Matthew 27:62-28:20; Mark 16:1-20; Luke 24:1-53; John 20:1-21:24
The Story in Brief
Jesus is risen! On the third day after the crucifixion, He rose from the dead. An angel rolled away the stone blocking the tomb's entrance and announced to Jesus' female disciples that their Lord had risen. Jesus appeared to several of these women, to Mary Magdalene, to two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and to a group of disciples who were hiding from the Jews. Eight days later, He appeared again to the disciples, this time relieving the doubt of the apostle Thomas, who had declined to believe until he placed his fingers into the wounds on Jesus' hands and his hand into the wound on His side. Jesus appeared to His disciples again as they were fishing in Galilee and provided them with a miraculous catch. After a breakfast on the shore, Jesus asked Peter three times, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” When Peter replied to the affirmative, Jesus commanded Him to care for His sheep. Before Jesus ascended into Heaven, He commissioned the disciples to baptize all nations in the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit and to spread the Gospel. He promised to be with them always.
Points to Ponder
1. Take a few minutes to ponder the silence of Jesus' tomb.
2. The Creed tells us that Jesus descended into hell (i.e., into the realm of the dead). Some of the saints elaborate on this to describe Jesus as speaking with the saints of the Old Testament and preparing them to go with Him to heaven now that He had opened heaven's gates. Picture the scene, and imagine the conversations between Jesus and the faithful of the Old Testament.
3. Matthew tells us that the Jews requested Pilate to place a guard of soldiers by the tomb, for they were afraid that someone might steal Jesus' Body. Pilate provided the guard and told them to make the tomb as secure as they could. They set the guard and sealed the stone at the tomb's entrance. Ponder how the Jews' paranoia actually served as a testimony to the truth of Jesus' Resurrection.
4. Jesus rose on the first day of the week, which is the day after the Jewish sabbath and our Sunday. Several theologians have pointed out that this indicates the new creation Jesus established, for God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh, the sabbath. Now, on the eighth day, Jesus introduces a whole new creation. Reflect on these ideas.
5. Early in the morning, several of Jesus' female disciples went to the tomb. They knew that there was a heavy stone in front of the entrance, and they may even have known about the guard. They must have realized that they would have a difficult time getting into the tomb, but they went anyway. Meditate on the women's faithfulness and courage. What did they intend to do at the tomb?
6. In Matthew's account, an angel descended from heaven with a great earthquake. The angel rolled away the stone and sat just above it. He was dressed in white and glowed like lightning. The guards started shaking and fainted. Why did the angel appear in such a dramatic fashion?
7. The first words out of the angel's mouth were “Do not be afraid.” These words are repeated 365 times in the Bible, one for each day of the year. Why are they so important that we need to hear them that many times?
8. The angel continued, “I know that you are looking for Jesus Who was crucified. He is not here; for He has been raised, as He said. Come, see the place where He lay.” Jesus is risen! By the time the angel spoke with the women, He was no longer in the tomb. Think about that. Jesus rose from the dead. Death could not hold Him. He is victorious.
9. Mark's account also speaks about the women encountering the angel, who is described as a young man dressed in a white robe. The angel is sitting in the tomb on the right side. What is the significance of the right side?
10. St. Luke tells us that two men in dazzling clothes met the women at the tomb. The women were terrified of them, but the angels asked them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” Why does Luke describe two angels? Ponder the fact that Jesus is alive and risen.
11. St. John informs us that when Mary Magdalene saw that the tomb was empty, she immediately ran to get Peter and John. Ponder Mary's urgency.
12. Each of the Gospels presents a slightly different description of the Resurrection events. Why is that? How might the variances among the accounts actually increase the evangelists' credibility, not to mention the sense of mystery surrounding the Resurrection? Take a look at the New Advent article on the Resurrection for an interesting harmonization of the Gospel accounts. For a much more detailed explanation, see the Tekton Education and Apologetics website.
