“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” (Luke 24:5, NRSV)
This is Good News. This is confounding news. This is confusing news. This is inexplicable news. But this is Good News.
Good News in our world is often unbelievable. We hear it, and we can’t believe what we hear. Whereas the bad news, that we often hear we sometimes can’t believe it, but often I fear we accept that kind of news quicker than the good kind. And there is no better news than that of the Resurrection.
So, on an early morning the women have gone to the tomb to find Jesus’ body. But they don’t find it. He is not there. He has risen. And they are asked an almost unfathomable question by those heavenly beings standing watch. “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”
I suspect we can all be asked this question from time to time. Whether it be when life doesn’t go as planned. When we’re waiting for news of an opportunity, a diagnosis, job offer, grade on a big test or assignment, what might transpire with an upcoming transition, the birth of a child or grandchild, or even just hoping for rain to fall so that the crops might grow. Our human nature is such, that we expect the other shoe to drop. We sit, and we try to be hopeful but our brains wander and more times than not they take us to the worst possible outcome. To fear. To failure. To hopelessness. To despair. To death.
This isn’t without good reason. There are countless reasons we could point to such brokenness and pain. Our world is full of them. We need only look to the suffering of the people of Ukraine. To remember the global pandemic, and acknowledge the latest global estimated death toll of 15 million people who have lost their lives to Covid-19. We could point to the death of loved ones, or the health challenges that family and friends are facing. To anxiety of any all kinds. Yes, we have perfectly valid reasons for our brains wandering and focusing on the broken and problems, and challenges of this world. To look for death and give into fear and hopelessness.
If that is why we look for the living among the dead, it’s not without understandable reasons. But I wonder, if God might just be inviting us to hear the question a bit differently.
Why do you look for the living among the dead?
Whenever you might hear this question, what if instead of letting our minds wander to the worst possible outcome or news in the world; or instead of reacting defensively or being caught off guard, we take a step back, and look for God? For this very question, is of God. It is Good News. It’s a reminder that God is not done. That God is very much alive, and at work: Bringing life out death. Hope out of despair. Resurrection out of Crucifixion. Easter out of Good Friday.
It’s a reminder that it is true whenever we claim that: God is with us. God is for us. And God loves us. Always. Just because of who we are, God’s own. None of this we could ever earn or deserve. It just is. Because that is who God is. God is a God of abundant and abiding steadfast love. God turns mourning into dancing. God turns endings into beginnings. God turns our human notions of failure and finality into possibility and experimentation.
So why on this early Easter morning, do you look for the living among the dead?
If you’re like me, perhaps you’re grasping for something to hold onto. You’re looking desperately for something to cling to. You’re looking for certainty among uncertainty. Looking for answers, instead of remembering that at the heart of our faith, really are questions. Questions like “What does this mean?” Or, “What is this?”
Jesus tells story after story, parable after parable. That’s how he answers questions. By telling stories.
So, let’s try this again. Why do you look for the living among the dead?
I have seen God’s creative work. I witnessed it just last week. I wrote about it a story about Nile Lutheran Chapel for the Nebraska Synod. And just last week, I had the privilege of joining Bishop Brian Maas and witnessing the baptism of ten Children of God, ranging in age from infant to college aged and everywhere in between. In a world where we hear story after story of congregations in decline, of communities finding it harder and harder to be in relationship with one another, here is another story. Another way. Another truth.
God is alive. And that Spirit can be seen and felt every time a relationship is formed. Every time disciples begin to follow, and then ask a question and then another question, and then another question. Every time stewards wonder about the needs of others. Every time, we as God’s people turn outward instead of inward. For in all of this, God’s creative work is really happening. New ideas emerge. New possibilities. Experiments. New life.
So, again, why do you look for the living among the dead?
Because that is where we begin our journey. It’s not where we end. It might be where we all end up at the end of our earthly life. But in God in Christ, it is merely a beginning.
If Jesus were asked this question, he might then again tell another story. Jesus might tell us the story of his life and ministry. He might show up anew with you and me on the walk to Emmaus and open our very eyes, hearts, and minds to his presence and promise. He might show up through the breaking of the bread, and the drinking of the cup. But in showing up, he’s showing us that he is alive. That God is active and up to something. That God meets us where we are at, no matter our emotions or locations, questions, or reactions.
Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen.
Now go and tell the Good News to all who might listen. Testify. Witness. Wonder. Spread hope and joy with good courage. For our world is hurting. It is grieving. It is aching and in such need for the truth of Easter. Our world is stuck in Good Friday. But that’s not the end. Easter is real, because God in Christ makes it so.
New beginnings. New life. New hope. All things are made new in Christ Jesus.
What new life might you witness today and this week? For that new life that you see, is very much a sign that God is present and up to something. That God is alive, showing up and doing God’s thing. That God’s creative and reconciling work continues. That God’s love is real.
Let’s join in, following the examples of the first witnesses to the resurrection- the women at the tomb, who have, ever since, been proclaiming the Good News of the resurrection. The Good News that our world so sorely needs, yet when it hears it, can scarcely believe it’s true.
But it is. Yes, friends, it’s true. And we don’t need to see the scars and wounds of Christ to know that it’s so. We just need to look for the living Lord among us now and always. Yes, indeed.
Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
Happy Easter and Thanks be to God! Amen.
p.s.- If you’re still looking for hope and this reflection just didn’t get there for you, perhaps Bishop Maas’ Easter video message might? Check it out here: