The closing chapter of the Gospel of John gives us a picture of what happened after Easter, but before the church was founded. At Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church, this coming Sunday, we'll be taking a look at John 21:1-19.
It's an unusual moment in Christian history. The disciples know that Jesus has Risen, but they don't know what to do about it! Peter, who was one of the more forthright among them, suggests “Well, we can't stand around here all day musing about the future. I don't know about you guys... but I'm going fishing!”
There is a peculiar irony to the story. Before Jesus had called them to follow Him, many of them had been fisherman. Now it's almost a case of... “Well, that was that. Amazing. But let us get back to normal.” Easter can have that effect on church folk. We have an intense week of services and celebrations. We make a big splash of Easter Sunday with sunrise services and triumphant choirs and rousing hymns. (Our Sermon from Easter Sunday can be found here.) But then it's all over. Back to the humdrum of everyday life.
This story challenges us to consider the resurrection, not as the end of the life of Jesus, but the beginning of a new life for ourselves. Jesus keeps showing up. And when He shows up He deals with issues that need resolving.
For Peter one of the crashing disappointments of his life came when he denied even knowing Jesus during the time Jesus was arrested and put on trial. Jesus had told Peter that he would three times deny Him. When the cock had crowed on that dark day, Peter had recognized his failure and wept bitterly at his cowardice.
Though he had moved on from that experience, it must have still been haunting him. Maybe that's why he was the first to suggest to the disciples that they all just go back to living the way they had done before they knew anything about Jesus.
But God was having none of it. In this story Jesus turns up on the shore, shouts out to the fishing party that they needed to cast their nets in a different direction and suddenly they are pulling in more fish then they had ever done … since that momentous day Jesus first called them to follow Him. Peter realizes that it is Jesus and can't wait to get to shore and greet Him.
When he does, Jesus deals with Peter's doubts. He asks Peter three times, “Do you love Me?” And three times, Peter is reaffirmed in his calling to be, not a fisher of fish, but a fisher for people, catching them up in the love of God.
The Easter message should not be just for a weekend. It shouldn't leave us feeling our only option is to get back to normal. Let us seek, every day, for our faith to be renewed and keep in mind the call of every disciple is to reach others with the love of Jesus. And we can do that in as many different ways as we are different people!
For some music a hymn that reflects on how Jesus beckons to all of us to follow Him. Some answer His call, and come in from their busy boats to meet Jesus on the lake shore. “Lord You Have Come to the Lakeshore.” (Sung by Collin and Mark Nelson)
Prayer: “Lord, Easter Day has come and gone. Yet still You stand at the shore of our lives and call us to deeper commitment. Send to us Your Holy Spirit that we may live in the light of Your resurrection and follow where ever You may lead.”
The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.