Dr. Sam Peedikayil Mathew (BD., MTh., DTh., Serampore) is Professor and Head of the Department of New Testament Studies at Gurukul Lutheran Theological College and Research Institute, Chennai, India. He has contributed greatly to the theological field, with his different articles published in the leading theological journals/books in India/Asia. Among his books, “Temple-Criticism in Mark’s Gospel: The Economic Role of the Jerusalem Temple during the First Century CE” (Delhi: ISPCK, 1999) is influential.
Dr. Sam was my teacher and mentor during my First Masters at Gurukul Lutheran Theological College and Research Institute. I completed my thesis, entitled “Variations in New Testament Translations and the Problem for Interpretation: A Comparative Study of Few Selected Passages in Different Versions”, under his supervision. The following reflection of Dr. Sam is taken from/part of “Gurukul Daily Devotion 2011”.
Resurrection is one of the important events in the life of Christ. It has transformed the lives of the apostles and continues to influence many people. The theme of Resurrection occupies an important place in the theology of early Christian theologians, especially Paul. The Resurrection of Christ is the present basis and future hope of Christian life. That is why the Resurrection narratives are an important part of all the Gospels.
(1) Resurrection of Christ – The Basis of Christian Faith and Hope
1 Corinthians 15:1-19: Some Corinthian Christians believed that there is no resurrection of the dead. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians corrects this misunderstanding. He begins to answer by quoting the fundamentals of early Christian tradition which he received: Christ’s death for our sins, his resurrection and post-resurrection appearances according to the scripture (1 Cor.15:2-4). Paul emphasises that resurrection of Christ is the basis not only of our faith but also of hope of the resurrection of the dead. Acts of Apostles tells us that the subject matter of early Christian preaching was the resurrection of Christ. They boldly proclaimed that one whom they crucified is risen. It is the crucified and resurrected Christ that attracted thousands to Christian faith. That is the reason why all the four Gospels take pains to record the resurrection of Christ. Paul reiterates that if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and Christian faith has been in vain (1 Cor.1:22). Risen Christ provides the basis of our Christian faith and hope in a life after this life. Our Lord Jesus overcame the forces of sin and death. Therefore we can also claim victory over sin and death.
(2) Resurrection of Christ is the Triumph of Truth and Life
John 11:17-27: In the earthly ministry of Jesus he had to fight with the forces of falsehood and death. On the one hand Jesus spent his life caring for the poor, sick, oppressed, and the marginalized, but on the other he unleashed an all out attack on the leaders, institutions and laws that oppressed and marginalized people. This earned him many enemies among the ruling elite, especially the religo-political leaders. They collaborated with the Romans to falsely charge him and crucify him. But the one who stood for the truth and proclaimed, “I am the truth…” could not be killed. The embodiment of truth could not be contained by the tomb. The resurrection of Jesus proclaims loudly that the forces of death and evil cannot suppress the truth and bury it forever. When Jesus was crucified it appeared that the forces of evil won over forces of good. But, as John says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5) Truth will triumph over falsehood and death. Resurrection of Christ encourages us in our struggle against falsehood and forces of death. Christ’s victory over death beckons us to stand for truth and the values of the Kingdom. It gives us the assurance that every struggle for truth and justice will ultimately triumph.
(3) Resurrected Christ challenges our Priorities
John 21:15-19: The resurrected Lord appeared to the disciples in the midst of their toil in the sea. Having finished the breakfast provided by the risen Lord, the Lord began to put some uncomfortable questions before Peter. Before the sea, boats, nets and the fish they caught, the Lord asks him, “Do you love me more than these?” It implies that if Peter had loved the Lord more than these, he would not have gone for fishing after the crucifixion and death of Jesus. Yet Peter pretends that he loves Jesus. The Lord repeats the same question, “do you love me?” Peter replies to both the questions in the affirmative. In Greek two different word are used here for the verb ‘love.’ While Jesus uses the verb agapao (meaning sacrificing, self-less, divine love), Peter in his reply uses another verb phileo (meaning friendly love). Peter claims to have at least friendly love, while Jesus demands sacrificing love from him. Jesus repeats the question for the third time, “Do you love me?”, using the verb phileo, which clearly means “do you at least have friendly love?” This time Peter stumbles and crumbles and cries out, “Lord, you know everything.” When the priorities of the disciples changed the risen Lord challenged them to review and recommit their lives to him. It is this challenge that made them firm in their commitment.
(4) Resurrected Christ is our Companion on the Way
Luke 24: 13-35: As two of the disciples were on their way to Emmaus, Jesus joins them and walks with them. They were not able to recognise that the stranger who joined their company was Jesus. When they told him about the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, he interpreted to them in all the scripture the things concerning him. The risen Christ is presented as the disciples’ companion who patiently listens to them and interprets the word of God to them. He shares their joys and sorrows and brings clarity in their lives through the interpretation of the word of God. It is only during the breaking and sharing of bread their eyes were opened and recognised that the stranger with them was Jesus. The breaking of the bread reminded them how Jesus gave himself up for others through his suffering and death on the cross. That memory brought out the connection between the crucified and the resurrected Christ. It is the crucified Christ that enables us to fully understand the resurrected Christ. The resurrected Christ is to be sought in our daily lives as we engage in our daily chores of life. He walks with us and talks with us incognito. Only those who see Christ through the cross will be able to recognise the risen Lord.
Prayers and Thoughts for Action
Prayers: (1) Lord, help us to stand firm on the roots of our faith as winds of change blow over us. Amen. (2) Lord Jesus, help us not to be discouraged by the temporary victory of falsehood and forces of death, but to trust in the ultimate triumph of truth. Amen. (3) Lord, challenge us continually so that we might set right our priorities. Amen. (4) Lord, help us to look at the crucified Christ so that we might see clearly the risen Christ in our midst. Amen.
The following are the thoughts for reflection and action: (1) In your opinion, what are the hindrances of believing in the resurrection of Christ? How do you plan to overcome them? (2) Make a list of people in history who stood for truth and justice, following the example of Christ. (3) Make a list of your priorities in life and compare it with the first commitment you made with Christ. (4) In your opinion, what are the consequences of separating the crucified Christ and the resurrected Christ?