The Easter Moment: Drawing Conclusions
Armed with historical clues, we can speculate on the moving drama that came to be called the Resurrection.
Normal custom dictated by the Palestinian elements was for travelers to walk only from sundown until the pitch black of night sent them seeking shelter. Then, at the first light of dawn, they would journey until mid-morning, when the sun drove pilgrims to the shade. So I suspect Simon was on his way toward Galilee as soon as the sun sank on the Sabbath. Perhaps a week later, he arrived in Galilee, where he could feel the security of his home.
Over the next several days the others arrived, still traumatized, still fearful, still grief-stricken and immobilized by their bereavement. So they did, I suspect, what all grieving people do: They processed their feelings, recalled final memories, replayed the tapes of their relationship with Jesus, and tried to make sense out of what they had experienced. There was sufficient anger and blame to go around, and it was shared, not always helpfully, as each sought to save his own reputation. Days passed, and then weeks. The thick darkness that engulfed them did not seem to lift.
Fishing on the 12-mile-wide Sea of Galilee was done in small boats, usually with a crew of four. I suspect that this particular crew was made up of Simon himself, his brother Andrew, and the two sons of Zebedee. It was still important to them to be closely associated with those who had shared their defining life experience. The best catches on the lake were just before dawn. Without refrigeration, fishermen had to market their catch each morning to be eaten at the primary meal at midday. So the fishing boats would go out in the night and return at dawn.
As Simon thought about these familiar phrases, it seemed to him that the prophet was describing Jesus. At the very least, Zechariah was describing a view of God that was like Jesus' views. A God revealed in defeat is a God made known not in power but in the act of giving love. This is a God whose presence did not stop at the boundaries of human fear or the quest for security. This was the God the disciples had seen in Jesus. Even his death could not invalidate their experience.
It was a boring job, drifting endlessly on a calm sea with nets dropped or at anchor in a more turbulent sea. So the crew had lots of time to talk. Jesus remained the content of their conversation. The Sea of Galilee was filled with memories. Jesus had been so intensely present in their lives, and now he was so intensely absent. Jesus had revealed to them a meaning of God that was different from what they had ever known before. God was like the father who welcomed the prodigal son, like the widow who searched endlessly for the lost coin, like the generous steward who paid people who worked one hour the same wage as those who had contracted for a whole day. He showed them a God whose love did not stop at the boundary of their own love or at the border of their tribe, their prejudice, their sense of superiority, their moral judgment, or even their religion.