” Next he relays the most incredible news: this crucified Jesus “has been raised” and “is not here.” Indeed, the women can see for themselves “the place they laid him.” Finally, as if to anticipate their disorientation, the angel gives the women precise instructions: “Go, tell his disciples and Peter that [Jesus] is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” 

Having celebrated the angel’s announcement for over two millennia, we Christians struggle to appreciate the disorientation and panic of this moment. Even if we had heard Jesus’ own prophecies about his suffering and resurrection, would our stepping into his empty tomb, and hearing this announcement from a mysterious figure, automatically bring everything into clear perspective? Even if we, like many first-century Jews, had anticipated a general resurrection of the dead at the climax of human history, would we not also be confused, even panicked, at the site of Jesus’ personal, bodily absence? 

As I see it, this is too much for any human to take in, at least in the moment. The angel has handed to these disciples a message containing the weight of the world. So it does not surprise me that they flee from the tomb in “terror and amazement.”

What continues to surprise me, however, is that the women say nothing to anyone. Or, more to the point, what continues to surprise me is that this silence concludes the Gospel of Mark. Conversely, I am not surprised that some ancient scribes, clearly dissatisfied with Mark’s concluding silence, later added an amalgam of Easter stories featuring the risen Jesus (the so-called shorter and longer endings of Mark 16). We can hear these scribes asking: who in their right mind would write a Gospel that ended with fearful silence?

Evidently Mark.

But to be clear, I don’t think Mark wants us to imagine Peter and the others never hearing the good news of Easter. After all, Jesus had already promised them precisely what the angel describes to the women: a post-resurrection rendezvous in Galilee (Mark 14:28). Also, I have to think Mark’s first Christian hearers had some knowledge, however rudimentary, of disciples spreading the Easter message and the risen Jesus appearing to them (see 1 Corinthians 15:5-8, which predates Mark). 

That said, Mark has clearly thrown up a narrative roadblock. By concluding with fearful silence, he forces us to contemplate how the story can move from empty tomb to disciple rendezvous after the connecting human link has been broken.

Why throw up this roadblock? According to one common interpretation, Mark’s ending functions rhetorically as an invitation of sorts, an opening into which the Gospel audience is invited to step. It invites Mark’s hearers (past and present) to finish the story that the disciples in the narrative—not just these women but also the men who abandoned, betrayed, and denied Jesus—failed to finish themselves. 

This interpretation dovetails with Mark’s emphasis on faithful discipleship. For even though the Markan disciples can prove notoriously thickheaded, their mistakes nonetheless contribute to the audience’s understanding of faithful discipleship, which for this Gospel consists mainly of extending Jesus’ mission of human healing and wholeness (Mark 3:14-15; 6:7, 12-13).

This may not seem like a quintessential Easter message. But if the divine, life-giving power by which Jesus heals broken humans and communities is the same divine, life-giving power that raises Jesus from the dead, then it would seem that disciples, to the extent that they participate in Jesus’ healing mission, do in fact participate in a kind of resurrection ministry. This is not to place Jesus’ human followers on the same plane as God. It is simply to acknowledge that God brings life in various ways, and that God can work through us to bring life and wholeness to the broken and downtrodden. Maybe we are not “miracle workers” in the normal sense of the phrase. But if life itself is a miracle, then who are we to say that the God of miraculous life is not at work among us and through us? Christian discipleship is always Easter ministry.

At the same time, if Mark’s ending is an invitation to Easter ministry, it is also a stark reminder of human fallibility. For there is nothing in Mark’s Gospel—least of all its ending—to suggest that disciples are capable of faithfulness to Jesus apart from Jesus’ empowering faithfulness toward them. Consider, for instance, that disciples do not initially seek out and find Jesus. Rather Jesus pulls disciples into his orbit (Mark 1:16-20; 2:13-14). 

When disciples fall short, Jesus is there to pick them up and empower them again. When they struggle to understand a parable, Jesus explains it (Mark 4:10-20, 33-34). When they are slow to anticipate their role in feeding a hungry crowd, Jesus walks them through it (Mark 6:30-44; 8:1-9). When they show self-aggrandizing priorities contrary to the sacrificial nature of Jesus’ ministry (Mark 9:33-34; 10:35-37), Jesus shows them the way. And when the way of Jesus leads to disciple abandonment, Jesus emerges from an empty tomb and summons them to Galilee for reconciliation and mission.

