The Alleluias! have returned. The trumpets have sounded. The proclamations have been made. The bells have been rung. The choirs have sung. The sermons have been preached. Voices have been raised in “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” all around the globe. So, now what? What difference does it make? Is Easter simply a “one and done?” We celebrated on Sunday and now we move on, with all that is Easter fading in the rearview mirror as we keep moving in our fast-paced lives onto the next thing that demands our attention?
In the Christian Church, Easter is actually a season, not just a day. We celebrate the season of Easter for 50 days, but I would like to suggest that Easter is even more than that. I would like to suggest that Easter is not just a day, not just a season, but a way of life. As people who believe that on the first day of the week at early dawn the women went to the tomb and found it empty, as people who believe that the tomb was empty because Jesus was raised from the dead, we are invited to live our whole lives formed and shaped by these words. We live not just believing the resurrection, but we live in the resurrection.
We live, trusting that Jesus has answered every ultimate question that we might ever face. How do we understand life and death? Jesus. How do I figure out what I am supposed to do with my life? Jesus. What do I do with my successes and failures? Jesus. How do I discern meaning and purpose? Jesus. How do I live in relationship with my neighbors? Jesus. And on, and on it goes.
I will be the first to say, however, that none of this is easy. In the face of real life challenges, difficulties, hurts, and fears, it is hard to remember that Jesus’ death and resurrection has already answered every ultimate question, and it is hard to live our lives reflecting that this is so.
The Gospel of John tells us that on the evening of that first Easter night, the disciples of Jesus were hiding away together behind locked doors — in fear. The women had passed on the message that they received from the angels: Jesus is not here. He is risen, but still they were hiding — in fear.
I can imagine that hiding behind those locked doors, they were afraid of what is and what isn’t, what was and what wasn’t, what can’t be, what won’t be, what might be, what will be.
They were afraid of what is: dead people just don’t come back to life. If Jesus really had risen from the dead, what would that mean for all of them? They had, after all, denied and abandoned him.
They were afraid of what isn’t. Risen or not, Jesus isn’t with them. If indeed he is risen, where is he? Why is he not with them? Why has he not come to and for them?
They were afraid of what was. It had been an awful week. They had pinned all of their hopes on Jesus, and he died a horrible, torturous death. What was — was awful in reality and in memory.
They were afraid of what wasn’t. Jesus did not release them from the oppressive rule of Rome. They had expected that he would bring in God’s kingdom, but Rome was still very much in charge. A new rule in Jesus appeared not to be.
They were afraid of what can’t be. The disciples left everything to follow Jesus, and they cannot go back. They cannot pretend that their three years with Jesus never happened. They cannot go back to the way things used to be.
They were afraid of what won’t be. There won’t be justice as they have imagined it. There won’t be an upending of the seats of power. There won’t be peace on earth in and through Jesus as they had anticipated.
They were afraid of what might be. They were his closest followers. Will Rome come for them too? Will they meet the same torturous end that he did?
They were afraid of what will be: life on this earth will continue — with challenges and struggles, hurts and sorrows, difficulties and oppressions.
They were afraid of what is and what isn’t, what was and what wasn’t, what can’t be, what won’t be, what might be, what will be.
And into these fears, Jesus comes. Behind the locked doors where they had hidden themselves away, Jesus comes.
The risen Jesus brings peace, through the power of the Spirit, amid fear, and sends out to live in the resurrection. Jesus sends out the disciples of every age to live trusting and believing that Jesus has answered every ultimate question, trusting and believing that because Jesus lives, we need not hide away in fear, but live — despite the challenges and struggles, the hurts and sorrows, the difficulties and oppressions — live as though the kingdom of God has come in Jesus — because indeed it has.
Living in the resurrection, then, is doing for and among one another what Jesus did for and among the disciples. It means declaring peace through the victory of Christ in word and deed. It means going out — away from our fears — and living into being that which Jesus by his death and resurrection has already accomplished. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Love for neighbor. Liberation for the oppressed. Lifting up the downtrodden. Peace.
Amid all of your own fears — of what is and what isn’t, what was and what wasn’t, what can’t be, what won’t be, what might be, what will be — may you trust and believe that Jesus, raised from the dead, comes
And may this trusting and believing fill you with comfort, strength, and hope as you daily live the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
April 18, 2017
Rev. James A. Wetzstein and Rev. Charlene M. Rachuy Cox serve as university pastors at Valpo and take turns writing weekly reflections.