She turned round and saw Jesus standing,
but she did not know that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?"
Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him,
"Sir, if you have carried him away,
tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away."
Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher).
Jesus said to her, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father,
but go to my brothers and say to them,
'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'"
Gospel of John 20:14-17
The Church in her liturgy celebrates the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of Man, on Easter Sunday, the culmination of Holy Week and the Lenten Season. All four Gospels date the Resurrection to the "first day of the week," but Matthew (28:1) and Mark (16:1) specifically add that it was after the "Sabbath was over." The Paschal Mystery of Christ, his Passion, Death, Resurrection, and Glorious Ascension, constitutes one action for the salvation of mankind, for Jesus "was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification" (Romans 4:25).
Easter Sunday is called Resurrection Sunday by many Evangelical and Middle East Christians. The celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord is known as Pascua in Spain and most of Latin America, Páscoa in Portugal and Brazil, Pâques in France, Pasqua in Italy, and Pascha in Greece.
Jesus predicted his Resurrection three times in the Gospel of Mark (8:31, 9:31, 10:34), that after his death he will "rise on the third day." All four Gospel accounts record Mary Magdalene present at the empty tomb the morning of the Resurrection (Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1, Luke 24:10, and John 20:1).
After God raised him from the dead, Jesus Christ made multiple appearances in several locations to his disciples for forty days following his Resurrection. The discovery of the empty tomb coupled with his Resurrection appearances led the early Christians to believe Christ was the Son of God (Matthew 16:16, John 20:31, Romans 1:4). Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene in Jerusalem (Matthew 28:9-10, John 20:14-17). The risen Christ gave his eleven Apostles the Great Commission in Galilee:
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you;
and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."
Gospel of Matthew 28:19-20
Christianity is the Resurrection Faith: Jesus opened the door to eternal life! St. Paul linked the Resurrection of Christ with the resurrection of all of us. "Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:3-4).
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received,
that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
and that He was buried,
and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once,
most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.
After that he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians 15:3-8
The above passage is the earliest written evidence of the Resurrection of Christ. Paul continues in First Corinthians on the Resurrection of the faithful:
For since death came through a human being,
the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being;
for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.
But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.
First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians 15:21-23
Luke 24 contains four major scenes: the empty tomb (Luke 24:1-12), his presence "that very day" on the journey to Emmaus (13-35), the appearance to his disciples in Jerusalem (36-49), and the Ascension of Christ (50-53). After the women and Peter had discovered the empty tomb, Christ appeared to two forlorn disciples on the road to Emmaus. They did not recognize him until at dinner, "he was at table with them, took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them" (24:30). Reminiscent of the Feeding of the Multitude (9:10-17) and the Last Supper (22:14-20), the disciples recognized Christ, but at this point he suddenly vanished. As with us today, Christ was "made known to them in the breaking of the bread."
“Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.”
So he went in to stay with them.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.
Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.
They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road,
while he was opening the scriptures to us?”
That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem;
and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying,
"The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!"
Then they told what had happened on the road,
and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Gospel of Luke 24:29-35
The narrative unity of Luke's Gospel and his Acts of the Apostles is evident in Chapter One of Acts (1:3), where he continues to describe Christ after his Resurrection, that "he presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them for forty days and speaking about the Kingdom of God." After the risen Jesus promises the Father will send the Holy Spirit, Luke then recounts the Ascension of the Lord (1:9-11). Following the Pentecost (2:1-4), Peter repeatedly witnessed the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ to the people of Jerusalem (Acts 2:24, 2:32, 3:15, 4:10, 5:30):
"The author of life you put to death,
but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses."
Acts of the Apostles 3:15
Resurrection and eternal life are central to the Gospel of John. Following the cure of the man who was lame in Jerusalem, Jesus says, "Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life" (John 5:24). In the Bread of Life Discourse, Jesus continues: "Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day" (John 6:54). During the raising of Lazarus on the fourth day in Bethany, Jesus tells Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die" (John 11:25-26). During the Last Supper, Jesus comforts his disciples:
"In My Father’s house are many dwelling places;
if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.