This last point is crucial. Jesus’ resurrection saves the fellowship, binds it together instead of allowing it to disintegrate. To be sure, Mark does not depict this moment of post-Easter reconciliation and mission. But the Markan Jesus promises it (Mark 13:9-13; 14:28). And the Markan Jesus is faithful. The Markan Jesus is always a step ahead of our fearful flights. Always waiting for us in Galilee. Always holding us together. Always guiding us back to himself and to our first collective calling: “Follow me.”

The ending of Mark thus leaves us in a paradox. It invites us to break the silence with proclamation, and to redirect our flight instinct to a ministry of human healing. But it also makes clear that, without the sustaining and empowering presence of Jesus himself, we will never make it back to Galilee. After all, this has never been our story to finish. This has always been God’s story. It is Jesus’ story. Mark may have composed a Gospel with a surprisingly open ending, but Jesus is the steadfast one who pulls us into that opening.


Alternate Gospel

Commentary on John 20:1-18

Jin Young Choi

We have seen so many tombs—and countless deaths that could not even have proper tombs— since the outbreak of COVID-19. 

There has been so much grieving and weeping over innumerable losses. The pandemic brutally took our loved ones. We are afraid of our own potential deaths. Might the author of John’s Gospel have seen a similar reality for “death-bound subjects” in his time? 

I cannot understand the tomb

The word “tomb” appears most frequently in the Gospel of John among all the Gospels, particularly in this chapter. Also, both forms of the verb “die” (apothnēskei and thnēskei) are present more times in John than the total appearances of these words in the Synoptic Gospels.

This Resurrection Sunday we visit the tomb of Jesus when it is still dark, just like Mary Magdalene (John 20:1). She sees the stone removed from the tomb. The message she delivers to Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus loved is about the missing body. John’s resurrection story is not triumphant but instead leads us to look into the reality of death, where we unexpectedly but intimately encounter the risen Jesus.   

John painstakingly describes how Jesus’ disciples—male and female—cope with his death and absence and come to believe in his resurrection. Another word John most often uses is the word idein translated as “see,” “know,” or “understand.” Mary Magdalene went to Peter and the other disciple, saying that “we do not know where they have laid him” (20:2; see also verse 13). The two disciples appear to compete to get to the tomb first, go inside the tomb one by one, and see nothing inside but the strips of linen and the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head (20:3-8: see also 11:44). 

The beloved disciple seems exceptional because “he saw and believed,” but the following narration seems to contradict this because he is one of those who do not yet “understand the scripture, that Jesus must rise from the dead” (20:8-9). If he believed that Jesus has risen, he would have announced to the others just as Mary does (verse 18). Although they are supposed to recognize Jesus, remember his words, and understand the scripture (2:22; 12:16), this is not the case for the disciples yet. They return (aplēthon) to their homes “again” so quickly (20:10; see also 16:32). Did they not all step back (aplēthon) when their teacher was arrested in the garden (18:6)? After seeing the empty tomb, fear possesses them so that the disciples go to lock themselves in a house at the evening of the day (20:19).  

The flesh dwelling among us 

However, Mary still remains outside the tomb and weeps (20:11). Only at this time does she look inside and see two angels sitting where the body of Jesus was lying. The word here for “body” (sōma) is used exclusively to illustrate the dead body in John 19-20 (see also 2:21). When the angels ask, “Woman, why are you weeping?” her answers are the same as the words she spoke to Peter and the beloved disciple: “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him” (20:13). Then, Jesus appears to her, but again, she does not know that it is Jesus (verse 14). This time Jesus asks, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” (verse 15). When the latter question was asked to armed soldiers that came to catch him in the garden, it portended betrayal and denial (18:4, 7, 26), yet here the question the risen Jesus asks Mary in the garden is affectionate (see also 19:41). She desires to take away the dead body of her loved one.    

