One of my favorite characteristics of Jesus is that it seems he often made it up as he went along. While speaking to the crowds, Jesus became crowded, so he looked around, saw a boat, and climbed aboard. (Quick thinking on Jesus’ part… if you’ve ever gone swimming in a lake, you know water has the power to carry a voice loud and far.) After finishing his speech and realizing, perhaps quite suddenly, that he has just delayed the fishermen from retiring for the evening. Perhaps as a thank-you, Jesus offered to help them catch enough so that they wouldn’t have to get up quite so early the next morning. Then, as one of the fishermen realized that he was standing next to greatness, he spontaneously praised Jesus. Perhaps just as spontaneously Jesus called him to follow him. That’s how life is sometimes, moving unexpectedly, moment to moment.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Smashburger. And my absence isn’t because I dislike their food – their olive oil, rosemary, garlic french fries are to die for! I haven’t gone back, because of something that happened there. One afternoon, I was running errands with my son when lunchtime rolled around. The franchise had just opened in town, so I had never been before. The day was going to go like this: breakfast, doctor’s visit, mall, Smashburger, Target, dinner, homework, bed. All went according to plan until Smashburger. As I got up to refill my soda, my cell phone rang. It was the doctor’s office looking to speak with my son. It turns out, since he had just turned 18– for, like, 15 seconds at that time! – the staff at the doctor’s office couldn’t speak to me without first getting his consent. So they told him the news instead. The quick MRI they had ordered to rule out anything serious, instead showed signs of MS. Our whole world took an abrupt and sharp turn. It took less than 60 seconds for the whole course of my son’s life to change dramatically. All we could do was hang on for the ride. And trust that we wouldn’t ride alone.
One could argue that Simon Peter’s abrupt life-change was for the worse, as his whole livelihood and skill set no longer meant anything. Or perhaps it was for the better, because he got to walk in the footsteps of the greatest man ever to walk the planet. I could argue that my son’s abrupt life-change was for the worse, as his whole future seemed to be filled with uncertainty and potential hazards. Or perhaps it was for the better, because he gets to walk in the footsteps of the greatest man ever to walk the planet. When you have nothing else grounding you, walking in Jesus’ footsteps might just be the only thing that keeps you tethered to the earth.
Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.