John’s Gospel describes in minute detail the moments after Jesus’ resurrection, his first encounter with one of his followers, and his imminent ascension to God. Peter summarizes the whole of Jesus’ ministry and proclaims that he is the judge of the living and the dead. Paul urges believers not to waste time seeking God or self-improvement in asceticism and their own made up religion, but, instead to go to the source: Jesus Christ sitting in all power and authority at the right hand of God. All three texts speak to the fact that Jesus’ ministry continues after his death, even in the present moment, right here, right now.
For Cornelius, Peter’s message meant full inclusion of this gentile God-fearer into the household of God. For the Colossians, knowing that Jesus intercedes for them from a place of power means they could stop abusing their bodies which did nothing to bring them closer to God. For Mary she no longer had a friend to bury, but good news to proclaim. And for Peter and John, the empty tomb was confirmation the scriptures were true and their faith was not in vain. In our own day, the good news of Jesus’ resurrection means we can stop seeking and start finding God; we can skip the self-help aisle and pray to one who will listen and intercede for us; and that like Mary, we can tell others that we have seen Jesus.
The Gospel — if we’ve truly heard it — should divide our lives into a time “before” and “after” we respond to it. The resurrection of Jesus shows us that the story really can be changed: the chief priest, the council, Pontius Pilate don’t get the last word. Not even sweet, tender Mary gets to finish preparing the body of her dear friend for burial. And if the Judean authorities, the Roman Empire, man-made cults, the caste or class we’re born into, and even death itself doesn’t get the last word, then we are truly free to change the way we live.