When I was in college, I joined the Crew Team. We woke up at 4:30am to get out on the water for practice. Needless to say, our day started in the dark. At our leader’s command, we surrounded the boat and picked it up as a team of eight. We slipped it in the water and positioned ourselves starboard or port. Quietly and softly, our paddles took us away from the shallow shoreline. As we warmed up our muscles and shook off our slumber, the sun began to rise, painting the sky orange and pink. As we moved along the bank of the river, a local church’s cross shone in the distance. I looked forward to the comfort of the rising sun and the illuminated cross each new dawn.
In this season of Easter, we have repeatedly said, “We are Easter people.” As Easter people, we watch for this transition, this promised movement from darkness to light. It is our hope and our reward, especially when our mourning hearts need to rejoice again. Each long, dark night of the soul is met with a rising sun; fresh dew of mercy.
I am still not over the beauty of this transition in our text from Sunday. In John 21:1-17, Peter and several other disciples are fishing through the night on a boat. They have caught absolutely nothing underneath the stars and sound of waves. Out of nowhere, a voice calls out to them from the shore to cast their net on the other side of the boat.
Realizing this stranger is the risen Jesus, the scene shifts. John alerts Peter, who seems to be the most reactive and impulsive person in the gospel. Peter jumps into the water and swims to shore.
Jesus is there in the sand tending to a charcoal fire. Can you picture its glow? I imagine that fire mirrored Peter’s heart; his dashed dreams and heartache were starting to turn into joy and celebration.
Jesus was alive. He was present. And he was offering the same thing he did on his last night with the disciples — a seat at the table no matter who they were or what they had done, a gift of nourishment, a meal that symbolized friendship and grace.
According to the gospel of John, this was the third time Jesus reappeared to his disciples. Jesus met Mary at the tomb in the dark. Jesus appeared to his scared disciples behind locked doors in the evening. And here, Jesus met Peter as the stars and sun swapped places.
What does this mean for us?
It means Jesus will meet us in the dark, when we need him most. It means Jesus will appear to us with resurrection power when death and loss sting beyond our imagining. It means Jesus is still alive; he is still present.
Train your eyes to watch for this transition, this promised movement from darkness to light. It is coming.
Grace and peace,