I get asked about it all the time, so I don't mind talking about it again. People are always asking, "So, Peter, what was it like the day Jesus called you?"
I will always remember it. It was a morning, like so many, as we were there at the shore, cleaning our nets after a long night of fishing. Then a large crowd of people just appeared, as they came over the hill and down toward the shore. I didn't see him at first. But, as they drew near, it became clear that they were all following Jesus down to the lake. My brother, Andrew, and I, along with James and John, had listened to Jesus several times. On those occasions, he seemed like a prophet. Everyone was asking if he was the one who was to come, but, of course, we were all looking for a flashier arrival than Jesus'. No one would have imagined the Messiah would go into the Jordan to be baptized by John. But, let me get back to my story.
The crowd got so big that there was a moment when everyone just wondered if Jesus would be pushed out into the lake. So, when Jesus just stepped into my boat, and looked at me with those eyes he had, I just knew what to do. I threw the rest of the net which we were folding into the boat and pushed away from the shore a bit. The hillside proved to be a perfect amphitheater.
I've told this story so many times, I often emphasize various moments, but that first moment of sitting there in the boat listening to Jesus was very moving for me. I felt pretty honored that Jesus got into my boat. I was glad to help and I've never been shy about being the center of attention. But, listening to Jesus just talk so lovingly to those people was very special. These weren't the religious-types. His crowds were made up of very ordinary people, a fair number of whom would be the ones the holier than thou types would just call "sinners." And, there were always sick people in the crowd, along with a group of women.
Well, when he was finished speaking, he looked at me with those big loving eyes. Then, he sat down and smiled at me so warmly. I figured we'd just head back to shore, when he said, "Let's row out there, where it's deeper." There was something about the way he said "deeper" that sent chills down my spine. Oh, how little I knew about letting him take me "deeper" then.
We rowed together, just looking at each other. It is hard to describe, but with each pull of the oars he was smiling at me and somehow giving me strength. Then he stopped rowing and I stopped. We drifted for a while. That's when he really shocked me. "Put the nets down out here." If you aren't used to fishing Gennesaret, Galilee, Tiberius, whatever you called it, you might be as startled as I was that day. I told him about our night with no fish, and that this deep part was never good for fishing, and by now the sun was high and the water was getting warmer and the fish would be deeper than our nets would reach. He just kept nodding and smiling at me, as though he was amused by my objections about what was possible and what wasn't. So, together we lowered and stretched out the big net I had in the boat. That's when it happened. It was like school after school of fish swam right into the net. My heart was pounding and both of us were laughing as we tried to pull the net up. The harder it was the more we laughed at what we experienced.
We yelled for our companions to come and help us. When the Zebedee boat arrived, they took the other end of the net and we filled our boat and theirs, so both boats could barely stay afloat. I just sat there and looked at Jesus. Awe filled my heart. I didn't even bother to ask him how or even why he did this. I just knew this man had power I didn't understand. I was in the presence of someone who overwhelmed me. So, I said those words, "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man." I could see the same fear and unworthiness in the eyes of my brother and the Zebedees.
"Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men." I told so many people that it took me a while to absorb his words. It was his smile that just filled me with joy. I knew what he meant. He could use me, now that I trusted his power. It is fear that I need to give up.
Of course, you know the rest of the story. We left our family business
to follow him. None of us understood, until after Pentecost, the
full meaning of his call. Those days in Jerusalem, when we were
freed from our fear and filled with the Holy Spirit, we were telling
the people the good news of Jesus' message and his resurrection,
and they all came forward to be baptized, I think Andrew and James
and John and I were just laughing and laughing with joy, just like
when we were hauling in that catch of fish that day with Jesus.
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