The mystery of the Resurrection cannot be understood by the intellect or empirically explained.

by May Tam
Third Sunday of Easter

Acts 5:27-32, 40B-41

Revelation 5:11-14

John 21:1-19

A lot of ink has been spilled on today’s Gospel reading. Starting from the disciples’ failed attempt of fishing to their miraculous haul, the exact counting of the catch, the breakfast that Jesus prepared, the three questions posed to Peter and the three commands of Jesus, the whole episode was filled with theological color. In light of the many exegeses which have provided a good comprehension of the text, today I would like to highlight only one area.

It is the mysteriousness of Jesus’ appearance. Pope Benedict XVI in his book, Jesus of Nazareth (Holy Week), has dealt with this point quite extensively. Careful reading of the text reveals the “special mysterious nature of the risen Lord’s new existence” (P. 266). Together with the other “appearance” accounts, this one vividly displayed many loose ends. Apart from the practical questions of how did Jesus come and where did He get the fish and bread, the mysteriousness comes from His non recognition by the disciples. “None of the disciples dared ask Him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord” (Jn 21:12). It must have been ineffable for the disciples to comprehend the totally new experience of Jesus’ presence and therefore they did not dare to ask. He was of “real physicality” but “not bound by physical laws”. He was both the “same embodied man” and “a new man embodied in a new way” (P.266, 268). According to Pope Benedict XVI, these loose ends were the proofs of the veracity of the resurrected Lord (P. 266-267). If the Resurrection story was invented, it would have been patched up nicely to make it more believable. It was with such originality that the text bore witness to this real encounter (cf P.275).

I would say that this mysteriousness is important not so much for its theological implication but more for our faith. The risen Lord was definitely not a ghost (spirit) for He had a body (cf Lk 24:39-43; Jn 20:27) and yet was freed from bodily constraints (cf Lk 24:31, 36; Jn 20:19, 26). His coming back from the dead was not something eerie or a paranormal phenomenon but “a new dimension of human existence” (P.274) that cannot be understood by the intellect or empirically explained. “Since we ourselves have no experience of such a renewed and transformed……….kind of life” (P.274), it is only with and through faith that we can come to accept the reality of this unthinkable event and not only accept, but believe that this new kind of life, brought about by Jesus, “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor 15:20-23), has been made possible for us.