Why do Matthew and Mark speak so much about Galilee? And why does Jesus say, in reference to his rising from the dead, ‘I shall go before you into Galilee?’ It seems a distraction when we are talking of Easter and the Resurrection. Haven’t we left Galilee behind?
There is a clue, perhaps, in John’s gospel where Jesus tells Mary, ‘Do not hold on to me’, as she was clearly hugging him, ‘but go and tell my brothers and sisters I am going to my Father and your Father’. In other words, he seems to be saying, I am now able to build this relationship with the Father but you have to go and tell people about it and I will be with you. In fact, I go before you.
But go where? Galilee is the place where Jesus laboured. And we know it was a crossing place for trade. ‘All’ the nations passed by. Geographically it was a good place to start. But even more so, theologically it was the place to begin. ‘Recall all the things I did and said in Galilee,’ he seems to be saying, ‘but this time do so with rinsed eyes!’ In other words, let the reality of who I am, which you have now at last learnt in the resurrection, sink in as you remember all those things.
Understand the meaning. Realise that what I was doing was reaching out to all the nations, starting with the Jews, and opening for them the way to the fulness of life. When we read the history of the world, we realise that this work has been going on ever since. Every nation, every culture, is straining forward towards something. Often, they are on the wrong track and they end up in disaster. But overall, if we take a hard look at what is happening in the world today, we see people ‘groaning in one great act of giving birth’ to use the imagery of St Paul.
We are trying, for example, to make sense of this invasion of Ukraine by the Russians. We can find no reason, no justification, for deliberately killing thousands of people and destroying their homes and places of work.
Galilee, if you like, is the workshop of the nations where the carpenter is working away day after to day to carve a people presentable to the Father. Time and again the work turns out wrong and the carving has to be discarded. But each time something is learnt and progress is made. The destruction, waste and loss of life is terrible. Sometimes it is unbearable and seemingly senseless – like Calvary. But the great work goes on. No one can stop it. They can only delay it for a moment. The momentum, from the beginning of time is inexorable. Deep down, this gives joy to the human spirit. ‘Doubt no longer, but believe’, Jesus says to Thomas.
24 April 2022, Easter Sunday 2, ‘Thomas’ Sunday.