Mainline Protestant Channel
Holy Week Meditations: Opening to the Complexity
No wonder the disciples were terrified when they saw him!
Perhaps this is where some of our Bright Monday traditions come from—like the ones where spouses wake each other up with an unexpected cold spritz of holy water (one I don't ever plan on attempting). Perhaps the resurrected Jesus had a bit of a prankster in him.
Or maybe he just wanted to get their attention. Because, obviously, his three years of teachings and miracles hadn't done the trick. The disciples fell apart during the Passion and crucifixion. Neither had his resurrection gotten their attention, apparently, as the gospel of John tells us that they had all gone back to fishing after the initial hullabaloo of the risen Lord had worn off. So prone to distraction were the disciples, even after the resurrection, that Jesus has to remind Peter three times not to forget to feed the sheep.
So, I can't help but wonder what would have happened if, after being resurrected, Jesus returned to find his disciples busy, in service of the Reign of God, not cowering behind locked doors, fearful of the powers that be; not grieving the loss of their master, but continuing to walk in the Way, preaching, teaching and performing great signs and wonders—doing greater things than even Jesus had done; not having a bad day on the sea, fishing without a nibble.
What if Jesus would have returned to find his sandals filled with eager, vibrant, blessed feet carrying the Good News of God's eternal love?
The resurrection wasn't necessary for the Reign of God to continue. Jesus had offered forgiveness of sins before the crucifixion and resurrection. The disciples themselves had been given the power to preach, heal, and cast out demons. The Reign of God had already come. The disciples simply forgot how to see it without Jesus around.
What, then, does the resurrection do, and more importantly, what do we do with it on Bright Monday and beyond? If Easter reassures us that indeed good does triumph over evil, that truth crushed to earth will rise again, then Bright Monday reminds us of the joys of being human again, that life is worth returning to, that people in this world still need some Good News. There is fish to be grilled and eaten over a fire on the beach. There are faces of friends to see again. There are hungry mouths and famished souls to feed. It is a reminder of the holiness of unnamed weeks.
But it is more than that, too. There is a mystical element to the resurrection that resists a completely literal reading of the text. The resurrection enables Mary to see God where, moments before, there had been only a gardener tending to the trees. The resurrection morphs a busybody on the beach, telling the disciples how to do their job, into Jesus offering a feast of love over charcoal. The resurrection transforms an itinerant, homeless wanderer on a road outside of Jerusalem into the Savior and Teacher of us all. This is the power of the resurrection to give us new eyes to see each other, a new vision in which the last shall be first, in which we see that Jesus is not only in the least of these, but also that Jesus is the least of these.
O God, give us the resurrection so that we may see our gardeners as God, our homeless as the Lord, our busybodies as the Master. Prank us. Scare us. Terrify us. Wake us with a cold spritz of holy water when we slumber too long. Make us see with new, resurrected vision the beauty of this world, this Earth, this kingdom of God where you always have the last laugh.
David Henson is a writer who lives in Augusta, Georgia, and is currently working on a novel. He received his Master of Arts from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. His meditations on scripture have appeared in Ready the Way: A Walk through Advent (2009), the Christian Century web site, and numerous other blogs. He authors the blogs Unorthodoxology. Find him on Twitter or Facebook.