The Easter story is a story of perplexing dichotomies. On Easter Day we heard the story of the resurrection from Mark’s Gospel which ends in a very ominous tone, “they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” On Easter 2 we found ourselves in John’s Gospel with the well worn story of Thomas and his disbelief, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” By Easter 3, you’d think everyone would be on board with the fact that Jesus had actually risen from the dead, but here in Luke’s Gospel we find the disciples with their hands on the wounds of Jesus filled with a mixture of joy and disbelief. The aftermath of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is delightfully perplexing.
There is a tendency in the Church to idealize the apostolic age. In liturgics, we look to it as if there was some sort of monolithic Apostles’ Book of Common Prayer to which we all should subscribe, but alas, it doesn’t exist. In theology, we look to the Apostles, especially Paul, as the preeminent theologians, those whose theologies should never be questioned. Even in faith, we tend to ignore the failings of Peter and the persecution by Paul and, to some extent, even the doubting of Thomas and assume that from the very beginning everyone was on board with this whole resurrection business, which is why, I think, the Lectionary spends three weeks reminding us that Jesus rising from the grave was not what the disciples thought was going to happen.
When doubts creep in, and they do for all of us, it is helpful to remember that even the Apostles struggled with faith. When the world seems dark and gray, when the idea that Jesus triumphed over evil seems impossible to believe, when doubt seems a whole lot easier than faith, it is good to know that we are in good company. Once we find solidarity with the Apostles, then it seems a bit easier to move back toward faith, to read the great stories of their Acts, to hear of their perseverance, to listen to their witness, and to know that even in the chaos and the darkness, the light of Christ remains.
The life of faith is perhaps best summed up in Luke’s Gospel as a life joy and disbelief. The Good News is that God is in present in both.