Easter Day has come. Again. Easter Day has gone. Again.
Sometimes life is this simple. A great moment comes and goes, and, inevitably, we go back to the routine normality of our daily lives.
What’s not simple is that great moments often stir up in us conflicting impulses or passions. On the one hand, our hope that we can and will reach that metaphorical state of “more” where we are different, better. On the other hand, our fear that we won’t, that we can’t be different or better.
Years of Easter Days teach us to be skeptical of the potential for the lasting fulfillment of our highest expectations. Maybe the best Easter Day can offer is a temporary thrill, then a return to every day and who we were the day before.
So, for the disciples. Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to them, but not as he had been. He no longer daily walked and talked with them, led and guided them. Rather, in one moment, he would appear, then, in the next, disappear.
So, now what? Peter announces that he’s reverting to his old life, picking up where he left off before Jesus, going back to do something he knows how to do. “I’m going fishing.” His fellow disciples, with nothing better to do, leap at the idea. “We’ll go with you!”
A night passes. No success. Jesus appears. “Do you have any fish?” (Though prefaced with an affectionate “Children,” I imagine his question irritated, infuriated those tired, frustrated disciples. I can “hear” the tone of their exasperation, “No!”)
Jesus advises them. They net a great catch of fish.
Jesus prepares breakfast…
which leads to one of the most poignant exchanges in scripture, Jesus thrice asking Peter, “Do you love me?”
Whenever I’ve denied something I said or did, which I should not have said or done or betrayed a cherished belief or value through expediency or cowardice, the thing I most fear is a conversation, a confrontation with the person I’ve wronged. Likewise, when I believe I’ve been wronged, the last thing I want to do is engage my offender.
Yet Jesus and Peter painfully, courageously opened the tomb of the rotting bones of Peter’s triple denial of Jesus when he faced the cross of his crucifixion and death.(1) Through their reaffirmation of love, they were led to the resurrection of reconciliation and the restoration of trust, expressed in Jesus’ renewal of his call, “Feed my sheep” and “Follow me.”
In the encounter between Ananias and Saul, Ananias willingly followed the insane directive, notwithstanding it came from Jesus, to go to Saul who was on a mission to kill the followers of Jesus. This led to the resurrection of reconciliation, expressed in that term of endearment, “Brother Saul” and, eventually, launched Saul, also known by his Roman name, Paul,(2) as the greatest missionary apostle of the gospel of Jesus.
Henri-Frédéric Amiel, a 19th century Swiss moral philosopher and poet,(3) famously wrote: “Life is short and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel the way with us. So, be swift to love and make haste to be kind.”
In the searing light of these transformative encounters between Jesus and Peter, Ananias and Saul, I see more clearly the acts of denial and betrayal. Those that I have done unto others and those that others done unto me.
In this light, I see more clearly that there are people in this world with whom I need (though I may not want!) to have a conversation like that of Jesus and Peter, Ananias and Saul. There are some who have died with whom I cannot speak. Still, there are others who are alive.
And, more truth to tell, sometimes, in my betrayal, in word and deed, of my better self, the person with whom I need to have such a painfully courageous (or courageously painful) conversation, confrontation is me!
Intending no judgment, I would guess that what I have confessed to you is true for me may be true for some of you.
If so, then will we, as Easter-people, take the risk of going to the tombs of our broken relationships, daring to trust in the hope of resurrection?
For this, I submit to you, is one way that Easter Day comes to stay.
(1) See John 18.17, 25-27
(2) See Acts 13.9
(3) Henri-Frédéric Amiel (1821-1881)
The Second Miraculous Draught of Fishes, James Tissot (1836-1902)
Christ Sharing Breakfast with the Apostles in Galilee, James Tissot
“Peter, do you love me?”, James Tissot
Ananias heals Paul (1719), Jean II Restout (1692-1768)