It’s been said (and sung) that on a clear day you can see forever. Well, forever is a fair distance, but I can imagine it would be unforgettable should it happen. I won’t claim having seen forever, but on one fine day, while living in Alsace, France, I had my own mini, but mountainous, version. To situate you, we lived close to the German-Swiss border in France, near the city of Basel (the one airport serving Mulhouse, France and Basel Switzerland is in France and has two exits – one into Switzerland and one into France). One morning, driving east from our home, is where it took place. I’d made this trip multiple times before without incident, but this one was memorable. In the distance, rising majestically, and clearly, above a layer of clouds, were the ragged peaks of the Swiss Alps! I almost had to pull over to take it in. It felt like trick photography! I momentarily thought I was dreaming, but no, I was fully awake and viewing, for the very first time, what was typically enshrouded in clouds. So, admittedly, it wasn’t forever, but it was a staggering distance! I am filled with awe, even now, writing about this, 30 years later. I desperately wanted to have a discovery repeat but, alas, it was not to be. Later, talking to friends, I was much reassured when they agreed that in extremely rare conditions, when the weather cooperated, it was a distinct possibility (if you’ll pardon the pun). I think of it now as a moment when a ‘higher’ reality pierced my ‘lower’ perception.
I think Jesus’ disciples repeatedly dealt with a similar phenomenon. Things which their lower perceptions told them were not possible, kept happening: feeding a huge crowd with one simple lunch, interrupting a funeral procession to bring a young boy back to life and return him to his mother, instantly calming raging storm waters, walking on waves, to name a few. These took place in naturally supernatural ways, no build up, no drama, no hype, no warning. And each one seriously rattled the disciples’ small and settled way of viewing the world. Jesus was at once a great friend just like them, and at the same time, so utterly other as to defy description, totally freaking them out. And since his Resurrection, he could just appear (and disappear) at will as on the road to Emmaus and while they were gathered in the upper room (these, too, were heart-stopping, bizarre, occurrences).
As the days post-Resurrection speed along, there is a heightened sense that Jesus is soon going to leave them, but with a promise to be with them through the person of his Spirit. This growing, unpleasant thought hangs over the guys, causing them to redouble their efforts at piecing together everything they’d experienced in their time with Jesus. They all knew Jesus loved them, made them feel like they were all his favorites. He had given each of them opportunities to learn from him individually. He had always known how to address the unspoken things in their hearts, their fears, their doubts, their worries about failing him, always making them feel like his cherished little kids. There seemed to be an endless list of Jesus discoveries yet to make. We’ll talk more tomorrow at 10 AM, 3 PM, 4 PM. PD