It’s been a long night
Almost a year has passed since terms like “pandemic” and “social distancing” became part of our everyday vocabulary. A year marked with political upheaval, stark division, financial strain, and overwhelming grief.
“How long, O Lord” must echo to heaven from the hearts of the saints. And even as I write about the length of the night and I whisper those words, I’m reminded of the countless believers who live their entire lives with those words on their lips. The collective suffering staggers me. The ache and exhaustion we feel is legitimate.
What is God’s response to heart-broken and soul-weary followers?
My memory wanders to another long night season. Perhaps the worst the world had ever known. The disciples of Jesus had abandoned their Lord to death, Peter denying he even knew Him. The days that followed must have held unspeakable horror, unfathomable confusion, traumatic shame.
Jesus was gone and the world was dark.
We know the story. The resurrection was on its way. The empty tomb comes as no surprise to us. Only, the news of an empty tomb was not wonderful to its first recipients. It was further trauma. Can’t we even grieve in peace? A sentiment that feels far too familiar this year.
Today, I’d like to focus in on one scene.
Jesus begins to appear. First to Mary, who realizes it is Jesus because of the way He says her name. Then to the disciples. His meetings seem to be fairly brief and spaced out, perhaps giving them time to process the news.
I don’t know what the disciples were feeling. But I know myself. I would’ve had a hard time making eye contact with Jesus after what had gone down. But He kept showing up. Which brings us to John 21.
Let’s pick up the story.
“Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We will go with you.’
They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to them, ‘Children, do you have any fish?
They answered him, ‘No.’
He said to them, ‘Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.‘
So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’
When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.
When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread.
Jesus said to them ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’
So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn.
Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’“
Friends, this picture of Jesus breaks me. After everything His disciples have endured, the horror and the pain, the guilt and the confusion, He’s shown up, once again.
The God of creation, the King of kings, Defeater of death, making breakfast for His weary disciples. A warm fire to fight off the chill.
And I am undone.
The kindness of God overwhelms my weary soul.
No longer would the disciples be telling Jesus their plans for Him to conquer Rome. He had conquered death. Clearly there was a bigger plan.
Through their dark night, these men had finally come to the end of themselves. All their easy answers and their tidy boxes were shredded. Raw and reliant, they were ready to do whatever their Master would ask of them. Soon, Jesus would ascend to the Father and these men would set the world on fire. But this morning was about receiving the care of a God who profoundly loved them.
And so it is with us.
I’ve had this Sea of Galilee photo as a background picture on my laptop for almost a year now. It serves as a visual reminder of God’s heart towards me in my weakness.
Sometimes I create another version of God’s heart. A god who is annoyed with me. Impatient. Disappointed. I create a god in my own image.
But that’s not who Jesus is. From ancient times to Emmanuel we see a God who is full of steadfast love. Emphasis on steadfast. He is a God who pursues His people. Who cares that His disciples are exhausted.
I don’t know what this year holds. Even if life returns to “normal” we will still have suffering. We will still face seasons of weariness and heartache.
May we keep this scene close. The cool air coming in off the sea, the rising sun warming away the night, and the risen Savior making breakfast for weary disciples.
This is the heart of God.