Sunday, May 12, 2013

Buffered Belief

It all happened so fast. Jesus was dead and we were all hopeless. Saturday was the longest day of my life. I didn’t sleep very well Friday night and it felt like the sun rose early on Saturday and nearly refused to go down on Saturday. I didn’t do anything; I couldn’t do anything – it was the Sabbath. I wanted to work, to get busy, to make my mind think of anything else, but I was to rest.

 I could not rest, but I could not do anything either. So I took a walk and prayed, but it felt like a wasted effort. Why pray when your dreams have been crushed? I kicked rocks as I walked. When Jesus was here I knew for the first time what my life was all about. Before Jesus, I wondered a lot, I floundered a lot - I just kept my head above water, making it day to day. When I met Jesus, I began to see it for the first time. I began to believe that there was something worth something. I believed. I trusted. I let me heart get excited.

And then he died and all my meaning and purpose died with him. Yes, Saturday was a long day.

But then late Sunday night, some of my friends came to my house and told me that Jesus wasn’t dead. Of course I didn’t believe them; I saw him crucified. I saw the blood. I saw the last breath. I heard him say those dream killing words, “It is finished.” He was as dead as every other dead person. I tried in frustration and anger to remind them that he was dead and it was the worst thing that had ever happened to me.

But they wouldn’t let up about it. “He’s alive” they said.

“How do you know?” I asked not wanting to get my hopes up. I could not handle another disappointment.

“We saw him. We talked with him.” They said.

“I touched him,” said Martha. “I touched his hand where the nails were. It was Jesus.”

They seemed so sincere. They seemed really to believe this had happened. But I still didn’t believe them. I asked them to take me to go see him and we went and looked. We looked all over Jerusalem, in all the places we thought he might be, but we never found him. Everyone seemed to be passing on the rumors, however. I met so many people who say they believe Jesus had risen from the dead and a few people who claim to have seen him with their own eyes.

I wanted to believe them. I wanted it to be true. But at the same time, no one could find Jesus for me. A lot of people believing something was not going to override the truth that I saw Jesus die with my own eyes and dead people stay dead.

The excitement did not seem to go away. The rumors spread with more and more people believing, but I just went back home.

Then one day I went to the Temple. I went because it was Pentecost and I should go even thought I didn’t want to. I knew people would be talking about Jesus and I really didn’t want to hear about it anymore.

It was crowded as it usually is on special days. People from all over the place were here, more out of towners than usual, which meant I got hear people speak in over a dozen different languages.  It was crowded and busy that morning, but nothing unusual. Nothing unusual until a really strong wind blew in, like a storm, only there was no storm. Then there was lightning or fire or something that didn’t just flash – it lingered and seemed to hover over a few people’s head.

One of the main followers of Jesus, a man named Peter, hushed the crowd and began talking. He was one of the people the fiery light lingered over for a little while. He started to talk about Jesus. That was not the surprising part. I knew he would probably try to keep the rumor going. What was surprising is that people who did even know how to speak Greek seemed to be hearing and understanding everything he was saying.

Then more of his followers began to talk to portions of the huge crowd gathered. Like Peter, it didn’t matter what language they spoke in, everyone acted as though they heard it in their own language. I was confused and disoriented.

But Peter referred to scripture, he talked about the spirit being poured out, and eventually convinced me and whole lot of other people that it is possible that Jesus was raised from the dead. My heart could no longer resist and it hoped again. I was filled with emotion, but still disoriented. What did this mean? What should I do?

Everyone was asking the same questions about what to do. Well, we all got baptized. From that point forward, there was no turning back. Peter became a really important leader in what became known as the church. Later a man named, Saul became a follower of Jesus. No one expected this since he was one of the most outspoken opponents of Jesus. Saul traveled to many nations and made tremendous sacrifices, sometimes being terribly abused. But he never quit sharing about how Jesus rose from the dead and how he used to be a violent man, but Jesus loved him anyway.

I am old now, and it has been a long time since I saw Jesus die. I never saw him risen, not his actual flesh and blood. I do believe that he rose from the dead. At the same time, in another kind of way, I have seen him risen thousands of times. He is risen in the people who believe. He is risen in the gathering of the church. He is risen in how believers in him treat each other and how kind they are to people who do not believe. He is risen in that the hope that we will all rise and this drives us to be better versions of ourselves.

For me, he is risen in me in that my life has meant something.

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