Yesterday, in the aftermath of the Easter celebrations, I was thinking of and preaching on what it must have been like for the followers of Jesus after he had been crucified and resurrected. From our perspective it’s easy to be critical of the men and women of that time because we know the whole story of those events. But they didn’t know what we have come to know so well. They were living in the confusion and questions of that experience and were bewildered by it all. Evidently they had never really understood what Jesus meant when he had spoken quite explicitly about his impending death and resurrection (i.e. Matthew 16:21-23; Luke 16:31-34). Neither did they know the Scriptures that spoke of Jesus and the things that would happen to him (Luke 24:25-27). Yes, they were dull in their faith and spiritual perceptions but they also were looking at all of these things without the advantage of the perspective that is ours.
How often we are overwhelmed by events that happen in our lives because we don’t see them in perspective either. It is easier to sympathize with the disciples of Jesus if we try to put ourselves in their place with their limited understanding. We can say it shouldn’t have happened but the events of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion blindsided them and the resurrection seemed quite unreal. Yet God was very much at work in the midst of their confusion and He sympathized with their lack of understanding as is evident in Jesus’ appearances and words to them at that time. It took them awhile to “get it.” And it takes us awhile too.
This morning I was reading on in the story of Joseph and the prospect of his revelation to his brothers and I came upon chapter 45 of Genesis. Genesis 45 is like the resurrection of Jesus. Because in that chapter, Joseph makes himself known to his brothers and ultimately his father Jacob. And they are speechless and overwhelmed in his presence. Think of the pain Joseph’s father must have experienced all of those years thinking that his son had been killed by a wild animal. Even the brothers had given up any idea that they would ever see their brother again. The thought of seeing Joseph at all, let alone in the palace of the king, never even entered their minds — not even when “the man” who was selling them grain seemed to make such strange demands. The only thought they had was that their experience was some kind of judgment for what they had done to their brother so many years earlier (Genesis 42:21).
I can’t help but especially sympathize with Jacob who lived in the sadness of thinking his son was dead, not knowing that all the while he was actually in Egypt thriving as the ruler of the entire country. For many years he had to live with the incongruity of thinking God had blessed him and yet something was going horribly wrong. But no doubt he kept right on believing and trusting the God he had come to know so well. What a lesson this is to us to continue to trust God even when we can’t see the whole picture. Eventually, our many questions about the trials and difficulties will be resolved if we continue to believe and trust God for his promises to be fulfilled. As it was for Jacob, and also eventually for the disciples, the end is far more glorious than anything we might ever have imagined.
When we are overwhelmed by difficulties and seeming injustices we need to remember that God is at work in ways that we can’t see at the time. We need to continue to believe that eventually everything will be resolved in far more beautiful ways than we had ever dreamed. One day, we’ll be speechless and overwhelmed by the beauty and magnificence of how God has been preparing the end of the story. (1 Corinthians 2:9 comes to mind.)