The Resurrection

            Some of the most exciting, marvelous, and mysterious things in life are hidden and happen in silence, behind closed doors.  From the bird hatching through its egg in the nest, to the pre-born infant growing in silence inside the womb of his mother, some of the life’s fascinating moments are unseen.  We can say the same of the most glorious event in all humanity, the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus from the dead.  What must it have looked like behind the walls of that tomb when the Son of God was raised from the dead? (Acts 10:40)  We can only imagine.

            The Servant of God, Fulton J. Sheen once said of Christ that He was the only Person ever preannounced.  “History is full of men who have claimed that they came from God, or that they were gods, or that they bore messages from God—Budda, Mohammed, Confucius, Christ and thousands of others…What separates Christ from all men is that first He was expected and once He appeared, He struck history with such impact that He split it in two periods: one before His coming, the other after it.”[1] All of humanity, from Adam and Eve to the last man were born to live.  Only the Christ was born to die.  He already had life from all Eternity.  So why did he come?  He came to bridge the infinite gap that sin introduced into humanity.

            Let us remember briefly the cruel death that He endured.  The reading on Good Friday from the Prophet Isaiah proclaimed “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed.” (Is. 53:5)  Man, himself, had no capacity to repair the damage of sin.  Only God, by becoming Man and taking on the full burden of sin upon Himself could achieve this reconciliation.  It is the perennial teaching of the Church that Christ saw each of us at every moment of His Passion and Death and atoned for us individually as well as collectively.  When this is kept in mind, the magnitude of the Resurrection becomes even clearer.  The Resurrection of Jesus Christ has bridged the infinite chasm between God and man.  The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead changed the course of history and history has truly become “His-story.” 

          Even before we become His witnesses (Acts 10:39; 43), the Father who sent the Son to assume Flesh has bore witness to Him. (Jn 5:37)  To bear witness is to testify on one’s behalf.  A stronger Greek translation for witness would be martyr, someone who shed their blood.  We know most of the Apostles and early Disciples of Christ were martyrs and shed their blood for their belief in the Resurrection.  Mary Magdalene was the first to witness the empty tomb. (Jn. 20:1)  Her concern was that someone had stolen the body of the Lord. (Jn. 20:2)  Scripture attests that she was not alone.  Other women were with her.  She did not run into the town proclaiming the Resurrection, but sought Peter and John to testify to what she saw.  As they looked in the tomb, the burial cloths were neatly folded with the napkin that was on His face rolled up separately. (Jn. 20:5-7)  Commentators say that the linens lying there and the napkin, which should have been still glued to the face of Jesus because of the amount of myrrh are a sign that there was no theft of His Body.[2]  Surely, thieves would have stolen the valuable linens and would not have been concerned with His Body.[3]

            And we are witnesses to all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem,  They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and made him manifest. (Acts 10: 39-40)  The book of Deuteronomy and St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians both state “Cursed is everyone who hangs from a tree.” (Deut. 21:23; Gal. 3:13)  The God-Man, Jesus Christ, took the curse upon Himself and made it a blessing, an instrument of torture He turned into the instrument of our salvation.  How has this testimony changed us?  The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is an historical event; either you believe it or you do not.  There are no maybes here.  What happened 2000 years ago when Jesus Christ was crucified on Mt. Calvary and after three days rose in the silence of His tomb still has ramifications for us here today.  For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. (Col. 3:3)  As St. Paul said “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised;  if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:14)  Faith rises or falls on the resurrection. 

            In the silence of your own heart, renew your faith in the resurrection today.  Everything that you believe hinges upon it.  As we renew our Baptismal vows, let us ask for the grace to believe in faith what we profess with our lips.  In this case, mere lip service is not enough. 

 By Br. John Paul, MFVA

 


[1] Fulton J. Sheen, Life of Christ, 2nd. ed. (New York: Doubleday, 1990), 18-20.

[2] Ancient Christian Commentary:  St. John Chrysostom

[3] Dr. Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch, Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 199.