In the Gospels

The women at the empty tomb

The Gospel of Mark was likely written between 67 and 70, Luke between 75 and 80, Matthew between 85 and 90 and John towards the end of the first century. The exegetes posit a common written source for Matthew and Luke that preceded Mark. This means that before the Gospels were written, partial accounts of Jesus’ words and deeds were already circulating for the use of the community.
Reading the accounts of the Resurrection in parallel allows us to identify various key points.

  • For Mark, the essential element is the angel who announces, in the name of God, that Jesus has risen. In contrast with the other Gospels, here the women, out of fear, do not tell anyone what they have seen.
  • For Luke, all of the appearances take place in Jerusalem on the day of the Resurrection. Luke emphasizes the fact that Jesus explained the Scriptures to the Apostles, and opened their eyes so that they would understand that “Christ had to suffer these things, and so to enter in his glory”; for “It is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” In addition, the disciples of Emmaus recognized him as he was breaking bread: Christ Risen was recognized by the Word and the Eucharist.
  • In Matthew, there is an echo of the debate with the Jews. The fact that the tomb had been found empty was indisputable, but the Jews spread the rumor that Jesus’ body had been stolen by the disciples. Only in John’s Gospel, we read about the story of Peter running to the tomb with another disciple (only hinted at in the Gospel of Luke), the appearance to Thomas and the miraculous catch of fish, after which Peter is commanded by Jesus to feed his sheep.
  • The author of the Gospel of John expresses a more advanced theological reflection on the events that he recounts. This can be seen in the appearances to Mary Magdalene and to Thomas. Jesus is the same person that they have known, and yet they do not recognize him. Mary Magdalene, when she sees Jesus, thinks that it is the gardener. She knows that Jesus is dead and therefore tries to find out where they have laid him, for he is no longer in the tomb. The text of John repeats the phrase “she turned around – she turned”. Many exegetes do not like this repetition. Is it an addition, or have two versions of the account been interwoven? In fact, this is precisely the point of the account. The Gospel author makes Mary turn two times to Jesus because she must recognize him twice: first, as being the Messiah who is dead and has been buried; then, as the Risen One.
    In other words, as the same and as different. The Crucified One is alive: Mary Magdalene understands this when she hears herself called by her name: “Mary!”. Alive in his body, but his existence is no longer an earthly one and the relation with him will be different: “Touch me not”. “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live” (John 14:18-19), Jesus had promised before he suffered. And in fact Jesus has returned, risen, to be with the disciples, albeit in a different manner than before: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23).
    In the story of Thomas, Jesus’ statement – “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” (John 20:29) – holds true for us, as it already was true for the Christians for whom John was writing. Thomas should not have needed to see the Risen One, but should have believed those disciples who, having seen him, told him this

In the Acts of the Apostles
In the letters of Paul