Is Belief Enough?

10 04 2015

The victories are fun and exciting to read about, but I’m glad the Bible includes faux pas and shortcomings as well. They help me to understand that no one is perfect. It’s a comforting reality that helps me move forward with my own life. I mess up, sometimes accidentally, but more often than I care to admit, it’s intentional. The key is to learn from those mistakes, whether they’re mine or someone else’s. As I read again the resurrection story this Easter, I encountered what must surely be one of great mishaps of history.

According to John’s gospel, (chapter 20) as Peter and John heard the news from Mary, they beat feet to the tomb of Jesus with John, the younger of the two, arriving first. I’m unclear as to why he didn’t enter. Perhaps he thought it polite to wait for Peter. Maybe he was just scared stiff. Regardless, Peter didn’t waste any time and ran right in. We’re told that John followed Peter and upon wandering in “saw and believed.” But what did he believe? He believed that Jesus was no longer dead. He believed the writings of the prophets and the words of Jesus. He believed that Jesus took three days to rebuild the temple. (John 2:19-22) He believed that Jesus was the Messiah.

I find the next verse perplexing, however. John believed, but he did not yet understand. What didn’t he understand? Hadn’t he been with Jesus for the better part of three years? Hadn’t he heard His teachings? Witnessed His miracles? Yes! And that is precisely why I believe he didn’t understand. He had seen Jesus cause the lame to walk, the dumb to talk, and the blind to see. He had witnessed Him cleansing lepers and casting out demons, turning water to wine and cursing a fig tree, calming the storms and walking on water. Jesus had healed the sick and raised the dead. It may be that John just saw this as another miracle in a long line of miracles. Perhaps the power of Jesus had been taken for granted.

Frederick Buechner says, “If death was to be truly defeated, it was only by dying himself that Jesus believed he could defeat it. If he was to reach the hearts of men, it was only by suffering his own heart to be broken on their behalf that he believed he could reach them. To heal the sick and restore sight to the blind; to preach good news to the poor and liberty to the captives; to wear himself out with his endless teaching and traveling the whole length and breadth of the land—it had not worked because it was not enough. There had to be more.”

I know I’ve been there. I’ve believed in the power of the Almighty, but didn’t understand its significance for me. What we read next is perhaps one of the saddest verses in all of scripture, the historical mishap. The disciples didn’t understand and so “went away again to their own homes.” At first, I wasn’t sure I’d read it correctly. Upon realizing that Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, had risen from the dead, the disciples went back to life as usual. Wow! Keep reading and you’ll find Peter saying, “Fellas, I’m goin’ fishing’.” In the book of Acts, we find them staring at the sky as Jesus ascends. The angel questions their actions and essentially tells them to get busy. The disciples didn’t understand. Thankfully, we discover that they do eventually understand. The Spirit falls on them and they carry out the mission of God, even unto death.

Lord, I believe. Help me to understand. Don’t let me go about life as usual. Help me to live in the power of the resurrection. Amen.

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