The Fisherman

“Once when he was standing on the shore of Lake Gennesaret, the crowd was pushing in on him to better hear the Word of God.” Luke 5:1 (The Message)


Oh, the stink of fish was more than he could bear!

The tangled nets, in a heap where he had
thrown them, this bilge fouled boat,
the open blisters on his hands from hauling wet line,
the ache in his back and across his shoulders
from the weight of the net,
empty, empty every time,
and he wanted to know what he was doing
and why, why,
                 why did he bother…

What was the use?

Years of this.
Still paying off his father’s interest in the boat.
Trapped in this stinking village, 
enslaved to the whims to this lake,
to the capricious fish,
never where he expected them,
never where they ought to be,
and this sea,
as capricious as the fish with its storms,
the constant threat of unreasonable weather,
it was bound to drown him before it was done,
and he was tired of it,  
and the wine jar (and who could blame him)
nursed all the way in, was nearly empty,
and no more at home, and no catch,
no cash, for more,
and his family, his wife, his sons,
looking at him from an empty table
when he came through the door,  
and not so much as a single minnow
to show for a whole night’s work. 

And he threw the nets out on the sand
and grabbed the sponge and cork to scrub them,
as though he could rub out a lifetime
of this fruitless labor,
this hopeless slavery to the sea,
a life of hunger, of danger, of rage…

And then this madman, this Y’shua,
dragging a great crowd of fanatics behind him,
came marching down the beach…
or scuttling backwards at the water edge at least,
the crowd was that insistent, and,
calm as anything stepped into his boat,
Simon’s boat, and said,
“Stand off from shore a bit
so I can speak to these people.”

And why not? What did it matter?
What did anything matter?
So he’d thrown in the sponge, oh yes!
and taken an oar and floated out, 
and sat there in the new sun and,
despite himself, listened.

“God’s Spirit is on me; 
he’s chosen me to preach the Message
of good news to the poor,
sent me to announce pardon to prisoners
and recovery of sight to the blind, 
to set the burdened and battered free,
to announce, “This is God’s year to act!””

And something in Simon’s heart opened to the words, 
like a clenched fist first relaxing…

He’d seen this Y’shua before,
when he and Andrew had gone down
to find John and bring him home
from that madness at the Jordan,
that other John, the Baptist,
and Andrew had come and claimed
he had seen the Messiah, this Y’shua,
And it had been all Simon could do
to bring either Andrew or John
back to the boat, the nets, to their duty:

He didn’t get it, he didn’t understand…
what did they see in this wild-eyed rabble rouser? 

But there was something,
something about this Y’shua and his words,
something that touched a part of Simon 
something that had not stirred since Sabbath school,
something he thought drowned
in fish brine and wine long ago.

“Come, all you who are weary
and loaded down by life’s cares
or the duties of your religion, 
and I will give you rest.
Be harnessed with me, pull with me,
and you’ll learn how easy it can be, 
for I am a gentle and humble in heart:
even as we labor you will find your rest.
The yoke I bear is easy and my load is light.
Learn from me and the truth
of God’s love will set you free.”

And then this Y’shua had turned
and looked Simon in a way no one
had ever looked at him before, 
as though he saw something there
that no one had ever seen in Simon,
some Simon even Simon didn’t know.

“Put out into deep water
and let down your nets for a catch.”

And Andrew, of course, was jumping ashore
with a great splash and hauling the wet nets
back aboard before Simon could get a word out…

“But master, we’ve been fishing hard all night
and haven’t caught a thing, not a minnow.
What do you expect?”

And Y’shua had just sat there looking at him, smiling.

“Ahhhh”. It came out of Simon
like someone had hit in the stomach.
Oh, what did it matter?
“But, hay, you are the master,
whatever you say.”

And by now, somehow, Andrew had gotten
them out to the drop off,
beyond where any fisherman worth his salt
would ever go for fish, and they dumped the net.

And it came alive with their hands still on the ropes.
It twisted and turned as fish filled it,
as fish rushed to fill it,
and he could see them coming from all directions,
their silver backs flashing
just beneath the surface in the sun.

“Haul in!”
he shouted as the net threatened
to get away from them with the unexpected weight,
and they hauled, hand over hand,
and it was too heavy,
too full of flashing impossible fish,
and he called to the other boat,
to John and James, and they came,
and between them they got the catch aboard,
more than both boats could safely hold,
and Simon fell to his knees
right there in the bilge and the fish,
and cried out:

“Master leave me!
I am a sinner and this bounty will kill me.
Leave me alone.”

But they got the catch in, all of them,
Andrew, and John, and James,
totally amazed,
stunned at the impossible magnitude of it,
the amazing abundance,
three days catch at least,
laying there on the beach in the morning sun.

And Y’shua said,
“Don’t worry.
From now on you will be fishing for souls.”

And before he knew it,
he was helping the others
pull the boats up on the beach,
and they turned, John and James,
and Andrew, and followed this Y’shua,
leaving the mound of miraculous fish
right where it had fallen, and,

after a moment, with a shrug,
and something like hope in his heart again,
so did Simon.

How could he help himself?
He was a fisherman,
and this Y’shua had spoken to him in fish.

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