If you had been in charge of the resurrection, what would you have done? For Christians the resurrection of Jesus is the pivotal event of history. Sin and death are defeated, God’s new creation has begun. So what would the resurrection looked like if you had been in charge? What events would be appropriate?
Isn’t it odd, the lack of drama and pomp and ceremony in the gospel stories of Jesus’ resurrection? We have several stories in the Bible of the resurrected Christ appearing to the disciples. What astounds me is the ordinariness of them. To be sure there are angels at the empty tomb to announce the resurrection, but just one or two, not the heavenly host that announce his birth. Jesus’ appearances are by any reckoning low key. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus meets the women at the tomb with “greetings”. Eugene Peterson translates this in The Message as Good Morning”.
After all that has happened– that’s it? Good Morning?
The crucified and risen Christ just says, “Good Morning”? Wouldn’t you have been tempted to be a little more dramatic?
As the resurrection stories continue, Jesus does what he did before the crucifixion. He eats with the disciples, he walks with them, and he continues to teach them. Jesus meets the disciples on the beach and says, “come and have breakfast” (John 21:12). In Matthew’s gospel when the disciples meet Jesus, some doubt (28.17). Just like before the resurrection when people encounter Jesus some believe and some don’t.
I am stuck by the unpretentious manner of the resurrected Jesus. Matthew, John and Luke have a variety of stories but in all of them there is a certain familiarity about Jesus. Even though things are very different now, it’s the same Jesus. Jesus is unrecognized in several stories, not, I think because he was so different, but because he was so familiar. No one was expecting to see a familiar Jesus. Actually no one was expecting to see Jesus at all. But there he is.
Different yet the same. Unexpected yet familiar. Risen yet still wounded. Triumphant yet still patiently about the Father’s work.
Why didn’t God plan a more impressive resurrection? Personally, I would have planned a more spectacular event, wouldn’t you? A resurrection that declares in no uncertain terms who Jesus is and what God has done. How about an appearance in the Temple? Perhaps an appearance before Pilate? Or maybe a visit to the Emperor in Rome? That would get the point across rather dramatically don’t you think?
Where is the smoke and fire, the armies of angels, the parting of seas, the chariots of fire? Where is the powerful, awe-inspiring God, who unambiguously shows the world who is in charge leaving no room for doubt?
But that’s not what we have. No one knows what has happened. The only reason the women know the tomb is empty is because they go and look inside it. Jesus comes quietly to his followers, bringing peace, urging faith and giving instructions for the work that lies ahead.
Yes, oddly there is still work to do. And that is a peculiar thing about God. As Karl Barth put it, God does not will to be God without us. God could do all this alone; certainly God is capable of it. But God worked through people before the resurrection, Abram, Isaac, Joseph, David, the prophets, John the Baptizer, the disciples; and God continues after the resurrection to work through us.
Pehaps we want the drama because we don’t value what we have. Perhaps we want the drama because we don’t understand power in the same way God does. It seems incredible that God values the minutia of ordinary life. But if the resurrected Christ has time to cook, and eat, and walk with his friends, perhaps we should too. Not that there isn’t work to do, but maybe the ordinary is part of it. Maybe our ordinary life is worth more than we recognize. Maybe the ordinary world has more value than we realize.
I’d like to know, what do you think?
I will not have reliable internet access this week. If you leave a comment or e mail, it may be a few days until I am able to respond. But I will respond eventually!