Have you ever wondered what Jesus’ disciples did in the days following Easter? I wonder all the time. On Easter, they were confronted with the resurrection, which was nothing that made sense. It defied everything everyone knew about death and burial. Then they were confronted by Jesus himself, now fully revealed as God incarnate, which also defied every thing everyone knew about God and messiahs. According to John’s gospel, Jesus appeared to them on Sunday night in full fleshly materiality by entering a locked and shuttered room without benefit of opening the door. I cannot imagine any circumstance where any of this could make sense to the disciples. They completed Easter Day by experiencing multiple traumatic sensory shocks they could not possibly comprehend.
I imagine some lay awake all night trying to figure out what happened. Others slept the sleep of sheer exhaustion. What about Monday morning? Did they gather at the local coffee house asking each other if it really happened, and if it did, what could it mean, and would Jesus come again, and would he knock this time? Did some wander in a daze of private reflection? Maybe some gathered in a living room to talk and talk trying to weave their shared stories into a narrative that might make sense. I wonder if it was a sort of reverse Shiva with food and stories about death turned to life that can’t be explained, and who would believe it anyway?
The week would pass with each new day posing more complicated questions than the day before, and few answers. We’re told that Jesus showed up for fifty days, but we’re not told how often or what he said. My guess is the reality of what had happened, and was happening, slowly crept into the disciples’ understanding, and with it the recognition that they were privileged to have an intimate, in person, relationship with God which would make them messengers of God’s truth, no less so than the angels of holy scripture. Moses was never allowed to see God’s face. They were, in the face of Jesus Christ.
The massive cognitive dissonance they were experiencing could be resolved only by rehearsing everything Jesus had said and done, incorporating into it the stories they’d heard from Jesus’ family and friends who knew him before they did. How long would that take? With Jesus guiding them, would fifty days be enough? I guess it was, at least enough to get started proclaiming the good news. The gospel records are not in agreement about these days; John says the fishermen among them went back to Galilee to go fishing. Did they? It makes sense to me. If I made my living as a fisherman before following Jesus, I think I’d go back to what I knew best to help me think things out. Although the gospels agree that the women among Jesus’ disciples were the first to proclaim the resurrection, nothing is said about what they did next. We do know that Jesus’ dedicated band was a little over a hundred men and women. Did the core group of eleven instruct them as they themselves were being instructed? I wonder if Jesus stood in the background like a professor watching a teaching assistant take over a class. I wonder if Mary Magdalene paced back and forth enforcing discipline. A lot is missing.
How long did it take for the new reality to settle into a routine? We need routines. Lives lacking routine are chaotically out of control; lives of obsessive routine are locked in place, unable to move. Routines have to be balanced to form the base for movement but not barriers preventing it. The disciples needed a new routine, so new that it had no precedent. What would balance look like? No one but Jesus could show them the way. How does one create a new routine for which there is no precedent? I imagine it had to be built on established customs not inconsistent with following Jesus, and that meant continuing most Jewish religious practices that frame daily hours, weekly synagogue worship, and annual celebrations. After all, Jesus was an observant Jew. He didn’t throw out the law, he fulfilled it.
I wonder if the disciples got up each day feeling like they were students studying for their final exams before being sent out into the field. I wonder if Peter, James and John began to feel the weight of authority. Did it humble them, or did they assert authority others resented?
The days following Easter are a mystery, and they cause me to wonder as I wander in my own days following Easter.