What If there were no Resurrection?

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If you’re getting tired of Resurrection homilies, you’re out of luck. The Easter season celebrating the Lord’s dying and rising is the Church’s longest, stretching 53 days from the evening of Holy Thursday to Pentecost Sunday on May 24. That’s seven weeks and four days of remembering and reflecting on the core Christian message that God became man, suffered, died, and rose from the dead for the salvation of humankind.

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No surprises that even the devout might stifle a yawn or two at mass homilies. After all, outside of ninetysomethings or the lethally and incurably ill, the Resurrection thing may not seem real or urgent. No one walking about the planet has gone through it, and only those checking out of this world soon entertain wishful thoughts of life after checkout.

Still, there’s nothing like taking away something to see its true value. So imagine if there were no Resurrection. If Jesus just stayed buried. If Mary Magdalene and her two fellow women disciples also named Mary went to the tomb the day after the Sabbath, and found his body still guarded by soldiers, as lifeless as it was coming down from the cross. If the whole ending of the Gospel accounts were just one big lie.

Well, to quote Saint Paul writing to the Corinthians (1 Cor 14: 17-19), “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

Christianity minus Christ Risen
Okay, so Christianity turns out to be a millennia-old hoax. At least the Resurrection part. But even without Christ coming back from the dead, the faith is not totally in vain, is it? Surely, even if he did not rise, the life and teachings of Jesus still offer immense lessons for life and society.

The Golden Rule would still be valid; indeed, other great spiritual and philosophical sages like Confucius taught their versions of doing to others what you want others to do unto you.

Similarly, Jesus’s call for mercy and compassion, which echoes the Psalms and other Jewish writings, remains an indispensable tenet in addressing life’s inequalities and ills by having the fortunate help the less so, and people forgiving inevitable transgressions done by others, rather than punishing every failing.

As for Jesus’s other-worldly spirituality rejecting the lures of this world to give all to God, even one’s life, such total devotion to some outside greatness is not unlike the self-sacrificing commitment of great men and women, including countless atheists through the ages, to lofty ideals of service, knowledge, freedom, justice, artistry, mysticism, and other fields of human achievement.

And even if their faith proves false, the immense legacy of Christians through the centuries remains a towering pillar of human civilization, from the preservation and cultivation of learning during the Dark Ages in Europe, to the ideals of dignity and liberty, and the social reforms addressing oppression, injustice, slavery, inequality, poverty, and even environmental abuse.

Why the Resurrection matters
So what great loss is there in stopping the Gospel story on Good Friday, not Easter Sunday? Well, in a word, God.

If the Father did not raise His Son body and soul three days after Jesus’s death, then the Latter is just another man, gifted with great spiritual insight, but with no special relationship with God and certainly not partaking of His divinity.

Jesus would not be the Emmanuel (“God with us”) foretold in the Annunciation, not the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity in Christian doctrine, and not the Savior of the World lifting creation to the holiness and divinity of the Creator.

Loyola Heights parish priest Fr. Dennis Soriano, reflecting on the Gospel of Saint Mark during the evangelist’s feast yesterday, said Jesus was a deep mystery even to his Apostles, who never understood who He really was all His life till His death. Many hoped He was the messiah who would restore Israel to worldly power and dominance. But the cross proved that belief false.

Then came the empty tomb, and everything was clear as day.

The Resurrection shed a dazzling divine brilliance on Jesus’s words and actions and the events of His life. The angel’s message to Mary about His virgin birth, the Youth who told His mother, distraught after three days of searching for him, that He was about His Father’s business, the heavenly praise at His baptism by John, the Transfiguration, His dying words on the cross — all that suddenly took on an unimaginable new meaning.

So did Jesus’s discourses about the Bread of Life, the Kingdom of God, rebuilding the temple in three days, rebirth in the Spirit, and Himself as the Way, the Truth and the Life. Plus all those parables about the king’s banquet, the wedding virgins, the landowner and his tenants, the mustard seed, the lost coin, and the Good Shepherd.

