Created: Friday, 26 July 2013 Last Updated: Monday, 31 March 2014


1. After Jesus’ death, at the third day, the disciples discover (with surprise) that the grave is empty. In itself, this fact it is not enough to affirm that Jesus lives. It can be explained otherwise. As Mary of Magdala says: They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him (Jn 20,2). Really, it was the apparitions, the large signs that begin to appear (Mk 16, 20; Acts 1, 3), that show the disciples that he has resurrected (Mc 16,20; Acts 1,3). Some thirty years after, Paul reminds the community of Corinth the fundamental message of the Gospel: that Christ died for our sins, as Scripture says; that he was buried and that he was raised, on the third day according to the Scriptures; that he showed up (see 1 Co 15, 3-8). Now then, what happened with Jesus’ body?
2. Joseph of Arimatea, member of the Sanhedrin (Mt 15,43) who had not agreed with the decision and action of his fellow members (Lk 23,51) and who was Jesus’ disciple  (Mt 27,57), although in secret for fear of the Jews (Jn 19,38), bravely went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus (Mk 15,43). Pilate, informed by the centurion that he had really died (Mk 15,44), gave order to give it to him (Mt 27,57). Joseph of Arimatea wanted to give a worthy grave to the Lord: So he took the body of Jesus, wrapped it in a clean linen sheet and laid it in his own new tomb which had been cut out of the rock. Then he rolled a huge stone across the entrance of the tomb and left. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary remained sitting there in front of the tomb. (Mt 27,59-61).  St. John says that Nicodemus went too with a mixture of myrrh and aloe of about one hundred pounds: They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it in linen cloth with the spices (Jn 19,40).
3. The day after, the high priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate and said to him:" Sir, we remember that when that impostor was still alive, he said: “I will rise after three days.”  Therefore have his tomb secured until the third day, lest his disciples come and steal the body and say to the people: He was raised from the dead. This would be a worse lie than the first”. Pilate told them:” You have guards, go and take the secure measures you know”. So they went to the tomb and secured it (Mt 27, 62 – 67). Therefore, the tomb and Jesus’ body stay under control of the Sanhedrin and the guard that is under its orders.
4. On the following day, the third day (to see Mt 20,19), the women went to the tomb to embalm Jesus’ body, that in a sense had been anticipated in Bethany's anointing (Jn 12, 3-8): Seeing the stone rolled away from the opening of the tomb, they entered and were puzzled to find that the body of the Lord Jesus was not there. Two men in dazzling garments appeared beside them. In fright the woman bowed to the ground. But the men said, “Why are you looking among the dead to that who is alive? You won’t find him here. He has resurrected. Remember what he told you when he still was in Galilee. (Lk 24,1-6).  St. Mark talks about a young man in a white robe seated on the right (Mk 16,5; see 9,3) and it makes to remind of the young man who flees naked from those that try to take catch him as they only have the linen cloth in their hands (14,51-52).
5.  St. Mathew says that an angel of the Lord moved the stone: Suddenly there was a violent earthquake: an angel of the Lord descending from heaven, came to the stone, rolled it from the entrance of the tomb, and sat on it (Mt 28,2). He does it strongly, rapidly, with authority. He is transfigured: his appearance was like lightning and his garment white like snow (28,3; to see 17,2). The guards, frightened before him, started to tremble and became like dead men (28,4). The angel said to the women: “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, he is risen as he said. Come, see the place where they laid him; then go at once and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead and is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. This is my message for you”  (28,5-7).
6. St. John tells it like this: Now, on the first day after the Sabbath, Mary of Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning while it was still dark and she saw that the stone blocking the tomb had been moved away. She ran to Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus loved and she said to them,” They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have put him”(Jn 20,1-2). St. John, who had witnessed Lazarus’s death and his new presence (resurrected), begins to see signs: the stone is removed, the linen cloth on the ground (untied), the shroud folded up in a separate place.  (20,7). The disciple saw and believed it (20,8). Besides, there is the word of two angels dressed in white (20,12-13) or of the Jesus himself (20,14-17) to Mary of  Magdala. And everything happens the third day, as he had announced.

7. Some of the guard went to report to the high priests all that had happened. They assembled with the elders, held council and gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, telling them,” You are to say, ´His disciples came by night and stole him while we were asleep´ And if this gets to the ears of the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble” The soldiers took the money and did as they were told. And this version extended among  the Jews (see Mt 28,11-15).
8. For Emmaus's walkers everything had finished: “We were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place. It is true that some women of our group have disturbed us: they were at the tomb at dawn and did not find his body; they came back and said that they had seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive. Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found everything just as the women had said, but they did not see him.” (Lk 24,24). Those of Emmaus still were dull and slow of heart (24,25).
9. Then, what happened with Jesus’ body? Probably, as happened in other cases (for example, with Elijah, 2 R 2,11-12; see Lk 9,51), the Jerusalem that murders the prophets (Mt 23,37) they got rid of him, without leaving a trace. In this way, one referential point was taken out from Jesus’ prophetic movement, convicted and crucified like a political criminal (Lk 23,38). The signs he could be identified with, like the linen and the shroud, were taken away from him. They could do it without haste (they left the shroud folded), which is easily explained if they counted on the cover and complicity of the guards. Besides, they accused the disciples of stealing the body. Perhaps the fact that the tomb was empty had the positive effect of avoiding a relation of the disciples to the grave, opening them to the signs of a new presence, resurrected of Jesus. They did not have time to lose searching for him among the dead, when they could be witnesses to the fact that he was really alive
10. Those who conceive the future life beyond death like a revival of the corpse, logically have to leave for the absolute end of history the good news of the Gospel that the dead are resurrected. However, the death of Christ or our death, is a step, only a step, from this world to the Father (Jn 13.1). This is also valid for us: In my Father’s house there are many rooms. Otherwise I would not have told you that I go to prepare a place for you. After I have gone and prepared a place for you, I shall come back again and will take you with me, so that where I am you also may be (14,2-3).
11. In order to answer the question of how the dead resurrect, St Paul utilizes the comparison of the wheaten grain that falls in land (Jn 12.24): What you sow is not the body of the future plant, but a bare grain of wheat, for instance, or of any other plant. And God will give the appropriate body, as he gives to each seed its own body….When buried it is a natural body, but it will be raised as a spiritual body. (1 Co 15,37-44). He uses also the comparison of the house (Jn 14.2): We know that when our earthly dwelling, in which we camp, is destroyed, God will give us an eternal home, not built by human hands. (2 Co 5.1). At any rate, for St. Paul the resurrected body is a peculiar body, a spiritual body, a house built by God.
*  Dialogue: How do we position ourselves before the empty grave?