Well, it’s final now. I’ve sold the boat to a friend, so I guess it’s all over. My days as a fisherman are now officially ended. Not that I didn’t know it already. It was actually over about three years ago, ever since I followed John into the Jordan River. His proclamation to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins struck me somehow. I was a faithful Jew already – I followed all the commands of the Law, observed the Sabbath, and offered sacrifices as often as I could. While we do have religious freedom under Roman rule, there are still some restrictions placed on us. One restriction relates to the sacrifices, they can now only be offered in Jerusalem. Despite my adherence to the rules of my faith, something about this man named John made me feel there was something more. He spoke of someone else that was to come after him. I can’t put it in words exactly, but something about him was intriguing.
If I call John intriguing, then I am truly at a loss of words for the man called Jesus, from Nazareth. He appeared one day at the river-side of the Jordan. He walked in and was baptized just the same as others were. But it was his emergence from the river that captured my attention. He paused slightly at the edge, tilted his head toward the sky, and seemed to be listening to someone speak. I personally didn’t hear anybody; but his reaction convinced me he did. He smiled slightly, nodded his head as if assenting to something, and then continued along his way.
I returned to my boat and nets. Yet, the work just wasn’t the same. My mind kept replaying the incident from the Jordan. I had a network of friends and fellow fishermen, and we all kept in touch with John and his activities. We were saddened, yet not surprised, the day we received the news he had been arrested. We had warned him about speaking out against Herodias. While we certainly agreed with him that Herod was wrong in marrying his brother’s wife, we knew that criticizing the king could be a dangerous risk to take. We all prayed for him and hoped for a happy ending, yet it didn’t seem likely.
It was around this time that I saw this man Jesus once again. He arrived in Galilee where I lived and worked. He had seemed to pick up the mantle from John, for he was proclaiming the same thing, calling on people to repent. Yet he said something else that was even stranger, he was proclaiming, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near.” I tried to figure out what he meant by that, but it just didn’t make sense.
Several days later I was on the bank of the Sea of Galilee casting my net into the water. It had been a good day for fishing and we were almost ready to haul in our last load. In fact, some friends, James and John, were already through fishing for the day. They were in their boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, preparing for the next day’s work. Some other friends, Simon and Andrew, were just a few paces down the beach from me; they too were still casting their net. I heard a familiar voice speak and I turned to look. There stood that man named Jesus.
He was talking to Simon and Andrew. I heard him say, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Once again his spoken words were confusing, but his voice was captivating. He spoke with authority, more authority than a poor common man should even attempt to have. I don’t know what convinced Simon and Andrew to just drop their nets and follow him. I heard the same words they did, and while they were interesting, I wouldn’t have been ready to leave a successful fishing enterprise just like that. The only thing I could figure at the time was there must have been something in his eyes when he called them. He was looking at them face to face and eye to eye. Perhaps that combined with his voice must have been what drew them to him. Moments later, he walked over to James and John and spoke to them. They too, immediately climbed out of the boat, left their father Zebedee and followed Jesus along the way. I was beginning to wonder if instead of being intrigued about this man if perhaps I should be frightened. I wondered where his power came from.
As was my custom, I faithfully arrived at the synagogue at Capernaum on the Sabbath. Imagine my astonishment when Jesus stood during the assembly and began to teach. The scribes themselves had never taught in such a manner. He spoke with a gentle, yet forceful, tone of voice that demanded attention and he taught with such knowledge and authority. It was odd, it was almost like he was the focus behind the words, even in a way, the meaning of the words. A thought came to my mind, which I immediately had to banish. That thought was, “This is God himself speaking.” I was glad the scribes were not able to read my mind.
They probably would have stoned me in the streets. Yet, only minutes later the same blasphemous thought returned. A man jumped up and began screaming at Jesus. Jesus rebuked him and he began to convulse and the spirit which had held him left. I left and returned home alone. I was trying to reason out all these strange happenings that kept occurring. I had no idea of the even stranger things that lay ahead.
