A new day had begun. The darkness of night had all but faded away and a cool breeze from the west pushed gentle swells across the sea slapping against the hull of the small fishing boat. It rocked back and forth straining against its anchor, and the aged cedar planks of its hull creaked intermittently piercing the silence of the early morning. A tattered sail, hanging from the mast, popped and swung to either side of the wooden post as occasional gusts of wind breathed life into the hand-sewn cloth.
The man awoke hearing the snap of the sail and sat up from where he lay curled on the bottom of the boat. His shoulder had been wedged against the oak beam of the hull while he slept, and he massaged his neck with the strong wrinkled hand of a man who had spent most of his life on the sea. A gull flying overhead swooped down near the water crying out as he accelerated into the sky, and when the man looked up, he noticed for the first time that it was dawn and the sun had crested the horizon. He rubbed his tired, sagging eyes and leaned against the rail peering into the silvery mist that hovered just above the surface of the sea.
He and his brothers, who lay strewn on the bottom of the boat sleeping, had fished most of the night. The fishing had not been good, not a single fish, and after tending the nets for hours they had collapsed, weary from their work, allowing blessed sleep to overtake them. The man stood up and began to move cautiously to the bow, careful not to awaken any of the men. He found the small goatskin bag containing several dates and he ate one of them and took a long drink from a gourd containing fresh water. The coolness of the water felt good against his parched throat and he chewed the date slowly savoring its sweetness as he watched the sun begin its journey above the sea.
The sight of the morning sun shimmering on the water brought back fond memories of his father taking him fishing as a boy, teaching him to work the nets as his father before him had been taught. But deep within him there was a sadness that clung to him like a dark veil. He had forsaken the man whom he adored and who had altered his very existence. The same man who would change the lives of so many others.
Three years before, he had been told to follow him, and he had left the life that he knew and obeyed, not fully understanding the power that compelled him, but willing to learn as an apt pupil seeking knowledge from his Teacher. But despite what he had been taught and the miracles he had witnessed, he had betrayed him. He knew that it was fear that caused him to turn his back on his Teacher, but fear of what? Hadn’t this man taught him that suffering in this life was inevitable? He felt moist tears on his cheeks, wishing that he could change it all, but knowing that he would have to live with the terrible injustice he had committed.
As the aromatic smells of the sea invaded his senses, the men in the boat began to stir and awaken. He looked over at them and smiled. “Wake-up, brothers,” he said. “I have labored through the night while you slept like small children. It’s time to sail back to port.”
The one laying next to him named Andrew, rolled over on his back and smiled up at him. “Perhaps you will prepare my breakfast first before we sail back,” and he laughed along with the others.
The six men began to talk in a lively banter enjoying the crisp morning air and the intense bond that they shared, and the man smiled and joined along. But his mind wandered, remembering the incredible responsibility that he had been given. His thoughts returned to the moment when the Teacher had told him that he would be leaving and that he, a simple ordinary man, must take his place when he was gone. He had scarcely felt worthy of following such a cause, much less leading it, and he initially refused. But once his eyes were opened to who the Teacher truly was, he knew what he must do. He prayed that he would be granted the wisdom and courage to accomplish the daunting task he had been given.
As the brothers conversed, the man gazed toward the grey rocky shore fifty yards away and as the mist began to lift, he saw a tall figure near the edge of the water. He was dressed in a pale white robe and he was walking along the shoreline. Behind him, there was a small fire burning and plumes of grey smoke swirled upward into the thick air. The stranger waved at him and he waved back. “Have you caught anything during the night?” The stranger asked.
“No,” he replied
“Fish on the right side of the boat,” he yelled.
The brothers looked quizzically at the stranger on the shore and then at the man. “Do as he says,” he barked. And as two of the brothers began to lift the nets from the bottom of the craft, another pulled the anchor from its mooring. In seconds, a breath of wind filled the small sail and the boat began to slowly track to the east. They had scarcely moved 20 yards when the nets suddenly became taut, weighted heavily by something below the surface.
Andrew leaned over the edge of the craft staring into the azure water. “It’s the nets!” he exclaimed. “They are full of fish. Come everyone. Help me pull them in.”
As the men excitedly moved to the right side of the boat to lift the nets, one of the brothers stood upright near the bow, gazing curiously at the man standing on the shore. Then suddenly a smile crossed his face. “It’s the Lord!” he exclaimed excitedly.
The brothers dropped the heavy nets and their eyes were suddenly opened and they too could see that it was Jesus beckoning them to come ashore. The man felt a sudden exhilaration when he too recognized the Messiah, and in his exuberance he leaped into the sea fully clothed. He treaded water until he was able to walk to the shore and when he reached his Savior, he knelt down at his feet, feeling an immense joy wash over him like a huge wave. “My Lord. My Lord,” he cried.” You have returned.”
Jesus gently placed his palms on the top of his disciple’s head. “Come, Simon Peter,” He said. “You must dry off and join me at the fire. I have prepared fish for all of you.”
That morning Jesus and the brothers sat around a smoldering charcoal fire eating and talking of days past and the many miracles they had all been a part of. Though they knew there would be hardships and suffering in the days and even years to come, their hearts were pure and full of joy and peace. When the meal was finished, Jesus took Peter a few yards away from the others. He placed his palms on Peter’s face, then leaned over and kissed his forehead. Then He blessed Peter with the gift of forgiveness and the power of the Holy Spirit that would give him the strength and courage to accomplish the enormous task ahead of him.
As I stood on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee near Tiberias, I gazed across the glistening blue water reflecting on what had happened here so long ago. A slate colored fog hovered above the surface partially obscuring the mountains on the opposite shore, and I felt the warmth of tears run down my cheeks. I closed my eyes, imagining for a moment the scent of the charcoal fire and the smell of freshly cooked fish in the morning air. And I could hear the joy in the disciples’ voices when they laughed as they shared this final moment with the One that had chosen them to help change the world.
This beach, this incredible place, exuded an air of holiness and purity, and I felt unworthy standing on the same shore where our Lord and his disciples had once walked over 2,000 years ago. I looked at the small oblong stone in my hand. It was like any ordinary stone, grey in color, except this one came from the rocky shore where I stood now. I turned it over in my palm examining it carefully, feeling its hard edges, then closed it in my fist tightly, sensing its significance and knowing that I would never lose it or the memory of this moment.
Bob Blundell is a freelance writer living in the Houston area. He has had previous work published in magazines such as Liguorian, Testimony, The Living Pulpit, Reachout Columbia, and Halo.
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