Have you ever stopped to contemplate why Jesus hung around for so long after the resurrection, and appeared in so many different times and places? The gospels record a number of appearances over a six week period before Jesus was taken in full view from their midst. If the work of God in Christ finished at the cross and empty tomb, what was to be gained by hanging around for a few weeks?
Let me suggest a few possibilities:
disciples needed time for it to sink in.
The events of Easter were not ones easily pushed to one side. The disciples rode a roller-coaster of emotions and expectations. They wallowed in devastation for three days at the time of Jesus’ death, leaving them face-to-face with the devastating realisation that it was all over and all for nought. The news of the resurrection was neither expected nor factored into their plans. With each appearance of Jesus the reality of it sank in deeper and deeper, convincing a bunch of skeptical disciples more and more.
full work of God in Christ was not finished, and Jesus needed to remind
the disciples that they were part of this ongoing work.
Jesus had told the disciples that they would do greater things than he had done. Although theological reflection speaks of the finished work of Christ on the cross, it was clear that the task was only just beginning, and Jesus would require his followers to continue this mission: a mission focused not on saving souls for heaven, but a ministry connected with earthly realities and continuing to usher in God’s kingdom on earth. Jesus remained in the world in order to focus the disciples on their earthly responsibilities toward the kingdom of God.
resurrection was such a strange notion to them that they needed time to
begin to comprehend its meaning.
In addition to accepting the historical reality of Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples needed time to understand the overall implications of it. If Jesus was raised from the dead, this changes everything: a reality-transforming experience. The eighth day of Holy Week (Easter Day) introduced the disciples to a view of life, death and ministry which was only a seed in their minds. This time on earth following resurrection with the disciples was part of that transformation in thinking and action, a transformation with which we continue to wrestle.
To declare “Christ is risen” is to open our minds and lives to a radical new way of seeing life, death and our ministry. Something we need to reflect upon often.
April 3, 2005