You don’t have to be much of a Bible reader to realize that, in the Gospels, there is not just one account of the Resurrection. On Easter Sunday, we might hear the story about the women going to the tomb and their not telling anyone, or about Mary Magdalene suddenly recognizing a resurrected Jesus. Then later, Thomas isn’t there when Jesus first appears to the rest of the disciples, but when Jesus appears again with Thomas present, Thomas is the one to figure out “my Lord and My God!” before the others.
We hear about that walk to Emmaus. One part always amuses me: “didn’t we feel on fire as he conversed with us on the road, as he opened up the Scriptures for us?” The answer to that is probably “Yes” and “No”. Yes, it must have been deeply exciting to have that conversation. No, they only recognized him in the breaking of bread. “Taking the bread, he blessed and broke and gave it to them. At that moment, open-eyed, wide-eyed, they recognized him.” Now the world is different.
I really love a movie called “Jesus of Montreal,” about a group of actors who re-enact the Crucifixion of Jesus, and then go home. Some weeks later, they begin to hear rumors about Jesus’ coming back. Turns out, it wasn’t all over at the Crucifixion. The Crucifixion wasn’t the end of everything. As we continue in the New Testament we have that awareness reinforced. It wasn’t all over at the Crucifixion. A group of people gather around the disciples after Pentecost. Now that their world has been turned topsy-turvy, they’re ready to listen to Peter.
“Get out while you can, get out of this sick and stupid culture!” Is how Eugene Peterson puts Acts 2 in his biblical paraphrase, “The Message.” And we’re told that on that day, 3,000 individuals took Peter at his word. They were baptized and signed up. “They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers,” the Bible says. It was a life-changing experience, but what ensured it would be life-changing was their commitment to teaching, the common meal and prayer. They’re gathered together around table, much as the Emmaus group had been.
As we go through the New Testament, we come upon a number of passages which delineate the changes Easter causes. In First Peter we read “Now that you’ve cleaned up your lives by following the truth, love one another as if your lives depended on it. Your new life is not like your old life.” Whether the change is sudden or gradual, the new life is not like the old life. Luke tells us that the pair from Emmaus hotfooted it right back to Jerusalem so that they could tell others. They certainly didn’t end up where they previously had been headed. As the Resurrection became clear and real to them, they behaved differently
Theologians say the proof of the Resurrection is the church. Initially, a small number of people lived in such a way that their new lives were not like their old lives. That difference of their “new” lives were apparent, others were attracted, who in turn lived differently. There was such a shift in society so that by the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine in the Fourth Century, despite centuries of persecution, Christianity had become the majority religion.
It may very well be that the first time we hear the Resurrection story, we don’t find it completely compelling. Yet, over time, we begin to live differently ourselves.
How does that happen? I think for me, maybe you, too, it’s through other people. We’re infected by their trust and faith. They have something we want.
Each of us is on a journey. We may be really clear where we’re going, or not. Yet there are times, perhaps many times, when we think we know where we’re headed, and wind up somewhere else. Peter’s first converts began to live differently, and they lived that difference in community. In community we share our lives, our joys and sorrows. We uphold each other through prayer, and in that way change, and growth happen.
For me, it all comes down to agreement with the theologians who say the church is proof of the Resurrection, but because my agreement is more experiential and psychological, I’m convinced that Easter comes whenever we begin to live a new life. Then, no matter when that happens or what story resonates with our own experience, the Resurrection ceases to be something external, and becomes real.
The Rev. Dorothy Price Knudson is retired from active ministry in the Presbyterian Church, but still preaches regularly at various local churches and Presbyterian churches in the Eastern Oregon Presbytery. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should contact Catherine Hicks at 509-526-8312, or by email at email@example.com.