One of the objections devout Muslims have with Christianity is that the All Holy and All Powerful One could die as a man. Others, who lean towards conspiracy theories, believe that Jesus’s disciples rescued him from the cross, then hid him, while spreading abroad the story that he had risen. They, like many non-Christians, refuse to believe in the resurrection.
The inevitability of death
Roman soldiers were veterans at despatching the crucified. They’d done it hundreds of times. Part of the barbarism was to allow bystanders to see the cost of rebellion, even to death, which they ensured with a final deadly lance thrust into the heart. (Jn 19.34) In medical terms, the process involved weakness from severe blood loss, gradual asphyxiation (as tortured lungs no longer draw air), and finally heart failure.
Christ’s body was then anointed, wrapped in a winding sheet, and placed in a tomb sealed with a massive rock. (Lk 23.52-3) Guards were posted to deter tomb robbers. (Mt 27.62-6) This helps us to understand why Jesus’ disciples were so sceptical when the women came to report to them that his body had disappeared. (Lk 24.11)
To die is to be human
The Catholic belief is that Jesus, though divine, was also totally human. Part of being human is to know the inevitability of death, to know that we all have to pass into that dark night. Jesus also accepted that to be totally one of us he had to walk the same road, leaving all else behind, while looking on the apparent loss of hope and desertion of his followers.
It’s this darkness and sense of the loss of everything that makes the Christian story of resurrection so stunning, even shocking. Given such a paradox, what is impossible, humanly speaking?
Father Neil Vaney
This writing is based on the content of ‘What Catholics Believe’, Booklet 3, ‘Jesus Christ’ referencing page 17. Should you like to read more just click either of the links below to download ‘Booklet 3’ or the complete set of ‘What Catholics Believe’.