“…They caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break.” – Luke 5:6b
“When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.” – Luke 5:11
“What the…? The net is full of fish!”
“How can it be? We fished all night.”
We both avoided looking at the Teacher/Healer sitting in the boat. He’d probably be smiling. We knew that he’d be smiling. He’d probably start laughing if we saw his face.
“Clap on that line and heave!“
“I’m heaving, Simon! But we’re dragging the gunwale under!”
“We’ve got to get the fish into the boat!”
“Do we need to bring the water in as well?”
Oh, now he’s laughing. He’s ankle-deep in water and he’s laughing.
“James! John! Come help!”
“Are you crazy, Simon? They’ll laugh, too.”
“They can do all the laughing they like as long as they take some of the weight.”
They laughed, for sure, but they ran their boat into the water fast, and pulled like racers to our swamping craft.
“I’m holding! It’s not helping!”
They came alongside. The Teacher, laughing, tossed a line to them from the overflowing net.
“We’re hauling, Simon!”
“We’re hauling ourselves into the lake!”
We paused, panting, and considered our predicament. We hadn’t raised a single fish above the gunwale. Instead, the fish had hauled our gunwales down into the the waves. The water chuckled back and forth from stem to stern.
“James, take hold. John, take the oars. We’ll row back to the shore and deal with the net and the fish there.”
“Got it, Simon!”
I rowed. The Teacher’s mirth subsided, mercifully. James and John giggled between gasps. Simon’s arms could have been carved of stone. He might have modeled for a Greek sculptor interested in those ligaments and veins. I rowed, and each stroke carried us a fraction of what it should, dragged back by that overflowing catch of fish.
The net caught first, its bottom still beneath the keels. The boats grounded further out than we had liked, semi-swamped as they were. Simon shouted directions I can’t remember to roll the net’s silvery burden toward the shore. Eventually, the net and its wriggling contents rested on solid ground, except for those fish that had flung themselves back into the waves, where we, exhausted, let them go.
“Fear not,” the Teacher said. “I’ve got some other fishing for you to do.”
Simon, James, and John in bafflement stepped toward him. But… someone had to deal with all the fish, and clean the nets, and bail the boats.
“Go on. I’ll tend to this. Don’t worry.
“I’ll catch up.”
A story based on Luke 5:1-11, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year C, Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The image is The Miraculous Draught of Fishes by Joachim Beuckelaer (1563) – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13268606.