Last week I had the privilege of meeting up with some old friends. It was meant to be an Easter evangelistic dinner gathering. But the fish weren’t biting. Most of the non-Christian guests didn’t turn up.
It gave me a chance to catch up with some of my friends. I had known most of them before they were married. I had conducted some of their weddings. We had a shared history.
Over the excellent repast, we talked. We listened. We caught up. And as in most stories this side of heaven, they contained moments of joy and sorrow, pain and deliverance, hope and uncertainty. Easter or no Easter, life went on with all its joy and pathos.
It reminded me afresh that the reality and hope of the resurrection is not something that is experienced in some spiritual never-never land removed form the demands of daily existence. It calls to us in the doubts and difficulties of our daily lives. Much as it happened to the early disciples in John 21. (John 21: 1-14)
It had been a heck of a week. They had seen their Lord captured, tortured and killed, They had hidden in fear for their own lives. In a few days, all their hopes had been dashed, crucified.
Then the weird things began to happen. Jesus’s tomb was found empty. People began to report seeing Jesus alive again. Then Jesus Himself had appeared to them. So much so that even the most skeptical among them believed.
Jesus did say that He would rise again. Still, it was a lot to absorb. It was all too much. Did it all really happen? And if indeed it all did happen, and Jesus had indeed come back from the dead?. It was a lot to absorb.
When things get too weird, you seek the security of familiarity. They were fishermen after all. So they went fishing.
But it never rains. It pours. Even in Palestine apparently.
They fished the whole night. And caught nothing. Maybe their minds weren’t quite in it.
Then an inquiry comes through the morning fog. “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” They replied that they didn’t.
The voice suggests that they throw their nets on the right side of the boat. They did and jackpot. “Chia beh leow!” (Literally “can’t finish eating”, Hokkien Chinese for over flowing blessing, too much to absorb).
They took a second look at the fishing coach calling from the shore. And realized “It is the Lord!”.
They went to shore and found Jesus waiting with His most popular menu items — fish and bread. It must have been a bit surreal. But the morning fog began to clear. As did their minds.
But there was no mistaking the fire, blazing, dancing in the sea breeze. There was no mistaking the welcoming smell of the barbecued fish. And there was no mistaking the presence of the risen Lord.
Whether you have been a Christian for a long time, or you are still wet behind the ears from baptism water, it is all a lot to take in sometimes. There will be the days when you ask if it is all real.
Still, life foes on and we slog at whatever we need to do. But if we give ourselves a chance, we hear His voice calling to us. We find that He has prepared a table for us in the presence of our enemies. If we take that little time off to unplug, we find that He is waiting to dine with us, He is waiting to feed us, He is waiting to remind us, yes, it is all real.
And even in our most frustrating moments, if we take time to listen and obey, we may find that the difference between failure and success just takes a little change of direction, at His direction.
In the end two non-Christian friends did turn up for the Easter dinner and good friendships began. And we sent some food to the non-Christian neighbours who couldn’t make it because they were under the weather.
But perhaps the Lord had decided that it wasn’t a night to make new disciples. It was an evening for tired disciples to once again hear the voice calling through the fog. Calling out hope.
And as it usually happens, when we share a meal in His Name, He was there. We went away refreshed. We had met the Risen Lord.
Your brother, Soo-Inn Tan