We have just resumed our worship in church after a lockdown of some three months, writes Rev Sydney Maitland. For some of us it has been tedious as we are denied the company of friends and the pursuit of out of home activities. But in coming together again there is that sense of regathering, renewal, restoration.
With this in mind, it is worth looking at some of the emotions and responses of the disciples to Jesus’ resurrection. First, there was incredulity and astonishment. As Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found it empty, there was dismay at the thought that anyone could have taken Jesus’ body away. After she told Peter and John they had to find out what was going on – and all they found was an empty tomb. John says that he saw and believed while Peter left the scene bemused. For Mary the truth became clear only as she met Jesus and He disclosed Himself to her. Then there was an unspeakable joy.
The road to Emmaus also saw the disciples in a state of confusion. They had heard the rumours of Jesus’ appearances and did not know what to think. Even as Jesus drew close to them, they were intrigued, eager to learn more, buzzing with excitement but were only convinced as Jesus revealed Himself to them in the breaking and blessing of bread. Then all the lights came on.
In the upper room, they gathered together, frightened and uncertain. Again they had heard the rumours which only added to their confusion, and again it was only when Jesus appeared among them and greeted them that their hesitations were overcome. Now there was incredible joy and again an eagerness to learn more.
But there was still unfinished business as Jesus faced Peter with himself and his own weakness. It is interesting that Jesus chose to do this in Galilee, after a fruitless night’s fishing. This was still the place and setting where Peter was at home and at peace. His threefold denial was undone with a threefold affirmation and he was entrusted with a threefold ministry. For all of them there was that journey from despair and disillusionment to unshakeable faith, even for Thomas who had missed out on Jesus’ first appearance to the disciples and in demanding inspection of Jesus’ wounds, had to go one step better than the rest.
For us, there are also uncertainties and confusions. These times have seen the undoing or undermining of our institutions and many assumptions of our open society and mixed economy. New relationships are being proffered and new commitments proposed. New claims are being made for restitution of injuries suffered or perceived or remembered from generations past. Much is being torn down, little is being built in its place. A hierarchy of perceived injustice and claim for preferential treatment has been erected, but on what foundations and how are rival claims to preference to be reconciled?
This is the situation of moral and spiritual ambiguity where we now live. Other generations have faced similarly collapsing foundations but have found their way though. For us our foundation is Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. Both are necessary: He “went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified,” (Collect during Holy Week).
At a time when we are surrounded by uncertainty, confusion and recrimination, it is worth re-establishing our bearings and resetting our course in life. Whatever the anxiety, Jesus Christ is greater. Whatever the point of grief or anger, He has the ministry of wholeness. Whatever the confusion, He has the wisdom. Whatever the guilt, He has the forgiveness. Whatever the memory, He has the healing and reconciliation.
The peace that Jesus pronounced as He met the disciples is a shalom – peace, wholeness, fullness, fulfilment, completeness, restoration and renewal. It is most powerful where it is received in those places that are indeed hurt, confused, angry, resentful. But yes, like Thomas, it requires us to be there in a place where we may be ready to receive and to believe. It is Jesus’ agenda that we are being invited to enter: that place in our lives where His are the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory, now and always.
Every blessing this Eastertide,