We have just celebrated the most important event of our Christian faith – Jesus’ resurrection. Yet, as significant as this event is for us and human history, God appeared restrained at the time in bringing it to people’s attention.
There was no proclamation from a choir of angels like at Jesus’ birth announcing that “A Savior has been born unto you.” (Luke 2:11) In fact, God kind of let Jesus’ followers stumble into what had happened. On the morning of Jesus’ resurrection, we have a couple of angels asking the women who had come to anoint Jesus’ body, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5)
The angels went on to explain that Jesus had risen from the dead just as he said he would, but the women did not understand. For them, the only conceivable explanation was that someone had taken Jesus’ body. Peter and John, upon hearing the women’s report had a foot race to the tomb only to find that the linens which Jesus had been wrapped in were neatly folded in two different places. Neither did they understand, although Luke reports that Jesus did appear later to Peter. (Luke 24:34)
Jesus also appears to Mary Magdalene, and two of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, but there was no recognition of who Jesus was until he called Mary by name and broke bread in front of the disciples. Even though the risen Jesus had met with the apostles on two separate occasions, they didn’t seem to immediately recognize him later on the seashore after they went back to fishing. (John 21:1-14)
In spite of all the times that Jesus told the disciples before his crucifixion that he had to suffer death and rise from the dead, they did not understand.
Why? It was not until they had personally encountered the risen Jesus and were anointed with the Holy Spirit at the Feast of Pentecost that they began to fully comprehend what Jesus’ resurrection meant for them and human history. St. Paul reports that Jesus appeared to more than 500 at one time. (1 Cor. 5:6)
Realizing that the resurrection was not only for Jesus, but also for them and their followers radically changed the way they lived, modeled on the way Jesus lived.
Like the disciples and the early Christians, we too, need to personally experience the presence of the risen Jesus and the anointing of the Holy Spirit before we can comprehend the effect of his resurrection on our lives. No announcement, no teaching by itself will get the job done.
That was true for me 40 years ago on an October evening when I had a personal encounter with Jesus. Through God’s grace and the power of his Holy Spirit he opened my mind and heart to the reality of his risen presence in my life.
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (Rev. 3:20)