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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[Mat. 28:1. Mark 16:1. Luke 24:1. John 20:1]

EARLY in the morning of the third day, there was a great earthquake. At the same moment Jesus rose and came forth from the tomb, glorious and immortal. And an angel came down from heaven. His face shone like lightning, and his garments were white as snow. So terrified were the guards at his appearance that they swooned away, and became as dead men. But the angel rolled the stone from the door of the sepulchre and sat upon it.

As soon as the guards recovered from their terror, they ran in great haste to the city to tell what they had seen.

Towards sunrise, Mary Magdalen, and Salome, and Mary Cleophas brought spices to the sepulchre, intending to embalm the Body of Jesus. As they drew near the sepulchre they said one to another: “Who shall roll us back the stone from the door of the sepulchre?”

When they came to the place they found that the stone had already been rolled away. Surprised and alarmed, they entered in, and behold the Body of Jesus was not there! Great, then, was their sorrow and distress, for they knew not what had become of the Body of their Lord. But immediately two men in shining garments stood before them. Seeing this, the women were afraid. But one of the angels said to them: “Be not affrighted. You seek Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He is not here. He is risen. Go, tell His disciples and Peter.” The women went with joy, and told the disciples what they had seen and heard.

In the mean time the chief priests consulted with the ancients, and then they gave the soldiers who had been at the sepulchre a great sum of money, and told them: “Say you that His disciples came by night and stole Him when you were asleep.” The soldiers took the money and did as they were told.

How our Lord rose from the dead. On the third day after His Death our Lord came forth from the grave, alive and with a glorified Body, having risen from the dead by His own power. His Soul rejoined His Body, and His Body itself was glorified, so that He was able to go out from the closed sepulchre, and afterwards appear in the midst of the apostles, having passed through the closed doors (chapter LXXXI).

These prophecies were fulfilled by the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ: 1. “Thou wilt not leave My soul in hell, nor wilt Thou give Thy Holy One to see corruption” (Ps. 15:10, Old Test. LV); 2. “The Gentiles shall beseech Him, and His sepulchre shall be glorious” (Is. 11:10, Old Test. LXXII); 3. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19, New Test. XV); 4. “As Jonas was in the whale’s belly three days and three nights, so shall the Son of man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights” (Mat. 12:40, New Test. XXVII); 5. “He shall be mocked and scourged, and crucified, and the third day He shall rise again” (Mat. 20:19).

The great significance of the Resurrection. That Jesus Christ should rise from the dead by His own power, and call Himself back from death to life, is the greatest of all miracles, a very miracle of miracles. The Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is therefore:

1. the clearest proof of His Divinity, for He thereby showed that He is; a) the absolute Lord of life and death, possessing, therefore, Divine Omnipotence; and b) that He is a true Teacher; for His distinct prophecy that He would rise from the dead on the third day came to pass, and proved the truth of his teaching; and if His teaching be true then must His oft repeated assertion that He was the Son of God be equally true. His own testimony to His Godhead is absolutely trustworthy, for not only did He die for this testimony, but He confirmed it by His glorious Resurrection, proving thereby that He is the Truth and the Life.

2. The Resurrection is to us the proof and pledge of our redemption, since it shows that His Passion and Death were pleasing to God (for otherwise they would not have been rewarded by the wonderful Resurrection), and that the satisfaction He offered has infinite value, being offered by the Incarnate Son of God. In this sense St. Paul writes (1 Cor. 15:17, 20): “If Christ be not risen again, your faith is vain, for you are yet in your sins … but now Christ is risen from the dead, the first-fruits of them that sleep.” The apostle’s meaning is this: “If Christ had not overcome death by His Resurrection, He would not have overcome sin; for death is the punishment and consequence of sin; but the fact of His having overcome the consequence of sin, death, gives us the certitude that He has overcome the cause of death, sin.”

3. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the pledge of our own future resurrection, “for by a man came death, and by a man the resurrection of the dead. And as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:21, 22). Compare with this passage the words: “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in Me, although He be dead, shall live: and every one that liveth and believeth in Me shall not die for ever” (John 11:25, 26), and “The hour cometh wherein all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that have done good things shall come forth unto the resurrection of life; but they that have done evil unto the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28, 29). See the eleventh Article of the Creed.

