The mystery of Easter

In this post I will look at a puzzling mystery associated with the Biblical record of the resurrection of Jesus.

Resurrection, understood as rising from the dead, is a central concept in Christianity. The hope that this is what is in store for the faithful comes from the fact that Jesus, the incarnate son of God, has resurrected. As attested by the Bible, on the third day after crucifixion his body revived and shifted the stone closing the entrance to his grave. He then went on to visit his grief stricken students to comfort them. Eight days later they saw him again, looking exactly like he did before the death.

It is very important to stress here that, according to the articles of Christian faith, what the disciples saw was Jesus in the flesh. Some Christians are asked to believe that this will also happen to them – they will be revived in their bodies, not just as mental apparitions. There is a number of issues with this interpretation of resurrection like what happens to the victims of beheadings etc. This post however will focus on the puzzling account of the events on the Easter Sunday, as recorded by apostle John.

John 20:19 (New King James Bible):

Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

John 20:26 (New King James Bible):

And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

What strikes me in these passages is that resurrected Jesus went in through a shut door. John is crystal clear about this detail and even appears to emphasise it for dramatic effect – as if to stress the superhuman character of his teacher. But in the process he challenges the fundamental article of Christian faith. If Jesus went in through a shut door he could not have been the material body which had been crucified on Golgotha. A human flesh, which the Christians believe they will be resurrected in, does not ghost through doors.

I want to stress that I am not inventing or even interpreting anything here but merely providing direct quotes from the most authoritative Christian source – the Bible. The contradiction between the written record of the events and what modern Christianity claims is not of my creation. To be able to pass through the shut door (as John claims was the case) Jesus cannot have had the physical body. So perhaps, contrary to what the Vatican says, Jesus did not resurrect in the flesh but rather as a mental entity? A surprising support for this interpretation is to be found in Mark 16:12 (New King James Bible):

After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.

So, we have an account by another apostle claiming that Jesus “appeared in another form”. What could this mean, other than that he did not possess the material body which had been crucified on Golgotha? Might it be that Jesus did not resurrect in the flesh but a concept of raising from the dead was easier to understand to the target audience of his teachings than a mental resurrection?

This is the mystery which bugs me every Easter.


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