What does it take for you to believe that Jesus has risen? We live in a society that really seems to crave “proof.” We just have trouble taking things on faith. And even if we have “proof” of some sort, that might not be enough. We want more and more signs and wonders. But is that enough?
The disciples also wanted “proof.” Mary comes from the tomb with the news that she has seen the Lord, and two of the disciples then run to the tomb to see for themselves. The Gospel tells us that the “Beloved Disciples” believed right away when he saw the folded up grace clothes. Peter, on the other hand, was perplexed and, we assume, not completely convinced. Then Jesus appears to 10 of them – Judas is gone and Thomas is somewhere else, we don’t know where. Meeting with Jesus, seeing him and talking with him brings the disciples to believe (sort of). But Thomas is not there and when he hears the news he refuses to accept this wild story on its face. He wants to have the same experience of the risen Lord as the other disciples. And Jesus comes back, specifically to provide this for Thomas. “Do not doubt, but believe!” Jesus tells him. That is all it takes for Thomas: “My Lord and my God,” he responds.
So, we have an empty tomb, burial wrappings in an odd arrangement, angelic messengers, a gardener who knows Mary by name, two disciples who break bread with a stranger who then disappears, the physical presence of the Lord – who eats fish on the beach. What does it take? The gospels make it clear that for each of the disciples they need a different experience, which is provided to them. The gospels are also clear about something else – it is ok! There is nothing wrong with seeking understanding and doubt. Jesus does not condemn Thomas’ doubting, or any of the others. Jesus is patient with them and provides his physical presence to them in order to strengthen their faith. One might wonder why Jesus even bothered returning to these disciples and going through all this. He knew them, and how they struggled with faith, and how confused and faithless and flawed they were. Why not appear to Caiaphas or Annas or Pilate – those who were in charge? The answer is clear and simple: because Jesus loved these 11 men (plus the other followers). Jesus was invested in these disciples, as flawed as they were, because he loved them and knew their potential.
We are no less flawed than those 11 disciples. We have our doubts and struggles and our issues. We all struggle to some degree with competing loyalties, we have trouble with priorities and are sometimes faithless – just like those 11 disciples. But Jesus has a commitment to us and He will stay with us and work with us and love us and continue to shower grace upon us – because He loves us. And the gifts he bestows upon the 11 are available to us as well. He offers them “peace” or “shalom” or complete well-being; the opportunity to become one with God and God’s creation. And he offers us the Holy Spirit – the presence of God in our midst to provide us strength and wisdom and insight and comfort and a sense of God’s abiding presence that grounds our lives and ministries.
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