Matthew 28:1-10 (This is the early service reading)
John 20:1-18 (This is an option for the principal service reading)
Mark 16:1-8 (This is an option for the principal service reading)
Luke 24:13-49 (This is the evening service reading)
These are the readings that come from the four Gospels, all telling of the Sunday event Christians recognize as “Easter.” The same readings revolve over the three year cycle of the Episcopal Lectionary, Years A, B, and C. The order presented here is for Year B, 2018. These variations on the same theme [Luke’s reading is tailored for an evening service, focusing on that Sunday’s afternoon, rather than the morning’s discovery] will next be read aloud in a church by a priest on Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018. Certainly, all are important as they tell of the miracle of Jesus’ Resurrection from death, as witnessed by those close to Jesus of Nazareth. That return to life fulfilled the promise Jesus had made, which also fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament.
In two of these readings (Luke and John), the resurrection of Jesus is referred to as “the first day of the week.” In the other two, the day is identified as “after the sabbath” (Matthew) or “when the Sabbath was over” (Mark), with Matthew adding that it was “the first day of the week.” None of them identified that day as “Sunday,” as the Hebrew equivalent is “yom rishon” (“first day”).
Here is a blank calendar, typically used in English-speaking countries. One can see how Sunday has been affixed into the position that reflects it as the first day of the week, making Saturday the seventh day (the Sabbath):
While Americans commonly call the combination of Saturday and Sunday a “weekend,” such that Monday feels like the first day of the week, that feeling likewise projects upon Sunday as the end of a week. One can get a feel that Sunday is the seventh day, thus the Christian sabbath day. However, please note that concept is pagan, as it goes against how God told Moses to order the days, which corresponds with the seven days of Creation.
God never ordered anyone, other than the Israelites, to establish a calendar that denotes a Sabbath day as holy. Thus, if anyone wants to make a “week” longer than seven days, or start a “week” on any day one chooses, while calling a day by any name other than a number, that is one’s freedom … as a pagan. No one is commanded to have a calendar for each year, nor have any special dates marked for remembrance. Still, it seems other civilized peoples (other than the Israelites) realized marking time was important.
They say Stonehenge is a pagan calendar that marked the movements of celestial bodies, such that “Sun day” is related to that orb of life-giving light, with “Moon day” the same recognition on another day [Monday]. Saturday is devoted to recognition for Saturn, whose pagan characteristics are like those of the Old Testament Yahweh. Because there are seven astronomical orbs of lights (luminaries and planets), each was given a day of recognition, thus a seven-day week evolved. Still, with that known, non-pagans (including Christians) will always recognize the seventh day as holy (the Sabbath); and Sunday, likewise, will always be the first day of the week.
By grasping that Jesus was realized risen on the first day of the week, one can realize the New Creation of God’s Covenant with human beings springing to life at that time. The first day of the week means rest is over and there is new work that needs to be done. God’s Covenant with Moses, which does nothing to change His Covenants with Noah and/or Abraham, is not an “Old Testament,” as if “old” translates as “outdated” and “undone.” Instead, the New Covenant is the expansion from the First Testament, as a New Amendment. The new requires more than birthright, as Gentiles are now permitted to play a role in God’s plan (Thanks be to God, from us Gentiles of America) for all mankind to serve God. That new amendment to serve God comes through Jesus Christ, who was first known as the Christ on a Sunday … the first day of the week.
In that vein of thought, serving God through Jesus Christ is demonstrated to be more than simply believing Jesus rose after being dead for three days. In John’s account, Mary Magdalene stood at the open tomb weeping, when the risen Jesus asked her why she was crying. Mary is said not to recognize the man she loved dearly, “supposing him to be the gardener.” That needs to be reflected upon.
If you have ever driven to a cemetery to pay your respects to a deceased loved one, you will notice there is a small staff that manages the grounds, cutting the grass, placing artificial flowers at gravestones, and making sure weeds and leaves are cleared away. One such groundskeeper could be termed a “gardener.” John wrote the word “kēpouros,” which translates as “gardener or garden-keeper,” which by itself implies this tomb site was lush and green; but a tomb carved into rock is not typically surrounded by such flourishing plant life. Supposing the intent of Mary, as told to John (who had already left the scene with Peter), was more than a simple mention of a man thought to be the groundskeeper. One then needs to see that “Freudian slip,” associated with that failure to see Jesus as Jesus, as a purposeful statement of Jesus appearing as someone else … someone Jesus is like.
