The Meaning of the Resurrection

An Easter Greeting from

Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros

Annunciation Cathedral

The Apostles believed in Christ’s Resurrection and bore witness to it and preached it as a fundament of their faith in Jesus Christ. What are the theological dimensions and implications of this doctrine of faith? And today when we still teach that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, what do we mean in fact?

1. Christ’s Resurrection is the proclamation of God’s power.

When we preach that Jesus is risen from the dead, we proclaim that the God in whom we believe is the God of life. God, by raising up Jesus, does not do something opposed to nature’s laws, but reveals himself as God, and manifests his loving power. Faith in Christ’s Resurrection is not something added to the Christian faith in God and in his Son Jesus Christ, but is the summary and the essence of this faith. God in Christ’s Resurrection reveals in a definitive way that he is the God whose power encompasses death and life, this world and the world to come.

2. Christ’s Resurrection is the ratification by God of his mission

Christ’s death was, in people’s understanding, the proof that God has forsaken and rejected him, according to what was written: “Cursed be every one who hangs on a tree” (Galatians 3:13). That is why after Jesus’ death, the disciples ran away disappointed, and Jesus’ prediction was fulfilled: “You will all become deserters; for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee” (Mark 14:27-28).

In Galilee Jesus called his disciples for the first time to follow him and to preach with him God’s Kingdom; and in Galilee he appeared to them to tell them that God’s Kingdom has come by his Resurrection. By raising up Jesus Christ, God has confirmed that he is the Son of Man, to whom has given “dominion and glory and kingship” (Daniel 7:14). That is why Jesus can order his Apostles to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).

By his Resurrection Jesus was revealed as really the Son of God. God, by raising up Jesus, has answered the questions of the people who, before the cross, were mocking him saying: “let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him” (Matthew 27:42).

By raising up Jesus from the dead, God has ratified all that Jesus has preached during his life on the Kingdom of God. For the Kingdom of God is the life of God itself which enters the world and raises in it a new life, and this new life has arisen from the tomb of Christ. The Kingdom is God’s love that shines on the world and dissipates from it the obscurity of hatred and the darkness of sin, and this love has shined in Jesus’ Resurrection as it shined in his life. By raising up Jesus, God has shown that all that was preached by Jesus during his life has been preached in his name, and all that was done by Jesus during his life has been done in his name, and that his death on the cross was the utmost manifestation of God’s love. Therefore Jesus is himself God’s Kingdom: in his life, in his death and in his Resurrection was revealed God’s life and God’s love and God’s power.

3. Christ’s Resurrection is the beginning of the new life and the guarantee of our resurrection

Christ’s Resurrection unveils also the profound significance of human life. By his Resurrection Jesus entered in God’s glory; and since Jesus is the new Adam and the head of the new humanity, we believe that all humanity entered by his head in God’s glory. “God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-6).

Our faith in Christ’s Resurrection and in our resurrection with Christ gives our present life a new meaning: “Just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with the scripture —‘I believed, and so I spoke’— we also believe, and so we speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus… So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:14-16).

Our faith in Christ’s Resurrection renews our vision of the world: “From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creature: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new” (2 Corinthians 5:16-17)

Our faith in Christ’s Resurrection and in our resurrection with Christ drives us to a new behavior: “So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God… For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).

He who believes in Christ’s Resurrection cannot be driven to despair. He says with St. Paul: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh” (2 Corinthians 4:8-11).

Our faith in Christ’s Resurrection and in our resurrection with Christ gives us confidence that human life does not end with death, and that God who raised up Jesus from the dead will raise us also.

For that reason when the believer has exhausted all human possibilities and sees that all horizons of human hope are blocked in his face, and when he feels as if he is going towards death and the void, then God appears to him in the eternity of his love and the permanence of his presence. He can say with St. Paul: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you” (Romans 8: 11). That is what we proclaim in our Byzantine Liturgy: “Christ is risen from the dead, and by his death he has trampled upon death, and has given life to those who were in the tombs.”

“Christ is risen – He is truly risen”.

+ Archbishop Cyril S. Bustros

Eparch of Newton