There are many things about Jesus that are similar to other religious figures throughout world history. Many were said to have performed miracles, some have even been said to have died on their followers behalf. But none have been raised from the dead. Jesus Resurrection, even more than his sacrificial death in our place, stands out as a sign for us to see and believe.
I have never really considered the Resurrection as a sign before. I would like for us to do so, less in a factual way, more in a contemplative, meditative, devotional way. What does the sign mean to you? What does it point to for you? How, if at all, does it impact you?
First lets examine how it impacted two men who saw the Resurrection directly. The first is the “Other Disciple”, generally taken to be John. He heard that Jesus’ body was missing along with Peter when Mary Magdalene ran up with the news. He out raced Peter to the tomb in a headlong dash, but while Peter pushed past him and went straight into the tomb, the other disciple stood outside. What was he thinking? Was he afraid of what he might see or might not see? Was he afraid of the consequences of seeing?
I think it was fear of the consequences. If Jesus was still there or if there was evidence his body had been stolen, then following Jesus had been a lie. Perhaps even more troubling, if the tomb was empty, if Jesus had risen, then things got really serious. The writer of John says parenthetically that the Disciples still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise. At this late date they still did not understand the implications of his Resurrection for themselves or the world. Were they still harboring hope of a political solution? Were they still hoping that what lay before them in following Jesus was glory, now, in this life?
Finally the Other Disciple pushed past the fear/dread/doubt that had mastered him and went inside. It was at that moment that he “saw and believed”. What did he see? Was it just the physical things scripture says Simon Peter saw? Was it something that was revealed to him? What did he believe?
Jesus later revealed himself to a number of the Disciples who were hiding from the Jews. Thomas was not with them and refused to believe their story. He said, essentially, “I won’t believe what I can’t see for myself.” Was he wrong? Do we ever really believe things we haven’t seen for ourselves? Was he really any different from the Other Disciple? The Other Disciple had been around and seen plenty of things, but only when he walked into the empty tomb was it said,”He saw and he believed.”
A week later Jesus appeared to the group again, this time with Thomas present. Jesus called on Thomas particularly to see and believe. He also told Thomas he had seen and believed (as opposed to others who have not seen and still believed).
Chapter 20 closes with the statement:”These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” In other words through the signs, statements and other acts of Jesus he records, the author wants to provide you a way to see and believe. What did it take for you to see or what will it take?