Magazine article The Christian Century

Fresh Evidence. (Living by the Word)

Magazine article The Christian Century

Fresh Evidence. (Living by the Word)

Article excerpt

Sunday, May 4 Luke 24:36b-48

WHEN I WAS in kindergarten, one of my favorite activities was "What's in the box?" The teacher cut a hand-sized hole in a box and placed a mystery object inside. You could reach in the box, smell the box, shake the box--everything but open the box. Each one of us would take a turn with the box and share what we discovered with the class. We tried to guess the right answer. "It's kind of fuzzy." "Is it a teddy bear?" "It feels like a ball, but it's pointy on the side." "Is it a football?"

We thought it was just a game, but our teacher was trying to show us how to explore the world, how to ask the right questions, put together clues, hold back wild guesses and be patient, waiting for the right conclusion to emerge.

Jesus uses a similar pedagogy as he leads the disciples into exploring the post-Easter world. They are somewhat less eager pupils than my kindergarten class. For one thing, they are terrified. For another, they are pretty sure that they already know what they are seeing. After all, there are only two ways to explain why this man who looks like Jesus is standing before them. One is that Jesus hadn't died after all. But as much as they wanted to believe that, they knew it couldn't be true. They had seen the cross, the body, the sealed tomb. They had all the evidence they needed, and there was only one other conclusion. This was a ghost, and ghosts are not generally signs of good news.

But Jesus gently coaxes them to a third, unconsidered, incomprehensible conclusion. He doesn't explain resurrection, but instead encourages them to discover it for themselves. "Look at my hands and feet, where I was nailed to the wood. Yes, that's right. I did die. A ghost? Are you sure? Touch me. Is that what a ghost feels like? Give me some fish. Do apparitions chew and swallow? It is I. I know you don't understand it; I know you can't believe it, but go ahead. Take a guess at what God has done."

Luke tells us that the disciples "in their joy ... were still disbelieving and still wondering." They wanted to give in to the hope that was jumping around in their bellies; they wanted to raise their hand and say, "Is it Jesus? It is; it's Jesus!" But they were so very, very afraid of getting this answer wrong. So Jesus gives them some more clues. He begins again to tell the story of God's plan to restore all of creation, from the covenant with Abraham to the exodus from Egypt, from Ezekiel's valley of dry bones to Isaiah's suffering servant. …

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