Deputy Principal - Mission and Faith

The Resurrection of Jesus

In the last Newsletter I wrote about Easter.  Easter is all about the resurrection of Jesus.  In this Newsletter I want to outline the Catholic Church’s teaching in this area in more detail.  The resurrection of Jesus is the Christian belief that Jesus Christ returned to life on the Sunday following the Friday on which he was executed by crucifixion.  It is the central tenet of Christian faith and theology and part of the Nicene Creed:  "On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures".

The Resurrection of Jesus is the crowning truth of our belief in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God.  As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “The mystery of Christ's resurrection is a real event, with manifestations that were historically verified, as the New Testament bears witness. In about A.D. 56 St. Paul could already write to the Corinthians: "I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.” (para. 639)

For Christians, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the turning point in human history and is the basis of our faith.  It completed the work of our salvation and redemption by which "the gates of Heaven," closed since the sin of Adam, were again opened.  The Passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus constitute the most momentous event in the history of the world.

As St Paul says, "if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith".[1 Cor. 15:14]  In fact, Paul further claims that belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus is so central to salvation that “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.  If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”[1 Cor. 15:17-19]

The Gospels state that, on the evening of the crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus, and that, after Pilate granted his request, he wrapped Jesus’ body in a linen cloth and laid it in a tomb.  This was in accordance with Mosaic Law, which stated that a person hanged on a tree must not be allowed to remain there at night, but should be buried before sundown.

[Text Box: Women at the empty tomb by Fra Angelico, 1437-1446.] In the Gospels, women play a central role as eyewitness at Jesus' death, entombment, and in the discovery of the empty tomb.  The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke repeatedly make women the subject of verbs of seeing, clearly presenting them as eyewitnesses.

After they found the empty tomb, the Gospels indicate that Jesus made a series of appearances to the disciples. He was not immediately recognizable, according to Luke. He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, but she did not recognize him.  The first two disciples to whom he appeared walked and talked with him for quite a while without knowing who he was.  (The Road to Emmaus appearance)[Lk. 24:13-32]  He was made known "in the breaking of the bread".[Lk. 24:35]  When he appeared to the disciples in the upper room, Thomas was not present and wouldn't believe until a later appearance where he was invited to put his finger into the holes in Jesus' hands and side.[Jn. 20:24-29]  Beside the Sea of Galilee he encouraged Peter to serve his followers. [Jn. 21:1–23] His final appearance is reported as being forty days after the resurrection when he was "carried up" into heaven where he sits on the right hand of God.[Mark 16:19]

At a later time, on the road to Damascus, Saul of Tarsus, arch-persecutor of the early disciples, was converted to Christ following an extraordinary vision of and discourse with Jesus, which blinded him for three days.[Acts 9:1–20] (Saul later became known as Paul the Apostle.)[Acts 13:6]  He became one of Christianity's foremost missionaries and theologians.[1 Cor. 15:6]

So, now today, because of Jesus’ resurrection, we are confident that death has been conquered.  We too can now look to our own resurrection and the life of the world to come.