The teacher’s followers couldn’t make sense of what happened. One minute they were listening to the wisest, most loving man they had ever seen. The next minute he was subjected to an unfair trial, declared unfit to live, and sentenced to die. Now he was gone. The teacher’s life and vision for the future seemed to end as quickly as he had come.
After 3 days of living in the shadows, the teacher’s friends saw the unexpected happen again. Their mood suddenly changed. First a group of women reported that the tomb where the teacher had been buried was empty.69 One woman claimed that she saw him alive and spoke with him. Soon whole groups of men and women announced that they too had seen him.70
The friends’ lives changed dramatically. In the days and years that followed, many of them were killed for refusing to deny their story. Their courage convinced many of their neighbors to believe that the friends were telling the truth.
In whispered conversations and behind closed doors, enemies of the teacher tried to figure out how to offset the reports of the friends. They knew that people lie to save their lives, not to lose them. They knew that some even die for what they believe to be the truth. But they would soon find out that the followers of the teacher would suffer for more than a belief. They would die for their claim that they had seen the teacher—alive and well— after his death.
The teacher had one more surprise for his friends. As they stood talking with him on top of a hill, he defied gravity and rose weightlessly from the ground until he disappeared in the clouds.71
As the friends stood speechless, looking into the air, two messengers appeared to them and said, “As you have seen him go, so he will return.”72 Later, the friends remembered that the teacher himself had told them that he would return for them at a time they did not expect.73
Yet he also promised that he would never leave them. He assured them that even when they could no longer see him, his spirit would always be with them.74