Godtalk: Where to find resurrection

POST BY PKnott

christ_apostles_frieze_kassel_germany
christ_apostles_frieze_kassel_germany

Everything that’s good eventually gets crucified. By a perverse axiom in life there is always something that cannot leave well enough alone, but, for reasons of its own, must lash out at what’s good. What’s good, what is of God, will always at some point be misunderstood, envied, hated, falsely accused, and eventually nailed to some kind of cross. Every follower of Christ inevitably suffers the same fate as Christ Jesus: death through misunderstanding, ignorance, and jealousy.

Yet there’s another side to this:  resurrection always trumps crucifixion. What’s good eventually triumphs. While nothing that is of God can avoid crucifixion, no follower of Christ stays in the tomb for long. The stone is rolled back and soon enough, new life bursts forth and we see why that original life had to be crucified. (‘Wasn’t it necessary that the Christ should so have to suffer and die?’)  Resurrection invariably follows crucifixion. We rise again. Our hope takes its root in that.

How can we expect to experience resurrection?  The gospel tell us that, on the morning of the resurrection, the women-followers of Jesus set out for the tomb of Jesus expecting to anoint and embalm a dead body. Well-intentioned but misguided, what they find is not a dead body, but an empty tomb and an angel challenging them with these words: “Why are you looking for the living among the dead? Go instead into Galilee and you will find him there!”

Why Galilee? What’s Galilee? And how do we get there?  In the gospels, Galilee is not simply a place on a map. It is first of all a place in the heart.  Galilee refers to the dream and to the road of discipleship that the disciples once walked with Jesus, and to that place and time when their hearts most burned with hope and enthusiasm. And now, after the crucifixion, just when they feel that the dream is dead, that their faith is fantasy, they are told to go back to the place where it all began:’ “Go back to Galilee. He will meet you there!’

They do go back to Galilee,  to that special place in their hearts where the dream of discipleship once burned. And just as promised, Jesus appears to them. He doesn’t appear exactly as he was before,  but he does appear as more than a ghost and a memory. The Christ who appears to them after the resurrection is in a different form, but physical enough to eat fish in their presence, real enough to be touched as a human being:  and powerful enough to change their lives forever. Ultimately that’s what the resurrection asks us to do:  go back to Galilee, to return to the dream, the hope, the discipleship that had once inflamed us but had been lost through disillusionment.

This parallels what happens on the road to Emmaus in Luke’s gospel, where we are told that on the day of the resurrection, two disciples were walking away from Jerusalem towards Emmaus, with their faces downcast.
For Luke, Jerusalem means the dream, the hope, the religious centre from which all is to begin and where ultimately, all is to end up. And the disciples are ‘walking away’  from this place, away from their dream, towards Emmaus. Since their dream has been crucified, the disciples are understandably discouraged and are walking away from it, towards some human solace, despairing in their hope.

They never get to Emmaus. Jesus appears to them on the road, reshapes their hope in the light of their disillusionment, and turns them back towards Jerusalem.  That is one of the essential messages of Easter.  Whenever we are discouraged in our faith, whenever our hopes seem to be crucified, we need to go back to Galilee and Jerusalem, that is, back to the dream and the road of discipleship that we had taken before things went wrong.

The temptation of course, whenever the kingdom doesn’t seem to work, is to abandon discipleship for human consolation, to head off for some sort of ‘Emmaus.’ But in one guise or another, Christ meets us on the way, burns in our hearts, explains our latest crucifixion to us, and sends us back to our discipleship. Once there, it all makes sense again.

Peter Knott SJ