The resurrection of Jesus … a big deal right. Paul tell us in 1 Corinthians 15, the great resurrection chapter of the Bible it is sometimes referred to as, he tells us that “if Christ had not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (15:14). A few verses later he goes on to say, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (15:17). If Christ wasn’t raised from the dead and you’re still in your sin, then that would mean that there is no reason for us to gather and that there is no hope for us. If Christ didn’t rise from the dead, then we could live life with the attitude that we can eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we may die.
But as Paul writes a few verses later, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (15:20-22). Because Christ has indeed risen from death, we have the certain promise from God that all of our sins are forgiven and we do have this promise of eternal life in the new creation, the new heavens and earth to come.
With the resurrection of Jesus being such a big deal in terms of our faith and our eternal life, I would expect Jesus in his post-resurrection appearances to have some things to say about this and what is yet to come. But when you look in the different gospels to see what they write about what Jesus is saying and doing after his resurrection, you might be surprised with what you see.
Take the Gospel of Mark for example. If you go with the historic ending of the gospel at Mark 16:8 which says, “Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid”, Mark brings the curtain down, Mark ends his gospel before a single human being has shared the news of the resurrection. Later some Biblical scribes added to the end of Mark’s Gospel to round things out so it was more like the other gospels.
In those other gospels, like in Luke, we have that memorable story on the Road to Emmaus which happened later on that same day in which Christ rose from the dead. But then after that memorable walk, Luke seems to fast-forward forty days and skip right to when Jesus ascended into heaven.
Matthew doesn’t do much either in terms of telling us what Jesus did after his resurrection. Five verses is all that we really get and they are all overshadowed by Jesus’ words which make up the Great Commission. “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20). It’s almost as if these three gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, come to an end a little too early.
Then again, the only thing which strikes me even more odd than the absence of post-Easter stories in those three gospels is what it is which John actually includes. John gives us the most in terms of what happens, but what he gives seems rather odd. You have the brief story of doubting Thomas which takes place a week after the resurrection. Then sometime later, we get a whole chapter of something that happened at an unspecified post-Easter time.
But look at what John gives us. Jesus tending a campfire on a beach. Really?
I mean really, I don’t expect Jesus to shake up the whole world and all of its powers and authorities within the first day or two of his returning to life, but the last thing I would expect to see recorded in these weeks after his resurrection is Jesus, the Lord of lords and King of all kings, to be hanging out on an isolated beach, tending a campfire, and frying up some fish and biscuits for breakfast. Seriously? Is this what life in this world looks like after Easter? Is this how the resurrected Son of God behaves during his last 40 days of physically being on earth?
And why is it that Jesus’ post-Easter words are in some ways less startling than what came long before anyone had the thought of ending his life by nailing him to a cross? After his resurrection, we don’t get any more parables, no more sermons, no more walking on water or miraculous healing of the blind, deaf, or the lepers. Instead, a few verses into the lesson Jesus says some very basic things.
“Friends, haven’t you any fish? … Bring some of the fish you caught … Come and have breakfast” (John 21:4, 10, 12). Nothing earth shattering, nothing theologically deep for us to dissect.
Still, this raises the question, what is Jesus doing? Why isn’t he in Rome lecturing Caesar? Or, why isn’t he in Jerusalem telling Herod and Pilate the truth of what happened to him which led to his execution? Why wasn’t Jesus anywhere but on that beach, maybe, you know, curing cancer, healing people, releasing some prisoners, or making some crooked ways straight?
Even the catch of fish by the disciples isn’t all the impressive compared to what Jesus had done before. Before he took two fish and five loaves of bread and fed 5,000 people. Now, he goes to the other extreme … he feeds seven people with 153 fish.
But you know, maybe instead of trying to dissect this text and trying to pull out all the symbolism, instead of trying to isolate it from the rest of the Bible … maybe we should do the opposite. Instead of pulling out some cosmic meaning, maybe we need to just stop and see Jesus like this. See Jesus in this everyday setting of circumstances which John gives us.
This everyday Jesus … isn’t that where we need to encounter the Savior? Our Savior? We don’t need a stained-glass Jesus who is out of this world. We don’t need a Jesus who speaks words only meant for the holiest and most obviously sacred events and occasions. We need an everyday Jesus. We need a Jesus in the kitchen, “amid the pots and pans” as Theresa of Avila would say. We need a Jesus on a beach and at the office. We need a Jesus in the car with us and while were shopping at the store. We need a Savior, a Savior who goes with us on our everyday journeys. We need a Savior who sees us in those ordinary circumstances of life and who also speaks into those times and places too.
And that is exactly who we have. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). Jesus was homeless, thought to be crazy by his family, had his best friends turn their back on him, dealt with death, endured gossip and slander, was shamed publicly, hungered, was tired, has his theology mocked, his message rejected, and that is just scratching the surface.
Even after seeing Jesus twice after his resurrection, the disciples seem to be at their wits ends. They seem bored and restless, uncertain of what to do. So they go fishing for lack of a better idea, only to get skunked despite being out all night trolling the waters for their prey. At the end of the restless and unproductive night … they find Jesus. They find him … on a beach of all places.
Jesus didn’t need to always be loud and boisterous, he didn’t need to always be performing miracles, preaching the best sermons, and teaching the greatest lessons. Sometimes, sometimes he needed to simply be where his people were … and where his people are now. Friends, because Jesus died and then rose from the dead, because Jesus lives and reigns forever and ever … he is with you, with me, in a very real and personal way. He knows you by name, knows your circumstances, the ups and downs of life. Through the Holy Spirit, he lives in your heart and is with you wherever it is you go. He isn’t just here once a week, he is with you everyday wherever your life takes you.
You and I may not get to eat fish with him on a beach, but because he lives, we will get to eat a foretaste of the great heavenly feast to come at his table. We may not get to sit and talk with him one on one face to face now, but because he lives, we will get to live with him and see him everyday in the new creation forever.
Live your life everyday with and for Jesus as you have an everyday Jesus who is with you always. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds now and forever, in Jesus Christ, our ever present Savior. Amen.