We have all experienced the let-down that comes after a big event. We look forward to and plan for a special vacation. The time comes and the experience seems to fly by. Returning home, there is a sense of let-down. We have just come through Easter. For me it has been a very busy time, with extra services and the heightened significance of the season. But when Easter is over, there is an emotional let-down. The excitement is gone, and we settle back into our routine.
There was a significant emotional let-down for the disciples after Easter. The experience itself was a whirlwind of emotions. They went from horror, to dejection, to discouragement as they saw Jesus arrested and crucified. Those emotions were replaced with surprise, disbelief and finally overwhelming joy. But then something happened to the disciples. There was an emotional let-down that caused them to retreat to their old, routine of life. It is recorded for us in John 21.
Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. "I'm going out to fish," Simon Peter told them, and they said, "We'll go with you." So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. John 21:1-3
Peter and the others were ready to resume their old life. Remember that this is before Pentecost. The Holy Spirit had not yet descended upon them. They had been thrilled that Jesus was alive, but it was no longer the same. Jesus was not always with them. The daily routine of assisting Jesus was broken. They understood that what they experienced over the past three years had come to an end. So they determined to get on with their lives. When Peter said that he was going fishing, he didn't mean he wanted to spend a pleasant day of leisure on his boat. He was stating that it was time to take up the nets again, and get back to work.
After Easter, it is easy for us to quickly return to the routine of life. The thrill of Easter Sunday has already faded by Easter Monday. The vibrant challenge of encountering the Risen Lord is replaced by the demands of normal life. We put Easter back on the shelf for another year. Many people, who are not regularly in worship, will have attended Easter services. They may have been stirred by the message or just endured it. Many of them will check the Easter box, and put away their church attendance card until Christmas. Even those of us who faithfully attend worship week after week can slip back into a spiritual routine that lacks vitality and energy.
Jesus would not let the disciples slip back into their routine.
Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, "Friends, haven't you any fish?" "No," they answered. He said, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some." When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, "It is the Lord," he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.
Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish you have just caught." Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." None of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. John 21:4-14
Jesus came to the disciples after a fruitless night of labor. There may be some sarcasm in Jesus words to the disciples. You haven’t had any luck have you? Tired and disappointed, the disciples responded that their boat was empty. Then Jesus did something he had done once before for these men. He told them to cast their nets one more time. This time the net came up full to overflowing with fish.
At this, the lights went on for John. He remembered the day three years ago, when Jesus gave them an abundant catch of fish and then called them to become fishers of men. His sudden recognition was evident in the words that burst from his mouth. It is the Lord! Peter, always impetuous, reacted. He grabbed his cloak, dove in the water and swam ashore. Leaving the other men in the boat. As Peter stood there on the beach, dripping wet, staring at Jesus, the other men brought the boat to shore. They could all see a fire and smell the fish already cooking there.
Jesus broke the spell by inviting them to add some of their fish to his. Peter sprung into action; helping to pull the engorged net onto shore. It is an interesting detail that an exact count is given; 153 and they were large fish. Jesus welcomed them to breakfast. Sheepishly, they took their places as Jesus served them. No one spoke.
When Easter is over, Jesus is not done interacting with us. In fact, Jesus wants to be included in our normal, routine lives. There are a couple of things that stand out to me from this interaction between Jesus and the disciples.
- Their labor was fruitless until Jesus stepped in.
When we leave Jesus out of our routine lives, our labor will ultimately be fruitless. We may accomplish great things in the eyes of the world, but they will only be temporary. They will not last. The Psalmist affirms this reality in Psalm 127.
Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat-- for he grants sleep to those he loves.
- When they obeyed Jesus, He gave them more than they needed.
Jesus wants to bless us abundantly, but he cannot if we depend on doing it our way. The abundance of Christ comes when we respond in obedience to him.
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. John 15:5-8
- Jesus invited the disciples to fellowship with him.
What Jesus wants from us is our fellowship. He wants us to live in vital communion with him every day. Too often, we go through our days as if Jesus is not present. Jesus will never barge into our lives, but he will always be there waiting for us to respond to his invitation of fellowship.
We know the rest of the story. At his ascension, Jesus commissioned the disciples to fulfill the role they had been trained for over the past three years. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended on them, and they became bold witnesses for Christ. To our knowledge, they never went back to fishing from there.
We live our lives in many different places, surrounded by different routines. But we should always live our lives in the reality the we have been commissioned to be Jesus’ presence wherever we are. We need to live resurrection reality every day, not just on Easter Sunday.