ACTA COMMENTARY

OUR SUNDAY LECTIONARY

EASTER SUNDAY

 YEAR B: YEAR OF MARK

 The reading of Passion Story according to the Gospel of St Mark ended on Good Friday with accounts of four matters that occurred after the death of Jesus.  Mark records the curtain of the Temple being torn from top to bottom, the words of the centurion, then he mentions the women who “came up with him to Jerusalem”, and, finally provides details of the burial, noting that “Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he had been laid” (15:40-47).

 

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          I am inclined to think of these four matters are better considered, not as the final touches to the death of Jesus, but rather as the first intimations of the resurrection.  I prefer to understand the conclusion the drama of the suffering of Jesus in Mark to be a simple sentence:

                                 And Jesus uttered a loud cry

                                       and breathed his last.                        15:37

                                                 

I need to go round the houses to explain my understanding of how Mark planned his material here.  However I am by no means fully convinced that I am in the rights here.   Discussion is recommended and options considered. 

          First, we need to realise that Mark, and ancient Greek writers generally, did not write in sentences and paragraphs as we imagine them to have done (that’s what we do) and as our translations present.  What decides his divisions is more the dramatic sense, the idea inherent in a piece of writing.  What determines the “shape” of an ancient piece of Greek  (and Latin) writing such as our Gospels is what we might call organic development.  We need to remember that all ancient writings were written to be heard.  When you have an illiteracy rate of 90/95%, then reading aloud and listening are the order of the day.  So if you want to be sure that people listen to what you are reading to them, you must have a text that will not only grab their attention but shape their understanding as you wish.  You have to proclaim your text so as to win hearts and minds.  Mark was especially good at doing this.  Read the first chapter of his Gospel aloud, and even in English you will begin to appreciate how he opens your heart as he enlightens your mind.  He uses the word “immediately” 42 times in his little book, 11 times in what Stephen Langton (died 1228) decided was chapter 1.  All that excitement and amazement on the first page!

          Secondly, I think that these four passages, so emphatically dramatic and awe-inspiring, are at least bridge passages that serve as conclusions to the death but, even more emphatically, point to the resurrection.

The Temple

 

                             And the curtain of the Temple was torn in                              two, from top to bottom.                         15:38

The story that Mark tells begins with God.  God sends a messenger to prepare for the coming of   “Jesus Messiah, Son of God” into the world.  The way must be prepared and God attends to the preparation, sending a messenger to prepare the way, to make his paths straight (1:2-3).  At the end of the story, with the death of the Son, God again inaugurates a new era, an era bound up with who it is that died on the cross and what this means for those who stood and watched him die, and, astonishingly, for the whole of humanity.  Just as this Gospel begins with a beginning, so it ends with a beginning.

          The curtain of the Temple was torn.  By whom?  This, the first reaction to the death of God’s Son, is an act of God.  In the pain of his dying Jesus prayed My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?   There was no answer to his prayer.  Only an apparent absence of God.  But now there is a reply from the heavens.   At the baptism of Jesus, God spoke:

                    

                             In those days Jesus came from Nazareth                                 of Galilee and was baptized by John in the                                   Jordan. And when he came up out of the                                      water, immediately he saw the heavens                                  being torn open and the Spirit descending

                             on him like a dove. And a voice came from                              heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I                         am well pleased”.                                           1:9-11

In the tearing of the veil, God speaks.[1]  The first reaction to the death of Jesus is an action of God and a reminder to Mark’s hearers to look back to 1:11 and recall the divine declaration at the baptism that “You are my beloved Son”.  Looking back at that baptism recalls the words of Jesus that explain precisely what he was baptised into:

                   And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up               to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to                    do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to                    them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And                    they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right                hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Jesus                      said to them, “You do not know what you are                             asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink,            or to be baptized with the baptism with which I                    am being baptized?” And they said to him, “We are              able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I                          drink you will drink, and with the baptism with                  which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to                sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to                     grant, but it is for those for whom it has been                          prepared.                                                                 10:35-38

The baptism of Jesus into the service of his God sets him on the road to Calvary.  In the moment of his dying God declares the meaning of the vocation that Jesus served all his life and completed at Golgotha, the Place of the Skull (15:22).  The meaning of his life, death, and resurrection is to declare that all humanity, not just Jewish people, is in God’s good care.

