FROM A READING FOR APRIL 18, THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER

'The Lamb who was killed is worthy to receive power, wealth, wisdom and strength, honor, glory and praise!' Rev. 5:12

Either the original author or a new writer added chapter 21 to John's original 20 Gospel chapters. Fortunately, in so doing, he or she preserved one of the earliest accounts of a post-resurrection appearance of Jesus.

Unlike Luke, who depicts Jesus' followers staying in Jerusalem for almost two months after His resurrection, the author of John 21 has them obey the message of Mark and Matthew's tomb angel (John 21:1-19): "He's going before you to Galilee; there you will see him." They immediately go back to Capernaum.

The seven disciples at the center of this week's Gospel seem to know little about angelic announcements of resurrection, nor have they yet experienced the risen Jesus.

After a disastrous pilgrimage to Jerusalem, they returned to their homes near the Sea of Tiberias, occupying their time speculating on what could have been had that horrible Friday not happened.

Simon Peter eventually announces, "I'm going out to fish." Scholars contend he's actually saying, "I'm going back to fishing." That's what the seven did for a living, but obviously weren't doing now.

Back out there
One important point Elisabeth Kubler-Ross stressed in her death and dying workshops was that, eventually, everyone must "go back to work" after a loved one's death. Initially, out of loyalty to the person who died, we're tempted never to return to doing the things we did while he or she was with us. Things can't ever be the same again.

Yet, when we force ourselves to do those things that are part of our normal lives, we experience the presence of our deceased loved one in a new way.

In this earliest tradition of the disciples experiencing the risen Jesus, this is exactly what happens. Once they accept His death and return to fishing, they begin to experience Him in His risen form.

Of course, He has to be "recognized." That's why it's important that the risen Jesus engage in an activity that often occupied the historical Jesus: in this case, eating a meal with His friends.

Once the author of chapter 21 attached this episode to the previously written chapters, he or she had to supply connecting links: phrases or words like "again" or "the third time." None of these were in the tradition the writer received and passed on.

Job titles
In our Acts passage (Acts 5:27-32,40-41), Luke tells us that, after Jesus' disciples begin to experience Him in His changed form, their "work" begins to change. Now, instead of fishing, they've become preachers of the same good news the historical Jesus preached.

The only difference between their preaching and His is that they now put Him at the center of their proclamation. As theologian Rudolph Bultmann put it, "The preacher became the preached."

Though the Sanhedrin believe the case is closed once the disciples are commanded "not to speak again about the name of Jesus," readers today smile at their naiveté.

Even if the author of Revelations bases his writing (Revelation 5:11-14) on personal heavenly revelation, Jesus, the Lamb, is still at the heart of those messages.

Because many of us often get bogged down in the minutiae of organized religion, it's essential to remember that the only reason such institutions exist is to help us experience the risen Jesus in our daily lives - no matter how or where we "work."


(04/15/10)