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Resurrection: Witness

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Testimonies to the Good News continue… today… HERE! Locked rooms or not, the impossible becomes possible. No matter what—No matter how we fear. How we grieve. How we believe. How we tell the story. How we avoid the story. However we are, Jesus keeps showing up.

All around us are the signs, although as the writer of John notes, some of these signs are not written down. Yet these signs, written down or not, bring life—a “breathing on” of the Holy Spirit. So how do we see these signs? How do we respond to these signs when Jesus shows up today?

A few years ago, I was teaching a 5th and 6th grade Sunday School class, and the story of the locked room was the lesson for the day. We went into the pastor’s office, locked the doors, and created a video reenacting the event of Jesus showing up unexpectedly. The youth produced, edited, and the showed the video during class (which was before worship), and then showed the video in the service that morning. They made two versions. One which they showed in worship, the other was shared with the congregation after worship, and was entitled, “When Jesus Came—Blooper edition.” Let’s just say there were lots of outtakes!

Highlights from their reenactment of the story included:

  • A young girl was chosen to be Jesus.
  • Gasps from the disciples in the room when Jesus shows up.
  • And the fact that all the disciples had lots of questions and comments ranging from—
    • “Where did you come from?”
    • “I thought you were dead.”
    • “I’m terrified!”
    • “Awkward…”
    • “Does anybody know you’re here?”
    • And.. a disciple who fainted onto the floor

To which Jesus responded—

  • “I hope everybody know that I’m here, and I came from the cross.”
    • “It’s OK if this seems a bit awkward.”
    • “Do not be terrified.”
    • Jesus then helped up the disciple who had fainted…
    • … and left the room saying, “I need to be home for dinner. We’re having spaghetti tonight!”

The encounter with Jesus that they recorded is very brief. Less than two minutes. Packed with gasps and fear, disbelief, questions and speechlessness (and a bit of humor). Re-watching the video recently made me wonder how long each of the various encounters with Jesus was following his death. Some appear to have been short snippets. Others are more drawn out. Each is a little different. Just like in our own time.

For example, the book of Mark ends with a cliffhanger. A group of women go to the tomb, have an encounter with Jesus in the garden, and then flee, “from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid” (Mark 16:8). There was additional text added later, but the original ending leaves us in suspense. There is a blended sense of fear and astonishment. There is an inability to say anything. Sometimes, witnessing the presence of Jesus is hard. The possibility of seeing the impossible… awkward. They were afraid. And said nothing.

In Mark, there is no more to the resurrection story.

The resurrection story in the book of Matthew reports that the women, “…left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples” (Matt. 28:b) that the tomb was empty. Jesus shows up a bit later, although we are not told where, and says, “Greetings… Do not be afraid; go and tell…” (Matt. 28:9). In Matthew the thread of fear is present once again. Once again the impossible becoming possible. In Matthew the New Possibilities are Packed. With. Emotion. Movement. Running. Sometimes, witnessing the presence of Jesus in our midst is an emotional rollercoaster.

Paging through to Luke, there is a lot of remembering. Women encounter an empty tomb, are terrified (once again), and fall to the ground. But it is in the remembering… in the recalling of what Jesus had told them would happen (Luke 24:8) through which the encounters with the Holy occur. “They told all this” to the eleven and the rest” (Luke 24:9). There is remembering along the road to Emmaus, there is remembering in the breaking of bread, there is a remembering in the words, “Peace be with you.” Sometimes, witnessing the presence of Jesus is remembering. It can be startling and terrifying (Luke 24:38). Witnessing can bring “joy and disbelief” (Luke 24:42).

(I would like to note that, contrary to the youth’s retelling of their encounter with Jesus, I haven’t yet read anything about a spaghetti dinner in any of the Gospels…)

Today’s reading from John might lead us to believe that we are at the end of the story. Here we are. A locked room. The fear is palpable. But there is a sign. A word. A sudden, unexpected joy. Disbelief.

But that is not all. There is another showing up. Another retelling of the Word. Peace. Believe. Go. Encounters with Jesus are ongoing, and life giving. Believe.

For… Jesus. Keeps. Showing. Up. Following today’s reading there is another whole chapter in the book of John in which Jesus… keeps… showing… up. And in this showing up, there is a rush of terror, astonishment, running, telling, hiding, hearing, seeing, belief… and disbelief.

I love that here, in the character of Thomas, our deep human desire to have a personal encounter with God is acknowledged. Even if we are not sure if it is possible.

After all, Mary Magdalene had encountered Jesus in the garden outside the tomb. Why can’t Thomas?

And if you remember, when Jesus first shows up with the disciples who are gathered in the locked room, Thomas isn’t around. All the others had had a God Moment, why can’t Thomas experience the same thing? Thomas wants to experience what his friends were talking about. Jesus had been killed on the cross. Jesus was dead. Right? Thomas acknowledges his own desire for, yet his own skepticism, of the Good News: This encounter with Holy (H-o-l-y) Impossibility, which his friends were telling him was wholly (w-h-o-l-l-y, totally) possible.

There is something so very human in that need. For the Holy Impossibility to happen. For the “Holy Here and Now” of God to show up.

For the “whatever seems impossible” to happen: The perpetual hoped for peace and justice to break forth in the word. For even a spattering, even a teeny, tiny bit, of belief to be experienced. It. Can. Be. So. Hard. In. The. World. Today. To. Imagine. The. Holy. Possible.  

But look! Did you see it? Did you hear it? Did you see the signs? Were you a witness? Are you ready to run and tell? To proclaim? Testimonies to the Good News continue… today… HERE!

We saw them here, today, in the blessing of the (not yet planted because it snowed yesterday!) Community Orchard, in the testimonies shared during the Faith and Service awards handed out this morning (and the one yet to be revealed!).

These are signs. Locked rooms or not, the impossible becomes possible. No matter what—No matter how we fear. How we grieve. How we believe. How we tell the story. How we avoid the story. In all of the impossibilities, Jesus keeps showing up. In you. In me. In the people around us. In the relationships we develop. In the ever-present world around us. The Holy. Here. All around us are the signs. And some, if not most, of the signs are not written down. These signs bring life. Hope. Forgiveness. Peace. And (beware)… a sending.

It is in this sending that the story continues. Yes, it can be awkward and it can be surprising. It can make us gasp. Our glimpses of the Holy might be brief. What we witness might make us speechless. Our encounters might seem Holy Impossible. Sometimes it might seem like we are living into the “When Jesus Shows Up – Blooper Edition.” Yet, despite our actions, Jesus keeps showing up. And this showing up brings life.

 So watch for the signs. Listen for the sending. And beware.

There is Holy Possibility all around!


~Pastor Kris

Reflection on John 20:19-31 offered on April 28, 2019