-detail of the Ascension, Saint Dié manuscript -Eastern France (Saint-Die) manuscript, 1504-1514
-by Joseph Heschmeyer, a former lawyer and seminarian, he blogs at Shameless Popery.
“It’s not hard to understand why we would celebrate Good Friday (Jesus atones for our sins on the Cross) and Easter Sunday (Jesus rises again, conquering death). But Ascension Thursday commemorates Jesus’ ascension into heaven. Why, from the perspective of one of those “left behind” on Earth, is that something to celebrate?
It’s easy to misunderstand the Ascension, as if Christ were abandoning his disciples. But he promised that this wouldn’t happen, saying “I will not leave you desolate” (John 14:18) and “I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matt. 28:20). Similarly, we misunderstand the Ascension if we imagine that Jesus is returning to heaven, as if he ever left heaven in the first place. As St. Augustine points out, Jesus “did not leave heaven when he came down to us; nor did he withdraw from us when he went up again into heaven.”
Instead, Christ’s ascension is really his enthronement in heaven. One of the final prophecies Jesus makes before His death is that “from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God” (Luke 22:69). That prophecy remained unfulfilled on Easter morning, as we know from His words to Mary Magdalene: “I have not yet ascended to the Father, but go to My brethren and say to them, I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God” (John 20:17). Instead, the prophecy is fulfilled in the Ascension, which is how St. Stephen, “full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55), and why St. Paul says that this is now “where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1; see also Heb. 8:1, 12:2; Rev. 4).
If Jesus, in His divinity, was in heaven the whole time, what is it that ascended? His humanity. And this is near the heart of why the Ascension matters. For many people, Christianity has become too disembodied—that we think of it as good news for our souls, but not for our bodies (or worse, as a sort of mission rescuing us from our captivity in our bodies).
N.T. Wright, in his bookSurprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, reported that “a survey of beliefs about life after death conducted in Britain in 1995 indicated that though most people believed in some kind of continuing life, only a tiny minority, even among churchgoers, believed in the classic Christian position, that of a future bodily resurrection.” In America, a 2006 poll similarly found that only thirty-six percent of respondents answered “yes” to the question: “Do you believe that, after you die, your physical body will be resurrected someday?” Perhaps most shockingly, even self-described Christians overwhelmingly rejected the idea of bodily resurrection: only thirty-eight percent of Catholics and forty-four percent of Protestants answered “yes.” The situation was slightly, but only slightly, better for regular churchgoers: half of them reported believing in the bodily resurrection.
As bad as these numbers are, the reality is likely worse. Both the U.S. and U.K. studies are now decades old, and it’s hard to imagine that the situation has improved since then. Moreover, as Wright points out, “I often find that though Christians still use the word resurrection, they treat it as a synonym for ‘life after death’ or ‘going to heaven’ and that, when pressed, they often share the confusion of the wider world on the subject” (p. xii). Even many of the people who answered “yes” probably think of “resurrection” in non-physical terms.
That’s a problem, because Christianity makes little senseif the body doesn’t have dignity, or isn’t made to last forever. After all, why does the Church care about a “theology of the body,” or about tending to the bodies of even the dead? Because Christianity is good news for the body as well as for the soul. The Catechism quotes Tertullian to the effect that “the flesh is the hinge of salvation,” commenting, “We believe in God Who is creator of the flesh; we believe in the Word made flesh in order to redeem the flesh; we believe in the resurrection of the flesh, the fulfillment of both the creation and the redemption of the flesh” (CCC 1015).
In Eden, there was an intimate union between God and earthly creation, symbolized by “the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (Gen. 3:8). This union between heaven and earth was ruptured in sin. And that rupture was healed first through the Incarnation (in which the heavenly God took on earthly humanity) and then the Cross (in which he offered his flesh “for the life of the world”—John 6:51), and then the Resurrection (in which Christ rose again with a glorified body), and then the Ascension (in which he rose physically to be enthroned at the right hand of the Father in Heaven). Prior to the Ascension, heaven was a purely spiritual realm.* No more.
And so Ascension Thursday is only the beginning. Christ has the first body in heaven, but not the last. He is followed soon after by His mother, which is why we celebrate the Assumption. And someday, God willing, we will all join Him. It’s why the angel’s message on Ascension Thursday is forward-looking: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, Who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as You saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). The union between heaven and earth has begun, and it is irrevocable. Our journey now is to prepare for that union to be completed within us.
*I’ll prescind here from the thorny question of what Elijah and Enoch experienced prior to Christ’s ascension.”
-Most Reverend Robert Barron, Auxilliary Bishop of Los Angeles April 12, 2020
“Here’s the first thing I want you to know about the Resurrection: it happened. Why do I say it that way? This has been around for a long time, but many people today, way too many, will say, well, the Resurrection is a nice story. It’s a nice myth, like many other myths of dying and rising gods. We can find these in different cultures and religions all over the world. It’s just one more iteration of this ancient story. Maybe has a moral meaning to it. Now, I’d be willing to bet if there were some young Catholics, young Christians listening to me, I bet you’ve heard some version of that in your college or university classroom.
It’s a very common view and kind of a cultural elite. Well, whenever I hear this, I think of a saying of C.S. Lewis, the great writer. Lewis, one of whose academic specialties was the study of mythic literature. Lewis said, “Those who say the Gospels are mythic haven’t read many myths.” Now, here’s what he meant, I think. A myth, and I love the myth, by the way. I remember vividly I was in seventh grade when I was kind of introduced to the Greek and Roman myth. I had to do a report on them. I’ve loved those stories from that day to this day.
Myths are stories with a symbolic importance. They speak of great general truths about the world, about nature, about society, about the psyche. Think, for example, of the gods and goddesses of Ancient Greece and Rome. Well, they’re personifications, if you want, of the natural necessities. Think of Poseidon of the sea, and Zeus of the air, and Demeter of the earth, et cetera, et cetera. Wonderful myths. They convey great general truths, which is why, by the way, myths are always set in some kind of indefinite, distant time.
We say once upon a time. Or bring it up to date: a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. See, Star Wars is a very good example of a modern myth. A very effective one, I must say. It’s captured the minds of people all over the world. That’s because it taps into this sort of mythic consciousness. As I say, great. I like the myths. But we’re not dealing here in Christianity with a myth. The Resurrection is not one more iteration of this ancient story. Now, here’s the clue. You heard it in our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles.
