Rock climbers have always fascinated me. I remember some thrilling personal experiences rappelling as a Boy Scout years ago, but I confess that I’ve never been very good at rock climbing. I’ve seen some climbers take incredibly daring and heart-stopping risks while climbing, especially if they were tethered to a belay and had a partner holding them steady. Understandably, the safety of a rope gives many climbers the assurance and confidence needed to take chances and push themselves beyond their limits.
In the Easter stories of Luke 24, the disciples find themselves in a situation where they are being pushed beyond their limits as they witness and must attempt to make sense of Jesus’ resurrection life. After appearing to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus appears to the rest of the disciples back in Jerusalem. Jesus tells them, “Why do you doubt? Look at my hands and my feet. It’s me, not a ghost.” Luke then records, “they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement…”
Disbelief comes to us in more than one form. On the one hand, disbelief accompanies doubt. This kind of disbelief is often joined by suspicion, disillusionment, anger, or grief. Sometimes, circumstances challenge our beliefs about the world and cause us to question everything that we believe to be true. Sometimes, our faith paradigms no longer fit the reality of the world in which we live.
Such disbelief often causes us to question knowledge and convictions to which we previously clung. It can cause us to pull away from others, to distance ourselves, and may lead to a breakdown of trust. In short, the disbelief of doubt often paralyzes us from action because we no longer feel safe and secure.
Luke describes another form of disbelief that comes from overwhelming joy and amazement. It’s the disbelief that comes when we are so overcome by joy that we cannot make logical sense of what we are seeing. It’s the feeling that our circumstances are so good that we just cannot believe how fortunate we are or how good we have it.
This kind of disbelief propels us outward. It anchors us and provides a deep sense of security, freeing us to take risks and chances we might not otherwise take. This kind of disbelief reassures our hearts that we have nothing to fear as long as we are tethered to an unbelievably good truth — the truth of God’s great love for us, the truth of new life and the possibility of resurrection. Jesus’ disciples found that this “disbelieving for joy” propelled them out into the world to continue Christ’s mission.
We need this kind of disbelief today. In the face of paralyzing skepticism, anger, frustration, and disillusionment, we need the disbelief of joy pulsing through our veins. As an Easter people, may we be reminded just how good and joyous the Gospel message of Jesus truly is and may it propel us toward daring lives of love and action.