If Friday was the day where we couldn’t find enough words to speak of the tragedy, and Saturday was where we tried to understand how we are supposed to make a life that reflects the promise of Christ’s return despite his apparent absence, then this Easter Sunday is where there are simply too many words say, and not enough people in existence to say them. Writers often admit that it’s easier to speak about pain than joy, and I’m no exception to this problem. But as I sit here trying to put together a reflection that is worthy of the reality—that a dead man, a man who claimed to be a savior, was made alive again—I’m realizing that it’s hard to write about the joy of resurrection, not because the experiences of it are few and far between, but because they defy the limitations of these little black markings on a page. Our voices are all too capable of wailing, but praise is a much harder thing for us to manage. Even still, the limits of our voices are one thing among many that Christ’s rising makes beautiful, so why not do our best to use them, even when they fail?
Among those many fickle words, there’s one that I’ve intentionally reserved for this day in particular, and not because it wasn’t relevant. Just as resurrection is not a particularly easy concept for us to understand, forgiveness, though we also throw it around a lot, is nearly as difficult to grasp. We’re told it’s the point of this entire story, that all the suffering we saw on Friday, and sifted through on Saturday, was inflicted so that we could be forgiven in Christ’s resurrection. Maybe the reason I’m not a theologian is because I can’t quite trace that thread of logic without a story to help me understand. I can’t turn that into to joy until it’s made real in my small mind, or maybe in my life. We had to enter into pain in order to understand the suffering of Friday, so today, maybe the only way to we can reflect the glory of the resurrection is to enter into someone else’s joy.
Consider Peter. Peter, who was casting a net into the Sea of Galilee when Jesus first called his name. Peter, who gave his life to follow him, who briefly walked on water before sinking in his fear, who called him the Christ. Peter, who refused to let him wash his feet, who sliced a man’s ear clean off when they came for him. Peter, who said he’d never known him. Peter, who said he was never with him. Peter, who let them march him to his death. Peter, who watched him die, then headed out to Sea again.
I’m going fishing, he said. There isn’t a lot of explanation about how Peter might have felt in those days following Christ’s death, but as he pushed his boat back out to Sea, I doubt that he still considered himself a fisher of men, as Jesus had once called him. I picture Peter out there on the Sea of Tiberius, hauling in net after empty net in silence, cursing his own reflection as he leaned over the hull. How many times have I pushed my own boat out to sea, to somewhere where no one would find me, casting my net for nothing but more shame?
He must not have made it too far out, because he could still hear voices from the shore. No, cast it on the other side! He could barely hear his voice, let alone make out what the man looked like from that far away. So they shrugged and let their nets down on the other side, Peter grumbling under his breath all along. He held the net so loosely in his one hand that when he felt the ropes go taught, he nearly tossed himself into the water as he reached to secure it with his other hand. It must have struck him as odd in the slightest way, but I can understand why he might have been too consumed by his own pain to put it all together right away. As he pulled the load, hand over hand from the water, trying not to make comparisons lest he sink deeper into his shame, he heard John shout It is the Lord! He spun, squinted towards the man now waving from the shore, then dove head first into water, suddenly alive again.
When he made it back to shore, they broke bread like old times. Jesus asked him three times over, Peter, do you love me?
As usual, Peter didn’t hesitate. But why would he have? He was looking into resurrection’s eyes. Of course I do, he said, still soaked from head to toe from his dive back into sea.