Reflections on the Resurrection of Lord Jesus Christ | Sunday Observer

Reflections on the Resurrection of Lord Jesus Christ

12 April, 2020

Alleluia! The Christ is risen! The Son of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Saviour of the world, is truly risen! Easter Sunday is a day of unique joy, light, and life; the Lord has dissipated the night of death and will never cease to fill the whole universe with rejoicing, Alleluia!

The resurrection of Christ is at the heart of the Holy Bible, Christian theology, and the Gospel. Many places in Scripture remind us of this fact but probably none so clear as the Apostle Paul: “In the first place, I have passed on to you what I, myself, received: that Christ died for our sins, as the Scripture says; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4), and a little further in the same chapter, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith gives you nothing, and you are still in sin” (1 Corinthians 15:17).

The Resurrection by Paolo Caliari (1528 – 1588)

The Resurrection

The first Glorious Mystery of the Holy Rosary in the life of Christ and His Blessed Mother gives pride of place to ‘The Resurrection’. “On Easter morning, the disciples’ hearts leap with inexpressible joy to find their Lord - alive again” (Matthew 28:8). And as we contemplate the Resurrection of the Lord, poor sinners that we are, we marvel to discover that the Passover of the Lord touches us. It changes everything in our lives. This day is a day of celebration and rejoicing! By his rising, Christ has opened to us the treasures of salvation and grace.

The Father’s plan has been fulfilled. The Son sent by God came to save all men from sin and has bestowed upon them, through grace, the gift of becoming children of God. And so we are! The death of Jesus on the cross has washed us and set us free from all sin. His Resurrection has won for us adoption as his brothers and sisters. It is true and such is our faith that from now on, through the grace of the Resurrection, we participate in the life of the Only Begotten Son. We are all children of the same Father, sharing our love for one another in communion with the Holy Spirit! Alleluia!

Temple of His Body

In the history of the world, only one tomb has ever had a rock rolled before it and a soldier guard set to watch it, to prevent the dead man within from rising; that was the tomb of Christ. What could be more ridiculous than armed soldiers keeping their eyes on a corpse?

Here sentinels are set, lest the dead walk, the silent speak, and the pierced heart quicken to the throb of life. They say He is dead; they know He is dead; they will tell you He will not rise again, but still they watch. This vigilance at a tomb was not a sudden last-minute fancy. It went back to his prophecies that He would rise again, and to the day when He drove the money changers from the Temple.

His enemies had asked, “What sign canst Thou show us as thy warrant for doing this?” Our Lord answered, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). This Temple, they said, had already been 46 years in building, and this unknown Galilean only 30 years of age would destroy it and raise it up in three days. But the Scriptures say, “He spoke of the Temple of his Body.”(John 2:21)

Three years pass and, during his trial, there was no charge made against his expulsion of the buyers and sellers of the Temple, for the spirit that dictated it was evidently noble. But there was one thing, however, that the witnesses did remember. Like all false witnesses, they twisted it as they said, “We heard Him say, I will destroy this Temple made by human hands, and, in three days, I will build another, not made by human hands” (Mark 14:58). This was an obvious distortion of his meaning. He did not say, “I will destroy this Temple” but “Destroy this Temple”which was the Temple of his Body.

Spectacle of vigilance

On Holy Saturday, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate and said to him, “Sir, we remember that when that impostor was still alive, he said, “After three days I will rise again”. Therefore, have his tomb secured until the third day, lest his disciples come and steal the body, and say to the people: He is risen from the dead. That would be a deception worse than the first.” Pilate answered them, “You have soldiers, go and take all the necessary precautions”. So, they went to the tomb and secured it, sealing the stone, placing the tomb under guard(Matthew 27:63-65).

The most astounding fact about this spectacle of vigilance over the dead is that the enemies of Christ expected the Resurrection but His friends did not. In three great scenes of the Resurrection drama, we find a note of sadness and unbelief. Mary of Magdala comes to the grave early in the morning with spices, not to greet the risen Saviour but to anoint a dead body. What is more tragic is that she is weeping. When she finds the tomb empty, instead of believing in the Resurrection, she says, “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they have put him” (John 20:13).

Angels announce the Resurrection

“Why look for the living among the dead? You won’t find him here. He is risen” (Luke 24:5-6). With those words, the angels greeted the women (Mary of Magdala, Joanna and Mary, the mother of James) who had come to Christ’s tomb with perfumes and ointments, to care for His body. They had found the stone rolled away, and the tomb empty, and they did not know what to make of it.

But now the angels continue: “Remember what he told you in Galilee, that the Son of Man had to be given into the hands of sinners, to be crucified, and to rise on the third day.”And Saint Luke simply says, “And they remembered his words”(Luke 24:6-8).

On Easter Sunday afternoon, some disciples on the way to Emmaus are so depressed that the risen Lord, who walks with them but does not yet reveal himself, asks them, “Why are you sad?” They tell Him that the women found the tomb empty and that the angels announced his Resurrection and that He was alive; but not believing in the Resurrection, they complain, “But we hoped that it was He that should have redeemed Israel” (Luke 24:21).

More remarkable still, when the Apostles learnt from the women that the tomb was empty and that the angels had announced the Resurrection, the Gospels say of this, “They did not believe them,” but dismissed the reports as idle tales such as one would expect women to tell.

Jesus appears to Mary of Magdala

On Easter Sunday, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning while it was still dark, and she saw that the stone blocking the tomb had been moved away. She ran to Peter and the other disciples whom Jesus loved and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have laid him” (John 20:1-2). The disciples, Peter and John came, entered the tomb, saw and went back to their homes wondering.

