Are you kidding me?

By Pedro Mendez

Connecting Faith and Life

When was the last time that you and I witnessed a dead person coming back to life? I have not. Witnessing someone coming back to life would be something out of the ordinary. The ordinary with the death of a loved one is to bury them, come back home without them and grieve the loss.  

The disciples of Jesus lived in ordinary terms with someone who performed extraordinary acts –Jesus healed the sick, fed multitudes with few resources, spoke with authority, cast out demons, walked on the water, forgave sins, etc. Those extraordinary acts were attributed only to God, and yet Jesus’ disciples didn’t know they were sharing their lives with God himself. The disciples lived in ordinary terms witnessing extraordinary acts. Sometimes it can be hard for us to understand the disciples because we know the story in retrospect. We know how the story ends. But, the disciples did not know that. When Jesus died, they were expecting what you and I would expect today when someone dies, i.e. to see a dead person. The resurrection of Jesus is significant because nobody expected it!

Due to the ordinariness of death, the reaction of the disciples in some of the resurrection narratives is understandable: “They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost” (Luke 24:37). They thought they were seeing a dead person. The disciples’ fear and doubt draw me to ponder the reality of Jesus’ death while avoiding any tendency to domesticate the core of my faith. Jesus really died! The risen Jesus asked his disciples,“Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” (Luke 24: 38). If I would have been one of his disciples, I would have told Jesus, “Are you kidding me? You just died! I am terrified because I am not accustomed to seeing ghosts!” I would have seen a dead person, just like the first disciples did.

But Jesus understands his disciples. He proves his case to them by showing his wounded feet and hands, inviting them to touch him, and eating broiled fish. Yes, he died but he is also risen! There is one more proof: the words he had spoken about the fulfillment of scriptures, i.e. “the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day” (Luke 24: 26.36; Hosea 6:2). Jesus’ words are accompanied by an action: “Jesus opens their minds to understand the scriptures.” When they started they saw a dead person, but ended up experiencing the Risen Lord!  

Yes, it was a lot to digest for the disciples, and it is a lot to digest for us today. But, that is what such a significant event, like the resurrection, takes. The resurrection of Jesus is an event to experience and not only a story to know, a case to dissertate or the happy ending of a tale. The experience of the Risen Lord gives new life and endless hope amid joys, despair, isolation and, more especially, death. That is the story of the first Christian community martyred because of their faith! And that is the story of Christian life today when we are witnesses and give witness to the resurrection of Jesus. Being a witness to Jesus' resurrection takes us back to the reality of resurrection itself. It is an invitation to not domesticate the story and its fruits in our lives.

It seems to me that God might be inviting us to ponder the death and resurrection of Jesus by putting ourselves in the ordinary experience of his disciples, to reflect on the resurrection narratives with new eyes, and to cry out to him: “Jesus please reveal yourself to me as you did with your first disciples!” What follows from the experience of the resurrection is a dynamic new life in God: repentance and forgiveness of sins, proclamation of the Gospel, the promise of the Holy Spirit, being clothed with power from on high, worship, joy, blessing … and martyrdom.

Would you join me in reading the resurrection stories with the ordinariness it implies? If so, we might be surprised by the extraordinariness and unspeakable experience of the Risen Lord! 

Pedro Mendez is a parishioner at St. Joseph Catholic Church in JasperHe can be contacted at [email protected]