The reactions to our reading of the resurrection story were immediate:
“Wait. Why didn’t they see this was what was going to happen?”
“Yeah…What’s up them acting so unprepared for this moment?”
“Isn’t this exactly what he told them would happen?”
“Right? I mean, didn’t he already raise two other people from the dead?”
“Did these disciple guys ever pay attention?”
Every week we end our staff meeting together here at the church talking about the Scripture passage for Sunday’s worship focus. I read the Scripture and then we just spend some time asking questions or throwing out ideas, and so Easter week was no different. I had just read the passage for Sunday (which you can find here) where the disciples have just heard from Mary Magdalene that the tomb is empty.
The disciples response, though, is less than substantial. Upon hearing from the women that the tomb is empty and that “the living is no longer among this place of the dead” the vast majority of them dismiss the words of these first chosen witnesses to the resurrection and decide instead that this is only “an idle tale.” (And as an aside, could there be any stronger Biblical advocation of women in ministry leadership positions than the fact that they believed first while the men did not?) As Mary and others perhaps plead with them to believe and to remember Christ’s words as proof, instead they dismiss them. They wave their hands and continue forgetting while content to leave their hope in shattered pieces around them.
And so, the reaction in staff was understandably severe towards the disciples who dismissed the words of these women who remembered and saw and told. “Why weren’t they ready for this moment?” we asked. Sitting at the table we knew, of course, that to be told Jesus had risen from the dead would be a lot for them to accept, but hadn’t they just spent several years with him watching, eating, hearing and seeing?
Watching as he raised Lazarus from the dead,
Eating the food he created in a miracle,
Hearing him tell how he would conquer the grave, and
Seeing him live in light of the coming Kingdom of God.
So, how is it at this final moment and time when it all matters the most that they forget it all? I don’t know…maybe the darkness of that day when the tomb held God in silence just simply extinguished whatever remembering could have happened.
The news of another terrorist attack this week seemed almost to push me to the point of the exhaustion. In the past few months alone, there have been literally hundreds of terrorist attacks. Ankara, Instanbul, Brussels, the list grows and grows and, to be truthful…I find it hard to speak hope. The world seems almost impossibly broken. The pain is not only global, but it is also irreducibly personal. For instance, just this week I met with a mother whose daughter had committed suicide because online “friends” ostracized her and turned unspeakably mean. Hate seems to grow, demagogues consolidate power, and good people get chewed up by vicious and broken systems which seem to hold unchallenged sway over their life. I don’t feel like I’m the only one who thinks the only sane answer sometimes is to shrug and say “What’s the point?”
Truthfully, don’t you ever think that too? In the dead of night or in reading the news, haven’t we all in one way or another thought “Oh well…that’s just the way it is.” And isn’t that exactly how hope dies? In small pieces? Bit by bit until there is none left?
Then again, perhaps those words directed at the disciples should also be directed at us. As the world continues, haven’t we too heard the stories of what Christ has done? Haven’t we too gathered every week to eat and drink at the communion table? And haven’t we too ignored those who have witnessed and remembered?
Watching as those we love are healed of physical or emotional pain,
Eating the broken bread together as a sign of his presence,
Hearing the stories of what he has and will continue to do,
Seeing him in the faces and lives of those in our church and world who are in need?
So, how is it at these moments and times when it all matters that we too forget it all?
It’s because we are no different than the disciples…you and I. We forget just as easily, don’t we? Those small crucifixions and full tomb-moments wear us down until we also again need to hear the words of Easter from those who plead with us to believe. He is alive! Death does not have the final word no matter how it looks! As we move into this Holy Week, watch for it my friends. Watch for where you have dropped your pieces of hope, because now is the time for us to help each other gather them again. Praying for you all this week-