It is Sunday morning.
Jesus, so far as we know, is dead. Death is a constant. It tends not to change. When people die, they stay dead. This is not on our minds, at least not until some women arrive proclaiming an empty tomb and visions of angels and some wishful thinking nonsense about Jesus being risen.
Peter and John run and find the tomb empty. Mary says she saw Jesus but thought he was the gardener.
But you and I know how the world works. We’ve been around to know the sad realities of our world. When the 10 see Jesus in an upper room, we shrug and roll our eyes and attribute it to a mass hallucination. We side with Thomas. We won’t buy it until we can put our hands through the holes in Jesus’ hands and feet.
But then Thomas sees Jesus too. “My lord and my God.”
And 500 others at another point.
And it slowly starts to feel like we’re the only ones who haven’t seen Jesus – or maybe as though the risen Jesus is like Joseph Smith’s golden plates: attested to by many wishful liars.
The two from Emmaus come back announcing that they walked home with Jesus and he explained how all the scriptures point to his resurrection, and our modern apologists write books about how the resurrection of the Messiah has been foretold since time immemorial.
But we have read the prophecies that everyone says are about the resurrection of the Messiah. And you and I are good exegetes. We know this is a load of crap.
And then he’s gone. 40 days later, like Joseph Smith’s golden plates, Jesus is taken back up into heaven, never to be seen again.
There’s no proof of the resurrection. It’s just hearsay from gullible first-century peasants.
But something has happened.
The world has somehow changed in a fundamental way.
Peasants become powerful preachers. A man like us, who knows it’s all a lie, does a 180 and then takes beatings and does time in prison and risks his life to announce that Jesus was executed and raised from the dead – like he believes it with everything he has. Of course, he expects that Jesus will be back within his lifetime, but he expects those who believed in Jesus will also rise, like he believes Jesus did.
Centuries march on. Rome falls, but the church of Jesus Christ lives on. It is everywhere attacked. People try to destroy it from without and from within, but it lives on – sometimes strong, sometimes weak, sometimes in obedience to Jesus, sometimes in cowardly conformity to the world and the sad realities of the world. The church fights for slavery, for discrimination, for killings, but somehow slowly through the centuries, the church lives a little more and a little more into the trajectory of Jesus. It takes 1500 years for Luther and Calvin to discover and be overwhelmed by the radical grace of God, and when they do they write pages upon pages but still do not quite live into it.
Almost as though Jesus was alive.
We can’t prove it, of course. We are good children of the enlightenment, and we know people do not rise from the dead as a general rule.
But what if this one did?
What if, that Sunday morning two millennia ago, the women did in fact meet the risen Jesus? What if he did appear in the upper room, and offered his hands and feet to Thomas a second time? What if the law and the prophets really were about Jesus in a way that the original authors never intended?
What if Jesus has been alive ever since, invisibly pulling his church along, helping us live more and more in line with the trajectory his life set the world on?
And what if you and I believed it?
We couldn’t prove it, of course.
But our lives, like the lives of those before us, could be signs along the way, that not only did Jesus rise that Sunday morning two thousand years ago, but that Jesus is alive and with us today.