Listen. This is St. Peter, by the way, speaking. “You know what’s happened all over Judea, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. We are witnesses of all that he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem.” As I say, myths are set once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away. No one ever wonders, hmm, who was the political leader when Hercules was around? Or you know when Osiris rose from the dead? Who was the pharaoh at that time? I mean, no one’s gonna ask a question like that because those are inappropriate questions.
But listen to this man. You know what happened in Judea and about this Jesus from Nazareth. You know Nazareth, where that is. And the country of the Jews, that means the area around Jerusalem, and things that happened in the city of – you people know all this. This is for my Southern California friends. But apply it now in your own situation. If I were to begin a story this way, I met this guy first in Oxnard, and then I saw him again in Montecito, and then just last week, he was here in Santa Barbara, would you think for a second that I was about to tell you a mythic story?
No. You’d say he’s telling me something that really happened to him. He’s naming times and places. Can you hear now how Peter’s language is much more like that than it is like mythic language? Now, listen to how this thing ends, how Peter’s oration ends. Again, not some generic myth. “This man God raised on the third day and granted that He be seen, not by all the people, but by us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead.” Now, I suggest you can spend the rest of the Easter season with that last line. In fact, you can spend the rest of your life with that last line. We, who ate and drank with him, this Jesus from Nazareth, whom you saw, that one. We ate and drink with Him after He rose from the dead. Takes your breath away the realism of it.
Here’s something else. When you read a myth or you read, let’s say, a writing by a spiritual teacher, there’s something very serene about it. It’s conveying important truths, sure. But it’s told using a kind of detached, serene manner. Pick up the New Testament. Now, maybe a lot of you haven’t been reading much of the New Testament recently.
Pick it up, any page, Matthew through Revelation. What you find there is not serene, detached reflection on abstract spiritual truths. What you find on every page of it is what I would call a grab you by the lapels quality. See, something happened to these people. Myths can be made up in the privacy of your home or in a faculty lounge. You know what I’m saying? But these people aren’t talking that way. Something happened to them that was like an explosion. And the after effects are being felt to this moment. They wanted to go all over the world and tell everyone they possibly could that this Jesus rose from the dead.
Here’s something else. How many missionaries of Hercules are there? The answer? None. How many martyrs for Osiris are there? Answer? None. Because those are mythic figures. People don’t become missionaries and martyrs on behalf of mythic characters. Of Jesus? Missionaries? Are you kidding? These people went careering around the world with this urgent sense of mission to tell the whole world. Martyrs? Yep. Every single one of His most intimate followers, with the exception of John, met a martyr’s death.
Well, you can’t fly right now because of this coronavirus. But the minute that’s over, you can get on a plane if you want. You can fly to Rome. You can visit the grave of the man who said these words, “We who ate and drank with Him after His resurrection from the dead.” I’ll show exactly where he’s buried because it’s the biggest, most beautiful grave marker in the whole world. It’s called Saint Peter’s Basilica. And that’s where the man who said these words is buried, who was crucified upside down, rather than to deny the truth of what he saw. Myths? Give me a break, myths.
And again, young people listening to me, if you hear that in your college classrooms, or university, or you read it, don’t you believe it. That’s not what these people are talking about. And the explosive power of the Resurrection message felt to this day. Okay. I wanna tell you now three things. We got a little time. It’s the coronavirus. You’re not going anywhere. So, I’m gonna give you three implications, once we accept the fact of the Resurrection. Here’s the first one; the first implication of the Resurrection. Jesus is who He said He was. Think about Jesus, he’s always a great spiritual teacher.
Well, yeah. You could distill spiritual teachings from Jesus, sure. What was really interesting about Jesus was that He spoke and acted in the very person of God. Unless you love Me more than your mother and father, more than your very life, you are not worthy of Me. Can you imagine any other spiritual teacher saying that? That’d be the height of arrogance unless He in person is the highest good. You’ve heard it said in the Torah, but I say, for a first-century Jew, that was outrageous speech. Torah, highest law possible. The law that God gave to Moses.
Who could claim authority over it, except the author of the Torah himself? My son, your sins are forgiven you. And the people say, well, who does this man think he is? Only God can forgive sins. Quite right. Heaven and Earth will pass away. My words will never pass away. Who could say that except the eternal word of God? Now, what was the reaction to Jesus? Well, you can see it in the Gospel. Some, sure, they were fascinated and they followed Him. Others were kinda puzzled, and wondered about it. Others hated Him and hounded Him to His death because of it.
What did the first witnesses of the Resurrection realize? Huh. He is who He said He was. The Resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the ratification of his claim to speak and act in the very person of God. Now, listen. If Jesus is not just one spiritual teacher among many, one philosopher among many, but rather, if Jesus is Himself God made flesh, then we have to give our whole life to Him, right? If He is who He says He is, well then, I have to surrender my whole life to Him. There’s the first implication of the Resurrection. Here’s the second one: our sins are forgiven.
The resurrected Christ always does two things. Look at all the accounts of the Resurrection appearances. First, He shows His wounds, and then He says, “Shalom.” Now, the showing of the wounds. Why is that important? Don’t forget what you did. The author of life came, and we killed Him. There’s that stark message. I preached on it the other day. The author of life came, and we killed Him. I’m okay and you’re okay. Come on. Everything’s just fine with me. Give me a break. The wounds of Jesus are the sign of our own spiritual dysfunction, and don’t forget it, is what the risen Lord is saying.
That’s a salutary move that we are aware of our sinfulness. But then what follows the showing of the wounds? Not vengeance. Now, you’d expect that in any Hollywood movie, and actually, in many of the myths of the world. What would you expect? This poor man, who had been betrayed and denied, abandoned him at the moment of truth. And now, he’s back from the dead. What would you expect if you’re watching a Hollywood movie? Well, he’s gonna visit his vengeance upon them. But the risen Jesus says, “Shalom.” Peace.
And that’s a word, everybody, that is basic in the Bible. It sums up what God wants for His people, what God has wanted from the beginning. What sin has interrupted is shalom, peace. That means well-being at every level. But here’s the thing: to those who had denied, betrayed, run from him, abandoned him, he says a word of forgiveness and peace. We killed God, and God returned in forgiving love. You see what that means? Do you see what that means? We killed God, and God returned in forgiving love. That means there’s no sin that God can’t, in principle, forgive. There’s nothing that can finally separate us from the love of God.
