Today’s Chocolate: Green & Black’s 85% Cacao Dark Chocolate
Today’s Passage: Luke 24
One of my favorite Bible verses is Hebrews 12:2. It describes Jesus as “the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” I’ve said before that there’s a fine line between Christianity and masochism, and it’s not difficult to fall into spiritual self-flagellation (or physical, if you’re a 13th-century monk). At times, to varying degrees, I’ve succumbed to the temptation to embrace and pursue suffering for its own sake.
But Jesus Christ gives a different example. He didn’t subject himself to crucifixion and death because the highest good is to suffer, as if the most perfect being is the most miserable. He endured it for the sake of what was on the other side, hating the shame that we saw him subjected to in yesterday’s chapter. Before his death, he saw it coming, and he wasn’t looking forward to it. The night before the crucifixion, he even prayed, “Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42). But he did it to take hold of the glory of triumph over sin and death, to take his place at the Father’s right hand, to obtain the joy set before him. Suffering in itself is undesirable, and we should avoid pointless suffering. But we live in a world where some good things can’t be attained without suffering, and when that’s the case, we should follow Jesus’ example and be willing to suffer in order to find greater joy on the other side.
And with that little (i.e. huge) introduction, we finally come to today’s actual chapter, Luke 24. The crucifixion chapters are, dare I say, dark as hell, but here on the other side, Jesus’ followers and closest companions find an almost unbelievable joy. The women who visit the tomb at the beginning of the week are initially perplexed by the open tomb and absence of the body. When they report their findings to the disciples, Luke says, “These words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them” (11). Even when Jesus himself shows up among the apostles and invites them to look for themselves, they “still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement” (41). And why wouldn’t they be incredulous? How many people that you know have come back from the dead? Go ahead, list them. Wow, that was quick.
A loved one coming back from the dead is the textbook example of “too good to be true.” But each time the resurrected Christ appears to someone, hesitancy gives way to elation. When Jesus encounters two disciples on the road to Emmaus, listens to them tell him the news about himself because they don’t recognize him, explains the prophecies about himself to them from scripture, accepts an invitation to have dinner with them, breaks bread with them and straight-up goes ghost the instant they realize who he is, (deep breath) they say, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” (32). They’re so excited that they immediately decide to return to Jerusalem because the other disciples need to hear about this.
And they’re right. The others are over the moon to discover that Jesus didn’t stay dead. Granted, they don’t get really excited until he appears in the group even as the Emmaus duo is recounting their encounter. Even after he departs heavenward, they’re still riding the wave: “And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising God” (52-53). They could not be more glad.
As I sign off for this entry, there’s just one weird thing I want to note. The disciples are all Jews. They express their joy by going to the Jerusalem temple and praising God. And a big part of Judaism is not worshipping anyone but God: not any creature, not any other deity, and certainly not a human being. Their position didn’t win them any points with the Roman empire, what with the Roman pantheon and the imperial cult and all. But did you notice? These Jews worshipped a guy. They just worshipped Jesus Christ. And frankly, that’s almost as astounding as a man coming back from the dead.