In our generation something extra ordinary is happening; the entire world is seized by the dreaded Covit-19. Amidst this dreaded-ness the flashing news in the world this morning reads: “Jesus is Risen! He is Alive!”
Easter is the greatest and most notable event in the history of the world. For Christianity no other historic event is comparable to Easter. When Jesus rose from the dead on Easter morning, He rose as the beginning of the New Order that Israel’s God had always intended to make.
“He is risen from the dead and He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him” (28: 7). “Do not be afraid, go and tell my brothers and sisters to go to Galilee, there they will see me” (10). There is something special about Galilee. To this region the name “Galilee of the Gentiles” is given in the Old and New Testaments (Isa 9: 1, Mtt 4: 15). More importantly, Galilee was the scene of the greater part of our Lord’s private life and public acts. It is a remarkable fact that the first three gospels are chiefly taken up with our Lord’s ministry in this province and he began by calling his first disciples by the Sea of Galilee. Even before his death, Jesus foretold his disciples, “I will go ahead of you into Galilee (Mtt 26: 32).
First, Galilee signifies an “Original Revolution”: It was in Galilee the disciples came to a personal confrontation with Jesus which led to an authentic experience of life affirming and life enhancing faith. Jesus addressed the fundamental challenges of human life: Why am I here? Is freedom real or is it an illusion? How do I confront sin, fate and death? Is there life in the beyond? The Christian assertion that all have sinned is not a moral condemnation. It is a religious claim resulting from the perceived need for God and the reality of estrangement and forgiveness. The first disciples came to understand that there was no need to ground human life in oneself, because God in Christ has come to do what we could not do for ourselves. It was truly an original revolution of mind, spirit, body and soul in its totality.
God in Christ invites you this Easter morning to Galilee—the place of your locality and have an authentic personal experience with the living Lord to a life changing revolution of one’s orientation from self to God in Christ.
Secondly, Galilee signifies the urgency to move from fear and confusion. The gospels are clear! All three evangelists testify to the fact: The stone had been rolled back and the body is gone. It is empty. An empty tomb is a deep void and today many still seek for the living among the dead (Lk 24: 5b). It is the absence that threatens to swallow us up into nothingness, to annihilate our own existence. This terrible absence is a menacing awareness of a force that is fundamentally set against all that exists. This absence is the experience of evil in many forms as in Covit-19. Today, many of us experience this absence. Many are recounting how in the midst of dread, we do not feel the presence of God, even though we have a knowledge that God sides with the abandoned. No, many of us do not feel that presence at all. The women at the tomb that early morning experienced such a terrible emptiness. Threatening to swallow them up! This terrible absence experienced at the tomb, points to why reconciliation with God is so difficult. It is struggling with evil and the consequences of evil itself. The absence swallows the good and spews forth fears and utter helplessness. This terrible absence threatens every form of life towards flourishing. We must not allow that absence to engulf us.
The risen Lord fills this vacuum experienced in life. In the middle of Covit-19 we are encompassed by life. Life out of emptiness and death has become hopeful in Christ’s resurrection. To be a Christian is to take that leap of trust from the original revolution to the life of trust in the resurrected Christ.
Finally, this leads to the third point: Galilee signifies the memory of belonging. The Gospel accounts are clear that after he arose Jesus travelled to Galilee from where he began his earthly ministry. In some form absence is also a distance. From the site of the tomb in the outskirts of Jerusalem to Galilee in straight line is 68 miles. In reality distance means one is far from the place of origin. Distance without belonging isolates. We become trapped in the snares of absence and slips into a destructive distance. Jesus predicated His own death and also foretold that “He will go ahead of them into Galilee.” Galilee becomes a place of restoration.
Turning to our context, Naga people must not allow the absence to engulf us. The distance from where we are now is a place of absence and Jesus calls us to meet him in Galilee the place where the original revolution started. For some of us, it will mean a difficult tiring journey but we must move if we are to rid the tomb of absence. Without the sense of belonging one cannot come to oneself. Our belonging is Galilee the place of our identity. In Galilee the disciples’ eyes were opened, experienced the living Christ alive once more. Their original revolution was revisited but with a difference. This difference set the world aflame. They went everywhere and proclaimed Jesus the Christ and turned the world upside down. True revolutionaries! The Naga world is waiting for the Christians to turn our world of boundaries upside down! Jesus us risen! He is alive! AMEN!
Rev Dr Wati Aier is Emeritus Professor of Constructive Theology and Philosophy at the Oriental Theological Seminary (OTS), Bade, Dimapur. This reflection is the fourth and the final piece in a series of articles written for the Holy Week by OTS faculty in partnership with The Morung Express.