If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself,
that where I am, there you may be also."
Gospel of John 14:2-3
John's Gospel is the only one containing two chapters on the risen Jesus. The first Chapter (20) emphasizes the empty tomb, and appearances to Mary Magdalene (above), the disciples, and another visit a week later to Doubting Thomas, who made a beautiful profession of faith upon seeing Jesus, "My Lord and my God" (John 20:27). In Chapter 21, Jesus reveals himself for the third time to his disciples, at the Sea of Galilee. John offers the descriptive picture of Jesus guiding the fishermen and then cooking breakfast! While Peter denied Jesus three times during the Lord's Passion, Peter confesses his love for Christ three times; Jesus then instructs him to "Feed my sheep" and "Follow me." The chapter is concluded by John, the beloved disciple.
The Lord's Day was recognized as early as the writing of the Book of Revelation (1:10). Sunday, the first day of the week, was the time the disciples gathered together to "break bread" (Acts 20:7). St. Ignatius of Antioch was an Apostolic Father who lived about 100 AD and served as the Bishop of Antioch and Syria. He reported on the Resurrection in his Letter to the Smyrnaeans (III, 1-3), and the celebration of the Lord's Day (rather than the Sabbath) in his Letter to the Magnesians (IX, 1).
St. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologica reasoned it was necessary for Christ to rise again, one reason being "for the raising of our hope, since through seeing Christ, who is our head, rise again, we hope that we likewise shall rise again." He referred to Job 19:25-27 in Hebrew Scripture: "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!"
Thomas Aquinas further discussed Christ's new manner of existence, that he had a glorified body. St. Thomas reasoned that Christ rose with a true body, for, in order for it to be a true Resurrection, it was necessary for his same body to be united with his soul. And we read in Luke that he ate a piece of baked fish in front of his disciples during his appearance in Jerusalem (Luke 24:43)! But he had a glorified body from his Resurrection, as St Paul relates, "if there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body" (I Corinthians 15:44).
Pope Benedict XVI, in his book Jesus of Nazareth - Holy Week, summarizes the Resurrection event by calling it "a historical event that nevertheless bursts open the dimensions of history and transcends it." The Sabbath, the seventh day of rest during the Creation, was celebrated as the day of worship for at least 2000 years. It must have been an improbable and miraculous event that so deeply moved the early Christians to produce the theological shift of the day of worship from the Sabbath to Sunday, the Lord's Day!
1 The Revised Standard Version of the Holy Bible. San Francisco, California: Ignatius Press, 2005.
2 Mary Healy. The Gospel of Mark. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2008), 165.
3 Raymond Brown. "Aspects of New Testament Thought," in The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1990), 1373-1377.
4 Luke Timothy Johnson. "The Resurrection Faith," in The Writings of the New Testament. (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Fortress Press, 1999), 107-119.
5 Nicholas Thomas Wright. The Resurrection of the Son of God. (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press, 2003), 211, 312-338, 440-448, 733.
6 George T. Montague. First Corinthians. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2011), 260-268.
7 Brendan Byrne. The Hospitality of God: A Reading of Luke's Gospel. (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2000), 185-193.
8 Robert C. Tannehill. The Narrative Unity of Luke-Acts, Volume II - Acts. (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press, 1990), 9-25.
9 Ignace de la Potterie.The Hour of Jesus: The Passion and Resurrection of Jesus according to John. (New York, Alba House, 1989), 159-190.
10 St. Ignatius of Antioch. in Kirsopp Lake (ed): The Apostolic Fathers, Volume I. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1912), 205, 255.
11 St. Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica, Third Part, Book IV, "On the Passion and Resurrection of Christ." Translation by the Fathers of the English Dominican Province, 1920. Reprint: (Allen, Texas: Christian Classics, 1981), 2304-2330.
12 Pope Benedict XVI. Jesus of Nazareth - Holy Week. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011), 273.