Life After Easter
There is a certain ordinariness to life after Easter. After a week filled with the solemn remembrance of Jesus’s death and the joyful celebration of His resurrection, we go back to life as it was before. The prayer sessions, worship services, and group activities that packed the calendar of our Holy Week are put behind us, and we are left on our own to continue our private pursuit of the Lord.
For me, the series of weeks after Holy Week tends to feel, by comparison, not so holy. After a week of focusing my personal Bible study on the Easter story, I never know which Scripture to read; after a week of Easter-focused prayer, I never know what to pray. Without the ardent focus of Easter, it is hard for me to figure out what to do when life goes back to normal.
This year, as my graduation from college rapidly approaches, I have been thinking even more than usual about how to live my life after the centering focus of Easter falls away. As I have begun to reflect on the spiritual impact of my time at Columbia, I have realized that it has been, symbolically, an Easter in my life—a time of spiritual focus that cannot be easily replicated. Whether at church, at Bible study, in leadership of a Christian student group, or in companionship with a wide network of Christian friends, I have had the structure to guide me and the fellowship to encourage me in my faith, much like Holy Week does for me each year. My four years at Columbia have been the time during which I have recognized the monumental truth of Jesus’s lordship, and during which I have gained a dim, initial understanding of the unfathomable grace that is available to us through Him. I can only liken the spiritual epiphany I have felt during these four years to the things we learn in the week leading up to Easter.
But this college time of life, like Easter week does each year, is quickly passing away. With that in mind, how can I keep my life after Columbia from falling into a spiritual low period, as it never fails to do in the weeks after Easter? How can I make my life after college the fruitful period I know it can be?
It was this question that led me to John 21. By this point in John’s Gospel, Jesus has died, been buried, and risen from the dead, and has appeared to His disciples to charge them to spread the Gospel. 1 But despite these miraculous things, life for these followers of Jesus moves on after his ascension. Returning to the work they had known before His resurrection, the disciples sail out on the Sea of Galilee for a quiet and unsuccessful night of fishing. But Jesus, appearing to them again in the morning light, directs their nets and cooks them breakfast with the plentiful fish they catch thereafter.
As I have thought more about life after Easter this year, this passage of John has taught me two things. First, it tells me that just because I have seen Jesus so vividly during the Easter season does not mean I should not keep looking for Him in the seemingly anticlimactic time that follows. The disciples, having witnessed both the glory of Jesus’s resurrection and His return, did not expect Him to appear to them again as they returned to their ordinary lives. 2 But He did—reminding me that just because I may not be in as much of a spiritually exciting a time of my life does not mean that Jesus is not just as present. I cannot hold Holy Week as an end-all and be-all in my spiritual life. This comfort of remembering that Jesus is present even in the lackluster moments is coupled with a reminder of my own responsibility: Jesus will be seeking me, just as He sought out His disciples on the Sea of Galilee, but I must be equally as vigilant, watching for Him and calling out to Him as they did so that the opportunity to be in His presence doesn’t pass me by. 3
Second, it tells me that I need to intentionally and repeatedly reaffirm my commitment to Jesus in just one moment of my life. “Easter isn’t magic,” as Rev. David Bisgrove of Redeemer Presbyterian Church said in a recent sermon on John 21. It doesn’t mean that I am totally transformed, perfect in my devotion to God from Easter forward. Although I may have grown in my faith during my college years, they are only the beginning of a lifelong journey toward a changed heart and a full understanding of what Jesus’s life means. Jesus pushes Peter in John 21 to repeatedly reassert his love for Him, commanding him in consequence, “Feed my sheep.” 4 Jesus does not take it as a given that living through Easter means that Peter has all the reminder he needs to do the Lord’s work. Jesus has to continually push Peter to remember his commitment to the Lord, which is the foundation upon which his work for the Kingdom stands.
With this powerful scene in mind, I am reminded that I need to urge myself to continually do this exercise as I live out my life after Easter. In times of spiritual intensity, it is easy to feel your love for Jesus; but it is not as automatic of a reflex when normal life kicks back in. As I move into life after college, I need to continually ask myself: Do I love Jesus? Do I center my life on Him even after the business of Holy Week falls away? In affirming that I do, I remind myself of my responsibility to feed His sheep—not only when I am surrounded by a thriving Christian community that fosters my ability to do so, but also when all of that falls away and I am left to be a Christian on my own.
There will be a certain ordinariness to the time after college, yes, but that will be as it will be. Not every season can be Easter. It is the ordinary seasons, though, in which we really live out our faith—when we have nothing to propel us but ourselves and our dedication to a God that continues to reign, even in life after Easter.