Where are you going?

04/13/2010

The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see. Luke 24:20-24

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Picture the two followers of Christ walking on the road to Emmaus on Resurrection Day. Before Jesus joins them, they are shuffling along, faces "downcast." They tell Christ, "We had hoped he was the one." Disappointment and disillusionment. Because if Christ truly was the redeemer, it wouldn't have ended like that, would it--nailed to a cross between a couple of thieves? And now here they were, walking away from Jerusalem on the third day after the crucifixion, and I get the picture of what it's like after a concert, or baseball game, or a popular public speaker--people sort of slowly wander back to wherever it is they came from

The other picture that comes to mind is the crowd of rock-throwers that Jesus addresses in John 8:7. They were all wound up and ready for a good old-fashioned stoning but when Jesus tells them, "if any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her," the rocks fall from their hands one by one and they trudge away--convicted but probably a little let down, too. "Oh, well," they mumble.

To Cleopas and his friend, it probably didn't feel like things were very different that day than they were a month before. The Romans were still in charge, their feet still got dusty and as they walked, and they were probably wondering, as before, just what their role was in the theatrical production of The Human Condition being played out all around them. They grieved for their murdered rabbi, certainly, because we read that their faces were "downcast". (Luke 24:17) But where to now?

Several weeks ago I attended a worship service in another state and admittedly found myself somewhat less than riveted by the sermon, so my attention focused on a ladybug furiously climbing the leg of the chair in front of me. Upon reaching the top, it slowed down and then circled a few times. After correctly discerning that there was nothing else to experience on the summit, the ladybug headed back down to the chapel floor from whence it came. Eventually it wandered off--no doubt in search of another Mount Everest. The whole exercise seemed pointless to me, but according to Professor Kyoshi Nakamuta, "area-concentrated searches of (ladybug) adults are considered to be controlled by internal locomotory information.* In other words, they find what they're looking for when they trip over it.

Lady BugIf Jesus had not appeared to Peter and to a select group of believers, how would the story be different today? Like ladybugs, would the followers have wandered around until they tripped over something of spiritual significance? But Christ's plan is not so random. Note that he appears only to his believers--not to anyone else of whom we are aware. And he seemed to pay special attention to Peter--his church's future rock but probably a bundle of self-loathing after his denial of Christ. Peter needed some assurance and Christ was happy to give it to him.

Philip Yancey writes in The Jesus I Never Knew, "The church would stand or fall based on how persuasive these eyewitnesses would be for all--including us today--who have not seen." This is not the time to wander away from the mountaintop and rely only on information that we gather as we locomote through work, school, TV and the internet. We have even more scriptures than did these early disciples and the Holy Spirit to help sort things out. The whole picture has been painted for us and all we have to do is visit the gallery once in awhile. When we see it, we should find joy. Yet what do people read on our faces most often--joy or sorrow? Jesus said "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete." (John 15:11)

It makes me smile to imagine the Risen Christ walking up to these two guys and saying, "so what are you talking about?" and then pretending not to know what has happened! That is how eager he is to engage us and that has not changed since his ascension in Luke 24:51.  

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* Nakamuta, Kiyoshi, Mechanism of the switchover from extensive to area-concentrated search behaviour of the ladybird beetle, Coccinella septempunctata bruckii. Laboratory of Applied Entomology and Nematology, Faculty of Agriculture, Nagoya University, Nagoya 464, Japan

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