WHEN GOD BECOMES ELUSIVE: ON THE POST-RESURRECTION EXPERIENCES OF THE DISCIPLES OF JESUS
There are different times in life when things become so difficult for us such that confusion begins to set in and sometimes leading to the question on why they are still leaving or even whether there is really God above. When this is not well managed, it leads to depression and often, especially in extreme cases, can lead to one considering suicide as an option. This trend is sometimes more prevalent among the youths and that explains why many youths run into crisis, depression and criminality. Normally, every growing youth sets a goal he wants to achieve in life and works towards getting it accomplished. There comes a stage in life when the society expects that such goals should have become a reality. At that time, the unsuccessful youth begins to see himself as a failure, especially when his mates are already making tremendous progress. This explains why many in this category flood miracle centres in search of solution. But what happens when such solution is not gotten from the miracle centres in the way they seek it? The case normally turns to what we can associate with the experience of the disciples after the death of Christ, which was further compounded by the post-resurrection stories. As we shall see shortly, all these are a result of the misconception of the workings of God.
The Disciples Erroneous Conception of Jesus
It is important that we understand that the disciples of Jesus did not see him with the eye that we are using to see him. At most, they saw him as a political messiah even after his resurrection. How else can we explain the question they asked Jesus shortly before the ascension, Lord, is it now that you will restore the kingdom to Israel? (Acts 1:6) This kind of thinking that Jesus had come for the political restoration of the kingdom of Israel has been lingering for a very long time in their minds. Remember the struggle for positions that had earlier ensued among them (cf. Matt 20:20-28). This erroneous mindset left them disappointed is what made them to be disappointed when Jesus died on the cross.
The story of the two disciples on their way to Emmaus (cf. Luke 24:13-35) confirms our assumption on that disappointment. Look at what they said about Jesus, He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and the people. But the chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and he was crucified. Yet, we had been hoping that he would be the one to set Israel free. And to add to this, it is now the third day since all this happened. Some women in our group surprised us greatly. They went to the tomb early this morning, but did not find his body (Luke 24:19-23).
Do you notice that what compounded their problems was actually what was supposed to resolve their problem the empty tomb? The reference to the third day is in relation to the promise Jesus had made that he was going to rise after three days (cf. Matt 16:21). Probably, the events did not happen as they wanted it to happen. They might have wanted Jesus to do abrakadabra (magic) and rise so that they would believe. But no! They rather saw an empty tomb and did not understand (cf, John 20:9), and even though one of them believed (cf. John 20:8), they still went away again (cf. John 20:10), maybe disheartened.
Towing that line of thinking that they went home disheartened would help us understand their disappointment which would have them to nosedive into the state which Jesus had picked them out from (cf. John 21:3). Remember that Jesus had called them when they went fishing and had elevated them from being common fishermen to a higher status of being fishers of men (cf. Matt 1:16-17). What a fall from grace to grass!
We and the Confused Disciples
Like we said at the beginning, when we are in touch with the workings of God, we would be at the danger of thinking that we are failures or that God has abandoned us. Jesus accused the disciples that were on their way to Emmaus of being without understanding (cf. Luke 24:25). It is because they were without understanding that they became confused and disheartened.
For us, a lot of things can play the role of blocking our understanding of the workings of God in and through us. This can come in the form of the societal challenge the way the society looks at us. It can also be in the form of the way we feel we should be. Sometimes, this is the case when we begin to evaluate ourselves based on the success of others. In that case, we fail to see that our destinies are not always the same.
Notice that in all the above noted catalysts that block our understanding of the workings of God, one thing is common God is relegated at the background. It is what one of our fathers in faith would call, Doing the work of God and forgetting the God of Work. However, there is another extreme that normally stems from this, leading to our failure in life. That extreme is in the relaxation upon the will of God to an extent that work is relegated to the background. St. Augustine is quoted as saying, though in relation to salvation, that the God who created us without our knowledge would not save us without our cooperation.
The presence of God in everything we do in life makes the difference, and being in contact him helps us to resolve the crisis that might spring up due to our seeming failures. This is an understanding we get from The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. Brother Lawrence himself was fond of doing things badly but because of his contact with God, he always sees the hand of God righting his wrongs. So, the point is on doing the work of God and being in the presence of the God of work. When we work without God, we lose touch with his plan for us and so sometimes swim against the tide. But we are with him, he helps us to resolve our difficulties when they arise. Note this: the disciples worked all night without Jesus and caught nothing (cf. John 21:3); when Jesus came to them, they caught plenty even though it was at odd hours for fishing (cf. John 21:6). Let the motto therefore be: WORK AND PRAY!
This article was first published in The Catholic Beacon , Vol. 9, No. 4, April, 2016, a monthly publication of the Catholic Diocese of Issele-Uku, Delta State, Nigeria