Easter B: Resurrection Questions

The readings for Easter Year B, The Resurrection of Our Lord

First Reading         Acts 10:34–43 or Isaiah 25:6–9

Psalm                    Psalm 118:1–2, 14–24

New Testament     1 Corinthians 15:1–11 or Acts 10:34–43

Gospel                   John 20:1–18 or Mark 16:1–8

We all need to be known. We hunger and thirst for being understood by at least one other human being. We long for being seen, and touched.

The suffering caused by this viral epidemic has been made infinitely worse by the ongoing symptoms of the plague of emotional distance sweeping the world. The person who understands us is an endangered species.

The Lord only knows my own sickness of not knowing other people as I should. Content to work the sheep and the dogs here on the farm, and to delve deeply into Scripture, I have become distant from the suffering around me. I find myself turning away from the daily news of depression and suicidal thoughts of children and teenagers who have been cut off from physical contact with their friends. I turn away in disgust from revelers on the beach and in the streets without masks. I turn away because I have forgotten that I was a youth once, and I too needed to chat and wrestle and play ball with my friends to be fully alive and fully human. My turning away from their suffering today is a wound caused by my emotional distance.

And I have been surprised by the high pitch of the protests coming from Blacks and people with mixed race families over racial injustice. Yes, I know racism exists. Yes, I know it’s built into our sinful hearts, minds, laws and systems. Yet every time I am surprised and put off by the degree of rage I am hearing, I must confess that it’s because of how emotionally distant I have become from my brothers and sisters. They have had to deal, every moment of their lives, with being different—with being other and outside—with not being seen and known—with being untouchable third class citizens. They have a story I need to understand if I am going to see them and known them.

Covid-19 can put us in the hospital, on a ventilator, or in the grave. But the disease of emotional distance has been around for a long, long time. And it is the spiritual malady that makes Covid so very much worse.

Enter the question! The best way to come near to those we have been distanced from is to ask questions. Less declaration, more inquiry. Less coming locked and loaded with our own personal truth and certainty, and more thirsting to understand.

Even before we befriend or defend, we should probe and open ourselves, ask questions, and then listen to one another.

It is curious. Mark’s young man in white at the empty tomb, TELLS the women not to be afraid. He offers instant diagnosis and advice. “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth who isn’t here. But go, tell the disciples to get to Galilee and there you will see him.” All perfectly good diagnosis and advice.

But, in John, the angel and Jesus ask questions of Mary: “Why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?”

Those questions have echoed down through the Early Church to us. Yet the questioning itself is vital. Their interrogatory form must not be overlooked.

John’s Jesus is divine from beginning to end; and essential to that divinity is his power to see and understand the people he has come to love and serve. In chapter two its Nathaniel that Jesus saw under the fig tree—understanding that Nathaniel was an Israelite in whom there was no deceit. In chapter four it is a Samaritan woman with a troubling sexual and marital history—whose deep identity and suffering would be triply invisible to Jewish men from Galilee. Jesus’ discussion with her doesn’t look on the surface like asking questions, but it IS dialog, and it does grow from the thing that connects them immediately—thirst and water. And so, all through John, Jesus sees and knows people. He knows and loves Lazarus so well that at his tomb Jesus is deeply moved—he is not emotionally distant. And even on the cross he can turn from his own agony to the need of the Beloved Disciple for a Mother—and of a Mother for a new son. Besides being God for us, Jesus is us for God—he models the way to NOT be emotionally distant.

We are told by deep thinkers that questions are more important than answers. But on this Resurrection Sunday we are called to consider how much more important are the questions that come from Jesus. These questions open up Christ’s Resurrection life for us. Rather than limiting our prayers to the laundry list of our petitions, what if we sit in quiet for a time and listen for the questions that Jesus may be asking us: Why are you weeping? Why are you so angry? Why are you so worried? Why are you disappointed? And whom are you looking for? What are you expecting from your God?

Just as important is to employ the power of the question to know our neighbor. Both in our prayer life and in the encounters with people near and far, we can be less anxious and ready with the right answers. Perhaps we should accept God’s deliverance from the need to look good and to say and do the right thing. Perhaps we should be less defensive and more inquisitive. Perhaps we should ask more and tell less.

Why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?


About John

John is a retired pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who has served congregations for over 40 years, including in rural, suburban, campus ministry and urban settings. His love of Border Collie sheepdogs has been fortified by his many friendships with shepherds all around the world. Nothing he has ever or will ever accomplish is as significant as the patience God, his wife and his friends have shown in putting up with his deficiencies.
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