Chapter 8 - Seems Right!
“Whew! Must be a full one!” Jared said, hauling in a catch. He pushed wet black hair away from his eyes. Ezra struggled with another net beside him. Fresh beads of sweat formed on their foreheads, despite the chill of the early morning air.
“Think we should cast in one more time before heading back?” Ezra asked, watching for his net to break the surface of the water.
“Nah, we’ve been working all night—” Just then, Jared’s net popped out of the water—so suddenly, that he fell back into the boat. The vessel rocked from side to side.
“Whoa!” Ezra shouted. The resin torch mounted at one end of the boat—a fish lure as well as work light—came loose. It fell with a plop into the water and sizzled out. Jared groaned and reached up to steady Ezra. Trying to keep his balance, Ezra’s ropes slipped from his hand. As fish rapidly escaped from the loosened net, Ezra dove for the rope—grabbing it just before it flew over the side of the boat. In the next moment, he lay across one of Jared’s legs, with his face very near a pile of fish. They both sat motionless. Then Ezra burst out laughing. Jared slumped dejectedly, but looking at the scene, he gave in to a little smile.
“Well, it won’t take so long to sort the fish this morning,” he said, eyeing his own half-filled net and Ezra’s empty one. “Sorry.”
Ezra, still laughing in exasperation, picked himself up. He grabbed the meager catch of fish and sat opposite Jared. “I’ll sort; you row,” he said with mock reproach.
Jared grinned and took up the oars. He watched as Ezra began plucking fish from the net. It was a small, circular hand net, about the diameter of a man’s arm span. Weights around the perimeter pulled it down when tossed into the water. When a rope, attached at the center, was pulled, the net closed in around the fish.
The fish wriggled between Ezra’s fingers as he tossed them onto the floor of the small wooden boat. Jared didn’t mind letting Ezra sort them. Of all the things he hated about fishing, that was the worst. Still, it had to be done. Tilapia and sardines were separated out—a few to keep, and some for Jewish customers. The catfish and lamprey would be sold to Gentiles.
As he rowed, Jared’s mind began to wander far from their little fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee. His Uncle Lemuel had told him about monstrous trading ships with hundreds of oars on the Great Sea. He had never seen the Great Sea—which stretched from the borders of Israel to Greece, Rome, and beyond—but as a boy, he had promised himself that he would someday. Lemuel had also been east on dangerous camel caravans. His ventures had paid handsomely; Lemuel was the richest person Jared knew.
“If only…” Jared sighed.
“What?” Ezra looked up.
“Oh, I was just thinking about my uncle.”
“You really want to be a merchant, don’t you?” Ezra asked. Jared stared, eyebrows furrowed, at the few fish on the floor of the boat as he pulled the oars close to his chest.
“I can’t fish, Ezra. I’m terrible at it! That’s always been obvious. Why can’t I use my mind—not my muscles?” He looked down at his arms and they both laughed. Jared had obviously inherited his mother’s slender build, and he had long stopped challenging Ezra at arm wrestling. Then, again serious, Jared continued. “Uncle Lem has told my father that I’m more suited to work with numbers. He wants to take me on as his record keeper. He claims I’d make twice as much in trading as in fishing. Twice as much, Ezra!”
“Your father won’t allow it, will he?” Ezra asked quietly.
Jared sighed. “No. Not yet, at least.” Then he brightened. “But I haven’t given it up. It just seems right. And why not?” His hands tightened their grip as he rowed. “Last week, my uncle invited me on his next venture to Greece. I’m going to ask father about it when he comes home—whenever that is!”
“He’s at a wedding in Cana, isn’t he?” Ezra said curiously.
Jared returned a helpless look. “He came home a few days ago bellowing that he was so hungry he could eat half the fish in the sea. I expected him to get onto me for leaving them safely there. But this time, father was… I don’t know… different. Softer, I guess. Then, instead of heading out to fish, he announced he was off to a wedding!” Jared paused, looking at Ezra. “Know what? Father told me Jesus gave him a new name!”
