I am John, a fisherman, the son of a fisherman, the brother of a fisherman. Years ago I saw before me the life of my father and brother, stretching as wide an clear as the Sea of Galilee. There were nets to mend and boats to repair, fish to be sorted and sold. Life had a texture as domforting and reliable as the passing of seasons.
Then he came. He called, "Follow me" and we could hear no other voices; not the sea, not our friends, not even our father and mother. And so my brother James and I left the nets and followed him, unsure of our motivation, knowing only that we could not resisit his call. We would become fishers of men, he said. We didn't know what he meant, but we followed just the same.
He called others too until there were twelve of us. Not all were fishermen, some were philosophers, businessmen, tradesmen, rebels. But we were all seekers and we followed him looking for answers, even before we had fully formed the questions.
For three years we walked and talked and lived with him as he taught us things unfamiliar to our Galilean minds. It was not always easy to understand him, but he was patient like a father working with an eager, but less-than-brilliant child. And we tried to learn and understand because we loved him more than our own lives.
Then he left us. It happened almost before we knew it, although we should have known. The signs were there all along. Always under the surface lurked the hatred, the anger, the scent of murder waiting for its hour. But love never wants to believe in evil and so we refused to see the signs. We talked of faithfulness and greatness in a kingdom yet to come and he spoke of suffering and crucifixion and we ignored him. But he knew. He always knew.
When they came, led by the traitor, Judas, to take him away, we scattered like frightened children. Long forgotten were our vows of loyalty. We left our promises in the dark of Gethsemane.
He went freely, although they thought they took him by force. And when he stood before the magistrates, I hid in shadows and heard his words. He spoke the truth, yet they didn't understand anymore that I had at first. And they hated him because he would not bow before their petty power.
Peter denounced him loudly just as the rooster crowed. But I, in my refusal to speak, denounced him too. Some thought my silence strength, but he and I knew it was not. It was fear as raw and bold as blood.
They marched him to Golgotha and we few followers clung together in our grief. I watched his mother's face and marveled at its serenity, even as tears streamed down her cheeks. I longed to speak but did not. I wanted to shout my love for him but could not. Somehow, he lifted his poor, anguished head and said, "Here is your mother." I took her home that day after the agony of his death, wondering as the trust he placed in me, overcome with gratitude.
There was nothing to do, we thought, but gather together and pray. But our prayers seemed as lifeless as his body, and the days continued, broken only by restless sleep.
Then on the morning of the third day, the women came running, gasping with news of angels and a resurrection. Their words tumbled out in excitement and we determined them hysterical. But something in their eyes gripped my heart. I caught Peter's glance and we ran to the garden tomb.
I arrived there first, but could not enter, paralized by awe and fear. I stood, transfixed, my hand upon unyielding stone, peering in. I saw the strips of linen on the bier, but did not comprehend their import. Then Peter pushed past me roughly. His shout of alarm pulled me forward from my fear, and slowly, tentatively, I entered that place of death.
The morning light streamed in and settled on the empty graveclothes. He was not there! The realization fell on me like the dawning sun. We did not speak; there were no words to clarify our emotions. We ran from the tomb laughing like children, seeing the world afresh like blind men healed!
In the emptiness of that stony grave I found fulfillment not only of my life, but of all the promises he had made. Slowly I began to see the sense of it; the stories, parables, prophecies and prayers weaving together in a tapestry of truth.
And then he came again! He showed himself to us and taught us deeper things we had not understood before. Our grief was gone. The answer to our prayers stood before us and we walked and talked with him once more. His bright and shining truth drove all doubts out of our minds. Now we could truly fish for men and serve our Master well. Denial, failure, abandonment were forgiven once and always.
He departed once more, rising in the morning sky and we watched him go in glory, but we were not sad. We will see him again, each in his own appointed time. But now we trace the paths before us, laid out by his hand with love and care. I walk now, hearing only two words: "Follow me."
Softly and Tenderly