13. The angel sent the women back to the disciples to announce the Resurrection and let them know that Jesus was going ahead to Galilee. Reflect on how these women became evangelists to the disciples. How might they have felt in this role?
14. At least some of the disciples did not believe the women's words, which seemed like an “idle tale.” Think about the disciples' hesitancy to believe. What were they thinking and feeling?
15. Peter and John did, however, listen to Mary Magdalene enough to understand that Jesus' tomb was empty. In fact, according to John's account, Mary may have left the tomb before hearing the the angel's message, for she was rather panicky and announced, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Reflect on Mary's words and state of mind at the time. What might she have felt when she saw the tomb empty?
16. Peter and John hurried to the tomb. They saw the burial cloths lying empty and the cloth that had been on Jesus' head rolled up in a corner by itself. They did not understand yet, but they began to believe. Think about the relationship between faith and understanding.
17. Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. Now it was her turn to see the angels, who asked her why she was weeping. “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him,” she replied. Ponder Mary's heartbreak.
18. Then Mary saw Jesus. She didn't know Who He was. Why not?
19. Mary begged the Man she thought was a gardener to tell her where He had laid her Lord that she might go and take Him away. Jesus said one word to her: “Mary.” Visualize this exchange.
20. Then Mary knew. She turned and cried how “Rabbouni!” How did Mary know Jesus at that point?
21. Jesus told Mary not to cling to Him because He had not yet ascended to the Father. Why didn't Jesus want Mary to cling to Him? Might He be telling her that she has to learn to relate to Him in a new way, a way that would be both the same and different?
22. Ponder Mary's joy in the Resurrected Jesus.
23. The other women also had an encounter with Jesus, according to Matthew's Gospel. They fell down before Him and worshiped Him. He told them not to be afraid and to go and tell His brothers to go to Galilee. These women knew that Jesus had been dead. Now He was standing before them. Reflect on what they might have been thinking and feeling
24. Reread the story of the Emmaus road disciples in Luke 24:13-35. Why were they leaving Jerusalem and heading to Emmaus? What were they thinking and feeling? Why didn't they recognize Jesus? What kinds of things did Jesus tell them when He interpreted the Scriptures for them? Why did they recognize Jesus when He took bread and blessed it? What is the significance of this action? Ponder how the disciples' hearts burned within them when Jesus spoke to them. The disciples returned to Jerusalem immediately. Why?
25. Jesus did not wait until the disciples went to Galilee to appear to them. Why did He choose to appear earlier than He first said?
26. The disciples had the doors locked because they were afraid of the Jews. Why were they afraid? Jesus came to them anyway. How did they feel when they saw the risen Jesus? What did He look like? What proofs did He give them of His resurrection? Ponder Jesus' resurrected Body and the disciples' response.
27. Jesus greeted the disciples with “Peace be with you.” What is this peace that Jesus brings?
28. Meditate on doubting Thomas and his proclamation of faith. Think about Thomas' doubt, his demand for physical proof, Jesus' patience with Thomas, and Jesus' promise that those who have not seen and have believed will be blessed.
29. Reflect on the miracle in Galilee. The disciples decided to go fishing. Why? Why didn't they recognize Jesus at first? What was the significance of their miraculous catch? Why did Peter jump into the water and start swimming for shore? What was the significance of the breakfast? How did they come to understand that Jesus was with them?
30. Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love Me?” Ponder this conversation. Why did Jesus ask three times? What does it mean to care for Jesus' sheep?
31. Jesus commissioned the disciples to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with You always, to the end of the age.” Ponder Jesus' words and the mission they command.
1. Have you ever felt like there is nothing you can do for someone you love? How did that make you feel?
2. What makes you afraid? How do you conquer your fears?
3. What does Jesus' victory over death mean to you? How does it affect your life?
4. Has God ever done anything dramatic in your life? What?
5. Do you ever look for the living among the dead? Is your attention focused on things that will not bring you true life and happiness? How might you change that?