And doesn’t Paul say exactly that in Romans? “I am certain that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither height or death, or any other creature could ever separate us from the love of God.” Paul knows that because he met the risen Jesus, who showed his wounds and said, “Shalom.” The second great implication of the Resurrection is our sins are forgiven. Third and final implication: the Resurrection shows who is our king and what our mission ought to be. You remember Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, puts a mocking sign over the cross, this pathetic figure crucified, and over the cross, the sign, “Jesus Nazarenus Rex Judaeorum,” Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews.
And just so no one would miss it, Pilate put it in Hebrew and Greek, as well. So, everybody could see. It was meant as a joke. Look at this poor, pathetic man, who claimed to be the king of the Jews. What do they sense now after the Resurrection? That the joke was on Pilate because this risen Christ is, in fact, the king of the Jews, therefore, the king of all nations. And, deliciously, Pilate thereby became the first great Evangelist, announcing to all the nations in all the relevant languages, “You’ve got a new king.” Now, that’s the message of the first Christians.
Pick up your New Testament. Open up to any of the letters from Saint Paul. What will you find? Like a refrain, Jesus kurios, Jesus kurios, Jesus Christos, Jesus Christos. Jesus, the Lord. Jesus, the Messiah. Who was lord in that world? Well, there was a watchword: Kaiser kurios. Caesar’s lord. Caesar’s king. He’s the one to whom your allegiance is due. What’s Paul saying? How revolutionary it was. Not Kaiser, but rather someone whom Kaiser put to death, but whom God raised from the dead. Jesus kurios. Jesus is the lord. He’s the one now to whom your allegiance is due. See, and here’s the point. I’ll close everybody with this.
Here’s the point: stop messing around with Caesar and all of his successors to the present day. I mean, all these phony kings, all these false claimants to ultimate allegiance. Don’t give your life, and heart, and mind to them. Their day is over. Who’s the real king? Well, Pilate told us. Jesus Nazarenus Rex Judaeorum. Jesus of Nazareth, He’s the king. He’s the one now to Whom we should give our hearts, we should give our minds, we should give our energy, we should give our bodies and souls. He’s the one to Whom final allegiance is due. So, everybody, on this Easter day, rejoice because Jesus is Lord. Rejoice because our sins have been forgiven. Rejoice because we know who’s the king, and we have our mission.”
“At the climax of the forty days spent with the disciples after his resurrection, Jesus ascended bodily into heaven. Catholics have always understood this to be a literal, miraculous event. We believe it really happened—and as a Church we profess it every Sunday.
But the dogma also has its detractors. Some have made a mockery of the doctrine, likening the “flying” Jesus to an Apollo spacecraft, as was a common jest among atheists in the 60s and 70s. Others deny the possibility of the miraculous altogether. Still others, like Episcopalian theologian John Shelby Spong, read the ascension as non-literal and symbolic: “A modern person knows that if you rise up off the Earth (as in the ascension), you don’t go to heaven. You go into orbit.”
Considering such criticisms, how can Catholics defend the reality of Christ’s ascension?
One might sympathize with Spong’s objection above. After all, isn’t heaven supposed to be “beyond” the physical universe? It’s an interesting objection, one to which C.S. Lewis offered what I find to be a satisfying rebuttal. After His Resurrection, it may have been that Our Lord,
“…a being still in some mode, though not our mode, corporeal, withdrew at His own will from the Nature presented by our three dimensions and five senses, not necessarily into the non-sensuous and undimensioned but possibly into, or through, a world or worlds of super-sense and super-space. And He might choose to do it gradually. Who on earth knows what the spectators might see? If they say they saw a momentary movement along the vertical plane – then an indistinct mass – then nothing – who is to pronounce this improbable?”
So it may have been that Jesus, still in bodily form, chose to ascend not to the stars, but simply from the ground as the beginning of the super-physical journey to heaven. This still assumes, of course, that miracles are possible. But are they?
Miracles are by definition supernatural events; and science only examines natural phenomena. To make a definitive claim about whether miracles can occur, one must look beyond, for example, microscopes and rulers and ask if such events are possible on philosophical grounds. Perhaps you have heard some version of David Hume’s objection that a miracle is a violation of the laws of nature. The assumption is that God, if he existed, would have no right to create a supernatural effect in the natural world. But why not? The believer’s claim has consistently been that God is the First Cause of all physical reality. This means he is the creator and sustainer of the natural laws and the things they govern. He is the supreme Lawmaker.
It is absurd to charge him, then, with breaking his own “laws” since he is under no moral nor logical obligation to cause effects only via the normal physical causal relationships he himself upholds. As philosopher Alvin Plantinga has asked, why can’t we think of the laws of nature as descriptors of how God usually treats the matter he has created? And as we find that so many established theories end up being inadequate to explain all relevant phenomena, how can we say we even know with complete certainty what “the laws” are?
Another step in fortifying our defense of Christ’s ascension is to show that there are good reasons to believe in Jesus’ resurrection. If the possibility of Jesus’ resurrection may be rationally entertained, then so may be his ascension.
One of the most effective ways to make the case for the Resurrection is to use the minimal facts approach proposed originally by scholar Jürgen Habermas. This involves considering the historical facts accepted widely by all experts (most skeptics included), then demonstrating that the resurrection, rather than a natural explanation, is the best explanation for them. Such well-evidenced facts—what historian Mike Licona calls “historical bedrock”—include Jesus’ death by crucifixion, the reported appearances of the risen Christ, the empty tomb, and the sudden conversion of St. Paul, enemy and persecutor of the first Christians.
Another theory is that the disciples were hallucinating when they saw the resurrected Jesus. This hypothesis is plagued from the start by the fact that entire groups claimed to see Jesus at one time (1 Cor. 15:3-6). Group hallucinations are unlikely since people share neither brains nor minds. But even if mass hallucinations did occur, what could explain St. Paul’s conversion? What are the chances that he and Christ’s followers would hallucinate the same risen Jesus? The most tenable explanations for all these events involve a real person, Jesus, risen from the dead after his Crucifixion.
Could the account of the ascension itself be questionable? With St. Luke is our primary source, how can we trust that he is telling us history and not an allegory? John Shelby Spong finds this explanation most likely: “Luke never intended his writing to be understood literally. We have greatly misrepresented Luke’s genius by reading it literally.”