Ezra interrupted, “A new name?”
“Yeah,” Jared said, shaking his head. “Peter—means a rock.”
“Rock, huh?” Ezra smiled, intrigued. The Simon he knew was impulsive, unpredictable, explosive—with a fascination for fishing that Jared would never understand. Rock?
“Yeah, and now I can’t figure him out,” Jared said, almost to himself. “Ever since father heard about Jesus, he’s hardly been home. And now he has gone to a wedding. Why would they be going to a wedding, anyway? In Cana? We don’t even know anyone in Cana!”
After a silence Ezra spoke up. “To tell you the truth, I would have gone with them. I’d like to see Jesus myself!”
“And where would I be if you had left me, too?” Jared demanded, playfully shooting a fish at Ezra.
Ezra ducked. “But what if He is the Promised One, Jared?” Jared didn’t have an answer to that. For a while, the only sound was the rhythmical splash of the oars.
“I can see the shore from here,” Ezra said, finally. “Why don’t you let me take a turn rowing.”
“Sure, I could use a break!” They switched places and Jared leaned against the stern of the boat. He crossed his arms behind his head and gazed at the brightening sky. “So, what do the rabbis and Pharisees think of Jesus?” Jared asked.
“I don’t know,” Ezra said. “They weren’t impressed with John—although my heart burned at his words. There was Jairus, though, a synagogue ruler here in Galilee. He was certainly struck by what John said.”
Jared agreed. He, too, had been touched by the Prophet’s words. He and Ezra had spoken of them many times, and Ezra repeatedly reminded him of what they had heard. With talk of the Messiah, Ezra’s enthusiasm only intensified.
Jared had always wished he could be as zealous as his friend. He admired Ezra’s passion for the law and for God’s people. Jared had always tried to care, to pay attention at the synagogue and at home when Moses’ laws or the coming Messiah were talked about. However, he couldn’t deny his lack of fervor compared to his friend’s. Maybe I’m just not that type, he thought. I want to serve God. I want my life and my trade to honor Him. Why, Uncle Lemuel is a great example of that. He is devoted to his trade and at the same time generously contributes toward and regularly attends the synagogue.
Jared looked up, suddenly. “Whoa! We’re closer to shore than I thought!”
Ezra rowed carefully, now. They were heading into a jumble of fishing boats also bringing in their catch. The orange glow of several small fires dotted the pebbled shore, where women helped spread fish out on racks. The pungent smell of roasting fish already filled the air.
The young men jumped from the boat, splashing into the water, and pushed it ashore. From somewhere behind him, Jared heard his name. He turned and saw Ezekiel leaping wildly down the hill toward the lake. Jared grinned as he watched Ashira bounding closely behind him.
“Jared! Jared!” Ezekiel shouted as he and Ashira neared. “Did you hear? Jesus turned water into wine! Did you hear?”
“What’s this all about, Ashira?” Jared asked. He noticed Ezra, over his right shoulder, listening eagerly.
“It’s true! It was a miracle!” she said breathlessly. “They ran out of wine at the wedding in Cana, and Jesus told the servants to fill up some jars with water, and then He turned it into wine!” She paused, panting. “And they’re coming back to Capernaum—all of them!”
“Did you hear that?” Ezra said, grabbing Jared’s arm. “We’re going to see Him! We’re going to see Jesus!” Ezra’s face was glowing.
Jared felt his own heart beat with excitement. Water to wine! Amazing! “Will they be here soon?”
“I don’t know,” Ashira said. “Some traveling merchants brought the news ahead of Jesus and abba. They’re on their way!”
“Come on, Ezra! Let’s get this catch taken care of!” Jared glanced at the bottom of the boat. “Uh, this shouldn’t take us long.”
As he and Ezra tossed their few fish into a basket, Jared thought about the merchants who Ashira said had brought the news. A pang of urgency flashed through him. Maybe I can ask father again about joining Uncle Lemuel. He may be willing to listen, now. And finally, I’ll get to see the man who has captivated my father.