What does grammar have to do with resurrection? A lot. It is theologically significant. It answers the “who” question. Hidden within the grammar is the power of God. Sometimes this is easier to see in the Greek than in the English translations we often read or hear.
This year we heard from the gospel according to St. Luke, “He is not here, but has risen” (24:5, NRSV). The Greek word that is translated “has risen” is ἠγέρθη (ēgerthē). St. Matthew (28:6) and St. Mark (16:6) use the same word in their accounts.
How this verb is translated makes a difference. “Has risen” can be heard or interpreted as Jesus simply got up. He did it himself. That, however, is neither grammatically nor theologically correct.
Here is where we need to get into the grammar. Greek verbs like English verbs have tense, voice, and mood. In Greek ἠγέρθη is aorist tense, passive voice, and indicative mood.
The aorist is a past tense in Greek. The indicative mood is a statement of fact, of certainty. Together the aorist indicative means this really happened. The passive voice is what gives theological significance to this verb.
Remember in school learning the difference between the active voice and the passive voice? They are descriptive of how the action of the verb relates to the subject. The subject can either act or be acted upon. A verb in the active voice indicates that the subject is performing the action of the verb. A verb in the passive voice indicates that the subject is the recipient or receiver of the action described by the verb.
The passive voice of ἠγέρθη means that Jesus did not simply rise on his own but was raised by and through a power other than his own. A more literal translation of Luke 24:6 would be “He is not here, but was raised.” We are not told who was the power that raised Jesus. The implication is that it was God. This use of the passive voice is sometimes called the divine passive.
The power of God rolled the stone away from the tomb. The power of God resurrected Jesus. The power of God emptied the tomb. The power of God that did all that is doing the same in each of our lives. The Divine Passive is always active, doing for and giving to us that which we cannot do for or give to ourselves.