Preached at Alger First UMC on 4/16/2017
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the tomb. Look, there was a great earthquake, for an angel from the Lord came down from heaven. Coming to the stone, he rolled it away and sat on it. Now his face was like lightning and his clothes as white as snow. The guards were so terrified of him that they shook with fear and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Don’t be afraid. I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He isn’t here, because he’s been raised from the dead, just as he said. Come, see the place where they laid him. Now hurry, go and tell his disciples, ‘He’s been raised from the dead. He’s going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.’ I’ve given the message to you.”
With great fear and excitement, they hurried away from the tomb and ran to tell his disciples. But Jesus met them and greeted them. They came and grabbed his feet and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Go and tell my brothers that I am going into Galilee. They will see me there.” (Matthew 28:1-10)
Remember with me where we’ve been.
On Thursday, the disciples shared their Last Supper with Jesus. Then they saw him arrested, and all of them except Peter split and ran.
On Friday, Jesus was on trial and beaten over and over. Peter was there, but he publicly denied any relationship with Jesus three times. Jesus was finally crucified with Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons watching.
Then yesterday, Jesus was buried in the tomb. A stone was rolled in front of the tomb. The tomb was sealed and guards were posted so that no one could steal the body and falsely claim that Jesus rose from the dead. All hope was gone.
But today, everything changed. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were at the tomb, and it doesn’t seem like they ever left. Early this morning, they felt a big earthquake and saw an angel coming down. It was so terrifying that those big bad guards passed out from their fear.
The angel told the women that Jesus had been raised from the dead. The angel told them to go tell the disciples about it and tell them to meet Jesus in Galilee.
Then the women run out to do that and, suddenly, they meet Jesus on the way. And it’s funny, Jesus gives this non-chalante response – “Oh hey! Don’t worry, everything’s ok. Go tell the guys that I’ll be in Galilee and they’ll see me there.”
This week when I was studying this story, this call to go back to Galilee stuck out to me. So I want to explore that here. Galilee is an important location in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – It was the hometown of Jesus and his disciples
Jesus was born in Bethlehem, which isn’t in Galilee, but then he and his parents fled to Egypt as refugees. When they came back they settled in Nazareth in Galilee.
In fact, the first 18 chapters of Matthew happen in Galilee. Jesus was baptized there, he was tempted in the desert there, he preached that huge Sermon on the Mount there, he did a bunch of miracles there. The disciples were called in Galilee and Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph have followed Jesus since Galilee. They all have a bunch of good memories in Galilee
They’ve been away from Galilee for a while, but now Jesus is calling them to follow him back there – follow him back home. Jesus is calling them to come back home with him.
Now that might sound like good news, but I think there’s a different dynamic going on here. It’s kind of like when someone enters the military during a war and are sent to the frontline. They see some awful things, do awful things, then they go home. They’ve changed so much, they’ve seen so many things, and they’ll never be the same again. PTSD is a real thing. Anxiety disorders are a real thing. But they go home. How can they ever really be home?
Remember where Jesus and his disciples have been. They’ve been traumatized. Jesus consciously walked into his own death and he was killed in an awful way. The disciples ran away from their beloved teacher after giving up their previous lives to follow him. Peter goes so far as to deny Jesus three times. And the three women who’ve followed him since Galilee go further with Jesus than any of the disciples. They follow Jesus to the cross, they see the moment when Jesus dies, they see him buried, they see the guards posted.
They’ve all changed so much, they’ve all seen so much, they’ve all done so much just in the last three days. So they must be wondering why Jesus is calling them to go back home to Galilee. How could they ever be home again after everything they’ve seen and everything they’ve been through?
Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the twelve disciples have all seen or at least heard about Jesus’ horrible death. But now Jesus has been raised again and calls them back home, traumatized as they are. I think he does that so they can remember where they’ve been, so that they can find their footing again. I think Jesus calls them to follow him home so that they can find resurrection too.
Home is a word that has so many possible meanings. It could be a literal house you grew up in or the home you live in now; it could be the town you live in; it could be the people you live with; and it could have an even wider meaning that that.
When I was getting my music degree at ONU, I’d often have problems and issues and frustrations with a particular piece of music. When that would happen, my trumpet teacher would always bring me back to the basics of playing the trumpet that I learned when I started in 5th grade – how to buzz your lips, how to use the air, how to tongue the notes. He was bringing me back home so I could get another chance, so that I could find new life, leave all the old mistakes behind, and start over again on whatever I was working on.
