The resurrection of our Lord Jesus, part one

Published 1:39 pm Saturday, April 16, 2022

By Fr. Jonathan Filkins

Mary Magdalene came to the tomb, early when it was yet dark, Saint John tells us. She “seeth the stone taken away.” It is here it begins. She runs to tell the others. She says to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, “that they have taken away the Lord out of the sepulcher, and we know not where they have laid him.” He is not there. He is gone from their eyes. Who has taken him? Who are they who have taken [him] away? Confronting something that counters her expectation, Mary Magdalene suspects a conspiracy, or so it seems. Do not we all? Do not we, in the deep recesses of our doubting selves question this pivotal event in our Christianity?

The Resurrection is change we may believe in. This is what the Gospel accounts show us. In a way, of course, it can only be believed in. There is, after all, no CSI Jerusalem with an investigation and thusly reporting and confirming the science of the Resurrection, nor can there be. There is no DNA. There is no forensic evidence whatsoever; not much to go on/ Folly to even think there could be. At best, we might say there is only evidence which points to an absence, beginning with the stories of the empty tomb. Then, there are the accounts of angels. Ah, we doubters, an angel told me!

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As a comedian said in his dialog with God, as Noah, after being told to build the Ark… Right! Hardly convincing, it might seem, at least to the empirically minded. There are, of course, the supposed eyewitness accounts of strange encounters with the Risen Christ, who appears and then disappears behind closed doors. Right! Explicable, perhaps, according to the superstring theory in Physics, traveling from one place to another in the ethereal vapors of time and place. Perhaps, one might feel about that the same way the British travel writer, Alexander Kinglake, felt about churches in England, wanting to inscribe upon their lintels the caveat, “interesting, if true.”

It is here we find the central defining truth of the Christian Faith, whether one believes in the Resurrection, or not. This much can and must be said. It cannot be ignored, whether you are Muslim, Jewish, Christian, or atheist, in terms of our cultural history. We are here because, all our sophisticated skepticisms notwithstanding, the Resurrection is supernatural change, which we can believe in. We are here because it belongs to the Church to proclaim the Resurrection of Christ Jesus. We are here because we cannot think less of it.

Renewal and rebirth are not new ideas. They are as old as the Spring itself and a feature of the natural world, in its varied cycles and patterns. After the bleak grim winter, we welcome the signs of spring. To feel the renewed strength of the sun and the warmth of its rays, which buoys our spirits. This alone cannot be denied. Yet, the Resurrection is not merely nature’s annual rebirth from the dark tombs of the winter. The Resurrection is something far more radical. It is radical new life and it changes everything.

What makes it change, which we can believe in, is that it cannot be reduced to the same old, same old realities of our everyday world. Neither is it an escape from the mundane into some imaginary cyberspace fantasy. No. The power and the truth of the Resurrection lies in its engagement with our humanity and our world. The Resurrection is about hope and redemption, about transformation and change for the better.