Now it must be acknowledged that if in Jesus’ Resurrection we were dealing simply with the miracle of a resuscitated corpse, it would ultimately be of no concern to us. For it would be no more important than the resuscitation of a clinically dead person through the art of doctors. For the world as such and for our human existence, nothing would have changed. The miracle of a resuscitated corpse would indicate that Jesus’ Resurrection was equivalent to the raising of the son of the widow of Nain (Lk 7:11-17), the daughter of Jairus (Mk 5:22-24, 35-43 and parallel passages), and Lazarus (Jn 11:1-44). After a more or less short period, these individuals returned to their former lives, and then at a later point they died definitively.
The New Testament testimonies leave us in no doubt that what happened in the “Resurrection of the Son of Man” was utterly different. Jesus’ Resurrection was about breaking out into an entirely new form of life, into a life that is no longer subject to the law of dying and becoming, but lies beyond it—a life that opens up a new dimension of human existence. Therefore the Resurrection of Jesus is not an isolated event that we could set aside as something limited to the past, but it constitutes an “evolutionary leap” (to draw an analogy, albeit one that is easily misunderstood). In Jesus’ Resurrection a new possibility of human existence is attained that affects everyone and that opens up a future, a new kind of future, for mankind.
So Paul was absolutely right to link the resurrection of Christians and the Resurrection of Jesus inseparably together: “If the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised… But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor 15:16, 20). Christ’s Resurrection is either a universal event, or it is nothing, Paul tells us. And only if we understand it as a universal event, as the opening up of a new dimension of human existence, are we on the way toward any kind of correct understanding of the New Testament Resurrection testimony.
Excerpt From: Joseph Ratzinger, Jesus of Nazareth, Part Two, Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011, pp. 243-244.