The Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ tends to be viewed in a predominantly positive light. Seriously, what’s not to love? It’s the story of the spotless Lamb of God, unjustly condemned, abandoned by His friends, tormented, mocked, tortured and executed with common criminals, hastily entombed because of the approaching Sabbath, with the incredible plot twist of the defeat of sin and death when He rises on the third day! Who saw that coming? The story of the Resurrection is the ultimate saga of the triumph of Good over Evil; it is the mother of all feel-good narratives. God wins!! But in our excitement over this happily-ever-after we forget that, for certain people, the Resurrection of the Man they crucified would, of course, have looked an awful lot like their worst nightmare….
First of all, there were the people who crucified Him. Imagine yourself as a Pharisee standing at the foot of the Cross, mocking this dying Man with the words, “He saved others – let him save himself!” Or say you were just a face in the crowd outside Pilate’s residence, one of those who rejected the offer to set Jesus free in favor of the release of an insurrectionist. Or you could have been one of those soldiers who bent your knee before Him only to mock Him, just to make His impending death that much less bearable. Then of course there were those who let Him be crucified. It’s true that they certainly didn’t will it or work towards it, but when He could have used a friend or two, those people evaporated like the dew before the desert sun – people He should have been able to count on, people who had literally promised Him, “Lord, I would never betray You.”
If this had been scripted in Hollywood, what happened next would have followed a very predictable narrative. Movies have made popular lines such as “I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you,” and “I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.” King Herod was familiar with that plotline; years earlier when he had heard about Jesus and His popularity with the crowds, his guilty conscience whispered to him in the night, warning him that surely this man was John the Baptist (whom he had killed) risen from the dead to have revenge upon him (Mt 14:1-2). It’s the way of the world: mess with me, and I will do everything in my power to make you wish you had never been born. We can only imagine what it must have been like to sit cowering in the Upper Room when Jesus, the Crucified One, walked – quite literally – through the door.
So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst….
Yet the astonishing plot just keeps getting better, for the One Who had been abandoned, betrayed, tortured and killed had not been resurrected for the sake of revenge. His first words to His apostles are a dead giveaway: “Peace be with you” (Jn 20:19-23).
This is forgiveness, and this is to be the new order. This forgiveness that Jesus offers His friends is so important, so necessary, that it is the first thing of which He assures them. He then commissions these forgiven ones to assure that His forgiveness reaches all mankind:
“Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”
Mercy is that central to Jesus’ being; reconciliation is that crucial. Out of love for us, He gave His representatives the authority to forgive sins in His name, and He did it right out of the gate. Let the importance of that not be lost on us next time we are tempted to put off confession. Divine Mercy is the most original plot twist of all time.
On Monday within the Octave of Easter
Deo omnis gloria!