During this glorious season of Easter, it is helpful to reflect upon how the early Christians came to know the risen Christ and how they speak to us today. And so, for the eight Sundays of Easter, this article will focus on the different people who saw Jesus after the Resurrection and the example they give to us.
We begin with the women who came to the tomb on that first Easter morning, intending to complete the burial rites for Jesus. Their situation seemed to be completely hopeless. Their Messiah had been crucified, and the public who had welcomed Him a week earlier had failed to support Him on Good Friday.
The women did not even know how they were going to complete the funeral rites, for an immense stone covered the cave that served as a tomb. But they persevered nonetheless toward the tomb, where the Roman soldiers stood guard over the corpse.
Those solders represented the Empire, the most powerful political force in the known world. And their task seemed absurdly easy, to make sure that a corpse did not cause trouble. But then the situation was completely reversed. When the angels come to roll away the stone, the soldiers fled in terror. They told the leaders in Jerusalem what has happened.
And then those powerful soldiers, the supposed representatives of Roman law and order, took a bribe to lie and say that they had failed, letting the disciples of Jesus steal the body out from under them. By contrast, the angels, and then Jesus Himself, welcomed the women and entrusted to them the most glorious news possible, that He had triumphed over the force that ends all people and nations, over death itself.
Those who were faithful when all was going against them received the glory of God.
And so it is today. We bring the Gospel to the world not despite the trials of life, but precisely in the midst of them. God works most powerfully in those whom the world considers least, the quietly faithful families, those who uphold the rights of the unborn, the dying and the oppressed, the prophetic few who stand up for truth, purity and righteousness when it is out of season. For, as Jesus said at the beginning of His public ministry, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”