Pop Quiz question: Who is the most famous gardener in all the Holy Bible? You have one minute to think about your answer.
<Pause for one minute>
Time’s up. The answer is Adam. [You knew that!]
That reference is then a statement that Jesus had the same soul as the one God breathed into his Son; but the physical Jesus did not look like the physical Adam, from who’s physical DNA Jesus was descended, many times modified over the ages. That means that Jesus’ claim to be the Son of Man (where the Hebrew word “adam” means “man”) was based on him repeatedly saying, my soul has reincarnated several times since it fell to Earth in the form of Adam, the Son of God. Adam lived in the Garden of Eden, and because of his skills for tending to natural things, Adam was told to till the earth after his fall from Heaven (hint: there are more weeds on earth, than in Heaven).
So, regardless of the double entendre, where Mary literally though Jesus was a groundskeeper, John wrote “gardener” from being in possession of the Mind of Christ, writing the Word of God. As a “gardener,” Jesus was seen in the form of the first Son of God. That means there are no mistakes and nothing written anywhere in Scripture that cannot become more that it first appears, as “kēpouros” [“gardener”] expands to become further explanation towards understanding the holiness of John’s text.
Of course, Jesus appearing as a gardener was not the only time he appeared in some other form. The optional reading for an evening Easter service comes from Luke, where those particular verses are typically called “The Road to Emmaus.” There, Luke wrote, “Jesus himself came near [to two of the disciples] and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.”
The two disciples were not of the eleven principal disciples of Jesus, but followers of Jesus. The Greek written by Luke actually does not refer to “disciples,” but to “two of them.” When one is later named as being Cleopas, who is believed to have been the brother of Joseph, the husband of Mary, the human “father” of Jesus, this would make Cleopas the uncle of Jesus. Because John referred to “Mary of Clopas,” as one of the three Mary’s who stood at the cross of Jesus, this is believed to make her the wife (possibly daughter) of Cleopas. This would then identify the “two of them” as being relatives who knew Jesus very well, “but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.”
A couple of things need to be grasped about the seven miles to Emmaus (sixty furlongs). First, that was too far to walk on a Sabbath, due to the restrictions on how far one can walk on the day of rest. Cleopas and Mary had been in Jerusalem for the final prayer service of the eight-day Passover festival [a morning prayer, which on that particular ending day was done on a Sabbath morning], meaning they probably stayed in the upstairs room that had been secured for Jesus and his disciples until Sunday morning. While ordinary years would have allowed them to travel back and forth from home, during the week-long event, the arrest, trial, torture and execution of Jesus, followed by his temporary burial in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, would have kept them in Jerusalem all of the eight days. Now, with the Passover over, as well as the Sabbath, it was time for them to go home; but as they walked, they were “and talking with each other about all these things that had happened.”
Second, the road to Emmaus was the same road that cut through Jerusalem, with the eastern direction called the Jericho road, with Emmaus being due west.
Cleopas and Mary would not have been the only ones walking this road, as many pilgrims from the west would have traveled the same road. The Roman road would have ended at the Mediterranean Sea, with a road leading to Joppa being a branch off that road headed more northerly. Joppa would have been a place for European pilgrims to find sea passage back home. Still, foreign travelers in Judea for the Passover would have planned to stay until Shavuot [Festival of Weeks, beginning at Pentecost], so the further away from Jerusalem pilgrims walked, the easier it would have been to find rooms for a two-month stay. Thus, walking and talking with strangers would have been common, if not preferred, simply to find safety in numbers.
Jesus, appearing as some pilgrim headed home after the Passover, came upon Cleopas and Mary as they were discussing the past week and how it played out for their nephew. Jesus acted like he did not know who they were talking about, which led them to explain more. However, that led Jesus to tell his family members, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?”
Jesus knew he had foretold all that would happen, exactly as it went down, but he was speaking to deaf ears, blind eyes and closed minds. Cleopas and Mary had been there and heard those prophecies, but (like all the other disciples and followers of Jesus) they were slow to take his words to heart, the place in devoted humans where God resides. Thus, no one believed the truth of Jesus’ words, because they preferred to ignore the truth and believe what they wanted to believe (a common flaw in the faithful to this day).