The problem with this reading is that Luke explicitly rejects its possibility. The evangelist clearly asserts in the prologue to his Gospel that his intention is to describe real history. Furthermore, when Luke describes the ascension there is no hint of embellishment, which is strange indeed if he did not intend it literally. In the gospel account he simply tells us that Jesus “parted from them and was carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:52). In Acts, he writes that Jesus “was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). Cold and clinical, like a serious historian interested only in the facts, Luke just tells us what happened—and that’s it. It is also notable that because the Gospel accounts were written only a few decades after Jesus’ crucifixion, there would have been eyewitnesses of Jesus still alive to correct or object to Luke’s account. But there is simply no record of such an objection.
Indeed, Luke’s Gospel and his Acts of the Apostles (which are “companion volumes”) have been touted by scholars of ancient history and archaeology as impressively accurate. The great archaeologist Sir William Ramsay famously acknowledged St. Luke as “a historian of the first rank.” More recent studies of Luke’s historical accuracy, such as that by classical scholar Colin Hemer, have further confirmed the deservedness of this high praise. Thus, when Luke describes Jesus’ bodily ascension into the heavens, we have many good reasons to believe that St. Luke was reporting real history, “a narrative of the things which have been accomplished . . . just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses” (Luke 1:1).”
That was all I could do, even though I wanted to rebut my debate opponent Dan Barker during his closing speech. Dan was once a Protestant pastor, but ever since his “de-conversion” in the 1980’s he has become a kind of preacher for atheism. In 2015 we debated whether or not God existed, and three years later we were on stage at Minnesota State University to debate a more specific question: “Does the Christian God exist?”
I thought the debate went well. I was able to neutralize Dan’s tactic of scattering dozens of difficult Bible verses in an effort to make the God of the Bible look like a moral monster. By the time we got to cross-examination, I was prepared to dive into one argument Dan had not addressed yet: my evidence for Jesus’ resurrection.
But instead of addressing the evidence I raised, Dan just went right back to the alleged atrocities of the Old Testament. It was only during his closing statement, which was the last speech of the night, that Dan addressed my arguments.
He claimed that what really happened after Good Friday was that the apostles believed Jesus’ spirit rose from the dead while his body still lay in the tomb. For them, that was enough to turn defeat into victory; yet modern Christians have misunderstood their theology ever since.
But how can that be true if . . . ?
…St. Paul Believed in a Bodily Resurrection
It’s bad form to bring up new arguments or objections in your closing statement because your opponent has no opportunity to respond to them. I was frustrated, but I held my tongue. I didn’t get the chance that night to rebut Dan’s “spiritual resurrection” hypothesis.
But now I do have the chance—so here’s what’s wrong with it.
First, the earliest testimony we have about the Resurrection comes from St. Paul’s letters, which describe Jesus undergoing a bodily resurrection from the dead. Dan tries to get around this fact by claiming that Paul used a Greek word for Jesus’ resurrection that only refers to spiritual resurrection. Specifically, egeiro, ἐγείρω, which just means “rise” or “wake up.” He does not use the word that means “resurrection” (anastasis (ἀνάστασις), anistemi, (ἀνίστημι) Barker also claims:
“It is perfectly consistent with Christian theology to think that the spirit of Jesus, not His body, was awakened from the grave, as Christians today believe that the spirit of Grandpa has gone to heaven while his body rots in the ground. In fact, just a few verses later Paul confirms this: ‘Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.’ The physical body is not important to Christian theology.”
Yet in Romans 1:4 Paul, says that Jesus was “designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by His resurrection [anastaseos, ἀναστάσεως] from the dead.” Contra Barker, Paul does describe Jesus rising from the dead with a form of the Greek word anastasis, (ἀνάστασις). Moreover, in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul uses egeiro (ἐγείρω), and anastasis, (ἀνάστασις) interchangeably when speaking about the relationship between our future resurrection from the dead and Christ’s resurrection. Paul writes:
“Now if Christ is preached as raised [egegertai, ἐγήγερται] from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection [anastasis, ἀνάστασις] of the dead? But if there is no resurrection [anastasis, ἀνάστασις] of the dead, then Christ has not been raised [egegertai, ἐγήγερται]. If Christ has not been raised [egegertai, ἐγήγερται], then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor. 15:12-14).
Paul’s argument is simple: if we don’t rise from the dead, then Christ didn’t rise from the dead. But since Christ did rise from the dead we can be confident that we too will rise from the dead.
What about to Barker’s citation of 1 Corinthians 15:50 (“Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God”) and Paul’s general use of the term “spiritual body”? Well, we have to remember what Paul was up against in Corinth.
Pauline scholar John Ziesler believes that Paul was trying to convince people that the resurrection of the dead is not a mere reanimation of one’s corpse. For Paul, the “spiritual body” in the Resurrection “seems to mean something like ‘outward form,’ or ‘embodiment’ or perhaps better ‘the way in which the person is conveyed and expressed’ . . . a resurrection of the whole person, involving embodiment but not physical embodiment.”
When Paul writes, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,” he is using a Semitism—a Jewish way of speaking—about the natural state of humanity apart from the grace of God. We can’t inherit the kingdom of God without being moved by God’s spirit.
However, that doesn’t mean that in this kingdom we will only be spirits. Spiritual, in this context, refers to a thing’s orientation as opposed to its substance. It’s like when we say the Bible is a “spiritual book” or when Paul writes, “The spiritual man judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one” (1 Cor. 2:15).
The subjects in these statements are not non-physical, ghostly apparitions but books and people ordered toward the will of God. As St. Augustine said, “As the Spirit, when it serves the flesh, is not improperly said to be carnal, so the flesh, when it serves the spirit, will rightly be called spiritual—not because it is changed into spirit, as some suppose who misinterpret the text.”
-Des Jesusbild des Altars der St.-Michaelis-Kirche in Hamburg, Deutschland (The Jesus picture of the altar of the Church of St. Michaelis in Hamburg, Germany). Please click on the image for greater detail.
“We should understand, beloved, that the paschal mystery is at once old and new, transitory and eternal, corruptible and incorruptible, mortal and immortal. In terms of the Law, it is old; in terms of the Word, it is new. In its figure it is passing, in its grace it is eternal. It is corruptible in the sacrifice of the lamb, incorruptible in the eternal life of the Lord. It is mortal in His burial in the earth, immortal in His resurrection from the dead.
