Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Monday

Happy Easter Monday.  For the past forty days, many Catholics and Christians around the world marked the time with fasting and repentance.  That all ended yesterday and today people are logging onto long-ignored Facebook accounts and buying chocolate with the fervor of an addict.  The "Christians" on the Christmas and Easter plan have no need to worry about church for 8 1/2 months.  Life gets back to normal and any kind of spiritual reflection or repentance has been left to the wayside because God's time is up and now its time for "real life".  Of course, that is a ridiculous idea, but it is also a typical behavior.  Even the apostles had such a time after Jesus died. 
After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed [Himself]: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the [sons] of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We are going with you also." They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing.  John 21:1-3 NKJV
So we fast forward a little bit of time and things are settling down after the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Peter decided to go fishing.  He decided to get back to the same thing he was doing when he met Jesus for the first time.  He was getting back to some kind of "normal" life after three years with Jesus.  The other apostles decided to join him and they all went fishing.  How much is this like our own lives?  First there is Christmas and we spent months shopping, planning, preparing, decorating, and even getting around to some kind of a spiritual message.  There is such a build up to a hectic and exciting Christmas day and then there is December 26.  Some even get depressed with the let down after all the excitement.  Then there is Easter when the same thing happens.  For many, they spend 40 days preparing for Easter in a time called Lent.  For others, there is still a time of planning and preparing.  Many go to a Good Friday service and many more go to an Easter Sunday church service and then spend time with their families.  Come Monday, it is all over.  There is no more preparing and planning. There is no more show of repentance or fasting.  It just ends and life gets back to normal.  We all kind of go fishing. 
But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Then Jesus said to them, "Children, have you any food?" They answered Him, "No."  John 21:4-5 NKJV
Jesus then appears to the disciples.  I imagine he did not appear in His normal form as no one had recognized Him.  Then again, I wonder if they did not notice Him because they were not looking for Him.  They were fishing, they were looking at getting back to a normal life, they were looking for fish, but they were not looking for Jesus.  They had their time with Jesus and now it was all over, or so they thought.  Again, this reminds me of us after the holidays.  We had our time with God so I wonder if we would even recognize Him when we were not expecting to see Him.  I know many of us would, but many others would not.  Many others had their "God time" and now were looking back to normal life.  I wonder if Jesus appeared to them (or even us) if we would recognize Him if we were not looking for Him. 
And He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find [some]." So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on [his] outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea.But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish. Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish which you have just caught." Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken. Jesus said to them, "Come [and] eat breakfast." Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, "Who are You?"--knowing that it was the Lord.  John 21:6-12 NKJV
Jesus decides to reveal who He was by replaying something familiar to them.  He had them cast out their fishing nets and they made a huge catch.  John (the apostle whom Jesus loved) realized that this was not some crazy old man, but it was the Lord Himself.  He tells the others and Peter being Peter puts his clothes on and swims to shore.  The other, less impulsive, apostles took a boat.  I think the interesting thing there is that they knew it was Jesus and Jesus knew they knew it was Jesus and they had to know that Jesus knew that they knew it was Jesus, yet they did not say anything.  They were in the presence of the Lord they loved and did not really say anything to Him.  They did not ask Him who He was nor did they just lavish Him as their Lord.  They kind of just ate breakfast.  I wonder why.  Was it because they kind of slid back into their old lives?  Was it because they were not looking for Him and did not immediately recognize Him?  I do not really know, but I think this also draws a parallel to us.  What would happen if Jesus were to speak to you but not on a holiday.  What if Jesus spoke to you after Lent or on December 28?  Would you be ashamed that you kind of just blew Him off after the holiday?  Would you kind of pretend you did not know it was Him because you did not want to explain why you did drop him after the holiday?  Both of those would be wrong responses. 
Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish. This [is] now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead. So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, [son] of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Feed My lambs." He said to him again a second time, "Simon, [son] of Jonah, do you love Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Tend My sheep."  He said to him the third time, "Simon, [son] of Jonah, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep. Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry [you] where you do not wish." This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, "Follow Me."  John 21:13-19 NKJV
Jesus, again, did something familiar.  He handed out the bread and fish and ate with His apostles.  He then pulls Peter aside and not only restores him after His denial, but also gives him his call to ministry.  Peter was humbled.  He had his time of empty promises and pride and he had his time of being broken when he failed his Lord by denying him and now he is ready to follow Jesus.  Now he was truly ready to be a fisher of men.  The grace of our Lord is truly an amazing thing. 

There are several important messages here. The first is our human nature that we need to be careful of.  Christmas and Easter or any other Christian event should not be some exceptional time that leads to a spiritual let down.  If we must celebrate these holidays, they should serve to draw us closer to God and have that closeness last.  Maybe that is a problem with holidays.  The build up tends to lead to a let down once that holiday is said and done.  The problem with holidays is revealed in the phenomon in that if there is day we are supposed to be more spiritual, we think that it gives us an idea to be less spiritual on other days.  And with that, we are all on the Christmas and Easter plan to some extend.  Honestly, though, Jesus is just as alive and victorious today as He is on Easter Sunday.  Our devotion to God today is just as important as it is during Lent.  Every day should be Easter because every day we are living under the grace of God purchased with His sacrifice and every day we look to our eternal life as granted though His resurrection. 

The other lesson is for the twice-a-year Christians.  For you, unless something drastic happens in the world, we will not see you in church again until Christmas.  Personally, I think it is fine that you come to church on Christmas and Easter or when some tragedy strikes.  It shows that you at least know Who to turn to.  When God sends calamity into your life or into the world, He is doing so to get our attention.  Showing up to church shows that He has gotten it.  The mistake you make is the same mistake made by Israel during the time of the judges.  When the holiday is over or you realize the world is not about to end, you go back to your normal sinful ways.  God is not looking for you to show up to church every so often to try and get some favor from God.  First of all, it will not work.  If anything, it is an insult to even think that it will.  God wants your heart.  He wants you to come to church to get closer to Him, to hear from Him, and to build a relationship with Him.  It is not for God's benefit that you attend church, but for your own.  Perhaps you think that God is angry.  Perhaps you think that God will not accept you because you never really committed yourself or you failed Him too many times.  If that is the case, then please understand the message we saw in today's Scripture.  God is not looking to bring you into church to condemn you, but to give you a new and victorious life in Jesus Christ.  Peter did not need to grovel and beg for mercy, He just had to show up to accept it.  He only had to turn back to Jesus and Jesus restored Him.  He also gave him a calling.  God also has a calling for your life, but it is one you will never hear if you do not ever show up to listen.  Maybe you think you do not see God in your life.  I say that is not true, you just are not looking for Him to recognize Him.  You are looking for your "god" of your own making and not seeking after the true God who is right there all along only waiting for you to turn to Him.    If you truly seek after God, you will find Him.  When you do, please be sure to stay.  You never know what you will be missing out on if you do not.
And you will seek Me and find [Me], when you search for Me with all your heart.  Jeremiah 29:13 NKJV

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