You’re working hard alongside your twin brother, minding your own business, when this incredibly dynamic man, Jesus, persuades you to leave your steady job to become a homeless wanderer. You’re a practical person, so this bold decision is at once thrilling and terrifying. You are also a grown man, and frankly, not entirely comfortable with your new role as a follower.
While you love Jesus and the other disciples, you have also been driven crazy by this itinerant life you are living. Also, and you would never admit this to anyone, you’re a little jealous that you’re not one of Jesus’ favorites. He’s always taking Peter and James and John aside and having some deep conversation. And Jesus never laughs as hard as when Peter says something completely impetuous and borderline inappropriate.
Whenever you have spoken up, Jesus has always used it as a “teachable moment”, which made you feel like an idiot. For instance, this one time, after days of being yanked around from one town to the next, and listening to Jesus’s words of wisdom, which frankly, didn’t always make sense, this one time you ask Jesus HOW we’re supposed to follow you if you don’t even know where you’re going and Jesus turns your question around and starts talking about how he is the way and the truth and the life, but never actually answers your question.
So, in short, you’re tired and a little irritated, but you love Jesus and you can tell there is something really special about him. You’re waiting to see what happens. You follow him to Jerusalem and before you know it, he has been arrested and killed.
So much for this great leader, this man so close to the Lord he called God “my father”. You’re so sick of listening to Peter and the other disciples process this tragedy that you head out on your own for awhile. You need quiet. You need to get your head together. What are you going to do now? Can you get your old job back? What is your mother-in-law going to say?
When you get back to the room where the disciples have been camped out, it is in total chaos. The women are chirping away, the men are laughing and talking a mile a minute. For a brief moment you wonder if they have gotten into the wine left over from Thursday night, but the glow about them isn’t one of drunkenness. When you finally get one of them quieted down enough to talk with you, he starts babbling on about having seen Jesus right here in this room. Today! Three days after his death.
Your stomach clenches. The last few days, heck the last few years have been so weird, so intense, and this latest twist makes your head spin. Your friends must be so upset they are having mass hallucinations. That’s the only logical explanation, right?
You figure they just need a good dose of reality. So you say those famous words, “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.” All you want is a little confirmation. It is crazy to go around talking about some resurrected man if you don’t have any proof! But still, there is something about the way Mary Magdalene clenches her jaw. She just seems so sure.
Frankly, by about the third day of waiting around for this apparition of Jesus, the other disciples are starting to look at you nervously, as if perhaps they DID have some mass vision caused by wish fulfillment. By the sixth day, your clenched stomach has softened into the dull ache of resignation.
On the seventh day, you are back in the house. Frankly, you are considering whether to cut your losses and head home. All of a sudden you feel a chill from the bottom of your spine to the back of your neck. When you turn around, there he is. In the flesh. Well, kind of in the flesh. There isn’t anything spectral about him, but he isn’t quite normal either. He seems to be completely solid, but also. . .and you know this sounds crazy. . .but it is as if the laws of nature do not apply to him. When he comes in the house, for instance, he doesn’t open the door, he just. . .walks through it. It is not as if he is making some kind of big showy statement, it is as if he just didn’t think about it. Like those kind of human details are just minutiae.
And this time, Jesus does not turn to Peter, or John, or James, he turns right to YOU. He looks at you with this mix of compassion and challenge and says, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”
But at this moment, you know you don’t need to touch his wounds, to verify your experience.
At this moment every experience you have ever had with Jesus starts whirling around your mind. You have to sit down because all those opaque words start becoming crystal clear. Jesus isn’t just a way, Jesus is THE way, THE life, THE truth. Jesus isn’t just a holy man, he is Holiness itself. Jesus wasn’t being cute when he referred to the Lord as his Father, the Lord really is. . .his Father.
You start to shake as you realize that you have spent the last couple of years in the presence of God, but suddenly you feel a hand on your shoulder. When you look up, you are looking into Jesus’ eyes. And yes, they are vast and hold all the mysteries of the universe, but they are also utterly tender and full of compassion and affection. And when you realize the enormity of Jesus’ love for you, God’s love for you, Jesus seems to nod a little bit. He pats you on the shoulder and goes on to greet Mary Magdalene and the other disciples.
Suddenly you realize, this experience with Jesus was not just a three year gig. You somehow understand that the rest of your life will be devoted to telling people about Jesus, explaining this extraordinary experience of meeting God face to face. And the even more extraordinary fact of God’s utter love for the human race.