Sometimes the news we hear is unbelievable. The statements made to us seem so far out of left field, so beyond the pale, that they cannot bear the weight of reality. As I sat in a small conference room in an office building early on a Tuesday morning and was told that two passenger airplanes had crashed into the World Trade Center, I could hardly believe what I was hearing. Or, when I received the news that my mother had contracted the Ebola virus working alongside medical staff in 2014, it just seemed too far-fetched to be believable. Yet, I knew in both instances the things I was being told were true.
I wonder if we perceive reality the same way when it comes to the concluding chapters of Jesus’s story told in the Synoptic Gospels. We wouldn’t be too unlike the men and women who were receiving the news and processing the reality of these events. The idea of a bodily resurrection after the torture and brutal experience of death by Roman crucifixion seemed too unlikely to be true. Yet every one had to contend with the news that the body of Jesus of Nazareth was not in the tomb where he was laid just a few days prior.
The disciples heard the words of the women who saw the empty tomb first, which “seemed like nonsense to them.” Yet there was enough curiosity and wonder for Peter to run to the tomb, find it empty, and walk away marveling and wondering what had happened (Luke 24:11–12). Two disciples journeying to Emmaus couldn’t perceive the resurrected Jesus was walking along with them. The news and the embodiment of the information were so foreign to their experience that it was unbelievable. It was in the familiar act of breaking bread, blessing it, and giving it to them that their eyes were opened to the reality of Jesus, alive and in the flesh (vv.30–31). As they communicated the news of the living Christ to the doubting, anxious, wondering disciples saying, “The Lord has truly been raised…” (v.34), it still required Jesus to show Himself clearly to them. The unbelievable was becoming reality in their hearts.
It’s worth asking ourselves what we make of this news of the resurrected, living, glorified, ascended, and victorious Son of Man, Jesus Christ. It may be unbelievable to us, even far-fetched. Who else do we know that has died and been raised to life again three days later? We may be tempted to discard these eyewitness and faithful accounts into the realm of myth and legend. Perhaps in our modern sophistication, we can’t give ourselves to believing “magic” or supernatural events that force us to suspend our confidence in this world’s natural and ordered systems.
But I would ask you to consider, when you think about all we’ve read about Jesus in these Gospel accounts does your heart feel what the hearts of the first disciples felt? It could be that our hearts, “burning within us” (v.32), are pointing us to the truth. We may struggle to believe it’s true, but does your heart know that it is?