The Octave of Easter, or the eight days between Easter and Divine Mercy Sunday, are marked by reflecting on the different accounts of the Resurrection. I debated between reflecting on Peter’s Speech after Pentecost, the first readings for the week, or the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection and chose the later. We need to spend time reflecting on this central tenant of our faith and realize the disciples’ experience of the Resurrected Lord.
On this second day of the Octave we read Matthew’s account of the Resurrection. Matthew wrote about some elements of the Resurrection that the other writers do not emphasize, namely that the guards were paid to tell people that Jesus’ disciples took away his body during the night. This theory, legend, story, whatever you wish to call it, still circles today in Jewish circles and among non-believers. They claim that Jesus never rose from the dead but that Jesus and his disciples made a clever rouse to switch the body of Jesus with someone else who died on the cross and then to take his body from the tomb and claim he rose from the dead. Mathew clarifies this issue by stating that the guards were paid by the Romans to tell this story.
You may be wondering, are these stories about the great switch-a-roo true? I hope that you will realize that parts of it are true. I am sure the Romans paid the guards to tell this story so as to quell this new movement and put and end to this controversy. But how do we know whether they switched his body or that he rose from the dead? Its simple. Jesus appeared to many different groups of people after he rose from the dead. In these events of Jesus appearing before the people several key details make it clear that the one who was crucified is also the one who appeared to the people. Jesus had marks in his hands, feet, and side indicating the wounds he suffered on the cross. No one could survive with such wounds unless he was brought to new life. Second, Pentecost. When the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples at Pentecost it proved the truth of Jesus’ words: He is alive and sent his spirit upon his disciples. Lastly, Jesus was taken up in a cloud on the day of his Ascension. These major events following the Resurrection indicate that something ordinary is not the cause of Jesus’ Resurrection and that he truly rose from the dead.