It can sometimes seem remarkably odd that salvation is accessed through a story of betrayal, intimidation, crucifixion, burial and resurrection – how can this be?
Everything in this story appears to be back to front. The Jesus who was ‘in the beginning’ – ridiculed and publicly shamed, death labelled as ‘good’ in the Good Friday name, and then there is the rising from the dead – so enigmatic at times, and yet plainly physical and undeniable at other times.
All of this can leave us scratching our heads – how can this be celebrated as ‘salvation’… or ‘the way’ to life in all its fullness?
There is a very beautiful passage of scripture (John 14), often read at funerals, where Jesus tells his friends not to worry, because ‘in his Father’s house there are many dwelling places’ or ‘mansions’. Jesus then says he will go to prepare a place for us, and we ‘know the way to the place where he is going’. This is all really encouraging, and lifts the spirit! But Thomas cuts in – ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Thomas, I imagine, is speaking for the other friends… ‘Jesus, we just don’t know…’
Some people depict the disciples, the friends of Jesus, as being a bit slow on the uptake… but I think their ‘not knowing’ and Thomas’s confidence in articulating this, is an important signpost for us in finding ‘the way’, in accessing ‘salvation in Jesus’, in embracing ‘the fullness of life’ Jesus promises us.
In our modern culture there is an urgency ‘to know’. Don’t be caught out, don’t be left looking stupid when you didn’t have the information to hand… make sure you give the appearance of knowing even when you don’t. Our professional services rely heavily on the confidence provided by a knowledgeable expertise. There’s no denying that certain bits of knowledge, and ‘knowing it’ can be really important and necessary. But when it comes to enjoying life and catching the fabulous wonder of human existence, then maybe ‘knowing it all’ may not be helpful at all!
Thomas is a great example to us. He was not afraid in the John 14 conversation to say he didn’t know. Again after the resurrection, he wanted to touch the wounds of Jesus before he could say he knew. Thomas was not afraid of admitting he didn’t know. Perhaps that’s why, when he met the risen Jesus, but didn’t touch the wounds, he was able to exclaim so fully ‘My Lord and my God’.
Just imagine if we were to start each day with the acclamation ‘I don’t know…’ – waking up, being fully committed to the day… to the people we are to meet, the events which will come our way… and to still say ‘I don’t know…’ You see the people who have the confidence to say they don’t know, are the same people who find new things, new truths, and new horizons on a daily basis. But those who know everything, end up knowing nothing – because with them there is never any adventure, any exploration, any openness to something new.
The friends who buried the body of Jesus didn’t have everything sorted in their heads. In their minds and hearts, I imagine, there were some big, aching gaps. Mary in the garden, on that first Easter morning, plainly didn’t know. So today, don’t be a tedious know-it-all, let’s re-find the capacity ‘not to know’ while at the same time being entirely committed to life … paradoxically giving ourselves every chance to know! Great is the mystery of faith : Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again!