copyright ©Vincent Marquis, 2020
(This is the second part of a story about Jesus calling Peter, Andrew, James, and John as disciples. It is based on the relevant New Testament passages in the Gospels Matthew, Mark, and Luke, with some literary licence).
Shim’on paused his rowing to look. After a few seconds he responded, “Hey, I think you’re right! It’s a bit far to tell for sure, but I believe you. I wonder what he’s doing there right after sunrise. I hope he wasn’t coming to buy fish.”
“Yeah. That would be embarrassing,” chuckled Andreas. He called across to Ya’akov and Yochanan in the other boat, half joking, “Hey, Ya’akov, Yochanan! Look who’s on the beach waiting just for us!”
The other two partners paused their rowing too. After a few seconds, young Yochanan, who also had acute vision, declared without any hesitation, “Hey! It’s Yeshua, the new rabbi in town. Cool! I’ve been hoping to hear him teach and meet him. There are some pretty strange stories going around about him.”
Ya’akov cautioned him, “We’ve work to finish before you go off listening to a preacher. Most of those stories are made up anyway.”
Andreas responded, “I don’t know about that, Ya’akov. I was at the Jordan ford when he came for mikvah with the Immerser. Something pretty amazing happened. I saw and heard it all myself.”
“Yes, yes, we know what you say you saw, about a dove coming down on him and the Immerser saying he should be immersed by Yeshua instead of the other way around. And a thunderclap out of clear blue sky! We all know what a good imagination you have, Andreas,” finished the sceptical Ya’akov.
“It was not my imagination!” snapped Andreas. “There were hundreds of people who saw and heard the same thing as I did. Ask any of them.”
“Yes,” said Yochanan. “I spoke to my friend Talmai yesterday, and he was there too. He said that that is just what happened. But that Yeshua told Yochanan to immerse him anyway because it was what was needed to satisfy righteousness.”
Andreas pondered. “What a strange thing to say. I wonder what he meant. Now that I think about it, after he immersed Yeshua and as Yeshua was leaving Yochanan said something even more puzzling. He called Yeshua the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”. He said he would immerse people in fire.”
“Yes!” added Yochanan. “He did say that. Now I really want to meet this Yeshua. He was gone for a while, but now here he is again. I’m super curious. And now here he is on our beach. Oh wow!”
Andreas the joker laughed, “Yep! And he’s there to ask you for the best fish in your boat, Yochan,” he jibed, using his younger friend’s short name.
Shim’on was lost in deep thought and ever so slightly trembing as he listened to this banter. The chill? Yeshua, the new mystery man, was standing on the beach, and, he could see, plainly looking out over the lake at the four of them in their two fish-empty boats. He had only ever seen him very briefly in the last few days that he had been in K’far-Nachum since his return from Y’hudah. It was rumored he had not even gone to Yerushalayim, but out into the wilderness south-east of the city, down Yericho way.
If he was an up and coming new rabbi, one even recognized by the Immerser as someone special, why would he come back here to the backside of Israel? Why didn’t he go to the city and set up in the Temple Porticos like the other rabbis seeking to gather disciples and make a name for themselves? He would never get anywhere by spending his time up in the Galil among its uncultured peasants and yokels.
Yet here he was. Shim’on felt uncomfortable. Yeshua was still staring out at them as they drew near to shore. What did he want? They were just about in ear-shot now, and the rabbi’s voice drifted out to them across the water.
“Good morning, friends. Could you come into shore and let me get into your boat?” Shim’on knew he was talking to him. He looked at Andreas, who looked as startled as he was, but quickly responded, “C’mon, Shim’on! Let’s do it!”
Shim’on shrugged as if he was indifferent, but mumbled, “Alright.”
Yeshua watched them come in as the boat’s prow bumped against the wharf. He had a huge smile as he said, “I really appreciate this, friends. I’m Yeshua.”
Andreas reached out to help him up over the gunnels, saying, “I’m Andreas and this is my brother Shim’on. What did you have in mind, rabbi?”
“If you don’t mind I just want to spend a few minutes talking to the people who have followed me to the shore. If I’m in a boat they’ll see me better and my voice will carry.”
“Sure, no problem,” Shim’on answered. He felt as if he were almost standing outside himself listening. The man’s eyes were uncanny, but not creepy. He read real compassion in them, a sort of genuine caring. His voice also intoned the same sense. It was melodious, somehow soothing and authoritative at the same time.
Yeshua asked, “So this is your boat, Shim’on?”
“Yes, rabbi. Andreas and I own it together. Those two in the other boat are Ya’akov and Yochanan, our partners. You might know of their father, Zavdai. He owns a number of boats around Kinnaret.”
Yeshua grinned. “As a matter of fact, I’ve done business with Zavdai. My father Yosef and I helped him build a dock a while back and we made some furniture for their house a few years ago. I don’t know if Ya’akov and Yochanan would remember me, but I remember seeing them around and chatting with them back then.”
“Small world!” said Andreas. “Hey, Ya’akov and Yochan. Do you remember Yeshua the carpenter working at your house and your father’s dock a while back?”
The other two looked sharply at the rabbi. “Well I’ll be!. Of course. Yeshua the carpenter from Natzeret! But, you’re now a rabbi? That’s quite a shift!” said Ya’akov the sceptic.
Yeshua ignored Ya’akov’s tone and answered graciously, “It’s really nice to see you both again.”
He then moved to the sturdy forward shelf in Shim’on’s boat and stepped up where the crowd, now numbering several hundred, could see him. His voice was resonant and conveyed real authority as he first told them a story about a pearl followed by another one about a treasure buried in a field. He finished with a blessing on them as he dismissed them to go about their daily concerns. He reassured them that he would be available later outside the synagogue for them to come with their sick and unwell. Right now he needed to spend time with his new friends.
He stepped back down into the boat as the crowd began to disperse calmly and peacefully. As simple as this had all been, lasting no more than ten minutes, Shim’on, Andreas, Ya’akov and Yochanan had been spell-bound. They had just met him but somehow it seemed as if they had already known him for years.
Something buried deep inside was welling up in Shim’on, something linked to this unusual person, so unlike anyone else he was likely ever to meet again. In shock, Shim’on the strong, the bluff go-getter realized that this Yeshua scared him.
It made no sense. There was no threat of any kind. The young rabbi was of an age with him. He was a man who exuded peace and compassion, but Yeshua genuinely scared the wits out of him! It was said that there was no one taller or stronger than Shim’on in K’far-Nachum or the whole region roundabout. Yeshua was tall too, and his build said that he was also strong, a craftsman used to hard work. But he exuded shalom. His stories about Adonai and the Heavenly Kingdom seemed to be about a Person he knew. “So how was the fishing last night?” said the rabbi. “I don’t see many fish in the boats,” he smiled.