When Jesus’ disciples went to his burial place, they found an empty tomb. Through the message the angel gave to them at the tomb, and through Jesus’ appearances to various disciples, God revealed that Christ was risen. Two Scripture stories played an especially significant role in the faith of the early Christians: the account of Thomas demanding proof that it was Jesus who had appeared to them and the story of Paul’s transformation from persecutor to apostle through an encounter with the risen Jesus.
The New Testament makes it clear that new life in Christ is based on the belief that Jesus rose from the dead. It is the risen Jesus who is Lord, and when Christians are baptized, they enter into the experience of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
The Resurrection of Jesus was a resurrection into divine life. This is different from a renewal of human life as had been experienced by Lazarus when Jesus brought him back from the dead. The fact that a number of Jesus’ closest disciples had difficulty recognizing him demonstrates that Jesus’ Resurrection was more than just a return to life; it was an entry into the full glory of divine life.
The butterfly is only one of several traditional symbols of the Resurrection. The most popular symbol is the egg, which seems to be lifeless but then breaks open to release new life. The lily is another common symbol. A dry and lifeless-looking bulb blossoms into one of the most beautiful flowers on earth. Another symbol of the Resurrection comes from Greek mythology. The phoenix was a bird that fell to earth and burned, and yet from its ashes arose another bird. Jesus' executioners destroyed his earthly life, but a new and more glorious life came about as a result of his resurrection. Artists sometimes show this as an eagle rising out of a flame. Appearing in the ancient catacombs of the early Church is another symbol of the Resurrection, the peacock. The peacock has a spectacularly beautiful tail, which loses its beauty during the molting season. But when the molting season ends, a new and more beautiful tail appears. The allusion in this symbol is to the fact that through the Resurrection Christ's life became more beautiful than ever.