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Worship Service Message

March 31, 2024
Easter Sunday

Jesus Is Going Ahead of You to Galilee

Mark 16:1-8

Rev. Dr. Jaegil Lee

Christ is risen!  (He is risen, indeed!)

When you bring up the story of Resurrection in your mind, what is the core message or the key image?  When you think about Resurrection, what pops up first?  As Joe read today’s scripture for us, which part of the story strongly resonated with you and is still echoing within you? 

There is no wrong answer.  Whatever answer you have, I believe your response holds a certain meaning for you.  Take a moment to see if what stays with you has any specific message for you.

I had thought about what message I would deliver for today’s Easter service, but I had no clue until last Saturday.  However, last Sunday, while in silent prayer right before the service, one verse from today’s read came to me: “He (Jesus) is going before you to Galilee.”  I said, “Thank you, God!” because at that moment I knew what my message would be.

I am not sure if you would say, “Thank you, God!” after hearing my message.  Even though my message doesn’t meet your expectation, you could still say, “Thank you, God,” not for my message, but for the resurrection of Christ.  So, I hope that we all say, “Thank you, God” after my message is delivered, without identifying why we say that.

Anyway, did you know that in the Gospel of Mark, no one sees the resurrected Jesus.  The original, oldest version of the Gospel of Mark abruptly ends with verse 8.  Even though there are several added verses after today’s reading, the original version of the Gospel of Mark comes to an end without a “nice” closing. 

In other words, in the Gospel of Mark, the story that Joe read for us is the only account about the resurrection of Jesus.  The female disciples saw the empty tomb, not the resurrected Jesus.  We don’t hear anything about anyone encountering the risen Jesus.

What is more surprising and puzzling is that while these female disciples were the only witnesses who saw the empty tomb and heard the good news of Jesus’ resurrection from an angelic being, they became too scared and terrified to share that good news with the disciples.

Did they eventually overcome their fear and were able to share what they witnessed with the disciples?  Were the disciples able to meet the resurrected Jesus?  What happened after the end of the Gospel of Mark?  The Gospel of Mark doesn’t tell us about it.  It keeps silent.

Why does the Gospel of Mark not share the good news that the disciples and other people encountered the resurrected Christ?   Why does the Gospel of Mark not provide some descriptions of the risen Jesus as found in other Gospels?  While other Gospels have a happy ending, why does it end the story in a seemingly unfinished way?

The answer is “We don’t know.”  Are you disappointed with my response?  That is good!  I hope and pray that you are frequently disappointed with my answers, so you feel urged or even forced to find your own answers to biblical and theological questions. 

Nevertheless, I have and should have my personal answer to share with you this Easter morning because I don’t want to become a too bad pastor, but just an annoying enough pastor.  Like other New Testament scholars, I believe that the author of the Gospel of Mark intentionally ends his book unfinished.  Rather than providing a well-polished account on Jesus’ resurrection, Mark simply tells the disciples and us, “Jesus is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.” 

Now, we have another question or other questions: “Why did Jesus say this?” “What does Galilee mean to Jesus and the disciples?” “More importantly, what does it mean to us when Mark says, ‘Jesus is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him’?”

In the Gospel of Mark, the disciples constantly mistakenly thought of Jesus’ going up to Jerusalem as his taking up his glorious power.  Consequently, they believed that they would receive certain positions along with religious and political power.  It appears that some of the disciples’ families also believed that they would gain certain power in Jerusalem.  As you know, however, that didn’t happen.  In Jerusalem, not only did their dream shatter piece by piece, but they also lost their teacher.  In fact, they lost everything because when they followed Jesus, they gave up their family, job, and all means of living. 

What would they do now, having nothing and having lost everything?  Their return home to Galilee, as they were, simply meant acknowledging their failure.   Nevertheless, they had no other options; they were mere peasants [ˈpez(ə)nt].  Going back to Galilee as apparent failures was the only option left for them.

Yet, the resurrected Jesus indirectly said to them, “I am going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see me.”  Jesus going to Galilee?  And would he meet the disciples there?  

Here, the resurrected Jesus seems to convey to the disciples, “You must return to Galilee, where you least expect to find me.  But I am going before you, and you will encounter me there.  Come back to Galilee to see me and continue our work together.”   

The resurrected Jesus does not linger in Jerusalem, the religious center where religious and political elites reside.  The resurrected Jesus does not ascent to heaven.  Instead, he heads to Galilee, his and his disciples’ home province.  

Galilee was a rural region, where most of the population consisted of peasants [ˈpez(ə)nt].  These peasants were not merely farmers; they were rural dwellers whose lives were marked by exploitation and oppression from adjacent [əˈjās(ə)nt] Hellenistic urban cities.  Socioeconomically, Galilean peasants during Jesus’ time endured enormous hardship.  The disciples’ return to Galilee meant embracing their peasant lives once more.

Moreover, Galilee was notorious and regarded with contempt by most southern Jews who held religious power centered around Jerusalem.  Ched Myers notes that Galilee was depicted as a place of the rural poverty, “despised in the rabbinic writings.” 

Therefore, when the resurrected Jesus says to the disciples, “I am going to Galilee ahead of you; there you will see me,” he is emphasizing that “You will see me not in Jerusalem or in heaven, but in Galilee.”  The resurrected Jesus is saying, “Even though Galilee is regarded as impure, disgusting, and despicable, you will encounter me there.”

So, what does it mean to us when the resurrected Jesus says, “I am going before you to Galilee; there you will see me”?  It means that we must go to our own Galilee—those places in our lives where we least expect to encounter the resurrected Christ.  It means that the resurrected Christ invites us to delve deeper into our personal Galilee, even when we believe we won’t find him there.  To meet the resurrected Christ, we must travel to the dark and painful corners of our lives, our personal Galilee.

Paradoxically, in the Gospel of Mark, resurrection is not an ascent but a descent.  The resurrected Christ doesn’t call us upward; instead, he urges us to go further down.  It is not by climbing up but descending that we encounter resurrected Christ.

In the Gospel of Mark, no one directly saw the resurrected Jesus.  However, those who courageously return to their Galilee in life will indeed see Christ.  The missing ending of the Gospel of Mark serves as an invitation for us to descend further to the neglected corners of our lives.  Therefore, the seemingly unfinished ending of the Gospel of Mark will find completion when you encounter the resurrected Christ in our personal Galilee in your lives.  Can you hear the resurrected Jesus saying, “I am going to Galilee before you and there you will see me”?

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