The Law indeed is old, but the Word is new. The type is transitory, but grace is eternal. The lamb was corruptible, but the Lord is incorruptible. He was slain as a lamb; He rose again as God. He was led like a sheep to the slaughter [cf Isaiah 53:7], yet He was not a sheep. He was silent as a lamb [cf Isaiah 53:7], yet He was not a lamb. The type has passed away; the reality has come. The lamb gives place to God, the sheep gives place to a man, and the man is Christ, Who fills the whole of creation. The sacrifice of the lamb, the celebration of the Passover, and the prescriptions of the Law have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ [cf Matthew 5:17]. Under the old Law, and still more under the new dispensation, everything pointed toward Him.
Both the Law and the Word came forth from Zion and Jerusalem [cf Isaiah 2:3], but now the Law has given place to the Word, the old to the new. The commandment has become grace, the type a reality. The lamb has become a Son, the sheep a man, and man, God.
The Lord, though He was God, became man [cf Philippians 2:6-7]. He suffered for the sake of those who suffer, he was bound for those in bonds, condemned for the guilty, buried for those who lie in the grave; but He rose from the dead, and cried aloud: Who will contend with me? Let him confront me. I have freed the condemned, brought the dead back to life, raised men from their graves. Who has anything to say against me? I, He said, am the Christ; I have destroyed death, triumphed over the enemy, trampled hell underfoot, bound the strong one, and taken men up to the heights of heaven: I am the Christ.
Come, then, all you nations of men, receive forgiveness for the sins that defile you. I am your forgiveness. I am the Passover that brings salvation. I am the lamb Who was immolated for you. I am your ransom, your life, your resurrection, your light, I am your salvation and your king. I will bring you to the heights of heaven. With my own right hand I will raise you up, and I will show you the eternal Father.”
-From an Easter Homily by Melito of Sardis, Bishop, (d. 180 AD), found in the Second reading of the Office of Readings, Liturgy of the Hours, during the Octave of Easter.
“Jesus and the Walk to Emmaus”, by Gebhard Fugel (1863-1939), please click on the image for greater detail.
-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964
Presence of God – Do not leave me, O Jesus, gentle Pilgrim; I have need of You.
God has made us for Himself, and we cannot live without Him; we need Him, we hunger and thirst for Him; He is the only One who can satisfy our hearts. The Easter liturgy is impregnated with this longing for God, for Him who is from on high; it even makes it the distinctive sign of our participation in the Paschal mystery. “If you be risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God; mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2). The more the soul revives itself in the Resurrection of Christ, the more it feels the need of God and of heavenly truths; it detaches itself more and more from earthly things to turn toward those of heaven.
Just as physical hunger is an indication of a living, healthy organism, so spiritual hunger is a sign of a robust spirit, one that is active and continually developing. The soul which feels no hunger for God, no need to seek Him and to find Him, and which does not vibrate or suffer with anxiety in its search, does not bear within itself the signs of the Resurrection. It is a dead soul or at least one which has been weakened and rendered insensible by lukewarmness. The Paschal alleluia is a cry of triumph at Christ’s Resurrection, but at the same time, it is an urgent invitation for us to rise also. Like the sound of reveille, it calls us to the battles of the spirit and invites us to rouse and renew ourselves, to participate ever more profoundly in Christ’s Resurrection. Who can say, however advanced he may be in the ways of the spirit, that he has wholly attained to his resurrection?
“O my hope, my Father, my Creator, true God and Brother, when I think of what You said—that Your delights are to be with the children of men—my soul rejoices greatly. O Lord of heaven and earth, how can any sinner, after hearing such words, still despair? Do You lack souls in whom to delight, Lord, that You seek so unsavory a worm as I?… O what exceeding mercy! What favor far beyond our deserving!
“Rejoice, O my soul … and since the Lord finds His delights in you, may all things on earth not suffice to make you cease to delight in Him and rejoice in the greatness of your God.
“I desire neither the world, nor anything that is worldly; and, nothing seems to give me pleasure but You; everything else seems to me a heavy cross.
“O my God, I am afraid, and with good reason, that You may forsake me; for I know well how little my strength and insufficiency of virtue can achieve, if You are not always granting me Your grace and helping me not to forsake You. It seems to me, my Lord, that it would be impossible for me to leave You…. But as I have done it so many times I cannot but fear, for when You withdraw but a little from me I fall utterly to the ground. But blessed may You be forever, O Lord! For though I have forsaken You, You have not so completely forsaken me as not to raise me up again by continually giving me Your hand…. Remember my great misery, O Lord, and look upon my weakness, since You know all things” (Teresa of Jesus, Exclamations of the Soul to God, 7 – Life, 6).
Brothers and sisters:
Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough?
Clear out the old yeast,
so that you may become a fresh batch of dough,
inasmuch as you are unleavened.
For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed.
Therefore, let us celebrate the feast,
not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness,
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
“Christ’s eucharistic presence is entombed within us, that by its power we too may rise to new life.
When we go to the early Fathers of the Church to understand the sense of the great mysteries of faith we are celebrating at Easter, we are apt to be surprised. This is especially true if we go to the Fathers of the Syrian tradition, which represents the most ancient and authoritative approach to Sacred Scripture that we have.
Take, for example, the Scripture lesson given above, which is the classic epistle reading in the Roman Rite. How are we to understand all this talk of the leavening yeast being full of the corruption of malice and wickedness and our feast being made of the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth? Especially since it tells us that Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed and therefore we celebrate the feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
I never understood this “therefore” of St. Paul’s until I read St. Ephrem the Syrian’s commentary on the Gospels.
In speaking of the Last Supper, St. Ephrem counts the three days of Our Lord in the tomb as beginning when He, having been sacrificed in the eucharistic supper by the separation of His body and blood, is “buried” in the earth—that is, in man who is made of the slime of the earth, and in Holy Communion, and in remaining hidden in His members who have received the sacrament as He undergoes His passion and burial; in the following days He rises from the dead through this eucharistic presence and appears again, not under signs, but in His visible, palpable body!
This explains why the Catechism of the Catholic Church sees in the altar of our churches a symbol of the tomb. The Eucharist, which is meant to be “entombed” in our bodies after being sacrificed, gives us the sure power of the Resurrection promised by the Lord in the sixth chapter of St. John’s Gospel.
This sacrificed bread of life is the fresh new bread, free of the malice of sin, pure and uncorrupted by its fermenting leaven. And it forms in us a new power, the very promise of our own resurrection because we have fed on the sacrificed and risen Lord!
The realism of the Eucharist extends not only to the “real presence” but also has real effects in our flesh and blood, which we will experience because we have fed on the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth, even the Blessed Sacrament of the altar.
