I mean really, what do you do with that?
One of your best friends, a person you’ve admired and followed and tried really hard to be like, dies a horrible death. You’re shocked. Numb. Scared something similar might happen to you, given the political climate.
And then, a few days later, he’s standing in front of you.
Your mouth goes dry, agape. You hug, but you still don’t know how to believe the truth of what you’re holding. And then you’re sitting down on a mountainside, having supper and saying things like, hey Jesus, will you pass the cheese?
Lent is over. Easter is finished. I’ve been reminded. I’ve remembered. I’ve worked really hard at giving up my anger to be more like Jesus. And meanwhile, my candy jar is full of leftover jelly beans and I need to stain treat and wash the little white dresses all my girls wore on Sunday.
I spent yesterday unpacking from our trip home to South Dakota. (By unpacking, I mean I managed to put the suitcases and bags in the rooms they were supposed to go, and then took the girls outside.) We played on the hill in our front yard, my daughter running up and down, laughing and singing her bright voice into the sun-drenched morning.
But I had this nagging thought. I couldn’t remember what actually happened next in Jesus’ story. Death. Resurrection. But then what?
So this morning I pulled down my Greek comparison Bible, and I paged through to the end of the books where Jesus’ friends recounted what had happened.
“But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful.” Matthew 28:16
“And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have. And while they still could not believe it for joy and were marveling, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” And they gave Him a piece of broiled fish.” Luke 24:38-42
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the father and Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and surely, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20
“After the Lord Jesus has spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” Mark 16:19 & 20
Words from my high school confirmation-type class came flooding back. Ascension. Great Commission. Words that probably didn’t mean much to the people left standing on the mountain.
I imagine someone digging a front toe into the dirt. Another brushing off lunch crumbs. All of them wondering what to do next.
Somehow, the ordinary act of living didn’t feel like enough.
Jesus had said to go and make disciples, but Jesus was gone. How was that going to work? I can hear them questioning one another, ears still processing the phrase “teach them to observe all that I commanded you.”
Two thousand years later, I’m still processing it too. What do I do when the hype of a religious holiday is over? Has it changed me at all? What do I do next?
For me, it’s continuing on my journey of giving up anger. There is still work to be done. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to fully uproot my anger, or if it will continue to be a part of my character that needs constant pruning.
I do know that eventually, Jesus’ friends figured out that the best way to do what He asked them to do was to tell His story. And like any memory, it became more real, more full, more brimming with truth and meaning at every telling.
It wasn’t a once a year sermon preached from a pulpit or a stage. It was God and man. A meal shared with friends. The thread of a story piecing together every day’s living.