We next join our beloved eleven disciples on the seas. After the crucifixion, they retreated into the Upper Room - the last place where they experienced Jesus as everything they had known and loved of Him, but when we see them again, they've gone out to the seas. At least, those of them that knew how to fish.
Often, pastors make quite a big deal of this. At the moment when everything seems lost or postponed or at least more confusing than it ever has been, the disciples turned around and went back to what they knew before they knew Jesus. When He found them in the first place, they were fishing. He called to them and they dropped their nets, but here they are in the shadow of the resurrection, and it seems they've picked their nets back up again.
The lesson, of course, is about how easy it is to go back to what you know when what you hope for doesn't seem to be working. It's a warning.
Or is it?
Although it fits a narrative that can be powerful and poignant, there's another explanation to why we see the disciples out on the sea once more: perhaps they never left it.
After all, Paul never stopped being a tent maker. He even talks about how he uses his skills as a tent maker to provide for himself as an apostle, so that he cannot be accused of being in it for the money. He believes there is great honor in continuing to work with your hands even as you're working for the Lord; it shows who you are and that, in turn, shows who He is. He uses a tent maker.
And we know that the disciples always seemed to have a boat handy. Have you noticed how many times Jesus just steps into a boat and crosses over to the other side of some body of water? It's easy to think Jesus was just out there stealing boats, that He just took them and the owners of the boats must have been okay with that, probably because He eventually returned them when He came back. There are an awful lot of Christians that figure Jesus was just stealing things that belonged to other persons...I mean, uhm, taking them in the authority of the God to whom all things belong....
But do you know what's more likely than our Lord and Savior stealing random boats? It's more likely that someone with Him owned those boats. And who owns boats? Fishermen own boats. Maybe the disciples simply never stopped working with their hands while they were learning the ministry. Maybe they still cast their nets in the water, even while they were fishing for men.
A man's got to do something, right?
Herein, then, lies another potential lesson for us from the lives of the disciples: following Jesus is not permission to be idle. Waiting on God is not an opportunity to do nothing. We ought to be working. We ought to be doing those things that we do. We ought to be providing and contributing and demonstrating to the world who we are; that demonstrates, in turn, who He is.
So put your hands to it and get a little dirty. Yes, even a season of waiting. Build something. Catch something. Provide something. Make something, even while He's making something of you.
It's not weird to see the disciples fishing in the shadow of the empty tomb; it would be weird not to.