          The Temple was the House of God.  That is where God’s presence dwelt among his people.  The Holy of Holies was a room in the Temple separated from the rest of the Temple by an elaborate curtain.[2]  No one was permitted to enter this most sacred space except the High Priest on the day of Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), the tenth day of the Jewish New Year, when forgiveness was sought for the whole nation.  While the history of the Temple is complicated, it marks the place of God’s presence with the people of Israel.  It embraced the Presence that had guided them in cloud and fire (Exodus 13:21-22) through the desert and brought them to a land flowing with milk and honey. The God who journeyed with the people was the God who settled with them when eventually King Solomon built the first Temple in Jerusalem.[3]

          The tearing of the Temple veil fittingly explains what Jesus predicted.  Recall that Jesus condemned the Temple authorities of turning God’s house into “a den of thieves”:

                             And he was teaching them and saying to                                 them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be                             called a house of prayer for all the nations’?                        But you have made it a den of robbers.” And                       the chief priests and the scribes heard it and                         were seeking a way to destroy him, for they                          feared him, because all the crowd was                              astonished at his teaching.                      11:17-19

          At his trial the words spoken by Jesus about the Temple’s future were thrown in his face (14:58).  Those who passed by the cross mocked him in similar words:

                             And those who passed by derided him,                                    wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You                             who would destroy the Temple and rebuild                             it in three days, save yourself, and come                              down from the cross!                                     15:29

But God has the last word.  That Presence so gloriously honoured as exclusively the privilege of the Jewish people, is now open to the whole of humanity, to Jews and Gentiles alike.[4]  The death of Jesus is not the end.  It is the beginning of hope for all humanity, Jew and Gentile, the assurance of our resurrection.  The tearing asunder of the Temple veil is God’s declaration that, in Jesus, all will be well, all manner of thing will be well.

The Centurion

 

Mark’s Gospel opens with a declaration of identity, revealing what and who his story is about:

A beginning of the gospel of Jesus Messiah, Son of God.

1:1

At the end he marks the death of this Messiah, this Son of God, with a startling declaration of identity by a Roman centurion, a pagan soldier:

                             But the centurion, standing by facing him,                                  seeing that in this way he breathed his last,                                said,

                                 “Truly, this man was the Son of God”.    15:39

Some writers see this as a cynical remark made in the light of all the mocking grandiose claims that had been shouted at the criminal on the cross.  “So if this is the King of the Jews”, he might be saying, “look at him now”.  But this is not Mark’s style.  Mark has, throughout his Gospel, many who look on Jesus and on his doings, yet see in him the very devil, Beelzebul (3:22-30).  We meet those who have eyes to see but do not see and those who are blind yet come to see (8:22-26 and 10:46-52).   At the end we come to a man who sees and believes.   Faith is a gift.  Blind Bartimaeus came to faith and so was given his sight (  The faith of the centurion is a sign of things to come, a sign of the many Gentiles who came to believe and for whom Mark wrote his story.  Their resurrection began with the centurion’s declaration.  As it was in the beginning (1:1), so at the end.   It is worth noting that mention of the Son of God in Mark’s Gospel is hidden from the people who are in his story until we come to the centurion who reveals it to all and sundry mocking at the foot of the cross.

Notice:

1:1     -     … the gospel of Jesus Messiah, Son of God

                     Spoken to Mark’s readers and hearers.

1:11    -     You are my beloved Son …

                     Spoken [by God] to Jesus only.

3:11    -     You are the son of God.

                    Spoken by demons and ordered to remain silent.

5:11    -     Jesus, Son of the Most High God …

                     Spoken by a legion of demons to Jesus alone.

9:7     -         This is my beloved Son.

                     Spoken at the Transfiguration by God. 

                     Spoken out of the cloud [= by God].

                     Peter, James, and John forbidden “to tell

                     What they has seen until the Son of Man

                      had risen from the dead” (9:9).

 15:39   -   The pagan Roman centurion, at the moment

                 that Jesus dies, declares to the world in the face of all

                 the enemies that his man was the Son of God.

