Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Recognizing Jesus, part 2

Put yourself in the place of the disciples after Jesus died and was resurrected. He had appeared to them a few times, but it wasn’t like the old days when Jesus was always with them. What would you do in their period of disequilibrium?

They went fishing.

Peter said, “I am going fishing” and they all said they would come too. So, there they were, doing what was familiar to them only they weren’t catching any fish. I don’t think that God blesses us when we return to the familiar after we have learned new ways of walking as his disciples. We are meant to stay in the new place where the fish will come to the surface.

So, after I am sure what was an extremely frustrating night of fishing, the disciples looked up at dawn and saw a man standing on the beach. They didn’t recognize him, but the man spoke to them and asked if they had caught any fish. They hung their heads and said, “Nothing.” So, the mysterious visitor told them to cast their nets out the right side of the boat.

Suddenly, as they did it, the haul of fish became so large that they couldn’t get it in the boat. Peter did what every good fisherman does: not, he left his friends in the boat to struggle with the catch because suddenly he knew that it was Jesus on the beach and he ran to meet him.

So, the question I keep asking myself is, why didn’t the disciples recognize Jesus standing on the beach?
Was it as simple as it was still too dark, or was it something else?
And why did they recognize it was Jesus after they caught the haul of fish?
Was it because they had caught a large haul of fish before, or was it something else?

John lets us know that they still weren’t completely sure it was Jesus, even after they were eating breakfast with him, because he tells us: “And no one dared ask him if he really was the Lord because they were sure of it” (John 21:12).

But, why did he include that phrase if they were so sure?

I’ve been wrestling with the challenge of how our cultural upbringing and our day to day experience helps determine our paradigm of life. We perceive Jesus to be a certain way because our experience, our modeling and the teaching we receive tells us that he is that way. What we think and believe determines how we live our lives.

But, I keep wondering, where do I not see Jesus?

Where do I miss who he really is, rather than who I think he is?

I think this is a key question for everyone who follows him, especially as we find ourselves in a time of great transition for the Church.

When Jesus came to earth to live as a human, everything shifted. When he was crucified, everything shifted. When he left earth for heaven, everything shifted again. When Pentecost happened 10 days later, the shift for his followers was monumental again.

Sometimes we have a hard time keeping up with the shifts. The disciples did because right before Jesus left for heaven, they were still asking him when he was going to free Israel and restore the former kingdom. They were still looking backward in their paradigm because they hadn’t yet fully absorbed the new.

One thing I am learning is that when Jesus calls us to the new it is always so much better than the old.

The Kingdom of God that Jesus brought to earth will always be far superior to an earthly kingdom involving a human king. The New Testament Church was far superior to the Old Testament Church because it was focused on grace and forgiveness, rather than failure and sin. Pentecost was superior to Jewish nationalism because the doors were opened wide to anyone who wanted to become a Jesus follower.

The other lesson, however, is that to return to our old way of life or our old thinking patterns after we have experienced the shift is to the new is to come up with empty nets. The disciples didn’t catch any fish and neither will we.

This week is the Celebration of Pentecost. Pentecost simply means “50” and it comes 50 days after Passover. The Celebration of Pentecost in the Jewish faith included coming to Jerusalem to offer their sacrifices of the harvest. People came from all over the world and it was at that point that the Lord decided to “help us recognize Jesus.”

The disciples were given the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. They had been set apart in the upper room, waiting and praying for what Jesus had promised them, but I am sure that they didn’t know what it was or what it would look like. I am pretty certain they had no idea that they would all run into the temple courtyard speaking languages they had never learned so that everyone present could hear the story of Jesus in their own language.

Where do you need to experience recognizing Jesus in a new way?

Where has your faith gotten stale and “fishless” and you need a new vision of who Jesus is?

I encourage you to spend this week in an upper room posture, waiting expectantly for the new vision that Jesus wants to give you of himself and the new experience of our faith for “such a time as this.”

I challenge you to spend time understanding how you have developed your current recognition of Jesus and then to ask him for a glimpse of the “man on the beach that the disciples got to experience.” There was something very compelling about Jesus on the beach.

He gave specific direction for next steps. He brought miracles of provision. He provided a net that didn’t rip. He even went so far as to invite his friends to breakfast. Why? Because he loved these friends and he wanted them to know “who he really was,” not just to remain in the place of “who they thought he was.”

One way that you can step into this place of seeking to recognize Jesus on the beach is to join with other people who are praying this week for Pentecost.

Go to http://www.doodle.com/participation.html?pollId=b2p3u825re9kpxeq&adminKey=&participantKey=&expandedTab=&summary=more to make your commitment to pray on Thursday, May 20th.
(it is fine to have more than one person per hour).

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