Why Galilee? Of all the places Jesus could have gone… why Galilee? I mean, he is the Risen Christ after all. He could go anywhere he wanted. According to John’s gospel, when the resurrected Jesus met with the disciples in the upper room, the doors were closed and he just appeared. If he had such control over his body that he could simply appear through closed doors, don’t you think Jesus could go anywhere? Why Galilee?
You’d think he would have wanted to head straight back to Jerusalem and show those folk over there a thing or three. Can’t you just see it? Jesus walks straight to the home of the high priest, knocks on the front door and says, “Hello, Caiphas, want to try again?” Don’t you think he might want to have another meeting with Pilate? “Hey Gov, now do you want to discuss the subject of truth?”
Just rub it in their noses. Let them know their well-placed schemes have come to nothing. That’s what Jesus could have done. That’s what we would have done, isn’t it? Our script would have been completely different.
Have you ever talked with someone who is confined? Maybe it’s a hospital. “Boy, when I get out of here and get my legs under me, I’m going to travel. See the world. Go places I’ve not been before. This has been a real wake-up call for me. I’ve had lot of time to think, and have come to realize that life is fragile, and short. I want to do some things I’ve never done, before it’s too late.”
Have you ever been told something like that? Have you ever said it yourself?
Just this week a patient who had had a tough couple of weeks in the hospital, including a harrowing three days in the intensive care unit, said to me, “You’re going to see me back at church… as soon as I’m able.” Another one, who had a hip replacement, told me, “The doc says I can chip and putt in three weeks and play golf in six!”
There’s something about being confined that makes you want to burst free and go and do and see things.
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Was Jesus any different? Why, of all the places Jesus could have gone, did he choose Galilee?
Well, for one thing, that’s where he was from.
Most of you know I’m from northeast Arkansas… Paragould. When I was growing up there it had less than 10,000 people; just a sleepy little county seat town tucked up in the corner of the state near the Missouri bootheel. We had a bit of a reputation for our basketball teams, but other than that not much. It’s grown quite a bit since I left, and occasionally when I go back I run into somebody I knew way back when. My folks still live there, which means we get up there whenever we can. But I wouldn’t want to go back for any length of time, certainly not to live.
We’ve lived in several different places… Louisville, Kentucky, Nashville, Tennessee, Baltimore, Maryland, the Gulf Coast of Florida, the Atlanta area… But I don’t know that I’d want to live in any of those places again. To a certain degree I think Tom Wolfe may have been right. “You can’t go home again.”
Yet, Jesus wants to go back to Galilee. Why Galilee?
Well, not only is Galilee home but it’s where it all started. We know, by the story of Jesus’ trial and Simon Peter’s betrayal, that folk from Galilee had a different dialect than those in the big city of Jerusalem. Simon Peter in Jerusalem is kind of like somebody from around here trying to maneuver linguistically in New York. Sometimes it can be quite an adventure.
I remember my first extended stay in Chicago. I was twenty years old when Janet and I went up to stay a couple of weeks with her sister and brother-in-law, who at that time was the shortstop for the Cubs. One day Donnie asked me if I’d be willing to take some clothes to the cleaners for him since he had to get to the ballpark. Sure, I’d be glad to help. He had some specific instructions for some of the pieces of clothing, and when I tried to explain it to the fellow on the other side of the counter, he listened for awhile, then shoved a piece of paper and a pencil at me and said brusquely, “Write it down.” He couldn’t understand me, and I was having trouble figuring out what he was saying as well.
Is that the way it was for this gang of Galileans during their stay in Jerusalem? Is Jesus anxious to get himself and his disciples back to the place where they will be more accepted, where people can understand their dialect? Where there are no Roman crosses, no Roman courts, hardly any Romans at all?
Galilee is where Jesus was accepted… for the most part. There was that incident in the synagogue when he announced himself as the Messiah and they wanted to push him over a cliff for it, or something like that. But surely that was an isolated incident. He spent most of his public ministry there. In Galilee, he spoke their language, shared their country twang, knew their customs, and was comfortable. At least, if Jesus could be comfortable anywhere, he could be comfortable in Galilee.
