Lectionary for March 31, 2024
Resurrection of Our Lord, Easter Day
Isaiah 25:6-9; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24;
1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Mark 16:1-8

Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! This has been the affirmation of the church since its earliest days. Yet, I recently watched an Instagram video that said the first Gospel—Mark—didn’t include a resurrection account and, therefore, it was an idea that Christians came up with later. Besides neglecting the majority testimony of the church fathers that Semitic Matthew was written first (probably heavily influencing, but not identical with, Greek Matthew in our Bibles), this theory also neglects Mark’s resurrection account and the other New Testament texts that were written before any Gospel depicting Jesus’ ministry was recorded. In short, Scripture is replete with testimony of God’s victory over death in the person of Jesus.

This week, we celebrate just a few of the many texts that point to Jesus’ resurrection.

When Mary Magdalene, Mary and Salome looked inside the empty tomb, they beheld a man who testified that, truly, Jesus had been crucified but that he rose. The verb that Mark chose for “rose” here has a connotation of collecting faculties, as when one wakes up from sleep and becomes conscious and lucid once again. Jesus, fully alive and returned to his mission, left word that his disciples should meet with him in the Galilee. Far from there being no resurrection account in Mark, the risen Jesus wants to meet with his disciples and trusts messengers to tell that he has risen. But how and why would the Gospel writer leave it at that and not tell explicit tales of Jesus encountering his followers and disciples? Probably because everyone already knew that part!

The disciples had been preaching about Jesus’ resurrection for nearly two decades by the time Paul wrote to the church in Corinth. Paul locates his ministry work in a chain of transmissions that precedes his conversion: “I handed down to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day, according to Scriptures …” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4; New American Standard Bible). Here Paul links the Scripture with the testimony and teaching that he received personally—what he heard from Jesus directly (Galatians 1:12, 16-17) and what he learned from Jesus’ apostles (Galatians 1:18-19; Acts 9:19-28). He had been testifying for at least a decade about Jesus’ resurrection by the time Mark was written, but Paul argued that the Scriptures had been testifying for many hundreds of years before him.

Scripture is replete with testimony of God’s victory over death in the person of Jesus.

Paul, no doubt, remembered the words of Psalm 118, which people sang during Jesus’ triumphal entry: “I will not die, but live, and tell of the works of the Lord” (17). The early church applied many of Isaiah’s words to Jesus, even during his lifetime before his death and resurrection. After his triumph over the grave, the church understood that Jesus had indeed set up a feast for all peoples by swallowing up death for all time (Isaiah 25:6, 8).

The Psalms proclaim: “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol; you will not allow your Holy One to undergo decay” (16:10) and “God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me” (49:15). Almost certainly Paul had in mind the words of the prophet Hosea: “He will revive us after two days; he will raise us up on the third day, that we may live before him” (6:2). Later, Hosea heard God ask, “Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from death? Death, where are your thorns? Sheol, where is your sting?” (13:14). These passages and many others lent Paul and the early church scriptural support for what they had seen with their own eyes—Jesus had triumphed over the grave and experienced resurrection that Sunday morning.

Before there were any Gospel accounts, Jesus was raised from the dead. Before Paul wrote any letters to churches, Jesus was raised from the dead. Before there were any eyewitnesses, Jesus was raised from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection had already happened before the women even arrived at the tomb. The stone had already been rolled away.

The good news of life from death doesn’t wait for anyone. It’s not an idea that Jesus followers only stumbled upon later. Instead, salvation from sin and death through Jesus’ experience of death and resurrection were God’s plan since the expulsion of Eve and Adam from Eden. Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!

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