"The Fellowship Rises"
Mission Blog: Easter Orchid Series
“What we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; for our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” 1 John 1:3
Naples, Day Six of the Easter Appearances. Today we return to John’s record of the Resurrection appearances, this time to an early morning scene on the misty shores of Lake Galilee. In John’s narrative, Peter and he have by now been to the empty tomb; Peter’s reaction is unclear, ambiguous. John’s is more simple and specific: “He saw, and believed.” (John 20:8) Later, the risen Lord appears to Mary of Magdala, then the disciples as a group, and then to the doubting Thomas. Peter is not in focus, yet.
Peter is my guy in this. He’s tough, resilient, determined, but imperfect. He loves the Lord, but he has an alarming tendency to fall off the spiritual wagon. Just days earlier, he had one of these “regrettable” episodes, when he denied Christ three times. I totally would have done the same, I know it. At the critical moment, at Christ’s darkest hour, I would have run. I’d have rationalized it away. “Save yourself for another day, Steve!” Or, in another context, “It’s been a long day Steve. You’re exhausted. Take a break from the Lord. Relax, sin a little! ‘[Stand by the fire here] and keep warm’.” (John 18:25)
If I were Peter at this point, I think I would have been a little confused too, and still pretty guilt- ridden. “Everyone else is having a party, the Lord has risen,” I would be reflecting. “And I denied him. He’ll never forget that. I’ll never forget that.”
At times like this, when I’m struggling with my own failures and the self-doubt-o-meter is rising, I often look for a distraction, something to get my mind off of my problems. “I’m going fishing!”, in fact, seems like a pretty good idea right now. “Get back to a game I’m better at. This fishing for men thing isn’t working out very well. I’m a loser.”
Then, “a funny coincidence”….
Distant memories of that first calling, three years ago. A fruitless night spent fishing. A stranger on the shore tells me to cast the nets one more time, when I “know” there’s no fish in this lake right now. And then, the abundant catch.
But, I’ve already begun to give up on this whole Jesus thing. I’ve cut myself off. I can’t see him through my own tears.
And this is where the “fellowship in Christ” comes in. My brothers, led by the pesky John who stuck by Jesus even as I ran from him, didn’t let me go fishing on my own. “We’re coming with you,” he announced. My brothers are looking out for me. As a minimum, they want to make sure I don’t pull a Judas on them; they know I’m not myself. I’m kind of depressed. Even after the miraculous catch, I don’t get it. I don’t recognize the risen Lord. I can’t see that it’s him. But John, in a state of pure grace, does. “Peter, it’s the Lord!” proclaims John.
And here’s the line I keeping coming to. Here is the brotherhood moment. This is where the fellowship rises.
“When Simon Peter heard it was the Lord, he jumped into the sea” (John 21:7) and swam to him.
Peter doesn’t see it was the Lord, he heard it. Peter was still blinded by his own sins, his own despair. But Peter trusted his brother in Christ, John. He believes John more than his own eyes. And he believes his ears, with John’s voice reverberating in them. “It is the Lord!” (John 21:6)
He leaps overboard, and there the Lord embraces him, in fact, serves him breakfast. (My favorite, char-broiled fish!) The Lord gives him a perfect experience of his risen self. And later (another Gospel reading), the Lord here’s his confession and forgives him. Peter is back. He’s on the road to sainthood. And the fellowship of John and the other disciples were the vehicle for getting him back onto that road.
All of us are on a spiritual journey with, and toward, Christ. That journey is neither easy nor smooth. There are peaks and valleys, dead ends and cul-de-sacs, sins and graces, dark nights and bright days. Journeys like this are not possible when taken alone. That’s why we need each other. We need the fellowship in Christ, for Christ.
We are not alone. We have each other. Together, and with Christ there with us, we can make this dangerous journey. We can too can be resurrected. We can rise. He will raise us.
There are many Peters out there, on the streets, who need Christ to raise them too. And they need us to help them see the Lord. They need to hear from us, from the fellowship. Out there on the streets.
A missionary April 17, 2020