Even if Jesus believed — knew — he was coming back; what did coming back actually feel like? Defeating death is no small feat. To the extent that there was any question, any doubt, Easter morn was the complete and total validation. In a time and place where empirical evidence was the highest form of proof, the reappearance of Jesus would be the crowning miracle of a truly miraculous career. It is small wonder that even his closest followers and friends had trouble believing the evidence of their own eyes. Mary didn’t recognize Jesus; she and the women certainly didn’t believe what Jesus told them — they came to care for a corpse, not to serve a living Lord. When the disciples heard the word, they didn’t run out looking for a risen friend; they ran to an empty tomb. They didn’t seek proof that Jesus was risen, only that Mary was correct that the body was gone. Faith was not in strong supply Easter morn — and it wasn’t even in large supply when they DID see Jesus, because belief grounded in proof really isn’t faith after all. Faith is the assurance of things unseen, and Jesus himself blessed those who did not need proof, but believed anyway.
As to the mind of Christ, I imagine it was awhirl with, “It’s all true, it’s all real, it’s going to happen, man, I can’t wait to see the look on their faces. Will they sure be red!” I imagine a divine “I told you so,” waiting to be rolled out again and again. The hard work of the past few years, the blood, sweat and tears of the past few days — all worth it. A vast, cosmic plan come to fruition. It would be even harder to conceive and understand. If the twelve struggled before, it promised to be an uphill climb just to get them to wrap their heads around the scope of all that changed. The shift from death to life for Jesus meant a shift from follower to leader, from student to teacher, from apprentice to master for the disciples — now empowered to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, and servant shepherds. No more studying the playbook or drills on the practice field. The real game was about to begin. But Jesus was moving from player-coach-captain into a pure coaching mode. He would work with his “team” for about another six weeks, then it would be up to them to perform. Even out of the tomb, I wonder what went through Jesus’ mind about the future of the ministry?
I believe the greatest test of faith in this whole story is not Jesus’ trust in God or in his own identity, if there is a truly miraculous act of faith, it is the trust Jesus puts in the boys to get it together and take the movement to the next level. There was not great evidence that they were ready. As to a track record, they got more wrong than right. Imagine in our day a major Fortune 500 business turned over to those who showed great promise, but had performed poorly, lacked confidence and competency, and folded under pressure… Hey, after resurrection, is anything impossible?
If there was one governing emotion for Jesus on Easter morning, I believe it was impatience: impatient with those expecting him to be dead and buried, impatience with those still hiding, impatience with those who hadn’t even considered the possibility that he might return, impatience with having to “prove” himself, impatience with the short-sightedness and blindness of those who kept saying “we get it, we get it,” and impatience to get on with it all. In the Greek, Jesus’ response to Mary “do not hold onto me, I have not yet ascended,” is a much more petulant, “Let go of me! Jeesh, we’ve got more important things to do!” I see petulance in the Emmaus story as well as the fishermen and the beach. It is not an unreasonable stretch to see irritation and annoyance in many of the post-resurrection tales. I think in the back of Jesus’ mind must have played, “What else do you want?! There is no ‘and now, for my next trick…’, resurrection is the whole deal — you want/need more than this, you’re out of luck.”
The seismic shift of Easter put the burden of belief and servanthood squarely on the shoulders of his friends as never before. Yes, Jesus promised to be with them in the form of Spirit; yes, Jesus offered the grace of solidarity and remembrance with every bite of bread and each drink of wine; yes, Jesus taught them and trained them — but nothing new and miraculous would happen apart from the disciples experiencing a radical transformation in the Spirit that empowered them to live fully from their gifts. Easter is more than a celebration of the return of the Christ; it is a passing of the responsibility from those who followed to become those who will lead. And guess what? It is still happening today. Attending an Easter service should not be a spectator sport — it should be that critical time when we step up to be put in the game. He is risen indeed! But the evidence that Jesus lives is us, pure and simple. In what we say, in what we do, in how we live, clear evidence should be found that Jesus is alive, now and forever more.