Now we get to the hard part.
Jesus has been crucified, and everybody thought that would be the hard part. What will we do with him gone? Will we just go back to life the way we’d been living it? Back to our homes and our jobs and all of that stuff we gave up to follow him?
Will we go back to worrying more about following all of the million and one regulations that the religious professionals want to lay on us? Will we go back to judging whether or not a person is right with God based on their health or their wealth or how well they pray in public? What will we do now that he’s gone?
Of course, he came back, praise be to God, and even though he seems to be talking about going away somehow, he’s here now. He isn’t dead, he’s alive!
So what do we do now?
Is he going to wander around the countryside and preach some more? Seems kind of anticlimactic now, doesn’t it? You can bet he won’t be getting any more static from the Pharisees and Sadducees now. And people will probably listen to every word he says – after all, he was dead and now he’s not, which is a pretty good icebreaker.
You know, if he really is going away, what does that mean? I could see sneaking away back to the old life if the guy I’d been following around turned up dead. Just slip back into village life and go about things peaceably like nothing ever happened, and maybe I’d skate by without a Pharisee visit of my own.
But now? I don’t know about where you come from, but if I show up back at home after having followed around a guy who rose from the dead, there’s going to be some talk. The whole ease anonymously back into the old life thing is off the table.
Plus…well, I don’t know if that’s what he’d want me to do anyway. It seems like there ought to be some meaning to this. If I really have been in the presence of the Son of God, I ought to do something with that, shouldn’t I?
And that, I believe, is where one of the major impacts of the resurrection ought to happen but it gets overlooked by us all sometimes. It’s such an amazing event, such an overpowering idea, that we lose focus of what’s supposed to happen afterwards.
Yes, the resurrection does show us that we can trust God to death itself and beyond, and that God has power over any and all things that might separate us from him.
But once that’s over with, then what? What do we do with that knowledge? What do we do with the confirmation that our faith in God and his son is not misplaced? It seems to me that the key is in the last verse of the passage: “You are witnesses of these things.”
Jesus doesn’t say, “You’ve seen these things.” Or, “And you happen to have been around when all this happened and it might have caught your eye.” He tells the gathered disciples that they are witnesses to what has happened and what he has done. Witnesses do more than just see things. They also tell what they’ve seen. Witnesses in a trial are called to testify about what they have seen or what they know to be true. Their knowledge doesn’t stay with them, but is transmitted to others.
The disciples have witnessed Jesus’ resurrection, which proves to them that he is the son of God. What he has said about himself is true, and come to think about it, the other stuff he said is probably true as well. That stuff about the beginning of God’s reign here on earth? About helping each other? About repenting of our sin and following God’s path? It sounded OK when he said it and he was just Jesus, Joe and Mary’s boy, but when we realize it was said by the son of God? That sort of understanding lays an obligation on a fellow, don’t you know.
Which is where that hard part comes in. We know Jesus is raised. We know that means God’s new world has begun, even if it will await completion until the end of the age and Jesus’ return. And so we know what we are to do. If we’re going to live in that new world and take part in that new, healed and whole relationship God offers, we ought to be about letting people know what’s going on.
Will we just sit back and take our ease drinking from the well of living water? Or will we offer a cup of that water to another, showing them the way to the Way that brought salvation to us all?