Christmas Advent HERO

When the promise of resurrection is hard to believe

Resurrection of Jesus

We can allow the mourning of these days to define everything about them. Or we can watch for the sequels of the Resurrection.

We are in the season of resurrection. 

Easter was last Sunday in the western calendar and many eastern Christians will be celebrating the Resurrection of Our Lord next Sunday. That said, with the glut of online Easter worship videos passing from our social media feeds, replaced by the regular news and postings of this pandemic, you might forget that the Easter season runs a full seven weeks.

This was already hard to keep in mind with “marketeers” and others pressing on toward the Memorial Day holiday and beyond. This year, it’s even harder. It’s not just what feels to be an unseasonably cold spring. It’s the global death toll and the local news that’s wearing us out. It’s the stories of exhausted hospital staff and arguments in halls of power that leave us wondering if we’ve collectively got what it takes to get through. It’s the panic buying that leaves store shelves bare and reminds us of our fragile interdependence.  It’s this isolation that all of us are enduring for the sake of our more vulnerable neighbors. Given the limitations on testing, it’s the best thing to do – that doesn’t make it good. And now, with students dispersed and faculty and students doing their level best to get their work done, we’ve come, as a campus, to a time of staff furloughs. This week, many will be losing their Valpo paycheck in the weeks ahead.

I suspect it will be hard for many to be mindful of resurrection hope in the midst of filling out unemployment insurance applications and just as hard when you’re the ones making the decisions.

In spite of the spring, in spite of the season, this feels like dying more than it does like rising.

Personally, I take a great deal of comfort in the knowledge that every eyewitness to Jesus’ resurrection needed to be talked into it. 

Mary Magdalene, the first eyewitness, misreads the evidence before she becomes convinced and runs to tell the others. In Luke, she and her companions are dismissed as foolish. In John, the testimony of these eyewitnesses is met with unbelief not just once but, courtesy of Thomas, twice, In Mark, the eyewitness women can’t even bring themselves to speak. Even when we get to the end of the Gospel of Matthew, with Jesus gathering his disciples all-around some are doubting. It’s hard to believe in resurrection when the rest of life experience seems to deny the possibility. Yet, these first witnesses became convinced. They remembered what Jesus had promised and their believing led to their seeing

In hindsight, Jesus had been announcing the coming of his resurrection all along — not  just in his teaching but in his doing. Seven miracles precede the resurrection in the Gospel of John; all of them provide life and abundance that overtakes death. The seventh and greatest one, the raising of Lazarus, is a clear anticipation of Jesus’ own resurrection, I think it’s helpful to see each of these as a prequel to Easter morning. 

Now, this side of the Resurrection, with the Church proclaiming the victory of life over death, we have the opportunity to watch for the sequels. In the Book of Acts, the Apostles carry on Jesus’ ministry – in some cases performing life-giving miracles. These miracles tied their work to that of Jesus. Christians have been involved in life-giving work ever since, and all humanity, as we serve and care for those around us are among the ways in which God, who has worked out salvation, provides for life in these days between Jesus’ resurrection of the body and our own. 

We can allow the mourning of these days to define everything about them. Or we can watch for the sequels of the Resurrection – the many ways in which life is brought to bear where death was assumed to reign. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I will be called to the latter.

Pr. Jim

April 15, 2020

University Pastor James Wetzstein and Deaconess Kristin Lewis take turns writing weekly reflections. You can contact Deaconess Kristin here and Pastor Jim here


Caravaggio 1573 – 1610
Doubting Thomas
oil on canvas (107 × 146 cm) — 1602-1603
Sanssouci, Potsdam