We can only image how the apostles and followers of Jesus felt after he had been so brutally executed and now go forever. This man was like no other. He saw into their very souls with unconditional love and acceptance. He spoke of God’s love and our lives in ways that profoundly impacted them. He had moved them in a way that they literally dropped everything to follow him, his words, his friendship, and his example. On the night before he was crucified in such a brutal fashion, he knelt as a servant to wash each of their feet and shared his body and blood with them so that they could become one with him and live forever in God’s love. Within a matter of hours, Jesus was the ultimate sacrificial lamb as he poured himself out in total self-gift. Out of pure love and mercy, Jesus took the place of not only Barabbas but of each apostle and each one of us on the cross for our sins so that we might share eternal life with him in heaven.
It was most likely, the apostles and followers were not fully aware of what Christ was doing for them during his passion and death on a cross – not my will but your will. Jesus was the new Adam, trusting fully his Father’s will, as Adam did not, and providing the only means of atonement for man’s infinite injustice against God. Jesus fully human and fully divine was the only man capable of providing that justice for us to his Father. I doubt that many of us are fully aware of this sacrifice of love and the mercy we have received while we continue to follow our own plans vs trusting in God’s. Putting ourselves in the shoes of Peter and the apostles, we can get feel the tremendous sense of loss, bewilderment, and fear that must have overcome them as they hid in the upper room. They who had abandoned and even betrayed him were then told that Jesus, the Son of God, had risen from the dead. They were not chastised by Jesus but told “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
The risen Jesus spent the next forty days teaching his apostles and building his Church that he promised the gates of Hell would not overcome. Jesus did not leave us a book but he taught these men to act in the person of Christ with his authority – “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.” Jesus sent out the apostles to teach with his authority, to perform miracles, to heal and forgive sins with the power of the Holy Spirit. Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” These same apostles went from being afraid and not fully understanding the full nature of Jesus to then teaching the faith with authority and being willing to die brutal deaths to witness for Christ and for his Church.
So what are we called to do today? Jesus calls us to worship in community, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” Jesus called us to be one, “May they be one as we are one.” He calls us to be holy, “You shall be holy, as I am holy.” He calls us to trust fully in God’s will over our own, “May your will be done, on early as it is in heaven,” and “not my will, but yours be done.” He teaches and shows us that true love is not a feeling but total self-gift of oneself to another. He instructs us to spread the Good News to everyone, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Christ built a Church guided by the Holy Spirit for a reason. He intended that Church, both the body of Christ and the Bride of Christ, to be with us until his return. We are called to be build up that one, holy, catholic and apostolic church and to live our lives for others in a way that tells the world that his life and sacrifice means something of profound significance to us. The forty days of Lent helped us to prepare our hearts for Easter. Now that Jesus has done more than his share for us, it might be good for us to spend these next forty days committing ourselves to him and what he has asked us to do. Sounds like more than a good deal for us – but that was the plan all along.