See Him in Galilee

See Him in Galilee
April 21, 2019

See Him in Galilee

Passage: Matthew 4:23–5:10; Matthew 28:1–10

Easter Sunrise Worship, Elder Park Beach, Winnetka

Dear God, Centuries ago you startled the world by letting us see the strength of your love in the resurrected Christ.  His walk with us continues today in all the places of your world, Galilee, Jerusalem, Winnetka, and Chicago.   

May we see the ways your love can emerge from darkness. Quiet within us any distractions and then open our hearts to be captured by these words proclaimed and your son, the Word made flesh. Amen.

The story of Jesus’ resurrection, in reality, showcases not just an empty tomb, but also his ministry. Resurrection asks us to remember how he lived his life so we are able to follow him into a new future.

Matthew 4:23–5:10

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. News about him spread throughout Syria. People brought to him all those who had various kinds of diseases, those in pain, those possessed by demons, those with epilepsy, and those who were paralyzed, and he healed them.  Large crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus continued to heal and teach, amassing large crowds with his message of forgiveness and challenging them to love their neighbor.  They followed him as he bravely walked from Galilee to Jerusalem, watched a mock trial, cringed at his suffering, scattered as he was crucified.

But some remembered his claim that God’s love will always win. Listen to Matthew’s resurrection story:

Matthew 28:1–10

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.

And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 

His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men.  But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 

Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.”

So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

Without looking, what was the color of the shirt or jacket worn by the person whose hand you last touched when you offered the peace of Christ just a few minutes ago? Not that what he or she is wearing is important, just consider if you really saw that person?

Now, notice the horizon. What do you see?

Today is not the same as yesterday. It is like the first day of creation. God is giving us a chance to begin again, graced with resurrection. Today is a new day.

Helen Keller lost both her ability to see and hear when she was 19 months old. At the age of seven, Anne Sullivan tutored her to read and write which was unimaginable during the 1880’s. Keller’s life blossomed. Her wisdom expressed as a prolific author and speaker has been chronicled in print, film, and on the stage.

In an essay, “Three Days to See” Keller imagines the privilege of seeing if, for three days, her vision were restored.

She begins, “Now and then I have tested my seeing friends to discover what they see. Recently I was visited by a very good friend who had just returned from a long walk in the woods and I asked her what she had observed. ‘Nothing in particular,’ she replied. I might have been incredulous had I not been accustomed to such responses, for long ago I became convinced that the seeing see little.”

With tender detail, Keller describes her own walk in the woods, without sight, how it felt to touch the smooth skin of a silver birch, the rough bark of a pine, to discern that a bird was in a tree.

She aches wanting to see the face of her beloved teacher, Anne Sullivan, and know her more deeply than touch can allow.

And so she wonders, “does it ever occur to you to use your sight to see into the inner nature of a friend or acquaintance? Do not most of you seeing people grasp casually the outward features of a face and let it go at that?”

Keller imagines if you knew you would be stricken blind as she was, but given three days warning, “if you actually faced that fate, your eyes would open to things you had never seen before...Everything you saw would become dear to you. Then, at last, you would really see, and a new world of beauty would open itself before you.”[1]

Seeing is much more than biology, it is an attitude of the heart, it is an exercise in humility to look beyond your nose, it is an awareness of being fully alive.

Jesus was training his followers to see throughout his ministry.  Jack and Alex read that when people saw Jesus healing various diseases, those with epilepsy and demons in Galilee, he drew crowds of people. Jesus described a new way of seeing people, as he and as God saw them:

  • The poor in spirit are more likely to receive the good news than those whose hearts are locked in certainty,
  • People who have lost someone they love, by being vulnerable and who now mourn, will be loved even more,
  • The meek are blessed by not presuming they are entitled to everything they see, but instead will be the faithful stewards of our earth from one generation into the next.

Jesus saw with God’s eyes. He dreamt of a world in which people did not seek revenge, exchanging and eye for an eye.

His ministry helped his followers experience a world by loving their neighbor next door…led to loving the person in the next door over… and the next block over…expanding the neighborhood. They could eventually see strangers as friends, and enemies as friends, making the world bigger and safer.

The women and men from Galilee, whose lives had been haunted with hunger, racism, betrayals, and all the ways we seem to experience death by a thousand cuts, witnessed Jesus was not afraid. He walked confidently into every part of life, lifting up those others would trample.

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary had heard him promise that after suffering and death, he would be raised. After they saw him be tried, condemned, and die on Golgotha, they wondered.

Matthew’s gospel tells us, when these two women went to the tomb on Easter morning, they were not carrying spices to anoint a dead body. They went to see the tomb.

What a sight. As the earth shook, an angel struck deadly fear into the guards, but not them. When an angel tells you “do not be afraid,” it is God’s clue that something better than you expected is going to happen.

Showing them an empty tomb, the women received his simple message: “go to Galilee, there you will see him.”

What a sight. What a reality: death is no more, he was raised, life continues.

Before Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were able to deliver their news, Jesus stands in front of them and repeats, “tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

That is exactly what they all did: they returned to Galilee and saw the risen Christ on the mountain where his ministry started. He was not in the same flesh and blood as before but freed from time and space to be everywhere.

Jesus commanded them to go out and continue the work, emboldened with his promise “I will be with you, always, to the end of the age.”

An empty tomb means death is conquered in life and so much more. They began to live as Jesus had with unbounded possibility. Nothing stopped Jesus’ followers.

Where is Galilee? It is the place where Jesus had gathered his sheep. It is the place where his ministry, which embodied God’s presence, took hold, expanding to other regions. Galilee is no longer a specific place but the entirety of where we find Jesus.

We see Jesus in Winnetka and Kenilworth when we learn to heal brittle relationships with forgiveness.

Jesus is sitting on the Metra as you lean over to console someone whose depression overwhelms with tears and you hold a hand until you find help.

Jesus can be seen walking around in the office reminding us we are the ones to ensure the #MeToo movement brings lasting respect and dignity.

Jesus is cheering on the auditor who decides to call a halt to the slippery slope some pursue in their expense or revenue reports.

I wonder. Helen Keller must have experienced Jesus’ presence as Anne Sullivan persisted, day-after-day, to open up her world.

I imagine Jesus is weeping at all those killed in Sri Lanka by terrorism.

We see Jesus in “Galilee” wherever we experience grace-filled encounters with one another.

When the disciples met Jesus on the mountain in Galilee, Matthew tells us "some doubted." That's okay. The resurrection is big enough to handle our doubt today as well.

However resurrection happened, it did not generate perfect faith even in those who experienced it firsthand. It is not for angels or perfect believers, but the community of ordinary men and women who were willing to see and then live their lives believing in the good news.

This is what is exciting. The resurrection has not ended. It is still inspiring us to see and live as Jesus taught.

May it be so for you, my friends.


[1] Helen Keller, “Three Days to See,” The Atlantic Monthly, January, 1933, accessed April 8, 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/33jan/keller.htm