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Weekly Bible Reflection
Luke: Signs of the Kingdom

Easter Day

Luke 24.1-12: "Missing, body or person?"

Begin by using the Bible Study method as outlined
Sharing Together:

Have you ever been confronted by a complete mystery or an occasion when something unbelievable happened to you.

How did you feel? How did you respond?
A Window on the Text

Members of Christian communities gathering on Easter Day anywhere in the world will greet each other with words expressing that “He is Risen”. In doing so, they will make the momentous leap, from the depths of despair on Good Friday, to rejoicing at the certainty of resurrection just three days later on Easter Day.

However, if we wish to experience what the disciples experienced, then we must travel a great deal slower and take the route through their bereavement and towards Ascension and Pentecost before the reality of the Resurrection will finally be confirmed.

Luke takes us on that slow route and so Easter Day, for the women who loved Jesus, continues the horror of Good Friday. A battered body lies in a tomb, where it was taken in great haste at sunset two days earlier, and it must be anointed with spices.

The tomb has been provided by Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the council which had condemned Jesus. However, he had not agreed with that decision. (23.51-53) It’s women’s work and Mary, mother of James, Mary of Magdala and Joanna go with other women to do this difficult and dangerous task. But the body is not there and they have a super-natural experience of meeting two ‘men in dazzling clothes’. They are reminded of Jesus teaching, that he would rise after three days.

When the women return to the eleven apostles with their ‘idle tale”, they are not believed. The word that Luke uses for ‘idle tale’ is a medical term, delirium, used nowhere else in the Bible. (See More Background, below, in paragraphs 1 & 2)

The only one who responds is Peter. He rushes off, impetuous as usual, and finds the tomb empty. So for these followers of Jesus, what we now call Easter Day, is a day of mystery and confusion not one of joy.
Responding as a community

Try to put aside the centuries of tradition that have given us Easter Day as we have experienced it in the past and imagine yourselves in the upper room in Jerusalem with the disciples. If you are able to do so, separate into two groups, men and women, with one group moving to another room for perhaps 20-30 minutes.

  1. Men, recreate the conversation that you imagine the disciples might have had while the women were away at the tomb.

  2. Women, first share your feelings about going to the tomb, and the task you will have to do there. Then imagine the encounter with the two dazzling men.

  3. Next, come together again as one group. Allow the women to share their story, then discuss your response to what they have found.

  4. Finally, share how you feel at the end of this ‘first Easter Day”.
Praying Together

Begin by reflecting in silence on your own faith journey and name any ‘unburied’ factors or events in your life which appear to need preserving (embalming) but which may be deterring you from taking a new step of faith.

Light a candle to represent the putting of those thoughts into God’s hands.

Sing The Sabbath day was over
Tune: Aurelia
(The Church’s one foundation)

The Sabbath day was over, and through the grey of dawn
The women crept in silence, bewildered and forlorn,
To find the borrowed grave where their Master had been laid
And offer loves last homage although they were afraid.

The tomb was broken open, the guard had fled away,
The empty grave-clothes gleamed in the risisng light of day.
The body had been taken, no knowing why or how;
The spices and sweet ointments had lost their purpose now.

A stranger told the news that as yet they could not see:
‘The Crucified is living, he waits in Galilee.
Go tell his friends to follow; speak out, be not dismayed!’
They ran out, but spoke to no one, because they were afraid.

By mystery of your Spirit you gave their message voice,
The dumb were made to speak and the grieving to rejoice;
For somewhere on their journey in truth they met with you:
From death and dread and silence the word of life broke through.

We fear your resurrection, unfathomable Lord,
To follow you will cost us more than we dare afford.
But yet the gospel fires us: the price of love is paid,
And we will not keep silence – though we are still afraid.

Liz Varley (Publised in Eggs and Ashes by Wild Goose Publications)

Shout out the Easter Greeting:

Alleluia, Christ is Risen!
He is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Exchange the Peace.
More Background
  1. The reference to ‘delirium comes from two sources
    • "The Gospel of Luke - Introduction and Theology" by Raymond Banks, published in the 2nd edition by Colourpoint in 2009.
      "The women's failure to remember Jesus' predictions of his resurrection is paralleled by the men's unbelieving rejection of their report as 'an idle tale' (v 11; cf v 41). The Greek word that Luke uses for the latter is not found anywhere else in the New Testament as was properly a medical term for delirium; it was also employed in popular use, as in our passage.
    • “Daily Study Bible – Luke” by William Barclay published by St Andrew Press {Revised Edition 1977}
      "The women returned with their story to the rest of the disciples but they refused to believe them. They called it an idle tale. The word used is one employed by Greek medical writers to describe the babbling of a fevered and insane mind."
  2. In a paragraph headed “Altered States of Consciousness” in Bruce Malina’s ‘Social Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels’, he cites some work by Erika Bourguignon to expand our understanding of the women’s ‘idle tale’ or ‘delirium’.
    She complied a sample of 488 societies in all parts of the world at various stages of technological complexity and found that ninety percent of these societies evidence “alternate states of consciousness”. We in the West, may be viewing the women’s ‘idle tale’ or ‘delirium’ from a minority and overly rational perspective.

  3. Joanna, follower of Jesus, is described as being the wife of Herod’s Steward. Herod Antipas is king of a tetrach (a fourth of the kingdom), in his case the kingdom of Galilee & Perea. So perhaps it is not altogether improbable that his steward’s wife encountered Jesus and became a follower. However, one imagines that her role would not have sat well with her husband’s position. Herod happens to be staying in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’ arrest and trial, so his steward and wife might well have travelled there to serve him. Or might Joanna have abandoned her husband and followed Jesus to Jerusalem? We cannot know, but the story gives an interesting perspective on the cost of discipleship, one way or the other.



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