“Sometimes Jesus asks to borrow your boat for the day; but other times, perhaps in your moment of greatest business success, he will ask you to leave everything and follow him. How will you respond?”
I was captivated by this question when I heard it in a sermon last March. Since then God keeps bringing me back to this story of Jesus calling Simon.
Jesus Steps In
Simon picked seaweed and debris from his nets, his joints aching from the dampness and coolness of the previous night. His task this morning seemed an insulting reminder of his failure, penance without reward.
His mind was consumed by thoughts of home, food and rest, so some time passed before he noticed the man speaking to a handful of people further up on shore. As he loaded the last of the nets back into the boat he glanced up to see that the crowd had multiplied rapidly, pressing the speaker closer to the waterline, close enough for him to now hear what he was saying.
Through his mental fog Simon felt a spark ignite inside him as the teacher spoke about God in ways he has not heard before. He spoke wisdom and truth like an elderly rabbi, while exuding a youthful passion that made it sound as if he knew Yahweh personally. Simon startled as the man turned unexpectedly in his direction and asked Simon to put his just-moored boat back out…as he stepped into Simon’s boat. Before the many reasons for resistance could break the surface, Simon heard himself say, “Yes.”
Now in the boat alongside the teacher, named Jesus, Simon looked back at shore and saw the faces in the crowd for the first time, faces full of need, hunger, hurt and something more, something that surprised him; hope.
Simon Steps Up
As Jesus finished teaching, the disappointment of the previous night lapped back to the surface of Simon’s thoughts as he turned the boat back toward shore.
“Put out into deep water and let down the nets for a catch.”
Simon looked up, incredulous. This was the first time Jesus had spoken directly to him. Simon wasn’t sure if he was more surprised by that fact or by the outlandish request. He looked around to see if the words were intended for someone else.
Had Jesus not seen Simon, Andrew and their crew cleaning nets and wrapping up their work before he stepped into the boat?
“Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything,” Simon said, but the next words came out unexpectedly, as if they didn’t belong to him, “But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
Simon couldn’t recall a less productive night of fishing than this last one. He had just finished cleaning up, and now he’d have to do it all again. Even worse, the sun was climbing high in the sky, diminishing their chances of catching anything.
Even as he lowered the nets into the sea, he felt the light ping of fish, rapidly increasing in tempo. Adrenalin surged through his tired body, re-energizing him in an instant. Andrew drew alongside him, grasping the nets firmly. Within minutes the boat was listing starboard. Simon didn’t have time to look to Jesus for an answer; he and Andrew wrestled the nets over the edge and back into the boat, fish flopping and glinting in the morning sunlight until there were layers of them, their weight threatening to capsize the small vessel.
At last he looked up at Jesus; the words he’d heard earlier flooding back, fresh connections forming. Out of the fullness of his heart Simon uttered, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”
He was terrified by the reality of this moment. Reluctantly meeting Jesus’ steady gaze, anticipating judgment and condemnation, Simon saw only warmth and compassion. “Don’t be afraid,” Jesus said, “from now on you will fish for people.”
The boats groaned in response, their hulls scraping deep into the sand. Simon hopped out and pulled his boat ashore. As Jesus disembarked and began walking up the beach. Simon, Andrew and their crew followed, not pausing for a final look at the catch of a lifetime they’d left behind.
What Will Be Your Next Step?
“Sometimes Jesus asks to borrow your boat for the day; but other times, perhaps in your moment of greatest business success, he asks you to leave everything and follow him. How will you respond?”
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?Matthew 16:24-28