Gospel (Cycle C): Luke 24:1-12

Life on the Edge

When was the last time you had your "comfort zone" challenged? What happened?

Risk is usually associated with live-threatening stunts or gambling on the stock market. Risk-takers act in absurdly dangerous ways. Their economic future or life itself can be on the line. So, a bit of safety tempers risk. The prudent person can hedge a risk. The wise person mixes safety with risk, chance with certitude.

Yet, many risks cannot be tempered. Some events in life can take us beyond a point of no return. The choice between safety and risk are clear. The risk to reputation, place in society, and life itself cannot be denied.

Faith in the resurrection was one of those risks for early Christians. People gossiped about and plotted against those who held Jesus rose from the dead. The idea was so absurd and laughable, non-Christians thought, that those who believed should be ridiculed and shunned. Even persecuted. But that did not stop the faithful from spreading a message that shocked the world.

The women who followed Jesus buried him so quickly, they could not put spices on his body. The next day was the Sabbath, so they rested as God commanded in his Law.

1 Early Sunday morning, the women returned to the grave, carrying the spices they had prepared. 2 But, they found the large stone had been rolled away from the tomb. 3 When they entered the tomb, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus, 4 and became very confused. Suddenly, two men stood before them in glorious clothes. 5 Afraid of the sight, the women looked down. But, the men told them, "Why do you look for a living man among the dead? 6 Jesus is not here. He is risen! Remember what he told you in Galilee: 7 'The Son of Man will be arrested by evil men and killed on a cross. But, he will rise three days later.'" 8 Then, they remembered the words of Jesus.

9-10 The women, including Mary from Magdala, Joanna, and Mary, mother of John, returned from the tomb. They told what had happened to the followers of Jesus. 11 But, the followers didn't trust the women because their report sounded like nonsense. 12 Peter, however, stood up and ran to the tomb. When he got there, he stooped down to look in. Peter only saw the linen cloth in which Jesus was buried. So, he walked away, wondering what had happened.

The women who followed Jesus performed a charitable work. Burying the dead was a social expectation. What they saw stretched them far beyond their comfort zone and thrust them into a completely new realm.

The day after Jesus died, his followers rested, just as God commanded in his Law.

1 But, early dawn on the first day of the week, (a group of women) came upon the grave, carrying spices which they prepared. 2 They found the stone having been rolled away from the tomb. 3 Entering (the tomb), they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 (As) it happened in their confusion about this, look, two men stood before them in flashing clothes. 5 While (the women) became afraid and bowed their faces toward the ground, (the two men) said to them, "Why do you look for the Living (One) among the dead? 6 HE is not here, but was raised. Remember as HE spoke to you when HE was still in Galilee, 7 saying, "The SON OF MAN needed to be given over into the hands of evil men, to be crucified, and to rise on the third day." 8 Then, they remembered HIS words. 9 Returning from the grave, they told everything to the Eleven and everyone remaining (there). 10 There was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary (mother) of John, and the (women) remaining with (the three women listed). They relayed these (events) to the disciples. 11 The words appeared to them as nonsense. And (the disciples) did not trust (the women). 12 Standing up, Peter ran to the tomb. Stooping down (to peer in), he saw only the (burial) linens. He went away, wondering about what had happened.

24:1 "early dawn" is literally "deep dawn." The word for deep ("bathos" in Greek!) is used figuratively.

"(a group of women)" is literally "they." The context of the 23:55-56 made it clear the women prepared the spices for the burial. See 24:10 for the identification of the women.

24:3 "Lord Jesus" This is the first time this unique title is used in Luke. Before this, God was referred to as Lord, in the sense of divine "Master." Jesus was politely addressed by the word in the sense of "Sir." This title placed Jesus in the realm of the divine; followers used the title in the same way they addressed God. The closest other example we have from Luke can be found in 2:11 " . . . A Savior has been born for you in the city of David who is Christ the Lord."

The title can be compared to the "Living One" in 24:5, a reference to God himself. See the commentary below for more details.

24:6 "when he was still in Galilee" is literally "still being in Galilee."

24:7 "The Son of Man need to be given over into the hands of evil men, to be crucified, and to rise on the third day." Notice the first two infinitives ("to be given over" and "to be crucified") were passive in construction. In other words, men committed these two atrocities against Jesus. But, the last infinitive ("to rise") is active. Jesus rose from the dead by his own power. In spite of the evil in the world (directed against Jesus), God still responds with good.

24:10 "There was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary (mother) of John, and the (women) remaining with them." The women went as a group to the grave and returned as a group to the others. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary, mother of John, were the notable people in the group of women.

24:12 "what had happened" is literally "the happenings."

Resurrection is the lynch pin of faith; without a risen Jesus, faith is futile. Without a risen Jesus, the disciples would have drifted away, broken and disillusioned. But the resurrection produced a faith that truly changed the world.

The "they" who took spices the tomb were the women who witnessed the burial of Jesus in 23:55-56. These women returned to finish the duty of burial [1]. In the time of Jesus, there was no funeral industry. But, burial of the dead did not depend solely upon loved ones and caring neighbors. Burying the dead was seen as an act of social charity; scholars speculate that burial societies existed to help carry out this important social function. There was even a rabbinical debate whether burying the dead was more important than feeding the poor! Hence, we can assume the women returned not only out of love for the Master, but out of a sense of social responsibility.

When they approached, they did not find what they expected: an empty tomb followed by two heavenly messengers [2-4]. The experience produced puzzlement [4] and a surprise that terrified the women so much they bowed in a worship position [5]; the atmosphere indicated a reaction to the presence of God. With God's presence came His revelation (through the voices of the angels); the "living one" (a title for God himself) was raised and not among the dead. His words from Galilee onward predicted the events [5-7]. With the resurrection, Jesus' words and God's revelation were one. The "two" angelic witnesses indicated the truth of that revelation; the testimony of two witnesses was required to establish a fact in a Jewish court of law.

When the women remembered Jesus' words, their remembrance was more than memory as a psychological phenomena; it was a social experience that brought a past reality into the present. The women experienced the revelation, the past words of Jesus were now fulfilled in the here and now [8]. With the remembrance came a divine commission to proclaim what they had witnessed [9] (just like Peter's witness to preaching commission in the first reading). But, typically, the women were not believed [10-11].

Peter's amazement (awe from uncertainty, not from entertainment) from the sight of the empty tomb was like that of the women who were puzzled and fearful. His amazement set up the revelation he was to receive in Luke 24:36-42.

Catechism Themes: The Resurrection (CCC 641-644)

The appearance of the Lord caused strong mixed feelings among his first followers. The women's testimony would cause scepticism, even cynicism, among the disciples. The thought of Resurrection was so counter-intuitive it seemed impossible.

Why then did faith in the Risen One flourish? This question points to the second piece of historical evidence for the reasonable nature of faith. The appearance of the Risen Christ caused a chain reaction, resulting in a strength of character, a radical change in fearful people. In the face of this change, to propose the opposite thesis, that the faith of the followers produced the "myth" of the Resurrection, seemed impossible.

What does faith in the Resurrection mean to you? How does the thought of the Resurrection change your outlook?

Faith is a risk; the women experienced the uncertainty and terror of risk. More than an "intellectual assent," faith is a challenge to our comfort zones. Faith is meant to be experienced and shared on the edge.

The Resurrection changed everything. How will it change you this week?