Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Ingredients for Faith

So what was Jesus’ intention? He came among the disciples who were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They were talking among themselves, and he asked them what they were discussing. When they indicated that they had been discussing the recent events in Jerusalem, he pushed them further and asked, “What events?” Then, the disciples gave a short recount of Jesus’ celebrity, arrest, death, and mysterious post-crucifixion disappearance. Jesus criticizes their slowness of heart and then opens the scriptures to them. And then? He walks as if to keep going.

Could the story possibly have ended there? The disciples had all the ingredients for belief—narrative, prophetic interpretation, conversation within the community—but they still didn’t get it yet. They needed more time. They needed to spend more time with Jesus. But Jesus didn’t intend to give it to them—or at least it didn’t seem that way. He was going to keep walking. It was up to them to invite him to stay with them.

As an archetype for apprehending resurrection belief, this story might imply that Jesus comes near for a while but that the seeker must “make space” for Jesus to remain long enough for conversion to occur. Or maybe Jesus intended to stay with them all along and simply enjoyed seeing whether they would invite him to lodge there. Perhaps hospitality dictated that they offer him a place to stay so that there was never really any doubt, and Jesus was just playing the polite I’ll-keep-walking-until-they-ask-me role in the story. Regardless, Jesus “walked ahead as if he were going on,” and it wasn’t until they invited him to stay that they discovered who he was.

Sometimes we have all the ingredients for faith. We know the bible stories. We’ve heard the “good news” from family or friends or clergy. We’ve had the casual discussion with other skeptics while sitting at the bar or watching the game. But Jesus isn’t there yet—or at least we don’t know that he is. Actually, he’s been there all along. We just haven’t seen him. But all we have to do is invite him to stay. In life, it sometimes seems as if he intends to walk ahead of us—and maybe he does. Maybe he would have kept walking. Sure, he’d come back again and again, waiting for us to invite him to stay. But it is through our intention that his transformative presence becomes real.

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