Texts: Acts 2:14a, 22-23; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31
When I heard the news that Jesus had died on the cross, a victim of the jealous anger of powerful religious leaders and the cruel law of the Romans, I knew I just couldn’t do it anymore. I was done. I wanted to get as far away from this bad story as I could.
It wasn’t just that Jesus died, it was how people said things like, “…it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.”(John 12:50)As if somehow this man’s death, or maybe a few deaths are okay as long as the rest of us can get on with our lives!
Human sacrifice is a practice that God does not demand of us. This we know through the story of Abraham and his son Isaac. So why would we approve of it for any reason? Or make God responsible?
Nor did I wish to lose my own life over a dead man, even though I believed him to be God’s messiah. And I still believe he might have become our king. A new David! So much better than that untrustworthy fox Herod! What Jew can serve Rome and be honorable? We expected that Jesus would go up against Caesar and free our people to be under God’s righteous rule again!
None of us were safe after Jesus’s body went missing from the tomb and Mary came with a story about seeing Jesus alive. Peter believed her for some reason. And he convinced the others to linger in Jerusalem. I guess they were hoping to see Jesus themselves, even though they’d talked about returning to Galilee.
Now Peter was taking charge in a whole new way. He was so certain about Jesus being alive again. As certain as he had once been that Jesus did not have to die at all. We thought – Peter included – that Jesus was talking about the distant future. We all have to die sometime, everyone knows that.
But now Peter was talking with a confidence I’d never heard before. About how this was all in the old stories about King David. How the king was a prophet and he fore-saw Jesus as God’s Holy One. David prophesied that the Holy One would not be reduced to dry bones in the grave!
Peter even reasoned that David believed that his own flesh would live again. David of course died and was buried, never to be seen again in life. But according to Peter, David had a vision that his own descendent would become the Messiah, and sit upon the throne.
How did Peter get so full of insight? I remember all too clearly the times he faltered. Like when he tried to walk to Jesus on the water, and sank like, well, a stone. Or when the soldiers and the high priest’s men came after Jesus and Peter cut off the ear of the priest’s slave. As if that was a great idea… And then I heard that Peter swore three times he didn’t know Jesus.
That was a low point for all of us. Only the death of Jesus was worse.
So now I should suddenly believe everything Peter says? All this crazy talk of resurrection and Jesus’s death being necessary, but it’s all good now. Because look! He’s walking around showing himself to a couple of special people?
No, I got out of there fast. I went underground. Let’s just say I have friends in various places. It was through those friends that the brothers found me.
We met up and they had another crazy story. Jesus came where they were hiding. He spoke to them and blessed them with peace.
Something else happened too. He breathed on them, and they all felt God’s Holy Spirit entering them. He reminded them about forgiveness and letting go, and about how you can hang on to the sin too, but if you do, it hurts you as much as the one who sinned.
Maybe that’s why they came after me. They were pretty upset when I left them. But then they thought about what Jesus said, and they realized that they’d already lost Judas. They had no way to forgive him. They didn’t want to lose me too. And so they forgave me.
Of course, I still didn’t believe them about Jesus rising from the dead. I argued with them and told them I’d need to see and touch Jesus for myself, wounds and all. I said so really vehemently.
So you’re probably wondering why I went back. Believe me, it wasn’t easy. But I have several good reasons for my decision.
These are my brothers, along with the women who have become our sisters too. We all followed Jesus together. And maybe we didn’t have Jesus anymore. But we had each other.
I also returned simply because Peter and the others came after me. It was dangerous and stupid.
I didn’t want them to get caught by the Romans or the religious leaders and end up being punished for my actions. So I returned for the sake of their safety. But I didn’t plan to stay long.
I look back on that with regret. How little I understood about Jesus even after being his disciple! Thank God, Jesus came back for me too. There I was in the room, still as broken as can be. Then suddenly Jesus was standing with us, real and wounded. Yet with such forgiveness that he restored my faith.
Jesus filled me with a new insight too - no one demandedhis life. He offered it freely. It was that freely givenlife that defeated the great evil enemy – fearful hatred. My confidence comes from that. Confidence in a greater justice, confidence in the necessity and power of forgiveness. Confidence in doing right and serving the good. It changed Peter, the other disciples, and me.
I am old now. My own life is nearing an end in this country so different from my birthplace. Hoddu as it is called in Hebrew, after its great river Sindhu. Others call it India. And I tell you my story because it is why I came with such confidence as an Apostle of Jesus to you. I believe. And how blessed are you who have not seen and yet have come to believe! Amen.
The Rev. Beth Purdum Eden is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church. She has served in more than 6 parishes in the Western United States for 30 years.