THE EMPTY TOMB: WHAT DO WE DO NEXT? by DEACON TONY MARTUCCI
Let's look at the Scriptures to see how others reacted to finding the tomb empty. Witnesses to accidents or other major events often disagree on some details because they see things differently or have a different perspective. So it is with the Four Gospels. The writers all agree on the basic FACTS.
Matthew's Gospel says: The very first witnesses were the guards at the tomb, who felt a great earthquake and saw an angel who rolled back the stone and sat upon it. They fell in fear “like dead men”. Then they ran to tell the chief priests, who paid them and told the guards to “Tell the people that His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.”
Women were the first disciples to discover that Christ's tomb was empty. Mark tells us it was “Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of James, and Salome”. Matthew says it was “Mary Magdalene and the 'other Mary'”. Luke says simply it was the “women who came with Him from Galilee”, later identifying them as “Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary the mother of James”. John places Mary Magdalene alone at the tomb.
All the Gospels agree that the women found the tomb empty. In Matthew and Mark's Gospels the women saw an angel who told them Jesus had risen; Luke reported two angels. In each account, the angel instructed the women to return and to tell Christ's disciples that Jesus was alive. The disciples did not believe the women. Luke reports that “Peter ran to the tomb” saw the linen cloths alone and wondered what had happened.
In John's Gospel, after she found the tomb empty Mary Magdalene ran to the disciples, thinking that someone had stolen the body. She returned with Peter and John. John saw the linen cloth and believed. After Peter and John left her, Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene . She thought He was the gardener and asked Him if He knew where “they had taken the body.” Jesus called her “Mary:” and she recognized Him. He told her to tell the disciples what she had seen.
Both Mark and Luke tell of Jesus' appearance to two disciples “walking into the country”. Luke goes into greater detail and after they recognize Jesus in “the breaking of the bread”, they ran back to Jerusalem to share their joy at the news of the resurrection with the other disciples.
Next we read of Jesus appearing to the Disciples on the first Easter Sunday in Mark, Luke and John's Gospels.
John also has two later stories of Christ's appearance, one week after Easter, when Thomas was present, and a third time when the disciples were fishing on the Sea of Tiberius. There, He instructed Peter to “feed His lambs and to tend His sheep.”
While the Apostles were filled with awe and joy at Jesus' Resurrection, yet they remained in seclusion until Pentecost, when they were filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they spread the news throughout Judea, Galilee and the entire known world.
Christ also appeared in a marvelous way to Saul of Tarsus. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul why do you persecute Me? Who are you, Sir? I am Jesus, who you are persecuting”. Jesus chose Saul/Paul “to be an instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles. Kings and Israelites.”
In Mark's Gospel we are commissioned by Jesus to “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel.” Matthew tells us “Go therefor and make disciples of all nations ... baptizing them ...teaching them all that I have commanded you.”
Luke says, “Jesus said to them,'Thus it written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”
The Risen Jesus appears in the midst of His disciples with doors locked and bolted. They were understandably terrified . But Jesus calmed them down and convinced them that it was He. And Jesus said to them and to us “You are witnesses to these things.”
What things are we to be witnesses of? Consider the following:
#1. The Death of Jesus;
#2. Testimony of Scripture to the Suffering and Death of Jesus;
#3. The Resurrection of Jesus;
#4. The Power of Jesus' Name.
This is the core of Apostolic catechesis. It hasn't changed in 2000 years. You and I bear witness to these truths by our daily lives.
1 Peter 2:9 says, “O chosen people, proclaim the mighty works of Him Who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light, alleluia.”
Easter is a fifty day celebration and so we continue to sing: “Alleluia, alleluia!! This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad. Alleluia”(Ps. 117:24)