Jesus left us, yes, but in doing so, made sure we could be free of doubt and full of confidence concerning his triumph over death. First, He defied the physics and legalities of a sealed tomb under Roman guard. Then, en route to Emmaus (and with a larger group behind locked doors shortly thereafter), he reframed his tragedy through the lens of various scriptures written centuries and millennia earlier, to show God’s long-established purpose fulfilled in the cross. And as he spoke these things, hearts burned again with the familiar flame he’d ignited during the days of his incarnate ministry.
He showed himself on multiple occasions to a variety of people – it happened indoors, it happened outdoors; in the city, outside the city; at home and at work; on the ground, in the air and even out of thin air. He invited people to touch him and verify the reality of his physical presence; they handed him food and he ate it. Clearly, this was Jesus in the flesh. They found the mortal wounds still present upon his body and he even invited Thomas to probe them. Yes, he had suffered and died, but he was living in absolute defiance of those physical realities. Clearly, this was the Son of God.
All this wasn’t happening at a series of private events. Some 20 years later, Paul writes that more than 500 had been gathered on one occasion and most were still alive, able to verify this miraculous resurrection.
Jesus not only made plain God’s purpose, not only flipped crushing disappointment on its head, but pointed to the next phase in God’s work and the crucial role his followers would play. Want to transform tragedy into triumph? This is a pretty good recipe. Rather than disbanding or hiding from the authorities, his followers will now be found “continually at the temple, praising God” – even before the Spirit arrives in power. That’s a confident, blessed response, to say the least.
Last night our group discussed the above, plus the additional ways he’s shown his reality in each of our lives. Here’s a partial list from our personal experiences: 1) his spirit’s direction and intervention to keep us from harm, or from sin, or at other times to lead us to an important blessing, 2) A brother or sister sent to us with the right word at a critical moment – warning, encouraging, or directing us, 3) An outright miraculous healing, and other healings that repeatedly defied doctors predictions, 4) A settledness and sweetness in our souls that just isn’t there without him, 5) Transformation in our lives! 6) The way he draws, pulls, leads us toward himself, 7) The moving experience of his presence, sometimes shaking the very core of who we are, 8) his timely providence in moments of need.
I was touched by how quickly our list formed; humbled that I’d anticipated less. He has been so good to us! And I’m not convinced the list should end there, but we ran out of time that night and I’ve similarly exhausted my space for this column.
So what would you add? What would you echo? Our faith has far more substance than we often realize.
Steve Strombom is lead pastor at Enumclaw Nazarene Church.