Simon was a good fisherman, sometimes working from the slippery rocks near the shore of the sea of Galilee, when he fished for carp, and sometimes from a boat with his father and brother, Andrew when they were looking for tilapia.
Fishing in winter when it was cold and the rain and wind that lashed the area could be miserable…but most of the year the work was agreeable.
Simon knew when the fish fed and spawned and his day was defined by their rhythms…going out early, when the fish were feeding then selling their catch to the women and slaves who came to the seaside in the early afternoon looking for supper makings.
Carp were easier to prepare and made a large meal, but, to Simon, the smaller tilapia, bar b qued over a fire…were tastier.
To market the fish, he would set up a wooden table under a cloth awning near the shore and display some of the fish.
As good as he was as a fisherman he was better at selling the fish and he liked doing it. He had a big voice and laugh. He spoke Aramaic musically. He’d tell jokes and stories and ask the women about their husbands and kids. People came to him, not because his fish were better, but because they got a story or joke to serve with dinner or he made them feel good about themselves. As a result, Simon sold his fish faster than others.He’d been fishing and selling for more than 15 years.
His father had taugh him the basic skills, starting when he was about 12 but he was more successful than his father by virtue of his joy in the physical labour and the enthusiasm for interacting with people.
His brother Andrew admired him and they got along well. Simon was sometimes impulsive and argumentative, and Andrew was the voice of reason, calming him. They complimented each other and each could complete the other’s sentences. Life was good for them.
Still… sometimes when Simon looked along the shore at the end of the day and he saw his father or other older fishermen still selling their fish or going to clean their nets he wondered if he was looking at his future. He didn’t want to be fishing here for another 30 or 40 years.
He had only a basic education and learned Hebrew at the synagogue so he could read scripture but he wasn’t a scholar. He could speak a bit of Greek, but he couldn’t read or write it.
The rabbi at the synagogue was a pious man but he seemed to live on the fringe of real life… not just Simon’s life, but that of most of the others in the community.
The Pharisees were caught up in rules that didn’t relate to him or his daily existence.Simon’s own theology was simple. He saw fish as a gift of God and he was thankful for them and his life… every day.
Yet….despite his success, and his joy in living he yearned for something bigger, better, more exciting, more relevant, something that might take advantage of what he did well. He didn’t know what it was…but he felt it.
One morning as he and Andrew were netting carp from the shore Simon noticed someone whom he had seen 10 or 12 days earlier, while he was selling fish in the afternoon. At that time one of the women was trying to decide which fish to buy. Simon had told her that he had interviewed each of the fish personally and they all promised to be good tasting. The woman smiled and continued inspecting the fish.The man… the one he saw this morning…had been watching the transaction from a short distance, close enough to hear Simon’s words. He, too, had smiled at Simon then he walked away. When Simon turned around he noticed that Andrew had been watching him too.
This was the same man who had reappeared in the cool of the morning.
He had nodded at Andrew then made eye contact with Simon… and said, “Follow me.. and I will make you fish… for people.
”The words hit Simon like lightning and they resonated within him. He felt like he had suddenly woken up from a dream. His whole being tingled with alertness.
This man saw his heart’s desire to live a fuller life, to take advantage of the things he did well but to do it at a completely different way. This man had sensed the potential that Simon felt, but never been able to articulate.
Not only that, but this person looked fully alive, himself. While he was dressed like a labourer, his eyes shone with a light that combined kindness, wisdom and resolve. He seemed to have a mission that was more majestic and holier than Simon could grasp at this moment, yet here he was… inviting Simon to join him. As unlikely as it was, he seemed to have come to this place of seaweed, slippery rocks and fish smells, where rabbis and Pharisees seldom came to invite Simon and Andrew to join him in an adventure.
Simon knew that he would follow this person who spoke to his deepest longing …and he knew that he would be transformed. He sensed more than a new rhythm in his life …a whole new centre of gravity.As he looked back, he saw Andrew smile and nod, and immediately, they left their nets and followed Jesus.
The details of the story are almost completely fictitious. I’ve inflated Mark’s seven verse gospel with my imagination.
I wanted to know the backstory of Simon. I saw him as someone who had yearned for something more, who then encountered Jesus and who felt the magnetism of his personality.I tried to imagine the characters of Simon and Andrew in a way that was true to the outline in the gospel and represented an “Epiphany moment” when the awareness of Christ broke into their lives.I think that they intuited a full and abundant life in the company of Jesus: a life that would capitalize on their strengths fulfill their deepest needs, and lift them to previously unimagined heights.
I also wanted to imagine how Jesus saw inside the hearts of people and captured their attention. He knew that he could make their spark a fire, their voices a choir.
Each of us has potential in our own right as a follower of Jesus. Like Simon, we may not know where it will lead but, in a sense, it doesn’t matter, because what really matters is the relationship we develop with the person of Christ.This relationship will challenge us, take us higher, breathe more life into us than we thought we had the capacity for, to live life fully, to awaken to our possibilities.
As with Jesus’ first disciples who frequently misunderstood him and who let him down often, we, too, may need forgiveness but despite our failings we… like Andrew and Simon, James and John… are called to greater things.
The invitation to follow him may arise in a momentary decision or in a wholly unexpected context, or it may be for a lifetime commitment. It may be in the voice of someone near you or a sudden insight.
Again, it may be a threshold you cross after a life of seemingly small steps of following Christ’s invitation to follow me as when one extra degree make water boil and changes it to steam.
Regardless of the situation, listen to the voice of Jesus when he says “follow me” then notice what happens as you awaken.