Resurrection Ripples

John 20:19-31

We are getting reports of ice outs on the lakes in Minnesota. It’s kind of one of those things you have to take on faith because you remember that ice still covered the lakes for the fishing opener last year. 

Me, I’m not much for dropping a line in. I’m a catch and release kinda fisherfolk. Hooks seem so cruel and, um, icky. I won’t be spending Mother’s Day weekend on a boat. I like to save the fish for the other fisherfolk.

One time, I was fishing with my brother and every time I let down my line, my bobber went too — one, two, twelve, thirteen, fourteen times. He was…pissed upset. So I save the fishing for the ones who like to bait hooks and clean fish.

Me, I’ve always been more of a rock skipper. That’s my favorite lake past time, my one tradition that I have to do each year. I stand on the shore, pant legs rolled up, searching for flat and smooth and round stones to skip across the water. That’s my peace at the lake.

Of course, rock-skipping is a passed down tradition. One simply does not grow up thinking that rocks can skip across the sea. They are rocks, after all, made to sink, toss one in and…kerplop.

That’s what it sounds like at first too, kerplop, and a rough, rocky ripple splashes up. But, once you get the mechanics down: the side arm action, the flick of the wrist, the curl of the finger, the wind up, the delivery…what once sank at your feet sails clear across the lake — one, two, twelve, thirteen, fourteen skips.

When you really get it going, you can really only tell by the ripples. The rock skips so fast and so flat that you can only count how many times it has skipped by the ripples. The ripples tell the story.

That makes good sense when you stop and think about it, So often in our lives we do not see events happen. We hear the ripples, we see the replays as the stories, the effects that are visible long after the rock has sunk and the event has ended.

The Great Depression
Pearl Harbor
The first atomic bomb
The Beatles on Ed Sullivan
The Fall of the Berlin Wall
Kirby Puckett and that impossible plexiglass catch in 1991
Anytime Michael Jordan had the ball

Some of these events we may have witnessed, but they live in our memories, visible as ripples from the rock of time and circumstance that caused them.

John 20 is the first of the resurrection ripples, the first sightings of the risen Jesus.

Mary catches the first resurrection ripple: the empty tomb. Jesus was risen, but Mary was weeping. She thought that someone must have stolen Jesus. Mary didn’t expect resurrection. But then again, it would be like expecting a rock to skip instead of sink. It wasn’t until Jesus stood in front of her and called her by name that she recognized her teacher and her Lord. The first ripple of the resurrection.

On that same day the first day of the week, Sunday, 10 of the 11 remaining disciples were locked away out of fear. They had heard Mary’s testimony, but they couldn’t believe it. John says that they were hiding from the religious authorities, but I wonder if they weren’t hiding from Jesus too. One by one they had abandoned or denied him. One by one they left him until he was left between two criminals on their crosses. Word now was that he was raised from the dead, just as he had said. Of course they were afraid. Of course they locked themselves away. Of course they hid. 

But of course Jesus showed up.

Jesus’s first word to them was not “where were you,” or “what were you thinking,” or, “I told you so.” The first word that Jesus utters to them is…peace. Peace. Shalom. Wholeness. Mercy. Grace. Completed. Peace.

And then he breathed on them, giving them the Holy Spirit and the power to forgive. 

Huh, wouldn’t you know it, the words Jesus used for forgiveness weren’t actually “forgive” but…catch and release. 

Peace is a resurrection ripple.
Forgiveness is a resurrection ripple.

And the point of forgiveness isn’t to hold sins over people as if sin were some sort of trophy, some kind of victory. The point of forgiveness is to let go, to catch sins, hold them for a moment, and then…release them. We hold up that which is wrong, that which harms, that which hurts, we name the sin, we confess our sin…and then we are forgiven, then we are released.

Peace is a resurrection ripple.
Forgiveness is a resurrection ripple.
Release is a resurrection ripple.

But not everyone saw Jesus. Thomas was out and missed Jesus and would not believe in resurrection until he saw Jesus with his own eyes and touched Jesus with his own hands. To Thomas, death had the last word and last he saw, his Lord was dead.

And so Jesus shows up again and Thomas sees him and touch him. And Thomas, whom we know because of his doubt, is the only one to name Jesus as God in the Gospel of John. As he stretched out his hand and traced the marks of the nails and placed his hand in Jesus’ side he proclaimed, “My Lord and my God.”

Thomas believes because he sees and all we have is the ripple effect — this story long passed down from generation to generation. One, two, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, forty, fifty, one hundred ripples.

Jesus tells Thomas, “You believe because you have seen. Blessed are those who have not seen but have come to believe. 

That’s you – that’s me – right there in John’s Gospel receiving Jesus’ blessing. Blessed are those who have not seen but believe. You and I, we stand on the other shore from Jesus and we watch the many resurrection ripples throughout time, the many waves of witnesses, and yet, Jesus is still there, in the middle of the waves, in the middle of our doubt, washing us in his peace, calling us into life.


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