The only scripture reading I plan to use for Easter Sunday is Matthew 28:1-10. The use of lots of words in response to an event that was extraordinarily experiential bothers me more and more. We will have a fair amount of music including the following choral pieces and hymns: Risen Today, Alleluia – Douglas Wagner; 157 Christ the Lord is Risen Today; 186 Now the Green Blade Rises; SOLO: I Know That My Redeemer Liveth – G. F. Handel (Laura Mounce, Soprano); 538 For the Gift of Creation; My Eternal King – Jane Marshall; Lamb of God – William Cross; 173 Thine is the Glory; and Hallelujah Chorus (from The Messiah) — G. F. Handel.
The resurrection of Jesus was and is a critical event for the Christian community. How it is described varies among the gospels and letters. For the original Gospel of Mark, the description ends with the empty tomb. The other Gospels have a variety of stories, contradictory in the details, united in the claim that the followers, up to a crowd of 200, had an experience of the Risen Jesus / Risen Christ / Risen Chosen One of God.
Some critics of the time, and ever since, claimed the death of Jesus was a hoax. For those for whom there was only the divine Jesus, Jesus was pretending to suffer and die since, as a God, he was actually immune to death. Many claim his death was faked by careful use of the poison from the puffer fish or some other poison. I do not accept either of these, but I cannot prove either of them to be false by our modern standards of proof.
A relatively recent explanation (in the last 100 or so years) is that the resurrection and Pentecost were an Ahaa! moment by his followers as they carefully reviewed everything he said and did and carefully picked their way through their scriptures. There was no actual experience of the Risen Jesus, but, instead, an intellectual/emotional explosion.
Some believe in a bodily resurrection, and there is an excellent article in this months Observer Magazine exploring this from the Jewish point of view — that his resurrection happened so fast was a sign that there was no sin in his body, no flesh that needed to decay. And there are many other explanations of the resurrection. An interesting one is found in the “Jesus Papers” in Urantia.
I no longer hold a particular belief about the nature of the resurrected Jesus. I am convinced that his followers did have an experience of the resurrected Jesus that was beyond the capacity of their language to describe accurately.
I invite you to consider what you believe about the resurrection of Jesus and how that matters to you. Shalom.