EARLY SUNDAY MORNING
On that first Easter Sunday morning, the disciples were not themselves. What they once believed about Jesus, what they had once hoped Jesus would do for their people, was now in question.
Sadness, shock, disappointment, outrage, and fear, all of the emotions they were likely feeling between Friday and Sunday morning. Most of them would have struggled to sleep after what they had just experienced…after seeing Jesus die a bloody and painful death on a Roman cross.
And because the religious leadership in Jerusalem had him killed and the Judeans were on edge, they didn’t know who they could trust.
So they hid.
GOOD NEWS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE
When Mary Magdalene came by their hiding place to tell them what she just experienced and who she had just spoken with early that morning, she could hardly contain herself. BTW, this was not normal in the ancient Near East. As a rule, women would not be trusted as the original witness to a miracle, especially if that miracle served as the foundation for a new revelation or religion. The fact that this detail was included in the original tellings of Easter Sunday demonstrates that something must have happened worthy of notice.
The disciples had their doubts about her claim that she “had seen the master!” She must be crazy, right? We all saw him die. But Peter and John felt something compel them to get up and run as fast as they could to the burial site of Jesus.
When they arrived, it was empty.
RESURRECTION (OR WHEN DEAD PEOPLE SPEAK)
So where was he? Who took Jesus? Thieves? The Romans? The chief priests? Who took Jesus?
Jesus showed up a few hours later at the hiding place. The Gospel of John states, “The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the master.”
The first thing he said to them was, “Peace be with you! As the father has sent me, so I’m sending you.”
Full stop. Some of you who have been Christians for years might want to think about those words a few moments longer. Remember, according to the narrative, Jesus had been dead just a few short hours earlier. And now, he was standing in front of his closest friends very much alive, and the first words out of his mouth were not what we might expect.
According to modern American gospel presentations, the whole point of Jesus’ death and resurrection was about giving people assurance that they will go to heaven when they die? Surely after being raised from the dead, we should expect Jesus to echo something along those lines. But apparently Jesus didn’t get that memo. Not that heaven or some notion of heaven wasn’t important. It just wasn’t the first point of importance for Jesus to talk about after his resurrection.
Poignantly and powerfully, Jesus’ message to them was not about leaving the earth and going away to somewhere else when they die in the afterlife. Instead, Jesus message was that he was sending them into this world in this life.
That’s a different kind of gospel message.
BACK TO THINGS AS USUAL (OR WHEN DISCIPLES GO FISHING)
The story picks up again sometime after this, perhaps a few days or weeks later. By the way the story is told, we get the sense that the disciples thought they had seen the last of Jesus.
One evening, the disciples went out to fish. There wasn’t anything bad or sinful about going back to work. After all, we all have to make a living. There are bills to be paid, families to feed and taxes to pay.
The disciples were no different from us in that regard. In fact, I don’t think it’s clear that Jesus ever instructed them to never fish again or to never make money from fishing in addition to the hard and laborious work they did as apostles.
Seven of the remaining eleven original disciples were together one evening and Peter decided to go out fishing. They joined him. They fished all night and caught nothing.
The next morning, a stranger on the beach shouted out at them, “Children, haven’t you got anything to eat?” The disciples were likely teenagers, but calling them “children” was something a teacher or father might say. They shouted back, “No!” The stranger replied, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat and you’ll find something.”
So the seven men threw their nets out one last time, but this time on the right side of the boat. When they attempted to pull the net back into the boat, they couldn’t. The weight of the net was so heavy because, as they began to see, it was full of fish. This had happened once before, they thought.
Could it be? Was it…? John spoke aloud what all the other disciples were likely thinking. It was Jesus! Peter, overwhelmed with excitement, made a beeline into the lake and swam to shoreline to meet up with Jesus.
For the next long while, the seven and Jesus spent their time talking on the beach over freshly fire roasted Galilean fish. They were probably starved after that long night of fishing. But more than that, they were likely starving for conversation and connection with Jesus.
After breakfast on the beach, Jesus took Peter aside privately. Through a series of questions, he reminded him that his mission would require a cost. It would mean helping and supporting those who have come to love and follow Jesus.
RESURRECTION: A NEW LIFE AND A NEW MISSION
Jesus brought the eleven together one last time and commissioned them to go into all of the world to share this good news about him and to invite and teach and support others into this new way of life of following Jesus.
Things would be different for Peter and the disciples. A new normal was at play.
It was time to start fishing.
Photo by Katerini Paralia