Mark, a dramatist to his fingertips, chooses that moment to tell that this man on the cross is God’s Son.  The irony will not have been lost on those who sat upon the ground in the imperial city of Rome to hear Mark’s story.

The Women 

 

It is, of course, the women who are looking on - the men have long gone.[5]  Some are named, with Mary Magdalene to the fore, with Mary the mother of James.  They followed him from Galilee to Jerusalem, followed as Simon Peter and Andrew, and James and John were called to follow at the beginning of the enterprise.  They ministered to him.  It is important to note that Mark records that “there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem”.  All of these women would surely have been invited to what St Paul called the Lord’s Supper. These women saw where he was laid. They prepare to serve him even in his death and they bought spices “so that they might go an anoint him”.  These women, our mothers in faith, though they did not know it, were preparing for resurrection.

          On Easter Day we will come to the empty tomb, not in the Gospel of Mark but in the Gospel according to John.

~~Readings for Easter Day~~

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles                         10:34. 37-43

Responsorial Psalm                        Psalm 117:1-2. 16-17. 22-23.   R⁄. v.24

A reading from the Letter of St Paul to the Colossians          3:1-4

A reading from the holy Gospel according to John               20:1-9

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles                         10:34. 37-43

All the first readings during the Easter Season in each of the three year Lectionary cycle are taken from the Acts of the Apostles.  In contrast, all other first readings outside the Easter cycle are taken from the Old Testament.  The advantage of the Easter cycle is that the Gospel readings come from John with occasional readings from Luke.  With all the first readings being taken from the Acts of the Apostles, we have accounts of the resurrection of Jesus in the Gospels coupled with the foundation and growth of the earliest of Christian churches in Jerusalem, in missionary outreach beyond the Holy City, and much further afield, even to Rome itself.  The difficulties for attentive hearers/readers is that the Lectionary does not follow the order of events as narrated in the Acts of the Apostles.  It is the order of events that is at the heart of Luke’s enterprise in Acts for he sets out to plot the journey for the mission of Jesus from Nazareth via Jerusalem to the imperial capital.

 

          The Acts of the Apostles is the only account we have of the first years of the Christian story.  We can build up a picture of much that happened in those early days from the writings of St Paul and one or two other writers in our New Testament.  But it is hard work for the letters which make up most of the New Testament are not so much concerned with the progress of Christian faith as with matters of belief, behavior, and encouragement.  In the Acts of the Apostles, his second book, Luke set out to record a selected series of events in order to tell how Christian faith made its way to the heart of Rome itself.

  

          We know next to nothing about Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the traditional names attached to the four Gospels.  A man named Luke is mentioned in three Letters in the New Testament, Philemon 24, 2 Timothy 4:11, and in Colossians 4:14 (which also mentions that he was a doctor).  He is not mentioned in the Gospel he is supposed to have written, nor in the Acts of the Apostles.  These matters will crop up again.

          Today’s reading comes from chapter 10 which concerns itself with the spread of the Christian message from Jerusalem to the coast.  The end of chapter 9 records this optimistic note:

                   So the church throughout Judea and Galilee and                        Samaria had peace, being built up [a divine passive

                    = being built up by God] and walking in the fear of                 the LORD and, in the strength of the Holy Spirit, it               greatly increased.                                                Acts 9:31[6]

At this encouraging time Peter headed northwest and “he came down to the saints who lived at Lydda” (inland south of Joppa).  He healed a man named Aeneas and many “turned to the Lord”.  When a woman named Dorcas, who was “full of good works”, fell ill and died in nearby Joppa, Christians there sent and asked Peter to come to them.  When he came he knelt in prayer and she was restored to life.  Again, “many believed in the Lord”. 

          Along the coast a man named Cornelius, a Roman centurion and a God-fearer, that is, a Gentile who had begun to worship the God of Jewish faith (“a devout man who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually God”, had a vision.  An angel of God told him to send for Peter. Meantime Peter fell into a trance and had a very important vision with a most insistent message.  The upshot was that he went to Cornelius who had assembled his relatives and close friends.  Peter was told that “we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the LORD.  For the details of the story, read Acts 9:31 - 10:33.  What follows as our first reading today is the homily Peter preached.

