“I see all of this now with completely different eyes.” This sentence can be heard again and again in these days of the pandemic because many people try to look deeper and more thoroughly at current events. In particular those who have been confronted with the disease from close up or even infected are seen as quite changed. I hear many say, for example, that Boris Jonson, after his stay in the hospital, has a completely new approach and vision about the pandemic and this can be seen in the careful way in which he tries to wake the country from the deep sleep of the lockdown. There is hardly anything left of the cool guy who only two months ago proposed strikingly insensitive, indifferent and neutral policies like “herd immunity” as a solution to the problem. He now sees all of this with completely different eyes …
Today’s gospel also spoke of seeing and not seeing: “In a short time the world will no longer see me; but you will see me, because I live and you will live.” This statement relates to the disciples of Jesus, to how they are doing after Easter. The world does not see the Risen One, but the disciples see him. They see the Risen One because he lives and, it is added in the text, because they too will live. To understand this, we first have to put ourselves in the position of the disciples.
Most of the disciples believed in Jesus as one believes in a gifted person. However, very few thought: “He is the Messiah”. Although they had hoped for it, they often doubted it. For them he was “a man of God”; with him there was something of the closeness of God. And they were fascinated by him and followed him.
But now this man was hanging on the cross, was dead and had been buried. Their hearts are still beating for him, but all hopes have been buried. They are sad and depressed, but also disappointed. Quite a few had made plans for how their life with Jesus might look. Some of them may have thought of power and money and wanted to be partakers of the success of their master. But many had thought: with Jesus everything will be different, better; it will be more honest, fairer, more human. It is now over.
But has life a meaning only when it is going as we imagine it to be? It’s just so nice when everything goes as planned. Back then it was so nice for the disciples: they were happy to be with Jesus. But now their life is in ruins. And yet the dead man doesn’t leave them alone. They buried him and some of themselves with him. But he does not let go of it: his end seems to have been only the beginning of something completely new. A world has collapsed for them, but something new is opening up. They meet the risen Lord. “Now they see Jesus with completely different eyes”. Even his death, his cry of death, suddenly makes sense. And they start to see their own life differently. And they notice the power in this life. In a life that has passed through death and to which God has given new strength.
What the disciples experienced they passed on to us. They tell us what happened to them after Easter. They tell of their encounters with the Lord. They shout: “He is alive, he is no longer in the grave!” They say: “He has risen from the dead” and “He has promised us another helper, the Spirit of Truth!” They share with us what they have seen. And all these Sundays after Easter we hear new stories as they say: Jesus lives.
I hear that, I take it. But hearing that it is not enough. I have to experience my faith myself. It is not enough to adopt it from others. I can say a hundred times “I am baptised, I am a believing Christian”, thinking that with that I have already recreated the experience of the disciples after Easter. No, I certainly have to create the experience of faith myself.
Life is often hard, and it is precisely this difficult time that we have to go through which shows us that being disappointed hurts. It can even be hell and then I can die many deaths. It is not easy to get through this. Letting go, just letting go of what I was used to is really difficult.
But I look at many people around me, I look at the disciples of Jesus, I look in my heart and I look at Jesus himself. And then I make the experience of new, real life. So my eyes can open and from the bottom of my heart I can shout out loudly: “I see all of this now with completely different eyes. I see much more clearly what is really important in life…”