Mary stood weeping outside the tomb; and as she wept, she bent down to look inside. She saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head, and the other at the feet. They said, “Woman, why are you weeping? She answered, “Because they have taken my Lord and I don’t know where they have put him” (John 20:11-13).

As she said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not recognise him (John 20:14). With her eyes cast down, as the brightness of the early sunrise swept over the dew-covered grass, she vaguely perceived someone near her who asked, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and answered him, “Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and take him away” (John 20:15).

Mary! Rabboni!

Jesus said to her, “Mary!” That voice was more startling than a clap of thunder. She turns and as her gaze falls on the red, livid marks in the hands and feet she utters but one word, “Rabboni!”-which means Master (John 20:16).Christ had uttered “Mary” and all heaven was in it. It was only one word she uttered and all earth was in it, “Rabboni!”Mary was prepared only to shed reverential tears over the grave; what she was not prepared for was to see Him walking on the hills of the world.

Jesus said to her, “Do not touch me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them: I am ascending to my Father, who is your Father, to my God, who is your God.”So, Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord, and this is what he said to me” (John 20:17-18).

For Mary of Magdala, there was no terror on seeing the angels; for the world on fire could not have moved her, so much had grief mastered her soul. Worn from Good Friday, wearied by Holy Saturday, with life dwindled to a shadow and strength worn to a thread - she could “take him away”. She symbolizes forever the type of love that can banish the hardest burden and think the heaviest burden light.

The Truth of Easter

Yet, such is the truth of Easter Sunday; the Resurrection of the dead, the triumph of the defeated, the finding of the lost; the springtime of the earth, the waking of life, the trumpet of Resurrection blowing over the land of the living.

Our Lord’s Incarnation was announced to a virgin, Mary. But his Resurrection was announced to a converted sinner, Mary of Magdala. Only purity could welcome the all-holy Son of God into the world, and hence, Mary Immaculate met Him at the door of earth in the city of Bethlehem. But only a repentant sinner, who had herself risen from the grave of the sin to the newness of life in God, could fittingly understand the triumph over sin.

Hence, not to the Blessed Virgin Mary but to Mary of Magdala are the glad tidings of the Resurrection first announced. In this contrast is hidden the great truth of Easter day; the Resurrection is for sinners. It is the final and absolute proof that our Lord has come “not to call the just, but sinners.”To the honour of womanhood, it must forever be said, a woman was closest to the cross on Good Friday and first at the tomb on Easter morn.

Jesus appears to the Apostles

In Jerusalem, as followers gathered together, all in commotion with the stories of the day, silently, suddenly, unaccountably, casting no shadow, stirring no sound, unbarring no doors, the footfall making no echo, He appeared to them, saying, “Why are you upset, and how does such an idea cross your minds? Look at my hands and feet, and see that it is I myself! Touch me, and see for yourselves, for a ghost has no flesh and bones as I have” (Luke 24:38-39).

And as He spoke thus, He showed them His hands and His feet and His side. Hands which He would bid the doubting Thomas to touch with his fingers; feet where Mary knelt that morning to see the red, livid marks of the nails; the side where John leaned to learn the secrets of His Sacred Heart. The Temple that was destroyed was rebuilt in three days.

Why was it that, when the Temple was restored and the Body glorified, He did not heal these scars and imprints of a night forever past? First, to convince us that He was the same person who was “born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.”

Second, He wore them as trophies of love. A soldier who has a gash on his cheek or the Purple Heart, is proud of the wounds. The wounds are no mar to his beauty but a badge of honour. Kings wear jewels, so does He; but his ornaments, his fair array, are the battle scars. These wounds He will take to heaven at the right hand of the Father.

A third and most powerful reason is: He wore the scars to remind us that if He had not escaped persecution, neither shall we. He is the cornerstones of the Temple which is the Church, and we are the stones compacted together in the cement of the love of the Holy Spirit.

The scars are a reminder to us of the eternal law that unless there is a cross, there will never be an empty tomb; unless there is the crown of thorns, there will never be the glorified Body. Heaven is won in a war against evil, and God hates false peace in those who are destined for this war.

Faith comes from God

We know that Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross accomplished our salvation, not because we know that He died, but because we know that He lives. And in living, He brings new life to all who have faith in Him. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John narrate events that took place after his death and mentions the names of those who saw the resurrected Jesus.

Can we believe them? We would like more details to support our faith, but even if thousands of interviews with eyewitnesses were published, with images to support the statements, there would always be room for doubt. We do not see him, we cannot find him. Where is he? It is not more difficult to believe in his words, for both go together. “Who has overcome the world? The one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (I John 5:5).We doubt, not because there is not enough evidence, but because the event overwhelms us.

Accepting Jesus Christ

How can we believe in a Resurrection? The evidence, nevertheless, is there and has withstood recurring criticisms and even modern research. Saint John (1 John 5:6-9) characterises the three complementary aspects of the Christian experience, which are first seen in Jesus himself: Water: Water is the symbol of cleanliness and of new life; Blood: The blood of the sacrifice, the painful atonement for sin, the blood of martyrs; Spirit:The uncontainable power that animates Christ’s witnesses; the amazing creativity of the people and institutions that are rooted in faith.

These three witness to Jesus Christ and they also characterise Christian salvation. We can easily see that they correspond to the three Sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation. Do not underestimate the step you took in accepting Jesus Christ. Explore and look for the riches which are meant for you and which are found in “Him who loves us” (Revelation 1:5).Peace be with you! Alleluia!

(The author possesses a PhD, MPhil and a double MSc; his first work appeared in the Sunday Observer in 1988; recipient of National and Presidential Awards for Academic and Sports pursuits.)