Commentary on the Gospel: "Christ is alive"

Gospel for Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord (Cycle C) and commentary.

Getting to know our Lord Jesus Christ
Opus Dei - Commentary on the Gospel: "Christ is alive"

Gospel (Jn 20:1-9)

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them,

“They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”

Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first; and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; he saw the linen cloths lying, and the napkin, which had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself.

Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not know the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.


Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early on the first day of the week. Borne by her love and fidelity to Jesus, she went quickly to finish the job of embalming his cadaver. Pope Francis points out that “she was not a woman easily given to enthusiasm (cf. Jn 20:1-2, 11-18). In fact, after her first visit to the sepulchre, she returns disappointed to the Apostles’ hiding place. She tells them that the stone has been removed from the entrance to the sepulchre, and her first hypothesis is the simplest that one could formulate: someone must have stolen Jesus’ body. Thus, the first announcement that Mary makes is not the one of the Resurrection, but of a theft perpetrated by persons unknown while all Jerusalem slept.”[1] As soon as Peter and John heard what Mary told them, they went running to the tomb to see what had happened. What they discovered went far beyond anything they could have imagined.

The evangelist’s words describe with vivid realism what they found at the tomb. To begin with, lying there were the linen cloths that had wrapped him as a shroud. If anyone had entered to rob the body, would they have taken the time to remove them? It doesn’t seem logical. Besides, the linen cloths lay as they had been when wrapping the body of Jesus, but now they did not wrap anything, and for that reason were lying flat, as if the body of Jesus had turned to vapor and passed right through them. Moreover, when a body was being prepared for burial, a napkin was first wrapped about the head, and then the whole body and the head as well were wrapped in linen cloths. John’s narrative specifies that the napkin was “rolled up in a place by itself,” that is, keeping the same position it had when Jesus’ body was there.

Their eyes beheld the linen cloths and the napkin lying just as they had been when Jesus’ body had been placed there on Friday afternoon, but the body was no longer there. So significant were these signs for them that, far from confirming them in what they had imagined when going to the tomb (that someone had stolen the body), they came to realize that Jesus had risen, since the evangelist says that “he saw and believed.”

“What actually happened there? Clearly, for the witnesses who encountered the risen Lord, it was not easy to say. They were confronted,” Benedict XVI writes, “with what for them was an entirely new reality, far beyond the limits of their experience.”[2] Jesus had not returned to a human life as Lazarus had. “The New Testament testimonies leave us in no doubt that what happened in the ‘Resurrection of the Son of Man’ was utterly different. Jesus’ Resurrection was about breaking out into an entirely new form of life, into a life that is no longer subject to the law of dying and becoming, but lies beyond it … He has entered the vast breadth of God himself, and it is from there that he reveals himself to his followers.”[3] Death had no hold on him. Jesus Christ is alive.

“‘Christ is alive.’ This is the great truth which fills our faith with meaning. Jesus, who died on the Cross, has risen. He has triumphed over death; he has overcome sorrow, anguish and the power of darkness,” Saint Josemaria joyfully proclaimed, expressing the faith of the Church. “He is not someone who has gone, someone who existed for a time and then passed on, leaving us a wonderful example and a marvelous memory. No, Christ is alive. Jesus is the Emmanuel: God with us. His Resurrection shows us that God does not abandon his own.”[4]

[1] Pope Francis, General Audience, 17 May 2017.

[2] Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth. Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection, Ignatius Press 2011, p. 242.

[3] Ibid. pp. 244-245.

[4] Saint Josemaria, Christ is Passsing By, no. 102.