Well Johnny Rotten got a lot wrong down the years, but he got a lot right too (not least of all his outing of Jimmy Saville as a sex abuser long before the BBC got around to admitting it).
Here’s something else he got (a bit) right:
Yes, that’s just man’s fantasy. In part Mr Rotten/Lydon highlights his ignorance of what the Bible actually says about the age to come and heaven, but he is on to something, even if at his ripe old age (60!) he may increasingly suspect that while heaven is bound for this earth, it’s not present yet.
I’ve just finished reading through John’s Gospel again, and I love the glimpse we get in the final chapters of what our everyday work might look like in light of the resurrection.
There in ch21 the disciples are going fishing again. And once again the frustrations of a fallen creation take hold. It reads:
Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
The plans were made and executed. The result of all their labour? Nothing.
That’s the way work can work in this age. Sure sometimes we pull it off and get the results we wish for or close to at least. But so little can come of so much, so often. Work is laden with frustration, even when we do it all to the glory of God.
But what happens when the resurrected Jesus appears on the beach while the disciples fish in vain? Well first of all he doesn’t say to the disciples, “Stop working, and start worshipping.” No, read what it says:
Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?”They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish.
We even get the size of fish (large), and the total (153). And guess what else? The net took the strain – it was not torn.
Okay, so I don’t want to push this, and I am sure it’s been used as a lesson in evangelism many times, but it’s a picture of non-frustrated redeemed work in the age to come: successful, measurable and without the unforeseen consequences that often scupper our best laid plans.
But do you know what’s best of all about this story? In the fallen world the sweat of our brow is how we feed ourselves, and there is often a disjunct between how much sweat versus how much food. However when the disciples come ashore, Jesus has a meal of fish and bread already for them. He then says “Come and have breakfast.” He’s prepared a table for them already and he feeds them.
The disciples’ work, as it intersected with the resurrection that early morning, was redeemed and useful, but Jesu provided far above and beyond even that for them. He invites them to a feast, once again with fish and bread. Only this time they don’t hand it out to others, they feed on it themselves.
Resurrection work is liberated from frustration, from necessity and most of all from self-justification, by the one who said just a few chapters earlier “It is finished”, having completed the most important work of all.
I trust that encourages you as you go about your work this Monday morning, and gives you a taste of the sheer delight of work in the age to come.