The glorified Body. At His Resurrection our Lord’s Sacred Body was transformed, or glorified. The glorious Body is 1. immortal and impassible, i. e. it can neither die nor suffer; 2. it is bright, or full of light; 3. it is subtle, i. e. it can pass through any substance like a spirit; and 4. it is agile, or swift as thought. The bodies of all the just shall one day be thus transformed, and made like unto our Lord’s glorious Body. “He (Christ) will reform the body of our lowness, made like to the body of His glory” (Phil. 3:21). The dead body of the just man is laid in the grave, as a grain of corn is laid in the earth, that it may spring up glorious. “It (the body) is sown in corruption, it shall rise in incorruption; it is sown in dishonour, it shall rise in glory; it is sown in weakness, it shall rise in power; it is sown a natural body, it shall rise a spiritual body” (1 Cor. 15:42–44).

Service of the Angels. Even as, thirty-three years before, angels announced the Birth of our Lord, so rich in blessings to man, so now did they announce and bear testimony to His glorious Resurrection. They take most active part in all that concerns our salvation.

Mary, the Holy Mother of God, was the first to behold the risen Lord, for, according to the most ancient tradition, He appeared first to her, to console her, and to reward her for her faithful love and deep compassion.

Generosity. Magdalen and the other women bought costly spices, and got up before the break of day to visit the grave of Jesus and render Him their last service of love. As a reward, they were the first of all our Lord’s followers to learn the glad tidings of the Resurrection, and to be charged with the honourable embassy of carrying the good news to the apostles.

Easter (the first Sunday after the first full moon in spring) is the greatest feast in the ecclesiastical year.

Paschal Communion (the soul’s resurrection). “As Christ is risen from the dead, so may we also walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4).

The terror of sinners. When the soldiers on guard saw the angel they trembled with fear, and fell to the ground, as though they were dead; and yet they were brave soldiers, who had never trembled on the field of battle! How will sinners tremble when the Lord of the heavenly hosts comes to judge the world.

One sin leads to another. The chief priests and scribes were not a little terrified when the soldiers came and told them of our Lord’s Resurrection. The voice of their consciences cried to them: “He whom you have killed is, then, after all the Son of God! Do penance and believe in Him!” But they suppressed this inner voice and obeyed their wicked impulses. They hated Jesus, and resolved to prevent at any price the people from believing in Him; and therefore they bribed the soldiers to support them in their wicked lie, that the Body of Jesus had been stolen by His disciples.

The obduracy of His enemies was the reason why our Blessed Lord did not show Himself to them after His Resurrection. They would not believe in Him before, and they would not have believed in Him even had He appeared to them: their guilt would only have been increased.

The lies of the chief priests as to the Resurrection were very malicious, but they were also very stupid. If the watchers were asleep, how could they have seen the disciples stealing the Body? And if they had not seen it done, how could they bear witness to the fact? Sleeping witnesses are no witnesses. Besides this, the disciples were so crushed and cowed that they scarcely dared to show themselves at all; so how could they have had the courage to force their way into a sepulchre closely guarded by soldiers? Why did they not do so during the first night while the tomb was unguarded? And had the soldiers been really asleep, would they not have been awakened by the moving, in the silence of the night, of the heavy stone which closed the door of the Sepulchre? And why, finally, did not the chief priests and scribes arrest the disciples and put them on trial for the alleged violation of the grave and stealing of the Body? Why did they institute no inquiry as to where the Body had been taken?

APPLICATION. You have been spiritually raised from the dead by holy Baptism; therefore you ought to walk in the newness of a holy life, in order that you may some day rise up with a glorified body, and live for ever with Christ. “Let not, therefore, sin reign in your mortal body”, says St. Paul, “so as to obey the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of iniquity unto sin: but present yourselves to God as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of justice unto God” (Rom. 6:12–13). Hold your body in honour, resist evil passions, and do not use the members of your body for sinful purposes, but use them for the practice of good works.








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