Easter: joyful disbelief or cynical doubt?

As I read and reflected on the Easter story this morning as told by the four Gospels, what stands out is the response of those who heard the news of the empty tomb and the risen Jesus. Initially, there is fear. Yet the fear becomes “great joy” or it gives way to cynical doubt.

There is Mary Magdalene who is one of the first at the tomb on that first Easter morning. She hears the news and is filled with fear. But then she sees Jesus, and her fear turns to the disbelief of joy that he is alive and so she worships him and spreads the news to the rest of the disciples. Most of them do not immediately believe, but persist in cynical doubt. Luke actually says that the disciples regarded the women’s report as “an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” However, Peter went to see for himself. And then he went away marveling at the too-good-to-be-true truth of Jesus’ resurrection.

Thomas persists in his doubt because he missed the first resurrection appearance of Jesus to the disciples. He boldly claims that he will “never believe” unless “I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side.” I wonder why Jesus didn’t show up immediately to dispel his cynical doubt. But he doesn’t. He waits eight days, and then he appears and invites Thomas to, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Instantly, Thomas is transformed from a doubter to a worshiper.

Where are you this Easter morning? Be assured that Jesus can (and will) meet you wherever you are. Maybe he will call your name personally, as he did for Mary in the garden that first Easter morning, and you will be overcome with joyful disbelief. Or perhaps you, like Thomas, are more cynical and it will be a longer journey for you. Jesus can meet you here, too, transforming your doubt into the worship of faith.

He has risen. He has risen, indeed. And he is alive. Let us then worship with joy this Easter morning.

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