Jesus comes among his disciples and terrifies them. He is not a ghost; he is a human being within a body that was torn open by thorns, nails and a spear. “Touch me,” he says to them. And they do. They are amazed, overcome. And then he proceeds to open their minds to an understanding of the scriptures.
He doesn’t appear in the market place where everyone who participated in the crucifixion can see him and come to realize how wrong they were. He doesn’t walk over to the temple, or to Herod’s house, or to Pilate’s door. He doesn’t appear in public, where unbiased witnesses can see that he is really there and therefore turn and believe in him. He comes only to his friends, in a room where they have sequestered themselves. He shows himself there.
It’s such an implausible tale, you’d think Christianity would never have caught on. A man comes back from the dead, but only his good friends see him, and then only for a little while before he disappears again. He doesn’t leave anything behind to prove he was there. He just comes – poof – and is gone again – poof. There aren’t even any bright lights or claps of thunder to mark his appearance. He is just there. He eats a little fish. He tells a few stories. And that’s it.
It is his followers’ changed hearts that prove the story. They are the ones who have been prepared by him for this moment, and they are the only ones that can make proper sense of it. They hiked all over the countryside with him, participating in teaching, healing, and casting out demons. They hung out with the oppressed and marginalized. They witnessed the coming of the kingdom of heaven, one changed perspective at a time, as Jesus opened the minds of those with whom he came in contact. They are ready for the central realization, the one that seals them forever in their new way of being in relationship with God.
The Messiah will never come in might to raze the structures of evil – not then, not now, not ever. God already promised never again to destroy the world in some cataclysmic event, and getting rid of evil, now as then, would mean destroying everything. No, the Messiah had to die and be raised again on the third day. He had to be a man of peace. He had to wield only the sword of love and move, like yeast, invisibly. The kingdom of heaven is spread heart to heart, understanding to understanding, individual by individual.
The Easter understanding came slowly for Jesus’ disciples, but it came irrevocably. And it has infected and inspired all of us to some degree or another. It continues, to this day, to work invisibly throughout the world, changing the very substance of the created universe. It works on us – in us – opening us ever more fully over time to the reign of God.
Alleluia! The Lord is risen! Our Redeemer lives!
Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and liturgical artist, a writer and lay preacher living in Fort Collins, CO. See her work online at Everyday Mysteries With others she manages a website for the Diocese of Colorado highlighting congregations’ creative ministries: Fresh Expressions Colorado