Denise Levertov, “On Belief in the Physical Resurrection of Jesus” [Poetry for Easter]

Each week during Eastertide I am posting a poem that helps me engage more meaningfully with Jesus’ resurrection. Here is Denise Levertov’s poem “On Belief in the Physical Resurrection of Jesus,” from The Collected Poems of Denise Levertov. Denise Levertov was a twentieth century poet, born in England and later residing in the United States.


It is for all
‘literalists of the imagination,’
poets or not,
that miracle
is possible and essential.
Are some intricate minds
nourished on concept,
as epiphytes flourish
high in the canopy?
Can they
subsist on the light,
on the half
of metaphor that’s not
grounded in dust, grit,
heavy
carnal clay?
Do signs contain and utter,
for them
all the reality
that they need? Resurrection, for them,
an internal power, but not
a matter of flesh?
For the others,
of whom I am one,
miracles (ultimate need, bread
of life,) are miracles just because
people so tuned
to the humdrum laws:
gravity, mortality-
can’t open
to symbol’s power
unless convinced of its ground,
its roots
in bone and blood.
We must feel
the pulse in the wound
to believe
that ‘with God
all things
are possible,’
taste
bread at Emmaus
that warm hands
broke and blessed.


Previous poems in this series:

George Herbert, “Easter Wings”

George Herbert, “Easter Wings” [Poetry for Easter]

Each week during Lent I posted a poem that I have found helpful for deeper engagement with Jesus’ journey to the Cross (see “Poetry for Lent“). Because that was so meaningful for me, I will continue into Eastertide with a similar “Poetry for Easter” series. Each week I will post a poem that helps me engage more meaningfully with the message of Easter. Here is George Herbert’s poem “Easter Wings” from The Temple. George Herbert was a priest in the Church of England and one of the most significant poets of the 17th century metaphysical poetry movement.


Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,
      Though foolishly he lost the same,
            Decaying more and more,
                  Till he became
                        Most poore:
                        With thee
                  O let me rise
            As larks, harmoniously,
      And sing this day thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.

My tender age in sorrow did beginne
      And still with sicknesses and shame.
            Thou didst so punish sinne,
                  That I became
                        Most thinne.
                        With thee
                  Let me combine,
            And feel thy victorie:
         For, if I imp my wing on thine,
Affliction shall advance the flight in me.

The Dawning of Real Life

After Jesus’ brutal death there is the quiet and stillness of the tomb; Jesus’ dead body was laid in the tomb. We read:

“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.” (Matthew 28:1)

But there was also the quiet and stillness of the sabbath. The Jewish followers of Jesus entered into the sabbath, which means to cease. There was no activity to distract them as they waited in their griefs and loss. 

I’m sure that each one of us has at some point been in a season of waiting. We’ve all felt the pressure of waiting in one way or another; waiting for that phone call about the job, that letter of college acceptance, the news from the doctor after the test, the anticipation before the child came home, and so much more. Waiting is a common experience in life.

But seasons of waiting can be difficult, particularly when we cannot see that anything is happening. It’s not easy to wait for your body to improve while undergoing medical treatment or after recovery from a surgery because you cannot always see the difference on the surface.

It can be difficult to wait for that breakthrough in a friendship or marriage relationship when you still feel the tension even after long conversations or counseling.

Waiting is hard.

Here are these women, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, the honored and favored first arrivals at the tomb.

What they, and the other disciples, don’t know is that while they were waiting, even while they were asking those “where is God?” questions, when the stone was rolled in front of the tomb, God had not abandoned them. In fact, God was working and was already ahead of them.

In our hunger for real life, even for God to break into our seasons of waiting, the promise of the empty tomb is that even when we cannot see it, God’s work has already begun. Even when we are asking, “where are You, God?”, God is already ahead of us…we often just do not see it. Our eyes are closed, or we are looking in the wrong direction. And then…the stone rolled away…an empty tomb…God was there all along.

Real life is dawning.

The resurrection promises us that even in our waiting God is at work. In fact, while the two Mary’s are walking to the tomb in dread and grief, Jesus has already left the tomb.

Resurrection and Fear

After Jesus rose from the grave, the Apostle John records four meetings Jesus has with people. The first of these that I want to look at today is Jesus’ appearance in the locked room to His disciples. We read about it in this way:

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ After He said this, He showed them His hands and side. (John 20:19-20)

There are three major things happening as Jesus enters this story bringing resurrection power in the midst of fear.

Jesus Comes Into and Stands Within Our Fears

It seemed like the locked room would not be penetrated by anything good or evil. The disciples were holding the door closed out of fear from others and fears circulating in their own minds and hearts. But Jesus came through the locked door and entered into their midst. No lock could hold Him out – neither could any fear hold Him out – because of His resurrection power.Read More »

Real Life: Jesus’ resurrection

This past weekend at Eastbrook, as we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus our Messiah, we paused our series “Becoming Real” on the Sermon on the Mount, and turned to Matthew 28:1-10.

This passage tells the first part of the resurrection narrative, with the angel addressing Mary Magdalene and the other Mary before they first encounter the risen Jesus.

You can find the message video and outline below. You can also view the entire “Becoming Real” series here, as well as the devotional that accompanies the series here. Join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.” (Matthew 28:1)

The Dawning of Real Life (28:1)

  • Sabbath rest
  • The women
  • The work already begun…Jesus is already gone from the tomb

Announcing Real Life (28:2-7)

  • The angel’s appearance
  • The angel’s message:
  • Jesus was crucified
  • Jesus is risen
  • Go and share the message

Encountering Real Life  (28:8-10)

  • “Afraid yet filled with joy”
  • Bowing down to touch and worship
  • Go and share the message

Living Real Life

  • The living message of Christ
  • The unlikely who live with Christ
  • The charge to share the living message of Christ

Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper into Jesus’ resurrection in one or more of the following ways:

  • Consider memorizing Matthew 28:18-20 this week.
  • Share with others, both believers and unbelievers, about what Jesus means to you. Pray about who God would have you share with this coming week or month. Don’t just think about it, but actually do it.
  • As the weather improves, take a prayer walk around where you live. Pray for those who live near you that God would open their hearts to Jesus in new ways.