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Resurrection

And He rose again from the dead on the third day, according to the Scriptures.

Christ is risen from the dead! This is the main procla­ma­tion of the Chris­t­ian faith. It forms the heart of the Church’s preach­ing, wor­ship and spir­i­tu­al life. “… if Christ has not been raised, then our preach­ing is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor 15:14).

In the first ser­mon ever preached in the his­to­ry of the Chris­t­ian Church, the Apos­tle Peter began his proclamation:

Men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man attend­ed to you by God with mighty works and signs and won­ders which God did to him in your midst, as you your­self know—this Jesus deliv­ered up accord­ing to a def­i­nite plan and fore­knowl­edge of God, you cru­ci­fied and killed by the hands of law­less men. But God raised him up, hav­ing loosed the pains of death, because it was not pos­si­ble for him to be held by it (Acts 2:22–24).

Jesus had the pow­er to lay down his life and the pow­er to take it up again:

For this rea­son the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have the pow­er to lay it down, and I have the pow­er to take it again; this charge I have received from my father (Jn 10:17–18).

Accord­ing to Ortho­dox doc­trine there is no com­pe­ti­tion of “lives” between God and Jesus, and no com­pe­ti­tion of “pow­ers.” The pow­er of God and the pow­er of Jesus, the life of God and the life of Jesus, are one and the same pow­er and life. To say that God has raised Christ, and that Christ has been raised by his own pow­er is to say essen­tial­ly the same thing. “For as the Father has life in him­self,” says Christ, so he has grant­ed the Son also to have life in him­self” (John 5:26). “I and the Father are one” (Jn 10:30).

The Scrip­tur­al stress that God has raised up Jesus only empha­sizes once more that Christ has giv­en his life, that he has laid it down ful­ly, that he has offered it whole and with­out reser­va­tion to God—who then gave it back in his res­ur­rec­tion from the dead.

The Ortho­dox Church believes in Christ’s real death and his actu­al res­ur­rec­tion. Res­ur­rec­tion, how­ev­er, does not sim­ply mean bod­i­ly resus­ci­ta­tion. Nei­ther the Gospel nor the Church teach­es that Jesus was lying dead and then was bio­log­i­cal­ly revived and walked around in the same way that he did before he was killed. In a word, the Gospel does not say that the angel moved the stone from the tomb in order to let Jesus out. The angel moved the stone to reveal that Jesus was not there (Mk 16; Mt 28).

In his res­ur­rec­tion Jesus is in a new and glo­ri­ous form. He appears in dif­fer­ent places imme­di­ate­ly. He is dif­fi­cult to rec­og­nize (Lk 24:16; Jn 20:14). He eats and drinks to show that he is not a ghost (Lk 24:30, 39). He allows him­self to be touched (Jn 20: 27, 21:9). And yet he appears in the midst of dis­ci­ples, “the doors being shut” (Jn 20:19, 26). And he “van­ish­es out of their sight” (Lk 24:31). Christ indeed is risen, but his res­ur­rect­ed human­i­ty is full of life and divin­i­ty. It is human­i­ty in the new form of the eter­nal life of the King­dom of God.

So it is with the res­ur­rec­tion of the dead: What is sown is per­ish­able, what is raised is imper­ish­able. It is sown in dis­hon­or, it is raked in glo­ry. It is sown in weak­ness, it is raised in pow­er. It is sown a phys­i­cal body, it is raised a spir­i­tu­al body.

Thus, it is writ­ten, the first man Adam became a liv­ing being; the last Adam [i.e. Christ] became a life-giv­ing spir­it. But it is not the spir­i­tu­al which is first but the phys­i­cal, then the spiritual.

The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the sec­ond man is from heav­en. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man from heav­en, so are those who are of heav­en. Just as we have home the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heav­en (1 Cor 15:42–50).

The res­ur­rec­tion of Christ is the first fruits of the res­ur­rec­tion of all human­i­ty. It is the ful­fill­ment of the Old Tes­ta­ment, “accord­ing to the Scrip­tures” where it is writ­ten, “For Thou doest not give me up unto She­ol [that is, the realm of death], or let Thy God­ly one see cor­rup­tion” (Ps 16:10; Acts 2:25–36). In Christ all expec­ta­tions and hopes are filled: O Death, where is your sting? O She­ol, where is your vic­to­ry? (Hos 13:34).

He will swal­low up death for­ev­er, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces… It will be said on that day, “Lo, this is our God; we have wait­ed for Him; let us be glad and rejoice in His sal­va­tion” (Isa 25:8–9).

Come, let us return to the Lord: For He has torn, that He may heal us; He has strick­en, and He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live before Him (Hos 6:1–2).

Thus says the Lord God: Behold I will open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my peo­ple… And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my peo­ple. And I will put my Spir­it with­in you, and you shall live… (Ez 37:12–14).