what will it take?

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I guess it makes sense that most of the lectionary passages during Eastertide deal with Jesus’ appearances, but this week’s text (Luke 24:36-43) is another version of his surprising the disciples as they gathered in a locked room, still trying to figure out what was going on. Maybe we are all still trying to figure that out. Here’s where the story took me.

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When I first looked at the Gospel passage for this morning I was puzzled. Last week, the verses from John looked at Jesus’ encounter with the disciples on what we would call Easter evening. This week’s selection from Luke looks at Jesus’ encounter with the disciples on what we would call Easter evening. Why are we looking at the same story?

Well, it’s the same event, but it’s not the same story.

John begins the events of Easter morning with Mary going to the tomb alone and finds it empty. (Peter is also there but sees the empty tomb and runs off in excitement.) Then a man Mary assumes is the caretaker speaks to her and when he calls her name, she realizes it is Jesus. Later that evening, Jesus appears to the disciples who have locked themselves in a room and they struggle to trust it is him until he breathes on them—the verses we looked at last week. Eight days later, Jesus comes back for Thomas. Then there is one more story about him meeting them on the sea shore and cooking breakfast.

Luke’s account of events following Jesus’ resurrection starts at the tomb at dawn where the women found it empty and then ran back to tell the other disciples—the men—who didn’t believe them. Then later that day Jesus appeared to two of his followers as they walked back to their home in Emmaus. They didn’t recognize him until they invited him to stay for dinner. Then they ran back to Jerusalem to tell the others and while they were talking Jesus appeared in the room. That’s where our passage for today picks up the story.

He showed them his wounds and they were joyful, but still not sure, so he asked if they had any food and ate it in front of them. And they still struggled.

John’s account made it seem as though seeing was believing. Luke is less complimentary of the disciples, or perhaps more direct. He wants us to understand that trusting the power of the resurrection—the reality of it—is not easy, even when Jesus is standing in the room.

As I said earlier, both writers are talking about the same events, but they are not telling the same story—and we haven’t even looked at Matthew and Mark. It requires a spiritual contortionist to make the stories all fit together because the details don’t match. What they hold in common is that Jesus’ followers got to see him; they had the chance to see him and touch him and trust that he was no longer dead, but alive.

At the end of our passage last week, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who don’t get the chance to see in person and still trust.”

That’s us—that’s where we join the story, which brings me to a question: What does it take to trust God?

During Eastertide, we sing hymns that make huge theological claims about Christ overcoming sin and death and hell, and then we go back into our week and struggle to get through Tuesday afternoon. Maybe that is where we find our first resonance with the disciples: we don’t know how to take it all in either.

I said “we,” but I don’t want to be presumptuous. Each of us has our own experience with how we understand and trust who Jesus was and what he did, and that reality is underlined in the variations of the gospel accounts. What they all share is all four gospels come to a close without the disciples being sure of much of anything. They knew they had seen Jesus, but that didn’t explain much. They didn’t pick up where they left off. He didn’t stay long, or do a bunch of miracles, or tell new parables. He told them to go tell others, and then he left.

And they faced the choice of whether they would trust or not—and that is a choice they had to make over and over again for the rest of their lives, just as we do.

The fact that we are gathered for worship this morning is evidence that they, along with all those who have come after them, kept choosing to trust, particularly on the days that don’t feel much like Easter. A big part of the way they continued to trust is that they did it together.

On the night before he was executed, Jesus prayed that God would unite those who followed him. Early in the book of Acts, those outside of the young church marveled at the way the loved one another. You know what I am going to say next: faith is a team sport.

Translator Sarah Ruden says Jesus was being a bit sarcastic when he asked the disciples for something to eat, as if to say, “What is it going to take to get you to trust that this is real?” Perhaps that is a question we need to keep asking one another—without the sarcasm: What is it going to take for me to help you grow in your faith, your trust of God?

May we not assume that we are all getting along swimmingly. May we not settle for letting faith be a personal thing that we all just keep to ourselves. May we have the courage to encroach on one another, to ask what it will take, and then listen closely to the answer. The reason we are here is because those who came before us were willing to risk the intimacy that fosters trust in both God and one another. May we go and do likewise. Amen.

Peace,
Milton

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