Easter Sunday

Today the reading is taken from St John’s Gospel.

The day after we hear the story of Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene. The picture of Matthew 28:08-10 might be an acceptable replacement.


Matthew 28:08-10

28:08   Filled with awe and great joy the women came quickly away from the tomb and ran to tell his disciples.

28:09   And suddenly, coming to meet them, was Jesus. ‘Greetings,’ he said. And the women came up to him and, clasping his feet, they did him homage.

28:10   Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers that they must leave for Galilee; there they will see me.’



This little story occupies a part of the last chapter of Matthew’s Gospel where the resurrection of Jesus is told.

28:01-07:        The two women come together to look at Jesus’ tomb. There is an earthquake; an angel descends from heaven; the guards are frightened. The angel says to the women, ‘Don’t be afraid! Jesus is risen from the dead. Say to his disciples, “He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you to Galilee.”’

                        The story is framed by the word ‘Look!’ or ‘Behold!’ (vss. 02 and 07[2x]).

28:08-10:        Our pericope. In the Greek language it is framed by a double framing:

  1. ‘fear’ (vs.08: ‘awe’ and vs.10: ‘don’t be afraid’).
  2. ‘going away’ (vs.08: ‘came [-] away’ and vs.10: ‘leave’).

                        Between the ‘going away’ of the women in vs.08 and of the disciples in vs.10 we hear that women are ‘going up’ to Jesus...

                        Matthew is playing with the word ‘going’.

28:11-15:        The High Priests give a lot of money to the guards and say that Jesus’ disciples stole his body.

28:16-20:        Jesus appears to his disciples and sends them all over the world to proclaim the Good News.      



In 28:01 the names of the two women are mentioned: ‘Mary from Magdala’ and ‘the other Mary’. These two women had witnessed how Jesus had been crucified (27:56); on that occasion we hear that ‘the other Mary’ was the mother of James and Joseph. But who James and Joseph were is not explained. Some lines further we hear how the same two women - at the sabbath eve - were sitting opposite the sepulchre (27:61). Their names are mentioned for the third time in the first line of the resurrection story (28:01). In the framing of Matthew’s Gospel these moments seem to be the first and the last time we hear about these women.

Picture Meditation

Top centre the women are coming from the empty tomb in the background, where a splendid white gloom is still to be seen. Looking at the moon I realise that it is still night.

Remarkable: Matthew is talking about two women, but the artist pictures three of them. Could I be the third one?

I take the time to look at each of them and to ponder what their feelings are. Did I ever have such feelings?

Halfway they stand still and are arguing with each other. Can I imagine what each of them is saying? And if I should have been one of them, what would I have said?

In the foreground: the unexpected meeting with Jesus, clothed in red. He wears a hat. Is it the hat he was still wearing when he met Mary Magdalene and she thought for a moment that he was the gardener?

What does Jesus’ attitude express? And the gesture of each of his hands?

I imagine that I would have been one of the women: would I have believed what I saw at that moment?
If so, what would have been my prayer? I take the time to find words for my prayer.

Looking over the composition of the painting I notice that the way from the grave to the meeting with Jesus is not a straight way; it’s a twisting way. Does that correspond with my experience? The artist suggests that Jesus’ appears just before my eyes; that Jesus comes very close to me as a spectator of the painting. Does he?

In the background the three women speak with Peter (the man in orange with a beard) and another disciple: me? I try to imagine what words are spoken. In the meantime I keep in mind that the last thing we heard about Peter, was his denial. What does he feel at the moment he hears that Jesus should have been risen from the dead?

I notice that the world has changed into a paradise. And the moon is replaced by the sun.

I finish with a dialogue with the women, with Peter, with the risen Jesus.

- Meditation by Fr Dries van den Akker S.J