We then read that after Jesus called his relatives “foolish,” “then, beginning with Moses and all the prophets, [Jesus] interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.” Seven miles they walked as Jesus talked the truth. All the while, the hearts of Cleopas and Mary were burning within them, as Jesus was “opening the scriptures” to them.
When Luke wrote the word “diēnoigen” (translated as “he was opening”), the root word means: Properly: “opening the ears and the eyes, such as to restore hearing and sight. Tropically: “to open the sense of the Scriptures, explain them; to open the mind of one, i. e. cause him to understand a thing; and to open one’s soul, i. e. to rouse in one the faculty of understanding or the desire of learning.” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon) Therefore, Jesus (as a stranger to his aunt and uncle) spoke to them as one filled with the Holy Spirit and the gift of interpreting prophecy. ALL who possess that holy talent speak in the name of Jesus Christ, whether they look like “picture book Jesus” or not.
When Cleopas and Mary came to the place where their home was off the main road, they did not want to leave this stranger who had opened their eyes and hearts so widely. From desire to know more, they invited unrecognizable Jesus to stay at their place overnight. We then read, “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.”
They recognized Jesus because Cleopas and Mary had been present at the Passover Seder meal ten evenings prior, when Jesus presided over the ritual dinner. They had watched Jesus do the exact same thing then, as he had just done at their dining table. They had not seen the power of those words then; but with their hearts alive with fire and passion for the the truth of God’s Word, they vividly flashed back to that Passover Seder message forgotten.
This is where bread has to be seen as symbolic of the written Scriptures, which Jesus had just enlightened Cleopas and Mary about: Moses and all the prophets wrote the texts that all Jews were fed from. That bread is unleavened, in the sense that Scripture is written in basic ingredients. Those words do not give rise, as leavened, until consumed and swollen to full meaning by the “yeast” of the Holy Spirit. Thus, that bread is blessed by God, as Holy Words, and those Holy Words are broken into books, chapters, verses and individual words – ALL of which have divine meaning the blind eye cannot see.
The man Cleopas and Mary had just walked seven miles with had just made them vividly recall that Passover Seder with Jesus, who was then known to be the Christ. Before, he was just Mary’s special son, Jesus, a charismatic with a penchant for preaching and a knack for working miracles. However, for the first time Jesus had opened the minds of his close relatives to Spiritual knowledge, which came by his breaking of the bread of Scripture and presenting it to them to digest.
Luke then wrote, “he vanished from their sight,” where the Greek word “aphantos” means, “disappearing, invisible, hidden.” This was not the first time that Jesus had eluded people, as John wrote about Jesus escaping the hands of his haters in his seventh and tenth chapters. This ability to become invisible or to disappear or to become hidden beyond view is a power from the divine.
This disappearance can be explained as a hallucination shared by Cleopas and Mary, where they actually did walk with a strange pilgrim, but the Holy Spirit made it appear that stranger was talking to them. The hallucination could have then come into their home, due to their heightened belief, while the actual strange pilgrim kept walking on the road to the west. Jesus disappeared simply because he was not in that Emmaus home as a strange pilgrim. Jesus was there in Spirit, one that was invited by Cleopas and Mary to stay with them. That presence symbolizes how all whose hearts burn to serve God must welcome God into their hearts.
It is this hallucinatory state that makes this account on the road to Emmaus become parallel to Mary Magdalene speaking with a gardener. Mary never saw the gardener as Jesus in the flesh. She heard his words and recognized it was Jesus, in the same way that Cleopas and Mary did. The hallucinatory state reflects how each disciple of Jesus must seek him first. Then, when Jesus appears in unrecognizable form to answer our call, a true Christian will recognize the presence of Jesus Christ, by understanding the messenger sent in his name.
Then, Luke tells of Cleopas and Mary hurrying back to Jerusalem and the upstairs room. It was still light outside, but technically night time, close to 8:00 PM by the time they were back in the upstairs room. Thomas, who had been out procuring dinner for the disciples and their companions when Jesus first appeared among them, was back then (he brought back some fish for them to broil). One could imagine the door was locked, due to the fear of the Temple being proud of murdering innocent Jews; but suddenly there was Jesus again standing among them.