In this sad time, when so many are deprived of the Holy Communion, we can reflect on the power of this sacrifice and sacrament. Perhaps we are being deprived because we had forgotten the great power and dignity and love that the Eucharist contains, and need to begin to receive this gift with purity, free from malice and wickedness, ready for the risen life of Christ.
May He count our desire to receive Him now as the channel of His grace and the pledge of our future resurrection!”
-by Cale Clark, Cale’s two most amazing discoveries in life have been that Jesus Christ would forgive him, and that Patricia would marry him. In 2004, Cale returned to the Catholic Church, which was founded by Jesus Christ, after spending ten years in Evangelical Protestantism, with much of that time spent in pastoral ministry.
“Anyone who has read the Gospels in a more than cursory manner has come across what appear to be contradictions between them as they report the words and deeds of Jesus of Nazareth. This is no less true when we consider how they describe the most important event of all: the resurrection of Christ. If this event is not historical, says St. Paul, “our preaching is in vain, and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor. 15:14).
Speaking of St. Paul: before we consider apparent contradictions in the Gospels’ Easter accounts, we must remember that the Gospels are not our earliest written accounts of Jesus’ resurrection: those would be the letters of Paul. Even if the Gospels had never been composed, there would still be plausible literary testimony of the event, evidence with which a skeptic must deal. 1 Corinthians 15, which discusses the Resurrection, was written as early as A.D. 53, most likely prior to the publishing of at least some of the Gospels. What’s more, this chapter contains an even earlier ancient “creed” of sorts, crystallizing Easter faith in just a few lines (1 Cor. 15:3–7).
Even though the Gospels are not our earliest or only written sources on Easter, discrepancies in how they report resurrection phenomena have caused many to call into question their historical authenticity.
The empty tomb accounts
In Mark (which the majority of biblical scholars contend was the first Gospel composed), when the women disciples of Jesus arrive at the tomb early on Easter Sunday, the stone has already been rolled away. A “young man” in dazzling raiment (in all likelihood an angel) is inside the tomb. In Luke’s account, two men are inside. Matthew’s account has Mary Magdalene and another Mary arriving at a still-sealed tomb, but an earthquake suddenly occurs, whereupon an angel descends and rolls back the heavy stone. Three Gospels, and seemingly three different accounts.
Mark, Matthew, and Luke also give us slightly different lists of exactly which women were present. Mark has these women respond in fear, and states that they said nothing about this to anyone. In Matthew’s account, the two women meet Jesus on their way to inform the disciples of the Easter news. Luke does not say they ran into Jesus but rather that they immediately told the disciples, who didn’t buy their story. Same Gospels, and again, the accounts seem to differ.
So, why the differences?
As much as we might want the Gospels to conform to our modern conventions of history writing, they don’t read like contemporary police reports. But that doesn’t mean they don’t contain reliable accounts. In fact, they are perfectly consonant with how the ancients recorded history. The key is to understand the literary conventions of the time, which was the mid-first century A.D. , and how the Gospels fit that mold.
Scholars like Michael Licona have noted that the genre of ancient literature that the Gospels most closely resemble is that of Greco-Roman biography. In reporting the speeches and activities of famous figures, writers utilized techniques in recording history that were perfectly acceptable at the time, such as compression (truncating longer speeches for the sake of brevity). The Gospel writers did this as well: they report that Jesus held crowds spellbound for hours with his preaching, yet his recorded sermons can be read in minutes.
Also, events were moved around in a narrative for thematic reasons. For example, did Jesus “cleanse” the temple at the beginning of his public ministry (John 2:13-22), or toward the end, as in the synoptics (Matthew, Mark, and Luke)? Or did he do it twice? In all likelihood, Jesus’ action at the temple occurred toward the end of his life, enraging the authorities and precipitating his arrest, but John places it at the beginning of his Gospel for symbolic reasons.
A culture of storytelling by memory
We also need to consider the way students (disciples) were taught in the Jewish tradition. Theirs was a culture of memorization. Scholar Craig Keener reports that students in Jesus’ day were capable of memorizing prodigious amounts of speeches and sacred texts. Even so, Jesus’ disciples were not expected to “parrot” his teachings, repeating them verbatim. In fact, if they had, they would have been considered poor students. Jesus himself probably gave different versions of the same basic “talk” as he preached in various settings. One example could be the similarities between the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew 5-7 and the “Sermon on the Plain” in Luke 6:17-49.
Having a proper understanding of Jesus’ message was the key, which was proven by an ability to accurately re-present the essence—or the “gist”—of Jesus’ teachings in a way that would be relevant to one’s audience and its particular needs. The one thing disciples were most assuredly not allowed to do was to invent sayings or deeds of Jesus.
Evaluating the differences
Now let’s apply all of this to the synoptic Gospel accounts of the first Easter. Even though there is variance in secondary details (how many angels were at the tomb, for example), the basic message is the same: Jesus’ tomb was found to be empty of him early on Sunday morning, and the resurrected Christ later appeared to various disciples over a period of time.
What might be some reasons for these varying secondary details?
Ironically, the fact that these accounts are not in verbatim agreement actually enhances the probability that they are historical. Each Evangelist is making use of different sources of eyewitness testimony when composing his Gospel. The Evangelists didn’t “cut and paste” a prefabricated Easter account into their respective Gospels.
There are also literary or thematic reasons for the differences. In Mark’s Gospel, as noted above, the women react fearfully. Fear —even terror—in the presence of the divine is a constant Markan motif. When it comes to describing the most stupendous of all miracles—Jesus’ resurrection—Mark’s not about to change his style.
What of the variances in the lists of women who may or may not have been present? It’s reasonable that they all were present but that each evangelist is highlighting the names of those who may have been personally known or particularly important to his readers. The fact that some women were the first to encounter the empty tomb and the risen Jesus is what’s important here —and this is not something that the Gospel writers would have been eager to admit were it not the case.
The testimony of women in the first-century Jewish world was not considered reliable in a court of law. If one’s goal at this time was to convince readers that Jesus was the promised Messiah, and one made up a story about his being raised from the dead, one certainly wouldn’t present women as the first to discover the empty tomb and meet the resurrected Jesus —unless that’s what actually happened, as embarrassing as this might be in that particular cultural context.
