There is a small optional prayer in the Eucharistic prayer which says, “Christ has died, Christ is risen and Christ will come again”. This is a prayer of faith. This prayer expresses complete trust in Jesus Christ. The foundation of Christian faith is based on this trust. This unwavering faith and complete trust is a true mark of a Christian.
The death of Jesus is a historical event. In the history of Roman Empire it is written that Jesus has been given a capital punishment, namely the death on a cross, which is usually reserved for to those who revolt or plot against the empire and for hardcore criminals. But in Roman history Jesus’ Resurrection or coming back to new life after being buried is not recorded. “Jesus is risen”, “Jesus has come back to new life” is a matter of faith. But this faith is not based on any imagination. It is a belief based on concrete facts and evidences.
During the three years of his public life Jesus has predicted no less than three times about his death and resurrection. His disciples bear witness to the risen Jesus. So the disciples see the fulfillment of his prediction in his resurrection. One of the disciples, Peter addressing a crowd of worshipers Jerusalem temple fearlessly proclaims, “You killed the one who leads to life, but God raised him from death – and we are witnesses to this” (Acts 3: 15).
The detractors of Jesus and those who murdered him knew about this prediction made by Jesus coming back to life after his death. So on the second day of Jesus’ death and burial, they went to Pilate and told him, “Sir, we remember that while liar was still alive he said, ‘I will be raised to life three days later.’… Pilate gave them a guard and said to them, ‘Go and make the tomb as secure as you can’. So they left and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and leaving the guard on watch” (Mt 27: 62-66).
The fulfillment of Jesus’ prediction is a proof of the resurrection. Still another proof is the empty tomb. On the third day of Jesus’ death, in spite of the guard, the tomb was found empty! The detractors of Jesus could not deny the fact of the empty tomb. The soldiers guarding to tomb brought the news of the empty tomb to the chief priests. “The chief priests… gave large sum of money to the soldiers and said, “You are to say that his disciples came during the night and stole his body while you were asleep. … The guards took the money and did what they were told to do” (Mt 28, 11-15).
There are many proofs of Jesus’ resurrection. A third proof is the tremendous changes or transformation of the disciples. When Jesus was arrested, taken to Pilate and was condemned to death on a cross, all his disciples ran away and hid themselves for fear of being caught. But after the resurrection of Jesus the disciples came out and began to bear witness to Jesus even from Jerusalem temple! The disciples experienced tremendous inner strength that they are now able to face any situation! They began to proclaim Jesus’ life and message fearlessly. They also began to go to faraway places to spread Jesus’ life and message.
On the one hand, the Jewish priests and other leaders were ordering the disciples not to speak in the name of Jesus. They were also persecuting those who accepted Jesus and followed his message. Still the followers of Jesus, known then ‘of the Way’, steadily increased. In no way they could stop the steady growth of disciples and the followers of the Way. All the harassment and persecutions failed like a barrage being built against flood. In the midst of oppositions and persecutions even today the numbers of Christians are increasing around the world. The statistical data published by Rome every year are proofs that more and more people are embracing Christian religion. The number is growing around the world of those who take the initiation sacrament of Baptism.
On the other hand, we may think that if we had lived in the time of Jesus we would not have behaved like Judas, Peter or Pilate. Pilate contemned Jesus to death to protect his selfish interest of his position as Governor. Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 silver coins and Peter denied even knowing Jesus three times for fear of losing his life. Both Peter and Judas have lived with Jesus at least for 3 years as his disciples, that is, his close friends and witnessed his life and miracles! In our human reckoning both Peter and Judas committed unforgivable sins. But while Judas in his utter disappointment went and hanged himself, Peter recognized not only his weakness but above all the love, forgiveness and mercy of his Master and he became again a faithful disciple.
But the naked truth is that even today allured by power and attracted by money and also for fear of losing positions and perks we have people behaving selfishly like Pilate and Judas. So innocent people are persecuted and put behind bars for the crimes of others! Simple people are dispensed injustice to save the skins of the powerful people! In the name of protecting cows and of one’s religion, rationalists and intellectuals are murdered without the criminals ever caught! With selfish purposes we committed crimes taking protection behind unruly mobs. We are indeed behaving like Pilate, Judas and Peter; and crucifying Jesus time and again.
Pilate, Judas and Peter realized the horror of their sins. Under the weight of their sins Pilate and Judas ended their lives in suicide while Peter repented his crime crying and putting his trust in the one who said to forgive not seven times but seventy times seven. Trusting fully in Jesus’ pardon Peter turned to life and again became a trustworthy disciple of Lord Jesus. Instead of getting drowned the sea of great sin, Peter humbly turned to Jesus’ unconditional love, forgiveness and mercy; and with a positive attitude he remained all his life praising and glorifying God.
There is a force, a power behind the dramatic changes in Peter. It is the power of Peter’s faith in the Resurrection of Jesus. It is a Trust in Jesus who unconditionally forgives and loves a repentant sinner. With such faith and trust Peter surrenders completely at the feet of the Risen Christ. Now Peter could say with St Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2: 20).
After Peter’s sin, repentance and compete transformation Jesus not only appeared to Peter and the other 11 Apostles but Jesus also chose Peter as the head of all his disciples! Peter always remained humble in spite of his great responsibility to take care of all the followers of Jesus. Peter knew well that he is given the great responsibility and power not on account of his talents and abilities but on account of Jesus’ love and grace.
We get an idea of Peter’s humility and appreciation of God’s grace for him from a miracle which Peter performed in the vicinity of the Temple at Jerusalem. Peter does not take credit for the miracle but through it he glorifies God. One day Peter with John was going to the Temple to pray.
At the Beautiful gate of the Temple Peter and John met a lame person from birth. The lame person was staring at Peter and John hoping to get some alms. But Peter said to him, “I have no money at all, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth I order you to get up and walk!” Then Peter took his hand and helped him up. The lame person stood up on his feet and began to walk! All the people who came to the temple were wonderstruck with the miracle (see Acts 3: 1-10). The Risen Christ continues to do such big and small miracles even today in our midst. But to see and recognize the miracles we need an inner knowledge and a firm faith in Jesus Christ.
Changed On: 01-05-2019
Next Change: 16-05-2019
Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2019