There is another word that points to Jesus’ embodiment. It is “flesh” (sarx). From the outset, John declares, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (1:14). Jesus identifies his flesh as the bread that I will “give for the life of the world” (6:51). Resurrected, he still has the marks of violent death (20:17). He knows the brutal force of death, as well as human frailty with its decaying flesh. Thus, Jesus in his earthly life wept with Mary of Bethany, as she grieved the death of her brother Lazarus (11:31-32). Now the risen Jesus sees Mary Magdalene weeping. He calls her by name, “Mary.” Only at this moment can she recognize her teacher and friend, Jesus. 

Longing for intimate encounter

We are not certain what bodily form Jesus has, as he is risen but not ascended yet. What we can know is that Mary wants to touch him. She is not allowed to do so but instead is commissioned to go to the disciples whom Jesus calls “my brothers (and sisters).” Jesus says to her that he is ascending to his Father who is “your Father.” “My God is your God” (verse 17). The son is close to the Parent’s bosom (1:18), and this intimate relationship is extended to the relationship between the loving Parent, Jesus, and his friends. The Parent will love anyone who loves Jesus, and they will “make home” there (14:2, 23). Instead of the Father-Son language, we may focus on this post-resurrection story full of imagery of intimacy, as well as the role of the woman who became the first witness to the resurrection as Mary Magdalene announces to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.” 

When it is still dark, we declare, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (1:5). In our darkest days, we still see a glimpse of light. We often do not see Jesus standing in our midst (20:14, 19, 26; see also 21:4). On this Resurrection Sunday, it is okay that we still mourn. Yet the risen Christ is standing there, showing that death is not the final word but God’s love embraces the living and the dead. The intimate presence of the wounded Christ is our comfort.


First Reading

Commentary on Acts 10:34-43

Gilberto Ruiz

If anything, belief in Jesus’ resurrection should get us to see things differently. Based on what he says in Acts 10:34-43, what does Peter, a chosen witness to Jesus’ resurrection (verses 40-41), see differently? What does his proclamation challenge us believers in Jesus’ resurrection to see differently?

The phrase that introduces Peter’s speech, translated literally as “Having opened his mouth, Peter said” (verse 34), designates it as a solemn proclamation (see also Exodus 4:12; Judges 11:35–36; Ezekiel 33:22; Daniel 10:16). The same expression appears in Matthew 5:2 and Acts 8:35. Peter begins by announcing his newfound understanding of God’s impartiality (verse 34). The Hebrew Scriptures ascribe this trait to God who, as a just judge, treats all equally and will not be swayed by bribes that the rich and powerful can afford (Deuteronomy 10:17; 2 Chronicles 19:7; see also Sirach 35:14).

Under Paul’s influence especially (see Romans 2:6-16; Galatians 2:6-9), believers in Jesus adopted the notion that “God shows no partiality” to communicate God’s equal treatment of Gentiles. They could be fully accepted into the originally Jewish Jesus movement, without their having to take on such Jewish identity-markers as circumcision and kosher dietary restrictions. Speaking before the Gentile Roman centurion Cornelius and his household, and spurred by a vision and the divine providence that he surmises lies behind Cornelius’s invitation (Acts 10:1–33), Peter agrees with this perspective (verses 34-35).

The word in verse 35 that the NRSV translates as “nation” (ethnos) signifies any nation beyond the people descended from Israel (verse 36; literally, “the sons of Israel”). Peter applies to persons language that usually refers to the acceptability of sacrifices offered to God (Leviticus 1:3-4; 19:5; 22:17-20; Isaiah 56:7; 60:7; Jeremiah 6:20; Malachi 2:13). While texts like Isaiah 56:6-7 envision the inclusion of foreigners among God’s people through keeping such covenant demands as sabbath observance and offering sacrifice in the temple, for Peter anyone may be “acceptable” (dektos, verse 35) to God without participating in cultic traditions particular to Israel. All it takes is proper reverence (“fear”) of God (see also Acts 10:2, 22; 13:16, 26) and literally “doing righteousness” or “doing justice” (ergazomenos dikaiosynēn, verse 35; see also Psalm 15:1-5; Proverbs 12:22; 15:8; Romans 2:10–11).

