Reflections on Easter

I noticed something in the Easter story today. According to the apostle Mark’s telling, when the three women came to the tomb and learned of the resurrection, a “messenger dressed in white” told them, “…tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” It struck me.

For Christians, the Easter holiday is about gathering to celebrate. It’s about figuratively coming together around an empty tomb and worshipping because of what that empty tomb symbolizes: victory over death. In fact, many would literally gather there if they could go back in time to that first Easter Sunday. But Jesus isn’t there. I know how obvious that sounds, but this comment from a messenger indicates something larger is happening.

For Jesus, Easter isn’t about an empty tomb in a garden, it’s about Galilee. It isn’t about today, it’s about tomorrow. It isn’t about victory over death as an end in itself, it’s about what that victory looks like in other places. It’s about the next thing. Jesus could have hung around that morning. He knew three women would be there and he knew what they would do if they found him there alive. After some initial shock, they would want to stay there with him and worship him. Or maybe take him to see the other disciples. But Jesus left. He wanted to get them on to the next thing. He was already focused on Galilee.

So what was it about Galilee? Why would Jesus ask them to meet him there? Galilee, a fishing village and hub for an otherwise rural area, was where Jesus originally called many of his disciples to follow him. Was he choosing this place for a reason? Did he want them to meet him there so they would recall their own recruitment? Those were the days when he had told them he would make them “fishers of men,” agents of change who would bring people to God… and God to people.

No matter what your personal stance is regarding faith, if you are involved in helping people — caring for the needy, speaking for the voiceless, advocating for the underdogs, befriending the lonely — your work is what Jesus was pointing to. You are doing the next thing. That compassionate work, that tangible expression of love, is the very character of God and you are bringing it to people who need it.

I think Jesus would prefer this as a response to the Easter story: turning our attention away from an empty tomb and toward the world that needs his love. Toward people whose lives will be changed by hope, victory, and life.