All in all, when the Gospels are held up to the standards of first-century Greco-Roman historical writing, and to the standards of Jewish transmission of rabbinical teaching common to the period, they hold up quite well indeed. This is no less true when one considers their accounts of the (literally) earth-shaking events of the first Easter.”
-by Mark A. McNeil, a former Oneness Pentecostal, was received into the Catholic Church in 1999.
”There are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (Matt. 16:28)(1). It is not uncommon to hear atheists use this verse to charge that Jesus was obviously a failed prophet. One atheist, for instance, wrote, “Clearly, this did not happen, so either Jesus lied or he never made that promise.”
[Ed. I am always never surprised how skeptics take literally the parts of Scripture which suit their skeptical agenda, but never others.]
Perhaps more reflection on the meaning of Christ’s “coming” will be of both apologetic and spiritual value. What does it mean for God’s kingdom to come? Have Jesus’ predictions of His coming failed?
As a general rule of thumb, when someone sets up an either/or scenario, observers should be wary. The limitation of options offered in the atheist’s quote above, especially when considering apocalyptic expressions in the Old and New Testaments, is entirely arbitrary. Immediately following Matthew 16:28 is the story of the Transfiguration (17:1-8), an incredible vision in which Peter, James, and John did in fact see Christ in His divine form, and thus partake in a vision of God’s kingdom in this world.
Still, it is worthwhile to meditate on the question: How does God’s kingdom come? Technically, God doesn’t come or go anywhere (Ps. 139:7-10). God is the creator and sustainer of all time and space—nothing escapes His presence since, if it did, it would not exist. As St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “Indeed, by the very fact that He gives being to the things that fill every place, He Himself fills every place.” (Summa Theologicae I.8.2).
So, if God doesn’t come or go anywhere, why does the Bible speak so frequently of His kingdom “coming”?
The Bible tells us about God and His actions in ways that we can understand. References to God’s eyes and ears, for instance, affirm that nothing is outside His awareness (e.g., Prov. 15:3, Ps. 116:2). But God doesn’t know things because light or sound waves enter physical organs. God “hears” and “sees” in a way that is appropriate to His infinite, spiritual mode of being. Since we can’t fully understand that, God speaks to us about Himself in terms that we can understand.
God’s coming means, first of all, that His presence becomes noticeably manifest. God may come to His people, for instance, through a prophet, a special event, miracle, or other means. The language of His coming, along with the dramatic and even shocking imagery that we often associate with John’s Apocalypse (Revelation, the final book of Scripture) is typical in the Hebrew prophets.
Jesus, continuing and deepening the Old Testament descriptions, spoke of the coming of God’s kingdom in various ways. Matthew sees Jesus’ birth in Micah’s prophetic words about a ruler Who will come from Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). John the Baptist anticipated Jesus’ ministry: “He Who is coming after me is mightier than I,” using striking apocalyptic language to speak of His purifying ministry: “the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 2:6, 3:11-12).
Shortly before His betrayal and passion, Jesus consoled his disciples with the words: “I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you” (John 14:18). Although for “a little while, the world will not see” Jesus, his disciples will see him. These words point to Christ’s resurrection as a coming that will reveal his abiding presence with them. This coming also points to another major topic of Jesus’ final discourse with his disciples: the coming of the Holy Spirit (e.g., John 14:26). In more than one place, the Apostle Paul is drawn to speak of our transformation into God’s children through Christ as a response to God sending “the Spirit of His Son into our hearts” (Gal. 4:5-6, Rom. 8:1-11).
Before his Ascension, Jesus was asked if the time had arrived for the kingdom to be restored to Israel, a widespread Jewish hope in the first century. Jesus consistently directed attention away from speculation about the time when particular aspects of God’s plan would unfold. “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father has fixed with his own authority” (Acts 1:7). Instead, He directed attention to the imminent coming of the Holy Spirit that would lead to the Gospel’s advance throughout the world (Acts 1:8).
Perhaps all of this is not dramatic enough for our critics. What would a dramatic “coming” of God’s kingdom look like, anyway? It may seem foolish to those who are looking for flashing lights and great heavenly fireworks, but God seems to prefer to show the greatest demonstrations of His power within the realm of the human spirit. A fragile baby in a manger, riding a donkey into Jerusalem, suffering on a cross, and choosing uneducated fishermen are, from a certain point of view, anti-climactic. Yet, in another very important sense, they touch a deep nerve in our hearts. They reveal the striking truth that the God of the universe cares about us to the point that little things become displays of divine power and glory. A baby in a manger causes the heavenly host to burst into praise. Don’t these humble manifestations of divine power resemble Jesus’ choice of images when He speaks of God’s kingdom (e.g., mustard seed, measures of meal in dough, a lost sheep)?
So, what are we to make of the charge that Jesus’ promise “failed”—that His kingdom did not arrive on schedule, before that first generation of witnesses had passed? It is unpersuasive since it fails to see Jesus’ words both in their immediate context as well as the larger context of the biblical teachings regarding the manifold ways in which God’s kingdom comes to us now and in the future. We certainly anticipate the future Second Advent of Christ in all His glory but, like many in the first century, skeptics continue to miss the message of the Transfiguration: the kingdom of God is first and foremost embodied in Jesus. “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed…behold the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:21).”
Love, and trembling in holy fear,
(1) NABRE (New American Bible Revised Edition) footnote: Mt 16:28, “coming in His kingdom”: since the kingdom of the Son of Man has been described as “the world” and Jesus’ sovereignty precedes His final coming in glory (Mt 13:38, 41), the coming in this verse is not the parousia as in the preceding but the manifestation of Jesus’ rule after His resurrection(/the establishment of Church/Pentecost, in this sense of coming); see notes on Mt 13:38, 41.
The Bible says that if Jesus did not rise from the dead then the Christian faith is worthless (1 Cor. 15:17). However, if Jesus did rise from the dead then we know Jesus can keep His promise to give everyone who follows Him eternal life (1 John 2:25).
But how can we know that Jesus really rose from the dead and that the Bible’s description of this miracle wasn’t just a story someone made up?
One way is by showing that the Resurrection is the only explanation for the events surrounding Jesus’ death, events that almost everyone, including skeptics, agrees are historical.
As we examine some of the various theories put forward to explain these facts, you will see that only one theory explains 1) Jesus’ death by Crucifixion; 2) his empty tomb; 3) the post-Crucifixion appearances to the disciples; and 4) the disciples’ willingness to die for their faith: the theory that Jesus actually rose from the dead.
