Who Is Jesus for you?

Barbara Hughes

During Jesus’ public ministry, the disciples may have thought they knew who Jesus was, but in the aftermath of his death and resurrection, only wonderment and questions remained.

Although the evangelists didn’t offer identical accounts of the post-resurrection stories, the accounts contain hidden nuances that purposefully take us deeper into their meaning.

Matthew and Mark begin the story with the women who came to the tomb Sunday morning and, according to these evangelists, the women received a similar message.

Matthew states, “But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him”’” (Mt 28:5-7).

Mark’s account is similar, and both offer significant insights into who Jesus is. The first is: Jesus always goes before us. It is through his initiative that we are able to respond to the grace of God and enter heaven.

The second is that the women were told Jesus was returning to Galilee, which draws their attention (and ours) to the place where Jesus’ ministry began.

Luke’s Gospel takes a different approach and has the angel referencing Jesus’ words: “Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again. Then they remembered his words” (Lk 24:68).

Luke’s account, though slightly different, brings the past into the present. More than a geographical location, the mention of Galilee invites the women to reconsider what they missed when they thought they knew Jesus, and the same holds true for us.

We’re all familiar with the story of Jesus’ first miracle. John’s Gospel says, “In Cana of Galilee, Jesus revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him ( Jn 2:11). What the early disciples didn’t comprehend was that Jesus did more than turn water into wine. He revealed him- self as Bridegroom.

According to Jewish custom, it was the responsibility of the bride-groom to ensure there was enough wine for wedding guests. In taking on the role of the bridegroom, Jesus was anticipating his spiritual marriage to humanity that would be consummated on the marriage bed of the cross.

At the time, the disciples recognized only the miracle that Jesus had performed because their knowledge was imperfect, and so it is with us. The post-resurrection appearances of Jesus are not a random collection of events; they have a sequential dimension that can be likened to the deepening experiences of prayer.

When we first begin the journey toward Jesus through prayer, we may experience, on an emotional level, consolations that reassure us that God is present. We think we know him and are willing to invest greater time in prayer because of what we receive.

However, the real test comes when the consolations disappear, and prayer becomes difficult. Previous notions about the primacy of Jesus in our life and consolations are often replaced by questions and doubt, yet such uncertainties are often the vehicles Jesus uses to reveal himself to us in new and nuanced ways.

To understand what is taking place within the depths of the soul during periods of trial, we turn to the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus for clarity. Luke placed the first appearance of Jesus in Jerusalem, which symbolizes the continuity between the time of Jesus and the time of the Church.

It’s understandable that the apostles would return to Galilee, where they would be far away from the Sanhedrin, whom they feared. Jesus’ appearance to them on the shores after they had spent the night fishing with little to show for it, was not unlike the occasion when Jesus first called Peter, James, and John to follow him, telling them they would become fishers of men.

The message to them and to Jesus’ followers today is that we are to remember how and where the journey to Jesus began and deepen our understanding of earlier graces. What eluded us in the past is often revealed in the present. Only in retrospect can we appreciate the graces hidden in the trials and tribulations in life.

Thomas struggled for eight days before Jesus appeared to prove he had risen. Unlike Thomas we cannot touch the hands and side of the Master and yet we cry, “My Lord and My God.”

We sing “Alleluia” because the Adam who died in the Garden of Eden has been redeemed in the person of Jesus the Christ.

Barbara Hughes is an author, retreat facilitator and spiritual guide. She lives in Virginia Beach and can be reached at [email protected].

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