94 • Part I. The Creed: The Faith Professed
The Resurrection narratives in all four Gospels—though differing in
details because of varying viewpoints of the different authors—maintain
a similar structure in the narration of the events. At dawn on the Sunday
after Christ’s death, Mary Magdalene and a companion go to the tomb
to anoint the dead body of Jesus. They find the tomb is empty. They meet
an angel who proclaims the Resurrection of Jesus: “He is not here, for he
has been raised” (Mt 28:6). They are told to bring the Good News to the
Apostles. Mary Magdalene leads the way and is celebrated in the liturgy
of the Church as the first witness to the Resurrection.
Next come the appearance narratives when Jesus appears to the
Apostles and disciples in a number of instances. St. Paul summarizes
these appearances in his first Letter to the Corinthians (cf. 1 Cor 15:3-8).
Finally, the disciples are commissioned to bring the Gospel to the world.
While the empty tomb of itself does not prove the Resurrection,
since the absence of Christ’s body could have other explanations, it is an
essential part of the proclamation of the Resurrection because it demon-
strates the fact of what God has done in raising his Son from the dead
in his own body. When St. John entered the empty tomb, “He saw and
believed” (Jn 20:8).
The Resurrection is historical in that it actually took place at a spe-
cific time and place, and therefore there were witnesses to its impact.
Mary Magdalene met the Risen Christ and embraced his feet. Thomas
the Apostle saw Jesus and the wounds and said, “My Lord and my God”
(Jn 20:28). Two disciples walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus
and recognized him in the Breaking of the Bread (Lk 24:13-35). All the
Apostles saw him (cf. Jn 20:19-23). St. Paul tells us he met the Risen
Lord on the Road to Damascus (cf. Acts 9:3-6). He also writes that five
hundred people saw Jesus on a single occasion (cf. 1 Cor 15:3-8).
None of the witnesses to Jesus’ Resurrection expected it. In fact, they
were demoralized by the execution of Jesus. Even when they did see him,
some had lingering doubts. “When they saw him, they worshiped him,
but they doubted” (Mt 28:17). In other words, they were not easily con-