Matthew's resurrection account:
28 After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” 8 So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
Matthew 28:1-10 (NRSV) above will be our gospel this morning, Easter Day Year A. Alternate is John 20:1-18. In Year B our synoptic gospel is Mark 16:1-8. Year C, Luke 24:1-12. The John 20 resurrection story is the option each year.
No less varied than the nativity narratives, certainly at least in some measure for reasons of audience and agenda, each of the four canonical gospels tells a different story, different details, of the resurrection of Jesus, which theologically and doctrinally is the core of Christian faith. Paul says either it's true or we are fools. The oldest, Mark’s story ends with terrified women fleeing the empty tomb and saying nothing to anyone, and Mark tells no post-resurrection appearances. Matthew, above, orders everyone to Galilee. Luke tells everyone to remain in Jerusalem. John has the poignant and perhaps borderline romantic but nevertheless moving story with Mary Magdalene. Matthew, Luke and John tell post-resurrection appearances. Everyone’s story is different. Does it matter? It matters to me. It may not matter to most people, many of whom may confuse the stories or even blend them as the Christmas stories have been blended; and it may not matter to most ordained clergy, but it matters to me. Why? Because.
Paul, whose writings are some years earlier than the canonical gospels, knows nothing of an empty tomb, just as Paul knows nothing of the nativity and virgin birth stories, though Paul does know of the Last Supper. What difference does it make, why does it matter to me? Maybe because finally having given in to the -- what, call? -- to ordained ministry that nudged me from age ten, I’ve given the second half of my life to reading, study, discussion, teaching, preaching these stories and feel I know them fairly well. Maybe because incompatible testimony strains credence in any courtroom. Maybe because for some years of life I was a studied and read amateur astronomer and with a telescope. Maybe because I perceive agenda reasons for differences and am uneasy, as I look just beneath the surface, with agenda seeming to drive truth, just as with differences between exegesis and eisegesis. Maybe because I can explain the differences without either trashing or validating them. Maybe because the resurrection stories came so much later, forty years and more after the fact of it. I don’t know. I can preach Christ crucified and I can preach Christos anesti. I get the kind, gentle, loving, mostly patient and earthy Jesus of the synoptics, the Logos of John, and the Christ of Paul. I say the creeds and enter the baptismal covenant with straight mind and clear conscience. Why then does it matter to me when Bible stories of the same core event are so different in detail from writer to writer? Maybe most of all because I take seriously to heart the exhorting proverb I read those years in the lintel over the library door of one of my seminaries, “Seek the Truth, Come Whence It May, Cost What It Will” and I am no more afraid of the obviously potential cost of truth than I am of death. It is what it is. Certain of nothing, comfortable in doubt, accepting in spite of and notwithstanding, faith is chosen not knowledge and I live by faith as strong as ever. So, I believe ... Happy Easter, Christ is risen, ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη.
DThos+ somewhere in +Time+ and moving on
Pic pinched online: Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem