Simon wiped the back of his hand across his brow with an over-exaggerated motion. The early-summer air was sticky and the sun, barely risen above the horizon, was already spearing him with beams that caused sweat to prick his forehead. But it was more frustration than perspiration that brought on the motion. It was the mesh of thin, dark strands twisted in his hands. He thrust it back down into the water, scrubbing it with more vigor than was necessary. It wasn’t like they actually needed cleaning today. But washing the nets was habit, and it was his turn.
He glanced up, squinting, and silently watched the shadowy form of his younger brother, cleaning their boat. He could almost hear Andrew’s whistle and envied him his carefree attitude. Andrew was always happy, but someone had to be serious and as the older brother, Simon took it upon himself.
He rocked back on his heels and watched as another form approached. Wading through the waters, his own arms full of nets, John wore a scowl that caused a grudging smile to creep up the corners of Simon’s mouth. Simon’s frustration paled dramatically in comparison. John was years younger than Simon, but the two had become fast friends in the years that they had been business partners. John landed beside Simon, sending a spray of sparkling droplets. Simon clapped a hand on his friend’s shoulder.
“Don’t worry,” he said.
“One lousy fish,” John growled. “That’s all I wanted.”
“Cheer up,” Simon sighed, leaning forward to scrub the nets which smelled of water and algae, but had a noticeable lack of fish odor.
“I tend to lose my cheer when I fish all night and catch less than the guys who slept in nice, comfortable beds.” Simon couldn’t argue. The lack of fish meant they had nothing to sell, and the catch had been low for the last week. They were almost at the breaking point; as were Simon’s nerves. As the oldest of the four partners, Simon and Andrew, John and his older brother James, Simon took full responsibility for their failings. The thought was weighing heavily on him.
The sound of the crowd broke through the murk of his thoughts. He knew that sound. It was the noise of the inevitable gathering that surrounded the quietly enigmatic man called Jesus. Simon sat back again, gazing in the direction of the welcome disturbance. Jesus. He was always a welcome sight to Simon. There was something about the man that inexplicably drew people to him. But it was even more than that quiet, unexplainable pull that drew Simon. He knew Jesus, had talked to him personally, face to face.
“Peter.” Simon looked up at the quiet voice. He was still unused to responding to the name that had been bestowed upon him by Jesus. He stood and smiled into the gentle eyes. “Let’s go to your boat,” Jesus said. Simon led the way, grateful to get away from the depressing nets. Once on the boat, Jesus asked him to cast off. There in the shallow water, He continued to speak to the people. Simon and Andrew sat on the railings, listening, entranced. It always amazed Simon the power the man wielded just through his words.
“Peter,” the name pulled Simon out of his reverie. “Cast in your nets.” Simon blinked at the instruction. Cast in his nets? Had he not just been fishing all night? To no avail? This was neither the right time, nor the right depth of water for fishing.
“Lord,” he said, “we have been fishing all night and have caught nothing. Still,” he said on a sigh, “I will do what you ask. Andrew,” he called to his brother. “Bring me the other nets.” Andrew obeyed, giving Simon a dubious look.
The weight that immediately pulled on Simon’s hands as the nets touched the water threw him off balance and he almost pitched over the side. He could see beneath the water, countless wriggling, silvery bodies. The strands were straining, pulling, at the breaking point, cords beginning to snap and the boat was tilting perilously.
“John!” He called to his partner, still standing on the shore. “Get your boat, we need help!” When James and John had helped to haul in the load, Simon turned to Jesus. The Man looked at him, calm smile, peaceful eyes, and Simon dropped to his knees.
“Please, Lord, leave me, for I am a sinner.” At the breaking point.
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