As the story goes, the man selected to play the part of Jesus in the small town’s Easter pageant created a stir.  The oil field worker had a reputation for a quick temper and a foul mouth.  But he was grateful for the part and practiced diligently.  Among those selected to be among the angry crowd was a quiet, unassuming bank employee who did not let the size of his part diminish his enthusiasm.  He cried “Crucify him” as passionately as any of them.

During the pageant, as the man playing Jesus dragged the heavy cross along the path toward his crucifixion, the man in the crowd was in his place, shouting and jeering and shaking his fists.  As the one playing Jesus trudged by, the man in the crowd got into his role so fully that he actually spit on the Jesus character.  The oil field worker stopped, looked squarely at the man and said in a low, calm voice, “I’ll be back to take care of you after the resurrection.”

No matter how meaningful Easter might be to you, life continues after the resurrection.  On Monday we go back to paying bills, cooking, helping our kids with homework, dealing with colleagues and bosses who don’t appreciate our efforts, changing the oil every 6000 miles. But whether you see the resurrection as an actual event or as a metaphor for transformation, something should be different after Easter.

Someone who needed to be “taken care of” after Easter was Simon Peter.  He failed the final exam for Discipleship 101.  When it counted most, Peter chickened out.  In fact, all the disciples did.  Don’t you know they were a miserable lot those few days afterward. Peter no doubt feared he would be judged only on his final, cowardly actions.  He deserved to be punished harshly.  That’s justice.

But what transpired after that is another story.  Each disciple, and Peter in particular was provided an opportunity for restoration.  Peter had the chance to declare the intentions that went deeper than his cowardice.  That’s mercy.

In matters of the spirit and of the heart, intentions count.  In the intensity of the moment, each of us is capable of saying and doing some regrettable things, things that reflect our fear or anger at the moment, but not some of the deeper, more abiding things in our heart.  Relationships that are judged solely on the words and deeds of a heated moment can be destroyed in one of those moments.  We all fail at Relationship 101 at one time or another, and we deserve to be punished accordingly.  That’s justice.

But one characteristic of a healthy relationship is the willingness of both people to not judge words or behaviors only. We are all inconsistent and unreliable, and we will inevitably disappoint the people we love the most.  A healthy and enduring relationship with our spouse, our children, our friends and our co-workers allows for the exploration and expression of our deeper intentions.  That’s mercy.

However, intentions alone are not enough.  Intentions must eventually lead to action. Peter was prompted to act on his newfound restoration. True intentions find expression.  Each of us has been loved beyond our deserving, whether you think of that in spiritual terms or human terms.  That love beyond deserving is best experienced when I can express my gratitude for it, and then in turn express that love to another undeserving person.

The resurrection must be more than a comforting belief.  It must become a relational action. “I’ll be back to take care of you after the resurrection” can be read as a promise that we will receive the judgment we deserve.  We can also read it as compassionate intention turned into action toward those we love, those we fear, and even those we consider our enemies.