The author of Acts also wrote the Gospel of Luke and followed the conventions of his day to compose the speeches orated by the apostles in Acts. Naturally, then, Peter’s telling of the Jesus story in 10:36-43 contains characteristic Lukan emphases, such as: 

    • Jesus’ bringing of peace (verse 36; see also Luke 1:79; 2:14; 7:50; 10:5-6; 19:38, 42; 24:36),
    • God’s anointing of Jesus with the Holy Spirit and power (verse 38; see also Luke 3:22; 4:1, 18, 36; 5:17; 6:19; 8:46),
    • the centrality of Jerusalem (verse 39; see also Luke 9:51-53; 24:49, 52), and 
    • that Jesus brings forgiveness of sins (verse 43, see also Luke 3:3; 24:47; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 13:38; 26:18).

As he rehearses the Jesus story, Peter makes two related statements that reinforce the inclusivity of the gospel. First, Peter proclaims Jesus as “Lord of all” (verse 36; see also Acts 2:36), which is to say, of every person and nation, Jew or Gentile (see also Romans 10:12). This politically-charged claim places Jesus above the emperor, in direct opposition to the widespread use of the title “lord” (kyrios) for the emperor of Rome.1

Second, Peter identifies Jesus as “judge of the living and the dead” (verse 42). This statement reaffirms the totality of Jesus’ lordship (see also Acts 17:31; Romans 14:9; 2 Timothy 4:1; 1 Peter 4:5). Though the logic of Deuteronomy 21:23 would judge Jesus as cursed for being hung on a tree (verse 39; see also Galatians 3:13), Peter sees Jesus as the judge of all. For Peter, so all-encompassing is Jesus’ exalted status that even the Jewish Scriptures testify to Jesus (verse 43; see also Luke 24:25-27, 44-47).

Some of Peter’s words and actions in the Gospels have garnered him a reputation for being stubborn and closed-minded (for example, Mark 8:31-33; John 13:6-10). Yet his portrayal in Acts shows otherwise. Jesus’ resurrection and subsequent events lead Peter to reconsider the place of Gentiles before God, to exalt even over the emperor a man executed on a Roman cross, and to reinterpret his Scriptures in light of resurrection faith. In short, Jesus’ resurrection causes Peter to think differently about his preconceptions and received traditions, including some that must have been deeply ingrained.

At Easter, Christians celebrate Jesus’ all-encompassing lordship and the new life and salvation offered to all through the resurrection. Preachers might prod the congregation to consider whether their affirmation of the same faith claim encapsulated in Acts 10:34-43 leads them to think differently. Does it make a real impact—as it did for Peter—on how we relate to others, including those who belong to different ethnic, socio-economic, political, or even religious groups? If so, do we relate to them in ways that are as life-affirming for them as we claim Jesus’ resurrection is life-affirming for us and for the world at large? Does our faith affect how we relate to power structures in our society? Peter does not hesitate to tell a Roman centurion, by definition a military leader serving Rome, that Jesus and not the emperor is Lord of all. Does our belief in the resurrection likewise lead us to speak truth to power? Or do we assent to belief in Jesus’ resurrection without it making a discernible impact on how we conduct ourselves and relate to others? Does the creed we affirm form us in any meaningful way? Do we think and act differently because of it?


Notes

  1. Carl R. Holladay, Acts: A Commentary, New Testament Library (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2016), 238.

Psalm

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

Jerome Creach

Psalm 118 is the psalm of psalms for the Easter season.1

The early church found in Psalm 118 the words of Jesus who remembered his suffering and persecution during Holy Week and who gave thanks for deliverance from the grave on Easter.

Psalm 118 concludes a run of psalms (Psalms 113-118) known as the Egyptian Hallel (Hallel, after the word hallelujah, “Praise the Lord” that appears prominently in these psalms and helps tie them together). These psalms were central to the Passover liturgy. Jewish tradition holds that the Israelites recited the words of the Hallel when they came out of Egypt (b. Pesahim 117a).

Themes related to the exodus (Psalm 114), including allusions to the Third Commandment (Exodus 20:4-6; Psalm 115:3-8), as well as references to the house of Aaron (Psalms 115:10, 12; 118:3) solidify the association with the events the festival celebrates. Psalm 118 concludes this section of psalms by giving thanks for God’s deliverance. Thus, the language of the psalm fits Passover (verses 10-14), but early Christians saw in it language and themes that spoke most directly about God’s vindication of Jesus.

