From early in the morning on the first day of the week to beside the sea where the disciples were fishing, the stories of the resurrected Jesus being seen by people are full of wonder. And disbelief, fear, amazement, doubt and probably more than a little bit of confusion.
Well, of course. The story’s about someone physically rising from the dead. Today, we’d call that impossible, so imagine what it would have seemed like to people two thousand years ago. Despite the fact that he repeatedly told them it was going to happen. It would have been, well, God-like.
This is the power of God over death and life. A power beyond us, much like Jesus demonstrates in his life. Jesus is capable of things we simply aren’t because he is the child of God. That’s why we worship him and built a religion around him.
I wonder if Jesus would really appreciate that. He seems to have been trying so hard to draw us close to him and here we are, setting him apart, making him unreachable.
Imagine if there were another way to know this story. A little less literal and one that emphasized the close, intimate relationship we can have with Jesus and, through him, with God. Imagine the story is meant to draw attention to the life of Jesus and how, in living as he did, he showed us what we could be capable of, that we are all children of God and, as the creation story tells us, made of the divine spirit and the earth, good from the beginning.
The women who found the tomb empty that morning were reminded that Jesus had told them he would live again and that they should go and tell the others that. Matthew says they turn around and there he is. Mark says he appeared to Mary and then “in another form” to others. Luke says that two of the disciples met him on the road and didn’t recognize him at first. John says Mary thought he was the gardener at first. And when he appeared to the disciples where they were hiding, they needed to see his hands and feet. The disciples who met him by the lake didn’t recognize him at first, either. John even makes a point of Thomas doubting the news, even though they all did. It seems like they all found it difficult to see Jesus alive. Maybe they just didn’t see what they expected.
Aren’t we all in that boat?
What if all they had to do to see Jesus was realize he was alive in them and in the people around them? What if the open tomb simply opened their eyes and their hearts? What if it really was the gardener, but they could suddenly see Jesus in them or in a stranger they met on the road? What if the disciples recognizing the wounds or the action of breaking bread with them were metaphors for what wounds us, too, and what actions we might take to share, connect and heal? What if we could be open to seeing Jesus, especially when and where we least expect it, in someone from whom we might least expect it? What if we weren’t blinded by expectations and instead opened our eyes and hearts with hope? Can you imagine that?