In his sermon at Llandaff Cathedral on Easter Sunday, Dr Barry Morgan says, “There isn’t one story of Jesus in the New Testament but four, since each evangelist uses the events of Jesus’ life to make his own particular point. Nor do we have just one story of the appearance of Jesus after his resurrection, but many different stories. The Gospel writers emphasise different aspects of the significance of Jesus, so that the question to ask, is not did the events in these stories happen exactly in this way but what truths are they trying to convey?” Another important perspective we need in order to grasp the meaning of the stories is the historical one, he says.
“The New Testament has layers and layers of meaning ”“ it tries to convey truth through stories that are subtle, deep and many layered. Very often to understand them, you need to know something about the Jewish background against which they were written and also about the Old Testament.”
Dr Morgan takes St John’s story of Mary Magdalene’s encounter with Jesus outside the tomb in the garden on the first day of the week after his resurrection to illustrate his point. It’s a story, he says, which can be read as a straight historical account ”“ Mary meets the risen Jesus. But its true significance is that God through Jesus reverses the fall of Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis.
“Here in St John, Jesus is the new Adam. Here is a new creation. Here through the person of Jesus, men and women can be recreated, transformed, redeemed. In the person of the risen Jesus, God becomes close and familiar once more as he calls Mary by name. Whereas through the fall, humanity had become estranged from God, now in Jesus, God has drawn close. This story is also about the reversal of death. Jesus has burst through death to God’s new life. Mary mistakes him for the gardener and of course he is the gardener, but not in the sense Mary means it, but because He is the Creator of the garden ”“ referred to in Genesis.”Finally, he concludes, the stories need to be seen from the perspective of faith as well as reason.