Yesterday, we celebrated not the Resurrection, but the discovery of an empty tomb and a whisper of hope.
St Mark’s Gospel, which we chose to read on Easter Morning as well as at the Vigil, broke off not with a meeting with the Risen Christ, but a surprising encounter with an angel. The women are told: Go, tell his disciples to travel to Galilee; there they will meet with the Lord.
Today, St Matthew fills in what happened next: the faithful women meet Jesus, very much alive, as they obey the angelic command and go on their way. But the message for the disciples is the same – they must go to Galilee.
In St Luke and St John, which we will read later this week, we will discover that the Lord shows himself to the disciples, gathered in a room in Jerusalem that very night. But not before the women have reached them with their incredible news.
The Acts of the Apostles and the letters of St Paul reveal further appearances. Paul writes to the Corinthians: “For what I received I passed on to you… that Christ… appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me.”
The Lord does not show himself to everyone; we have to rely on the testimony of a few witnesses chosen by the Lord. We will be opposed by counter-stories: at the very beginning, the guards were instructed to begin a cover-up. But we notice that the women only see the Risen Lord when they have taken a step of faith and begun the journey to tell the disciples. We might guess that the apostles who see Jesus in Jerusalem on Sunday night had already agreed to set out on the journey to Galilee. The 500 of whom Paul speaks had already agreed to gather because they believed in him. We, too, are called to step out in faith before the Lord will give us a deeper experience… we may not see a vision of the Risen Lord, but the Lord will give us just enough reason to believe, in order to take the next step. The question is, are you willing to take it?