The next day I went about my same fishing routine. I heard Jesus had left town so I was anxious for my life to return to normal. These things were just too strange and mystifying for me to consider. I enjoyed a brief respite for some days. But just as I was beginning to settle back into my normal way of life, I heard the news. Jesus was back in town. The man who told us also told us that almost the whole town had gathered around the home where he was now staying. Against what seemed to be my better judgment I instructed my workers to pack up the equipment for the day. Afterwards, we arrived at the house where Jesus was.
The crowd that had gathered there was unbelievable. The house could not hold one more person inside. And the outside was worse, with people elbowing and pushing, trying to get as close as they could. I stood on the outer edges still trying to mull over in my mind what to think about this man. Obviously, I wasn’t the only one who sensed something different in him. The crowd was evidence of that. As I stood there, four men approached the house carrying a man on a stretcher. When they passed by, I saw who he was and realized that I knew him – he had been paralyzed for many years. The crowd outside was surprisingly accommodating for the men. They politely parted, creating a path for them. Yet we all knew that it would be impossible for them to get through the front door. I expected them to turn away; yet to my amazement they determinedly lifted the stretcher onto the roof. They dug a hole and lowered the man down through. Moments later the crowd once again parted to create a pathway. Yet this time it originated at the front door of the house. The once paralyzed man walked out, with his stretcher rolled up under his arm. His four friends followed behind.
As I watched them disappear down the road, the crowd began to murmur. Just like myself, everyone was amazed at what they had seen. But it went beyond the amazing healing we had witnessed. It took a while to piece it all together, but I finally heard the whole story. Instead of immediately healing the man, Jesus had instead first pronounced that his sins were forgiven. “Why did he say that? Only God can forgive sins,” everyone was asking. I thought I was beginning to understand the answer, but I kept silent because I wasn’t even ready to admit to myself, much less anyone else what I thought.
Many weeks passed till I saw him again. He was teaching the people beside the sea. The crowd, as usual, was huge so Jesus climbed in a boat to speak to them. His favorite style of teaching was to tell stories that the people could relate to. This particular story dealt with a sower who went out to sow seed, and the various outcomes of the seed depending on where they fell. Later on, he more fully explained this story to his disciples and some others of us who were still around. The seed, he explained, was the word, and the outcomes were the different ways the word is received by different people. Even with the fuller explanation, we still didn’t understand him completely.
When evening came, Jesus told his followers he wanted to cross the sea to the other side. He was still in the boat he had been teaching from. I was in another boat nearby, and decided to cross with them as well. Not long after we set out, a great storm arose and I feared that we along with all the other boats would be ripped apart, leaving us at the mercy of the waves. Yet we continued to fight, determined to keep the boat upright and on course as long as possible. And then in a split second the wind and waves just suddenly stopped. It was such a sudden dead calm that I knew I must have perished. Yet when I opened my eyes I saw that I was still among the living. I looked to my right and there in the boat beside us stood Jesus, with outstretched arms. Had he done this? Had he actually stopped a storm by his own power? Who is this man? The questions poured out of my head like a waterfall. The other boats continued on to the other side, but I decided to return back home, so we changed direction and left. I was just too afraid of this man and what he could do.
It was years before I saw him again. Oh, he had been back in town several times, but I didn’t actively seek him out. Not that I didn’t keep up with what he was doing. It would have been impossible not to know what was going on, since everyone was always talking about it. I heard about Jairus’ daughter, who everyone claimed had been dead, but was restored to life when Jesus touched her. I heard stories of healings and even casting out of demons. There was even on remarkable story of unclean spirits that had been driven out of a man that somehow overtook a herd of pigs. The pigs ran wild and ran off a bank in to the sea and drowned. Another one that was even more amazing than that involved feeding five thousand men. While feeding that many people was a feat in and of itself, they claim all the disciples had to start with were five loaves of bread and two fish.
