On this first week of the Easter season, we will be looking at several of the resurrection appearances, and letting them guide our prayer. May we see the risen Lord and share in His life!

Today’s Bible reading

John 20:1-18

More thoughts for meditation

Towards the end of his memoir of conversion, C.S. Lewis describes a sudden insight that his sense of the Joy (or what he would come to call God) has been stymied by his focus on the inner experience of Joy.  He writes:

I saw that all my waitings and watchings for Joy, all my vain hopes to find some mental content on which I could, so to speak, lay my finger and say, “this is it,” had been a futile attempt to contemplate the enjoyed. All that such watching and waiting could ever find would be either an image or a quiver in the diaphragm. I should never have to bother again about these images or sensations. I knew that they were merely the mental track left by the passage of Joy–not the wave, but the wave’s imprint on the sand.

Peter and John see the tomb rolled away. They go inside. They see the folded burial cloths. They handle the fading traces of the risen Lord, the imprint the wave left behind on the sand.

I suspect they were disturbed. On a gut level perhaps they knew what had had happened, or at least that an empty tomb was significant in some way. It says that John “believed,” but did not yet understand his belief. 

They go home. That might seem disappointing. If they had only stayed, perhaps they could have seen the risen Lord. But our situation is not much different. We may have spent our whole life somewhat familiar with the idea of the resurrection, but what would it mean to be confronted with the reality that the idea is true? That the dead are raised? That what Christianity has preached from the beginning is true?

We might have evidence of various kinds. The convictions of others. Experiences when Joy feels very close. Moments when it might just seem so plain to us that that death is indeed held in God’s lap, as is everything.

All of these things, as palpable as they might be, are, in our memory, a set of folded linens and a missing stone. They are the imprint of the wave. They are not the wave itself. 

I don’t at all mean to downplay the importance of such moments of clarity. But as Jesus says – “do not cling to me.” What we see, feel, experience.. these things are the wake left behind by a passing ship. Like the sea, the believability of the resurrection changes with the years, days, and hours. Mental states come and go.

Peter and John do not see the risen Lord at this point, but what do they see? They see a vacated grave. This little house of death has been put in order, and made into a habitable place. The Master of the house has been here and put things right. They see Him by what He has left behind, and that will draw them over the course of their lives to meet them there.  

Faith is not something that is given to us in a package, like folded linen. Peter would suffer and die in a manner alike Christ. I suspect that his understanding of the empty tomb was being formed in him right up until the end. To preach the resurrection is one thing. To face it for one’s self is another thing entirely. He would have to go into death with some knowledge hidden from him. He would have only trust, faith, conviction that the Master of the house would be waiting for him there, that God did not abandon his anointed one to Sheol, and would not abandon him.

Suggestions for action

Let the words of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin be a little blessing for you today: Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.

Today is Pandita Ramabai day on Celebrating Our Transhistoric Body. She was an Indian activist, evangelist and one of the first modern Pentecostals.