It really is unbelievable. With our usual sense of what is and isn’t real, you can certainly see why no one believed that Jesus was alive.
And no one in the story did, not just poor old Thomas who gets saddled with that doubt label, after the fact. The tomb was empty, the body was gone. But no one - no one - believed Jesus was alive until they saw him or touched him or talked to him.
The women who first came to the tomb and found it empty wondered who had taken the body and where. When they told the other disciples, they didn’t believe it either. Not until they’d seen Jesus in person and touched him and talked to him.
I would have thought that, having spent all that time with Jesus, seen him doing the things he did, knowing him the way they did, they might have been more inclined to believe Jesus when he told them what was going to happen. Even the angel at the tomb reminded the women that he was alive, “as he said.” Weren’t they paying attention? Peter was just “amazed.” John’s gospel even suggests that the other disciple, who followed Peter, believed but didn’t understand.
Maybe that’s just it. We struggle to understand that Jesus is more than flesh and bone, broken on the cross, more than words, more than story or teaching or behaviour. We can say that we follow Jesus by trying to be like Jesus, to model our behaviour after Jesus, even to try and live like Jesus. But that’s not being Jesus.
Jesus is not confined by a tomb, nor a body or the physicality of this creation. Jesus is about being. Jesus is about being love and grace, showing us how that is possible in this form which, like us, is both divine and human.
I believe that when the gospel of John tells of Jesus describing himself as “the way, the truth and the life,” it’s not asserting that the way is Jesus, but that Jesus is being the way. To be love and grace is the way which is true and life giving. That “way” can exist in more than Jesus. It has existed in more than Jesus, we just always come back to a comparison to the original and nobody makes that cut. But comparison was never Jesus’ point. Meeting a particular standard that always seems slightly out of our human reach was never Jesus’ point. Connecting with the divine and human that is in all of us, embracing the love that’s there, the life-creating, life-engaging, life-giving love that’s there, and being that in the world, that’s Jesus point. That brings us into relationship with God, with each other and with all that is.
Perhaps that seems unbelievable. It certainly seems like the first to discover Jesus was alive felt that way. At first. But they lived into it and they found the way. They lived outside the tomb and we can, too.