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He Appears

Easter Day, April 5

Acts 10:34-43 or Isa. 25:6-9
Ps. 118:1-2, 14-24

1 Cor. 15:1-11 or Acts 10:34-43
John 20:1-18 or Mark 16:1-8

“God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power” and “he went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (Acts 10:38). Indeed, God was preaching peace by the ministry of his Son, a peace to all nations (Acts 10:36; Luke 2:10). As the peacemaker, he is Lord of all. He is in his person, in his word, in the traces of his touch, in his gaze, in sensory healings, a loving erosion of the mortar securing the bricks in the high walls of hostility (Eph. 2:14). But in this world, walls matter. They make a home and a city and a nation. Woe to the Christ who would make the walls come tumbling down. So, “they put him to death by hanging him on a tree” (Acts 10:29).

St. Paul shares a grace by which the gospel is preached. It comes, he says, by “I or they” (1 Cor. 15:11). Sadly, there is a shared sickness too by which the gospel is rejected. “And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). So, as if driven by evil necessity, Jesus dies. But as he trembles in grief and anguish and bloody tears, his death is a departure he foreknows, an end that finally he accepts. “Christ died for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:3). Our sins did the deed.

Although hung for the peace he pursued, his death was not death’s victory, the stone put to his grave not forever sealed. On the cross, with gaping mouth and gasping breath, “he swallowed up death forever” (Isa. 25:7). The pall over the nations lifted, the temple curtain torn, the earth shaken and rocks split, even tombs opened and the saints raised. Signs, strange to be sure, of a single wonder. Death could not contain him.

But who would believe it? Having seen that the stone was rolled from the entrance to the tomb, Mary Magdalene reports to Simon Peter and the beloved disciple: “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb” (John 20:2). Leaning into the cave, seeing angels, she speaks again: “They have taken away my Lord” (John 20:13). The beloved disciple sees and believes, but what he believes is unclear, “for as yet they did not understand the scripture.” (John 20:8-9). Perhaps Magdalene and the disciple share a common creed. Jesus is dead and his body gone.

The way the story unfolds, the truth the story tells, and the life the story portrays — all are beyond all human knowing. Jesus appears alive from the dead, not merely alive as a living man, but as the God-man who has gone to a harrowing hell at the hands of sinful humanity and yet comes again in love and forgiveness. He speaks the intimacy of names. He speaks to Mary Magdalene, and to Cephas and the 12, and 500, and then speaks through time until he speaks today. I hear him. I know him. I dare say it. Though last of all in ways I ought not to say, he has chosen me as a witness. As a witness of the good news of his resurrection, I stand, and hope to hold firm until his lordship is the peace of the world (Acts 10:36).

Who am I to tell, but I must as a witness, one chosen and called. I know where he is. He is going just ahead of you. Look! See him, just as, in the deep chamber of your heart, he told you (Mark 16:7).

Look It Up
Read Mark 16:8.

Think About It
The women are as silent as death. Then they speak.

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