Seeing the Risen One in the midst of our everyday lives

An Easter Message from Bishop Thiagarajah

(April 23, Jaffna, Sri Lanka Guardian) Those women who went to the tomb that morning were numb with fear and amazement. So much had happened that they can hardly comprehend it all and their hearts were filled with grief. They make their way to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ dead body. A major concern for them was, “who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” For them it was an experience of seeking to tread the end of the way. Their expectation was to do their ‘traditional’ part of embalming the body of Jesus with spices and they were eager to have the stone rolled away for them for this purpose only.

However, to their astonishment, the stone that appeared to be a final ignominy and a final certification of the defeat of Jesus was already rolled away and a young man was there to greet them with words of hope, hope of resurrection. He said to them, “Do not be alarmed; You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look there is the place they laid him.” Then he said, “But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” 

Reading the Easter story from Markan perspective one may observe that the story ends the way it began (1.16ff). It was a call to discipleship where the ‘would-be’ disciples were told to leave their nets to follow Jesus. A similar pattern occurs in the middle of the Gospel (8.34ff)), where denying oneself and taking up the cross were put forward as essential requirement to follow Jesus. However, in the third instant, there is a major and subtle change of shift. Here the young man dressed in a white robe, a mysterious figure, tells the women,” But go (upagete) …” In Mark’s gospel, ‘go’ (upago) is an important verb which denotes ‘be liberated from’ or ‘be freed from.’ This is a verb often used by Jesus in connection with healing stories, exorcisms etc. Now the women are transformed by this message from their fears, anguish, pessimism, and all that impedes them from discipleship as way of life.

In their ‘going,’ the women are entrusted with a task of ‘telling’ (eipate). It is a message that transforms them fully to make them true evangelists proclaiming the message of ‘God-with-us’ even to the disciples of Jesus. Peter is specifically mentioned by the messenger. This brings to mind an incident took place prior to Gethsemane as recorded in chapter 14. The Lord singled out Peter for special attention, "Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not." Very seriously the Lord meant to warn Peter of a severe temptation he is about to encounter. “Satan is going to attack you, Peter, but I have prayed for you.” But Peter didn't heed the warning! Instead he began to boast, "Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended." Then Jesus said, "Peter before the cock crows, you will deny me three times." Still refusing the warning Peter says, "Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee."

Oh how deeply Peter fell from this boasting! Jesus was betrayed and brought before the High Priest; Peter followed afar off, entered the Courtyard, and was warming himself near the fire when a young lady asked, "Aren't you one of his disciples? Peter denied Jesus. Twice more he denied his Lord; the third time cursing and swearing, he said, "I know not the man."

In the hour of his Master's humiliating trial, Peter denies him. A shameful, cowardly denial it was, not before the overpowering forces of the enemy, nor did it come after a hard and bitter struggle to remain faithful. At the first question of a young girl, Peter denied his Lord. Peter had distinguished himself again! First by his proud boasting and refusal to take seriously the Lord's warning. Now by shamefully denying his Savior and swearing that he had and wanted no part with Jesus! Now comes the message of the risen Lord through the angel and the women, "Tell my disciples, and Peter."

The young man tells the women, "Don’t be incredulous. You’re looking for Jesus of Nazareth, the one they executed? He’s arisen, he’s not here. See for yourself where they put him" (16:6). Finally, comes the message, "He’s going on ahead of you" (16:7). What is important in this message is the fact of the risen Lord going before ‘them’ (us) to ‘Galilee.’ It is imperative for the disciples and Peter to go to Galilee to see the risen Lord. They will not see Him where they are but in the midst of their everyday lives. “There, you will see (opsthesthe) him.” We need new eyes to recognize the Risen One in the midst of our everyday lives. It is to look at someone’s face and see pain giving way to joy, hope and confidence that paves us the way to see the Risen One. We behold Him when we see conflicts resolving and tensions dissolving and people becoming reconciled with each other.

The Risen Lord has already gone before us to ‘Galilee,’ a place where people struggle to find meaningful existence, where the wounded constantly yearn in anguish for healing of their lives, where the broken hearted are restless till they find rest in and through the comforting and consoling presence of the Compassionate One. The stone which depicted ‘entombment’ has been rolled away. It is not by our own strength and power but by the power of God of life. The beckoning of ‘Galilee’ where the Risen Lord is becomes our Easter message. The Risen Lord has already gone before us. We need ‘eyes’ to discern the message in order to discover the Risen One right in the midst of all these. There is no doubt that when we see the Risen One, ‘our Galilee’ becomes transformed and Resurrection (Life) happens in the very midst of such scenario.

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