And Mark, in his gospel, begins the story there. So think of this ending of the resurrection story as the second bookend in a set, if you will. “Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God,” Mark says at the start. That’s the first bookend. And then, at the end of his story, the heavenly messenger tells the frightened women at the tomb, “Go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”
Still… Galilee. Why Galilee? Well maybe it’s Mark who is talking to us here. Perhaps he is saying to us, “Now that you’ve read the story, go back and read it again… this time, do so with resurrection eyes. When Jesus goes off to pray, consider the resurrection. When Jesus touches a blind man and makes him see, envision the resurrection. When Jesus takes a child into his arms and speaks of accepting the kingdom of heaven with a childlike spirit, view it from the perspective of resurrection. When Jesus feeds the multitudes, heals the leper, brings the dead back to life, see it all, sense it all, feel it all from having experienced the resurrection.”
Maybe that is what Jesus wanted his disciples to experience. Galilee would bring it all back. Instead of focusing on the cross, they could revisit all those wonderful times when they were heady with the idea of changing the world. Except now, they will have a deeper understanding of what it means to be kingdom people. They could revisit all they had experienced there, and maybe then it would make better sense to them. Now, they are confused, grief-stricken, without hope. Galilee brings a sense of recognition. Jesus will be waiting for them there, and in his presence Galilee will bring understanding. Galilee will offer new life.
You see, one of the major themes – if not the most important element – of Mark’s gospel is the misunderstanding by Jesus’ followers of his mission and intent. The disciples, according to the way Mark tells it, never get it. Never. Even the ending of his story leads to confusion. After the angel tells the women the message they are to give to the disciples – the one where they are told to meet Jesus in Galilee – what do they do? “They went out and fled from the tomb,” Mark says, “for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
If you know anything about the Star Wars stories, you are familiar with the wise, elf-like teacher named Yoda, the one who got all his subjects and predicates fractured in his speech. Interpret Mark literally and he sounds like Yoda. Speaking of the women, he says, “To no one not anything they said; afraid they were…”
Afraid they were indeed! Who wouldn’t be? They come to the tomb expecting a corpse. Instead they find an angel, and he tells them Jesus is risen. Afraid they were, and so to no one anything they said!
End of story. Full stop. In fact, it’s such a strange and abrupt ending, years later someone added more to it to help make it more reasonable, to give it a better ending. But Mark’s gospel, as far as we know, ends with the women fleeing the tomb in abject terror.
Forget the disciples. Forget Galilee. The way Mark tells it, the women were absolutely mute, scared out of their wits. Go and tell? Not a chance. Meet Jesus in Galilee? Who knows where they will go or what they will do. So maybe the angel is speaking less to the women than to you and me.
The only way Jesus’ story can be told, from Mark’s perspective, is to go back and do it all again… with, as we said before, resurrection eyes. You see, on Easter morning Jesus will not be found in the domain of the dead. He prefers to meet his followers in the land of the living. And for him, that is Galilee… Galilee where it all started.
And how does it start? “Jesus came to Galilee,” Mark tells us, “proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.’”
Ah, so that is where we are, you and I, on this Easter morning. With Jesus, we’re back in Galilee where it all started. Why? The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand. It is time for us to repent and to believe in the good news that surrounds us and abides in those who believe in the Risen Christ.
So I would ask you to consider this. Pretend as if this were the very first day of your journey with Christ. You’ve just affirmed him as Lord and Savior, your feet are in the blocks, and the starter’s gun is about to go off. You’re ready to run the race of faith and follow after your Risen Lord. Now, what are you going to do? How will you believe in the good news that fills your heart? What will be the substance, the movement, of your faith?
I would suggest that a good place to start is to see everything and everybody with resurrection eyes. The beggar on the street, the person of color who waits on you at the store, even that idio… uh, that guy who cuts you off in traffic, the child walking by your house, the politician with whom you so ardently disagree… everybody and everything with resurrection eyes.
If you will do that – even if you will try to do that – you will find yourself where? In Galilee. I think Mark would tell us that Galilee is a good place to be. Why? Because Jesus is there. The Resurrected Christ meets us there and shows us how to see with resurrection eyes. So let’s go to Galilee. Let’s go together, shall we?
Lord, meet us in Galilee. Show us your nail-scarred hands, reveal to us how you died on the cross. But above all, help us to see with your eyes, the eyes of resurrection. Amen.
Copyright 2006, Randy L. Hyde. Used by permission.