Chapter 31: The Resurrection
The idea of resurrection was not new to the Jews. The Pharisees, the Doctors of the Law, and their followers knew that the first scriptural mention of the resurrection was found in the Second Book of Maccabees: “The King of the World will resurrect us for eternal life” (2Macc 7:9), and also “Ours is the better choice, to meet death at men’s hands, yet relying on God’s promise that we shall be raised up by him; whereas for you there can be no resurrection, no new life” (2Macc 7:14). What is new about Christ’s message is that he attached faith in the Resurrection to his person, when he said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (Jn 11:25). St Paul added: “How can some of you be saying that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, Christ himself cannot have been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is useless and your believing it is useless … But Christ has in fact been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep” (1Cor 15:12-14, 20).
What does the Resurrection of Christ mean? How did it work? Is it different from that of other resurrected people, such as Lazarus, the daughter of Jairus, and the son of the widow of Nain? What relation does it have with our life? That’s what we’re going to discuss in today’s meeting.
2- Reading and understanding the Gospel: The Resurrection (Mt 28:1-10)
Jesus Has Risen
1After the sabbath, and toward dawn on the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala and the other Mary went to visit the sepulchre. 2And all at once there was a violent earthquake, for the angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled away the stone and sat on it. 3His face was like lightning, his robe white as snow. 4The guards were so shaken, so frightened of him, that they were like dead men. 5But the angel spoke; and he said to the women, “There is no need for you to be afraid. I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6He is not here, for he has risen, as he said he would. Come and see the place where he lay, 7then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has risen from the dead and now he is going before you to Galilee; it is there you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” 8Filled with awe and great joy the women came quickly away from the tomb and ran to tell the disciples.
9And there, coming to meet them, was Jesus. “Greetings,” he said. And the women came up to him and, falling down before him, clasped his feet. 10Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers that they must leave for Galilee; they will see me there.”
2. 1- Explanation
|Who?||When?||Why?||What have they seen?|
|Matthew||Mary Magdalene and the other Mary||At dawn||To look||An angel, clothed in white, sitting outside on the tomb rock|
|Mark||Women of Galilee who had followed him||At dawn||To anoint the body of Jesus||A young man, clothed in a white robe, sitting on the right side|
|Luke||Women of Galilee who had followed him||At dawn||To anoint the body of Jesus||Two men in clothes that gleamed like
|John||Mary Magdalene||It was dark||No reason mentioned||Two angels clothed in white sitting in the tomb|
This table shows that the discovery of the empty tomb by the women is not proof of the Resurrection, but is only a sign. Their going to the tomb was told in different ways, and that the body had been stolen was a conceivable possibility. This is what Mary Magdalene initially thought, and was the version spread by the Jewish authorities. However, there is one element that is used in all four versions: the white clothing that is a symbol of purity, victory and joy. What is particular to Matthew’s version is the fact that, in the middle of the text, he mentions the guards shaken and frightened and like dead men (v.4), while the angel is sitting outside on the stone he had rolled away. Sitting is a sign of stability. Christ had risen from the dead, but the guards have become as dead. All meetings of Jewish leaders during the time of Jesus’ earthly life took place with the aim of arresting and killing him; when he was buried, they gathered to guarantee the truth of his death (27:62-66); and when he was resurrected, they had to deal with the news of the resurrection (28:11-15). The presence of women at the tomb means that all the stages of Jesus’ public ministry are linked, from Galilee, to Jerusalem, through death, burial and resurrection. They are the faithful “core” that knows the whole public life of Jesus. Indeed, the fact that their presence is mentioned indirectly shows up the absence of those who should have been there: the disciples whom Jesus called and then taught for three years. The fidelity of the women to Christ is striking; rightly so, they were called, apostolae apostolorum, “the apostles of the apostles”.Jesus asked them to go and tell the disciples the good news that they should gather on the mountain of Galilee,which is open to the land of the Gentiles. Thus,it is indicated that the mission is not restricted to the Jewish world.
The verb “raise” is used in the four Gospels, either in the future tense or the simple past (the aorist). But we never find it in the present tense: “he is about to arise” or in the imperfect tense, “He was rising”, that indicates a continuous past. At first impression, this tells us that during the action itself no record of the Resurrection was made; no one knew the details of this event. This verb is also used in the Gospels in the passive form: “He was raised”, but in the Acts of Apostles and in Paul, we find this verb in an active voice with a subject who is God: “But God raised him to life … God raised this man Jesus to life (Acts 2:24, 32); “If we believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead” (Rom 4:24).