Then, as the time earlier, Jesus appeared in a recognizable form, complete with body wounds from having been flogged, crucified and speared. One would imagine Jesus was fully dressed, just as the gardener and the travelling pilgrim would have been, even though the burial preparation would not have clothed Jesus’ body in anything more than shroud, face linen, and prayer shawl (provided by family). This means Jesus wore heavenly clothing, despite appearing earthly natural. One would imagine Jesus opened his robe for Thomas to feel his spear wound.
Before anyone starts to think that Jesus was a hologram or beamed to earth by God, look at how Jesus said he was not a ghost.
Jesus was real, in the flesh, the same flesh that had been prepared for burial the past Friday. He asked for food, which he ate before them so they could see how real he was. He was real when he stood before Mary Magdalene. He was real when he walked with Cleopas and Mary; and he was real standing among his followers in the upstairs room in Jerusalem. However, the most important element of that reality is discerned from Jesus saying (according to Luke), “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
The reality of Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophecies that foretold his coming, death, and resurrection. The imaginary of prophecy had become real. While Jesus told the pairs of eyes standing with him at that time, “You are witnesses of these things” … “You are witnesses to this realization of divine prophecy” … Jesus would not be able to produce any new human witnesses to him in the flesh … a real Jesus … after he would Ascend to Heaven. Therefore, when Jesus then said, “See, I am sending upon you what my Father promised” … the Holy Spirit … Jesus meant the Father promised a Messiah that would last an eternity (see Micah 5:2). Therefore, Jesus would last a lot longer than 33 years, as he has not ever left, through the reality of the Holy Spirit. That was why Jesus then instructed his followers to stay in Jerusalem “until they had been clothed with power from on high.”
Now, while I allow that last statement of Jesus sink in a little, let me point out that Jesus appearing to his followers in the upstairs room took place in the evening on technical Sunday; but because the Hebrew calendar recognizes that to be the evening of the next day, Jesus gave that command on a Monday. Monday would represent the ninth day in the Counting of the Omer. That means Jesus stayed with his followers and taught them for forty days – from Tuesday, the tenth day of that counting, until the Sabbath, the forty-ninth day.
This means Jesus Ascended on the Sabbath, but returned via the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, the fiftieth day of that count … another Sunday. This means the disciples spoke as Jesus had spoken, because the Holy Spirit clothed those followers with the power of Jesus Christ, from on high, on that day.
The missing day – Monday – is referred to in John’s Gospel, which was a dream rather than reality. The dream of John had the disciples fishing unsuccessfully on the Sea of Galilee, when Jesus had just told them all to stay in Jerusalem. The dream is confirmed to be that when one realizes that Capernaum was over 100 miles from Jerusalem (ref.), and it would have taken about five days to walk that far.
The symbolism of John’s dream can then be applied to the disciples’ state of mind, which was they were in shock. They had just watched Jesus be tried, tortured, crucified, buried, and then stand before them eating broiled fish, pointing out his still fresh wounds. They had shook with fear that the Temple Jews would look to kill them next, with Lazarus already on their preferred hit list. All that happened on Sunday had then left them dazed and confused. Monday was then a day to take a deep breath and calm down, as basic training for receiving the Holy Spirit would begin the following day.
Still, with all of the readings that are representative of the proof that Jesus resurrected … proof that no Christian living today can swear to, no one can prove to another that resurrection. No one today can say, “I have seen the risen Lord stand before me in a real human body.” All the witnesses of real Jesus have passed from this world; and that is the deepest meaning of Easter Sunday. Jesus has risen in unrecognizable forms, through the Holy Spirit.
While we all are still eight Sundays from celebrating Christian Pentecost (a wholly symbolic recognition of the Holy Spirit), Jesus suddenly appeared and disappeared on the first day of the week to foretell his coming within true Christians. A true Christian can only be defined as one who has been clothed within as Jesus, with all the power the Christ Mind bestows, from on high.
A true Christian, like Jesus, dies of self and is risen as Jesus Christ. A true Christian is dead to self-serving, as being Jesus Christ demands serving God, through going to help others in Spiritual need. Disciples of Jesus tremble in fear at the ghost of Jesus expecting them to leave the safety and security of a locked door to an upstairs room; but a true Christian hears Jesus say, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” Jesus reborn within one means “Peace if with me,” and when one can say that, then Jesus is walking the earth once again in unrecognizable form.
