He Has Gone Before Us
Minister: Revd Dr. Ian Tutton
‘…But after I am raised I shall go ahead of you into Galilee…’ (Matthew 26, 32).
‘…”Do not be afraid”, Jesus told them, “Go and take word to my brothers that they are to leave for Galilee. They will see Me there.”…’ (Matthew 28, 10).
The heart of the Resurrection narrative is the ultimate test of faith. It asks of every one of us this question: what difference does it make to each one of us, to our life together, to the life of our world that Jesus has been raised from the dead. In short, where do we go from here? ‘He has gone ahead of us into Galilee…They will see Me there.’ And the question is non-negotiable; we cannot rewrite it to fit the answer we might wish to give…
“The resurrection cannot be tamed or tethered by any utilitarian test. It is a vast watershed in history, or it is nothing. It cannot be tested for truth; it is the test of lesser truths. No light can be thrown on it; its own light blinds the investigator. It does not compel belief; it resists it. But once accepted as fact, it tells more about the universe, about history, and about man’s state and fate that all the mountains of other facts in the human accumulation.” (LIFE Magazine).
All of us, has to answer the question – a question not about what happened when, how it happened, what might have happened, could it have happened in the way it did, – no, the question we have to answer is this: are we prepared to go to Galilee? Or more directly, what difference does believing that Jesus was raised from the dead make to the way we live our lives here and now, immediately, in this present moment? Because, if so believing makes no difference; what is the point in believing it to be so. And yet, too easily we fall into the trap; failing to understand the need connect with the life of the resurrected Christ in every aspect of our on-going lives. In order to properly appreciate the significance of the resurrection for life as it is for us now, in the light of the resurrection we have to revaluate the significance of Jesus’ death on the Cross, viewing it now, ‘through the lens of the empty tomb.
The empty Cross tells us not to jump too quickly to Resurrection, as if Resurrection were a trump card that somehow absolves us from suffering. The Resurrection is not a divine ‘get-out-of-jail free’ card that immunises us from pain, suffering or death; to [do so risks] of trivialising people’s pain, reducing the reality of having to live in pain and endure it at times. For people grieving, introducing the message of the Resurrection too quickly can cheapen their sense of loss. The empty Cross reminds us that we cannot avoid suffering and death. At the same time, the empty Cross tells us that, because of Jesus’ death, the meaning of pain, suffering and our own death has changed, that these are not definitive. The empty Cross says the way to Resurrection must always break in from without as something new; it cannot be taken hold of in advance of suffering or seized as a panacea to pain. The empty Cross is a sign of hope. It tells us that the new life of God surprises us, comes at a moment we cannot expect, reminding us that experiences of pain, grief and dying are suffused with the presence of Christ, the One Who was crucified and is now Risen.” (Chris Ryan: ‘In the Light of the Cross’ [alt]).
If the resurrection makes no practical difference to the way we live our lives; not only need Jesus not have been raised from the dead; even His death is rendered redundant. And if that is our conclusion, and for so many it is, then we need to be careful what we wish for, because to do so sees us very much on our own, ‘cast adrift on a sea of troubles’, “…left to ourselves we lapse into a kind of collusion with entropy, acquiescing in the general belief that things may be getting worse but that there’s nothing much we can do about them. And we are wrong. Our task in the present…is to live as resurrection people in between Easter and the final day, with our Christian life, corporate and individual, in both worship and mission, as a sign of the first and a foretaste of the second.” (N.T. Wright: ‘Surprised by Hope: ‘Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, & the Mission of the Church). in that end, we have to choose; to believe or not to believe; choosing not to believe leaves us where we are, who we are, as we are. Choosing to believe, however will demand that we leave where we are, to go to Galilee; it will demand of us the realisation that in believing we will be different, for we will have to change; it will demand of us that we recognise that things cannot go on as they are, things will have to change…“Dead men cannot take effective action; their power of influence on others lasts only till the grave. Deeds and actions that energise others belong only to the living. Well, then, look at the facts in this case. The Saviour is working mightily among men, every day He is invisibly persuading numbers of people all over the world, both within and beyond the Greek-speaking world, to accept His faith and be obedient to His teaching. Can anyone, in face of this, still doubt that He has risen and lives; or rather that He is Himself the Life? Does a dead man prick the consciences of men…?” (Athanasius of Alexandria: ‘On the Incarnation’). ‘The eleven disciples made their way to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus hold told them to meet Him’…He commissioned them into His service and declared…’I will be with you always, to the end of time’. ‘He is not here, He is risen’: it’s time for us all to depart for Galilee…