In the Church Calendar the Easter Season lasts 50 days – seven Sundays – and during the forty days from his resurrection to ascension, Jesus appeared to his disciples several times in what we call post-resurrection appearances. I find the stories in these appearances quite intriguing at times – in addition to being fascinating.
One such occurrence is recorded in John 21: 1- 14 which we read on Friday of the First Week of Easter and on the Third Sunday of Easter (Year C).
Some things have happened as the text begins with, “After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias…” If we follow the sequence from chapter 20 we see that “these things” relate to Jesus’ resurrection and the post- Easter appearances. First, Jesus rose from the dead. This is huge! Everybody knows that – as N. T. Wright puts it in his book Surprised by Scripture,– “people who die remain dead”.
Mary Magdalene had brought the news, then Jesus had appeared to the disciples while behind locked doors. Incredible news as it is, the disciples have seen with their own eyes, the Risen Christ. Yet, in this reading Peter says to the other disciples, “I am going fishing” and they respond, “We will go with you”.
These disciples were fishermen before Jesus called them. Fishing was their family business. It was what they were used to, what made them comfortable, what they knew inside out from one generation to the next. They were simply going back to what they were used to, in spite of the recent world-changing events. But why?
What is beautiful about reading scripture is how those stories become our story. It is easy and comforting to revert to what is familiar, the world of the past. There may be moments in life when we wake up to something new and life-changing – may be a casual testimony about reducing stress, or an idea about a new direction out of a present unsatisfactory situation and we are so excited and fired up; but then a few days later we are back with the old ways and ideas.
In addition to reverting to what was familiar, Peter may also have remembered that he betrayed Jesus which might have killed any motivation he had. The past – especially failures – can hold us back so powerfully. It is not only the reel that plays in mind: how not qualified, not educated for this, too many failures, victim mentality, and so on, but also the same reel that society plays: “You cannot do that, it is not for you and so on.
So, does Jesus’ resurrection bring a new beginning in life or simply the comfort of the past?