In college, when I first started experiencing the power of Jesus in my life, I was so grateful for Jesus’ death on the cross. I knew for sure that his death had wiped away my sins and won my salvation. In fact, for several decades, I thought that the death of Jesus was far more important than his resurrection.
It’s only in the past few years that I have come to appreciate Jesus’ resurrection just as much. In fact, without the resurrection, the first believers wouldn’t have come to faith at all. What changed the early disciples was that they saw Jesus risen from the dead! And it wasn’t just a few people either. St. Paul tells us that at one time, as many as five hundred believers saw Jesus at once (1 Corinthians 15:5-8). Many of them had seen him die, and now they saw him alive!
Seeing Jesus raised from the dead changed their lives dramatically and motivated them to live for the Lord. It wasn’t their idea to start a new “Church” or start a new religious movement. Rather, these first disciples saw and heard the risen Christ entrust them with a mission: “Go . . . and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Some of them were so compelled by this calling that they were willing to die for their Lord.
Believing without Seeing. But you and I don’t see the risen Jesus with our eyes. I would love to see Jesus face-to-face in my prayer. I’d love to see the Lord, not only under the appearance of bread and wine, but as a man. To speak to him and look at him as he speaks to me, to fall on my knees before him—I would love to be able to do all of the things that Peter and the other apostles were able to do. But I can’t.
Jesus knew this would be the case. That’s why, after St. Thomas saw him risen from the dead, Jesus spoke words that were intended for us: “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” (John 20:29, emphasis added). Blessed are you, my brothers and sisters, who haven’t seen with your eyes but have believed in your hearts.
The fact is that the Holy Spirit can make the truth of the resurrection become so real that we are willing to give our lives fully for the Lord, even unto death. As the Spirit writes the resurrection of Jesus onto our hearts, he gives us a new perspective on death and on life. We know that we will die one day. Yet the Spirit also convinces us that Jesus has conquered the grave! So as Paul wrote, “If we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8).
The resurrection of Jesus, along with his passion and death, has already transformed us, and it continues to change us more and more every day. Even better, we can have great confidence that, after we die, we too will be raised with the Lord. We will finally see him and be with him forever in paradise. Happy Easter!
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