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Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
Suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!
In the Easter season, ancient hymns like this one ring out in churches all over the world as we are all invited to join the angels and saints in their songs of exultation. Life has conquered death! Jesus Christ is risen! All heaven rejoices!
As we sing these songs—so many of which are both ancient and still full of joy and hope—let’s go to Jesus and ask him to open our minds and our hearts. Let’s ask him to deepen our understanding of his resurrection and to give us a greater grasp of the victory he has won for us.
He Opened Their Minds. Such a request is not out of the ordinary. After all, it’s what Jesus did for his followers on the first Easter Sunday. Luke tells us that when he appeared to the apostles in the upper room, Jesus “opened their minds to understand the scriptures” (Luke 24:45). He also tells us that when Jesus appeared to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, he “interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures” (24:27). So today, and all throughout this Easter season, let Jesus take the truths of our faith and make them real and life-giving to you. Let him open your mind.
What did Jesus say to his apostles, and just how did he open their minds? Jesus reminded them about all that he had taught during his three years with them, but he did something more. He told them: “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44). He made it clear how all of his teaching and all of his miracles fulfilled everything they had learned from the Hebrew Scriptures. Jesus really was the Messiah, and his resurrection proved once and for all that God was faithful to all of his promises.
The Story of Israel. We don’t know exactly what parts of Scripture Jesus used when he opened his apostles’ minds, but we can make some educated guesses at the things he told them. For instance, we can imagine that Jesus spoke about the story of creation. With its description of a lavish garden, a couple united in perfect harmony, and a world of peace and calm, the stories in Genesis 1 and 2 paint a picture of the way God intended us to live: in union with one another and in a loving relationship with himself.
This picture of Eden would also have been the perfect way to introduce the reality of sin and separation. This first couple—innocent but not yet fully mature in their relationship with God—fell to temptation and turned away from their Creator. As a result, the power of sin was released in the world, darkening every human heart and marring every human relationship. From the accusations of Adam and Eve to the murder of Abel by his brother Cain, even to the building of the Tower of Babel, the Book of Genesis gives us story after story of how humanity had fallen into the grip of sin.
But Jesus didn’t appear to tell his apostles about how dire their situation was. He came to prove that God would never abandon his people—in their deepest need or in their darkest sin. From the intimate story of God’s covenant with Abraham to the majesty and power of the people’s exodus out of Egypt under Moses, Jesus showed his apostles that everything they had learned from Hebrew Scriptures was leading up to him and his cross and resurrection. He showed them how Abraham, Moses, David, Joshua, and so many others all foreshadowed the salvation he would offer.
Unfolding God’s Plans. Luke tells us that Jesus spoke about the prophets as well. Continuing the story of Israel’s history, Jesus explained how servants such as Elijah and Elisha continued to call the people back to Yahweh. He told how Jeremiah and Ezekiel promised a time when God would make a new covenant with his people and place his Spirit in their hearts. He told about a servant of God who was marred beyond human likeness, pierced for their iniquities, and crushed for their sins (Isaiah 53:5,12). This servant would “make many righteous” and would ultimately be “exalted and lifted up” because he poured out his life for his people (52:13).
Through century after century, Jesus knitted together the stories of the Old Testament as he showed his apostles all that he had come to fulfill. Finally, he recalled his time with them, showing them how his teachings about the mercy of God and about the call to love one another fit into his Father’s plan to forgive and reconcile a fallen people. He showed them how all of his miracles of healing and deliverance revealed God’s power to raise them up and God’s deep desire to restore his people in their bodies, their souls, and their spirits.
This is the gospel that Jesus proclaimed to his apostles. And it is the gospel that he wants to proclaim to us as well. Jesus wants to open our eyes to his Father’s plan—a plan he formed at the very beginning of creation. He wants to show us that God has been faithful to his plan from the start, and that each of us plays an integral part in this plan. He wants to show us that the Father’s purposes didn’t end with the resurrection of Jesus. They include our own resurrection with Jesus—in a partial way now through the Holy Spirit and in a complete way at the end of time. He wants to tell us that we will see that plan unfold as we say “yes” to him and place our hope and trust in his power.
“The Power of His Resurrection.” St. Paul told the Philippians, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection” (Philippians 3:10). These may sound like the words of a newly baptized believer who knows that he faces a long road ahead. But in reality, Paul was already very far along in his life of faith when he said this. He had already established numerous churches, opened the eyes of the blind, and cast out demons, and preached the gospel throughout the Middle East. Still, after all he had accomplished, he humbly wrote about his desire to know Christ.
Paul knew that a fuller revelation of Jesus was still ahead for him, and he wanted to keep striving for that revelation. As far as he was concerned, he was just beginning to grasp the length and depth and breadth of God’s love and power—and he longed to know it more and more deeply. Day in and day out, he meditated on the resurrection of Jesus, and it brought him great comfort, strength, and encouragement. The promise of a resurrection meant everything to him, and he devoted his whole life to learning it, experiencing it, and sharing it with as many people as he could.
At its heart, the good news about the resurrection isn’t about good scholarship or biblical exegesis. It is about a person, Jesus of Nazareth. It’s about a world bound by sin and a response by a loving God who reached out and rescued us. When Paul said that he wanted to know the power of Jesus’ resurrection, he was confessing his desire to know Jesus more, to become more like him—even in suffering—and to finally get to see him face-to-face.
As he did with his apostles, as he did on the road to Emmaus, and as he did with Paul, Jesus wants to open our eyes to the gospel message. He wants to tell us that our loving God has always had a plan, and that this plan is still in place. It’s a plan that will culminate when Jesus comes again in glory. Until that time comes, he asks us to trust in the power of his resurrection as we strive with all our heart to love him and obey his teachings.
Send Us Out, Lord! When Jesus enlightens our minds and inspires us to place our hope in his resurrection, we will find ourselves moved to tell others about Jesus. What did Mary Magdalene do when she saw the risen Lord? She ran to tell the apostles. What did the two disciples on the road to Emmaus do? They turned around, went back to Jerusalem to tell everyone that they had seen Jesus. This is a pattern that we can see repeated throughout the New Testament, and in the centuries that have followed.
The first response of people who experience the power of the resurrection is to proclaim Jesus as the Lord, both of the universe and of their own hearts. And the second response is to go out and tell others about Jesus. This, in fact, is how we can tell that we are being inspired by the truths of Easter: We love Jesus more, and we share him with the people around us.
So when you hear the familiar hymns telling you that Jesus Christ is risen, let the words go directly to your heart. Let them tell you that Jesus has given you new life through baptism. Let them motivate you to tell everyone that Jesus is Lord, that he is risen, and that all authority in heaven and on earth is his.