I love the gospel passages for the Sundays right after Easter Sunday.
The Sunday after Easter day has Jesus showing up to his disciples, but Thomas was absent. And he, bless his heart, expressed what they were likely all thinking, “‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe'” (Jn 20:25, NRSV). Thomas has the unenviable distinction of being commonly known by the qualifier “doubting” before his name, but we speak of him with far more disdain than Jesus did. Jesus didn’t scold him to simply trust, instead Jesus invited him to touch the holes in his hands and side.
This past Sunday was the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, hanging their heads in sorrow and disappointment at the fact that Jesus had died and he was not the one to redeem Israel. Jesus was surprised that they didn’t see as they ought to have, but he did not berate or punish, instead, he walked those several miles along with them, teaching them so that they might understand, and then he shares table fellowship with them.
Year C of the Revised Common Lectionary includes the story of Jesus reinstating Peter, after he went on and on about how he did not know Jesus so as to save face. I don’t know how exactly Peter was feeling, but I can imagine that he had shame over what had happened. Yet Jesus asked Peter three times of Peter loved him, so as to undo the three denials.
I love these lections because they show the disciples, once again, missing the point.
Missing the point was not a new development for the disciples, throughout all of the gospels, disciples consistently don’t see as they ought and they consistently miss the point. The disciples often seem quite thick headed, and sometimes I wonder how exactly they don’t get it after being told again and again how things are going to happen and why they are going to happen.
But this is what I find so comforting about the story of the disciples. The whole story was a string of adventures in missing the point.
I love these stories because when I am honest,I have far more in common with the disciples than I have differences. I have the luxury of knowing how the story ends, which is a great advantage over what the disciples had, and yet, I find that I am so often thick headed in a similar way.
It sometimes seems odd that during what is supposed to be the most exciting season in the Christian calendar is filled with stories of doubt and disappointment, seems like a bit of a downer. But this is so reflective of life, not only my life, but I would guess many of our lives. I know the right answer, but so often the experience is that of Thomas and Peter and Cleopas and the disciple. The comfort, though, is that even in these adventures of missing the point, the Divine continues to accompany us, accommodating to our weaknesses, and welcoming us back into the fold.