That Sunday morning, well, all that they wanted had arrived. Their Jesus risen from the dead, vindicated in the face of the religious leaders, triumphant in the face of the powerful romans, proven in the face of the eternal skeptics.
In this cosmic election they’d placed their X in the right box. They’d pounded the pavements with the winning candidate. Now was the time to take their place at the top table. All that remained was a few strategic appearances, a couple of staged spectaculars for the media, and that was it. Job done.
Only Jesus didn’t do it like they’d expected.
No sooner had they got over the shock of seeing him again but he disappeared. Then reports came in from two campaign workers beside whom he’d walked for several hours discussing theology. Then he’d cooked breakfast by the shore. Then appeared in a locked room, twice, once simply to convince a doubting Thomas.
There was no apparent coherence to what he did. No pattern, no discernible strategy. Here one minute then gone, and no-one could predict where he would appear the next time. All deeply unsatisfactory.
Why hadn’t heaven coordinated its strategy better? Why hadn’t some holy Peter Mandelson not stage-managed a glorious resurrection, accompanied by heavenly choirs, followed immediately by a breath-takingly life-threatening stunt in which the newly resurrected Jesus took off into the heavens to be replaced by the falling of the Holy Spirit. Whoosh! What a start to the nascent church community.
Instead, these dribs and drabs appearances after which his disciples remained terrified, locked in the upper room. Some drifting back to their previous employment and some just wandering away.
It was all, well, so disappointing, in the days following the Super Sunday. Not anything like they expected.
This is the journey to Pentecost. Not a relentless triumphant march to claim victory. Not an opportunity to gloat before their enemies. The choking fear rarely leaves them. Nor the uncertainty. Nor the black hole in the centre of the chest, that suggests that maybe they’d got this all wrong.
And then he appears and everything changes. And light enters the room. And the chilling doubt is replaced by a certitude that is deep, and gifted, and they feel they could take on the world. And win it all. For him.
But then he’s gone again. And the darkness descends and the fear returns. And the confusion. What on earth is he doing in these days, in the approach to feast of Pentecost?
a reflection used in Ballycrochan Presbyterian Church on Sunday 2nd May 2010