Search the Scriptures: The Mystery of the Resurrection

Following Peter’s confession of Christ’s identity as the Son of God (cf. Mark 8:29), Jesus began to clearly teach his apostles, “that the Son of man must suffer much and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and to be killed, and after three days to be resurrected (Mark 8:31).Thereafter, after his transfiguration on the mountain (cf. Mark 9, 2-8), then as they came down from the mountain, we read: “He commanded them not to tell anyone what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead (Mark 9:9b; ESV).”

But this command intrigued the three apostles, Peter, James and John, who had been with him at the transfiguration. Mark reports in the next verse: “Then they kept the matter to themselves, wondering what this resurrection from the dead might mean (Mark 9:10; ESV). »

It must be understood that it was not the idea of ​​a resurrection in general that intrigued the apostles so much. The doctrine of a general resurrection was a mainstay of the doctrine of the Pharisees, and Jesus himself taught the truth of the supposition that there would be a resurrection of all mankind on the last day. For example, He said, “Marvel not at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the graves will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good unto the resurrection of life, and those who have done wrong. at the resurrection of judgment (John 5:28-29; ESV). “

Jesus’ words were a paraphrase of the prophet Daniel, who had written hundreds of years earlier: “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to eternal life, some to shame. and eternal contempt (Daniel 12:2; ESV). This passage was not unknown to the Jews.

Elsewhere, before raising His friend Lazarus from the dead, Jesus said to Lazarus’ sister Martha: “Your brother will rise again. Martha said, “I know he will rise in the resurrection on the last day (John 11:23-24; ESV). »

Martha’s statement highlighted the understanding that would have prevailed among Jesus’ followers, many of whom were probably from the sect of the Pharisees, that there would be a general resurrection of mankind, and that it was in anticipation of this event. that men needed to prepare themselves spiritually.

If, then, the resurrection itself was understood, what puzzled the three apostles so much? The ESV helpfully translates Mark’s exact phrase as “this resurrection”. It was not the resurrection in general that they were questioning, but Jesus’ statement that He Himself would rise from the dead and then they could share what they had seen. They did not understand how Jesus was able to rise from the dead before the general resurrection on the last day, because they did not believe him when he said he was going to be killed. The idea was so offensive to them, that Peter had earlier, probably with the support of the other apostles, rebuked Jesus for even suggesting such a thing (cf. Mark 8:32).

The problem, one can deduce, was that the apostles, while they accepted the idea of ​​the resurrection as a general proposition, could not so easily accept the idea of ​​a martyred Christ. They were rooted in the cultural image of a triumphant Messiah, seated on the throne of David, but they anticipated that Jesus would accomplish such a goal by triumphing in the ways of the world: via political and military victories. The idea of ​​triumphing through suffering was contrary to what they believed and wanted to believe, and so it intrigued and mystified them.

But God, in His wisdom had a plan different from that expected by the Jews and by the apostles. A more powerful plan to accomplish His will. Today, in hindsight, we can more easily accept the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ for the wise necessity that it was.

Yet there are still times when, like the apostles, we are mystified by the plans and commandments of God. This is especially true in times when what God is telling us goes against what we expect or want. But just as the apostles had to learn and accept the wisdom of suffering (cf. 1 Peter 4:1-2), and just as Christ triumphed over the cross, so we must have faith in God’s plan. for us. If the word of God puzzles us, presenting us with something of a mystery, chances are it is because we have at some point accepted as truth something that is not, and the problem is not so much with what God said as with our unwillingness to comply with what God said.


Jonathan McAnulty is a minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ. The views expressed in the article are the work of the author.

Brandon D. James