What happened next?
BY BISHOP ROBERT HAYES JR.
Of many experiences throughout the course of my life, certain ones linger in memory, refusing to be forgotten no matter how long ago they happened. Such is the case for an encounter I had with my son Ryan when he was only 7 years old.
It happened at the end of a long day at church on an Easter Sunday. We had begun with joyous sunrise anthems that proclaimed the resurrection of our Lord and continued all morning as hundreds of people, clad in their Easter Sunday best, filed in and out of church. The last event was an afternoon children’s program, where speeches rehearsed for weeks were performed before proud parents, snapping picture after picture.
On the way home from church, I could tell my young son was deeply thoughtful and somewhat puzzled. I asked, "What are you thinking about?"
"Daddy, what happened after Easter?"
Taken by surprise, I asked him to explain.
"Well," Ryan said, "all day long we’ve been saying that Jesus is risen. What happened after that?"
I sensed he was really perplexed — and so was I upon hearing his question. I told him that, over a period of 40 days, Jesus was seen by many people, and then he returned to heaven to be with God.
"What happened after that?" he asked again.
And, doing what most parents do to avoid a child’s steady barrage of questioning, I answered, "Well, son, you’ll just have to find out for yourself!"
I remember that conversation as though it happened yesterday. Only now have I realized that answer applies to all of us.
The only way to know what happened after the resurrection is to encounter the risen Lord for yourself.
Jesus rose! And for one glorious day each year we celebrate and acknowledge that triumph over death. But after Easter Sunday, some people are guilty of re-burying Jesus in the graveyard of their disbelief, doubts, and fears.
I pray that you are like other people, those who know the resurrection means that God is not content to let life end in a graveyard, that God always has the last word, and that love is the everlasting victor!
Traveling on the road to Emmaus following the crucifixion, the story seemed to have ended at the cross for two discouraged followers of Jesus. They were disillusioned and heartbroken. And yet, while they were discussing the events of that fateful weekend, Jesus himself drew near.
But they failed to recognize him.
Jesus draws near to us even this day, but so often people fail to see him, know him, and be in fellowship with him because they have confined him to a single day, a once-a-year event.
No! The story of the resurrection did not end on the day the women went to the tomb and found it empty.
It did not end when the two Emmaus travelers later recognized Jesus after he had broken bread with them and then vanished from their sight.
The story did not end when Jesus stood among his disciples in a room behind locked doors, saying, "Peace be with you."
Nor did it end when Jesus was taken from their sight, ascending to heaven.
The resurrection story continues each and every time we recognize that Easter affirms we can have new life, eternal life! We can be renewed if we want to be; we can live in the power of the resurrection even now.
Jesus rose. Now what happens? That single act assures us of the promise that through the power of the Holy Spirit we can be drawn into a deeper relationship with God and ever-more-satisfying relationships with each other. We are reminded that death itself is merely an incident as we pass into a perfect expression of the life God already has given us.
The southern tip of Africa was called the Cape of Storms long ago, because the waters are so turbulent and unsettled. Sailors in the Middle Ages dreaded being routed around that cape, truly expecting to die. Then Vasco da Gama of Portugal successfully sailed around the tip of Africa on his way to India and returned home to tell of his adventure.
King John II was so moved by his testimony that in 1488 he changed the Cape of Storms name to the Cape of Good Hope.
Down through human history, the grave long seemed a cape of storms because death had the last word. But then Jesus burst forth from the tomb. He arose from the grave, and to all believers it has become a cape of good hope.
That’s what happened after Easter and, I tell you truthfully, it still happens every day!