Less than a week ago we celebrated Easter. It was a different kind of celebration for most of us. We didn’t gather in our usual place of worship. We didn’t gather around a table with extended family.
Beginning on Good Friday through Easter Sunday, we are given a closeup view of death in the cruelest form and life in the most miraculous form. The progression of the weekend pulls us from staring at death to marveling at life.
But we are living in a time when we are seeing both played out in every headline. For weeks much of the focus has been on death and the temptation can result in our focus being on death or the fear of death and never arrive at Easter life – life to the fullest, life abundant.
I believe the Lord would have us remember what I read in Eric and Kristin Hill’s book, First Breakfast:
“He is fully alive and making us alive with Him.”
What does that look like in the now?
I think it is living out the ongoing business the Lord has been in since that first Easter – restoring us to Himself.
We might be able to identify more with the experiences of those first disciples now than perhaps any other Easter season. Those disciples were overcome with fear and grief. We see it in what the scripture says and what it doesn’t say.
On that horrific day of the crucifixion only one disciple, John, is mentioned as being present at the cross with the mother of Jesus, along with the mother of James and John as well as Salome. Some passages say “many women” were present, but these women and John are the only ones named.
Had fear and grief sidelined them from walking this last leg of Christ’s journey on earth? Was guilt what stood in the way of his betrayers, Peter, and Judas?
We do not know with certainty. We only know they were not there. Their emotions were paralyzing them from being with the One they professed and had followed and lived with for three years.
Are our emotions during the pandemic paralyzing us? Are they standing in the way of being with the Lord, sensing his words of comfort and reassurance that no matter what comes during this time that He will not leave us?
And the truth of that is that He never leaves us, it is we, the sheep, who can wander away from Him looking for greener pastures or what we believe is better than where He has placed us.
How much might we be tempted to fall into this description in The First Breakfast?
“They were overcome with grief and quite possibly, terrified for their own safety. They have sequestered themselves behind closed doors. They are confused by all that has happened.”
The disciples were being challenged. Did they really believe in the promises the Lord had taught them and lived out with them? Could they trust Him even if they couldn’t see Him or touch Him?
In the midst of this or any other crisis we face, that becomes our question as well.
If we look at how it all plays out, we see that Jesus expresses no disappointment at where they were or were not, what they said or did not say, how they betrayed or abandoned Him.
Instead Jesus tells those who see Him at the tomb to go tell the disciples (and most especially Peter) that He is alive and eager to meet with them and when He does, He looks upon them only with eyes of love. He restores them to Himself and it is Peter that He wants to assure of restoration.
That scene on the beach of that first breakfast together they shared with the risen Lord is a powerful scene. Peter is back at a charcoal fire – the last mention and only mention of a charcoal fire in scripture was in the courtyard where Peter betrayed Jesus. Now here is Peter looking into the Lord’s eyes over frying fish and a charcoal fire. There is no condemnation in his eyes or words.
Notice that the Lord asks Peter three times if he loves Him. Peter had denied Him three times at that other charcoal fire and now the Lord gives him three times to reaffirm his love for the Lord and point him toward the mission ahead for this disciple.
However, you are handling this difficult season, Jesus looks at you with love as well. He understands your fear, sorrow, frustration, disappointment, grief, and everything else that seeks to upend your faith, but He is also calling each and all of us to draw near to Him in the intimacy of a charcoal fire on a beach. He wants to remind us we are fully alive in Him and show us the mission ahead as well as in the midst of this time.
And He promises us He will be with us at every step of this journey. This thing we are dealing with didn’t catch Him off-guard. Look up! He’s right here just as He said He would be.