Everyone should have at least one arcane, eccentric interest. Cryptozoology -- the study of unknown animals -- is one of mine. So I've been quite interested in recent reports of thylacine sightings in Tasmania. (Now, there's a sentence that you won't see too many other places.) The thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger, was -- or is -- a doglike carnivorous marsupial that by most accounts was wiped out of existence by Tasmanian farmers in the first part of the 20th century; the last known specimen died in the 1930's.
Yet reports of thylacine sightings have continued -- 4,000 in the last 50 years; some very recently (see link above). Scientists and government officials, typically, tend to be highly skeptical of these reports. (The same dynamic is at work in Michigan, where despite increasing, compelling eyewitness reports of cougars -- which were thought to have gone extinct here in colonial times -- the Department of Natural Resources is loathe to acknowledge their existence. I asked a DNR officer about cougars once, and he became so officious and evasive that I wondered what was so hard about saying, "You know, we don't know if there's really a breeding population or not, but we're keeping an open mind.") If thylacines have managed to escape total annhilation at the hands of human beings, if they've succeeded in quietly keeping on keeping on in the farther reaches of the Tasmanian forest, they are canny beasts indeed.
I am one of the people rooting for the thylacine. For one thing, I'm happy whenever some wonderful, unique example of God's creative process in the world evades total destruction at the hands of human beings. For another -- well, frankly it tickles the hell out of me when experts get it wrong and just-folks get it right. And I just like to celebrate the mystery; I like the idea that we don't understand everything. It keeps us humble.
Accounts of the post-Resurrection Christ remind me a lot of the elusive thylacine. The people who see Jesus are so convinced that they've seen him that they simply can't shut up about it. They can't not say something or do something about it. That's the excitement that gripped the infant Christian community and sent the Gospel message throughout the world. That's the excitement that leads some of us to go on and on about our own varied encounters with the risen Christ. On the other hand, the people who didn't see Jesus then, and who today don't see Jesus...they think we're insane. If they can't literally get their hands on Jesus, if they can't take his photograph, if they can't solve Jesus like an algebraic equation -- then he must not exist, at least in the way that the Church has traditionally understood him to exist.
There is a certain canniness in the risen Lord's brief appearances to his friends that reminds me of the thylacine. Or Wendell Berry's fox, in his poem "The Mad Farmer Liberation Front," who makes more tracks than necessary/some in the wrong direction./Practice resurrection. I think that is why, when the living Christ chooses to make himself known to us, in any way he has, or does, or will, it is such a gift. And why, when he does, we can't help but tell others. He's risen! Risen indeed!