“I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection” (Philippians 3:10)
Reflecting on our Lord’s resurrection is always a profitable exercise. Indeed, if someone were to ask you why you are a Christian, would not the best response be that you believe in the risen Christ? Yes! We are Christians because we believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead! We read in Acts that “with great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all” (4:33). We meditate on the Lord’s resurrection because it is the source of great power and favor, a power so great that it will one day raise up the bodies of all believers to Eternal Life! Here, then, are ten short reflections regarding the resurrection of Jesus.
1. Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life
Jesus tells Martha, “I am the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25). Frankly, the verse is quite stunning and seems to me to be one of those special verses that’s geared up to have a high-level impact on our lives. Ask Martha, for she saw Jesus raise her brother back to life after Lazarus had been dead in the tomb four days. Certainly this is a verse we should meditate on! Deep reflection on this verse will no doubt “increase the temperature of our love for Jesus” as we see, more and more, that the resurrected Jesus is the source of blessings so transformative in scope that it would probably blow our minds if we could presently experience the unspeakable joys of Heaven that await us. But right here on planet earth it is a great comfort to know that the power of Jesus’ resurrection is flowing forth to us through so many channels of grace, thus giving us strength and hope to persevere through so many of life’s trials and difficulties. In short, we need POWER to persevere, and Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, which means he is the source of amazing power (sufficient even to overcome death)! In any event, I expect this verse to “do a good work in your soul” if you make it the subject matter of a short meditation, or even if you just repeat it continuously throughout the day with joy in your heart.
2. The Resurrection of Jesus is a Saving Event
Besides being an historical event, the resurrection of Jesus is primarily a saving event. In this light Saint Paul teaches that Jesus was “delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25). The Resurrection of Jesus “is more than a miracle and motive for faith. It is a saving event in its own right, since the dying and rising of Jesus together constitute the victory over sin and death. Baptism gives us a share in this double victory, for through it we die to sin and rise to new life with Christ” (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, p. 263).
“The Paschal mystery has two aspects: by his death, Christ liberates us from sin; by his Resurrection, he opens for us the way to a new life. This new life is above all justification that reinstates us in God’s grace, ‘so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life’ Justification consists in both victory over the death caused by sin and a new participation in grace. It brings about filial adoption so that men become Christ’s brethren, as Jesus himself called his disciples after his Resurrection: “Go and tell my brethren.” We are brethren not by nature, but by the gift of grace, because that adoptive filiation gains us a real share in the life of the only Son, which was fully revealed in his Resurrection” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 654).
We cannot discount the resurrection of Jesus as a saving event because it is only through His risen life that we are brought into that “newness of life” which constitutes the fullness of our salvation. “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4). Therefore, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
3. The women as the first witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection powerfully affirm its authenticity
One scholar of the Lord’s resurrection, Professor William Lane Craig, offers the following insights regarding the very first witnesses to the resurrection – who were all women with respect to encountering the empty tomb and the risen Lord himself (see John 20: 10-18; Matthew 28: 1-10). “Certainly these women were friends of Jesus. But when you understand the role of women in first-century Jewish society, what’s really extraordinary is that this empty tomb story should feature women as the discovers of the empty tomb in the first place. Women were on a very low rung of the social ladder in first-century Palestine….Women’s testimony was regarded as so worthless that they weren’t even allowed to serve as legal witnesses in a Jewish court of law. In light of this, it’s absolutely remarkable that the chief witnesses to the empty tomb are these women who were friends of Jesus. Any later legendary account would have certainly portrayed male disciples as discovering the tomb – Peter or John, for example. The fact that women are the first witnesses to the empty tomb is most plausibly explained by the reality that- like it or not – they were the discovers of the empty tomb. This shows that the Gospel writers faithfully recorded what happened, even if it was embarrassing (The Case For Easter, pp. 49-50).”
