I’ve always wondered what happens the day after the world ends. There’s a reason Pride and Prejudice ends with the wedding, Rocky ends in the boxing ring, and every permutation of the Cinderella story ends a few minutes after the shoe fits. What’s left to do after every conflict gets resolved? What comes after the final showdown? Anything that happens after the climax is, by definition, a let-down. That’s why we have post-concert depression and the post-Christmas blues. If winning the victory is hard, moving on after the victory is, at times, even harder.
It’s difficult to imagine a bigger climax than the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If Jesus is who he says he is, the cross and the empty tomb are the ultimate victory. They are the Lord’s triumph over Satan, Love’s conquest over Sin, and the Son of Man’s vanquishment of death. This is history’s great resolution, and nothing, not even our way of counting time, has stayed the same since. We look forward to this day every Advent, await this day every Lent, and glory in this day every Easter morning. But what happens the day after the old world ends? What is left to do Easter Monday, when our moment of commemorating the Lord’s victory is past, but another week, with the same routines and familiar troubles, rolls ahead?
The last chapter of the Gospel of John gives us one of these post-Easter moments. Some days after the resurrected Jesus appears to the disciples for the second time, Peter, John, and four other disciples are on a boat in the Sea of Galilee, fishing. It’s early in the morning. They haven’t caught anything. A hazy figure on the shore tells them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat, and afterwards, the disciples can’t haul in the nets for all the fish they’ve caught. John turns to Peter and says, “It is the Lord!” Peter jumps into the water and swims to shore. The others follow behind, the deck flopping with fish. They land, and Jesus has breakfast waiting for them. He takes the fish, breaks the bread, and gives it to his disciples. They eat.
What strikes me about this story is how normal it feels. We’ve seen nearly every aspect of this episode in earlier gospels. The disciplines are fishing, as they did before they followed Jesus, and Christ miraculously fills their nets just as he does in Luke 5, at the start of ministry. Peter jumps into the water to meet Jesus, just as he did when Christ walked on the water in Mark 6, Matthew 14, and John 6. Christ feeds his sheep with bread and fish, just as he fed the multitudes and broke bread with his disciples at the Last Supper. This is the third time Christ has seen Peter, John, and the rest since the end of the world. And yet everyone continues in the same rhythms and routines as before. Nothing seems to have changed.
Nothing, except one crucial detail. John recognizes Jesus as soon as the disciples haul in the fish. John might have grabbed Peter by the shirt–“It is the Lord!”–and when they disembark, John writes, “None of the disciplines dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’” Before, they asked if he was the Messiah. They asked how to get to heaven and when they could expect him to return. But now, without asking so much as a name, “They knew it was the Lord.” In this story, it wasn’t the disciples’ material circumstances that changed after Easter. It was their ability to recognize Jesus in the middle of those circumstances.
This episode gives us a way to think about the week after Holy Week. Two-thousand and twenty years ago, Easter changed everything. The Word was made flesh and delivered us from our sins, and he continues to deliver us from our sins every day. But each year, the day after we celebrate the greatest victory in history, life settles back into its old schedule. We go back to fishing, and more often than not, we have trouble catching fish. But what does it look like to recognize the risen Lord in the middle of our everyday routines? He may come in an unplanned phone call with a friend in need, an unexpected email encouragement, a flash of insight into a problem, an off-hand observation that strikes us profoundly, even the unprecedented opportunity during a coronavirus pandemic to love our family, support our local communities, and share His love with a hurting world. And this truth stands for the day after the quarantine, when we start resuming the schedules we kept before the world seemed to end, schedules just as full of the routine opportunities to call upon the name of Christ.
The view will sometimes be hazy, but if we scan the shore searching for our savior–the one who died for us on Good Friday and has lived with us every day before and every day since–we can recognize Christ in the mundane gifts of every moment. And we will, without hesitation, turn to one another and say, “It is the Lord!”
Lauren Spohn ’20 is a senior in Currier House studying English.