God had additional plans beyond the empty tomb. The stone was rolled away; the linen cloths were neatly folded; the crucified Jesus as raised from the dead. Alleluia. Christ is Risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia. The glory of God is revealed. The glory of God is more powerful than the darkness of the human heart. Yet the plan of God was not yet complete; the love of God was not yet fully revealed. ? How do we know this?
Our first reading for this day from the Acts of the Apostles (2:14a, 22-32) is a sermon from Peter. Remember Peter? In the garden of Gethsemane, he sliced off an ear of the high priest’s servant who arrived with Judas to arrest Jesus. Always the impetuous one, Jesus reprimanded Peter and commanded him to put away his sword. Later that same night Peter denied knowing Jesus, not once, not twice, but three times. In Acts, this denier is addressing a crowd in Jerusalem – “Jesus of Nazareth, a man… you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law…. God raised him up”. In his compassionate love, Jesus came back for Peter, and Peter became the leader of the followers of Jesus. As the Epistle reading states, by his compassionate love, “by his great mercy, [God] gave us new birth…a new life. This is beyond glory; this is loving the impetuous and loving the denier.
In our reading from the Gospel according to John (20:19-31) through the compassionate love of God, Jesus appeared to the fearful disciples meeting behind “locked doors”. He stood among them and he said, “Peace be with you”. This is beyond glory; this is loving those in the grip of fear.
The reading continues and a week later Jesus returns to the gathering because Thomas was not present the previous week. This time the text notes that the doors were “shut”, not “locked”. We are not sure why Thomas was absent the first week, but he questioned Jesus’ presence among them as reported. Someone invited Thomas back, and Jesus also came back. He specifically came back for the one who doubted. Again, Jesus said, “Peace be with you”, and then directly addressed Thomas and his doubts. This is beyond glory; this is loving the doubter.
Beyond the tomb, Jesus came back for the impetuous and denying Peter, for the fearful followers, and for the doubting Thomas.
So, too, in compassionate love Jesus comes back for us when we are impetuous, when we are in denial, when we are fearful, and when we are doubtful. Jesus gives us second, third, fourth, and beyond opportunities through his compassionate love.
And we are to do the same.
Beyond a feeling, love is action.
May we compassionately love one another as we have been loved yesterday, today, and forever.