Jesus' resurrection offers new life to all who believe
by Sister Sally Ann Brickner
The Scripture passages for Easter Sunday depict three witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection: Mary of Magdala, Peter and John. The scene is rich in meaning.
Mary of Magdala is named in each of the four Gospel accounts. Jesus had healed her of a severe illness, and her gratitude and fidelity to him knew no bounds. As a woman of means, she followed Jesus and provided for him and his disciples in their ministry. Unlike most of the apostles who fled from Jerusalem during Jesus’ passion and death, Mary, along with Jesus’ Mother and beloved disciple, remained with Jesus during his crucifixion and death. Thus, she knew where he had been laid to rest. Early in the morning after the Sabbath she carried spices to the burial site in order to perform a proper anointing of Jesus’ body. On the way, she is troubled about how to roll back the stone which covered the entrance only to discover that the tomb was open and EMPTY! She immediately returned to the city to report the news to Simon Peter.
Simon Peter and the beloved disciple, who also knew where Jesus had been buried, ran to the tomb to see for themselves. Evidently, they did not believe the spoken word of Mary of Magdala. Both men saw the empty tomb with the burial cloths so carefully arranged, and the Gospel writer emphasized that it was the beloved disciple who saw and believed.
Simon Peter’s faith in Jesus’ resurrection happened later, but is prominently displayed for us in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. The backdrop is important. Simon Peter was asked to visit the house of Cornelius, a centurion from Corinth who was an upright man and generous to the Jews. Peter summarized for Cornelius Jesus’ ministry, his death and new life to which they had been witnesses. He concluded that “…everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.” Simon Peter had come to understand that Jesus’ saving action was for ALL people.
Three witnesses to Jesus’ empty tomb: Mary of Magdala, the beloved disciple, and Simon Peter. Ultimately, Jesus revealed himself to them and confirmed them in their faith. What does the empty tomb signify to each of us? As St. Paul preached to the Corinthians, “If Christ has not been raised, then empty is our preaching; empty, too, your faith.” (1 Cor 15:14) Jesus’ resurrection is not only a past event but a lived reality to which we are called to give witness in our daily lives.