“They Expected Death But Were Surprised By Life”
In the wonderful way of a four-gospel faith tradition, the details of the resurrection of Jesus Christ are mixed and perhaps even muddled. Exactly who arrived first and what they saw there, who talked to whom and how many were present, how they felt about the experience and what they did with the information they received is simply not clear. I find this variety of details in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John quite refreshing, for it keeps us from worrying so much about the literalism of scripture and instead seeks to capture the deeper meaning as well as the multiplicity of perspectives that make faith real and transforming for all of us.
It does seem to me that there is one aspect of the gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection that is common to all of the stories. It appears that everyone approached the tomb and that moment in their lives with the expectation of death. No matter how many times Jesus had told them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again,” each time offered the same results, “But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.” (Mark 9:31-32)
I cannot speak for anyone else, but it seems I am approaching too much of my life and the world around me with much the same perspective. With all the literal death our world has experienced since the onslaught of the horrific COVID-19 pandemic and how it exposed the systemic racial and economic disparities of our world, I have accustomed myself to anticipate deep-rooted inequity and tenacious loss. With the continually barrage of super-simplistic and violently divisive social media posts and the polarization of our civic and political discourse, I presume hatred and mortality. And, of course, with the onset and prolongation of an unthinkable war by Russia with a sovereign peaceful nation like Ukraine, my go-to emotion is profound despair and reference point is indiscriminant slaughter. I understand that this is not healthy, but I must be reminded that neither is it biblical nor is it what our Christian faith calls us to live.
When the disciples approached the tomb, or by others who had been to the tomb, they were shrouded by fear, anguish, and profound sorry. This was reasonable. But faith, while aided by reason, has never been a product of reason alone. I need to evoke in the depth of my soul the times when Jesus told the disciples – and thus told me – that resurrection was not just possible, not even probable, but was sure and certain, as much as is the rising of the sun is each next morning. We cannot always perceive the morning’s arrival, but it has and will happen. Resurrection seems highly unlikely, perhaps even unthinkable, but it will come. In fact, every day is a new chance for resurrection! The Psalmist says it far more eloquently than I can: “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (Psalm 30:5b)
They expected death, but were surprised by life. Can I learn from our disciple forbearers the same lesson? And may this realization inspire, equip, and empower me to work diligently to defeat the forces of death and destruction and overturn the injustices, inequities, and warring ways of the world! Thus, just as Jesus had hoped, his resurrection, through us, will bring new life to more and more of God’s people.
May it be so!
Rev. Allen V. Harris
Regional Pastor & President
Christian Church in Ohio
“Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.”
- Where in your life do you presume injustice, violence, and death? Why is this an assumption for you? If it isn’t your presumption, what helps you remain hopeful?
- Where in the world do you presume injustice, violence, and death? Do you believe others think similarly about those same situation? Why? If it isn’t your presumption, what helps you remain hopeful?
- When was the last time you experienced something that could be called “a resurrection?” Hold that memory close to your heart and think about all the people and factors that made that possible. Do you trust new life when it happens, or is it hard to give yourself over to the complete joy of new life and hope?
- This Easter, where can you pledge to make a difference in the life of a loved one or in the world, and by fulfilling that promise be an agent of resurrection in Jesus’ name?