June 2012

“I told you! I knew it!” The pitch of the voice was raised slightly, so the child was almost squeaking.  A mixture of triumph and exasperation played on his face.  I was taking a group of children through the resurrection stories, week by week.  We had reached the story at the end of John (Chapter 21) where Peter decides to go fishing, reverting to his previous line of work, as he doesn’t think he is acceptable as a disciple after denying Jesus three times.   Other disciples go with him.  As professional fishermen, they work all night without success.  The risen Jesus hails them from the shore, and not recognising him, they admit they have caught nothing.  By morning, it is the wrong time to fish, but they follow Jesus’ instructions and catch 153 fish, to their surprise.  After a fish breakfast, Jesus reinstates Peter as both disciple and leader of the church, and foretells the manner of Peter’s death as his final act of witness.

In order to tell the story, we had around 8 children out, playing the parts.  One group in pairs were in the imaginary boat, while ‘Jesus’ waited at the side of the hall.  We rowed the boat out into the hall, cast our net, and caught – a rock!  (without ‘Blackpool’ down the centre).  We rowed on a bit further, tried again, and caught – a Roman sandal, and then a broken chariot wheel – but no fish.  As I began to sum up the night’s fruitless fishing, a boy of about 7 was hopping from leg to leg.  He could stand it no longer: “Throw the net out the other side!” he shouted.  I explained to him and the gathered children that there was no point – it was too late, the sun was rising, the fish could see the net coming, and every fisherman knew that it was pointless to try to catch fish now.  He was not convinced.

Enter ‘Jesus’: “Have you caught anything?”  Disciples in boat: “No!”  Jesus: “Throw the net over the other side.”  Small boy: “I told you! I knew it!” – decidedly not part of the script!  There was a roar of laughter and we completed the story.  No one could fault the small boy’s enthusiasm to impart the knowledge he had, although you might not want to watch a film or read a story where he knew the ending!  He had heard the story before, remembered the ending, and had a great enthusiasm to impart his clear knowledge as a contribution – which, ironically, would put him fair and square in the midst of those early disciples.

Although Jesus warned the disciples repeatedly that he was to be killed, but then to rise from the dead, they seem to have taken the language figuratively; when Jesus was arrested and then crucified, it came as a complete shock to them.  They ran away, denied him, and largely abandoned him on the cross.  Once he was dead, none of the regular disciples were around to bury him; they left the job to Joseph & Nicodemus, who were not part of Jesus’ inner, or even outer, circle.  On Easter Day, we find the disciples cowering behind locked doors and barred windows, working out how to leave Jerusalem undetected.  The empty grave came as another big shock, but still did not lead any of them to conclude Jesus was alive, only that the body was missing.

Then Jesus starts appearing to his followers; each time, the transformation is marked.  First he appears to Mary Magdalene, changed in an instant from a snivelling and broken woman to one proclaiming to the disciples.  As she shares with joy and conviction, the disciples merely doubt her sanity.  Next on the list are the two walking to Emmaus, plodding disconsolately with a stranger until at their destination he reveals himself to be the risen Jesus – and they pound back to Jerusalem to tell the others.  As they’re telling them, he appears again to them all except Thomas.  Poor Thomas!  He spends the next week denying what they know.  Like my small boy, the disciples splutter what they now know – Jesus is alive – but all to no avail; Thomas is resolute, until a week later, in a jaw-dropping moment, Jesus appears to him in front of the others.  You can hear the disciples in the background saying ‘I told you! I knew it!’

The early disciples were characterised by an unquenchable enthusiasm; they just had to tell of what they knew, that Jesus is alive, and his resurrection is our resurrection.  It’s good news!  If you know it – tell others!  If you don’t yet – let them speak!  John concludes his Gospel with “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (The Bible, John 20.31).

Praying that you may know the joy of life in Christ Jesus, and the enthusiasm which compels you to share his good news to our mutual blessing and encouragement.

Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ,

Simon Cox.