Jesus is the Resurrection and the life

Scripture Readings:
Acts 10:34, 37-43.
Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23.
Colossians 3:1-4.
John 20:1-9.

On the first Easter Sunday morning Jesus is nowhere to be seen. The tomb is empty. The disciples, somewhat in disbelief, run to the tomb. Peter and John peer inside. Then, as today’s Gospel tells us, “Peter saw and believed” (John 20:8).

What did Peter see? Only Jesus’ burial clothes. In seeing this Peter finally believed what Jesus had prophesied, that he would die and rise on the third day (see Mark 8:31-32; 9:30-32; 10:32-34).

Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is somewhat like Lazarus’ resurrection, and somewhat unlike it.

Two weeks ago the Church reminded us of how Jesus raised his friend Lazarus from the dead (see John 11:1-45). Coming out of his tomb Lazarus, we are told, still had “his hands and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth” (John 11:44). John the evangelist is at pains to tells us this, because when he later comes to Jesus’ resurrection he tells us that in Jesus’ tomb “he saw the linen cloths lying, and the napkin, which had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself” (John 20:7-8).

With this, John identifies the secret of Jesus’ resurrection. Coming out of his tomb with his burial clothes, John notices that Lazarus would one day have to die again, thus needing to keep his burial garments for that time; whereas with Jesus, because he would never die again, he no longer needed his.

Therefore, we can now perceive the radical difference between the two. Jesus rose to a life from which he could never die again. What sort of life could this be? It is nothing short of eternal life. In entering with his humanity into eternal life, Jesus’ resurrection is not just a miracle, like the miraculous resuscitation of Lazarus’ corpse, it is a mystery, since with it Jesus enters into the new mode of human existence we call eternal life.

This is not to deny that Jesus’ resurrection is the resuscitation of his corpse; but it is much more than that. Although Jesus did rise in the flesh, so that the body he now has is the same one he died with on the cross, his resurrection means much more than him merely “getting his body back.”

Now that Jesus has gone before us into this new mode of human existence, he beckons us to follow him, which we do when we are baptised. Saint Paul confirms this when he says in his letter to the Romans, through our baptism we died with Christ and now share in his resurrection (see Romans 6:4-5).

This Easter let us contemplate more deeply the great mystery, not only of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, but also of our own resurrection to new life through baptism.

Artwork: ‘Resurrection of Christ and Women at the Tomb’ by Fra Angelico (1395-1455).

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