Thursday, September 18, 2008

Returning to the same old thing

The book of John describes the scenes occurring after Jesus had died on the cross and was appearing to the disciples. We find the disciples back at the Sea of Tiberius. I can imagine what was going through their heads - "I thought this was the Messiah." ; "Could we have been wrong?". Jesus had already appeared to the disciples and showed him his scars, proving his resurrection. I imaging they were confused by what they saw, after all, it had to be nearly unbelievable. More than that, they probably wondered, "OK, so now what?" "What do we do now that Jesus is not with us in physical form? How do our lives change and what message do we preach when our leader isn't around?" One member of the group, Simon Peter, stands up and boldly announces, "I am going out to fish." (John 21:3). In their uncertainty, the other disciples say, "We'll go with you".

So here we are, looking in on the scene as the disciples decided what to do next. The confusion, the frustration, the resentment, the sorrow, the disappointment, all boiling down to the loss of both their teacher, their chosen "redeemer" and friend. How much their hearts must have ached! Their lives had been changed, everything they thought was going to happen, would no longer be true. The plans they might have made, the assumptions they had that they would serve with Christ when he saves his people, all of those plans and wonderings now a fleeting thought, as they adjusted to the fact that everything was different now. I imagine they were as captured in the moment as I would have been. Lost in despair and self-doubt, they turn to the one thing they knew - fishing. Consistency. They at least know how to fish. They can go back to that. It is something they do have control over, it is something they understand.

While the response of the disciples intrigues me, knowing that I would probably respond the same way, it is another fact that I am pondering over today. You see, here were the people chosen by Jesus himself to follow Him. Here were the men who saw the miracles with their own eyes. Who witnessed Jesus' Truth firsthand. These were the guys who tied his sandals, who ate dinner with him, who gave up everything to follow Him because they knew without a doubt, that He was the "one". And yet, days after Jesus' death, are they still proclaiming his truth? Are they fighting those authorities who unjustly crucified their savior? No. They are hanging their heads, they go on home. They go fishing. They immediately return to the life they lived before Jesus. Where are their changed lives?

Do we do the same thing as believers that the disciples did? Do we begin to question our salvation and the the one we entrusted it to, when it feels like He isn't around? Do we end up doing the same old things we did before we got saved, not realizing that our lives should have been different after our experience with our Lord? Do we return to the things we are comfortable with, the things that are easy? Do we recognize our shift back to the culture, back to our old way of life? Do we follow Peter, like the disciples did? Do we let others influence the way we walk in the Lord?

While I think the answers to the above questions are "yes", they don't have to be the end. We can continue returning to Christ, we are renewed, refreshed, and reminded about our Savior's grace and the salvation he has given us. Would it be easier on our lives if we would do it the right way, turning to him for everything after our conversion, and viewing all of the world through the eyes of Truth provided by Christ? IT CERTAINLY WOULD! But we make it difficult, we fight with our flesh to overcome worldy desires and value, losing battles here and there, struggling with the same old burdens we had before.

When the disciples go out to fish, they catch nothing. Isn't that how it truly is? We return to what we think will make us happy, and fall back into old routines we think will bring comfort, only to find them empty and full of disappointment as well!

So let's remember what happens next in the story of our dear disciples. After they "fall away" from the truth and grace they found through their relationship with Christ, and begin to give-in to the uncertainty and self-doubt, someone arrives on the scene - CHRIST! He doesn't announce his presence and demand an answer for their faithlessness and lack of understanding. He shouts out, "Friends, haven't you caught any fish?" I feel like this is a rhetorical question. He seems to be telling them, "brothers, you cannot get fulfillment out of the old way of life, don't you understand this yet?" He tells them to throw their nets on the other side of the boat, and of course, they catch so many fish, they are unable to bring them into the boat. They drag them back to shore, the nets still in the water. When they get to shore, there is a small fire where Christ has prepared a small meal of bread and fish. He invites them to share in the meal with him. You see, in the midst of our confusion, or our rebellion, or even our lack of direction, He calls to us. And when we listen and move towards Him, he invites us into fellowship with Him. It is his gracious mercy that redeems us. What a blessing it is to hear Him call me his friend, to invite me to satisfy my soul's desires at His table! Lord, help me to continue faithfully, dwelling only on your grace, mercy and will for my life. Give me the courage and the strength to continue a steadfast journey until I dwell with you. Help me to cast off the self-doubt, the disappointments, the inconsistency and the weakness of falling back into the same old way of dealing with life's problems. Help me to look only to you.

Matthew 17:8 "When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus"

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