– John 20:20b
They could have walked away. They could have left town and never turned back. They could have called it quits for all time and tried to wipe him from their memory. In fact, that was what the disciples were starting to do. What good is a crucified Messiah? The more miracles they saw their rabbi perform, the larger their hopes had grown until it became unthinkable that they could lose...or lose him.This was God’s man they were following, and despite the swords of the Roman soldiers and the sneaky tricks of the establishment working against them, they felt safe beside Jesus. And then he was gone. If they had stopped and thought about it, they might have realized what was coming. Jesus was a man of the people, envied by those in power. He was a threat to those who had the means to do something about it. Once enough people were agitated, once they began pointing their fingers at him, the powers-that-be only had to arrange a trial and show the proper indignation, and they had their readymade scapegoat. The High Priest Caiaphas said it himself: “…it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed” (John 11:50).
Many people today have walked away from the church for one reason or another. Many of the reasons people have left the church are perfectly understandable. Sometimes it has to do with God not living up to their expectations; sometimes the church itself does not inspire or seem relevant. But more often than not it’s us, the church members.
Instead of dancing through life with Jesus, we fearfully tiptoe behind Caiaphas. Instead of loving boldly and welcoming the stranger, we hunker down and huddle together. When words are said against people who are different, we join the crowd in questioning, or even condemning those who don’t meet our standards. Satan is a great divider, and his weapon is our lack of trust… instead of standing together as children of the same God, we break down into groups of insiders and outsiders.
Those disciples were on their way out. They had given up sharing the Good News and gone back to their boats and fishing nets. They were out on the lake when Jesus showed up. He stood on the beach unnoticed until he called to them, asking how the fishing was going. They told the truth…it was going lousy. “Cast the net on the other side and you’ll find some fish.” When the haul was so big suddenly that they couldn’t even lift it into the boat, then they knew it was the Lord.
None of us are up to God’s standards… we easily follow the crowd, go back to our old ways, lose faith after a painful failure. But despite how easily we give up, Jesus never gives up on us. He comes to be our Way when we’re lost, our Truth when we’re confused, and our Life when we feel dead. He is the Light that guides us, the Shepherd that cares for us, and the Vine that connects us in love. He is the Alpha who was there to hear our borning cry, and the Omega who gathers us up after our last breath to bring us home. He is the Resurrection and the Life.
God makes room for all in his great big Easter basket, the Church. There was room in there for those disciples who walked away, and there is room for you and me. Like jelly beans and Easter eggs, God wants to gather people from the whole spectrum of life, all colors, backgrounds, languages, generations, and brings us together in his kingdom. Laying aside our past failures and hesitations, we get to try again to live as children of God. We can find better ways to share the earth, God’s planet, using its good things for the good of all. We can give of the mercy we’ve been given, opening ourselves up to the new insights and perspectives our neighbors bring. In the light of tomorrow’s morning, we see that there are still fish to catch and sheep to tend, and that there is still Good News to share. By the strength he gives us, we rise again to follow Christ into the next adventure.