Apostles Adrift

Afterward Joseph of Arimathea, who had been a secret disciple of Jesus (because he feared the Jewish leaders), asked Pilate for permission to take down Jesus’ body. When Pilate gave permission, Joseph came and took the body away. With him came Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night. He brought about seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes. Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth. The place of crucifixion was near a garden, where there was a new tomb, never used before. And so, because it was the day of preparation for the Jewish Passover and since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there. (John 19:38–42 NLT)

Each Saturday during Lent, we will explore a story or profile of peace in action: people who are acting as shalom-bearers in a world increasingly in need of God’s peace.
It was Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. This was to be a day of rest.

But how could they rest after the events of yesterday?

Their teacher, their friend – the one they thought would bring freedom and save them all – was dead. Not just dead – killed, murdered by their Roman oppressors, with the help and approval of the religious elites.

This must surely be the end. There was no point in continuing forward. What direction would that be, anyway? Until yesterday, all they needed to do was follow in the footsteps of their rabbi; it was he who decided which cities and towns to visit and what lessons on the Kingdom of God to preach to the masses of people who gathered. To that point, he was the one who drew the masses, through the wisdom of his teachings and the miracles he performed.

Of course, none of his miracles were designed to show off or advertise what he could do; they were always rooted in caring for others: Healing the sick. Giving sight to the blind. Helping the lame to walk. Feeding a hungry crowd. Raising the dead, even.

If only they could perform miracles like he did. Then maybe they could go to the tomb where his body had been stashed and, like the rabbi had with Lazarus, call to him, “Come out!” And then they could see him shuffle toward them, bound in his graveclothes, and they would unwrap him, embrace him, and tell him how much he meant to them and how happy they were to have him back.

But they were not miracle workers. They once tried to cast out a demon, something that seemed so easy and they had witnessed numerous times, but all they managed to do was frustrate themselves and annoy the father of the possessed boy.

No. If they couldn’t perform something as simple as an exorcism in the best of times, they were in no state to even think about attempting something so grand as a resurrection. Besides, reversing death was always under the dominion of Jesus.

They had been twelve, but one had betrayed them, betrayed him. So now they were eleven, though soon they would be twelve once more. They certainly had each other, as well as the rest of the followers still loyal to Jesus, but they had never felt more alone than they did on this Sabbath day.

Tomorrow and the days after, they would be shalom-makers, spreading the Gospel through preaching about the Kingdom of God, healing the sick, helping the lame to walk, caring for the poor, and feeding the hungry. Some would even raise the dead. In their own ways, each would be a missionary for the Way of Jesus, some in Jerusalem, others in Judea and Samaria, and the rest in places as far-flung as Rome, Greece, and what we today call Turkey and India. Most of them would die as martyrs, choosing to lose their lives rather than renounce their faith in the Son of God.

But on this Sabbath, the day between the death of Christ and his resurrection? Their world was broken. They were men unmoored, adrift on the Sea of Galilee without any means of navigating the raging storm. And just as on that day many months prior when they were in the midst of a storm at sea, it only took the intervention of Jesus to bring calm.

This is the story of Peter; Andrew; James; John; Thomas; Philip; Bartholomew; Matthew; James, son of Alphaeus; Simon; Judas, the son of James; and Matthias, who had been with them from the beginning and was chosen as the replacement for the betrayer. All of them were history makers. Each of them were shalom-bearers.

We are part of their legacy. May we, too, seek Christ when we are adrift, feeling abandoned, and yearning for comfort; and may we also be shalom-bearers in our world.
Michael Benson is the NAB communications director.