Summary: Zebedee, the father of the disciples James and John, reflects on the changes that have occurred since Jesus came into their lives.
Style: Dramatic. Duration: 10min
Scripture: Matthew 4: 12-23
This old boat. It gives me some comfort. It also brings back so many memories. So many feelings.
Confusing things have happened in my life. It’s hard, sometimes, for an old man to figure it all out. Sometimes I have to come back to the thing I know best, and just sit. Sit and think. I'm no fancy thinker, though. Not like these educated people, the rabbis and the Pharisees and the scholars. They get taught to think. Paid to think! I have to do it the hard way.
I never did get no education. But that doesn't make me a fool. I was raised to make my way in this world. By the sweat of my brow and the callouses on my hands. Rabbi told me that was in the Bible. That actually gives me a good feeling. To know that the sweat and toil of my labours are OK in the eyes of God. Gives me a sense of place in the whole scheme of things. And these days I hold onto whatever sense I can get my hands on.
Things have not been easy for me and the missus these last three years. Not since the boys took off on us. Left with that preacher fella. Just like that, with no warning, off they went. And with them, a good piece of our livelihood. Our future. Young people these days. Always full of ideas. My neighour said they were impulsive. Whatever that means.
Not to say they don't come back now and again to visit. They never forgot where they came from. We raised them good, those boys. Taught them to respect their elders. Honour their father and mother. That's in the Bible, too.
But when they do come back, it's to get a meal, and a place to sleep. They never have any money. Hardly any extra clothes to carry. They come back full of stories, stories I can scarcely believe. But we do listen, the missus and me. We respect them as they do us. It's just so hard to understand the life they chose. Or why. There is not much security in fishing, but a lot less in following a preacher around.
I wonder how the parents of this Jesus must feel. Much like I do, I suppose. I'll bet they miss their son as much as we do our boys. I should go to Nazareth some time and ask them. They are working people, like me and the missus. Mother's name is Mary, I think. Father's Joseph. Carpenter, I hear. Could use a good carpenter round here. Boats are always in need of repair, new ones to be built.
This boat is my life. Those boys were my life. Guess they still are. Boys. I still call them boys. They're almost thirty by now. Set their own sails. Charted their own course. It still confounds me, though. You have a trade, you train your kids to make it their living, and what do they do? They make up their own minds. Set their boat in the opposite direction.
But I have to say, the boys are happy. Or seem so. At least the last time I saw them. They tell us about the amazing things this Jesus is doing. James and John are convinced this fella is the Messiah. I wait to be convinced, but I must say, if the stories are true, then there is something to this young man that I have never experienced in my life.
According to the boys, Jesus heals the sick, raises dead people, preaches with a wisdom that don’t come from books but seems to come from the mind of God. Is that possible? I should ask the rabbi some time.
But there's something disturbing as well. Jesus doesn't get along very well with the Pharisees and the scribes. It's not just the boys that tell me that. It's all the gossip in town. And that is only going to get you into a lot of trouble. Taking those fellas on. The Pharisees are sort of the keel in the water, though some don't like the way they go about it. Their job is to make sure nobody gets too out of hand. Keep us in line. Sort of nudge the laws of God around so's we keep on the straight and narrow. Out of trouble. For our own good.
I know we are an occupied people. And lots of the villagers here hate the Romans. They want a liberator. Someone who will start a Jewish army. But are the liberators going to give us aqueducts? Amphitheaters? Social stability? We Jews have an OK thing going with the Romans. We pay our taxes, they leave us alone. We respect their government, they let us worship in the temple. It works. I like stability. I don't like change. And I really don't like it when people tip the boat. It's got to lie stable in the water. You reach over to get yer net, someone better be on the other side. Romans and Jews. Both sides. Stable boat.
The other thing that makes me nervous is that Jesus is preaching this upside-down message. Gospel they call it. All upside down to me. But then I'm the kind that likes my keel in the water. Not in the air.
He talks like this, you see: The first shall be last and the last shall be first. Blessed are the poor. Blessed are the persecuted. I've heard people call him a rabbi. Teacher. I've heard he stumped the best of the scribes in the temple when he was not yet a teenager. Good for him, but he doesn't sound like the kind of rabbi we get around here.
Don't get me wrong. I know why people like him. He appeals to folks who've been kicked around too much. People who need hope in their lives. And, of course, to James and John, and the rest of them. Though I can't for the life of me figure why they would leave this stable world of our village. Put down your nets and follow a dream. That just beats all. When it comes down to it, though, I guess only God knows what we think, what we feel, where our lives should go.
He's not too careful about his friends, neither. Some of them, like my boys, are good, solid stock. But the others! Prostitutes and tax collectors. Lepers. People on the outside of things. The kind most folks don't like too much. Trouble, I'd say. I'm told he turned over the money-changer's tables in the temple market a while ago. He's way too deep. Too many angry people in his boat. I fear for what is going to become of him. I fear for my James and John.
In fact, the other day, a while after Passover, I heard a rumour about him. Seems he got into trouble. With the Pharisees and the Romans both. He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. I don't know much, but I do know what the rabbi told us. That the prophet says the Messiah will come into Jerusalem on a donkey. Were the boys there? Do they believe it?
I don't know if the rumours are true or not. Or even if Jesus is the Messiah. It's more than this old brain can fathom.
What I do know is this - that my boys are off on the adventure of a lifetime. and that, for them, there is no turning back. They have found someone to follow who has given their lives a purpose they would never have found in a fishing boat. I have come to accept that. And I will not make them or anyone else miserable by wishing it were otherwise.
There are lots of people who live in misery, without hope in this world. And if I can be honest, I say that if Jesus can touch them with hope, then that is a good thing. If my boys can make the broken feel whole, then God bless them. And if God is behind all of this, even though I can't understand it, who am I to condemn it?
Sitting here in the boat, I can't help but think about that day three years ago when the preacher came. First to Simon and Andrew, then to my boys. Walking down the beach, calling out to people to follow him.
The boys were sitting right over there, helping me mend the nets. With Simon and Andrew in tow, he came over and said, "Follow me, and I will make you fish for people."
For a long time I couldn't figure out what that meant. Fish are fish and people are people. And this God-talk that Jesus spoke, that my boys just seemed to understand better than I did.
The rabbi put it this way for me. "Zebedee, you have brought your boys up well. To respect God and to love people. And I know they love you and their mother. You have not lost them. They are still fishers. The only difference is that the net this preacher has given them is the love of God. And that is a good net to cast."
God bless them. I guess they can go fishing after all. With my blessing.
(C) Jim Hatherly.