IT’S NOT JUST THAT THE RISEN CHRIST APPEARED. IT’S ALSO HOW
by Canon Mark A. Pearson
It’s often been said that Christians believe in the Resurrection of Jesus because an empty tomb was found. But all the empty tomb proves is that no body was found, not that Christ rose. It’s the forty days of post-Resurrection appearances, to ones and twos, to the faithful apostles, and to over five hundred at one time, that proves He’s alive.
Thank God for the liturgical year which mandates an Easter season. In so many churches once the last service of Easter morning is over, so is Easter, and planning is for the next “holy days” of Mother’s Day and Children’s Sunday.
But it’s not just that the risen Christ appeared, it’s also how.
At first the disciples did not recognize the risen Christ. In part it was because Jesus was now in His resurrection body, similar in many ways to His pre-crucifixion body, but also different. In part it was also because, despite how often He spoke of His resurrection, they could not get their minds around this incredible truth. But the chief reason was because God the Father was keeping their eyes from recognizing Him so the manner in which He would be recognized as the risen Christ would be seen as important for the on-going life of the Church. It wasn’t just that the risen Christ appeared. It’s also how.
To Mary Magdalene the “gardener” was seen to be the risen Jesus as He called her name. Personal, intimate. Christianity is many things. One of these is a personal, intimate relationship with the Lord of the universe. The part of the Church we call “Evangelical” rightly stresses one’s coming to know Jesus as “personal Lord and Savior,” and a disciple’s daily quiet time with the Lord.
To the travelers to Emmaus the fascinating stranger who had accompanied them on their walk was seen to be the risen Jesus as He “broke bread,” an early Church term for the Holy Communion. Liturgical, sacramental. Christianity is many things. One of these is the understanding that God Who deemed His physical creation “good,” uses physical things as ways of bestowing objective grace and blessing. The part of the Church we call “Sacramental” (sometimes called “catholic”) rightly emphasizes this.
To the seven by the Sea of Galilee, the stranger, a hundred yards away, shouting as to where fish would be found was seen to be the risen Jesus as His “word of knowledge” proved true and a memory was triggered of a previous time Jesus had similarly informed them. Supernatural, charismatic. Jesus’ mighty works (supernatural deeds, manifestations of signs and wonders) were not done in His divine nature. Otherwise, how could He tell us to do the works He did? Rather, they were expressions of His Spirit-filled human nature. Christianity is many things. One of these is participation in the supernatural workings of the Holy Spirit, never made “unavailable to the Church.” The part of the Church we call “Charismatic” (or “Pentecostal”) rightly emphasizes this.
Evangelical, sacramental, charismatic. “Three Streams” of the faith. It is sometimes asserted that the Early Church never thought in terms of “Three Streams.” Of course not! They just participated in a full, rich integration of them. It is necessary for us to think in terms of “Three Streams” because we have dis-integrated them, valuing but one or two of the “streams” but not the mighty river.
The risen Christ appeared in these different ways because each of these different ways is important to His Church. Dare we, who boldly assert “He is risen!” settle for less?
Have a blessed Easter season.