2. 2- Summary and Practice
The Resurrection is a real and historic event, but its experience always remains new for all generations. The Resurrection of Jesus was not a return to earthly life in the manner of a “resuscitation”, as in the cases of Lazarus, the son of the widow of Nain, and the daughter of Jairus; their return to life was thanks to Jesus, and they surely died again in time. The Resurrection of Jesus, on the other hand, was a transition to another new life, beyond time and space. His Resurrection has given the opportunity to every believer and every baptized individual to experience it. Indeed, believers who, through baptism, unite with Christ, participate now, in a real but hidden way, in the heavenly life of the Risen Christ, as St Paul said: “You have been buried with him, when you were baptized; and by baptism, too, you have been raised up with him through your belief in the power of God, who raised him from the dead” (Col 2:12). Through his obedience, Christ transformed death, from a curse to a blessing; that is why we can say with St Paul about death: “Life to me, of course, is Christ, but then death would bring me something more” (Phil 1:21); and with St Thérèse of the Child Jesus, “I do not die, but I enter into life.”
3- Theological and Spiritual Teaching: The Mystery of Redemption: The Resurrection
How is it that death devours life? The risen Christ broken the chains of death. Death had to be destroyed in his own home; the Lord of Life entered the place of the dead and freed all the hostages from their graves. His Resurrection was not a step backwards as if he wanted to recover what he lost by his death, for example, his mortal body, as if death were a mistake that had to be suppressed. Rather, his Resurrection was a step forward, through which he entered into the glory of Heaven, where he was before his Incarnation; but now he will dwell forever in Heaven in his glorified body.
What is a glorified body or a spiritual body? We read in the Gospel that Jesus, after his Resurrection, walked with his disciples and ate with them. His Resurrection is therefore a reality, for he was able to be in contact with them, be present among them, talk to them. At the same time, he could enter a room when the doors were closed; he did not need them to be opened for him because, through his Resurrection, he exceeded the limitations of the body. The glorified body is a body liberated from the needs, desires and limitations of the physical body, but still uses many of its functions and skills. The glorified body is not a body that can be experienced by the senses alone. That is why Jesus appeared and took the initiative so that others could see him. The Resurrection of Jesus is the fullness of humanity desired by God’s grace for us. When Jesus died, the community of disciples dispersed in mortal despair. When he was resurrected, he set out anew in search of them, for he wanted to bring his community to life again and wished for his friends to experience resurrection as well. That is why Jesus began to appear to them, time after time, explaining to them what had happened to him, that his death and his Resurrection were an accomplishment of what is written in the Old Testament. The disciples then entered into the mystery of the Resurrection, and at the same time into the mystery of the person of Jesus Christ. His Resurrection revealed the mystery of his identity. So, they started to remember what he taught and did, when he was among them, understanding more clearly the past events they had experienced together.
In the Jewish world, Jesus was not the only master who gathered disciples around him. Such circles of disciples would then disperse after the death of the master. The disciples of Jesus, on the other hand, gathered again after his death, for their master was alive and present in their midst. Their meeting together is a sign that that the Lord has risen. From here the Holy Eucharist receives its full meaning. The Risen Jesus ate several times with his disciples, as if he wanted to remind them of the last meal he had eaten with them the night before his death and the words he had spoken on that occasion: every time they meet, he will be present among them, and he will give them his broken body and the cup of his blood, as a sign of his love and of his death and Resurrection. This experience was sufficient for the disciples to hurl themselves into the world, proclaiming that Christ is risen. They, in turn, offered their lives and willingly shed their blood, testifying to the truth of the faith they had received from the Lord.
4- Reading and Meditation: A Reading from St Cyril of Jerusalem (c.313-386)
He has Risen!
“Rejoice, O Jerusalem, and hold festival together, all you who love” Jesus, for he is risen; “rejoice, all you who mourned before” (Is 66:10), on hearing of the rash, wicked deeds of the Jews. For he whom they treated here with insult risen again; and as the discourse on the Cross brought sorrow, so let the good tidings of the Resurrection bring joy to all present. Let mourning be turned into gladness, and lamentation into joy; and let our mouth be filled with joy and gladness because of him, who after his resurrection, cried: “Rejoice!” I realise the sorrow of Christ’s friends during the past days; our discourse ended with the death and burial without telling the glad news of the Resurrection, and so your mind was in suspense to hear what it desired to hear. Therefore, the Dead is risen, he who was “free among the dead” (Ps 87:6), and deliverer of the dead. He patiently endured the shame of the crown of thorns; he has risen to crown himself with the diadem of his victory over death.33