Fishing with James

Fishing with James

(Following Jesus Contemporaneously)

Your name is James. You grew up in the fishing business, working the seine nets, sailing and rowing all over the large Galilean lake, gathering the catch into baskets, hauling them to the fresh market, salting the rest for the long journey via donkeys to Jerusalem to sell from the family stall. You’re a fisherman like your father and brother. Your grandfather fished this lake, as did his father. Hard work, fresh air – decent living, all things considered.

Your family’s devout – scripture and prayers daily, synagogue on Shabbat, trips to the city for the holy festivals. You are oriented towards God. 

Traveling rabbis come and go. Most are only mildly interesting. Unfortunately, the Romans never go away. Soldiers, shields, spears, pop-up rebellions followed by brutal random crucifixions. A terrorized populace. The Romans like it that way. 

There are sell-outs among your own people – tax farmers and tax collectors – Jews who cheat fellow Jews in order to become rich in service to the oppressors. 

You’ve thought about joining the Zealots. You see their point. Maybe violence is the only answer. Jacob Maccabees overthrew the Seleucid occupiers long ago. Maybe freedom-fighting terrorists can boot out these Romans.

He was just walking down the beach, this rabbi. He called. Very simply: “Follow me.”

There was something different – radical – loving – powerful – arresting – impossible to ignore. You glanced at dad and he nodded. Simultaneously, you and your brother leapt from the skiff, leaving dad under a pile of nets. And you followed. Dad smiled proudly.

You didn’t follow him because you needed sins forgiven. You already believed God forgave sin.

You didn’t follow him so you could go to heaven when you died. You already believed in the final resurrection to life.

You weren’t seeking freedom from any addictions, or healing for a marriage. You were not sick or crippled. You weren’t expecting wealth, prestige, or honor. 

You most certainly were not thinking that following this rabbi would lead to political or military power.

Following him was exhilarating – seeing all those signs and wonders, the crowds, the adulation, demons fleeing, people healed, proclaiming a new kind of kingdom.

After you witnessed some miracles, the thought entered your mind that this messiah might somehow miraculously free your people from Rome. It was a comforting thought until he began to talk about dying and washing feet.

And then it all fell apart. 


Mock trials. 

Illegal sentencing. 

Scourging whip. 

Crown of thorns. 




Crucifixion. Death by slow suffocation. 

Tomb. Tears. Shock. Sorrow. Fear. Hiding. 

We’re next. Was it all just an unrealistic pipe dream? 

The sky split. The sun went dark. The earth shook. 

How did the entrance rock get over there?

How could the grave clothes be still wound up, but embracing no body?

Is Mary of Magdala to be believed? She’s just a woman, and one who used to be insane at that. Maybe she’s hallucinating.

Confusion. Locked doors.

And there he was. Alive. Risen. Eating fish.

And so, you followed him still. It cost you your life. 

As by the shore of Tiberius, so now after the resurrection, you did not follow him for personal forgiveness, or in order to get to heaven. Following him didn’t give you political power or wealth – you quickly learned to hate both.

Why did you follow him?

Because on that Friday everything changed. The works of the devil were defeated. The evil principalities and powers were overcome. Human religions and empires were rejected and doomed. 

You recognized that all of creation is interconnected – Jews, Romans, women, men, fish, mountains, stars, and seine nets, angels, demons, and seraphim – to touch one is to touch all. 

The rabbi who taught, healed, changed water to wine, washed feet, broke bread, died and rose again touched all.

A new kingdom has come. God’s kingdom. The domain over which God reigns. An upside down kingdom where the weak are strong, the poor are rich, the meek inherit everything, enemies are loved, violence and coercion are unknown, and leaders are servants. Here, in this kingdom, the undocumented refugee is welcomed with open arms, the prisoner is freed, and the warrior exchanges his weapons for gardening tools. 

I am geographically, culturally, and chronologically a long way from you, James; but I too, follow him. Not just to gain a ticket to heaven; certainly not to succeed in the way most define success. As it was with you, following him does not lead to a position of power or control, but rather a place of love and service. 

Around me are some who claim to follow him. They do so for power. They do so for wealth. They do so for advantage. They imagine themselves running the world. They follow so they can have their best life now. They do so because they are afraid of hell. They do so out of guilt or obligation. They do so because their peers do so. 

Ah, but theirs is a false messiah. Theirs is a warrior god, a militaristic nationalistic ethnic messiah. 

Unseen and unknown by them, Messiah reigns. King of all kings whose very heart is pure altruistic cruciform never-ending love. 

About Dr. Larry Taylor

Radical Anabaptist, Jesus Freak, Red Letter Christian, sailor, thinker, spiritual director, life coach, pastor, teacher, chaplain, counselor, writer, husband, father, grandfather, dog-sitter

Posted on August 29, 2020, in anabaptist, Bible, Bible Teaching, bodily resurrection, Christianity, creation, Jesus, Justice, Kingdom Life, kingdom of God, parables, Peace Shalom Hesed, Poetry, Prayer, Prophecy, Spirituality, The Cross, Worship. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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