by Ken Rolheiser
The Crucifixion and the Rest of the Story

Three people were waiting at heaven’s gate to be checked by St. Peter. Peter interviewed them individually asking the first: "What is the significance of Easter?” The first candidate said, “It is when little children put on masks, go door to door and say, ‘Trick or treat’.”

The second one responded, “It is when Jesus is born in Bethlehem and the Wise Men come to worship.” The third said, “It is the greatest feast in Christianity. It is when Jesus was crucified on Good Friday.” “Tell me more,” said St. Peter, intrigued. “Then he spent three days in the tomb. On the third day he came out, saw his shadow, and went back in and we had six more weeks of winter.”

Many Christians today resemble the third candidate. Attendance at Good Friday services is record breaking. Most Christians accept that Christ died for our sins, and most believe he rose from the dead. But check attendance at church services two or three weeks after Easter. That is when the church liturgical readings tell the rest of the story. And it is an exciting message.

What did Jesus do after he rose from the dead? He was very visible, appearing to the band of disciples who had become disillusioned and lacked purpose. In John 21 we hear how Jesus, after his Resurrection, slowly gathered them together once more. He appeared to Peter and several disciples who were fishing on the shore of Tiberius. Jesus asked them to cast their net once more, even though it was daylight and they had been fishing all night and had caught nothing. The net is filled with so many fish they have trouble hauling it in.

One of the most significant Post Resurrection appearances involves Thomas, the doubter. Thomas is a good representative of our occasional lack of faith. In John 20, Thomas says unless he sees the holes the nails made in Jesus’ hands and can touch them, and unless he can put his hand in the wound made in Jesus’ side, he will not believe. Jesus appears to the disciples again when Thomas is with them and invites Thomas to touch the wounds in his hands and side. Thomas says, “My Lord and my God.” Then Jesus says to Thomas and to us, “You believe because you have seen me. Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

The many stories in Acts also tell us what else happened in that early church after Jesus rose from the dead. These stories give us the assurances we need that Christ is indeed risen. The disciples performed so many miracles that the sick were carried out into the streets in order that Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he came by (Acts 15). Many sick were brought to them “and they were all cured”.

The days after Easter are a time of inspiration in the Church liturgies. We are gradually led to the climax of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit guides us in ways we have not dreamed. Jesus says, “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).

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