Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.
This past March 12, my 20-year old son, who plays lacrosse in college, called me out of the blue. “Dad,” he said, “you’re not going to believe this: not only is our tournament this coming weekend cancelled, but the NCAA just cancelled the rest of the season!” That is the day when the new reality of the Pandemic of 2020 hit him with full force. It hit me equally hard that day as well.
That was exactly one month before Easter Sunday. Exactly a week prior to that, we were saying “good-bye” to each other on the last day of class before Spring Break was to begin. Sure, all of us were aware to some extent of the growing threat of the COVID-19 virus that was spreading around the world. But few of us were prepared then for the sheer magnitude of change that would soon befall us. Was anyone predicting that over one and half million people around the world would be dead before Easter? Could any economist then have forecasted that the U.S. would soon have over 6 million unemployment claims, or that he U.S. Congress would pass a $2 trillion relief package to patch up the holes of our economy? More importantly, was anyone predicting that we would spend Easter Sunday celebrating not with our church family, but in our own living rooms?
People deal with sudden and rapid change in all sorts of different ways. For me, the cancellation of college lacrosse was a big blow; it’s one of the things I most look forward to each year. The prior week, I put all my son’s games on my Google Calendar to make sure I planned my weeks around them. When the season was cancelled, though, I did not remove them from my calendar. So I was reminded, for instance, that this past Saturday they would have played their conference arch-rival at home. Is that nostalgia on my part? An irrational denial of reality? No: I want to be continually reminded that the world we inhabit now is radically different from the world I expected to be living in. Those continual calendar reminders act as a sort of still, small voice reminding me over and over again: “You are living in a new world. What is God asking of you right now?”
The disciples experienced the same sort of shock upon discovering the risen Jesus. They knew that the world would never be the same again and that their lives were about to radically change. But how, exactly? It seems that Peter did what many of us do in similar circumstances: he turned to old and familiar routines. For him, fishing was the most normal, certain thing he could imagine. But it was not long before the new dawn came, and he saw Jesus standing on the shore. And if you read on in John 21, you see that Peter was soon to discover that the old ways of doing things would not work in the radically new world that the resurrected Jesus was bringing to pass right before his eyes.
As we anticipate this most unusual of Easter celebrations, we would do well to consider the question: in what are we placing our hope? Is our hope and deepest longing that our world would simply “get back to normal” as soon as possible? That seemed to be Peter’s hope at first. But after spending forty days with Jesus before our Lord’s ascension, Peter was equipped with a new vision and a new mission. Having been broken of his old habits and old ways of thinking, he became an unstoppable force as he labored to spread the Good News of Jesus’s Kingdom to the kingdoms of this world.
God has shaken us out of our sense of what is “normal” and “expected.” This is exactly the kind of time where God, having disrupted your normal patterns and routines, could be asking something radically new of you. As the dawn breaks, He is standing on the shore and inviting us to live fully in his new world. Listen for the risen Lord’s voice and be ready to do whatever he bids you to do.
In addition to teaching full-time for Wilson Hill, Bart Martin has been married for 24 years to Kristie, and together they raise their four children in Lynchburg, Virginia. He is a Chaplain in the Army Reserves. When he is not reading Tolkien, he enjoys fitness activities, playing sports, hiking, and gardening.