Hosannas – Cross – Empty Tomb 4
Fr. ZAVEN ARZOUMANIAN, PhD
The Message of the Holy Resurrection of Christ consists in not simply believing it, but also
acknowledging its reality in the appearances of the Risen Lord
to the disciples for forty days until Ascension.
The entire Christian world is joyfully observing Easter in commemoration of the Resurrection of Christ for forty days, a period when the Risen Lord appeared to his disciples and to those who followed them. It was a highly sensitive journey beginning from the cloudy weeks of the Great Lent, through the luminous paths of the Sunrise Services, the mixed emotions of the Palm Sunday’s entrance to Jerusalem with hosannas, the cleansing of the Temple, the washing of the disciples’ feet, eating the Last Supper with them, meeting the death on the Cross, and finally to the Tomb wherefrom the tortured and crucified Jesus of Bethlehem miraculously was proclaimed Risen on the third day.
In general it is assumed that Christ’s Resurrection happened directly from the tomb to heaven, as impressive murals in church edifices silently suggest, that the Risen Lord went to meet the Father in heaven the moment his tomb was found empty, verified by the first witnesses, Mary Magdalene and the “the other Mary”. Moreover, the Risen Lord stayed on earth forty days to approve his Resurrection before his final departure, appearing on certain occasions. He came out of the sepulcher, met the frightened women, who spread the message to reach the Upper Room where the disciples gathered (John 20:11-18).
It was miraculous when the confused women met a man around the tomb of Jesus asking him if they had removed the body of the Lord from the tomb, thinking he was working in the garden. The man called “Mary” and the miracle alerted the women with the familiar voice of Jesus. “Do not fear, do not weep,” the Risen Lord told them.
We sing special sharagans (hymns) in abundance dedicated to the Holy Resurrection. In one of them it describes the confusion very briefly based on the Gospel narratives, saying:
Today Peter, the rock of our faith, and John the disciple Jesus loved, were running in two opposite directions, one heading to the tomb, and the other from the tomb to the Upper Room in confusion, spreading the message that the Lord is risen from the tomb.
The Risen Lord not only appeared to the disciples but to many others, including those two, Cleopas and his unnamed friend, who were walking from Jerusalem to their hometown Emmaus (Luke 24:13-31). He joined them and their conversation among the three all along consisted with the events regarding Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified and buried. The two were wondering as to how the visitor had not heard about those tragic events. Reaching Emmaus the Stranger was invited to stay for supper. As he blessed the food the Risen Lord revealed himself.
He appeared to the Apostles twice, except for Thomas, who did not believe first, but later was called by the Lord to touch his hands and the feet. Thomas fell on his knees, “he saw and believed.” Christ the Lord concluded, saying, “Blessed are those who shall believe without seeing.” (John 20:19-29; Acts 1:2-3). The Risen Lord appeared also to the seven disciples fishing on the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-13).
The last appearance of the Risen Lord was at the mount of Olives near Bethany with the eleven disciples where he gave his last message regarding his authority and legacy for them to go and preach the Risen Lord all over, thus proclaiming life forever in Christ Jesus. His Ascension was the final episode on earth on the 40th day of his Resurrection (Acts 1:6-10).
The above appearances of the Risen Lord stand as the guarantors of his Resurrection leaving no doubt that divine action, though not accessible to human mind, is for sure a standing challenge for all Christians to look for the hands and the feet on the Cross and do whatever they can to continue the blissful life on earth. This message is reinforced by St. Nersess the Graceful (Shnorhali), Catholicos of Armenia, who most effectively is telling us to be vicariously the watchful caretakers of the hands and the feet on the Cross to continue Christ’s mission on earth with the life-giving anticipation of the eternal life that he promised.