“I’m almost ready.” Tony’s fingers tapped rhythmically on the keyboard. “Just a minute or two.”
Tie Li and Kim sat by the workbench watching their brother enter data in his computer. It was Sunday. The chores were done, homework had been attacked and completed early, and Mom and Dad Parks were visiting Grandma at the cabin. Voyager stood ready in one corner of the workshop, its electronic innards humming contentedly, lights glowing as its inventor keyed in coordinates for its next journey back in time.
“So, Tony,” Kim said, his chin resting on his hands, “how did your date with the mysterious L.B. go? Was she as beautiful as you hoped she’d be?”
Tony continued typing. “She was real nice. I like her.”
Tie Li’s eyes opened wide. “Ohhhhh,” she breathed. “I think my brother has girlfriend!”
The boy smiled. “Well, she’s a girl, and she’s my friend, but let’s not get carried away.”
Kim laughed. “We won’t get carried away if you don’t.”
Tony’s face reddened just a little. “Come on, you guys. Can’t a fellow have a friend?”
“My dad used to tell me about a friend he had when he was a boy like us,” Kim encouraged. “That worked out all right. ”
“There, you see?” Tony nodded. “What’d I tell you?”
“Yeah, and you know what happened?”
“They got married.”
Tony sighed and looked over at his brother. “Thanks for your support.”
“Laura Parks,” Tie Li said thoughtfully. “Has a nice chime to it.”
“Will you guys stop with the matchmaking already?” Tony begged. “You’re getting me all nervous.”
Kim and Tie Li exchanged winks. “OK,” Tie Lie agreed, then added, “we don’t want to embarrass you and the little missus.”
Tony sighed. Trying to be friends with someone sometimes carried a high price. But he did like Laura. She was sweet and kind, and besides, she thought he was wonderful. Tony liked that combination in a person.
“There,” the boy said, studying the screen. “That should do it. Let’s get out of here before you have me married off or something.”
The three took their positions in Voyager. Moments later they were speeding back through the years heading for a place called Galilee.
“Well, at least I don’t think it’s going to rain,” Kim said, stepping down from the machine and eyeing the clear blue canopy of sky stretching across a wide expanse of shimmering water. “I’m glad your aim is good.” He
pointed toward the nearby shoreline. “A couple dozen more feet and we’d have been riding in Voyager the boat.”
Tony snickered. “I may not be able to control the weather, but I can tell this machine where to land. It hasn’t failed me yet.”
Tie Li looked out over the water. “Where are we, Tony? Is this ocean?”
The boy activated the machine’s solar recharge switch. “No. We’re on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. It’s sort of like a great big lake.” He pointed south. “Down there is where the Jordan River begins. Remember? We saw the Jordan with Simon. It was when that man’s donkey talked to him.”
“Oh, yes,” Tie Li giggled. “We told Simon to tell us what the donkey said. He was very silly.”
“A donkey talked?” Kim questioned.
“It’s a long story,” Tony nodded, “Tie Li will tell you about it sometime. It was pretty funny. Well, Simon didn’t think it was all that hilarious, but we did.”
The three walked along the beach for a few minutes enjoying the clean, fresh air and the beauty of the green, rolling hills. They watched fishing boats move slowly among the gentle swells, their nets hanging limp in the sunshine, drying.
“Most fishing here is done early in the morning, or at night.” Tony pointed at the bobbing boats. “They’ve probably been working for hours. I think they’re just about finished for the day.”
“What are we going to see here?” Kim queried, surveying the peaceful mountains surrounding the blue waters of Galilee.
Tony sat down on the old, weatherworn hull of an abandoned boat. “The boy we saw in Jerusalem has grown up. He’s 30 years old now. The Book said he came here to find some men to help him teach people how to love each other and not fight all the time. He wants to tell them about God, his Father.”
“Here?” Kim looked around. “I don’t see anybody I’d trust with that kind of responsibility. Who can he find in a place like this?”
One of the boats riding the waves just beyond the breakers turned and floated away from the others. The men on board guided their little craft along the shore and finally beached it beside some other boats resting on the rocky sand. Nearby, rugged, sun-browned men bent low in the morning light, mending tears in the intricate folds of their nets.
“I think the fish knew we were coming,” a big, rough-looking man on the boat called to his friends. “It seems fish are smarter than we are!” The men laughed and nodded. One called out, “So the great Simon Peter came up emptyhanded again, eh? Maybe the little fishes didn’t like your ugly face. You scared them away.”
