Here is a mental picture I like very much. I see in the foreground a fishing boat near to the shore. Its brown sail furled upon its yard makes a big sweeping line against a pale blue sky. A big circular net, damp and dark, makes an unshapen mass at the stern of the boat. The dark figures of two men resting upon a pole which goes down into the water, carries the lines of this mass upwards into the pictures, and balances the mast with its covered yard. At the foot of the mast is a seated figure whose white outer garment looks strangely blue in its shadow. The whole is edged with silver by the early morning sun. Beyond, in the middle distance, and catching the full light of the morning, stand the white houses, overtopped, in some places, with the dark leafage of walnut trees and cypresses and fretted below with the outlines of many figures. Bright garments of red, blue, yellow, and green stand out beautifully against the white background, and all is full of charm and peace. The very crowd is still, the sky is quiet, the boat is motionless, and the sea but gently moves. The central figure, the focus of the whole, is dignified and calm.
Now I like that picture. I like it still more when I know that but a few moments before all had been bustle and hurry – joyous and not worried hurry it is true, but still bustle, noise, commotion. That boat had been high and dry on the beach, obscured partly by the moving figures of men.
Those figures were then busy washing that damp mass of netting close by on the shore.
Then came the change; the crowd was there, its movements following that of a man dressed in white, who walked towards the fishermen washing their nets. A well-known voice caused them to turn.
“Simon Peter, I would use your boat.”
“Yes, Lord” is the ready answer. Throwing in the net Peter and Andrew quickly leap into the little vessel to help their master in. There is no time to speak of what has happened during the weeks they have been separated – Jesus in Jerusalem, they fishing on the lake, for Jesus commands that they “thrust out the boat a little from the land.”
Then the expectant crowd upon the shore stand in silent lines, whilst Jesus speaks to them, perhaps for but a few minutes, from the ship.
Try to think of that quiet picture sometimes when you are very flurried. It will help you a great deal.
The words spoken, all is animation again. Many of the crowd are speaking earnestly together; “With what gracious words he speaks,” “With what authority too,” “Not like the Rabbis who merely repeat what they have read.”
But the boat is now moving out into deeper water. The poles are laid aside, the brown sail unfurled, and the light morning wind moves the ship smoothly out into the sea.
“Let down your nets for a draught,” commands Jesus.
“Master, we have toiled all the night and have taken nothing; nevertheless, at thy word I will let down the net,” answers Peter.
The progress of the boat is stayed. The net is thrown out behind, the ship begins to move in towards the land. But hardly has it done so than the surface of the water is broken by leaping, struggling fish. The nets are full, too full, for they are breaking.
But a short distance away, close by the shore, is the ship of their partners. James and John heed their calls and signs, and soon their boat is alongside. so great is the catch that both boats are filled to the point of sinking.
And when Peter saw it he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
The greatness of Jesus overpowered him. so quiet, yet so brave; so loving, yet so zealous; so humble, yet so mighty; sinless, yet forgiving; with many cares, yet caring always for others.
In this greatness, Peter felt, as we all should have felt, his humbleness and littleness.
Then said Jesus unto Simon, “Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.”
“And when they had brought their ships to land they forsook all and followed him.”
They left their loads of fish, their boats, their nets, and followed Jesus, never to leave him again until one dreadful night in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Excerpt from The Life of Jesus Christ by W.R. Mitchell