While most of these stories were re-told by those who were amazed and excited about the things going on, there were some who weren’t pleased at all with all this talk about Jesus. Particularly, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, two religious sects who both held much power. Obviously I wasn’t a part of either one’s “in crowd” since I was just a lowly fisherman, but I kept hearing second hand reports about them. They kept testing Jesus, asking him questions regarding the law and what was right. From what I heard they were trying to trick him into saying something erroneous. Yet the reports that were recounted to me sounded as if Jesus was always one step ahead of them and could anticipate their trickery. The odd thing was that typically these two groups were opposed to each other, but somehow they had formed an alliance to oppose this man. They must have felt threatened by him for some reason. Yet again another example the power and authority this man seemed to possess.
As I said, it had been years since I last saw Jesus. Many things had happened, including the death of John the Baptist. Some even thought Jesus was John come back to like, but I knew that wasn’t right. I had watched John baptize Jesus. The occasion I had to meet up with him was on the way to Jerusalem. It was nearing time for the Passover and the road was full of travelers like myself. One day I caught up with him and his followers. From there on out I stayed near their group. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t still frightened by him somewhat. The things I had seen him do, the stories I had heard, it was hard not to be wary of a man with that kind of power. But as we traveled I got another sense of feeling while around him. He seemed to have a peace about him I had never seen before in any man. Like someone who knew what was ahead in the future, but was well prepared for it, whether it was good or bad.
We parted ways before we reached Jerusalem. Once there I celebrated the Passover meal with friends and family. The next day I happened to be on the road that led the way to the governor’s palace. I heard a great commotion so I walked over that way. The crowd was yelling, “Crucify him, Crucify him.” I assumed some horrible criminal had been on trial so I turned to go. Yet, as I did out of the corner of my eye I saw the supposed criminal standing up there. It was Jesus! How had this happened? What possible crime could he have committed?
I stood there in disbelief as I watched the Roman soldiers beat him and shove a crown made out of thorns on his head. They spat on him and was making fun of him. They placed a heavy wooden cross on his back and they began the walk to Golgotha. I was standing right there on the side of the road, and realized Jesus was going to pass just a couple feet in front of me. I tried to run away. I didn’t want to see this spectacle. Yes, I had been somewhat scared of this man, but only because deep down I knew who and what he was. I tried to run, but it felt as if my feet had been nailed to the ground, just like his would soon be nailed to the cross on his back. So there I stood. He stumbled as he reached the point of the road right in front of me. The soldiers grabbed a man from the crowd and forced him to carry the cross for Jesus. As Jesus stood, he turned his head and looked straight into my eyes, boring deep into my soul. He didn’t speak out loud, but a voice so audible and clear resounded in my ears, “Come, follow me and I will make you a fisher of men.” The eye contact lasted at most a second. But with that second the whole world paused. When it resumed, I knew who I was and why I was here. I thought back to that day beside the Sea of Galilee. Now I knew what Simon and Andrew had seen. Now I knew.
I turned and went the other direction. I knew his invitation was meant for later and not his immediate destination. Besides, I was fully aware of the process of Crucifixion and did not want to witness that agonizing procedure carried out. I spent the rest of the morning walking around the city. At noon a darkness fell and for three hours it was like night. When the darkness lifted and light returned, I realized I was standing near the temple. Suddenly, I saw a priest come running from the temple. Another stopped him to ask what was wrong. I overheard him say the curtain inside had suddenly ripped from top to bottom. The purpose of the curtain was to separate us from God, thereby protecting us from Him as well. That separation was now gone. I was not surprised. I knew God’s presence was with us now in a way it had never been before.
So now I’ve sold the boat. I said my days as a fisherman are over, but that’s not quite right. Now I plan on being a fisher of men. It’s been a week now since the Crucifixion of that man named Jesus. The third day after he had been buried, the women had gone to the tomb to anoint him. But when they arrived he wasn’t there. The Roman soldiers are trying to say the disciples stole his body, but only because they are trying to keep themselves out of trouble. They had been assigned to guard his tomb to prevent something like this from happening. There have been reports from several disciples that they have seen Jesus. I haven’t seen him myself, and even though I would love dearly to see him again, I don’t have to do so to believe. I already believe. The time is fulfilled. The Kingdom of God is near.