Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Still Scared

Luke 24 is an interesting chapter to read from start to finish. Before attempting to preach the gospel lesson appointed for this Sunday (Luke 24:36b-48), it might be a good idea to let the rest of the story soak in a little bit.

On the third day, Jesus rose from the dead, and, when the women discovered that the tomb was empty and were told by two heavenly messengers that Jesus had risen, they were frightened (v. 5). When they reported what they had seen to the disciples, many of them dismissed it as "an idle tale" (v. 11). The disciples who walked down the road to Emmaus explained to the risen Jesus, whom they were kept from recognizing, the reports of the empty tomb, but still they did not understand. So Jesus called them "foolish" and "slow of heart" and explained in detail how the scriptures pointed to the death and resurrection of God's anointed one (vv. 25-26). Still unable to perceive what was being said or who it was that was saying it, the disciples stumbled along until Jesus broke bread and their eyes were finally opened. So they ran back to Jerusalem and told the other disciples what had happened, and the heard that Jesus had indeed appeared to Simon (vv. 33-35).

What happens next? Just as the disciples were discussing all of these things, Jesus shows up again, and the disciples "were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost." Think about that again. After all of that--after the empty tomb, conversations with angels, a scriptural explanation by Jesus himself, a remarkable recognition and disappearing act, and confirmation of another visit from Jesus--the risen Lord shows up, and the disciples still think they are seeing a ghost. To put it plainly, it was easier for them to believe that they were being haunted than to believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead.

What about you? What's easier for you to believe--that ghosts walk the earth or that Jesus rose on the third day?

Part of me is shocked at the thick-headed disciples who still can't believe in the resurrection. And part of me is sympathetic and understanding that the thick-headed disciples still can't believe. Two-thousand years later, what's easier for the world to believe--the likelihood of a zombie apocalypse or the likelihood of the resurrection?

"But don't worry," Jesus said. "Stay here until you are clothed in power from on high." We don't get to that point in Sunday's reading. Liturgically speaking, the Ascension and Pentecost are still a few weeks away. But it's worth noting now that the disciples won't fully appreciate the power of the resurrection until they receive the power of the Holy Spirit. It's ok if it doesn't quite make sense yet. It's ok if it's still easier to believe in ghosts than it is to believe in the empty tomb. God isn't finished with you yet. It might take a little time for the pieces to be put together. Even Jesus himself couldn't explain the scriptures clearly enough for the disciples to believe...that's because it takes more than bible study to put your faith in the empty tomb. It takes an encounter with the risen Lord, and it takes the gift of the Holy Spirit, which leads us into all truth.

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