Following upon last week’s article describing the Passion of Christ, for Easter we here consider how the four Gospels present Jesus risen from the dead. All four Gospels begin with the holy women
coming to the tomb on Easter morning to mourn Jesus. There is a colossal earthquake, shaking heaven and earth. Angels come to the tomb and roll away the stone, revealing that death no longer binds Jesus. He then appears to His disciples, commissioning them to bring His salvation to the world. Each Gospel also focuses on other events that demonstrate lessons from the Resurrection for us. As with the passion narratives, Matthew and Mark have similar accounts. Matthew contrasts the universal truth of the faith with the dishonesty of the world, as the authorities in Jerusalem bribe the Roman guards to say that the disciples somehow stole the body of Jesus from under their noses. By contrast with these worldly powers, Jesus tells the Apostles to unite all nations in the teachings and purifying authority of Christ. True to form, Mark presents a very brief account of the risen Christ.
Even when they hear from the holy women about the angels and the empty tomb, the disciples still have trouble believing the in the Resurrection. Jesus appears to them, rebukes them for their lack of faith, but still commissions them to bring the Gospel to the world in face of much opposition. Here, as throughout Church history, God brings salvation even through very imperfect people.
Luke and John focus on the comfort Jesus brings to His people. Luke describes Jesus as consecrating hospitality, meals and the home. Thus, Jesus appears to disciples on the road to Emmaus. They do not know it is Jesus, but they listen to His words and invite Him to stay with them. They finally recognize Him in the breaking of the bread, which is both an example of devotion in common life and a sign of the Eucharist. Likewise, when appearing to other disciples on Easter night, Jesus goes out of His way to eat with them. John describes the appearances of the risen Christ more at length, focusing especially on the forgiveness that He offers
Thus, John describes the repentant Mary Magdalene as the first witness to the risen Christ and the first evangelist to the others. Likewise, when Jesus appears to the Apostles on Easter night, He offers them the power and authority to forgive sins. Later on, Peter makes a threefold proclamation of his love (albeit an imperfect love) for Jesus, reversing his earlier threefold
denial. In that context, Jesus forgives Peter and restores Him as shepherd of the flock. The Gospels thus emphasize how Jesus, the conqueror of death, brings us consolation and healing, and calls for us to share these gifts with a fallen world.