Skip to comments.Why Was the Resurrection Such a Hidden Event?
Posted on 04/24/2014 1:36:20 AM PDT by markomalley
There is something of a hidden quality to the resurrection appearances that has always puzzled me. St. Peter gives voice to this hidden quality in Acts Chapter 10 when he says to Cornelius,
God raised Jesus from the dead on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commissioned us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. (Acts 10:41 to 42)
So, note that Jesus did not appear openly into all, but only to some. Why is this? It is so different from what most of us would do.
If I were God (and it is very good for you that I am not), I would rise from the dead very dramatically. Perhaps I would send trumpet blasts to summon people in my tomb, and I would step out with great fanfare, summoning a multitude of angels to dazzle, and I would step forth to awe many, and strike fear in my enemies who killed me. Or maybe I would ride down on a lightning bolt right into the temple precincts and go up to the high priest, and tell him to seek other employment. Surely to accomplish such a feat would be an event that would never be forgotten! Surely too it would draw many to faith, would it not?
And yet none of this is what the Lord does it all! Not only did he appear only to some after his resurrection, but the actual dramatic moment of the resurrection seems to have been witnessed by no one at all. Instead of emerging from the tomb the sound of trumpets, in bright daylight, the Lord seems to have come forth before dawn, to the sound of crickets. Though St. Matthew mentions a great earthquake causing the rolling back of the stone, and the women finding the guards stunned to unconsciousness, it seems Jesus had already risen from the dead before the stone rolled back.
Such a hidden event! The greatest event the world has ever known, and yet hid from our eyes. No, this is not our way at all, Cecil B. DeMille would not be pleased.
And when the Lord does appear, it is only to some, as weve noted. Two of the appearances have often intrigued me for the details are extremely sparse; they are really mentioned only in passing:
One is the appearance to Peter. It would seem to the Lord appeared to Peter, before appearing to the other apostles on that first resurrection evening. For when the two disciples return from Emmaus they are greeted with the acclamation, The Lord has truly been raised, he has appeared to Simon (Luke 24:34). Shortly thereafter the Lord appears to ten of the apostles, along with some of the disciples.
But why is there so little detail about this appearance to Simon Peter?! We do receive great detail about a later conversation between Jesus and Peter two weeks later in Galilee (John 21), but of the first appearance in Jerusalem, it is only mentioned in passing.
In a certain sense it is a very significant appearance, because it moves the resurrection from just some news that the women were sharing, to the apostolic proclamation: the Lord has truly been raised. What moves it from rumor to true fact? The difference is, He has appeared to Simon. Here is a kind of an early, and seminal act of the Petrine office and the Magisterium! But of this crucial apparition, no details are supplied!
The other appearance cloaked in obscurity is the appearance to the 500 the Paul references:
He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; (1 Cor 15:5-6)
Here is an amazing appearance, not two or three, or a dozen, but to 500 at once. And yet no details are supplied. Where did it happen? When? For how long? What does the Lord say? What did he do? Silence.
And then there is a resurrection appearance that never happened, but to worldly minds, should have. And that was the resurrection appearance of Jesus to his accusers and prosecutors; his appearance to Caiaphas, to the Sanhedrin, to Pilate, to all who jeered at him as he hung on the cross. Surely they deserved a good dressing down, and probably couldve used it. Who knows, maybe they would have fallen to their knees and converted on the spot, maybe they would have worshiped Jesus.
Yes, such are our thoughts, my thoughts, on the strange and hidden quality of the resurrection. Why so hidden, why so selective? I cannot ultimately say why, I can only venture a guess; a kind of theological hunch.
My speculation is rooted in the identity of God, God is love (1 Jn 4:16). Love is not merely something God does, nor is it some attribute of him among others. Scripture says God is love. And it is in the nature of true love (as opposed to lust) to woo the beloved, to invite; not to overwhelm or importune the beloved; not to force or coerce. For the lover wants to be loved. But to force the beloved to love, or to overwhelm them to a fearful love is not to receive true love in return.
By contrast, is in the nature Satan to pressure, to tempt, to overwhelm, and to seek to coerce us to sin. Satan is loud, and loves to use fear as a motivator.
