Doubt is pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother. — Kahlil Gibran
To understand the doubt among Jesus disciples, when confronted by accounts of his resurrection, we need to enter into the pain they had experienced. Theirs was not a feel good faith. According to the Gospel of Luke, one evening as they gathered for dinner they were talking about the persistent rumors when Jesus suddenly appeared in their midst and gave his familiar greeting, “Peace be with you.” They were terrified! (24:36-49).
The disciples thought it was a ghost. Being visited by a ghost was not a happy event in the ancient world. “No, no,” Jesus said, “Why are you afraid?” Look at the marks on my hands and feet. It’s me. Their imaginations had to be working overtime. They were trauma victims struggling to put their lives back together after going through a horrific week of state sponsored torture. The last thing they needed was to be visited by that ghost.
Jesus gently coaxed them to a still incomprehensible conclusion. He didn’t explain resurrection, but encouraged them to discover it for themselves. Luke’s tells us that the disciples “in their joy . . . were still disbelieving and still wondering.” They wanted to hope but there were too many unanswered questions. They were so afraid of getting it wrong again. I can empathize because I have my own questions. Such things don’t happen in my world either.
When you’re dead, you’re dead. We all know that. The more sophisticated the arguments explaining the resurrection are the more questions they raise. So I won’t do that. But, like those first disciples, I feel hope burning inside me. Death cannot have the last word. If it did the militarists and capitalists would be right and I will never submit to such a world.
So Jesus turned to the scriptures to help his disciples see what God’s up to. He talked about Gods’ plan for creation, about the covenant with Abraham and Sarah, about the exodus from Egypt, about Ezekiel’s vision of a valley of dry bones coming back to life, and about Isaiah’s depiction of a suffering servant. Slowly, their minds began to unlock. Perhaps the rejection and humiliation of the crucifixion wasn’t a dead-end after all. Could it be part of God’s plan–the final steps into the plight of broken humanity? The wheels begin to turn. What would it mean to believe, to practice resurrection?
How would it reorient our lives, our families, and our communities? Jesus challenges his followers to be witnesses to such a brave new world bubbling up in the midst of our cruel and tired old world. We’re witnesses to the fact that we can live as free people. No matter what happens to us–death will not have the final word.
Like those first disciples, we have not arrived and are far from perfect. Still, I see signs of resurrection in our love and care for each other. I see them in our resistance to the powers of death, greed, and violence. We resist being egocentric and self-consumed to the hurt of other people. We strive for healthy, life-giving sexual relationships. We’re deeply committed to our spouses, our children, our families.
I see resurrection in our care for the broken parts and hurting places in our lives. I see resurrection in the tough love that sometimes says this is all we can give right now. There’s wisdom in recognizing that only God can fill some of our deepest needs. I see resurrection when we don’t give in to the compulsion of thinking we need to fix everything.
I see the victory of God when we resist consumerism. We all draw those boundaries at slightly different places but draw them we must. We can’t develop an appropriate relationship to things when we consume indiscriminately simply because we can. Kristen Grant says we’re witnesses to the resurrection when we can invite someone to look into our homes, our families, our friendships, our work, our checkbook, our daytimes—and find Jesus there (Christian Century, April 19, 2003: 19).