  

 [So] Peter opened his mouth and said: [“Truly I understand   that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone    who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.       As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news           of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all),] you    yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea,    beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John    proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the      Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God    was with him. And we are witnesses of all that he did both     in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him       to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on   the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people          but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who   ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he           commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that         he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living    and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that          everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins           through his name”.                                    The Word of the LORD

          It is unfortunate that the Lectionary omits crucial sentences in and around this reading.  In the full text when Cornelius explains to Peter why he invited him to come to his house, he concludes,

                   Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God               to hear all that you have been commanded by the                     LORD.                                                            Acts 10:33

So Cornelius, and his relatives and friends (verse 24) are gathered together “in the presence of God” to hear Peter speak whatever God commanded him to speak.  These onetime pagans who have associated themselves with aspects of Jewish faith, are called by God to listen to what Peter has to say.  Peter himself is called by God to what he believes is a onetime pagan household. So the meeting between Jewish Peter and Gentile Cornelius is designed by God for a specific purpose. The context of our first reading today is essential.  Peter is learning that the story of God is not exclusively for the Jewish people.  That story comes to its divine destiny not in saving Israel exclusively but in saving the world.

          Peter’s short homily is a summary of the basic Christian perspective presented by both Peter and Paul.  Each came, in different visions, to understand the universal nature of what God set out to declare in Christ.  From Abraham to Moses, to King David, through all the prophets, and, indeed, through the whole story of Israel, God was preparing Israel to be a light to the world. In the poetry of Isaiah we can discover God’s intention:

Arise, shine, for your light has come,

and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.

 For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,

and thick darkness the peoples;

but the LORD will arise upon you,

and his glory will be seen upon you.

 And nations shall come to your light,

and kings to the brightness of your rising.

Isaiah 60:1-3

The destiny of the Jewish story was to become everyone’s story.  This is what Peter outlines in his brief address to Cornelius and his family.[7] 

Responsorial Psalm                 Psalm 117 (118):1-2. 16-17. 22-23.   R⁄. v.24

Let Israel say,

“His steadfast love endures forever.”

 Let the house of Aaron say,

“His steadfast love endures forever.”

 Let those who fear the LORD say,

“His steadfast love endures forever.

The right hand of the  LORD

does valiantly!

The right hand of the LORD raises up.

 I shall not die, but I shall live,

and recount the deeds of the Lord.

 The Lord has disciplined me severely,

but he has not given me over to death.

This is the LORD’S doing;

it is marvelous in our eyes.

 This is the day that the Lord has made;

let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 117 (118) is a song of victory and in Jewish understanding it is thought to be a celebration of the return from exile in Babylon and the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem.[8]  Of the twenty-two verses that make up the psalm, only six are quoted to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. 

          The psalm stresses that it is the steadfast love of God that triumphs and brings the people of Israel safely home from exile, enabling them to rebuild the Temple of God’s Presence in Jerusalem.  Neither the Hebrew nor the Greek texts have “Let the sons of Israel say…”.  They have “Let Israel say” (Hebrew) or “Let the house of Israel say…” (Greek).  Perhaps one day we will see a good translation of the Psalms in our Lectionary.  I might add that the Hebrew word “hesed”, translated here as “love” needs to be translated “steadfast love” for, as the poet sings, God’s love is eternal, the only love that has no beginning and no end.

          The psalm begins with “Praise the LORD” which in Hebrew is “Allelu” (not “Give thanks”), the traditional word for a loud cheering of praise to God, entirely fitting on Easter Sunday.  

 

 

A reading from the Letter of St Paul to the Colossians           3:1-4

          If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things          that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of     God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on      things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is           hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life         appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

The Word of the LORD                

The Letter of Paul to the Colossians probably was not written by St Paul.  But certainly it comes out of the same school of thought as that which we find in St Paul.  Paul everywhere emphasizes that baptism is a baptism into the very life of Jesus and therefore demands that we live the life of Jesus.   For now Christ is hidden in heaven and Christians show the life of Christ on this earth.  When Christ is revealed, that is, when he comes to earth again, those who shine his light in our dark world will be revealed with the glory which he shares with God.

          This is the only time Colossians mentions the future return of Christ, a teaching much more prominent in Paul’s teaching. 