But God whispers, he calls us; He gently draws us. He supplies grace and evidence but does not overwhelm us with fearsome and noisy events. He is the still small voice that Elijah heard after the fire and the earthquake (1 Kings 19:12). He is the One who has written his name in our hearts, and whispers there quietly: Seek always the face of the Lord (1 Chron 16:11). He does at times allow our life to be shaken a bit, but even here, it is more often something he allows, rather than directly causes.
As for loud and flashy entrances, and humiliation of his opponents, God does not have a big ego. Even if He could compel the temple leadership to worship by shock and awe, it is unlikely that their faith response could be called a true faith response. It would be more that they had been forced to believe. Faith that sees, really isnt faith, for no one needs faith to believe what they plainly see with their eyes.
Thus the Lord does rise from the dead, and he does supply evidence to witnesses who had faith, at least enough faith to be rewarded. He sends these eyewitnesses, supplies his graces, and gives us other evidences so that we can believe and love. But none of these are done in a way that overwhelm us, or in some way force us to believe.
God is love, and loves seeks a free and faithful response. The hiddeness of the resurrection, shows forth as an example of tender love. Theres only so much that the human person can take. So the Lord rises quietly, appears to some, but only briefly, and then seems to withdraw; almost as if respectfully giving them time to process what they had experienced. He gives them time to deepen their faith, and to come to terms with what was for them a completely new reality, a reality that would change their lives forever.
How different this is from us, so many of whom think in terms of power, fame, glory, vindication, conquering, and so forth. And how different God is, so often tender, hidden, whispering, not needing credit for everything he does, not needing to crush or vindicate his enemies; but always hoping for their conversion, working to win their love; ruing, not rejoicing in the day when their no might become a forever no. Until then, He is always calling, always willing, always giving grace. His mercies how tender, how firm to the end, our maker, defender, redeemer and friend.
Why was the resurrection so hidden? God is love. And love woos, it does not wound; it invites, it does not incite; it calls, it does not crush; it respects but does not rule or seek revenge. Yes, God is love.
Of her Glorious Groom, the Church and Bride says,
Listen! My beloved! There he stands behind our wall, gazing through the windows, peering through the lattice [He speaks to her and says], Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, come with me. (Song 2:9-10)
Heres how Cecil B. DeMille would do the Easter Fire:
Msgr Pope ping
It is said in the East that saints have to consciously tone down the grace that shines from them, lest it overwhelms people.
I would imagine that after Jesus rose, the grace that blazed from Him was so enormously powerful that only those closest to Him, and most purified, could stand it. Perhaps it’s not that He didn’t appear to others, but that their consciousnesses literally could not stand to witness His power, and shut down. They probably got sleepy... or later simply didn’t remember anything... but in any event, it was simply too much for them to bear.
Plus in the east, where the sun rises, it is the sun, at its brightest first thing in the early morning.
“Thus the Lord does rise from the dead, and he does supply evidence to witnesses who had faith, at least enough faith to be rewarded.”
And to give the faithful hope?
My favorite moment in the Church liturgy, in every way I’ve seen it is when the lights come up and the bells begin to ring and the choir begins to sing the gloria at Easter Vigil. The joy is so strong. I was there last Saturday with my family - two of whom were returning to the Church and one of whom was being Baptized and it was amazing.
... when the lights come up and the bells begin to ring and the choir begins to sing the gloria at Easter Vigil....
Yes, that is a beautiful moment. I love the Easter Vigil Mass, and I attend it when possible. This year, I went to Mass on Sunday morning, though.
Such a joyful Easter for you. May your blessings continue.
Having sponsored a new Catholic via the RCIA, it was truly a blessing to be a part of the Holy Saturday evening gathering.
Consider the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus.
The rich man in HELL desires that Lazarus return to the living to warn the RICH man’s brothers to change their ways so they will not go to that dreadful place.
The answer is...”They have MOSES and the PROPHETS. If they will not believe them they will not believe one even though he rose from the dead.”
If Jesus made a huge public showing, those in power would say,..”You people did not see what you just saw!”
This old pyrotechnist would work up something along the lines of a radio-triggered ignition, probably with a perchlorate-charcoal mixture. We did this back in the day to fire 3" shells remotely rather than stand over a mortar (the most dangerous moment in the fireworks business).
...and then I looked that joke up. And started laughing again.