RESURRECTION FLASH (7) Any reconstruction of the first Easter begins with the women at the tomb. True, every Catholic, perhaps every genuine Christian heart, will feel sure that Our Lord's first appearance must have been to his Mother, but the gospels draw a veil here and we follow their example.
The holy women might be no use as witnesses according to the then Jewish customs, their Easter morning reports were treated even by some of the apostles as idle tales, and today's biblical critics often seem equally dubious, inclined to treat the whole episode of the empty tomb as an afterthought, blown up weeks later to support the appearance-stories of Peter and the Twelve.
But Jesus had other ideas about women; they were different to men but equal, and to make this clear (you might say) was one of his subsidiary war-aims. Anyhow he owed a debt of gratitude to these particular women. They had made his preaching-tours possible by their ministrations and no doubt their gifts; they had turned up faithfully at the gallows when his following had melted away. He was not then, he is not now, one who forgets that sort of thing. His earliest risen greeting was tor them.
About their names, and what exactly happened near the Tomb, there are some minor differences or telescopings in the gospel accounts, reflecting various oral traditions or the evangelists' attempts to summarise. One likely possibility is that there were two or three small groups of women who had arranged to meet at the tomb around that dawn.
Scripture scholars reckon the gospels indicate that there had been two main groups of ministering women, one led by Mary of Magdala, the other perhaps by Mary mother of James, the former group being from Galilee, and the latter from Judea. If so this would go far to explain why Our Lord shows himself twice, once to Magdalene alone (after she had returned to the tomb with Peter and John, John 20.14) and again to a group (Matt. 28.9).
Somehow one fancies that our friends the critics wouldn't mind so much about the empty tomb, or even about visions of Christ, but that what really disturbs them is the annoying activity of angels. Are not angels the frequent indication in Scripture of God's power a work?
To be sure they are, replies the believer; it is God's power which created them, and uses them as His agents and messengers. And if they make themselves visible to humans. does it matter whether they are described as young men in white, or whether their garments are dazzling in the sunrise, or what? If there are such beings, this surely would be the day for them to be lending a hand.
The message, as given in Matthew and Mark, is for. everybody to go to Galilee, where the risen Christ will he seen. This may seem strange since Our Lord is going to see the Eleven that same evening. and for another eight days apparently they will still be there.
But the message is not for the Eleven alone, but for all the other followers, hundreds of them, who had come up with Him from Galilee for this Pasch. They, like the women, are not being forgotten, though the immediate work is to rally the Eleven.
Canon F. ,H. Drinkwater