We left everything for his sake. I remember the day so well. It wasn’t the first time we had met him – that was when, hungry to learn more of God, we had been down at the Jordan, where John was baptising. Jesus appeared, John greeted him, strangely, as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”, and then, after a moment’s disagreement, John led him into the water and baptised him. It was hard to see and hear exactly what happened next, but it looked like a dove came down and hovered over him, and there was a sound, which we now know was a voice from heaven, but at the time we were simply confused. Then he walked away, and we rubbed our eyes and wondered what it was we had just seen.
We didn’t see him again for quite a while. We had our nets to return to and fish to catch – and he had just vanished from the scene. Later we learned that he had fasted in the desert for forty days, but at the time we had other things to think about – like our families and where our next meal was coming from – all the normal concerns of everyday life. And yet .. we couldn’t forget him either, even though we couldn’t articulate why. But we had seen something that day by the Jordan that had touched our souls forever.
And then, one morning, he was there –walking by the shores of Galilee as comfortably as if he knew every pebble of the strand. We were casting our nets, at the time, it was just another working day after all, and then we looked up and saw him. We glanced at each other, and there was no need to say, “It’s him,” we could read in one another’s eyes the hidden longing to encounter him again.
And we looked back towards him and he was coming straight towards us, with that look in his eyes that has taken us 3 years to understand, as if the deepest sorrow of earth and the most transcendent joy of heaven were all contained in him at once, in a single moment, without contradiction or conflict. And, yes, he was heading straight for us! And he looked at us directly, man to man, eye to eye, and said, “Come and follow me and I will make you fishers of men!” It sounds crazy even to say it, but it was as if we had been waiting for that invitation all our lives. We didn’t stop to consider it, we didn’t stop to weigh the pros and cons, we simply left our nets and followed him. It was absolute action, taken without measure or reserve.
Of course, the testing times came later – weariness and rejection, the enmity of some and the misunderstanding of others, but by then we never doubted our choice, for we had learned to love him. What did any of the things we had put aside matter compared to that? Even on the day when the thronging crowds turned away from the challenge of his truth, and he asked us if we would also leave him, Peter was speaking for us all when he replied, “Where would we go? You are the only one who has the words of eternal life!”
And that said everything that ever could be said. Yes, we turned aside from so much else when we chose to walk with him, but it rarely mattered. You can’t have it all, there are always choices to be made. And when are privileged to meet the one who is Life itself, everything else seems a small price to pay for the privilege of knowing him.