“Alleluia, alleluia! Christ, our paschal lamb has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival. Alleluia!
(1 Cor 5:7b-8a)
Rev. Fr. C. Joseph
Counsellor, St. Joseph’s College, Jakhama
Many people don’t view their life in the context of eternity. They see their existence as limited to what is experienced through the physical body. Once their body dies, they believe, they die with it. Consequently, for these individuals, the primary mission and purpose in life is the preservation, protection and defence of their body. The length of life, not its height, is the measure of success.
Yet Jesus taught that you are more than your body. Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.” (Jn 3:6-7) You are born with a body but you are also born of the spirit. Once your body dies, your spirit, made in the image and likeness of God, can rise again.
Not only does your body die, eventually returning to dust, but during your lifetime the roles you play and the self-images you create will die also. So will some of your hopes, dreams and desires. Anyone who has never experienced failure has never really tried to reach their full potential. Although you can learn much from failure, the question is not whether you succeed or fail, but whether you can rise again once you do fail. Some of the most successful people in the world have also been great failures at some point in their lives. The secret to their success is after every failure they rose again. Setbacks, defeats and even failure do not have to be final. You can ultimately achieve success if you rise again.
When we say that Jesus rose again, we mean something like this: Jesus truly died on Friday afternoon, and on Sunday morning he personally, bodily, physically, actually, literally rose from the dead, never to die again. He rose personally – it was Jesus himself, not some substitute. He rose bodily – meaning that it was his crucified body that was raised from the dead. He rose physically – meaning that he wasn’t a ghost or a phantom or a figment of someone’s imagination. To say that he rose actually and literally means that it really happened. And the word “resurrection” means that he was raised immortal and incorruptible, never to die again. During his earthly ministry, our Lord raised several people from the dead, most notably Lazarus. But those miracles were resuscitations, not true resurrections. Lazarus was destined to die again. But Jesus, having once experienced death and having triumphed over it, would never die again. He was raised immortal – alive from the dead – and he still lives. That’s what we mean when we say that he rose again.
As a basic truth of the Christian Faith, the doctrine of the resurrection of Christ is an essential part of the teaching of the Church from the earliest days. The Gospels all give witness to Christ’s resurrection (Mt 28:1-20; Mk 16:9-20; Lk 24:1-9; Jn 20:1-18), and it is professed in all of the ancient Creeds. St. Paul proclaims that “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor 15:14. It occupied the central place in St. Peter’s sermon on Pentecost, and has been upheld constantly by the solemn teaching of the Church.
On the third day after His death and burial, the Lord Jesus rose from the dead through His own power, because of the union of the human and divine natures in the one Divine Peron of Christ. When Holy Scripture says that Christ was raised by God (Acts 2:24) or by the Father (Gal 1:1) it is to be understood that these statements refer to His human nature, but that the cause of the resurrection was the hypostatic union of Christ’s humanity with the Godhead.
The resurrection of Christ is objective in that He walked out of the tomb, still bearing the wounds of His suffering, but from the moment of the resurrection His body was in a state of glory, which is attested to by the circumstances of His appearances recorded in the Gospels and in Acts, in which He is no longer bound by time or space.
Although our redemption comes through the merits of Christ’s sacrificial death upon the cross, the resurrection of Christ is seen as the completion of the redemptive act and so is associated with His death as a complete whole. Also, the Risen Christ is seen as the “first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor 15:20), and so is the model for the bodily resurrection of all the faithful on the last day.