In the name of the One true God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.
And Jesus said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts.”
Why are we troubled? For the past six decades or so humankind has been in the midst of an era often called, the “age of anxiety” The 1947 six-part poem by the same name by W.H. Auden sought to describe our searching for meaning in an ever-industrializing world. Some have called into question this designation, this title for the era in which we live. Perhaps we are now moving into a time, or an era of over-stimulation. What my experiences in this life have showed me so far is that many who choose to are in a time of being untethered. Of feeling disconnected. It’s now, I believe, an era of being loosed. You may ask from what, and I say that it’s an era in which we are choosing to be loosed from each other, and ultimately from God. Why do doubts arise in your hearts Jesus asked. And now I think many would encounter that same question by asking “Why are you doubtless? Why are there no doubts in your mind? Why do you not call God into question? Why do you think there’s anything else but yourself? Be a good person, sure, but what have you to do with God?
This sort of spiritual weakness or doubt or even hatred of God or whatever it is called we have all encountered it in society. Doubt is normal. Doubt is healthy. Doubt is a part of faith. But doubt when it is in the midst of our faith does not make us faithless. Being completely faithless can mean being filled with hopelessness. That feeling of being untethered.
It can mean being entombed in our own self-serving and deadened ends.
The followers of Jesus, the disciples, had doubt that was turning into such despair, into hopelessness after Jesus’ crucifixion.
They were witnesses of an altogether divine story that had happened and would never be acted out again. It was over and they didn’t quite understand the ending. They were beginning to feel utterly lost utterly hopeless without Jesus.
Envision the scene in which our Gospel reading opens.
The hour is late. The heat of the day has subsided and a slight clean chill enters under the door of the room
Some small fire is burning and casting confusing shadows about. A small gathering of people, a dozen or so, are in different places throughout the room. Some pace the floor, others speak quietly in hushed tones. still others sit in silence with expectant looks that are slowly turning into looks of sorrow.
It is an altogether bizarre sight, the darkness and overall quiet of the place conjure up images of mourning the dead, of depression, of anxiety, of fear. It is a tomb.
These followers of Christ were about to assign Jesus to death, they were about to give him up for dead… and in so doing they were ready to mourn and perhaps even rid themselves of this man who now had caused them to be overcome with grief and confusion.
As the fire casts shadows of abstract dancing shapes upon the rough walls something appears in the dark room. Something has come through the wall, or the door, or perhaps through the air! And this figure, this shape is an altogether terrifying sight.
They had gotten into their heads an idea, an image of death and hopelessness. They were buried, as it were, buried in a sort of tomb. In a sort of tomb they had walled themselves inside of, and this sort of tomb, this sort of mindset is focused only on the possibilities that present themselves in that walled in space. In only the supposed reality of what they can reach for in front of them.
By their own wills they had begun to shut out the endless possibilities that Jesus brings to humankind.
They shut out the notion that anything good could actually enter into the room, it had to instead have been a ghost.
Something untoward, something unnatural, something that caused terror.
The possibility that the Christ had come to them was so distant a thought in their heads that they actually could not bring themselves to recognize their Lord, to recognize our Lord.
Jesus then says to them, “why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?
Now why is it they do not recognize the resurrected Jesus?
While we cannot rule out that after the Resurrection Jesus was in someway changed and altered in appearance the scriptures may be eluding to and pointing at another possibility, the possibility that the many people who did not recognize Jesus after the resurrection, were not able to because of their unwillingness to do so, because of their doubts, and because their hearts were so stopped that they could not allow for the possibility that Jesus Christ was with them.
We can be brought to do this as well.
There are those times in our lives when we are unable to bring ourselves to a place where the good, where the holy, where love is able to enter in. It is unable to enter in because we have not lifted our gazes out from the tomb. Out from the negative places where we are sometimes or even often want to go and to stay.
How common it is for us to fail to recognize the risen Christ in front of our eyes. It is prevalent in our world. In fact it is rampant. We fail to recognize Christ and ultimately to recognize just how undone we are, just how untethered we have allowed ourselves to become.
Our eyes, ears, and hearts can become stopped. A sort of blindness that effects more then just our eyes creeps into us, and we are left with figuring out a world that cannot be figured out without the help of Christ. We shuffle around or pace or huddle up like the disciples in that dark shadowy room and whether we understand it or now we are only greeted in this dimmed vision by silence and ultimately by bottomless, bottomless despair.
Why don’t we see Jesus?
Why do we allow ourselves to be kept from fully giving ourselves over to expecting him?
And I don’t mean expecting him and seeing him in every person you look at, or every beautiful wonder of nature you see, or even through every thought you think, but I mean honestly with your heart and whole existence lift up yourself to the possibility that Christ wants you to see him.
He doesn’t want you to evade him, or put him off, or assign him to one day a week. Christ delights in those times when he doesn’t have to say “be not afraid” he delights. He delights in this because he knows that you are as quick to recognize him and embrace him as he is quick to love you.
What Christ is doing in Luke here for his disciples is teaching them what their faith should look like. He is imparting divine wisdom upon them. He must teach of this new faith, a faith in the Son of God, for there was no precedent.
There was no rubric that they could follow! There was no such faith before. A cosmic event had occurred, and Jesus knew that he had to establish the new faith in that dark room and in that time to those women and men who were on the edge of hopelessness. But instead of bottomless despair Christ introduced to them the continued truth of this great story.
He was able to do this because they recognized him. They recognized him and took him in. They realized that in that place. They were able to be reigned in from their wandering, from their being loosed from the possibilities that can only come from God.
So then let us not stay locked inside of our rooms which cast confusing shadows upon the walls. These rooms which do not allow the endless possibilities of Christ to enter in.
Instead let us lift ourselves up to the possibility that Christ wants us to recognize him. Christ wants us to recognize him.