We have no doubt come across mention of one of those strange apparition experiences. Maybe reading, TV or perhaps someone’s personal report.
What they mean or how we are meant to understand them is an entirely different matter. So when the disciples began having their Easter experiences that in itself was not so abnormal. What appears to be different is its nature and impact upon the people who witnessed Jesus appearances. It transformed a community, in time a society, and ultimately shaped one of the great religious traditions of history.
So what do we make of Jesus resurrection.Two major points stand out for me. Let’s recall some of the events…
Easter morning we read of Mary, who thought Jesus was the gardener until he spoke knowingly to her by name. She believed. On hearing the news, Peter and John ran to the tomb and on entering it and seeing the linen clothes lying where they had laid him, they believed. The disciples had hidden in an upper room, bewildered and fearful. Jesus appeared in their midst with beautiful messages of peace and exuding with Spirit he bestowed upon them.,. and they believed.
The one exception is Thomas who not so strangely doubted. A questioning man wanted his own proof but once he got it by touching Jesus, he believed, with his now famous words, my Lord and my God.
We could recall other appearances like the couple walking to Emmaus. Jesus it would seem walked a significant distance in the darkening sky with this couple before they realized who he was at the meal table through the breaking of bread. And they believed to the point of hastily returning to the other disciples. We can recall Jesus appearance to the disciples on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, where in fact they conversed, ate breakfast and you might well recall Jesus famous conversation with Peter in which he was tested by Jesus with the questions on his love for Jesus.
Paul makes a summary of many of these appearances in his epistles, including the appearance of Jesus to a crowd of 500. Of course he includes his own experience of his conversion on the road to Damascus. All in all there is a great array of experiences, rarely the same but so often pertinent for each individual person according to their story and personality. The variety of experiences is mammoth.
And if we were to hear one another’s stories today of how we came to believe we would find the accounts are all different.
FIRST POINT – PHYSICAL APPEARANCE
The stories of human apparition I originally alluded to, as far as I have heard, did not display the reality of physically engaging with this world. Jesus did not flaunt his physicality yet there were enough episodes to suggest his appearance did embrace the physical or material world.
Christians often argue for Jesus physical resurrection, although there are also counter arguments that attempt to refute this. The purpose of the argument for such a physical dimension of his resurrection argues for a unity of matter and spirit.
Jesus presence could move freely between the two as if he has transcended the division between matter and spirit. He revealed that in resurrection all is one. Whether life or death, spirit or matter there is no separation.
Modern philosophy or science increasingly support this reality. But is this really enough for us to receive from Easter? It’s the first step.
SECOND POINT – COMMUNICATION
A greater factor that stands out in these experiences was the quality of communication he was able to establish with each person. In his appearances, Conversation was not verbose, but it was specific and certainly pertinent for that person and it had a profound effect upon them.
This is what I believe stands at the heart of resurrection. At the heart it is about communication.
The communication is naturally first and foremost with Jesus. But the more we know of Jesus the more we realize it is in fact communication with the divine being we call God. It was through this communication that the disciples knew a door of reality was opened and for them it was certainly a continuous relationship with Jesus.
Over two thousand years of history we would say that the range of this communication has proved to be manifold and diverse.The substance of it is an awakening to the sense of the divine at the heart of life.
For some it is profoundly Jesus like. For others it is more characterised by the sense of divine spirit. Common to all is that it is an awakening to an interior communication with the source of reality, the divine.
We are not separate from but we are one with Spirit. As Paul says, I am convinced that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. And spirit is our essential nature for it is the divine reality.
Much of New Testament teaching is about the walls of division that the resurrection of Jesus broke down. The walls of hostility between people. Most significantly the wall of difference between ourselves and God. All is one.
Our picture of life is so restricted, but resurrection reveals that life is infinite, whether interiorly in mind, or exteriorly in the furthest corners of the universe, or as science speculates with the notion of multiverses. Jesus may have appeared in form sporadically for short moments some two thousand years ago but its truth is that in resurrection he is beyond all form and in spirit he is the ground of all being, for resurrection has no divisions. And the greatest of all gifts is that the gift of consciousness is in perpetual communication with the divine nature of reality.
The people of resurrection are those who seek to live beyond the apparent illusory divisions and live in communication with the ever-present divine.