When Christ rose from the dead, why did He do this when no one was around? This was a question I struggled with for a long time. I even came to some practical answers that would satisfy my curiosity. Maybe none of them were expecting it, so they weren’t around. Maybe too many of them lost faith completely. Or maybe this was Christ’s choice, just like He chose to reveal His Divine Nature to only a few (Peter, James, and John). All of these ideas came back to me from time to time as explanations, and eventually I discovered that I didn’t need the explanation at all.
The problem I had was that I was making God’s saving actions all about the parts that we know about, and I was ignoring the parts that remain mysterious. God saved us through actions that would be real, even if no one saw any of them. God created you, though no one ever saw your soul shaped, your personality formed, or the spark of life given to you. There are many other things which God did for all of us. He destroyed our death by dying, and only then restored our life through the Resurrection. How does that work?
Any explanation we can find is so limited by our understanding, or our ability to express it, that it will fall short of the reality. Just like when He revealed His Divine Nature in the Transfiguration, the best description we have is that Jesus became very bright. We hear the same thing about St. Paul’s conversion, who was blinded by the Light of Christ. In both accounts, it took a long time for these witnesses of Christ’s Glorified Body to make sense of it, and eventually understand what they must do to carry on Christ’s mission. For St. Paul, it would take at least two years before he began to preach openly.
So maybe the Resurrection itself was a moment like these, one that couldn’t have been understood in the moment, so Christ chose to do something different. For the rest of the people who would build the Church, He spent time with them throughout 40 days, when He could teach them and encourage them in the gentle way they needed. He could give them hope and healing, and prepare them for the mission. And then, after ascending to Heaven, He could leave with them the greatest gift, the Holy Spirit to dwell with them and continue to give them strength.
So does it matter that we don’t know exactly what the Resurrection looked like? Sure, I still wonder, just like the Transfiguration and the Ascension, and all sorts of things I wish I got to witness. But just like those 40 days of ministry after the Resurrection, He is still gently forming all our hearts to more fully embrace the love He has kindled in them. He is still preparing us for new adventures and binding our wounds. And let us not forget that the Holy Spirit still dwells within us, to be our advocate and guide through whatever may come.
Today, as we move into the Easter Season, let us remember what we are celebrating as we move toward Pentecost. We are still a part of the Easter story, as Christ continues to draw each of us closer, and guide us toward the mission He has in store for us. May this Easter be blessed for you and yours, and may this season bring you all closer to Christ.