Business as usual? Monday within the Easter Octave – Acts 2:14,22-23/Matthew 28:8-15
The Easter narrative in the Gospel of Mark and Matthew are brief; just thirteen and fifteen verses. Compare that to Luke and John, which tell us so much more. The Gospel of today, taken from Matthew’s Gospel, first tells us of the attitude that Easter could have on us. It could bring about belief or disbelief. It then goes on to tell us of the acts that are fuelled by those attitudes; it tells us of two sets of instructions; that of the Lord to the women and then those of the Chief priest to the soldiers.
Jesus encounters the women in their panic and fear. The angel (verse 5) sensing his dramatic entry, tells the women not to fear but obviously even the soft voice of this angel could not stop their hearts from pumping furiously. The Lord, on encountering the women reminds them once again not ‘to be afraid.’ The Easter proclamation is one that gives all those who are afraid, whatever that fear may be, the gift of peace in the storm. So, stop the fear, the Lord is near!
But the encounter with the women was also ‘sudden.’ God does not give notice of his planned visits. He breaks into our lives ‘suddenly;’ perhaps at a parish mission, in moments of prayer or perhaps when we are rushing like the women were. He breaks into our world ‘suddenly’ but also with a ‘greeting.’ Scripture tells us that on encountering the women he greets them. Think about it, the first Easter Greeting was not spoken to commemorate an event, the first Easter Greeting was made by the one who caused the event. I wonder what that first Easter greeting was? Was it just a hello? Was it a good morning? Was it a Praise the Lord or did the Lord say, “Happy Easter?” I think it does not matter what he said, what matters is that we recognise that he was the first one to greet us all on Easter Sunday.
The Lord then gave the women a message and this message comes as a surprise to those who read deeper into this text. The Lord asked the women to ‘go and tell his brothers to go to Galilee, where they will see him.’ This line struck me very powerfully because I recognized in this text the first message of forgiveness after the resurrection. Forgiveness was central to the life of Jesus; so much so that one of his last words on the cross was, “father forgive them.” Now, after the resurrection the first act is one of forgiveness even though he does not say it explicitly.
Let’s put this in perspective. He addresses his disciples as “brothers.” These are the same “brothers” who a page and a day earlier denied him, betrayed him and fled from him. Imagine you and me speaking of those who abandoned us in the moment of our need. I am certain that “brothers” would not be the first words that we might use; a confession would be required to ease the burden of guilt that would result from the greeting we would have for those who betrayed and denied us. Yet, Jesus calls them ‘brothers’, making his first act after the resurrection one of love and forgiveness. Easter calls us to peace but it also calls us to forgiveness.