April 2, 2021


Jesus rose from the dead

Jesus was dead and buried. Soldiers had made sure that he was dead when they pierced his heart with a lance. Mary and the “other Marys” who were there when he died watched as the dead body was placed in the tomb.

Jesus had told his Apostles repeatedly that he would rise from the dead, but they never quite understood what he meant because they knew that nobody could come back to life after they died. Even if his Apostles never understood what Jesus meant, the Jewish chief priests and Pharisees apparently did because they saw to it that soldiers were posted outside the tomb to make sure that his disciples didn’t come and steal the body and then claim that he rose from the dead.

Then he did rise! When Mary Magdalene and two other women went to the tomb early on 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. What other explanation could there be? Could it possibly be that Jesus hadn’t really died, that he woke up in the tomb, managed to get out of his burial clothes, and then rolled back the stone in front of the tomb without being observed by the soldiers? Hardly.

After telling the Apostles that Jesus’ body was missing, 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. St. Paul was the first person to write about them, in his First Letter to the Corinthians:

I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures; that he appeared to Kephas, then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than 500 brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. After that he appeared to James, then to all the Apostles. Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me (1 Cor 15:3-8).

His last appearance was to the Apostles, about whom St. Luke wrote in the Acts of the Apostles: “He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during 40 days and speaking about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). Then he led them to a mountain in Galilee from which 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. His body had changed. He now had a glorified body, a spiritual body—just the kind we will have when our bodies are resurrected. With that body he was able to pass 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 a week after his first appearance to the other Apostles, Jesus made the declaration for all of us through the ages: “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” (Jn 20:29)

Blessed are we, indeed.

—John F. Fink

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