The Resurrection of Christ

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The Resurrection of Christ

He is risen, he is not here.–MARK xvi. 6.

Last week, we contemplated the separation of our Lord’s body and soul in death; the former was laid away in the tomb, the latter descended, as we saw, into Limbo. Today that same body and soul are reunited, and our Lord issues triumphantly from the tomb. The Gospel tells us how the holy women were on their way to anoint the body of Christ, and how, as they approached the grave, they found the great stone rolled away, the tomb empty, and an angel there to announce to them that the Lord had risen.

I. “The third day he arose again from the dead.” I. The meaning of this Article of the Creed is that after Christ’s death His soul and body were reunited. He returned to life, and rose from the tomb. 2. The difference between our Lord’s resurrection and that of others is, that Christ raised Himself by His own power, and that He was the first who rose to die no more. 3. Christ rose on the third day, inasmuch as He was in the tomb on Friday, Saturday, and a part of Sunday. He did not rise immediately after being buried, in order to prove His humanity; He did not defer His resurrection to the end of the world, when all will rise, in order to prove His Divinity. 4. The great importance of the resurrection is in this, that Christ foretold it as the crowning miracle of His life, and the Apostles consequently preached it as the greatest proof of the Saviour’s Divinity and the truth of His teaching.

II. The reasons of Christ’s resurrection. 1. He rose for His own exaltation: 2. to strengthen our faith; 3. to sustain and nourish our hope; 4. to complete the work of our redemption.

III. The blessings of Christ’s resurrection. I. His resurrection is the cause and model of our own future bodily resurrection. 2. Christ’s resurrection is also the cause and model of our spiritual resurrection from sin. 3. The Resurrection of Christ is the basis and foundation of our religion (l Cor. xv. 14), since it is the greatest of miracles and the one to which our Lord chiefly appealed in proof of His Divinity (Luke xi. 29; John ii. 19). It is also one of the best established facts of human history. The testimony of the Roman soldiers, the many apparitions of the risen Saviour, the reluctance at first of the Apostles to believe it, and their later fearlessness in declaring it to the whole world, place the Resurrection beyond all doubt, although it is now the main object of attack on the part of unbelievers.

LESSONS of the Resurrection. l. The newness of life which we should learn from Christ’s resurrection consists in the practice of virtue and in perseverance to the end. 2. The chief sign by which we may know that we have risen with Christ to this newness of life is a relish for the things that are above rather than for the things that are of earth (Col. iii. l).

Catechism of the Council of Trent, Part I


We now come to the second part of the fifth Article, and how indefatigable should be the labors of the pastor in its exposition we learn from these words of the Apostle to Timothy: “Be mindful that the Lord Jesus Christ is risen again from the dead”;(1) words no doubt addressed not only to Timothy, but to all who have care of souls.


But the meaning of the Article is, that after Christ the Lord had expired on the cross, on Friday at the ninth hour, and was buried on the evening of the same day by His disciples, who with the permission of the governor Pilate laid the body of the Lord, taken down from the cross, in a new tomb, in a garden near at hand. His soul was reunited to His body early on the morning of the third day after His death, that is on Sunday, and thus He who was dead during those three days rose, and returned again to life, from which He had departed when dying.


By the word “resurrection,” however, we are not merely to understand that Christ was raised from the dead,–a privilege common with Him to many others,–but that He rose by his own power and virtue, a singular prerogative peculiar to Him alone,–for it is incompatible with our nature, nor was it ever given to man to raise himself by his own power, from death to life. This was an exercise of power reserved for the omnipotent hand of God, as these words of the Apostle declare: “for although he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God.”(2) This divine power, having never been separated, either from His body while in the grave, or from His soul while disunited from His body, existed in both, and gave to both a capability of reuniting; and thus did the Son of God, by His own power, return to life, and rise again from the dead. This David foretold when, filled with the spirit of God, he prophesied in these words: ” His right hand hath wrought for him salvation, and his arm is holy.”(3) This we also have from the divine lips of the Redeemer Himself; “I lay down my life,” says He, “that I may take it again . . . and I have power to lay it down: and I have power to take it up again.”(4) To the Jews He also said, in confirmation of His doctrine: ” Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”(5) Although the Jews understood Him to have spoken thus of the magnificent temple of Jerusalem, built of stone, yet as the Scripture testifies in the same place, “he spoke of the temple of his body.”(6) We sometimes, it is true, read in Scripture that He was raised by the Father;(7) but this refers to Him as man, as those passages which say that He rose by His own power relate to Him as God.(8)


