The Next Friday: a reflection on Easter
Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” John 21:12
Last week I shared some Good Friday thoughts with you. It was cold and rainy, and taking on the task of recounting the reasons and ways Jesus died was heavy. Nothing about death, or being wrong, is easy or appealing. Even the God of the universe knows that and is deeply saddened when we get there. He feels the pain because death wasn’t how it was supposed to be.
But today is sunny, casting light on every leaf and blade of grass outside. I came today to tell you that we don’t have to stay there in the darkness and mess I wrote about last week.
So here’s what happened next.
After Jesus died, the world was dark. Literally, the sky darkened. The entire earth shook. The veils that separated common people from entering holy places of worship were torn. Everything in existence felt the weight of Jesus’ last humanly breath.
And then the waiting. Travis and I were trying to remember what the day after Jesus’ death is called. Sad Saturday? Sucky Saturday? Shabby Saturday?
Actually, it’s Holy Saturday. I don’t know why, but if I had to speculate, it’d have everything to do with Jesus and something to do with people in waiting: the people Jesus had touched and looked on with love, the ones who had followed Him, those who had chosen to hear His message and let it seep deep down in the roots of their heart. People trusted in Him. But because of what they had been taught for generations, they thought Jesus was going to be a warrior coming in to sweep all of humanity off its feet by triumphal force. He was supposed to rule the world by making everyone bow to him. He was going to take over. That’s what they had been waiting for, right?
I can’t imagine the betrayal they felt as they saw the man who was supposed to save them in this way was sealed away in a tomb. Everything was wrong. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Where was the victory in this? He’d come as a gentle baby and left as hated man.
They sat there in mourning. It was holy because God was at work – even if they couldn’t see it yet. And yet, everything was changing, but they felt like it was over. If we’re honest together, I think some of the greatest struggles we face in our humanity are the unknowns. All of the waiting and not knowing is exhausting. To realize there’s nothing you can do about it is heavy. If ever there was a day in human history of feeling the weight of that kind of dark, it was this day when we felt lost and without a savior.
But the world kept spinning.
When the sun came up on Sunday morning, one of the women Jesus had befriended went to His tomb and discovered His body was gone. She wept, and then who else could come to comfort a deep sadness like that? Jesus stood beside her. As her shoulders heaved in crying and as her eyes blurred from the nonstop flow of tears, He spoke to her. It wasn’t until He said her name that she realized it was Jesus.
He stood without grave clothes. The crown of thorns no longer sat on His head and the nails were no longer driven in His hands and feet. He was just… there. Alive and well. I asked Travis why she didn’t recognize Him until He said her name. His guess is that she just wasn’t expecting to see Him and was so distraught in her mourning. My guess is that He was in His perfect, beautiful heavenly body wholly pieced together and undisturbed by the pains of the world. It probably was unrecognizable next to the brokenness of the world.
Jesus empathized in our human weakness by becoming human, and He proved that He was human in His earthly death. But Jesus didn’t just come to walk with us and then die. He came to make us alive in God. And the only way He could do that was to come alive after death too.
Over the next few weeks, this risen Lord stayed with people.
He kept finding those who He’d known in His earthly ministry just to talk with them. These were the same people who had promised to stay at His side no matter what. They had committed to following Him anywhere, and to do whatever He’d ask of them. These were the people who loved and intimately knew Jesus on earth.
But remember: they were the same people who had broken their promise, and either watched Him die at the cross or handed Him over to the officers. When strangers asked if these friends knew Him in His final hours, they stumbled and ran, fearing for their own safety.
They abandoned Him. They left Him to die.
It would have been easy for Jesus to use His divinity to return and send those folks straight to the flames. He could have abandoned them, told them everything they did wrong, yelled at them, and despised them back. From our perspective, He had every right to mock and hate them too. Serve it right back.
But you know what gets me caught up about this whole story? It’s not even the fact that I believe in my heart of hearts that this man died and came back to life after 3 days. I can believe that. And I do.
What causes me to stumble is His response when He returns.
In one of the conversations He had during these days of being with with people on earth, He simply invited others to come and have breakfast.
That’s it. Come and have breakfast.
When they were worried about measuring up and what they’d eat, He told them to come. These were the same people who had abandoned Him and ignored Him when He felt most alone. They had to have felt weary of His presence among them again, just waiting for the scolding. And He invited them to come and eat.
We need that invitation. We’re going to walk through this life hungry. Hungry for food, water, clothes – yes. But above all, we’re going to be hungry for life itself. We’re going to feel battered by the lies and judgements thrown at us, and we’re going to feel empty when the people we invested all we had into leave. When the day is over, and the dark settles around us, we’re going to feel like we’re missing something. This time on earth is going to feel burdensome, and we might even come to resent it.
But Jesus shook off His grave clothes to tell us that we can too.
He came back to invite us to feel worthy and whole. To be full and satisfied. To know that we have a purpose, and that we don’t have to walk it alone. This man is unlike any other, in that He is not only able to offer us all the peace, love, compassion, grace, forgiveness, joy, community, and courage that our souls want. But He follows through on it.
When I mess up, He gives me the liberty to say, “It’s okay. I’m in process.”
When I’m mad that others mess up, He reminds me they’re in process too.
When I worry I’m wasting these fleeting days, He shows me how to make the most of them.
When I’m just stretched and worn thin from feeling the weight of this world, He tells me to rest in Him and reminds me of hope.
When I just can’t stop thinking about the wrong, stupid stuff I’ve done, He speaks forgiveness.
All that just because He came back to life and invited me to breakfast.
When I came to the table with nothing, He didn’t withhold any of the portions He served me. I came empty and left full. Now I can live.
When we treat Him like crap and hate His guts, His love doesn’t change. His purpose for us remains the same: to live in the work of His love. To give us what our soul needs. To forgive in abundance and without condition.
Well, the one condition is that we believe He’s able. That’s it.
So, this is how that story from last week ends and begins all at once. Today is not a day that death and war won. We’re not defeated. Actually, today we’re victorious because Jesus did that for us. And when the sun rises over the hill, casting light on all we’d thought we’d lost and emptied, Jesus will be there to welcome us back with outstretched arms. And if we’re courageous enough to move closer and to believe that there is no hatred in His feelings toward us, we’ll hear the invitation of a lifetime to live in the knowledge that this was all for us.
Come and have breakfast, friends.