"Meet Me In Galilee"
1. On the third day counting from the day that Christ was crucified, on the morning of the first day of the week, the risen Christ appeared to two women and said, "Don't be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee. They will meet me there." This is the message we are given for this year's Easter worship service. I would like for us to remember three points given here in this text.
Do Not Be Afraid
2. The first one is the words "Do not be afraid" that the Lord gave. This is actually not the first time that these women had heard these words. The first words of the angel who appeared at the emptied tomb was "Do not be afraid." Actually, some guards had fallen down after fainting from having been "shaken with so great a fear" at the nearby angels. The text says, "Though afraid yet with great joy they hurriedly departed from the tomb," (verse eight). As we look at this we see how that the word "fear" is repeated in this scene.
3. We celebrate Easter every year in spring. In this season when we get passed the cold winter and new life sprouts forth so suddenly under the warm sunlight, our hearts so naturally become light and our joy so full. The joy of welcoming in spring truly seems appropriate for Easter celebrations.
4. But, even though we are joyous over Easter, there is something very important that we should not overlook. It is that on that first Easter morning, it wasn't joy that was in control of the situation, but rather "dread and fear." The Gospel According To Mark expresses the situation most soberly about the way it really was. Mark brought the original section in his Gospel to a simple conclusion by saying, "The women exited the tomb and fled. They trembled and were totally confused. And they said nothing to anyone because they were afraid," (Mark 16:8). The resurrection of Christ was not originally a joyous thing that happened that was all cheerful, but was a really scary thing that happened to all who were there. [Mark's] gospel candidly relates that fact.
5. Why was it so dreadful? Because something that no one had expected had happened. Jesus had spoken at least three times or more during his life time on his death and resurrection. But, no one seriously expected these things, not a one of the disciples or women among them. In the first place, when a person is able to anticipate something he or she does it from his or her own experiences and can guess from that. The resurrection of Christ clearly did not lie in the domain of human experiences. We know that by reading each of the reports in the Gospels. Anyone who reads them without preconceptions will notice these reports contain inconsistencies. Such a thing is unavoidable whenever one tries to communicate in human words a fearsome thing which does not lie within the domain of human experiences, which humanity could not foresee. The Bible is also candid on that point.
6. The resurrection of Christ, which no one was anticipating, was every bit an event that God and God alone had pulled off. It wasn't just because the tomb stone had moved that they were so afraid. Nor was it that they had seen the tomb turn empty. Nor was it that they had seen angels. Ultimately, they were so afraid because the power of God had been at work. A God that a person only imagines in his or her head is never that dreadful. But, it is truly dreadful when we see the power of the true God openly at work, when we see the power of the God who holds our fate and the fate of this world working among us.
7. The message of Easter that the Bible is giving us is not some simple easy offer of joy. Much rather, it is first off a message communicating to us of this dreadfulness. God is powerfully at work among us, though we may despise it, ignore it, keep it out on purpose, and resist it. God works so powerfully for us in this world that he is overturning the rule of sin and death. This is the message of Christ's resurrection.
8. So how does this dreadfulness turn to joy and hope? This only comes from God, when God says to us, "Do not be afraid." The women heard those words. Had they not heard them, they would have become "like dead men" just like the soldiers did. For sinful humanity, the presence and the power of God do not simply lead to joy and hope. When it is truly the living God and not some idol made by humans, then when this God is powerfully at work, it is awesome, it is pure dreadfulness. Whenever this God tells us not to be afraid, it will always be within the context of his forgiveness and mercy.
Inform My Brothers!
9. And God has truly shown his forgiveness and mercy through Christ. Christ also added this, "Go and tell ... my brothers." Here we find a surprising statement. "[Tell] ... my brothers." - We know the Lord is not thinking of his own blood relatives. It is clearly his disciples, the disciples who deserted him and fled. It is them whom the Lord is calling "my brothers." Now this is the second statement to which we should pay attention.
10. Once before the disciples had heard coming into the mouth of Jesus the words "my brother(s)." It was when Mary the mother of Jesus and Jesus' real brothers had come to visit and said that they wanted to speak with Jesus. (If you read the other gospels, it seems like his relatives didn't like Jesus' activities at all and had come to get him. Check Mark 3:21.) At that time the Lord said, "Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?" Then he pointed to the disciples and continued with, "Look. Here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does the will of my heavenly father is my brother, my sister and my mother," (12:48-50).
11. Back at that time, the disciples obviously must have conceitedly felt that they were truly doing the will of the heavenly father and were the brothers of Jesus. For that reason, even when danger had kept pressing in on the Lord, they had intended on following through and risking their lives for the Lord. That's how it was, at least, that's how they meant to be. Every one of the disciples had declared even several hours before Jesus was arrested that, "Even if I have to die with you, I'll never say I don't know you," (26:35).
12. However, when Jesus was arrested, all of the disciples ended up running away. Exactly as Jesus had predicted, Peter denied Jesus three times before the rooster crowed. Soon after, the Lord was murdered by crucifixion. With that heavy fact of reality before them, not a single one of them must have been able to claim that they were the Lord's brother. Their actions gave testimony to the fact that they could not be Jesus' brothers.
13. But, the heart of the risen Christ was towards them though they were they way they were. The Lord sent them a message saying, "Tell ... my brothers." The Lord was still seeing them as his brothers. Calvin said, "Yet, it wasn't only the apostles who were considered by the Lord as 'brothers.' This message was given by Christ's command so that later we would hear it too."
14. In today's church, if we are Christ's brothers and if live calling God Christ's Father our own Father, it is not because we can consider ourselves [automatically] like that. It is because the Lord considers us so and has communicated his words to us. It has no internal basis within us of any kind. It comes from God's forgiveness and mercy as revealed in Christ.
Go To Galilee!
15. Then thirdly, the Lord told his disciples "that they are to go to
Galilee" and there he promised they would meet with the Lord. Actually,
this message was not the first time that the disciples had heard it. While
seated at the last supper Jesus said, "Tonight, you will all stumble over
me. ... But, after I have been resurrected, I will go to Galilee ahead
of you," (26:31-32).
The Lord knew that all the disciples would desert him and flee. He had known that the disciples would be knocked down by their weakness and sinfulness and with their pride as disciples of Christ and with their hopes for the kingdom of God both torn to pieces and literally fallen apart they would return to Galilee. But, the risen Christ said that he would go ahead of them and be waiting for them just as he described them. He said, "Go to Galilee. You will meet me there."
16. Galilee - That was the place where the disciples had met Jesus. That day, this Man suddenly appeared so filled with a wonderful attraction and he had said, "Come follow me. I will make you fishers of people." That's how it was, it all began from there [in Galilee]. "Go to Galilee. You will meet me there." Jesus brought them back to the starting point. You might say it was a call to "Let's give it another go." Having gone through great frustration and great sorrow, they were men without any kind of internal support to stand on, but they heard an invitation of "Let's give it another go. Come follow me."
17. They began to follow the Lord again. And when they were under God's forgiveness and mercy, they became witnesses to Christ's resurrection. These men, who had been at the extremity of weakness, became men who knew God's physical presence and power and testified to it. These are the first disciples. Had there not been a "Go to Galilee," I don't think there would have been later disciples or that the church would have been born. The church was born when the Lord said, "Give it another go," and so it has been supported to this very day.
18. We too celebrate Easter this year as persons so much a part of this such a church. And as we continually give thanks for being in God's forgiveness and mercy, we will begin to follow the Lord anew and afresh from here on out.