It is also the peculiar privilege of Christ to have been the first who enjoyed this divine prerogative of rising from the dead, for He is called in Scripture ” the first begotten of the dead,”(9) and also “the firstborn from the dead.”(10) The Apostle also says, “Christ is risen from the dead, the first-fruits of them that sleep: for by a man came death, and by a man the resurrection of the dead. And as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. But every one in his own order: the first-fruits Christ, then they that are of Christ.”(11) These words of the Apostle are to be understood of a perfect resurrection, by which we are resuscitated to eternal life and are no longer subject to death. In this resurrection Christ, the Lord holds the first place; for if we speak of resurrection, that is of a return to life, subject to the necessity of again dying, many were thus raised from the dead before Christ,(12) all of whom, however, were restored to life to die again. But Christ the Lord, having conquered death, rose again to die no more, according to this clear testimony of the Apostle: ” Christ rising again from the dead, dieth now no more, death shall no more have dominion over him.”(13)


The Third Day. In explanation of these additional words of the Article, the pastor will inform the people that Christ did not remain in the grave during the whole of these three days, but, as He lay in the sepulchre during an entire natural day, during part of the preceding day, and part of the following, He is said, with strictest truth, to have lain in the grave for three days, and on the third day to have risen again from the dead.


To declare his divinity, He deferred not His resurrection to the end of the world; while at the same time to prove His humanity, and the reality of His death, He rose not immediately, but on the third day after His death, a space of time sufficient to prove that He had really died.


Here the Fathers of the first Council of Constantinople added the words, “according to the Scriptures,” which they received from St. Paul. These words they embodied with the creed, because the same Apostle teaches the absolute necessity of the mystery of the resurrection when he says: ” If Christ be not risen again, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain . . . for you are yet in your sins.”(14) Hence, admiring our belief of this Article, St. Augustine says: ” It is of little moment to believe that Christ died; this the Pagans, Jews, and all the wicked believe; in a word, all believe that Christ died; but that He rose from the dead is the belief of Christians; to believe that He rose again, this we deem of great moment.”(15) Hence it is that our Lord very frequently spoke to His disciples of His resurrection, and seldom or never of His passion without adverting to His resurrection. Thus, when He said: ” The Son of man . . . shall be delivered to the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and scourged, and spit upon: and after they have scourged him, they will put him to death,” He added: ” and the third day he shall rise again.”(16) Also when the Jews called upon Him to give an attestation of the truth of His doctrine by some miraculous sign He said: “A sign shall not be given it, [this generation] but the sign of Jonas the prophet. For as Jonas was in the whale’s belly three days and three nights: so shall the Son of man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.”(17)


To understand still better the force and meaning of this Article, there are three things which demand attentive consideration: first, the necessity of the resurrection; secondly, its end and object; thirdly, the blessings and advantages of which it is to us the source.


With regard to the first, it was necessary that Christ should rise again in order to manifest the justice of God; for it was most congruous that He who through obedience to God was degraded, and loaded with ignominy, should by Him be exalted. This is a reason assigned by the Apostle in his Epistle to the Philippians. ” He humbled himself,” says he,” becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. For which cause God also hath exalted him.”(18)

He rose also to confirm our faith, which is necessary for justification: the resurrection of Christ from the dead by His own power affords an irrefragable proof of His divinity. It also nurtures and sustains our hope, for as Christ rose again, we rest on an assured hope that we too shall rise again; the members must necessarily arrive at the condition of their head. This is the conclusion which St. Paul draws from the reasoning which he uses in his epistles to the Corinthians,(19) and the Thessalonians; (20) and Peter, the prince of the Apostle, says: ” Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy hath regenerated us unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, unto the inheritance incorruptible.”(21)


Finally, the resurrection of our Lord, as the pastor will inculcate, was necessary to complete the mystery of our salvation and redemption. By His death Christ liberated us from the thraldom of sin, and restored to us, by His resurrection, the most important of those privileges which we had forfeited by sin. Hence these words of the Apostle: “He was delivered up for our sins, and rose again for our justification.”(22.) That nothing, therefore, may be wanting to perfect the work of our salvation, it was necessary that as He died. He should also rise again from the dead.