4. There were multiple resurrection appearances by Jesus which left the apostles fully convinced that Jesus had risen from the dead
For quick reference here is a summary of the ten resurrection appearances of Jesus (eleven if you include the appearance to St. Paul on the road to Damascus). Here’s the link:
The Ten Resurrection Appearances of Jesus Christ | Believersweb.org
It is a point not to be underestimated that Jesus made multiple resurrection appearances over the course of forty days. Thus, the apostles were not left wondering whether they had seen Jesus in the flesh following his death and burial – Jesus went out of his way on multiple occasions to make sure that they had! Consequently, you have complete unanimity among the remaining eleven apostles that they had seen the risen Christ. By way of contrast, we don’t have a case here where six of the apostles claimed to have seen the resurrected Christ, whereas three denied it, and two were not sure. And these were men that went on to live heroic lives, to suffer and die for what they had witnessed, spawning the amazing rise of the Christian faith despite insurmountable obstacles, and without any resort to violence.
As the great Biblical scholar C.H. Dodd states: “The main weight [regarding the truth of Jesus’ Resurrection] … is placed on the testimony that Jesus was ‘seen’ alive after death, by a number of his followers….” (The Founder of Christianity, page 167). “Something had happened to these men, which they could describe only by saying they had ‘seen the Lord’. This is not an appeal to any generalized ‘Christian experience’. It refers to a particular series of occurrences, unique in character, unrepeatable, and confined to a limited period” (p.168). Dodd therefore concludes:
“[For] the original witnesses [the resurrection of Jesus was] an immediate, intuitive certainty. They were dead sure they had met with Jesus, and there was no more to be said about it….Now they were new men in a new world, confident, courageous, enterprising, the leaders of a movement which made an immediate impact and went forward with an astonishing impetus.” (p. 170)
5. Through the Risen Christ comes the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit
“The Resurrection of Jesus is the total outpouring of the Spirit in the world, the flowing into creation of the immense flood which pours out from the Father in the Son” (F.X. Durwell, Holy Spirit of God, page 10). The Catechism of the Catholic Church amplifies Father Durrwell’s insight:
“This fullness of the Spirit was not to remain uniquely the Messiah’s, but was to be communicated to the whole messianic people. On several occasions Christ promised this outpouring of the Spirit, a promise which he fulfilled first on Easter Sunday and then more strikingly at Pentecost. Filled with the Holy Spirit the apostles began to proclaim “the mighty works of God,” and Peter declared this outpouring of the Spirit to be the sign of the messianic age. Those who believed in the apostolic preaching and were baptized received the gift of the Holy Spirit in their turn” ( CCC #1287).
In the theology of Saint Paul it is the saving power of the Gospel that empowers us to lead holy lives. The guiding theme of Paul’s Letter to the Romans, according to a former professor of mine from years ago, is power leading to life. We are in a state of moral helplessness without the saving power of the Gospel. But where does this power leading to life come from? It comes from the resurrection of Jesus Christ! As Paul states at the very beginning of Romans:
“This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach his Good News. God promised this Good News long ago through his prophets in the holy Scriptures. The Good News is about his Son. In his earthly life he was born into King David’s family line, and he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1: 1-4).
The full power of the Holy Spirit is unleashed by Jesus’ resurrection. Christ’s resurrection has ushered in the messianic age where the people of God will be led by the Holy Spirit! As Paul states in Romans 8:
“You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you” (8:9-11).
In short, through the eschatological power of Christ’s resurrection we who have faith in Christ live in the realm of the Spirit, which is the POWER which enables us to be truly holy.
6. The Eucharist is intrinsically linked to the Resurrection of the body of Jesus
There is no Holy Eucharist without the body and blood of Jesus Christ. And what is this body and blood of Jesus Christ but the resurrected Jesus! Jesus had certainly lost a tremendous amount of blood during his passion, and his body was badly mangled, but his physical life was restored to him – and gloriously so – by his resurrection. When we go to Mass, therefore, we go to the resurrection, and we receive the resurrected Christ – body, blood, soul and divinity.
The “Catholic Church professes that, in the celebration of the Eucharist, bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit and the instrumentality of the priest. Jesus said: ‘I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. . . . For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink (Jn 6:51-55). The whole Christ is truly present, body, blood, soul, and divinity, under the appearances of bread and wine—the glorified Christ who rose from the dead after dying for our sins. This is what the Church means when she speaks of the ‘Real Presence’ of Christ in the Eucharist. This presence of Christ in the Eucharist is called ‘real’ not to exclude other types of his presence as if they could not be understood as real (cf. Catechism, no. 1374). The risen Christ is present to his Church in many ways, but most especially through the sacrament of his Body and Blood” (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops).
7. Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Confession during one of his resurrection appearances
Jesus wished to continue his ministry of the forgiveness of sins through the Apostles and their successors. Thus, following his glorious resurrection, Jesus conferred on the apostles the power to forgive sins, a power Jesus himself had exercised during his earthly ministry. It is recounted in John’s Gospel that, during a resurrection appearance, Jesus met with the apostles and said to them, in particular: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you. And when he said this, he breathed on them , and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven: if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20: 21-23)
Confession, thus, is a Resurrection gift from Jesus who has passed on his ministry of forgiving sins (what we call the Sacrament of Confession) to the apostles and their successors. From our Lord’s Resurrection blossomed this great gift for the
church! Paragraph 1461 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church thus states:
“Since Christ entrusted to his apostles the ministry of reconciliation, bishops who are their successors, and priests, the bishops’ collaborators, continue to exercise this ministry. Indeed, bishops and priests, by virtue of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, have the power to forgive all sins “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
I don’t know how to say this: forgiveness of sins is the greatest need every person has. Jesus, in His Infinite Wisdom, and in His genius as the leader of souls, has willed that forgiveness of sins be readily available from his priests, where the concrete actions of forgiveness, absolution, and spiritual guidance can take place in a powerful and effective manner appropriately tailored to our human situation, and leading thus to an authentic spiritual resurrection of our souls!
8. The Resurrection appearances of Jesus point to the sacramental life of the Church
At no. 1116 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church it states that “Sacraments are ‘powers that comes forth’ from the Body of Christ, which is ever-living and life-giving. They are actions of the Holy Spirit at work in his Body, the Church. They are ‘the masterworks of God’ in the new and everlasting covenant.” In the following resurrection appearances Jesus alludes to, or makes reference to, the sacramental life of the Church.
Baptism: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit….” (Matthew 28:19; see also Mark 16:16).
Eucharist: “Then the two told what had happened on the road [to Emmaus], and how they had recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:35). See CCC 1329, which states, in part: “The Breaking of Bread…. It is by this action that his disciples will recognize him after his Resurrection, and it is this expression that the first Christians will use to designate their Eucharistic assemblies; by doing so they signified that all who eat the one broken bread, Christ, enter into communion with him and form but one body in him.“
Confession: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven: if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20: 22-23). See number 7 above.
Confirmation: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you. And when he said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20: 21-22). The Catechism of the Catholic Church cites this verse at no. 1287 in its section on the Sacrament of Confirmation. “Here we see that the risen humanity of Jesus has become a sacrament of the divine Spirit” (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, p. 199). See also CCC 1116.
Priesthood. Jesus, by empowering the apostles with the priestly function of forgiving sins in John 20: 21-23, confirms the existence of the ministerial priesthood. Moreover, when Jesus reconfirmed Peter as the head of the Church during his resurrection appearance to the apostles by the Sea of Tiberias (see John 21: 1-19), he simultaneously reaffirms the duty of the ministerial priesthood to care for his sheep (“Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs” (John 21: 15 ). See also CCC 1551 (in the section on the Sacrament of Holy Orders) which references John 21: 15.
Anointing of the Sick: “[T]hey will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well” (Mark 16:18). The Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1507, references this verse in its section on the Anointing of the Sick, saying, “The risen Lord renews this mission [of healing the sick] – “In my name . . . they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover” – and confirms it through the signs that the Church performs by invoking his name. These signs demonstrate in a special way that Jesus is truly ‘God who saves.’ ”
Marriage: I do not believe there are any direct references to marriage in the resurrection appearances of Jesus. However, St. Paul speaks to the sacramental nature of marriage in Ephesians 5 by stating that husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the Church (“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church. . . . This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the Church” – Eph 5:25, 32); and during his earthly ministry no one spoke more strongly about the divine origin of marriage, as well as its indissolubility, than Jesus (see Matt. 19: 3-10). The power flowing from Jesus’ resurrection is therefore the catalyst for life-long sacramental marriage between a man and a woman (“By coming to restore the original order of creation disturbed by sin, [Jesus] himself gives the strength and grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign of God” – CCC 1615).
