Q: Archbishop J, What is the Resurrection?
Some people see the resurrection as an event that happened 2,000 years ago. It is! It is the most significant event in human history since the event of creation. It is significant because it changes our understanding about the human, about God and our final destination.
Resurrection a historical event
We believe that the dead body of Jesus, after His crucifixion, was laid in an unused tomb. We believe they put a large stone to seal the tomb; that guards were placed in front of the tomb to ensure there was no silly business.
We also believe that early in the morning on the first day of the week when it was still dark the women went to the tomb. We believe their testimony—when they arrived the stone was moved and there was no one inside.
This sequence of events does not yet lead us to conclude resurrection. But then Jesus appears to the various people and groups, and missions them: this is most significant.
Who will invent a story about a crucified leader, who was raised from the dead—in three days? What is more, who could deny the transformation of the tiny band of bumbling disciples—who simply could not get it right—into fearless preachers of the mysteries of God? This transformation is the central reason why I believe the story.
Peter denied Him, Judas betrayed Him and others ran and hid in fear. This happened while He was alive. What would change them after He is dead? Peter vowed that if all the others ran away, he, Peter would never do such a cowardly act.
In our reading of the Passion this year from Luke, Jesus says to Peter, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Lk 22:31–32).
Here we see Jesus knew just how fragile the Twelve were. He recognised that Satan wanted to sift them. Jesus saw Peter’s fragility, but He prayed for him. And when Peter encountered the risen Lord he indeed turned back and strengthened his brothers. This is resurrection power.
Resurrection a process
St Paul speaking to the Philippians says: “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things” (Phil 3:8). Then he says a most amazing thing. “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead” (Phil 3:10–11).
St Paul sees the resurrection as a process of rebirth or regeneration. It is a participation; it is constantly unfolding and inviting us to enter more fully into sacred mystery.
There are several things to note in this short text. First, the need to know Christ, then the power of His resurrection; third to participate in His suffering; fourth to become like Him in death so as, fifth, to attain somehow the resurrection from the dead. This is a process of Christian formation and transformation. The key to the process is entering into His suffering and becoming like Him in death.
What does it mean to become like Him in death? What was Christ like in death? Christ completely surrendered Himself to the Father. In the garden, He said: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Lk 22:42).
In this total surrender to the Father, Jesus, true God and true man, undoes the knot of Adam’s sin with a total and complete yes to the Father’s will. This is the portal, the sacred door, through which He passes and through which He invites us to enter and participate—first in His sufferings, then in the transformation into Christ.
It is vital to note that St Paul puts a space between the first part—suffering and transformation—and the second part, the resurrection. He says: “… and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”
This is not a direct relation. It is not a right, it is an action of God that God does freely, and so the Apostle says: “and so somehow”. It is like the seed the farmer sows: “Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how” (Mk 4:27).
This is mystery: the mystery into which we are invited to enter; the full trust and confidence that God will do God’s work of resurrection.
Alive in Christ
Speaking to the Ephesians, St Paul speaks about this process in some more detail. He says: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient … But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (Eph 2:1–5).
Dead in your transgressions and sins – well this says it all! The things we did wrong and the ways we offended God! Then, St Paul speaks of the rulers we followed by gratifying the cravings of our flesh in our disobedience. This is a picture of a dissolute life, a life of following pleasure and power and fame. Again, we see (verse 4) that it is because of His great love for us that God made us alive in Christ.
Resurrection is a work that God does. It requires docility and self-emptying. We must choose to participate in His suffering. Then, “somehow”, God raises us to life in Christ Jesus.
Key Message: The resurrection is a process, a power at work in us. We need to humble ourselves through sufferings and then somehow God will raise us to full life in Christ.
Action step: Reflect on your life and the way you give into your passions and desires—your disobedience. Enter into the process, the portal of sufferings and self-emptying. Somehow God will raise you in Christ.
Scripture Passage: Ephesians 2:1–5.