The beloved disciple’s reaction seems very simple: “he saw and believed”.
But the very next words in this passage are these:
For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead.
The disciple saw, the disciple believed, but the disciple did not understand – at least, not fully.
He would come to understand a little more very soon, when the risen Lord Jesus himself came and ate and drank with him and the other disciples (as Peter relates in this morning's first reading – Acts 10:34a, 37-43): demonstrating the corporeal reality of the resurrection.
Christ is not a ghost or a pure spirit nor is his resurrection a figment of wishful thinking or visual hallucination: Christ rose from the dead and lives bodily, albeit in a new and glorified way.
Even now, nearly two thousand years later, we ourselves do not yet understand the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness.
To be sure, we know much more than the beloved disciple did on that first Easter day. He and the other Apostles would learn much more in the days after the resurrection and especially when they were endowed with the powerful gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and they would tell us much of what they learned in the deposit of faith they handed on to us – none perhaps as eloquently as the beloved disciple himself, who is traditionally identified as the source for the Gospel and letters of Saint John.
That which was from the beginning,
which we have heard,
which we have seen with our eyes,
which we have looked upon
and touched with our hands,
concerning the word of life
(the life was made manifest,
and we saw it,
and testify to it,
and proclaim to you
the eternal life
which was with the Father
and was made manifest to us)
that which we have seen and heard
we proclaim also to you,
so that you may have fellowship with us;
and our fellowship is with the Father
and with his Son Jesus Christ.
(1 John 1:1-3)
The resurrection of Christ, of course, is critically important to all of us, for we are to share in that same resurrection, and yet for all that the Apostles knew and experienced, there is yet much that we do not yet understand: that remains mysterious and hidden in the infinite wisdom and love of God, as we hear in one of the Epistles provided for this morning's celebration (Colossians 3:1-4):
Your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ your life appears,
then you too will appear with him in glory.
Saint John’s simple words echo this same point beautifully in 1 John 3:1-2 – the very same letter quoted above – we know much and yet there is so much more that we have yet to know.
See what love the Father has given us,
that we should be called children of God;
and so we are.
The reason why the world does not know us
is that it did not know him.
Beloved, we are God's children now;
it does not yet appear what we shall be,
but we know that when he appears
we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is.
The mystery of the resurrection may frustrate some of our analytical minds, but openness and faithfulness to the mystery of resurrection in Christ is fundamental to living a true Christian life, as Saint John indicates in the very next verse:
And every one who thus hopes in him
as he is pure.
Saint Paul says very much the same thing in the reading from Colossians:
Seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Think of what is above,
not of what is on earth.
Christ is risen.
Indeed he is risen.
We may not yet fully understand
the power of that resurrection in all its glory
but may we embrace the mystery of his bodily resurrection
and live that mystery today and every day:
not letting ourselves become mired in this world
but continuing to walk through this world
in resurrection hope,
focused on the things of heaven
and on making manifest in this world
by our deeds, by our words,
and most of all by the grace of God
the power of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
risen from the dead.