For nearly three years, Jesus has been telling His disciples–repeatedly–what lies ahead. Then it occurs: He’s taken, tried, killed. Their response? Bewilderment.
In Luke’s telling, for instance, several women trek to Jesus’ grave as soon as possible after the crucifixion so as to complete the embalming process for which there had not been sufficient time. Embalming? Meanwhile, back at some undisclosed location, other disciples mill about, their next steps unclear. Then those women burst in with news given them by angels about Jesus’ resurrection. Their audience–disciples, all–is incredulous; the women’s words “seemed to them like nonsense” (Luke 24:11). Peter runs over to the tomb to check for himself, but even he’s not sure what to make of things.
Meanwhile, two other disciples are walking west, out of Jerusalem, towards Emmaus. They’re joined by a third–Jesus, Luke tells us, soto voce–who asks about their discussion. Are you the only one around here who hasn’t grasped what’s going on? they ask. It’s a bit ironic, this statement.
What? the third man (that’s Jesus, Luke repeats–Luke, the ironist, driving home the point) asks. And they proceed to explain, complete with a mention of their own dashed hopes.
Dashed hopes. Luke’s tale strikes a chord because it illustrates what is still the case in our day: we want Jesus to care, be powerful, tell the truth, keep faith, stick around. When everything seems to go sideways, we get confused, angry, skeptical, wary, depressed.
The desire for faith, hope, and love is so strong inside us.
So strong, that when any or all are jostled–when someone we trust turns out to be false, when something we expected doesn’t materialize, when we’re lonely too long and for no apparent reason–we unravel.
I love how Luke gives us Jesus eventually appearing to all these torn-up people and–once again–making very clear who He is and what’s going on. Then instead of chiding them, or turning away in disgust, or expressing His own disappointment at their failure to get with the program, He tells them to saddle up. All is well! He’s saying. Let’s go! Which they hear, and do, and subsequently turn the world upside down.
What’s so great about this piece of the Easter story is the Lord’s patience, kindness, and grace in response to a range of reactions. It’s a vivid reminder of how great God is, how good. And it keeps nudging us, working its way into hearts with the promise that the faith, hope and love we need and want is just outside that open, empty tomb.