My mom once told me that when she was in high school they had a school celebration called Easter Monday. On the day after Easter students would come to school where buses were ready to drive them all to the beach. It should probably be considered to be in the same category as a teacher inservice day more than anything. Yet, it was something significant that the students looked forward to.
It made me question what should we do the day after Easter. What happens on Monday? After I’ve worn my new suit and paraded around in my new shoes, what comes next? After I finally made it to church and the sermon was actually pretty good, do I really need to go again next week? After I give my heart to God, what do I do next? What about Monday?
I believe the questions about Monday can be answered in a story that is found in the bible; particularly in the gospel of John right after Jesus was resurrected from the dead. John 21 opens with a startling pronouncement by Peter. He was one of Jesus’ three most trusted disciples. As one of Jesus’ closest companions, Peter had been with Jesus in some of the most critical moments of his ministry. However, when Jesus needed him most, he denied that he even knew Jesus—with some pretty convincingly-foul language.
We’ve all been there. There was a time when it seemed that we had it all figured out. Mom and Dad or even Grandma made us go to church and learn about God. We read our bibles, and knew all the right answers in bible study. We were going to class on time and making pretty good grades. We promised ourselves that there’d be no sex before marriage. We were so excited about that new job that we were determined to be the best employee this time. We tried to walk the walk and talk the talk. But when our faith was tested or temptation came…we fell hard. Some of us fell so hard that we didn’t want to get up and walk again.
That’s exactly what happened to Peter. He swore that he would never leave Jesus’ side. And when Jesus told him that he would deny him, he honestly didn’t believe him. And so when it happened Peter couldn’t forgive himself. That’s why in John 21 he says, “I’m going fishing” (John 21:3). That was Peter’s very simple, direct way of saying, “Forget this! I quit.” “This Christianity thing is too hard.” “I give up.”
Peter was under a lot of guilt and pressure and to some extent the resurrection only made it worse because that meant he had to look Jesus in the face and “face the music.” But the resurrection is all about second chances and starting over and so Jesus shows up again to help Peter do exactly that.
The disciples all agreed to go with Peter. This alone is fairly ironic in that only four of them were fisherman, but they’re seven of them in the boat. It’s proof that the other disciples were almost as distraught and afraid as Peter was. They weren’t sure what to do next, and they were still afraid that they might be next to be captured and crucified like Jesus was. They went fishing all night…and didn’t catch one single fish. And then Jesus shows up (vv. 5-6) and preforms the same miracle that he did that convinced them to follow him in the beginning (see Luke 5:4-6). When they realize that it’s Jesus they head for the shore where Jesus already has some fish cooking over an open fire just in time for breakfast. Isn’t it amazing how God allows our best laid plans to blow up in our faces? Then he shows up right on time to heal our hearts and help us pick up the pieces.
It’s as the meal is wrapping up that Jesus pulls Peter aside to handle this pressing issue of guilt and beginning again. I believe that if we look closely at this beach-front encounter that Jesus has with Peter we can find some strategies for a fruitful Monday. There’s basically three things that Jesus helps Peter to do: (1) Assess, (2) Accept and (3) Adjust. Assess your present position. Accept your failures and limitations. Adjust to meet the challenges and goals.
1. Assess your present position.
Jesus begins by asking Peter three separate times, “Simon do you love me?” (John 21:15-17) He questioned Peter’s core commitment. And he asked him more than once because we all have a tendency to prepare pat-answers to these types questions. But God doesn’t want our pat-answers; he wants our hearts. So take some time to assess where you are and start by asking yourself a set of crucial questions. Where am I and where am I headed? What am I doing wrong? What’s stopping me from traveling the right path? Assess where you are. Be honest with yourself. Be honest with God. He’s listening.
2. Accept your failures and limitations.
The truth hurts. And it’s one thing to hear the truth, but it’s another thing altogether to hear the truth about yourself. But once you hear the truth about yourself; just accept it. I love it when Peter relents and says to Jesus, “Lord you know all things…” (v. 17). It appears that he’s deferring to Jesus as if to ask Jesus what he thought. He says, “You know I love you Lord, but this thing is hard.” “You know I love you Lord, but I struggle to stay committed.” We must accept our failures, but we also have to accept why we failed and where we are limited. Once we recognize what we can’t do, then we’re ready to move on to what the Lord would have us to accomplish.
3. Adjust to meet the challenges and goals.
The task is simple. “Feed my sheep” (vv. 15-17). Not easy, but simple. Now that God has got your attention, there are some basic things that he’s going to require of you. Trust me, it will become very clear in time what those things are. It will not be easy, but it is possible with God’s strength and guidance. But what it definitely calls for is an adjustment of some sort so that you might meet the challenge. Maybe it means waking up earlier. Maybe it means moving to a new place or finding some new friends. Maybe it means confronting someone to make something right. Maybe it means going to see a counselor. Nevertheless, God’s commands always demand an adjustment. And every adjustment calls for some kind of sacrifice.
For my mom and her classmates, Easter Monday was nothing more than an extra day off from school and a trip to the beach. But we see have seen with Peter and Jesus that a trip to the beach can provide a perfect opportunity to work some things out. I think there are a number of schools that still observe Easter Monday. Maybe we should too. Maybe today is a perfect day to do some much-needed reflection and determine to begin again.