And the most wonderful and awesome of truths made crystal clear by the Resurrection, expounded in the First Epistle of St. John (1 John 4:9-10): “God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

Take away the Resurrection, and also gone would be the Almighty Who has done and will do everything to save us and uplift all creation to His divine perfection, even sacrificing His only begotten Son.

But believe in the Risen Christ, and we know that despite all our excruciating pains, impossible challenges, and even seemingly irreversible death, our loving Father shall bring us final triumph and new life as He did His Son. Amen.

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7 Comments

  1. Every time I see metro Manila slums and squatters and people living under bridges, and the old and very young kids begging for food money my suspicion is always affirmed that there is NO
    god .

  2. Mahirap kapag ang maraming tao ay gumagawa ng kanyang sariling pagkaunawa at ito ang iyong ipapangaral sa tao!hindi yata nakakatulong ito!
    Ressurection ito ay pagpapatunay sa lahat na totoong may pagkabuhay muli at ito ang patunay na si cristo ay muling binuhay ng dios!
    Ang problema si cristo ay dios na naging tao!anong lohika na buhayin niya ang patay niyang katawan!at anong lohika na si cristo ay tumatawag at nananalangin sa dios kung siya ang dios!
    Paano siya magiging taga pamagitan sa dios at sa tao!
    Mahirap ba talagang unawain kung sino talaga ang tunay na dios at bakit may resurrection?
    Kaya ang mundo ay sinasalot!

  3. Just as the witnessing of the other Apostles to Jesus resurrection was not enough for Thomas, so it is the same with us. It not that it is what we want, but it is just we can’t. How far would intellectual means can move us to totally believe? If twe rely only on the cogent explanation of event in the life of Christ can we really believe? Like Thomas, we long to touch the wounds of his hands, to put our fingers to his side for us to fully declare, “My Lord, and My God”. For His wounds heal our unbelief.

    Just like Mary we recognize him in our mind , “Rabboni, but Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father.” We too want to touch him. Is Jesus also saying the same thing to us?

    The need to touch, to feel, to experience is a need in our Christian life. That without, we just cannot be satisfied with words alone.

  4. Moses did not know and would not have believed in the Resurrection. Moses did not know Jesus (or maybe he did via time-travel). But the question remains — Moses who did not know Jesus…. would Cardinal Tagle say that Moses did not know God?

  5. Thanks for your article; the title alone is stunning. However, Paul’s thrust in answer to the question according to the passage that you quoted (which btw is from 1 Cor 15, a minor matter) is that without resurrection “we are of all people most to be pitied.” (This in spite of all good teachings Jesus and the early church fathers left us with.) In fact, later on in the chapter, Paul practically advised believers to abandon their faith, that is if there is no resurrection. Quoting from a philosopher of that time, “Let us all just eat, drink, and be merry before we die.” (please forgive me if my quotation is wrong, I can’t open the light in the wee hours of the morning to read my bible.)
    To continue with Paul’s argument, and this I believe is the thrust of the NT, without the resurrection, we only have good advice, not the good news. And if it is only good advice, the rich, the famous, those in power, the oppressor, will just continue to rule and own this earth. And this is why I believe and thank God for the resurrection for it tells us that God will put all things to right. And this is why I try as much as possible to follow the writings of people like you who hunger and thirst for righteousness, who reminds people of the virtue of fairness, and who calls those in power to task (never mind if they are listening). You see, it is writers like you who reminds us that there is resurrection. God bless you.

  6. I can still recall the words of one of those personalities involved in the Watergate scandal that brought President Nixon down and why he believed that the Resurrection is true. In his own account, he said that those involved in the scandal vowed vowed to keep the secret to themselves and will take them to their grave. But with only a little push, they divulged everything they know about the secrets. Compare that to the resolve of Christ’s disciples, who have to suffer severe punishments, torture and gruesome death, but remained true to their declaration the Christ has really risen from the dead. They could have just declared that it was all a fakery, but did not. Instead, they willingly faced their tormentors, endured the pains and accepted their death.

  7. loretoc. gopez jr on

    if there’s no ressurection of Jesus Christ,then there’s no written Scripture or Bible at all.