In the last installment, we looked specifically at the suffering and death of Jesus within the whole of His work of redeeming us from sin. That Jesus freely accepted suffering and death was both a great act of love and the offering of a perfect sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins.
In the initial moment of His death, it likely appeared to many witnesses that Jesus’s message and identification of self as the Messiah were false. However, as He himself said during His public life that He would be handed over and put to death, having come into the world to offer His life as a ransom for many, death would not have the last word – as He also spoke of being raised up to new life. Accordingly, our faith in Jesus’ sacrificial death is not complete without considering that He was raised from the dead.
After His death, we know from the Scriptures that Jesus was placed in a nearby tomb – one belonging to Joseph of Arimathea (See Matthew 27:57-60). That Jesus had died and was buried has the significance of expressing that He
fully underwent death – thus being united to all of humanity even in death. Like those who had already died before Him, Jesus descended to “hell,” or the “underworld” where those who had already died would remain while heaven’s gates were still closed due to sin. By His descent into hell, Jesus will thus become the “firstborn of the dead,” opening up the gates of heaven for those who are just and who in the future ages will believe in Him and be baptized into Him.
Having died and dwelled among the dead, it was on the third day (and the first day of the new week) that Jesus was raised from the dead. The Gospels give testimony to the empty tomb and to Jesus risen and appearing to various persons, beginning with Mary Magdalene. It is of essential truth in our faith that we acknowledge the bodily resurrection of Jesus. His being raised up in the body and its implications are well established in the Gospels, even though there is no account of seeing the actual event of Jesus awaking and rising from the dead. Among the implications of the resurrection is that Jesus is visibly alive in full bodily form and not as a ghost; that He bears the wounds incurred in His being crucified; and that His body is made glorious such that He is not limited in space and time. Furthermore, the unity of his divinity and humanity remain in His resurrection – pointing toward our own resurrection in the body in the fullness of the union of body and soul.
The resurrection of Jesus, then, brings about the victory over sin and death – as death could not hold one who was without sin. Consequently, the power of Jesus over sin and death establishes that sin no longer need to hold us bound – but through Jesus Christ forgiveness of sin is made available and the victory over death is given to those who accept His saving grace. Presently, this victory means that you and I can receive forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ (which above all takes place in our baptism and in confession) while also being gifted with the new life of God’s grace (that is, His life dwelling within us) to lead us to eternal life. This gift and mystery of new life and the sharing in eternal life are yet to be fully fulfilled. Next time, we will explore Jesus’ ascending to heaven and consider His yet to be fulfilled glorious return to earth – wherein these mysteries are brought to greater completion.
For further reading: In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 631-658 offer explanation of Jesus’ being dead and his rising from the dead.