When you set out and walk east from the old city of Jerusalem through the Lion Gate, you move first through the shallow Kidron Valley before beginning to climb up the lower sections of the Mount of Olives. You pass first through the Garden of Gethsemene, complete with its old olive groves and the Christian churches that mark some of the events of the night before Jesus died. But if you continue to walk along the road the winds up the Mount, you begin to be overwhelmed by this massive Jewish cemetery, with white-washed tombs as far as the eye can see. It seems to extend in every direction and there is an extraordinary sense of history as you make your way along the paths that move between these ancient burial grounds. Some of the tombs date back to more than 2000 years and they represent the best of Jewish hope. For the common expectation of the vast majority of Jewish people in the first century (with the clear exception of the Sadducees) was that when the Messiah returned, he would raise from the dead all the bodies of the righteous who had died in a glorious act of new creation – the resurrection of the dead. And God would cover the earth with his glory, as the waters cover the sea – see Isaiah 6, Habakkuk 2, and Exekiel 37. The Jewish people who arranged to be buried so close to the temple mount, have this hope of God restoring creation and raising them to new life in sight of the holy city and Mount Zion. This, most likely, is also the hope of the first followers of Jesus. It is very clear in passages such as John 11 and the interaction between Jesus and Martha at the death of Lazarus. They believe that God – at the end – will raise all people to new life. But no one expected that there would be one exception in human history, when God would act our of love to allow the new creation to break into the present history by raising Jesus from the dead. That is why the disciples are so confused, amazed and overwhelmed and think that the experience of the women is pure nonsense.
But, what about us?
Mass of the Resurrection
First Reading ‡ Acts 10:34.36-43
We have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection from the dead.
Responsorial ‡ Psalm 117:1-2.16-17.22-23
This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
Second Reading ‡ Colossians 3:1-4
Look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is.
Gospel ‡ John 20:1-9
The teaching of scripture is that he must rise from the dead.