Whenever I doubt my call to ministry, I think back to the worship service where I got my call, where I knew without a shadow of doubt for at least 5 minutes that God was calling me to this. I bring myself back to that moment because it brings me back home where I can find new life and new strength, erase the old mistakes and start over again.
I wonder if you have a place, a home, like that? A place or home, literal or metaphorical, to which you can return after journeying everywhere; a place to which you can return after an experience of shame, a period of loneliness, a period of great activity that has left you exhausted; a place to which you can return when you feel rootless, when you can’t find your footing and you can’t seem to ever get ahead; a place to which you can return when you have suffered loss and can find consolation and rest and peace and love.
Maybe home isn’t a physical place. Maybe home is a certain person or people in your life. Maybe home is a certain memory. Maybe home is a certain passage of Scripture or a song or a poem or a painting. Or maybe home is indeed a physical place. Where is our home, a place to which we can return in the midst of the struggles of life and find rest and consolation and comfort and peace and grace and love?
Remember, the disciples have been to so many places, they’ve seen so many things. By the time they hear about Jesus’ resurrection, they’re completely worn out and dejected. One of the 12 is dead. Peter is angry at himself and ashamed of what he’s done. They’re broken. But Jesus calls them home to Galilee where they first began this journey. They follow Jesus home to Galilee and they see Jesus alive after death. And the disciples find resurrection for themselves.
If we read on in Acts where this story goes from here, we see the disciples are completely changed. Peter is no longer the terrified denier of Jesus – he stands up and gives the first Christian sermon and works to build the church up from 12 people in little ol’ Galilee to networks of people throughout the Roman Empire. The disciples go from a small group of terrified individuals who avoid the spotlight at all costs to a movement of people called the church who stands against the very gates of Hell. That is Resurrection.
Just like Jesus called the disciples to follow him home, Jesus calls us to follow him home too so that we can remember where we’ve been, so that we can find our footing again, and get the strength to go out into the world again. Jesus calls us to follow him home so that we can find Resurrection ourselves.
When college students go home on a break, they aren’t there to stay. They’re there to do laundry, eat a few home-cooked meals that don’t contain any Ramen whatsoever, and then go back to college.
In college, my trumpet teacher didn’t take me back to the basics so that I would just stay there. He did it so that I could find solid ground again, remember where I’d been, find my footing and confidence and strength, then go forward into the areas of difficulty and frustration with more confidence.
The disciples followed the resurrected Jesus back home to Galilee. I wonder where Galilee is for us? I wonder where home is for us where we can find Resurrection ourselves? If we look hard enough, we all have a Galilee to which we can return to meet the resurrected Jesus again and again and again and receive new life every time.
Maybe our home is with certain people – our friends, our family, a teacher, our spouse, our kids or grandkids.
Maybe it’s a specific place where we had a significant life-giving experience.
Maybe it’s a piece of music. Maybe you have that favorite song – one that you listened to with someone you love, maybe that song you danced to at your wedding, maybe that song you listen to whenever life seems like it’s falling apart and the song brings you back home.
But maybe you can’t think of a home base. Maybe your parents have died, your kids have moved away; maybe your spouse died or you separated; maybe you’ve moved so far away from your childhood home and all the memories you had with that place; maybe you had your home in your job, but since you’ve retired you haven’t been able to find home again; maybe you’re like Peter where you feel like you’ve done so many shameful things that there can be no possible Galilee for you, like there’s no home base where God would give you new life.
Remember that Jesus called all the disciples, even though they ran away; Jesus called Peter, even though he’d denied Jesus, to follow him home to Galilee. After their trauma, after everything they’d seen and done, Jesus brought them back home. He recreated their home where everything began and gave it brand new meaning for them. I am convinced that Jesus can do the same thing for us.
At Easter, we must remember that Resurrection is not only for Jesus. Resurrection is offered to us too. We live in a world marked by death, disease, and brokenness. We all need Resurrection. So Jesus is calling us back home so that we can start over; so that we can go back to the beginning; so that we can find our footing again; so that we can receive this new life and go out in the name of the Resurrected Jesus and offer resurrection to the world.