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Third & Adams Street, PO Box 9774, Moscow, Idaho USA | (208) 882-3715

From Believing to Conviction - April 21, 2019

John 20:1-18 The disciples come to Sunday morning wrecked and rung out. Imagine the roller coaster week they’ve had:
Parades and people
Palm fronds and cloaks
A donkey

The temple and tables
Teachings and trouble
Family and feasts
The Passover meal
Footwashing
Sharing stories
The prediction of betrayal
Angst among friends
Breaking the afikomen: “This is my body”
Elijah’s cup: “There’s a new covenant.”
Exhaustion and a call to go and pray
“Stay here and wait.”
Failure.
Betrayal.
Denial.
Caiaphus—the high priest.
Pilate—the governor.
Soldiers.
Crowds.
Their friend and rabbi:
Beaten
Whipped
Flogged
Spat upon and mocked
Then murdered on a cross.

It was all too much. The highs of the start of the week contrasted with the terrible depths of the end of the week. It was more than one could reasonably take. But somehow Mary managed to get up early and go say goodbye…again. Or maybe she was just too upset to sleep. Tossing and turning. Sick to her stomach. Weak to her very core. Maybe, if she couldn’t sleep, at least she could go and be near him—not talk with him like she wanted—but at least be a little closer. So she went. While it was still dark. Bone tired and emotionally ragged—hoping for some kind of solace. Only when she got there, the stone was gone. That big huge stone—the one that took multiple men to move—that stone had been moved.
And it was the one last thing she just couldn’t take. Not alone. She couldn’t do it alone. So she went and found the men—she told Peter and the beloved. Who knows what they would have done? What they could have done? But at least she didn’t have to face it all alone. And they went back to the tomb to figure out what awful thing could have happened.
And to think, they thought “it couldn’t get any worse.” But it could. And it did. Not only was Jesus dead--but he was missing.
Here’s some salt for those wounds.
She didn’t have it in her to run. Not like they did. She was devastated. Her legs were like lead as she tried to go back to the tomb, again—hollowed out by the week’s events.
They made it. She knows because they told her. The beloved first. The stone was gone. The tomb was empty. Then Simon Peter—he rushed right in, just like always. Act first. Think later. But he saw it—or rather didn’t see it—there was no-body. Linens? Yes. Death clothes? Yes. Face scarf? Yes. Neatly folded, even. But no-body. Jesus was missing.
Finally, the beloved, the one Jesus loved like a brother went in and he saw and believed. And when you say it like that it sounds so easy. Seeing and believing. Except, in the Greek “believing” is more like trusting—it’s a heart thing, not a head thing. And I don’t really think his mind had caught up with his heart because after he saw and believed he and Peter just went back to the others. Plain and simple. They didn’t shout it from the mountain tops. They didn’t proclaim, “he’s alive!” They didn’t thumb their noses at Caiaphus and Pilate. They didn’t even bother looking for the risen Christ!
So the beloved disciple believed, he “pisteo’d”, according to the Greek. He trusted. But I’m not sure he was convinced. Which is not a criticism—more of an observation—and sort of a thanksgiving really. Because so often we look at the Bible characters as examples and here we see the beloved seeing and believing in an instant. And if we take that at face-value we might assume it’s that easy and we should all be that quick to move from exhaustion and grief to trust and assurance, from belief to conviction. But after investigation, it seems it wasn’t so quick or easy. So maybe we can be more gracious with ourselves. Maybe we can have a little faith and still have time to sort out what makes sense in our heads before we actually get to true ascription.
Resurrection can be a hard thing to wrap your head around. And we can certainly trust in our hearts before we really believe and are convinced in our minds. Some of us hesitate to step out in hope and faith because our minds are screaming “It makes no sense!” And really, logically, the resurrection doesn’t make sense. It can take a little time to get there. But that doesn’t mean we can’t trust that God is doing something….that hope is available, that somehow Jesus is able to flip the script and do the unexpected.
John Wesley used to say, “Preach faith until you have it.” And I think maybe that was the case for the beloved disciple…preaching faith…trusting in his heart, until it became rooted and real in his mind.

 

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