6. In what ways are you an evangelist to the world around you? How might your spread the Word of God even more?
7. Are you ever hesitant to believe in God or in the teachings of the Church? In what circumstances? How do you overcome your hesitancy?
8. How do you respond to grief?
9. When have you had trouble recognizing Jesus in your life?
10. Do you ever cling to the ways of the past instead of moving forward into the present and toward the future? How might you let go and surrender yourself to God?
11. Are you joyful in your faith? Why or why not? How might you increase your joy?
12. Have you ever felt your heart burn within you as you read the Scriptures or received the sacraments? What was the experience like?
13. Do you spend time reading and meditating on the Scriptures daily? Why or why not?
14. How do you experience the peace of Jesus?
15. Have you ever been a “doubting Thomas”? Why or why not? If you have been, what changed your heart and mind?
16. How are you called to care for Jesus' sheep?
17. What kind of relationship do you have with the risen Jesus?
18. Do you remember that Jesus is with you always?
Prayer, Prayer, and More Prayer
Blessing and Adoration – Risen Jesus, we bow before you in silent adoration as we contemplate Your victory over death in and through Your Resurrection. We join with the disciples in wonder and awe as we greet You Who once were dead but now are alive.
Praise – Jesus, we praise You for Your glorious resurrection. We praise You for the empty tomb. We praise You for the message of the angels. We praise you for Your appearances to Your disciples. We praise You for that wonderful walk to Emmaus. We praise You for the miraculous catch and the breakfast by the shore. We praise You for being You, our risen Lord.
Thanksgiving – Jesus, thank You for our faith. We thank You, of course, for Your Resurrection and for Your victory over death, a victory that becomes our victory, too, when we surrender ourselves to You in faith, hope, and love.
Intercession – Jesus, we lift up to You all those who doubt. Touch their hearts, Lord, and soften them to accept the faith You are all too ready to give. We lift up those who grieve. Comfort them, Lord. We lift up all bishops, priests, and deacons, Lord. They have a special responsibility to care for Your sheep. Give them strength, courage, faithfulness, and especially love.
Petition – Jesus, strengthen our faith. Help us to encounter You, our risen Lord, and to see You in the events of our lives and in our neighbors. May we always recognize You especially in the breaking of the Bread, and may the words of the Scared Scriptures always make our hearts burn within us.
Quotes from the Saints
“He rose again after three days, to signify the consent of the whole Trinity in the passion of the Son; the three days' space is read figuratively, because the Trinity which in the beginning made man, the same in the end restores man by the passion of Christ.” - St. Augustine
“And, behold, there was a great earthquake. Our Lord, Son at once of God and man, according to His twofold nature of Godhead and of flesh, gives a sign one while of His greatness, another while of His lowliness. Thus, though now it was man who was crucified, and man who was buried, yet the things that were done around show the Son of God.” - St. Jerome
"He said not 'rolled,' but rolled back; because the rolling to of the stone was a proof of death; the rolling it back asserted the resurrection. The order of things is changed; The Tomb devours death, and not the dead; the house of death becomes the mansion of life; a new law is imposed upon it, it receives a dead, and renders up a living, man. It follows, And sat thereon. He sat down, who was incapable of weariness; but sat as a teacher of the faith, a master of the Resurrection; upon the stone, that the firmness of his seat might assure the steadfastness of the believers; the Angel rested the foundations of the Faith upon that rock, on which Christ was to found His Church. Or, by the stone of the sepulcher may be denoted death, under which we all lay; and by the Angel sitting thereon, is shown that Christ has by His might subdued death." - St. Peter Chrysologus