The Lord is risen indeed, when the Lord is alive in a true Christian. That is why Easter is much more than one man coming back to life after death. If that were the case, then Lazarus rising from death was an equally important event … one that no church recognizes on the level of Easter.
While one can say, “Jesus was the magician who was so special he commanded Lazarus to “Come out!” then who was it who commanded Jesus to do the same? The answer is not the power of the Son of Man but the power of God. God gave life back to Lazarus and God gave life back to Jesus. Therefore, Easter stands as the miracle of Moses crossing the Israelites through the Red Sea on dry ground, because God is the one with the power to part physical from spiritual, wet from dry, captivity from freedom … to separate mortal death from life everlasting.
Not much is written about Lazarus after he rose from death. John wrote that he and Jesus had a dinner in their honor on the evening of technical Sunday, prior to Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey colt for his final Passover festival. The Eastern Orthodox Church believes that Lazarus fled Judea to Cyprus, where “he was appointed by Paul and Barnabas as the first bishop of Kition (present-day Larnaka).” (Wikipedia)
The Western Church believes in the lore of the small town Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer [Saints-Mary-of-the-Sea], on the Mediterranean coast of France. There Lazarus arrived, along with three Mary’s (Mary Magdalene, Mary Salome, and Mary of Cleopas).
Lazarus is said to have gone to Marseilles [nearby to the east], where he converted many local pagans to Christianity, being called the Bishop of Marseilles. (Wikipedia, same as above) Supposedly, Lazarus lived for thirty years after he was raised from the dead, never smiling because of having seen the misery of souls in Hades, while he was dead.
Lazarus and Jesus can be seen as a duality, with one human and one divine. Lazarus rose and continued living as a divinely changed man. Jesus rose, taught his disciples for forty days, Ascended, then returned as the divinity that led Lazarus to become like Jesus. Likewise, Jesus returned to be the divinity of Peter and the other ten lead disciples, plus all those companions who witnessed Jesus standing risen among them (Lazarus probably was one also there). Jesus was reborn in 3,000 pilgrims to whom the Apostles opened the Scriptures (in foreign tongues). This makes Easter become a duality with Pentecost, where Easter is human devotion and Pentecost is divine practice (faith and works).
Jesus is the model by which ALL Christians are formed. Humans must conform to that model to receive the Holy Spirit and become divine. Divinity comes by the love of God [burning hearts married to the LORD] and the birth of Christ in one’s mind. Moses built the model upon which Israel [and Judah] was formed, building human forms of devotion to the One God. Jesus was the duality to Moses, who built the model upon which the devoted received new life from the One God. Thus, one must be devoted to the One God first [the First Covenant] before one can evolve into a human that truly serves the LORD through Christ [the New Covenant].
Easter is the dawning [the Sunrise] of that necessary change.
One has to stop fearing one’s own death of self and give one’s heart and soul over to God’s Will. Easter is then the rebirth of one’s devotion, where one does not pray to an unseen, unfelt, and unknown God, but instead one feels burning in one’s heart, with love of the power of God, which one has seen and heard through opened Scriptures. Easter is then the desire to learn more, from the knowledge of God that comes from the presence of Jesus Christ teaching one the hidden truth that God’s Word holds. Easter is then the absorption of God’s knowledge for the purpose of spilling that knowledge out unto others of devotion [Pentecost Day].
This is how Easter is more than Jesus rising from death. Jesus has to be risen within all Christians for Jesus Christ to be alive in this world today. It is through true Christians that Jesus walks the road of life still, explaining the Scriptures to those who are saddened because they think Jesus is dead and there will not be another Jesus until the end of the world. Jesus is alive today though his gardeners, those who plant the seeds of insight into those who love Jesus, but previously had only wanted to dress, perfume, and decorate his body of death [hold the cross of crucifixion high, rather than the + of life in the Trinity: Father, You, Holy Spirit].
Easter is thus like Spring, when the death of Winter is replaced by the Rebirth the ever-living Vine, budding so that new fruit will come.
 In case anyone doubts this, I recommend reading Luke’s chapter 3. The last verse state:, “The son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God” (Luke 3:38).
 Some might note – IF one’s heart is burning – that I write these “articles” in the same sense of “opening the Scriptures” for understanding, as well as to remove the plugs and blinders that have impeded one’s own ability to discern these things.