The Swoon Theory
One way to explain these facts would be to posit that Jesus never really died. Maybe he just passed out on the cross and woke up in a tomb. Jesus then met up with the disciples who mistakenly thought he’d risen from the dead. But even if Jesus somehow survived the Crucifixion, the apostles would never have thought he’d miraculously risen from the dead. Upon seeing his bloody, mutilated body, they would have thought Jesus had cheated death, not beaten it, and quickly gotten him medical treatment.
The Trash Theory
How do we know Jesus wasn’t just thrown into an anonymous grave and was forgotten until the disciples imagined they saw him alive again?
Deuteronomy 21:22-23 prohibited the Jewish people from leaving a criminal hanging on a tree, so Jesus would have to have been buried immediately after he died on the cross.
The Gospels say Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the council that condemned Jesus to death, buried him (though John 3:1-2 tells us Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but in secret, out of fear of the other Jewish leaders). If the Gospel writers had invented the story of Jesus being buried in a tomb, they would have given their leader an honorable burial at the hands of his friends and family.
This means we have good historical evidence that after the Crucifixion Jesus’ body was placed in an identifiable tomb and simply didn’t vanish in a common graveyard.
The Hallucination Theory
Most historians agree the disciples thought they saw the risen Jesus. The story of Jesus appearing to them was not a legend that developed centuries later but was recorded by the apostle Paul (1 Cor. 15:3-7). It is almost universally recognized among historians that Paul existed, we have the letters he wrote, and Paul knew the people who claimed to have seen the risen Jesus (Gal. 1:18-19). But could those experiences have just been hallucinations brought on by the terrible grief these men endured after Jesus was executed?
First, it is individuals, not groups, who almost always experience hallucinations. Multiple biblical authors confirm that groups of Jesus’ disciples claimed to see him after his death (Luke 24:36-49, 1 Cor. 15:5-6). As psychologist Gary Collins writes, “By their very nature only one person can see a given hallucination at a time. They certainly aren’t something which can be seen by a group of people.”
Second, the theory that Jesus’ depressed disciples hallucinated his Resurrection doesn’t explain why enemies of the Church came to believe in the Resurrection. The most famous example would be St. Paul, who was a Jewish leader who persecuted the Church until an encounter with the risen Christ moved him to join the “Jewish heresy” he had been persecuting. The best explanation for such a sudden conversion is that Paul had a real encounter with the risen Christ.
The Empty Tomb
We’ve already seen that it is historically certain Jesus was buried in a locatable tomb. The Gospels tell us that on the Sunday after the Resurrection a group of women discovered the tomb was empty. But why should we believe Jesus’ tomb was empty and that the authors of the Gospels didn’t make this up?
First, the disciples preached the empty tomb in the city of Jerusalem. If the tomb were not empty, enemies of the early Church could easily have taken the body out of the tomb and proven Jesus did not rise from the dead.
Second, the earliest enemies of the Church agreed that Jesus’ tomb was empty. Matthew’s Gospel says the Jewish leaders of his day (about forty to fifty years after the Crucifixion) believed Jesus’ body was stolen from the tomb (Matt. 28:11-15). The second-century Christian writer St. Justin Martyr also says that the Jews of his time believed Jesus’ body was stolen.
Finally, the Gospels include the testimony of women discovering the tomb. In Jesus’ time a woman’s testimony was considered to be as reliable as that of a child or a criminal. If the Gospel authors had invented the story about Jesus’ tomb being found empty, they would have used trustworthy characters like Peter or John. The embarrassing detail about women discovering the empty tomb was included in the story simply because that’s what really happened.
The Fraud Theory
Is it possible the disciples stole Jesus’ body and then told people their Messiah had risen from the dead? It’s not impossible, but this theory seems extremely unlikely.
Moreover, fraud is normally committed for personal gain; the only thing the disciples had to gain from their fraud was persecution and death. Since people don’t knowingly die for a lie, we can be confident Jesus’ disciples really believed in the Resurrection they preached to others.
There is no chance they were all deceived or that they all chose to die painful deaths in order to deceive others. What’s more likely is that Jesus’ Resurrection really happened and gave them the courage to share this good news in the face of persecution. They knew that even if they were to die through Christ they would live forever. We too can have eternal life if we trust in God’s promises and choose to be baptized into the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (Rom. 6:3-5).
Why We Believe: The Resurrection
Even skeptics admit that Jesus was crucified, buried, his tomb was found empty, his disciples saw him after his death, and they were willing to die for that truth.
Other explanations, like hallucination or fraud, only explain some of these facts. The most plausible explanation for all these facts is that Jesus really did rise from the dead.
Love & Easter joy,
Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "“Si comprehendus, non est Deus.” -St Augustine, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "And above all, be on your guard not to want to get anything done by force, because God has given free will to everyone and wants to force no one, but only proposes, invites and counsels." –St. Angela Merici, “Yet such are the pity and compassion of this Lord of ours, so desirous is He that we should seek Him and enjoy His company, that in one way or another He never ceases calling us to Him . . . God here speaks to souls through words uttered by pious people, by sermons or good books, and in many other such ways.” —St. Teresa of Avila, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "We cannot always have access to a spiritual Father for counsel in our actions and in our doubts, but reading will abundantly supply his place by giving us directions to escape the illusions of the devil and of our own self-love, and at the same time to submit to the divine will.” —St. Alphonsus Ligouri, "The harm that comes to souls from the lack of reading holy books makes me shudder . . . What power spiritual reading has to lead to a change of course, and to make even worldly people enter into the way of perfection." –St. Padre Pio, "Screens may grab our attention, but books change our lives!" – Word on Fire, "Reading has made many saints!" -St Josemaría Escrivá, "Do you pray? You speak to the Bridegroom. Do you read? He speaks to you." —St. Jerome, from his Letter 22 to Eustochium, "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, "God here speaks to souls through…good books“ – St Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle, "You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine, "Without good books and spiritual reading, it will be morally impossible to save our souls." —St. Alphonsus Liguori "Never read books you aren't sure about. . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?" -St. John Bosco " To teach in order to lead others to faith is the task of every preacher and of each believer." —St. Thomas Aquinas, OP. "Prayer purifies us, reading instructs us. Both are good when both are possible. Otherwise, prayer is better than reading." –St. Isidore of Seville “The aid of spiritual books is for you a necessity.… You, who are in the midst of battle, must protect yourself with the buckler of holy thoughts drawn from good books.” -St. John Chrysostom