The Gospel of John 21 describes one of the occasions when the risen Jesus appeared to the disciples. They seem to be in a state of uncertainty. Jesus had appeared to them immediately after his resurrection, but although Christ’s rising impacted them, they haven’t figured out the new direction of their lives. They don’t know how to incorporate this experience. I think they are like many people who are confronted with the truth of the Resurrection, but they think, “Now what do we do?”
Back to What They Knew
Their life has been turned upside down. The Resurrection has challenged much of what they had believed about the Messiah. Not knowing what to do next, the disciples go back to what they knew best, fishing. I suspect that Jesus had not yet given them their commission to make disciples of all nations (Mt. 28:19), a work that began in Acts 2. In the meantime, and despite their belief that Jesus had truly come back from the dead, they go back to the familiar rather than launch out to a new way of life.
We can identify with them at this stage of their faith. They believe but are in a space between entirely new perspectives on life and how to incorporate this new way; it can be unnerving. Whether we have just begun a journey of faith or are just coming to grips with the truth of the Resurrection, like them, life seems painted in colors we don’t recognize.
Changed Vision, Changed Direction
Our childhood and early education deposit in us a way of seeing the world. For those of us who’ve had stable homes and a good education, life can be good, full of hope and happy dreams for the future. However, if you’ve seen the movie, Sound of Freedom, about children caught in the grip of modern-day slavery, you recognize that for them like many others, life holds only grief, loneliness, and suffering.
For either group, knowing that there is a God who sent his Son to die, come to life, and redeem mankind from sin can be a dramatic shift in seeing the world. On the one hand, good family and good education can prepare us to develop our fullest potential as children of God and avoid falling prey to a life of dissipation and selfishness.
On the other hand, the Gospel can bring healing and relief from the disastrous experiences of a difficult life. Belief in the Resurrection provides the necessary tools to live with hope. Life looks different when seen through the lens of the Gospel. John has already told his audience that by believing in Christ, we can have life, with all the implications of what that life can mean for our flourishing in this life and the next.
Following Christ gives a new direction because his vision for how things ought to be challenges sinful, destructive ways. As the disciples will soon discover, his vision of the world and everything in it will change their lives in dramatic ways. In the next several posts, I will take up how those changes affect anyone who decides that the Resurrection is real.
© 2023 Robert T. Weber, The Lazarus Chronicles and Words Done Right LLC
See the Conversation on John 21 here.