“No,” the man on the boat grinned, “they were stunned by my beauty. After seeing me, they all fell in love and sank to the bottom.” He pointed toward his taunters. “Tomorrow I’ll send you guys out. They’ll come up to see what strange-looking men are trying to catch them. Our nets will be full!”
Laughter echoed along the shoreline. The fishermen secured their boat and joined the others by the nets.
“What a way to make a living,” the big man sighed. “I should be in Jerusalem knocking Roman heads. Herod can fish all night while I sit around ruling the world and collecting taxes.”
“Wonderful,” another man spoke up, “Peter the king. He’d probably have me serving his royal dinner.”
“Not a bad plan, my dear brother Andrew,” Peter chuckled, thrusting his chin in the air and striking an aristocratic pose. “And what, pray tell, would you prepare for my dining pleasure?”
“Fish!” Andrew sneered, holding up an imaginary plate. “Boiled fish, fried fish, scalloped fish, fish milk, fish eggs, and for dessert”–he paused for effect–”fish tarts!”
Peter held his stomach and fell with a thud onto the sand. “No, no, no,” he moaned. “Where are the melons? Where is the honey?” He grabbed hold of a pair of feet and looked up pleadingly. “And where are–?”
The man whose legs he was clutching was not one of his buddies. Simon’s face reddened as the stranger started to laugh. “I don’t have any melons or honey, but I’ve got some day-old bread. Want some?”
Peter stumbled to his feet. “I’m sorry, friend,” he said, nervously brushing sand from his arms. “I thought you were my brother.”
The stranger smiled. “That’s a compliment. I’d like to be your brother.”
A man by the nets called out good-naturedly, “Watch what you say, friend. If you want Simon Peter as a member of your family, you’d better be prepared to fight for what’s yours.”
Laughter erupted from the little assembly.
“I accept the challenge,” the stranger smiled. “Besides, I need a brother like Simon Peter. He can teach me many things.
Peter looked at the man in surprise. “You need a brother like me? I don’t understand.”
The man nodded. “Yes, I need you.” He pointed at Andrew. “And you too.” He motioned toward those standing by the nets. “I need all of you.”
The men looked at each other. “What do you need us for?”
“What do you do for a living?” the stranger asked.
“We fish,” one answered. “Anyone can see that.”
“And what do you catch?”
Simon was getting a little upset with whatever game this man was playing. “We catch fish,” he said flatly. “Anything wrong with that?”
The man nodded. “Not a thing.” He stopped and studied the big man’s face. “If that’s all you want to catch.”
Peter held the stranger’s gaze. How could this man know what he was feeling inside? Just last night, out on the water, he had wondered to himself if there was more to life than the endless cycle of sailing and fishing, selling, and sailing again. He longed for something meaningful to fill his days. He was not an educated man, but longed for a life of worth, of value. He longed to feel good about himself. In his deepest heart he hungered to be a part of something bigger than his little world beside the sea.
Simon Peter looked at his friends, then back at the man on the shore. “Sir, what would you have us catch?”
The stranger spoke softly, his voice carrying to the ears of every man standing nearby. “Follow me,” he said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”
Peter hesitated. “And when we catch these men, then what do we do?”
The man smiled. “Love them. Teach them. Save them.”
“But we are only fishermen. How can we do such a thing?”
The stranger pointed toward the fishing boats. “In God’s work it’s not so much the fisherman as it is the net.”
Peter studied the man’s face for a long moment. “Sir,” he said; “you seem to know what is in my heart. If your work is of God, I would like to help.”
“Me too.” Andrew joined in. “Besides, someone would have to watch out for my hotheaded brother here.”
Two others walked from their nets and stood by the stranger. “We are James and John, the sons of Zebedee. We only know how to fish. But if you will teach us, we want to learn how to help our fellowman. Would you take us, too?”
The man on the shore nodded. “There’s a place for each one of you in my work. If you are willing to leave your families, your homes, your nets for a while, and follow me, I will teach you, guide you.”
“You know our names,” Peter said quietly. “What do we call you?”
the stranger smiled. “I am Jesus of Nazareth. And from this day forward you will be called my disciples.”
The four men and the stranger turned and walked away, leaving empty boats and torn nets behind. For these fishermen, the sea would never be the same again.