For the past forty days of Lent, we have spent a lot of time reading and praying about Jesus’ passion and death. We reflected on his entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
We joined him at the Last Supper on Holy Thursday. We wept with the Virgin Mary at the foot of his cross on Good Friday. Then we rejoiced to see him risen on Easter Sunday.
But is that the end of the story? Do we just get back to business as usual? Not at all! While Matthew and Mark end their Gospels at the resurrection and Jesus’ command to take the good news to the ends of the earth, Luke and John go further. They give us detailed stories about Jesus’ encounters with Mary Magdalene, Thomas, the Emmaus disciples, and Peter. They tell how seeing the risen Lord revived their flagging faith, filled them with peace, and inspired them to go out and preach.
When Jesus called Mary Magdalene by name, her faith was restored. The Emmaus disciples, upon seeing Jesus in the breaking of the bread, hurried back to Jerusalem to tell everyone what had happened. Invited to probe Jesus’ wounds, Thomas proclaimed, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).
No one had a more dramatic encounter with the risen Jesus than Peter. Seeing him on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Peter must have felt guilty, ashamed, and unworthy. He was supposed to be the “Rock” of the Church, yet he had denied Jesus three times. But Jesus looked beyond the turmoil to see the potential in Peter and all his disciples. He knew that they would turn back once they saw him, and that’s exactly what happened.
The Greatest Story Ever Told. We are just like these first believers. Jesus knows our weaknesses and our failures, but he doesn’t dwell on them. He sees us as children of the resurrection, as people for whom sin and death are destroyed. And that’s how we should see ourselves. Jesus knows we have flaws; he knows we commit sins. But he also knows there is so much more to us than our failings. He sees all the goodness and love in us, even when we have a hard time seeing it ourselves. And so instead of condemning us, he tells us, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). He calls us by name (20:16). He tells us that he is with us—always (Matthew 28:20).
Jesus’ resurrection is the story of life triumphing over death, a triumph that continues today. We see it every time our faith is rejuvenated. We see it every time God frees us from pride or guilt or worry. The Easter story is the greatest story ever told. May we keep it close to our hearts. Every day, may we hear Jesus tell us, “Peace be with you.”