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Why look for the living
among the dead?
Whatever we may think about how the gospel accounts were compiled, by whom and for whom, the fact remains that they are the records of a person who lived for and with people. Like everyone else he went to synagogue and the temple, but it appears that he was critical at least of some things that went on in the temple. In the end his enemies were those of the Jewish establishment, the high priests. But perhaps the most extraordinary thing about Jesus' consuming relationship with all sorts of people during his life, the records that we have of the resurrection appearances (whatever we may think of them) carry on his relationships where he left off. These resurrection narratives are, individually, sui generis- they don't tie up to give, together, any sort of definitive truth about his 'risenness'. But individually they are quite an extraordinarily moving testimony to the truth of who he was and what our response should be. According to Matthew,
'Jesus met Mary Magdalene and the other Mary and said, "Greetings!" And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshipped him'.
And the title of this letter is of course from Luke at the point where Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them went to the tomb -
and found two men who stood by in dazzling apparel; and as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, "Why do you seek the living among the dead? Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise"'.
© Aelred Arnesen
It is not in the remit of this present letter to attempt to spell out what Jesus' total involvement with people could mean for our celebrations of Easter, or indeed of our traditional, cyclical, re-presentation rites of all that led up to his death in Jerusalem. But at least the whole tenor of the gospel accounts must leave us in no doubt that involvement with Jesus, the risen Lord, requires a whole life response beyond 'church' affiliations - from the heart. Then quarrels about texts, about the unity of the 'church', about the breaking of cherished church laws may be seen in perspective. It is significant that both these resurrection incidents were the complete and total response, body and soul, of women friends of Jesus.
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© Aelred Arnesen