From what has been said, we can perceive the important advantages which the resurrection of our Lord has conferred on the faithful; in His resurrection we acknowledge Him to be the immortal God, full of glory, the conqueror of death and hell, and this we are firmly to believe and openly to profess of Christ Jesus.

Again, the resurrection of Christ effects our resurrection, not only as its efficient cause, but also as its model. Thus, with regard to the resurrection of the body we have this testimony of the Apostle: ” by a man came death, and by a man the resurrection of the dead.”(23.) To accomplish the mystery of our redemption in all its parts, God made use of the humanity of Christ as its efficient instrument, and hence His resurrection is the efficient cause of ours. It is also the model. His resurrection was the most perfect of all, and as His body, rising to immortal glory, was changed, so shall our bodies also–before frail and mortal–be restored and clothed with glory and immortality. In the language of the Apostle, “we look for the Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who will reform the body of our lowness, made like to the body of His glory.”(24.)

The same may be said of a soul dead in sin. How the Resurrection of Christ is proposed to such a soul as the model of her resurrection we learn from the same Apostle, when he says; “Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His Resurrection.” Again a little further on: “Knowing that Christ rising again from the dead, dieth now no more, death shall no more have dominion over him. For in that, He died to sin, He died once; but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God: so do you also reckon, that you are dead to sin, but alive unto God, in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(25)

From the resurrection of Christ, therefore, we should derive two important lessons of instruction: the one, that after we have washed away the stains of sin, we should begin to lead a new life, distinguished by integrity, innocence, holiness, modesty, justice, beneficence, and humility; the other, that we should so persevere in that newness of life as never more, with the divine assistance, to stray from the paths of virtue on which we have once entered.

Nor do the words of the Apostle prove only that the resurrection of Christ is proposed as the model of our resurrection; they also declare that it gives us power to rise again, and imparts to us strength and courage to persevere in holiness and righteousness, and in the observance of the commandments of God. As His death not only furnishes us with an example, but also supplies us with strength to die to sin, so also His resurrection invigorates us to attain righteousness, that worshipping God in piety and holiness, we may walk in the newness of life to which we have risen. For the Redeemer achieved principally by His resurrection, that we, who before died with Him to sin, and to the world, may rise also with Him again to a new discipline and manner of life.


The principal proofs of this resurrection from sin which demand observation are taught us by the Apostle: ” If you be risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God.”(26) Here he distinctly tells us that they whose desire of life, honors, riches, and repose are directed chiefly to the place in which Christ dwells, have truly risen with Him. But when he adds: ” Mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth,”(27) he gives this, as it were, as another standard by which we may ascertain if we have truly risen with Christ. For as a relish for food indicates a healthy state of the body, so with regard to the soul, if we relish “whatever things are true, whatever modest, whatever just, whatever holy,”(28) and experience within us a sense of the sweetness of heavenly things, this we may consider a very strong proof that with Christ we have risen to a new and spiritual life.

1. 2 Tim. ii. 8.
2. 2 Cor. xiii. 4.
3. Ps. xcvii. 2.
4. John x. 17, 18.
5. John ii. 19.
6. John ii. 21.
7. Acts ii. 24; iii. 15.
8. Rom. viii. 34.
9. Apoc. i. 3.
10. Col. i. 18.
11. I Cor. xv. 20-23.
12. 3 Kings xvii. 22; 4 Kings iv. 34.
13. Rom. vi. 9.
14. I Cor. xv. 14, 17.
15. Aug. in Ps. cxx. 4.
16. Luke xviii. 31, 32, 33; Matt. xvi. 21.
17. Matt. xii. 39, 40; Luke xi. 29.
18. Philip, ii. 8.
19. I Thess. iv. 13.
20. I Cor. xv. 12.
21. I Pet. i. 3, 4.
22. Rom. iv. 25.
23. Phil. iii. 20, 21.
24. I Cor. xv. 21.
25. Rom. vi. 4, 5, 9-11 26. Col. iii. i. 27. Col. iii. 2.
28. I Phil. iv. 8. 

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