The writers of our gospels did a brilliant job portraying Jesus’ death. We can see it and feel it so intensely since we know death–and a world in desolation and disappointment–isn’t so hard to imagine.
But when it comes to the resurrection, the gospel’s descriptions seem unlike anything we know. They present us with a hint of the future, our future, that is hard to hold onto.
Unexpectedly, Jesus has returned, not the way he was before, but reborn into something new. His body is still a body, people can touch it and hear it and see it, but at the same time, he is much more than a dead man who has come back to life. He is recognizable to his friends, but only sometimes. He is seen by some people but not others. Even here in today’s gospel, at the empty tomb, Jesus is not there. Later in this same gospel, he is glorious and recognized immediately; in John’s gospel he is ordinary-looking enough to be mistaken for a gardener by a woman who knew him as well as anyone.
Then he is gone, his resurrection is complete. For us, left behind, it is a promise, a not yet. The not yet frustrates us. What is it, exactly, we’re now waiting for?