This week’s texts: Luke 5:1-11, John 21:1-14
The traditional Easter Scripture passages tell the events on Easter Sunday morning. No one has any clue that the resurrection had taken place, and there was a problem when the women came to care for the body- there was no body. The tomb was empty. One of the women asks someone she thinks is a gardener if he had seen who had stolen the body. When the gardener speaks to her, she suddenly realizes it is Jesus. She doesn’t recognize him until he speaks her name. He is back, but he’s not the same. He is strange, yet familiar.
The narrative of Easter Sunday morning is an incredible story. Yet, this year, I want to look at two other stories that help us see the true challenge of Easter. First, early in Jesus’ public ministry, it was time to recruit disciples, yet instead of picking the good religious students, he chooses to pick from some fishermen. They don’t appear to be very good at fishing either because they have been fishing all night and have caught nothing. Jesus calls them to set out into the deep water and fish there. They should have laughed in his face. Yet, something about the way Jesus had taught the crowd must have made an impression because they say, “I don’t think this will work, but if you say so, we will try it.” That’s all Jesus was looking for- faith- a willingness to try- a willingness to believe. They then catch more fish than the nets can handle. When they reach land, Jesus tells them the same thing will happen when they fish for people as one of his disciples.
Fast-forward to shortly after the resurrection. Jesus has appeared to them a couple times, but he’s not around all the time, and they don’t really know what they’re supposed to be doing yet. So, they go fishing. Their actual fishing skills haven’t gotten any better because they again catch nothing. Yet, the voice of a stranger calls out from the shore for them to try the other side of the boat. Just to humor the guy who shouted at them, they switch to a side of the boat they have probably tried a billion times already, and suddenly the nets are full to bursting. And one of the disciples says, “It is the Lord.”
There is a thread that runs through these stories. Each time, when they meet Jesus, whether as a new preacher, as a man in the garden, or as a voice from the shore, they don’t recognize him. One of the areas where I think many people struggle with faith is that we want everything to make sense. If God really loved us and really wanted us to know the truth, shouldn’t we be able to recognize Jesus from a distance?
The answer the narratives of Easter give us is no. No, it won’t always be recognizable. No, it won’t always be clear. No, it won’t always make sense. The people who lived and traveled and studied under Jesus every day for years couldn’t even recognize him on the surface. Yet, Jesus didn’t expect that of them. So, why do we expect that of ourselves? In each and every Easter narrative, Jesus was the one who reached out, Jesus was the one who revealed himself, and all he expected of his followers is that they would respond.
So, my prayer for us this morning is that we would joyfully remember and celebrate that no matter where we are in life or in the journey of faith, Jesus accomplished the work of salvation in his death and resurrection, and he is with us, offering it freely.