An epitaph is a text honoring the deceased, most commonly inscribed
on a tombstone. Many are quotes from holy texts like the Bible. In
Manila’s North Cemetery, a funny but striking epitaph of an unknown
tomb says it all: Juan dela Cruz “Ako Ngayon… Bukas Ikaw” (My turn
today, your turn tomorrow).
An epitaph is a reminder of our own mortality. When Jesus died on the
cross, the disciples, except John, hid themselves for fear of being
arrested and killed. Fear, frustration, and uncertainty of their
future overwhelmed the disciples, but they stood together. Then one
evening, Jesus suddenly stood among them and said, “Peace be with
you,” and immediately showed his wounded hands and side. At first
glance, the showing of wounded hands and side seems to contradict the
greeting of peace; but it is actually an offering of consolation,
encouragement, and hope to the disheartened disciples. Jesus knew what
was within the hearts of the disciples – great fear. As a consoler,
Jesus consoled them in words (“Peace be with you”) and in action (“He
showed them his hands and side”). His greeting of peace was intimately
connected to his wounds. His wounds speak of peace!
The best consoler is the one who already experienced difficulty.
Encouragement from a cancer survivor or cancer patient is more
consoling than that of a priest. Words of forgiveness from a father
whose son was brutally murdered may move our hearts to forgive. A
scripture professor may impress us with his in-depth knowledge of the
Bible but a very profound sharing that comes from the heart may bring
us closer to God. The deepest and truest consolation will always come
from somebody who has been there already.
This is the reason why Jesus showed his hands and side to his
disciples. Besides telling them that he is alive, by showing his
wounds, Jesus wanted them to see the marks of cruelty, pain, hate, and
torture that he endured. The risen Christ was wounded, suffered, and
was crucified, and yet he survived. Yes, he died on the cross… but now
he is alive! The Father vindicated Jesus by raising him from the dead.
Thus, the wounds of Jesus became the signs of hope and strength, bound
intimately to his words of peace. “I will carry my cross and claim my
The greeting of Jesus, “Peace be with you,” is a forceful command for
the disciples, encouraging them back to life, to hope, to be available
to him and the world again. His greeting of peace and revelation of
his wounds call us not to run, not to hide, not to fear anymore, not
to do a disappearing act; but rather to face the world with courage
and spread the Good News. The empty tomb becomes the womb of our hope
– Jesus defeated death and has risen. Go now! Claim Jesus’ victory
over death, you are an empowered Easter child!
A good epitaph speaks to us and warns us of our own mortality, but the
epitaph of Jesus in his empty tomb will remind us of our own