We have an advantage over the early disciples and followers of Jesus. We know how Holy Week ended. We relive that week together in our worship and practice of our faith and confess together on Easter Sunday that Christ rose from the dead.
For the early disciples, this was not the case. They did not know how this phase of the story was to end. For these folks to believe that Jesus would appear after the crucifixion required an almost impossible exercise of faith. The cross and death of Christ seemed like the end of the story.
All Gospel accounts of the resurrection story register the mixture of surprise, joy and fear that greeted the empty tomb. Even though Jesus had told them this was to be the case, to claim that promise with certainty stretched the bounds of credulity.
Here is where our story and the early disciples' story intersect once more. Great joy was expressed, but still, the question lingered, “what’s next?” These early followers were no more certain of that question than we are during our current dilemma. The few accounts of Jesus' interaction with his followers subsequent to the resurrection reveals that question asked in a variety of ways. What’s next, they asked with a mixture of doubt and hope.
The Gospel of Mark records the young man sitting at the tomb saying these words, “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you” (
“He is going ahead of you into Galilee.” Let’s pause and reflect... We count and confess on Jesus’ continuing and steadfast presence with us. He is here, and he is present. Yet the Gospel story tells us of a Jesus who is out of our grasp, who is always ahead of us. Whose purposes and calling are over the horizon. We need to travel to Galilee to find Jesus.
As we ask the “what’s next” question, let’s remember this: Jesus is not simply standing still with us. He is moving ahead of us, calling us to travel with him. Our task is to discern together where Jesus is going. May we have the courage and persistence to engage with faith and joy “what’s next.”