Jerry Francis was trying hard to be a gracious guest. The followers of Jesus had reluctantly agreed to let Jerry and his friend Benjamin visit their secret lodging place in the city. Simon the Zealot was quite surprised when Peter and John arrived and introduced the two visitors. Simon had always downplayed his revolutionary activities when in the presence of the other disciples.
As the afternoon wore on, each time Jerry asked a sincere question about Jesus, Benjamin would roll his eyes and exclaim, “Who cares about a dead man? Don’t you remember? We saw him crucified three days ago! He’s dead!” Some of the disciples in the room, especially Simon, agreed with Benjamin.
“Yeah, I know, he was dead,” Jerry would reply. “But I think, I think maybe something miraculous occurred today.”
Ever since he woke up a week earlier and found himself living in first century Palestine—some kind of bizarre miracle in itself—his feelings toward the possibility of miracles had softened. And now, after being an eye-witness to the Palm Sunday procession, the crucifixion, the burial, and the empty tomb, Jerry had to see for himself if the most important part of the story was true: did Jesus really rise from the dead?
Late in the afternoon a woman named Mary, from the town of Magdala, arrived breathlessly, and as soon as the door was locked behind her, she exclaimed, “I have seen the Lord!” She went on to relate the details of a conversation she had with Jesus in the cemetery garden.
Mary’s news sparked another round of passionate discussions, with some in the group, including Jerry, clinging to the hope that Mary’s story was true, while others, including Benjamin and Simon, arguing that it was time to face facts, make plans to leave the city, and avoid being arrested.
As they talked, though the door never opened, suddenly, Jesus stood among them. Every person in the room gasped in complete shock. Jesus smiled and said, “Peace be with you.”
Jerry’s heart was racing. He looked closely at Jesus’ face, trying to determine if it was indeed the same man who had been nailed to the cross a few days earlier. Jesus displayed his gruesome wounds to the group. He then turned and looked straight at Jerry. For the third time, a cold chill ran down Jerry’s spine as that gentle gaze seemed to penetrate his soul.
“Oh my, it really is you,” Jerry whispered with trembling lips.
“Yes, Jeremiah,” Jesus said. “Greet Brenda for me. She has strong faith.”
The quiet tension in the room was shattered when Benjamin yelled, “You are alive!” He fell to his knees in front of Jesus and exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus smiled and said, “You look familiar. Do you have a brother?”
“Yes,” Benjamin answered, “My twin brother, Thomas, but I haven’t seen him in a long time. We no longer speak to each other.”
The other men in the room laughed. “I thought I recognized that face,” Peter said. “Not to mention that stubbornness!”
Jerry turned to John and said softly, “Remember what I said: when you write about this someday, leave me out of it.”
Jesus proceeded to breathe on each person in the room and say, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” When he breathed on Jerry, a warm glow enveloped Jerry’s body. He walked slowly to the side of the room and laid down on a cushion. The warm feeling wasn’t just physical, though his body felt wonderful. The sensation of peace and joy which filled his heart far outweighed the physical comfort. Jerry closed his eyes and basked in the love of God. He started to drift off in slumber.
* * *
A few minutes later Jerry heard the voices of children shouting, “Daddy’s awake!” Before he could open his eyes, he felt small hands pawing at his right arm and chest.
Then he heard a woman’s voice say, “Michael! Jennifer! Leave your father alone!”
Jerry slowly opened his eyes. Bright, sterile white light made him squint. Everything was blurry. He felt a dull, pounding headache in the back of his skull. The woman’s voice now whispered from just a few inches away, “Jerry, can you hear me, honey? Are you awake?”
“Um, yeah,” Jerry said in a weak and raspy voice. “I’m awake. Where am I?”
“Yale-New Haven Hospital. You’ve been here for a week, ever since your car crash,” the woman’s trembling voice said.
Jerry eyes finally were able to focus. “Brenda!” he exclaimed. “Is it really you?!” He halfway sat up in his hospital bed as he said this, and Brenda leaned over and put her head on his shoulder and wrapped her right arm around him in an awkward hug, trying not to disturb the intravenous tube connected to the back of Jerry’s left hand.
“Oh thank God,” she said through tears. “Oh Jerry, for a while there we thought we were going to lose you!”
The two children who had stepped away from the bed at their mother’s command, now rushed forward to join in the group hug. As the young boy reached his arm around his dad, two plastic eggs fell out of his hand and rolled into Jerry’s lap.
“Mikey! Jenny!” Jerry said joyfully. For the next few minutes all four people cried and laughed simultaneously.
Brenda asked Jerry how he felt. Jerry ignored the question and said, “Brenda, you’ll never guess what happened to me!”
“You mean the car accident?” Brenda asked.
“No, after the accident,” Jerry said. “Where I went, and who I saw.”
“What are you talking about?” Brenda said.
Just then two doctors in white coats and another man hurried into the room. One of the doctors said, “I hear Sleeping Beauty finally woke up.”
Jerry recognized the other man. “Vinny!” he said. “What are you doing here?”
The man reached past one of the doctors and grabbed Jerry’s forearm. “Just keeping watch with your family, old buddy,” he said as his lower lip quivered. “Nice to have you back among the living.”
The doctors methodically examined Jerry, and then proclaimed that he was doing terrific. After another day or two in the hospital for observation, they said, he should be able to go home.
When the doctors left, Brenda said, “Oh honey, I’m so glad you woke up when you did. We were just about to go downstairs to the chapel. We would’ve missed you waking up.”
“The chapel? What for?” Jerry asked.
“Well, today is Easter,” she answered. “And the hospital chaplain is doing an Easter prayer service.” She glanced at the clock and said, “It started about a half hour ago.”
Vinny said, “Well, I know something that’s going to start in about five minutes.” He picked up the remote on the table by Jerry’s bed and turned the TV on. “Bronx Bombers, baby!” he said. “Sunday afternoon game at Yankee Stadium. Too bad the hospital cafeteria doesn’t serve beer.”
Jerry smiled at Vinny, who scrolled through the TV stations looking for the Yankees game. One of the channels was showing a replay of Easter Mass from the Vatican.
“Go back, Vin,” Jerry said. “Go back to the church channel.”
Vinny paused in confusion, then started clicking the remote. When he got to the channel showing the Easter Mass, he said, “This one?”
Jerry answered, “Yeah, leave it there for a while.”
Vinny shrugged and whispered to himself, “Man, he really did get hit in the head.”
Jerry turned to Brenda and said, “Do you think that chaplain can visit me later?”
“Well, I’m sure he will,” Brenda said. “I’ll call him after he’s done in the chapel.” Then Brenda stared at Jerry for a few moments and said tentatively, “Why do you want to talk to him, Jerry?”
Jerry smiled at Brenda and said matter-of-factly, “Because it’s Easter. And because it’s true.”
“What’s true?” Brenda asked cautiously.
Jerry replied, “Jesus is true. He really did rise from the dead.”
Brenda was speechless. Her eyes welled up with tears. Finally she asked, “When did you find out it’s true?”
“It’s a long story,” Jerry said with a laugh. “I’ll tell you when the chaplain’s here.” He reached out his arms and Brenda leaned forward. They embraced in a tight, passionate hug. Tears of joy trickled down each of their faces.
Jerry whispered into her ear, “I met a friend of yours recently, who told me to greet you.”
“A friend? Who?” Brenda asked as she stood up.
Jerry gave her a mischievous smile, and said, “I’ll tell you that when the chaplain’s here, too.”