The following is a summary, you can read the full discussion here.
You can read the following references by clicking on the headings. Of these passages we asked:
- What does the author want to say to us about the Resurrection event? (and why?)
- What might the Resurrection mean for us?
- The Gospel comes to an abrupt end with this story. Many editions add an addendum from a minority of early manuscripts or from Matthew to try and give a fuller explanation.
- Surprisingly, Jesus does not appear– but we are told that he has kept his promise that they will see him again.
- The testimony of women was worthless in that society, and was therefore inconvenient for Jesus’ followers- making the story even more incredible.
- Arguably the presence of women in the narrative is related to birth symbolism: the tomb is like the womb. It is even made of stone like the manger in which the new born Jesus lay, and was protected by a man named Joseph (of Arimathea).
- The narrative seems deliberately ironic, they don’t say what they’ve been told to say, in contrast to what happened all through Mark as people say what they’ve been told not to say.
- That we are not told what happened when they met the risen Christ back in Galilee encourages us to revisit the text from the beginning again and reflect upon Jesus’ ministry in the light of what we have been told. This cyclic flow of the text leads to a ritual practise of a liturgical year.
- The author seems to reuse Mark but attaches an addendum with an (oddly abrupt) appearance of Jesus to the women.
- Then there is the section that describes an alternative explanation for the events, an explanation which we are told has been popular for sometime between this version of Matthew’s text was finalised. This story introduces the information that there were soldiers (of some kind) guarding the tomb. Matthew’s answer to this objection is an early example of apologetics.
- The final part of Matthew’s account is an event commonly called ‘The Great Commission’, where the risen Christ -presented quite regally- orders his disciples to convert others to belief in him. Crucial to this was the initiatory rite of Baptism– and this most simple baptismal formula is one of the very few references to the Trinity in the Bible. In the light of this, we thought that this account is very outward facing, it emphasises opening out to the gentiles, in engaging with the future.
- Finally, Christ appears more loving and personal, promising ‘I am with you always’. So Christ is not just ‘above’ us like a celestial monarch, but at our ‘side’ like a true friend.
- Some pointed out that this account is richer in symbolism, which is not to say that it is not historical. The overarching image of the passage is that of a journey. This is echoed in linear progressions of stages of understanding. These can be read in both a personal way, as a kind of case study about doubt and the emotions involved in conversion to Christianity, and in a communal way, as a model of the church and the presence of Christ in its ritual life.
- These disciples end up being surprised because they did not, indeed could not recognise Christ at first. Indeed we are told that when he first appeared to them it made them sad.
- This narrative clearly identifies Jesus as the Messiah prophesised in the Hebrew scriptures, a Messiah whose suffering, we are told he explained, was necessary. So Christ is found -imperfectly- in scripture, particularly in the Old Testament. This made the disciples hearts burn.
- Christ keeps on the moving on the journey- it is we who have to ask for him to stay.
- Finally, we see that Christ is found -more perfectly- in the hospitality of a shared meal, specifically in the food of the Eucharist. This allowed them to recognise Christ at last.
- We noticed that Christ is not presented as here as an unambiguous, objectively physical sign of his resurrection. Instead this appearance is very subjective, requiring the right spiritual dispositions to perceive. This is, however, consonant with Matthew’s account where we are told “When they saw him” that “some doubted.” (In the same verse.) But Luke definitely wants to give more emphasis to the sacramental aspect of Christ’s presence as something realised in spiritual practise.