The Absence of Regret
The following was written for Nashotah House's collection of Lent and Easter reflections; it is for the Easter Wednesday Morning Prayer reading of Luke 24:13-35.
Perhaps the most wonderful, certainly the most detailed, Easter story is this one. Two disciples, walking back home in ignorance of Jesus’ resurrection, have a conversation with Jesus on the road for, we’d guess, an hour or two, and they do not know it is Jesus. He explains from the Bible why the Messiah had to die and “enter into his glory.” They invite him into their home for supper. He takes bread. They recognize him. He disappears. They race back to Jerusalem with the news that they have seen him.
Had I been one of them, I am sure my first word upon Jesus’ disappearing would have been unprintable. What a fool I was not to have recognized him earlier! Then for the rest of my life I would regret that I let him slip away from me.
Like the dog who did not bark in the famous mystery story, so the absence of regret in this story is the clue to our unlocking a strange Easter truth. If any other beloved, good, significant human being had been with them, they would have felt regret. I think: What if my wife were to come back and be with me for a walk and a supper, and I enjoyed her presence but didn’t realize, until the very moment that she left me, that she was my late wife? I would think of a zillion things that I would wish I had said or asked her or done.
But to the contrary, these two disciples have no regret. In fact, they race like crazy back to Jerusalem to tell the others that they have seen Jesus. What should the reader conclude? This: they grasped something about Jesus that was new, and it created in them new emotions. He had prepared them to understand this new revelation by the Bible study he had given them. Now they grasp in both head and heart that Jesus has entered into his glory.
He has a body; he can be touched; he can touch bread and wine and sit and recline and walk; he has the physical apparatus needed to speak and see. The glory, however, puts this body on the other side of suffering. It need not open doors; it seems to be able to cross distance without lapse of time. Consider the detail: when our pair of disciples get back to Jerusalem, they learn that Jesus has already appeared to Peter.
The physics of the resurrection body can be for us nothing but speculation, since so far the only resurrection body to be seen is Jesus’. But for me the feeling, what some philosophers would call the “quiddity,” of the glorified body is not speculation. It has gone through grief and come out on the other side. It is the “quiddity” of having no regret. Beyond sadness, beyond even the slight sadness of garden-variety regret, in the wake of the glorified body of Jesus there is naught but sheer joy.