Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
April 13, 2009
Christ's resurrection validates Christian life
A Shepherd Speaks
By BISHOP FRED HENRY
The cross alone could not explain the Christian faith; indeed it would remain a tragedy, an indication of the absurdity of being. “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain . . . and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15.14-17). Without the fact of the resurrection, the Christian life would be simply in vain.
The enemies of the Christian faith have attempted to debunk or to deny the resurrection in many different ways.
For example, Jesus didn’t really die but merely swooned or fainted on the cross; the women went to the wrong tomb; the disciples stole the body; early Christians, either consciously or unconsciously, conformed the story of Jesus to pagan legends and mystery cults surrounding the dying and rising gods; the appearances are apocalyptic creations; the appearances are the result of mass suggestion, the family tomb of Jesus had recently been found in Talpiot (shades of the silly Da Vinci Code again).
It is easy to respond to each of these challenges, but the primary importance is to be accorded to the theme of the appearances, which constitute a fundamental condition for belief in the Risen One who left the tomb empty.
Jesus’ resurrection was not a return to a body again subject to death. It is not to be considered as one on the same level as the resuscitation of Lazarus or that of the widow’s son of Nairn. It is essentially the entry of Christ into a new mode of existence, his exaltation in glory.
Certain elements do, however, tend to come up again and again in the various accounts: for example, the fact that the apostles at first doubted; the reality of the body of the Risen Lord; the implicit assertion of Jesus’ Lordship in the mission appearances; the link between seeing the Risen Lord and having an official mission.
As a result of these appearances, the disciples are radically transformed. The disciples, who have not distinguished themselves for their brilliance, and having proved themselves cowardly, suddenly become fearless, and make converts in the very city of Jesus’ humiliation and death, even though becoming a Christian meant a break with the former community and some were eventually martyred for their preaching.
The Lord’s Day is changed from the Sabbath to Sunday and the latter is now perceived as the true Day of the Lord, the day of the new creation.
The novelty of the resurrection consists in the fact that Jesus, raised from the lowliness of his earthly existence, is constituted Son of God “in power.”
Jesus, humiliated up to the moment of his death on the Cross, can now say to the Eleven, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28.18).
KINGDOM OF CHRIST
With the Resurrection begins the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ to all peoples. The Kingdom of Christ begins this new kingdom that knows no power other than that of truth and love.
The resurrection thus reveals definitively the real identity and the extraordinary stature of the Crucified One. An incomparable and towering dignity: Jesus is God.
To live in the belief in Jesus Christ, to live in truth and love implies daily sacrifice, implies suffering. Christianity is not the easy road. It is, rather, a difficult climb, but one illuminated by the light of Christ and by the great hope that is born of him.
The meaning of the Resurrection can’t be exhausted but it at least means that:
History has a goal towards which it moves; the new age of fulfillment has begun; it rules out any understanding of human history which appeals to futility.
The right meaning of history’s goal is to be seen in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth; suffering is not an accidental fluke in an otherwise sensible history but part of its sense.
History has surprises; there are novelties in the course of history; that the course of history, like the course of our lives, can be changed.
That God not only will act, but he is already acting; constant pressure on the kingdoms of this world.
The destiny of each is bound up with the destiny of all and with the whole created reality.
Judgment and mercy outlast even death.
Jesus’ resurrection proclaims that death, whatever else it negates, does not negate the power of God.
Jesus resurrection is a representation of our resurrection, what God has raised was not Jesus’ memory or his message but his person.
Death does not negate the individual person, our bodies will be transformed but there will be essential continuity.
The believer, however, finds himself between two poles: on the one hand, the resurrection, which in a certain sense is already present and operating within us; on the other, the urgency to enter into the process which leads everyone and everything towards that fullness described in the Letter to the Romans with a bold image — as the whole of creation groans and suffers almost as with the pangs of childbirth, so we groan in the expectation of the redemption of our bodies, of our redemption and resurrection (Romans 8.18-23).