A reading from the holy Gospel according to John              20:1-9

         

                   Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene                   came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and              saw that the stone had been taken away from the                       tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the                              other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to               them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb,                     and we do not know where they have laid him.” So               Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were              going toward the tomb. Both of them were running                   together, but the other disciple outran Peter and                        reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he           saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in.                Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went                     into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there,                    and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus' head,             not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a                        place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had                       reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and                 believed; for as yet they did not understand the                       Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. [Then the               disciples went back to their homes.] 

      The Gospel of the LORD

In the Gospel reading taken from St. John, the star of the resurrection story, Mary Magdalene, makes her appearance.  But her meeting with angels and with the Risen Lord is only started and the most significant dramatic incidents are relegated to Easter Tuesday.

          Mary makes her way to the tomb unaccompanied by any of the other women.  She discovers that the stone has been moved away from the tomb’s entrance.  So she runs to tell Peter and “the other disciple”, (also described as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”[9]) and they hotfoot it to the tomb.   “The other disciple” gets there first (not surprising - see 19:26) and his attention is drawn to the linen cloths.  The burial cloths would appear to be given more attention than is their due, given that the body is missing.  But in fact they are of immense importance, though it is Mary’s encounter with the Risen Lord that will open our eyes.

          It is necessary to go back to the story of Moses to grasp the significance of the cloths. The Book of Exodus tells of Moses  ascending Mount Sinai to meet with God:

                   Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud                covered the mountain. The glory of the Lord dwelt              on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days.               And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the                    midst of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory                 of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of            the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel.                              Moses entered the cloud and went up on the                              mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty                      days and forty nights.                                Exodus 24:15-18

However, when Moses descended the mountain a difficulty arose:

                        When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with                      the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he                           came down from the mountain, Moses did not                         know that the skin of his face shone because he                              had been talking with God. Aaron and all the                            people of I srael saw Moses, and behold, the skin                      of his face shone, and they were afraid to come                          near him. But Moses called to them, and Aaron                       and all the leaders of the congregation returned to                              him, and Moses talked with them. Afterward all                      the people of Israel came near, and he                                          commanded them all that the Lord had spoken                          with him in Mount Sinai. And when Moses had

                   finished  speaking with them, he put a veil over his                  face.  Whenever Moses went in before the Lord to           speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he                came out. And when he came out and told the                              people of Israel what he was commanded, the                            people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that                     the skin of Moses 'face was shining. And Moses                       would put the veil over his face again, until he                        went in to speak with him.                     Exodus 34:29-35  

Of course, no one ever spoke to God face to face, for God has no face.  The statement is meant to underline the exclusive intimacy between God and Moses as he “spoke” with God on Mount Sinai. 

          The fuss concerning the burial cloths and the insistence that the face covering was folded and neatly placed to one side recalls these texts from ancient Jewish scriptures.   The cloths on the face of Moses concealed the glory of God.   The face covering is removed from the face of Jesus and we are privileged to behold the glory of God.  This explanation will require some teasing out.

          The noun “glory” occurs 19 times in John’s Gospel.[10]  In the whole Bible it occurs 358 times and with a wide range of reference.  Its basic meaning (from the Hebrew word kabod) is  ‘heavy’, ‘weight’.  So it becomes a word for a person’s gravity, seriousness, distinction.  It extends to one’s riches, as a sign of one’s authority or standing in a community.  A Nation may be said to possess glory if it is powerful and wealthy.  ‘Glory’ can describe a personal quality, a national quality, and it can be employed to describe a quality of God.  In the Bible it is, in a word, a description of God and an acknowledgement of all God’s qualities.  It’s the best we can do when trying to embrace what we mean by God.  Psalm 29 may stand for all the psalms that sing the glory of God;

A Psalm of David.

 Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,

 ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;

worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.

 The voice of the Lord is over the waters;

the God of glory thunders,

the Lord, over many waters.

 The voice of the Lord is powerful;

the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;

the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.

 He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf,

and Sirion like a young wild ox.

 The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.

 The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;

the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

 The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth

and strips the forests bare,

and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;

the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.

 May the Lord give strength to his people!

May the Lord bless his people with peace.

