The most pivotal day in earth’s history sparked an intense exchange of dialog in the circle of Jesus’s followers. He had, before his death, left them with a new command calling them to lives of one-anothering. And now, on the very day of his rising, they engage each other in a flurry of back-and-forth conversations, full of questions and answers. God had acted decisively. How could they help but hash out its meaning among themselves?
At the cross, they had seen the life leave Jesus’s body. On Friday, some had wrapped the corpse and carried it into the newly cut rock tomb. But now, on this first day of the week, others report actually seeing Jesus—in his body—alive, well, and walking around. And as people always do, they and their companions begin sifting the evidence to grasp the significance of what has just happened.
Early Sunday morning a few women head for the tomb with spices for Jesus’s body. The dialogue begins as they walk along: “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” (Mk. 16:3). But upon arriving, they find the doorway wide open—someone has already moved the heavy stone. An angel, after explaining that Jesus had risen and left, invites them to enter and see for themselves.
Mary Magdalene, heartbroken, lingers at the tomb. Jesus, at first unrecognized, asks her two questions. She responds. He replies, telling her to take the news to the disciples. She goes and fills them in. Later in the day, without identifying himself, Jesus falls into step with two others as they trudge toward the village of Emmaus. This begins an extended dialogue in which Jesus and they exchange questions and replies. At the dinner table, as soon as they recognize him, Jesus disappears, prompting them to ask each other: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?" (Lk. 24:32).
Although it is getting late, they can’t keep this encounter to themselves. So, they make the seven-mile trek from Emmaus back to Jerusalem where they tell the apostles and those with them what they have just witnessed. The group is “still talking” (Lk. 24:36), dialoguing, about this report when Jesus himself suddenly appears among them. He makes several statements and asks them at least two questions.
Clearly, the one-anothering on Resurrection Sunday takes the form of dialogue. In chapter 24, Luke records words and phrases such as: talking with each other; discussed these things with each other; asked each other; talking about this; told; and asked. Thus, the birthing of the Church takes place within a context of discussion, conversation, give-and-take. The understanding of the Resurrection event comes about through a process in which many take part.
On the day he rose bodily from the grave, the Master Teacher did not call his followers into a large room and explain what had just happened in a lengthy monologue. Instead, he made snippet appearances to an individual, a group of two, and then a larger group. Some saw an empty tomb and heard angels describe the absence of Jesus’s body. Their understanding of this hinge of history grew as this one and that one shared with the rest what they had seen and heard. The puzzle pieces started to fit together. Participatory body life had begun.
In Preaching as Dialogue, Jeremy Thomson writes, “Adults need to learn how to articulate their faith for themselves, and how to apply and work it out in their own lives, interacting with preachers and fellow church members. . . . In most official church life, there is hardly any space for such activity; there is little room for assumptions to be challenged, presuppositions to be punctured or true thought to begin. It is as people have the opportunity to put their own words together that they become conscious of their thoughts and realize new paths of behavior.”
Forty days after rising from the dead, Jesus returned to his Father in heaven and poured out the Holy Spirit, a gift not for just a few but for all in the Body of Christ. As on Resurrection Day, the members of his body—in their homes, neighborhoods, and workplaces—witness what the Risen Christ is still doing through the activity of the Holy Spirit. This one or that one may see and hear just a snippet. But when they gather together and tell one another what they are witnessing, their knowledge of the Risen Christ takes on a fullness not otherwise possible. This is shared church.