9. Jesus’ wounds are a special manifestation of his resurrection
One of the most fascinating aspects of Jesus’ resurrection is the existence of wounds of crucifixion on his resurrected body (see John 20: 20). We are all familiar with the apostle Thomas being invited by the resurrected Jesus to touch his wounds (John 20:27). And at Luke 24: 36-41 Jesus appeared to his disciples saying “Peace to you.” But Luke recounts that the apostles “were startled and frightened, and supposed they that they saw a spirit.” Jesus then said: “Why are you troubled, and why do questionings arise in your hearts? See my hands and feet , that it is I myself; handle me; and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.” The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible relates that Jesus’ reference to his hands and feet in this passage pertains to “the nail marks” which “demonstrate that Jesus’ risen body is the same body that was crucified only days earlier. He carries these marks of his earthly sacrifice with him when he ascends into heaven (Rev. 5:5).”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
“By means of touch and the sharing of a meal, the risen Jesus establishes direct contact with his disciples. He invites them in this way to recognize that he is not a ghost and above all to verify that the risen body in which he appears to them is the same body that had been tortured and crucified, for it still bears the traces of his Passion. Yet at the same time this authentic, real body possesses the new properties of a glorious body: not limited by space and time but able to be present how and when he wills; for Christ’s humanity can no longer be confined to earth, and belongs henceforth only to the Father’s divine realm” (no. 645).
The spiritual lesson here is that Jesus, even in his resurrected body, never wants us to forget how much he suffered in order to prove his love for us and secure our salvation. As a gifted spiritual writer once said, let us never forget the sufferings of the Lord. Father Faber adds: “O for some corner, the least, the lowest, and the last in the world to come [Heaven], where we may spend an untired eternity in giving silent thanks to Jesus Crucified!”
A wonderful reflection on our Lord’s glorious wounds, building on the thoughts of Saint Thomas Aquinas, can be accessed via the following link:
Glorious Wounds—Christ’s and Ours – Homiletic & Pastoral Review
10. Jesus reestablished Peter as head of the Church during one of his resurrection appearances
In one of the most beautiful of his resurrection appearances, Jesus appeared to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias (John 21: 1-25), “and none of the disciples dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the lord’” (John 21: 12-13). And they ate breakfast together, utilizing a charcoal fire (John 21: 9). Here, again, we see Jesus hard at work building up his apostles to ready them for the demanding work of evangelization. In this instance, Jesus directed his comments to Peter, stating:
“Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (John 21: 15-19)
Peter had previously stood by a charcoal fire in John 18 when he denied Jesus three times. Now, in the presence of another charcoal fire, and in order to restore and reaffirm Peter as head of his Church, Jesus leads Peter to express love for Jesus three times. Each of these three times Jesus implores Peter to take care of his sheep, and on the third time Jesus alludes to Peter’s manner of death, where Peter will “stretch out [his] hands” on a cross in imitation of Jesus.
Jesus is the resurrection and the life. All power in heaven and earth has been given to him (Matthew 28:18). “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which [God] has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Ephesians 1: 18-23).
The historical authenticity of the resurrection of Jesus’ body from the dead is well proven by the Gospel writers, especially by the numerous accounts they provide of Jesus’ resurrection appearances, and the subsequent witness of the apostles shows they were fully convinced that Jesus had risen from the dead. Indeed, almost all of these apostles went on to convincingly confirm that they witnessed the resurrected Jesus with the witness – the Greek word “martyr” literally means witness – of their own lives, which is a most powerful testimony. Moreover, Jesus demonstrates by his resurrection his great concern for the Church – this by establishing the Sacrament of Confession during one appearance, and by reaffirming Peter as head of the Church on another, and by the retention of his sacred and glorious wounds on his resurrected body in order to remind us that by “his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24). Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, is the source of all good things for us! Gather in for your eternal welfare the incredible “POWER flowing from his resurrection” (Phil 3:10).
Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.
References: I see the use of Father Faber phraseology in the first reflection, such as will “increase the temperature of your love,” and will do a “good work in your soul,” and make it the “special object” of your prayer or meditation, and we are “in need of power.” The tone and content of the first reflection is certainly under the influence of Faber who often states that in our earthly condition we could not tolerate the torrents of Heavenly joy. The second reflection originates from Dr. Scott Hahn’s tape series on the resurrection, where he places a special emphasis on the resurrection as a saving event, with special reliance on F.X. Durwell’s works on the resurrection.
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