We’ve all experienced the frustration of a request ignored. Whether it’s your husband ‘forgetting’ to take out the garbage, a teenage son with an IQ of 120 who still hasn’t figured out how to make his bed, or a neighbour who refuses to turn down their music because they’re convinced everyone loves Jimmy Hendrix as much as they do.
Jesus knew first hand what it felt like to have a simple request ignored.
Only hours before facing the cruelest form of execution ever devised, Jesus’ thoughts were only for His Disciples (cf. John 14-17). Contrary to our natural instinct for self-preservation, His one desire was to spend His last moments on earth fellowshipping with those closest to Him, imparting some final words of wisdom and encouragement.
It was a simple enough instruction. It went something like this:
“Hey fellas. Things are going to get pretty grim. I’ve got an important job to do, and once IT IS FINISHED, I’ll meet you in Galilee. So, get out of Jerusalem, head up there and wait for me” (my paraphrase).
Simple in terms of the logistics, perhaps. But not so simple in terms of understanding and faith.
Apparently, the disciples thought they knew better. After all the mayhem that had transpired following Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, the idea of travelling back to Galilee to meet Him didn’t seem to make sense. Jesus was dead! What purpose would it serve now? They were confused, grief stricken and no doubt very scared about the future. So they just hid in the upper room and licked their wounds (cf. John 20:19a).
Jesus had prophesied many times about His death and resurrection (cf. Mark 8:31; Matt. 16:21; 17:22-23; Luke 13:33; John 2:18-22). If the disciples had been listening, really listening, they would have understood the wisdom of Jesus’ directive to get out of Jerusalem.
On at least three separate occasions Jesus gave clear instructions for them to go to Galilee.
The Last Supper
As we read above (Matt. 26:30-32), the first time was immediately after the Last Supper, before Jesus was arrested and crucified.
The second occasion was at dawn on Easter Sunday (cf. Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:1-2) when some of the women were met at the empty tomb by an angel, who repeated Jesus’ wishes and asked the women to pass it on to the Disciples:
“But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, as He said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead, and behold, He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see Him. See, I have told you. So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell His disciples." (Matt. 28:5-8; cf. Mark 16:7)
The third occasion was soon after the second, when Jesus Himself appeared to the same women, confirming His resurrection and reaffirming His instruction for the disciples to meet Him in Galilee.
“And behold, Jesus met them and said, "Greetings!" And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me." (Matt. 28:9-10)
If we want to see Jesus, really see Him, then we need to put aside our agenda and meet Him on His terms. Our limited perspective makes it difficult to see things the way God does. That’s where Holy Spirit inspired faith comes in (cf. John 15:26-27; 16:7-15).
Instead of adopting the simple faith of a child (cf. Matt. 18:2-4), we overcomplicate things. We strive and struggle to solve our problems on our own. We exchange a tranquil walk with Jesus on a beautiful Galilean beach listening quietly to His Words of wisdom, for the anxiety-ridden chaos of Jerusalem. We want to be where the action is, in the vain belief that we alone can make sense out of the misery and injustice of our world. As a result, our minds are filled with the distractions and worries bombarding us from every direction, clouding our judgement and robbing us of the peace and joy that only Jesus can provide (cf. Phil. 4:6-7).
Did you notice what Jesus did not do? Even after giving the same instruction on multiple occasions, Jesus never reprimanded His disciples for not going to Galilee (although He did scold them for not believing He had been resurrected (Mark 16:14)). He simply repeated His request with patience and grace.
When’s the last time we had to give someone – our children, spouse, work colleague – the same instruction three times? How gracious and patient were we on the third attempt? Thank God He doesn’t treat us the way we treat each other! We’d have no chance of salvation, if that were the case. Not one of us would ever measure up to our own standard of behaviour (cf. Rom. 5:8).
The disciples finally did comply. Once their faith had been graciously strengthened by Jesus (cf. John 20:19-31), they departed for Galilee. Soon after, Jesus met them as promised, for some precious time of fellowship, spiritual refreshment and inspirational guidance for their mission to come (cf. Matt. 28:16-17a; John 21).
Let’s commit to starting each day by obeying Jesus’ loving and gracious request to meet Him at His appointed place to hear what He has to say. Let’s resist the temptation upon waking to reach for that smart phone or tablet which just fills our mind with the noise of the world. Let’s listen and obey our Lord. Let’s meet Him in Galilee.