My family and I love the thrill of white water rafting. Many vacations over the years featured a day-long excursion down a given flow or rage of water. It was challenging and exhilarating at the same time. Using this image, consider the events of Eastertide, the time frame between Easter and Pentecost. It marks the fifty days celebrating the resurrection over the course of seven Sundays called the “Sundays of Easter.” These Sundays are focused on God’s mercy, provision, and relationship offered to us. Ascension Day is forty days into Eastertide and it concludes with Pentecost.
Like much of life, Eastertide is quite a journey. The tide of this time frame rolls up and down. The route during the first Eastertide was completely unknown. The disciples had never experienced anything like it. Much like white water rafting, the eddy ahead, obstacles, debris, and bends of the swift rapids can muster up many emotions and reactions during Eastertide.
Doubt undoubtedly swept over the disciples after Jesus’ death and resurrection. The experts were probably flooding the first-century Facebook and Twitter with posts speculating about what happened to Jesus’ body on Easter Sunday. While we know Peter believed and others knew they had talked to their Teacher, swirling doubts about what happened to Jesus and what would happen next to those who were his friends must have almost sunk a few boats or lives. The unknown always produces doubt. Yet the physical appearances of Jesus to Mary at the garden tomb as well as to the disciples on the road to Emmaus started to relieve the waves of doubt.
Imagine the excitement that must have been experienced the days and weeks immediately after the first Easter. Jesus is alive! The adrenaline rush felt by the disciples must have been better than catching a boatload of fish. Jesus showed his early followers his scars. He gave them instructions about what to do next. The comparison is a bit pale, but when white water rafting, we always had a “guide” in our boat. He told us what to do. He gave us the story of the river we were floating down. He positioned us on the raft so our strengths were utilized to help the excursion succeed. A good guide tells shipmates when to row and when to rest. The trips were incredibly exciting. However, we would have been without the aid of an experienced guide. For forty days after Easter, Jesus walked and talked and ate with the disciples. How exciting is that?
While white water rafting, one anticipates a few things: anticipate getting wet, being scared, tired, and sore, and having a blast doing something you may not normally do. What do you think the disciples thought during Eastertide between Ascension Day and Pentecost Sunday? Jesus went up into heaven. The Holy Spirit had not yet come to lead them and the church. Those ten days must have been both brutal and electrifying. They had to wait in the Upper Room, and there must have been a bunch of mental gymnastics going on. Humanly, I have always wondered where the presence of God was during the ten days between the Ascension and Pentecost. Can you imagine experiencing it firsthand? Would it paralyze you or make you feel lost? Would you feel lost? Or, would you use this time to prepare for the “ride” ahead with the power of God through his Holy Spirit?
Eastertide. Some doubt, some wonder, and some are afraid. I would encourage you to be excited this spring. We all have the privilege of being made into the likeness of Christ on this lifelong journey down the river of life. We also have the privilege of joining Jesus’ apostles to share the gospel with everyone and make disciples who will make more disciples. Anticipate and depend on the power of the Resurrection, as well as the leadership of the Holy Spirit, in your life this year.
Jim Dunn is executive director of Church Multiplication and Discipleship for The Wesleyan Church.