John 20 and 21 share John’s report on the resurrection of Jesus. Mary Magdalene first sees the empty tomb that held Jesus’ body. Jesus sends her to tell the others that he is “ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” For many when we think of ascending, we think of going up an escalator or elevator i.e. a physical transportation up. There is a second interpretation. The prince ascends to the throne when his father dies i.e. Jesus was returning to his precreation identity that was all that we consider God to be — invisible and present everywhere, knowing, and powerful. Either interpretation is an understanding of life that continues after physical death. Mary believed and carried the message
John and Peter run to the tomb and see but do not understand. That evening they meet the risen Jesus when Jesus walks through locked doors and greets them. Peace, don’t worry, don’t doubt. Disciple Thomas was absent but the next week, Jesus meets again with the disciples and Thomas. Touch me! Know that I am real. Doubt evaporated. “My Lord and my God.”
Chapter 21 tells of another encounter that focuses on Peter and Peter’s unresolved guilt over his betrayal. “Do you love me?” asks Jesus. “Feed my sheep.”
It would seem that the resurrection is a watershed moment of truth that is accepted or rejected. Many of us like Thomas have doubts while others must deal with guilt from their sins. Jesus comes to both of them personally to help them grow into deeper relationship with him. Many people would like to keep Jesus as a learned wise person comparable to other prophets, other religious gurus, other great men but the resurrection makes Jesus different for none of the other “greats” have come back to life and shown that not only are they wise, they are stronger than death.
Jesus, God incarnate, ascended and we talk about God’s presence now as the Holy Spirit. The Trinity is a mystery that is hard to understand or explain. That’s right, we are people and not God. Doubt and guilt can plague us but Jesus is willing to deal with that if we are. Today as we think of how we understand Jesus, we must ask if we put Jesus in “wise guy” category or do we experience him as the “ascended one” who has paid the price of sin, ascended and will walk with us today, tomorrow and through death. Our epic story is not finished. Our epic hero has foiled our epic villain but more is to come. Blessings as you go through this day. He is ascended and goes with you.