Living Resurrection in Crucifying Realities

By Javier Viera

What does it mean to proclaim life in death-dealing times? That’s the question that plagues my mind in the middle of what has felt like a relentless Good Friday year. One does not need to look deep within the headlines for evidence of the cross, but talking resurrection can feel escapist at best—at worst a dismissal of such widespread suffering. How can we speak of empty tombs in the presence of so many fresh ones? And yet, I remain convicted that it is precisely in the moment when crucifixion seeks to consume our vision that celebrating Easter is most important.

I’m still thinking about Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas’ lecture this February, “Truth in Shades of Black,” where she said, “Contrary to the emphasis of the Nicene Creed, the cross signifies not to Jesus’ death, but to his life.” In a similar fashion, the empty tomb does not direct our gaze toward some far-off utopian future, but to Jesus’ living. It is the messy particularities of his work that create the circumstances for life to triumph over death—not an otherworldly intervention.

Jesus’ ministry took place squarely in the midst of death-dealing forces. From the brutal occupation of Roman rule to the fundamental precarity and hardship of the poverty that defined his and his followers’ lives, even basic survival was not guaranteed. Consider one of most famous gospel stories: Jesus calling Peter and Andrew, James and John from their jobs as fishermen. Too often, this is portrayed as the disciples leaving behind steady and lucrative work to follow Christ. The truth, however, is that because of oppressive Roman taxation, fishermen often barely made enough to feed their families. Jesus’ call to leave their nets behind is an invitation to life beyond systems that strangle it.

When we say, “Christ is risen!” we are affirming God’s power to transform crucifying realities into chances for collective flourishing. It’s power that’s alive in events like Garrett’s collaboration this month with the Evanston NAACP, to educate our community about the evil of environmental racism so we can build a world beyond that violence. Faith gives us the confidence to confront the forces that fracture God’s people and use our collective shards to assemble a stained-glass future that reflects the glory of God’s love.

So Happy Easter, Garrett family. I hope in your celebrations today that you experience of a moment of beauty that helps you feel the abundant life we were created to share. Speak and live resurrection into the world, not as a refutation of the pain that surrounds us but in promise that it is squarely within that suffering that God promises to find and call us out. The tomb is empty, the stone has been rolled away, and God beckons for us to follow.