One thing that struck me in reading the multitude of resurrection narratives is the fact that Jesus rarely appears to large groups, and to those he does appear to he remains, in some mysterious way, still hidden from view. They either don’t recognize him or, when they do, he disappears quickly from their site.
And, the glaringly obvious thing, is that Christ only appears to those who followed him. There are no resurrection narratives from say, the High Priest, Pontius Pilate, or King Herod. His appearances seem limited to his followers, and even then, they create a more interpersonal effect versus a sociological one.
The resurrected Christ seems to be playing a game of hide and seek. He appears, then disappears. He’s not a ghost, lingering like some grey memory on the edges of consciousness, or haunting a particular place, moaning around Golgotha or even Galilee. Instead, he is incredibly particular. Any universality in him is limited to his apostolic mandate: “Go out and baptize!”
Easter never really feels like a satisfying triumph, but more like an opening into silent amazement. And as I prayed and reflected on this I began to see a pattern. Of how God, and the things of God, seem to delight in remaining hidden.
For example, when Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God, or when he is telling his parables, he often speaks indirectly about it. It is near, it is among you, it is within you. When he speaks to Nicodemus, he talks about being born from above, but when Nicodemus asks for a direct answer, Jesus seems to dodge the question.
It’s as if God in Christ is playing some cosmic game of hide and seek, delighting in our seeking in as much as God delights in hiding. Where will you find me next? God seems to say.
And as my busyness has slowed down, and I’m forced to take the child and infant’s eye view of the world, I’ve begun to see all of this as part of our human dignity. This ever-present seeking for that which we don’t always know we will find. My sons explore, touch, turn over in their hands, delight in the finding and gazing and exploring of things.
Where is God? we ask with particular intensity during times of crisis. Well, we may respond, God is where God always is: ever present but hidden.
God playing hide and seek. It is perhaps an image that is too playful for some, but I find it incredibly fruitful. For one, God playing, delighting in the flow of events, is comforting. And second, when we look for God and don’t find him, in our usual prayers or rituals (especially those communal gatherings that we cannot attend right now), we are invited to simply keep seeking, to wait and hope.
When Peter was distraught after the death of Jesus, he went fishing. It was while he was fishing that Christ first called him, on yet another day when he couldn’t catch any fish. When Jesus appears to him again, he finds his apostle, his rock, shattered, by his own weakness, his prophesied faithlessness. And so he enters into that moment, to bind up and heal his little group with simple breakfast by the seashore.
God is playing hide and seek. Sometimes we try to hide from God (and sometimes we try to do this all our lives), and sometimes God seems to hide from us, in creatures, creations, and even crises. We are invited to seek, to knock, to ask, and God-willing, to find.