“According to the mystical meaning, by the women coming early in the morning to the sepulcher, we have an example given us, that having cast away the darkness of our vices, we should come to the Body of the Lord. For that sepulcher also bore the figure of the Altar of the Lord, wherein herein the mysteries of Christ's Body, not in silk or purple cloth, but in pure white linen, like that in which Joseph wrapped it, ought to be consecrated, that as He offered up to death for us the true substance of His earthly nature, so we also in commemoration of Him should place on the Altar the flax, pure from the plant of the earth, and white, and in many ways refined by a kind of crushing to death. But the spices which the women bring, signify the odor of virtue, and the sweetness of prayers by which we ought to approach the Altar. The rolling back of the stone alludes to the unclosing of the Sacraments which were concealed by the veil of the letter of the law which was written on stone, the covering of which being taken away, the dead body of the Lord is not found, but the living body is preached; for although we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more. But as when the Body of our Lord lay in the sepulcher, Angels are said to have stood by, so also at the time of consecration are they to be believed to stand by the mysteries of Christ. Let us then after the example of the devout women, whenever we approach the heavenly mysteries because of the presence of the Angels, or from reverence to the Sacred Offering, with all humility, bow our faces to the earth, recollecting that we are but dust and ashes.” - St. Bede
“A twofold feeling possessed the minds of the women, fear and joy; fear, at the greatness of the miracle; joy, in their desire of Him that was risen; but both added speed to their women's steps, as it follows, And did run to bring his disciples word. They went to the Apostles, that through them might be spread abroad the seed of the faith. They who thus desired, and who thus ran, merited to have their rising Lord come to meet them; whence it follows, And, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail.” - St. Jerome
“[Mary Magdalene] sought the body, and found it not; she persevered in seeking; and so it came to pass that she found. Her longings growing the stronger, the more they were disappointed, at last found and laid hold on their object. For holy longings ever gain strength by delay, did they not, they would not be longings. Mary so loved, that not content with seeing the sepulcher, she stooped down and looked in: let us see the fruit which came of this persevering love: And sees two Angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain...” - St. Gregory the Great
“Consider the mercy of the Lord, how for the sake; of one soul, He exhibits His wounds. And yet the disciples deserved credit, and He had Himself foretold the event. Notwithstanding, because one person, Thomas, would examine Him, Christ allowed him. But He did not appear to him immediately, but waited till the eighth day, in order that the admonition being given in the presence of the disciples, might kindle in him greater desire, and strengthen his faith for the future. And after eight days again His disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be to you....And first He rebukes him; Then says He to Thomas, Reach hither your finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither your hand, and thrust it into My side: secondly, He admonishes him; And be not faithless, but believing. Note how that before they receive the Holy Ghost faith wavers, but afterward is firm. We may wonder how an incorruptible body could retain the marks of the nails. But it was done in condescension; in order that they might be sure that it was the very person Who was crucified.” - St. John Chysostom
"Let us then reverence the gift of peace, which Christ when He departed hence left to us. Peace both in name and reality is sweet, which also we have heard to be of God, as it is said, The peace of God; and that God is of it, as He is our peace. Peace is a blessing commended by all, but observed by few. What then is the cause? Perhaps the desire of dominion or riches, or the envy or hatred of our neighbor, or some one of those vices into which we see men fall who know not God. For peace is peculiarly of God, who binds all things together in one, to whom nothing so much belongs as the unity of nature, and a peaceful condition. It is borrowed indeed by angels and divine powers, which are peacefully disposed towards God and one another. It is diffused through the whole creation, whose glory is tranquility. But in us it abides in our souls indeed by the following and imparting of the virtues, in our bodies by the harmony of our members and organs, of which the one is called beauty, the other health." - St. Gregary of Nazianzus
“And because what He had laid upon them was great, therefore to exalt their spirits He adds, And, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. As much as to say, Tell Me not of the difficulty of these things, seeing I am with you, Who can make all things easy. A like promise He often made to the Prophets in the Old Testament, to Jeremiah who pleaded his youth, to Moses, and to Ezekiel, when they would have shunned the office imposed upon them. And not with them only does He say that He will be, but with all who shall believe after them. For the Apostles were not to continue till the end of the world, but He says this to the faithful as to one body.” - St. John Chysostom