The Resurrection: A Demand to Witness

The Incredulity of St Thomas (detail) by Rembrandt


“Once death is proved futile, life can never be the same.” 


My spiritual reading during this Easter season gave me a good reminder last week: “The Resurrection of our Lord constitutes a call to apostolate until the end of time. Every one of his appearances ends with an apostolic command” (Father Francis Fernandez, In Conversation with God).

Too often, we take the Resurrection for granted. In fact, we begin to treat it as a nice story or image rather than a radical history-altering event. Reading through Acts of the Apostles makes it clear – the disciples were changed forever after witnessing the Resurrection of Christ. Why? Because life can never be the same once death is proven futile.

When the risen Christ appears to someone, be it Mary Magdalene or the Apostles, He gives them the command to tell people. Gone is the “Messianic secret,” when He told people to keep his identity quiet. Now he tells them to spread the word. He commands them to teach and preach. He reminds the Apostles, “You are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:48). They are witnesses of real, solid events in history that changed life forever. Father Fernandez points out, “What they preach and bear testimony to are not mere speculations but salvific facts which they themselves have witnessed.”

A Scripture scholar and former priest once infamously said that if we found the bones of Jesus Christ, his faith would not be destroyed. I hope that makes you scratch your head. If we found the bones of Jesus, I would no longer be Christian.

The Resurrection of Christ isn’t simply a theory we hold, or even just another tenet of the Creed we pray. It has serious implications in our own lives. In fact, it’s the hinge of Christianity. Besides the Incarnation, it is the most important event in human history. If it didn’t happen, all of this is ridiculous. Why are we here? Why are we doing all of this?

Jesus Christ rose from the dead Easter morning.  This is not simply a nice image or turn of phrase, nor was his resurrection simply some sort of spiritual experience of his followers.  Jesus came back to life after being dead. We know he was dead from the testimony of John, an eyewitness (Jn 19:35).  People don’t survive having their heart pierced with a lance and blood and water flowing out.

He came back to life – not as some sort of ghost (although his resurrected body did possess things like subtlety, agility, and clarity that our non-resurrected bodies clearly don’t possess) but with a real body, still marked by the wounds of His Passion. He ate in front of the Apostles (Luke 24:41) and allowed Thomas to touch his flesh (Jn 20:27).

Why is this important? Because if Jesus Christ didn’t rise from the dead, none of this matters.

As Paul reminds us: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied.” (I Cor 15:17-19) If he wasn’t raised from the dead, why do we follow him? Why did the Apostles risk their lives to teach about Him – to witness to Him?

There are some people today who believe Christ was simply a nice social reformer, a good philosopher, someone who told us to do good and avoid evil. (And even if they don’t admit they believe that, they show it with the way they live their lives.) But that’s impossible. There’s a famous quote by C.S. Lewis about our options looking at the person of Christ. Can he be a nice social reformer? Just simply a good philosopher?

CS Lewis didn’t think so.  “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” (Mere Christianity)

We must make the choice. We can’t remain on the fence. Either we believe Christ meant what he said – in which case, He is God, He rose from the dead, and we will rise from the dead – or he was insane. He was an egotistical madman who was crucified by the Romans.

I hope most of you will come down on the side of Christ being Lord. That he meant what he said when he said things like “The Father and I are one,” and “I AM” and that we can believe the Gospels when they speak of the bodily resurrection.

And if we believe this, it must impact our lives. We must live differently. You are called to be a witness. You have seen what He has done in your life and the lives of others. Are we willing to proclaim it? Are we willing to teach and preach what He has entrusted to us? The Resurrection must impact our lives. We must take these salvific facts and make sure they are known by the world. Once death is proved futile, life can never be the same.


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About the Author

Joannie Watson

Joan Watson was born and raised in Lafayette, Indiana, but college and graduate school took her to Virginia, Ohio, and Rome. After graduating from Christendom College with a B.A. in History and Franciscan University with a M.A. in Theology, she moved to Nashville, Tennessee to be part of the explosion of Catholic culture in the middle of the Bible Belt.

She has been blessed to work for Dr. Scott Hahn at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia at Aquinas College. She is presently the Director of Adult Formation for the Diocese of Nashville. She also serves as the Associate Editor of Integrated Catholic Life.

When she’s not testing the culinary exploits of new restaurants or catching up on the latest BBC miniseries, she’s FaceTiming with her eight nephews and nieces and enjoying her role as coolest aunt. She likes gelato, bourbon, and the color orange.

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