Joy and Disbelief

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Contributing Writer
Pastor Scott Hannon
St. John Lutheran Church, Amherst, NY

If you were to encounter the resurrected Lord, how would you respond?

Would you fall to your knees in worship? Would you throw your hands in the air in praise? Would you bow your head in reverence or cry out in joy? What would you do?

In the gospel of Luke, when Jesus appears to his disciples, they do none of those things. There are no prayers lifted up. There are no shouts of praise. No one falls to their knees in adoration. They don’t seem overwhelmed. Rather, when Jesus appears to his disciples scripture simply says,

“While in their joy, they were disbelieving…” Luke 24:41

There seems to be a desire to believe, and yet, a reluctance to jump on board. There is joy, but it is filled with uncertainty. They see, they touch, they hear, but it all still seems too good to be true. In the midst of their joy, they are reluctant, hesitant and confused.

“While in their joy, they were disbelieving…” Luke 24:41

Their reaction reminds me of how I felt on my wedding day. I was filled with joy, but I also kept wondering… “Am I really married? Are we finally here?” I felt the same way on both occasions my wife told me she was pregnant. It was immediate joy, mixed with fear about hopping on board until I was absolutely certain. I experienced that same joy and disbelief when my kids were born and when, after eight years of college and grad school, I was hired at St. John.

The thing about that feeling of joy and disbelief is it doesn’t last very long. Disbelief is always vanquished by reality. In my case, I came to realize that I was married, my wife was pregnant, and I was a dad. In the disciples case, they came to realize that their Lord who was crucified, dead and buried, had been raised to new life.

You may never see the resurrected Lord (unless you burn your toast just right), but you will encounter his presence and grace. In the waters of baptism, at the table of love, in times of prayer and scripture reading, and in moments of fellowship with God’s people and creation we are told that God is there – that God is with us. At times, our response is bound to be like those first disciples… joy and disbelief.

We are told we are forgiven, yet we find it hard to believe.

We know we are fed, yet we wonder about this life-giving food.

We hear about God’s love, but still feel unlovable.

We know there is something special about worship and church, yet struggle to fully understand what it is.

While in our joy, we are sometimes disbelieving…

But remember, disbelief is always vanquished by reality. The disciples joy and disbelief eventually simply became joy. And in the same way, our disbelief will give way to complete joy.

You are forgiven.

You are fed.

You belong.

You are precious.

You are cherished.

You are not alone.

You are loved.

And so, if you find yourself like those first disciples staring at Jesus from arm’s distance wanting to believe, yet reluctant to jump on board, fear not; He is Risen and You are Loved.

This news, as you will come to discover, is not too good to be true.

In the Way,
PSDH