All four Gospels report the crowd at Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem recited Psalm 118:25-26 (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-19). That portion of the psalm is part of the reading for Palm Sunday (Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29), and another division is a reading for the second Sunday of Easter (Psalm 118:14-29). The verses of our reading for the Resurrection of the Lord fit particularly well the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.

One of the most difficult questions about this psalm regards its genre. What type of poem is it, and what type of occasion likely gave rise to it? Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 contains elements of several psalm genres, each of which is appropriate for this day in the church year. The reading begins with and is dominated by thanksgiving. The opening of the psalm has language common in thanksgiving prayers, “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!” (verse 1; see Psalm 30:4, 12). Verse 21 again expresses thanks in first-person style, like the thanks Israelites gave when they brought their thanksgiving offerings to the temple (Jeremiah 33:11). Hence, the opening verses set the tone for the lectionary reading, and for the Easter celebration, by offering thanks to God for God’s “steadfast love” (verses 1-2).

Verse 14, again in first-person style, echoes the expressions of confidence in God that appear in individual prayers for help: “The Lord is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation” (see Psalms 3:3; 13:5). As in the other such prayers, this expression of confidence assumes there was trouble in the past, but God has delivered the one who speaks. The verses prior to this one describe the trouble (verses 5-13).

The early church read all the prayers for help in first-person style as the prayers of Jesus. These psalms were especially important for understanding Jesus’ suffering and death. For example, the writers of Matthew and Mark used Psalm 22 to frame the passion narrative (see for example Mark 15:24/Psalm 22:18; Mark 15:34/Psalm 22:1). Early Christians likewise read numerous elements of Psalm 118 as expressions of confidence and praise for God’s salvation of Jesus from the dead.

The invitation to praise in verse 24 is like the calls to worship in hymns of praise (Psalm 100:1-2) and this element of the psalm may be most suited to Easter. Originally the reference to “the day” likely referred to the climactic day of a festival in the Jerusalem temple. Verse 27 speaks of a procession to the alter of the temple with worshippers carrying festal branches. This reflects the practice during the Feast of Booths in which participants cut branches as part of the celebration (Leviticus 23:40). Christians came to understand all these festive images as evocative of Jesus’ life and “the day” became the day of resurrection, the lord’s day.

Perhaps the most vexing question about Psalm 118 is, who is the individual who speaks? Whose voice recalls past trouble and celebrates God’s salvation? Specifically, who professes “the lord is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation” (verse 14), declares “I shall not die, but I shall live” (verse 17), and says “I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation” (verse 21)? Some scholars believe the king of Judah was the original voice who prayed in Psalm 118. It seems likely that the king played an important role in public worship, and that much communal worship engaged issues in the life of the king (2 Samuel 6).

His appointment to office, along with his victory or defeat in battle were matters of prayer, concern or celebration. The psalm does not identify the speaker, however, and that leaves the psalm open to interpretation and to apply its words to new situations. The early church naturally connected the psalms prayer and claims of faith to the resurrected Jesus. The messianic reading drew from numerous part of the psalm. Jesus was the “stone that the builders rejected” who had become “the chief cornerstone” (verse 22; Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; 1 Peter 2:7). His resurrection was “the day” God had made (verse 24). He was the one who came in the name of the lord (verse 26). In these ways the psalm expounds on Jesus’ identity as the son of David (Matthew 21:9), the king of Israel (John 12:13).

Some modern readers have balked at the association of Jesus with the one who prays in Psalm 118 because it was not the psalm’s “original intent.” The connection between the psalm and Jesus, however, is not a claim that the author spoke about Jesus, as much as it is recognition that the way God provided salvation to the speaker in the psalm fits perfectly the circumstances of the risen Christ.


Notes

  1. Commentary first published on this site on April 21, 2019.

Second Reading

Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Jennifer T. Kaalund

In many ways 1 Corinthians 15 is Paul’s closing argument for this letter.

