Humbug on Easter

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it.

Luke 24:11

If you’re like me, when you hear the word “humbug,” you immediately think of Ebenezer Scrooge. That’s especially true when “humbug” is preceded by the word “Bah!”

So, you might wonder, what’s the connection between “humbug” and Easter? It can be found in Luke 24. The chapter begins early on Easter Sunday morning, as a group of women take spices to anoint the body of Jesus. But they discover that the body of Jesus has disappeared from the tomb. All of a sudden, two men “clothed in dazzling robes” appear to the women and tell them Jesus is risen from the dead (24:4-7). That’s why his body is gone from the tomb. The women rush to tell the other followers of Jesus what they have learned. But the male disciples reject the women’s story. As Luke says, “But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it” (24:11).

As I considered this verse, I was curious about the word translated as “nonsense.” Luke uses the word leros, which is not found elsewhere in the Greek New Testament. Looking up this word in the standard Greek-English lexicon, I found this definition: “that which is totally devoid of anything worthwhile, idle talk, nonsense, humbug.” There it was: humbug. It’s not stretching the truth too far to say that when the women returned from the tomb with the good news of Jesus’ resurrection, the rest of the disciples responded, “Bah! Humbug!”

I must confess that my first response to Luke 24:11 is a critical one. I think: “What was wrong with those guys? Why didn’t they believe the women’s story? After all, Jesus himself had predicted his resurrection? Why didn’t his closest disciples believe?” But then I remember how I often respond to the good news. It says that I am forgiven by grace through faith, but I can act as if I still must earn God’s favor through what I do. Scripture says God will never leave me, and that he is working in all things for good, but I can think that I’m alone and worry that life is taking a wrong turn. I can read all sorts of biblical promises and respond, more or less, “Bah! Humbug!”

God has given us our minds so that we might be thoughtful and discerning. Christian faith is not contrary to reason. We are not called to be gullible. Yet, I don’t want to be the sort of person whose first response to God is “humbug.” I want to receive the good news with a discerning mind and an open heart.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Are there times when you respond to God with something like “humbug”? When? Why? How can we use our minds well and, at the same time, be ready to receive the good news of God?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, I hate to admit it, but I think I would have been right there with the other male disciples on Easter morning. I would have heard what the women reported and said, more or less, “Humbug!”

Forgive me, Lord, when I reject your good news because, well, it’s just too good. Forgive me for all the times I am skeptical rather than faithful. Help me to learn how to think carefully and, at the same time, to be open-hearted in my response to your good news. Amen.

P.S. from Mark: Today, on my blog, I’m beginning a series called Christmas according to Dickens. After some background material, this series will focus on Ebenezer Scrooge and the question “Why Did Ebenezer Scrooge Change?” I will add some theological reflections along the way. You can find the first post in this series here.