Now after the sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the sepulcher…Matthew 28
The risen Jesus is for Matthew no deus ex machina, no literary invention artificially ushered in to solve the riddle of a dead Messiah. His appearance on the scene does exhibit theophanic qualities that reveal the active presence of God, yet not in an outburst of mythological inventiveness. The only “wonder” that Matthew wishes to record in connection with the risen Jesus is very simple and fundamental: the very fact itself that, having been killed, he is now alive. A violent death, having destroyed his body, was itself in turn destroyed by his Father’s all-powerful love, relentlessly intent on raising his Son from the dead. For Matthew this obvious and all-determining fact speaks for itself. Jesus has kept his promise to return to his friends after his suffering and death so that they too might accompany him into fullness of life. Any imaginative elaboration, any impressive symbolism, so useful elsewhere in the gospel, would here cloud over rather than manifest openly the invisible light of transparent faith that evades the senses.
In this passage we are witnessing the same mystery that the Book of Revelation proclaims in its apocalyptic style with solemn resonance. When the Risen One appears to him, the seer of Patmos echoes the experience of the holy women in Matthew: “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand upon me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one; I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades’” (Rev 1:17-18). The specific elements of a Christological theophany have nothing to do with overwhelming external phenomena. Jesus is here revealing the presence and activity of his divine Person solely by exhibiting traits that are specific and essential predicates of God’s nature as Love: his fidelity to his friends, his desire to be with them, his keeping all the promises he had made, his determination to share his own life fully with them, and his design to knit them together beyond separation by his act of exhaustive self-giving on the Cross.
These wholly spiritual events, which have nothing in common with dazzling sensory fireworks, are the aspects that truly overwhelm us in Jesus’ manner of appearing and interacting after his Resurrection. In other words the Lord continues to be and to do all the things he had been and done before his Passion and death, and this accounts for his clear recognizability by his own. But the Resurrection has now raised the Mystery of Christ in the lives of his followers and of the world immeasurably from the sphere of promise and inchoate realization to the dimension of divinely accomplished and irreversible fact. Insofar as the eternal Word possesses a full human nature, consisting not only of soul, mind and spirit but also of all the mineral and vegetable compounds that constitute the flesh, we must say that Christ’s Resurrection from the dead has changed the quality of creation itself. In him the whole universe rises from decay and is flooded with divine light.
Meditation by Father Simeon.