Resurrection faith testifies of the empty grave and victory over death, and follows in the path of our Risen Lord toward Galilee. The good news of Jesus’ empty grave is declared to all: We have been released from the power of sin and darkness! God has rolled away the heavy stone that once sealed the grave and walking out of it, our Risen Lord headed straight towards Galilee, calling us disciples to follow – to declare the kingdom of God, heal the sick, and cast out evil spirits from the world.
Now death has no authority over us because God’s power of life and love sustains and gives us hope in eternity. I receive this truth with great joy, having come face-to-face with my shortcomings over Lent. Along with honest introspection, I took time for intercessory prayers which led me deeper into the love and grace flowing from the cross of Jesus. I met with people struggling under the weight of the pandemic. All in all, I’m freshly reminded how important and precious is the calling to bear witness to the dawn of resurrection.
Personally, this past year lived through the pandemic was a gift that allowed deeper reflection on my life and ministry. Looking back, I rarely had time to get in touch with my inner self so intently and persistently. I was always busy moving forward, with very little time to be still. But in pandemic-induced stillness, I caught sight of how much God had given by grace, and my heart overflowed with gratitude. And likewise in stillness, I could better revisit the areas of my life that needed repentance and God’s forgiveness. Now I’m freshly determined to live anew through every opportunity that God brings into my life.
After Jesus was crucified, dead, and buried, the traditionally used Apostles’ Creed reads “He descended into hell,” or “descended to the dead” as per the Ecumenical version. Another translation has it as “He descended into Hades.” Jesus went the full distance. But why? What’s conveyed in the creed is that Jesus bore all suffering of sin and death to deliver us from darkness to light, so that we may live with him in the kingdom of God. I’m less concerned with the dogmatics than what this confession really means for our lives: Our Lord conquered the power of hell and rose to life, setting us free from our respective realities of “hell,” breaking us free from the grave sealed with a heavy stone! We all have our respective reality of hell that can be only overcome by this good news of Jesus’ eternal victory. And Christ surely promised us, “Because I live, you will live also.”
Risen Lord opens our eyes and hearts. The world is no longer seen through the lens of hatred, frustration, conflict, and death. Christ transforms our vision to see the world from his very eyes, through his very heart of love, hope, peace, and new life. In every incident and situation, now there is an encounter – with ourselves, with each other, and above all, with our Lord.
After the resurrection, Jesus returned to Galilee first and foremost to reunite with his disciples. Jesus didn’t hurry away to save the world. He met the discouraged disciples who had gone back to their previous lives, recovered love, and renewed the purpose. There’s something profound in the way Jesus meets his disciples. He doesn’t use elaborate words to impress. Neither long explanations nor bold slogans are there. Risen Lord comes and he is present, yet his words are brief: “Do you love me?” “Come, have breakfast,” “Peace be with you.” It’s a stark contrast to my tendency to rely on lengthy words to persuade and showcase what love, truth, and life is about.
‘Come, and eat.’ Jesus invites. I want to live in the way Jesus shared breakfast with his disciples by the Sea of Galilee, sharing peace and giving assurance of love. My mentor pastor, who ordered me to part ways over thirty years ago, wrote:
Look how he waits for his disciples, cooking fish at the water’s edge. Look with what stillness he stands at the court. Look how awake and fully present he is, even while suffering on the cross. Look how he gave his all without pretense. Look how he gently stroke the children’s heads; look through his eyes as he saw the flowers in the field… When I call out in defeat and despair, he responds with gentle touch yet invisible to the naked eye. Mysterious One, could it be my Lord?… Let us walk today the path he has opened. (Kwak Nosoon, 1990, p. 151)
For long the focus of my ministry was elsewhere than meeting the Risen Lord in Galilee. I’m not sure since when and even why. I lingered around Jerusalem seeking for treasure that was in Galilee. My treasure hunt was neither fun nor rewarding nor meaningful, but deep down, I expected to find something special there. Perhaps I longed for a sense of accomplishment that seemed to come with entering the center of Jerusalem. One of the blessings in disguise brought by the coronavirus pandemic is that my eyes were opened to how vain our human strivings can be. It pushed me to enter deeper into the grave as well. With opened eyes and heart, the Easter morning of 2021 felt all the more special.
I look forward to Jesus’ new life in everything that appears broken and lifeless. And returning to Galilee, I will meet and I will live, invite, and reach out as a disciple of the Risen Christ.