“In fact Christ has been raised from the dead.”

– 1 Corinthians 15:20

Resurrection is a difficult subject to talk about. When we contemplate the Resurrection, our habit of rational thinking leaves us at a loss.  Although we may, in theory, believe in Christ’s Resurrection, we may not have not thought about it much, or in much depth. This reality is due to trends in church teaching that go back to the third century.

During the seven weeks of Easter, I will write about Christ’s Resurrection.  I begin today by looking at how the early church might have viewed Resurrection, and how it came to be displaced out of its central role in Christianity. Next week we’ll continue looking at the early church, as well as ways in which today’s theologians are trying to recover awareness of the role of Resurrection in our lives.  In the third week, I’ll discuss how Christ’s Resurrection enables us to participate in the Eucharist and in God’s plan for full communion of all creation.  In the fourth through sixth weeks, we will look at the gospel accounts of Christ’s appearances after the Resurrection, and what the appearance accounts might tell us about the gifts of Resurrection.

Pheme Perkins’ book, Resurrection: New Testament Witness and Contemporary Reflection, (Doubleday & Co., Inc., Garden City, NY, 1984) is a major resource for these reflections.

Dahlias, El ChicoHistorically, the Church taught salvation as a form of judicial transaction, as “satisfaction” made by Jesus to God for our sins.  The result was that Christ’s death became connected more with the cross than with Resurrection.  How often have you heard someone say, “Christ died for our sins”?  On the other hand, how often have you heard “Christ rose again for our sins”? The emphasis on “Christ died for us” has made it difficult for believers to talk or even think about the saving function of the Resurrection in our lives. Devotion to the risen Christ, formerly central to the early church, became shifted to devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. (Perkins, 393)

Due to an increase in study of the Bible in its historical context, and research on the early church, the central role of Resurrection to Christian faith has been rediscovered.  One very basic question asked is what sort of event is the Resurrection?  Many saw Jesus’ death but no one saw the Resurrection.  We have only stories of visits to an empty tomb.

The New Testament narratives do not seem concerned with what happened to Jesus’ body, but instead seek to clarify that the risen Lord is not merely a spirit, ghost or hallucination, as many opponents of Christianity argued.  On the other hand, Resurrection never meant the resuscitation of a corpse.  Nor is Jesus a kind of supreme yogi, able to separate the eternal self from the body.  Rather, Resurrection expresses something about the uniqueness of Jesus.  It implies that there is something about Jesus’ being with God that is not like that of other righteous people who had the courage to die for their fellow human beings.  Surely Martin Luther King and Ghandi behold the face of God today.  So why Resurrection?  Why isn’t it enough to say, “Christ died for our sins”?

Deposition from the Cross by Fra Angelico

 

The uniqueness of Christ is expressed in Paul’s description of the risen Lord as the second Adam.  Read 1 Corinthians 15:20-28, available here.  Resurrection proclaims that some part of God’s ultimate purpose has been accomplished in and through Jesus.  Jesus is both a foretaste of and a pledge of a new creation.  Resurrection is something that happened to Jesus, but it also belongs to the larger story of Salvation History.  Resurrection is incomplete, since it has not yet reached its fulfillment; in Resurrection, God and Christ are One, but God is not yet all in all.

Today, Christians need to revive the illuminating power of Resurrection in our own lives and in the life of the world.  How do we talk about Resurrection in our time, the time of science? This is the topic of my blog during the seven weeks of Easter.  In Part II, I will discuss how the early church understood Resurrection and compare it with the way that theologians are talking about the role of Resurrection in our lives today.

 

5 Responses to “Why Resurrection? Part I”

  1. David Flucke

    For the first five centuries the cross was always empty – why, because Christ rose from the dead. His triumph over the worst that Satan could to us – take our lives. We could look at the cross and know that the final word on our lives lies in Christ Jesus – and He will raise us to new life both here and in eternity. After the 5th century the world began to grow dark – sometimes called the Dark Ages. So the focus shifted to Christ’s crucifixion – the suffering Christ on the cross really could understand the sufferings we endured. It meant a lot to have a Jesus people identified with. As we come out of the Dark or Middle Ages – the Reformation begins and the focus shifts again to the resurrected Christ and the empty cross as the symbol of His resurrection. The One who died is not here – He is risen. So we have hope that in this life and in the life to come we will/we can rise to new life.

    Reply
  2. Freida Pantos

    Good morning Suzanne, I began reading your blog this morning and will continue to do so during our Easter season, which is celebrated late this year. I find your words very comforting and direct and easy to understand regarding this subject of great magnitude. Thank you for giving us this window of time needed to understand and bring these words into our daily lives.

    Reply
  3. Genevieve Haraburd Campbell

    Hi Suzanne: Love your inspiring daily prayer. What the Resurrection means to me is: “wait for it”! The suffering will end and something new and greater will emerge in my life. That’s the whole purpose of suffering: to endure God’s trials in faith and in his time. At the end, and you have to wait all the way to his predetermined end, can’t cut it short by a day or two, then, a new energy will begin to emerge. In my case, it happens quickly, so I’m always ready for the end of suffering so I can quickly turn over to my own personal “Resurrection”. This doesn’t happen just once to me, it happens over and over throughout my life. Apply the pattern of the Rosary: first is Joyful (Birth of Christ), second is Sorrowful (Crucifixion); third is Glorious (Resurrection); Fourth and final pattern is Enlightenment (I understand Enlightenment to be “I know can look back at what I just suffered and have understanding”). If I ignore the Resurrection, I stand to be locked in permanent Suffering.

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    • haraltd633

      Genny, You have beautifully, and movingly, summed up the reality of Resurrection in daily living. Thank you for your insightful contribution to this conversation. Love, Suzanne

      Reply

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