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Mary Magdalene and the other Mary left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’
While they were going, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened. After the priests had assembled with the elders, they devised a plan to give a large sum of money to the soldiers, telling them, ‘You must say, “His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.” If this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.’ So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story is still told among the Jews to this day.
The chief priests told the soldiers: You must say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’
Jesus was dogged by the religious leaders throughout his ministry. We constantly read of their attempts to belittle him, and their plots to kill him. The teachings of Jesus challenged so much of what the chief priests of his day stood for. First century Jewish religious practice had evolved over many centuries. But, as the centuries had passed by the religious teachings, customs and laws had grown further and further away from the true word of God. So many religious rituals had become centred around an ostentatious show of a superficial piety. Jesus’ teaching followed a very different path. The arrogance of those who considered themselves to be most holy, most worthy, was shown up for what it was as Jesus modelled and preached a humbler way of living out one’s life.
In today’s reading we see one of Jesus’ first encounters with his followers after his resurrection. We are invited to visualise the very moment when all that Jesus had prophesied came true. The tomb was thrown open and death was conquered as, on the third day, Jesus rose from the dead. But then we are called to reflect upon two reactions to this moment. Firstly, Jesus says to his disciples: Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me. Secondly, the soldiers who had been guarding the tomb rushed to tell their masters everything that had happened. As the last moments of the gospel narrative unfolds it becomes obvious that the disciples did as they had been bidden by their risen Lord. On the other hand, the soldiers were paid to lie, and to keep quiet.
The challenge for us today revolves around how we respond to the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection. Are we joining the disciples in proclaiming the joy of Jesus’ mastery over death and the redemption it brings to humanity, or are we pretending it never happened? The choice is as simple as that … there is no halfway house in this matter!
We live in a sceptical age, an age in which it is easier to maintain the status quo than to stand out as a person of true faith. It is easier to keep quiet than to proclaim our belief in Christ through our words and deeds. It is easier to betray (like Judas) and to deny (like Peter) than to walk with those who have entered into a true relationship with Jesus Christ.
Let us pray for the strength to proclaim our faith, and to help those who are wavering. Let us pray that our every word and action might reveal our love of Christ, and that we might help those who struggle to bear the light of Christ in this world. Let us pray in gratitude for all that Christ did for us, and let us never be ashamed to demonstrate that gratitude every moment of every day.