The Second Sunday of Matthew
But the Angel answered and said to the women. "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus Who was crucified. He is not here; for He is Risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go, quickly, and tell His Disciples that He is Risen from the dead, and, indeed, He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you."--Matthew 28: 5-7.
When we read Sacred Scripture in total context, we see the most beautiful, inspiring mosaic. When we read it in pieces, we do not see the entire picture, and, moreover, we miss the true, complete, redemptive message that is conveyed to those who are initiated and have the spiritual eyes to see and the ears to hear.
As Orthodox Christians, we have a touching, traditional Icon of this Resurrection account in which the Angel of the Lord shows the myrrh-bearing women the empty Tomb and the very place where Christ's Body laid. We see in their faces worry and consternation. They came to anoint their Lord's Sacred Body, but they were stunned to find Him missing. This was sacrilege. Who moved His Body, and what did they do with It?
However, their dismay would soon be translated to relief and their sorrow transformed to joy by the Words of God conveyed by His Angel, the Heavenly Messenger. The Angel would announce to them the Greatest News of all for all creation and for all eternity: Jesus Christ is Risen from the dead.
Therefore, no matter what, for those who believe, eternal salvation is accomplished and assured. Since the women kept their Faith, adhered to their customs, got up early, bravely and undeterred, in the most demoralizing of circumstances, and went to anoint Jesus, it was given to them, to be the first witnesses of this great news and to become the "apostles to the apostles" proclaiming for eternity, with universal consequences, the Resurrection of Christ.
The Angel divinely commissioned the women to go quickly and tell the Disciples of His Resurrection. Furthermore, and this is crucial pastorally; the Angel told the women to tell the Disciples that He is going before you into Galilee, and most of all, there, you will see Him.
It is easy to miss this part of the message. We remember well the Angel, the empty Tomb, and the myrrh-bearing women, but many of us miss the importance of Galilee. Why was it so important for Jesus to go to Galilee and for the Angel to send this message for the Disciples to go meet Jesus in Galilee?
The answer is, as in all things of course, to be found in Scripture; and we find it in today's appointed passage, which fittingly foreshadows that Christ will summon them to the familiar place of Galilee.
In today's passage, Christ calls His First Disciples Peter and Andrew, and James and John. Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee and saw two brothers called Peter and Andrew casting their net into the sea. They were fishermen. Jesus said to them: "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." Immediately, at His Word, they left their nets and followed Him. Later, Jesus saw two other brothers, James, and John, who also were fishermen, mending their nets. He called them, as well, and again, immediately, they left their boat, and their father, and followed Him.
The account is concise and simple, but it is most profound. Jesus called His Disciples in twos. This is most wise. To call and send in twos is most helpful to those sent. The one's weakness can be compensated by the other's strength and conversely. Furthermore, wherever two or three are gathered in His Name, He is in their midst, and ultimately, they must rely not upon their own strength and resources, but upon the Lord's Grace in order for their work, and them, to be perfected and complete.
Of further note, Jesus also chose fishermen. At first, this may seem surprising, since fishermen were not powerful, educated, or influential men, but there were many good reasons to choose a fisherman. Fishermen got up early; fishermen were patient; fishermen were tough, resourceful, and resilient; fishermen were used to disappointment, but they knew they had to try and try again.
Fishermen had to push themselves to the limits and go out to the limits to get their catch. They could not be complacent and content, and just hang out by the safe coastline where noise scatters the fish. They had to go out beyond their comfort zone, conquer their fears, and overcome the unpredictable elements. They were used to the vagaries of nature. In particular, these fishermen were not wealthier fishermen who had many boats and laborers. They were poorer, for they mended their own nets.
These were the sort of men Jesus wanted to make fishers of men, for the labor would be hard, long, risky, and often disappointing. Last of all, these were men of labor. They did not over think things; they acted, and they did. Without hesitation, vacillation, or reservation, they immediately followed Jesus. They got up and went. They did not think about it.
Furthermore, they left their nets, their boats, and their father. They left behind the tools of their livelihood, they left behind their possessions, and they left their father. They were not going back; they would not look back. Through Jesus, they would have a new Father in Heaven. In Jesus, they would be fishers of men and bring people to salvation. In their new boat, the Church, they would be saved for eternity and they would save others for eternity.
Their labor was shared, and they would begin in Galilee, where Jews were exposed to a Hellenized language and culture as the ordained vehicle to carry the Good News to the entire world, not just a tribe or an ethnicity, for the message of salvation was a universal message for all peoples, in all places, and unto all times. Together, they ate, shared, learned, were inspired, and were healed by Jesus. In Galilee, they began with so much zeal and heart. In Galilee, they were transformed and energized. In Galilee, they burned with love and yearned to change and save the world.
This was the beginning. However, things did not end as they thought, and they became distraught and depressed after the Betrayal, Crucifixion, and Death of their Lord, Master, and Teacher. They did not know the Divine Plan of the Father and that this must be so, and for this, Jesus had come. It had to be, but they could not accept it, for they could not understand because they only saw the part and not the whole.
After Jesus’ voluntary death, in great disappoint and despair, the disciples longed for the joyous days in the beginning in Galilee, and being God, Jesus knew this so well, so His Message was for them to meet Him in Galilee, a place familiar and safe where all began and where He would show them all was fulfilled as was foretold.
From Galilee, (“The Galilee of the Gentiles”), where Christ performed His first miracle at the wedding in Cana, the Good News spread throughout the Roman Empire through the chosen medium of the Greek language. In Jesus, these simple fishermen would spiritually conquer an Empire for the Glory of God and the salvation of humanity.
Jesus had resurrected from the dead, ushering in a new age and a new beginning for a new creation for eternity. From where He began with His Disciples, He would end upon His return, to Galilee, completing the circle of perfection and eternity and completing the Divine Plan of the Father for eternal salvation--the Divine Plan in which humble fishermen shared and would glory in Galilee.
From where the story begins, it returns and ends, with Christ, the “Beginning and the End.” There was joy for a little while, and there was sorrow for a little while, in order to have everlasting joy.
"In a little while?" What does He mean in a "little while?” (John 16: 18) Between Galilee at the beginning and Galilee at the end, there was a little while, that was the foretaste of the Kingdom, that pointed to eternity. What does this mean? Read the whole story, and then, you will understand. Galilee had to be, and--be again--so that you may be a new creation in Christ forever.
To Him be due all glory, honour, and worship, unto the ages of ages. Amen. †