Daily Reading & Meditation

 Easter Vigil (April 21): "Why do you seek the living among the dead?"

Gospel reading: Mark 16:1-7  [alternate readings for Easter Sunday: John 20:1-9; Luke 24:1-12Luke 24:13-35Matthew 28:1-10]

1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week they went to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3 And they were saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?" 4 And looking up, they saw that the stone was rolled back; -- it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe; and they were amazed. 6 And he said to them, "Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they  laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you."

Gospel reading: Romans 6:3-11

3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our former man was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For he who has died is freed from sin. 8 But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. 9 For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Meditation: Early Sunday morning the women went to the tomb to pay their last tribute to a dead body. The disciples thought that everything had finished in tragedy.  Neither were ready to see an empty tomb and hear the angel's message, "Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they  laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you." (Marke 16:6-7). The angel urged them to believe that Jesus had indeed risen just as he had promised. In joy then went to share the good news with the other disciples.

Is it any small wonder that it was the women, rather than the apostles, who first witnessed the empty tomb and the resurrected Lord? Isidore of Seville, a 7th century church father comments on this: "As a woman (Eve) was first to taste death, so a woman (Mary Magdalene) was first to taste life. As a woman was prescient in the fall, so a woman was prescient in beholding the dawning of redemption, thus reversing the curse upon Eve." The first to testify to the risen Lord was a woman from whom Jesus had cast out seven demons.

What is the significance of the stone being rolled away? It would have taken several people to move such a stone. And besides, the sealed tomb had been guarded by soldiers! This is clearly the first sign of the resurrection. Bede, a church father from the 8th century, comments: "[The angel] rolled back the stone not to throw open a way for our Lord to come forth, but to provide evidence to people that he had already come forth. As the virgin's womb was closed, so the sepulcher was closed, yet he entered the world through her closed womb, and so he left the world through the closed sepulcher." (From Homilies on the Gospels 2,7,24) Another church father remarked: "To behold the resurrection, the stone must first be rolled away from our hearts" (Peter Chrysologus, 5th century). Do you know the joy of the resurrection?

It is significant that the disciples had to first deal with the empty tomb before they could come to grips with the fact that scripture had foretold that Jesus would die for our sins and then rise triumphant. They disbelieved until they saw the empty tomb. Bede explains why the Risen Lord revealed himself gradually to the disciples:

"Our Lord and redeemer revealed the glory of his resurrection to his disciples gradually and over a period of time, undoubtedly because so great was the virtue of the miracle that the weak hearts of mortals could not grasp [the significance of] this all at once. Thus, he had regard for the frailty of those seeking him. To those who came first to the tomb, both the women who were aflame with love for him and the men, he showed the stone rolled back. Since his body had been carried away, he showed them the linen cloths in which it had been wrapped lying there alone. Then, to the women who were searching eagerly, who were confused in their minds about what they had found out about him, he showed a vision of angels who disclosed evidences of the fact that he had risen again. Thus, with the report of his resurrection already accomplished, going ahead of him, the Lord of hosts and the king of glory himself at length appeared and made clear with what great might he had overcome the death he had temporarily tasted." (From Homilies on the Gospels 2,9,25)
One thing is certain, if Jesus had not risen from the dead and appeared to his disciples, we would never have heard of him. Nothing else could have changed sad and despairing men and women into people radiant with joy and courage. The reality of the resurrection is the central fact of the Christian faith. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Lord gives us "eyes of faith" to know him and the power of his resurrection. The greatest joy we can have is to encounter the living Lord and to know him personally. Do you celebrate the feast of Easter with joy and thanksgiving for the victory which Jesus has won for you over sin and death?

"Lord Jesus Christ, you have triumphed over the grave and you have won new life for us. Give me the eyes of faith to see you in your glory. Help me to draw near to you and to grow in the knowledge of your great love and power."

Psalm 118:1-2,16-17,22-23
1 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures for ever!
2 Let Israel say, "His steadfast love endures for ever."
16 the right hand of the LORD is exalted, the right hand of the LORD does valiantly!"
17 I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD.
22 The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner.
23 This is the LORD's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.

A Daily Quote for the Easter season: Christ destroyed death to bring us life, from a sermon by Leo the Great, 400-461 A.D.

"God's compassion for us is all the more wonderful because Christ died, not for the righteous or the holy but for the wicked and the sinful, and, though the divine nature could not be touched by the sting of death, he took to himself, through his birth as one of us, something he could offer on our behalf. The power of his death once confronted our death. In the words of Hosea the prophet: Death, I shall be your death; grave, I shall swallow you up. By dying he submitted to the laws of the underworld; by rising again he destroyed them. He did away with the everlasting character of death so as to make death a thing of time, not of eternity. As all die in Adam, so all will be brought to life in Christ."

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use - please cite: copyright (c) 2019 Servants of the Word, source: www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.  Citation references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers can be found here.


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