26 April 2011

unsung lessons of the resurrection

There are lessons throughout the resurrection narratives, specifically the more detailed version found in the Gospel of John. Some are more emphasized than others, perhaps because they are more important. Yet, I feel that these other pieces should be pointed out as well. After all, the beloved disciple thought to write them down that we might believe . . .

Early on the first day of the week the women went to the tomb and discovered that things were not as they expected. This, of course, is because ancients were quite aware as moderns that dead people have a tendency to remain dead . . . and probably the whole Roman guard bit as well. Being logical they figured that those who had conspired against Jesus and carried out his execution had come to further dishonor him by moving his body.

Mary tells this to Peter and the other disciple (most likely John), and they run away to investigate.

Lesson 1: John is faster than Peter.

Both disciples are in a full-out dash to the tomb. This is gird-up-your-loins-style haste, to be certain. But John gets there first and has some figurin' to do. He stands questioning these events at the entrance to the empty tomb. He is also aware that dead people don't walk away . . . he's Jewish and doesn't want to become defiled . . . this could be some sort of a trap to weed out Jesus' followers . . . with all of this maybe he just doesn't want to get involved. (It's hard to blame him.)

Lesson 2: Peter doesn't think that much.

Notice that Peter, who arrives second at the gravesite, doesn't think of any of this. He runs straight into the tomb to see what's going on. Or he doesn't care. Either way, in this moment Peter acts the same as he acted throughout his life - recklessly. Gospel readers have seen how Peter has a tendency to speak before thinking, now we see him leap before looking. He wants to know what is going on . . . right now.

After this, Peter and John return to the house. And then we remember that Mary was still standing at the empty tomb.

Lesson 3: Peter and John kind of forget about Mary.

The first two verses of John 20 give the account of Mary coming to the tomb. Then we are preoccupied with Peter and John for a few verses. The narrative is focused on them with such excitement that verse 11 leaves us almost with a thought of "Oh yeah, Mary was still there . . ." However these scenes were put together, it is interesting that they didn't take her with them. But we can never know if they tried to get her to come or not.

Mary seems to want to linger at the empty tomb, perhaps thinking that she will be able to get some answers if she looks around. She finds a gardener and starts asking questions, only to discover that he is the one she is seeking.

Lesson 4: Jesus is fond of the pop-in.

The evening of the resurrection has the disciples huddled together, mostly in fear and trembling, behind locked doors. Jesus appears in their midst and speaks to them. He does this a week later when Thomas is telling them that he will not believe until he sees. What is the deal with all of the popping-in and out? I think he might just be messing around with them on one level. But if I had been in a locked room when someone who I know was dead suddenly appeared in the middle of it . . . the room would not have been locked for long (*swinging hinge*).

Lesson 5: Don't miss a church meeting 'cause Jesus might show up.

Everyone gets on Thomas' case, but the reality is that he was as skeptical as the other disciples. He is singled out simply because he missed the first of Jesus' pop-ins. And we don't even know why he was gone. Perhaps it was because someone needed to go pick up some pita breads from the corner convenience . . . maybe he was out trying to ask around to what happened to the body . . . maybe he just needed to walk. Either way, it's important for us to learn here - not that doubting is a sin but that missing church sometimes leads us to missing Jesus.

These are some of the little bits that help make the story complete. People often think that the resurrection was made up, perhaps with the rest of the gospel story. But these details don't lend that as a real possibility, for the beloved disciple has simply gathered together accounts of what happened - perspectives from those who lived the story - in an effort to invite us all to become a part of that story.

Because in the end it doesn't matter if you stand outside and think about whether or not you want to get involved or rush in with reckless abandon, all that matters is that you come in and see an empty tomb, linger in his presence for a moment, and then go to tell the world.

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