After a series of reminders of his previous teachings and addressing various issues that had arisen in the community, here, Paul reminds them of the what is “first importance.” He writes:

“For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day, in accordance with the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

This is the distillation of the gospel. In its simplest form the good news is that Christ died, was buried, and was raised. The repetition of the phrase “in accordance with the scriptures” emphasizes that Jesus’ death and resurrection were both foretold and fulfilled.

Seeing is believing

While it seems that Paul is rehearsing what should have been evident to the Corinthian community, there seems to be a question about the nature and even the possibility of resurrection. To disabuse any misunderstandings, Paul details the various appearances of Jesus after his resurrection. The word ὤφθη (ōphthē) is translated as “appeared” throughout this passage.

This translation has the connotation of a viewing that is a miraculous occurrence and indeed seeing the risen Christ is remarkable. However, this word can also be translated simply as was seen. In other words, Jesus was seen by Peter and then the twelve. Jesus was seen by five hundred brothers and sisters at one time. James and all of the apostles see Jesus, after being raised from the dead and even Paul himself sees Jesus.

The appearances confirm what has already been established in the scriptures, that Jesus was raised on the third day. There is no doubting the resurrection as there were so many witnesses. Seeing, indeed, is believing.

Believing is seeing

If Paul is indeed saving the most important topic for the end his letter, then he is ensuring that the community has a complete understanding of his most basic teaching, the gospel or the good news. To hear this message on Easter Sunday is to bear witness to God’s resurrection power; Christ was dead but now he is arisen. He lives!

However, to ponder these words on the days leading up to Easter means that we must believe before we see. Faith is believing what and when we cannot see. It is during life’s trials and tribulations that we must be reminded to hold firmly to our faith, to remember the good news—that on the other side of darkness, there is light and on the other side of death, there is life. Paul warns that to lose sight of the entirety of this message is to risk having our believing be in vain.

While we wait for what shall be (the resurrection), we must live in what is (death). However, we do so with the knowledge and fully convinced of what the future holds. It is our faith that gives us sight beyond what we can physically see.

Who are we?

Recently, there is a tendency, particularly in the United States, to declare “this is not who we are” in the wake of tragedy (from racism and senseless police killings to displays of hatred and mass shootings). This denial of the reality of who we are does not allow us to properly address these issues.

The reality is we are all of those things. However, we can more accurately say that this is not who we want to be. Reflecting on the gospel and specifically Paul’s encounter with Jesus results in a brief autobiographical sketch in he recollection.

Paul is one who previously persecuted the church of God. This is who he was before he came to believe the gospel. Now, Paul describes himself as the least among the apostles. He declares: “But by the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain” (15:10). The extension of divine love transformed Paul from a persecutor to an apostle.

God’s grace for Paul is not vain because the transformation has compelled Paul work harder to proclaim the gospel. We, too, are who we are because of God’s grace. We do not have to remain in our current state as a person or as a nation. We, too, can believe, repent, and be transformed. This is the power of the gospel.

The gospel is not simply to be heard or received, it must also be held onto and passed along. As it was for Paul, the grace of God should necessitate our action. We should also work harder to proclaim the gospel, so that others may come to believe. Paul reminds the church in Corinth that the gospel not only saves them, but they can also stand on it. They can be sure of it. It is the firm foundation upon which we also stand and can continue to build the kin-dom of God.

Easter Sunday is among the most joyous days on the Christian calendar. Yet this Easter Sunday, as we continue to live through a pandemic, let us still acknowledge the grief and sadness for what and whom we have lost, even as we begin to see the light as we roll the stone away.

And in those moments when we feel we are still inside the tomb, let us hold firmly to our faith. Let us remember that death does not have the final say; it has no sting when we know that it does not recognize the end, but an end. That which is dead shall live again. As the stone is rolled away, our eyes must adjust to the brightness. Let us emerge from the shadows of death renewed in our faith.

Resurrection power enlivens us and propels us to strive for the better, to work harder. Standing firmly on the rock that is Christ Jesus, we can proclaim the good news so that others may come to believe and that together may all see the goodness of God in the land of living.


Suplementario Evangelio

Comentario del 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.1

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.


Notas

  1. Comentario originalmente publicado el 16 de abril de 2017.