April 21, 2006

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Jesus in the Gospels: He rises from the dead

See Matthew 27:55-28:20, Mark 15:40-16:20, Luke 23:48-24:53, John 19:33-21:25

Jesus was dead and buried. Soldiers were posted outside his tomb to make sure that his disciples didn’t come and steal the body and then claim that he rose from the dead.

Even if his Apostles never understood what Jesus meant when he told them that he would rise from the dead, the Jewish chief priests and Pharisees apparently did.

Then he did rise! When Mary Magdalene and two other women went to the tomb early Sunday morning, they found it empty. The soldiers and the women each reported that the body had disappeared—the soldiers to their superiors and the women to the Apostles. Peter and John ran to the tomb to see for themselves.

They all were convinced that someone had stolen the body. Mary Magdalene returned to the tomb in sorrow. When she saw a man standing nearby, she asked him if he had taken Jesus’ body away. That’s when the risen Jesus revealed himself to her.

This was the first of many appearances that Jesus made after his resurrection: to Peter; to two disciples on the road to Emmaus; to the Apostles while Thomas was absent; a week later—when Thomas was present—to some of the Apostles who were fishing in Galilee; and to the Apostles on a mountain in Galilee.

Then he was taken up to heaven from where he will come again to judge the living and the dead.

One of the puzzling things about Jesus’ appearances is that he was usually not immediately recognized. Why not?

Because Jesus was resurrected, not simply resuscitated. Jesus had a glorified body, a spiritual body—the kind we will have when our bodies are resurrected.

With that body, he was able to pass through the stone that sealed his tomb and into the room where the Apostles were, despite the doors being locked. He could appear to the disciples on the road to Emmaus and then disappear, only to appear miles away to the Apostles.

It was a spiritual body, but also a real body. He was not a ghost, as he proved when he showed the Apostles the wounds on his body and ate some baked fish. Surely, a spiritual body doesn’t need to eat or drink, but Jesus was demonstrating to his Apostles that he was really resurrected.

He was indeed truly resurrected, as Christians have believed from the earliest days of Christianity. When he appeared to Thomas, Jesus made the declaration for all of us through the ages: “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Blessed are we, indeed.

I conclude this lengthy series of columns with the words of John’s Gospel: “There are many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.” †


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