Psalm 29

All of these poetic images try to speak of the wonder of God and the word ‘glory’ is an effort to put all the eggs in one basket, to say in one word what requires a million words.

          The face of Moses reflects the glory of God and so must be veiled to conceal the fullness of God from the people.  But there are other images of God that speak of love, gentleness, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, joy, and hope.  These, too, belong to God’s glory.  ‘Glory’ strives to express everything we know about the being of God.  Which may not be much.

          That is why the face-covering is so amazing and worthy of the most careful attention.  For the resurrection of Jesus declares to the world that God’s face is no longer hidden from the world.  God’s glory fills the earth.  Look at the last line of the Psalm 29 above.  The hymn to God’s glory, celebrating such wonders, ends in a prayer for peace:

May the Lord bless his people with peace.

The power of God is greater even that death and God can undo death and give us back the Jesus who walked our earth and whose companionship with us cannot be broken by death.  And that companionship will always strive to instill into our hearts God’s greatest gift: shalom, peace.

          Is it any surprise that in the appearance that follow his return to the Father (20:19-23) Jesus comes to his disciples and “standing among his disciples, not once but twice, he said to them:

Peace be with you!

          Is it any wonder that in the hymn given to us by our fathers and mothers in Cappadocia, as they watched the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers flow down their mountains in eastern Turkey sang:

Glory to God in the highest!

And on earth

Peace

to people of goodwill.

That is unveiled resurrection.


          But the two men, Peter and the Beloved Disciple, did not understand the scriptures.  And our Gospel today omits the last sentence of the paragraph:

Therefore they went back home.

Thank goodness for Mary.

-0-               -0-               -0-               -0-

Joseph O’Hanlon

The cloth covering the face of Jesus is carefully distinguished from the linen (?) wrapping cloths which covered his body.  The piece of cloth that had covered his head, perhaps  tied under the chin “was not lying with the (bandage-like) cloths wrapped around the body.  It was folded up in a place by itself. 

  

         

          . 

 

[1]  The verb declaring that “he saw the heavens being torn open” is used only once more in Mark and that is here where the curtains of the Temple is “torn open”, a passive voice indicating that the Temple veil is torn open by God.  Mark and other writers who figure in the Bible often us what is called a “divine passive” to indicate that God is acting.

[2]  There were two curtains in the Jerusalem Temple.  One separated the Holy Place, the section of the building reserved for the priests.  More likely, Mark means the inner curtain that separate the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies, the “tabernacle” of God’s presence. 

[3]  See   Exodus 40:34-38 for a brief explanation of what the Temple represented in the religious life of God’s people.

[4]  The opening of God’s Presence to all of humanity is a theme particularly emphasised in the Letter to Ephesian Christians (2:11-22) and in the Letter to Hebrew Christians (9:1-8 and 10:19-22).   It is, too, at the very heart of St Paul’s teaching.

[5]  The women are said to be “looking on from afar”.  Peter in 14:54 is said to have “followed him from afar” but  denied all knowledge of Jesus.  The rest of the men deserted him and fled.    The women stayed to the end.  Watching from afar is what women do in middle eastern funerals.

[6]  This brief time of peace came after the turmoil following the killing of St Stephen and a period of persecution in Jerusalem forcing some of Christians there to flee north to Samaria (see Acts 8:1-2).

[7]  There are a number of elements in Peter’s homily (in the full text) which need attention.  What does fear of the LORD mean?   What does it mean that Jesus is appointed “judge of the living and the dead”?  Such matters will call for attention further down the line.

[8] These matters are variously recounted in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah and is briefly  reported in the last paragraph of 2 Chronicles.   The Babylonian Exile began in 597 B. C. and was ended by the Persian ruler Cyrus II (549-529 B.C.).   Isaiah 45:1 celebrates Cyrus as the LORD’S anointed king.  His words are:  Thus said the LORD to Cyrus, his anointed one (= his messiah).  

[9]   John 19:26; 20:2; 21:7; 21:20.

[10]  It occurs three times in Mark, six times in Matthew, and twelve times in Luke.

It occurs 102 times in the New Testament.  It is a very important word and what it means is not easy to determine.  When we sing the ancient Cappadocian hymn Glory to God in the highest, what exactly are we giving to God?

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