From All Things New
Jesus Christ is the forerunner for the Great Renewal, “the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead,” (Colossians 1:18). He died, as everyone has and will. But on the third day he was raised to life, leaving his grave clothes folded neatly in the tomb. (A very touching detail, I might add, as if to say, “And that’s that,” like a man putting away his flannel pajamas now that winter is past.) On Easter morning Jesus walked out of the grave radiantly alive, restored, and everyone recognized him. The “new” Jesus is not someone or something else now; he is the Jesus they loved and knew. He walked with them, had meals with them – just like before. They most striking thing about the post-resurrection activities of Jesus is that they were so remarkably ordinary:
Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.
Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. (John 21:4-6, 9-13)
This is such a homely scene, so commonplace, the sort of thing you’d expect to run into along the shore of Lake Michigan or the Mississippi. Just a group of guys hanging out at the beach, cooking breakfast for some friends. Jesus’s restored life is surprisingly like his “former” life. As will be drinking wine at the feast; as will be the feast itself (how many of you realize you eat in the life to come?!). The Great Renewal rescues us from all the vague, ethereal, unimaginable visions we’ve been given of an eternal life Somewhere Up Above. When Jesus speaks of the Restoration, he does so in very tangible terms, pointing to the recovery of normal things like houses and lands:
“Truly, I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”(Matthew 19:28-29)
There is no bait and switch here. The renewal of all things simply means that the Earth you love – all your special places and treasured memories – is restored and renewed and given back to you. Forever. Nobody seems to have heard this or paid much attention to it because, for one thing, nobody I know is fantasizing about it. When was the last time you eavesdropped on a conversation at Starbucks about the restoration of all things? And for another thing, everybody I talk to still has these anemic, wispy views of Heaven, as a place up there somewhere, where we go to attend the eternal-worship-service-in-the-sky.
Meanwhile we fantasize about that boat we’d love to get or the trip to Italy, the chocolate éclair, or the girl in the cubicle next door. Of course we do – we are made for utter happiness.
But the restoration of all things – now that would change everything.