Capernaum was a prosperous city on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. Since the city was on a busy trade route, it was a convenient place to collect taxes and a tax office was located there.
The sweet, sparkling waters of the lake helped fishing flourish and Capernaum’s shores were busy with fishermen and their boats, merchants, buyers and sellers.
As soon as Jesus arrived home with His disciples, word traveled that He had returned and a stream of people gathered at His door. They brought their sick, blind, deaf, crippled and diseased to be healed.
Back in familiar surroundings, the disciples returned to their former pursuits. Nathanael went back to Cana and Philip to nearby Bethsaida. Peter and Andrew hurried down to the seashore to see if James and John and their father Zebedee had come in with their night’s catch. They found them washing their nets in shallow water near the docks.
White-haired Zebedee was seated in their beached boat, watching as his two hired servants helped James and John clean weeds from the nets.
Pleased to see that Peter and Andrew were back, Zebedee asked if they were ready to go back to fishing.
“Not us,” Peter replied without hesitation. “As soon as Jesus goes out again to preach the Gospel in other towns, we’re going with Him.”
“Then He’s here in Capernaum?” Zebedee asked quickly.
“He sure is. We just got in from Nazareth.”
“I know you’re hungry,” Zebedee said. “Andrew, will you and Peter have breakfast with us? You can tell us about your experiences while we’re eating. It must have been an interesting tour with Jesus.”
The two travelers rejoined their partners. As they enjoyed their meal, they discussed Jesus’ character, temperament, personality and religious views. They slept through the afternoon and early evening, and went out fishing together that night. Their catch was a good one and the fishing became better with each night’s work. They began to make plans to buy another boat.
Days passed. They saw Jesus in the synagogue on the Sabbaths, but a crowd always surrounded Him as He left the building and the fishermen had no opportunity to speak to Him.
One morning Jesus rose from prayer while it was still dark, broke a chunk of bread from a loaf and left His house. He followed the dusty, winding street down to the lake. Turning, He strolled along the beach, taking deep breaths of the fresh sea air.
The purple haze that hung over the lake glowed red in the east. The sun broke through in sudden splendor, and the waves lapping the shore turned to gold.
Eating the bread as He walked, Jesus watched the seashore waken to life. Voices and laughter drifted across the water and He heard oars splashing around the next bend. He hoped they would not recognize Him because he wanted to find four certain fishermen.
He kept walking and farther along saw two boats beached. A man was standing knee-deep in the cold water, washing a net. Other men were seated in one of the boats, mending nets (Matt. 4:18, Luke 5:1-2). As he strode nearer He recognized Peter in the water, “Hello!” he called. “How are you, Peter?”
Peter turned, Recognizing Jesus, he waved. “Hello! This is a surprise.”
“How’s the fishing?” Jesus asked.
“It’s not very good,” replied Peter. “We can’t figure it out. We’ve been doing very well, but tonight we came in empty-handed. It’s as if there aren’t any fish left in this whole lake.”
Andrew climbed out of his boat and splashed up to Jesus. “Hello! Do you remember our partners James and John? They’re there with their father, Zebedee of Bethsaida.”
James, John and Zebedee gave their nets to their two servants, stepped over the side of their boat and splashed up to Jesus.
The men stood talking for half an hour. Zebedee especially asked many questions about John the Baptist, and about the healing miracles. Did the people stay healed? But their conversation was interrupted. Jesus had been seen and His whereabouts were reported to others.
Men, women and children began to gather along the seashore. Soon the crowd grew into a multitude that pressed in on three sides.
“Peter, may I use your boat?” Jesus asked. “If you row out a few yards I can sit in it and talk to these people” (Luke 5:3).
“Certainly, sir,” Peter responded. “You’re welcome to use it anytime.”
Stowing their nets along one side, Andrew and Peter pushed the boat off the sand into shallow water and steadied it as Jesus waded out. He swung aboard and the two fishermen leaped in themselves and look up the oars. A short distance offshore they stopped and Jesus waited for the crowd to settle itself. James, John and their father had joined their hired men in their boat and they rowed to a place nearby.
“Good morning, “Jesus said, and the murmuring among the crowd along the shore stopped entirely. I have an announcement to make, he began. The Kingdom of God is coming to this earth!”
In a voice that carried easily across the water, He talked to them about the good news of the coming government of God.
When His sermon was finished, Jesus turned to Peter, “My friend, if you’ll row out into deeper water and put down your nets, you’ll have a good catch” (v. 4).
Peter shook his head. “We just came in from a long night of work and caught nothing. There aren’t any fish out there.”
Peter paused. Jesus was smiling and there was a twinkle in His eyes. “All right,” Peter sighed. “Because you say so, we’ll give it another try.”
He took up the oars and Andrew joined in without comment. The brothers rowed steadily over the water while Jesus relaxed with His back to the sun, watching Zebedee’s boat as if followed in their wake. After a time Jesus offered to help row, but they insisted that they were not tired.
Finally Jesus raised a hand. “Put out your nets here, please.”
“But this is where we fished last night!” Peter protested. “But if you say so.” He decided to do as Jesus asked, even though it meant going through all the work of flinging the nets out and hauling them back in.
But the tiredness left the fishermen’s arms a few minutes later when they saw their nets begin to enclose a shoal of fish. The bulging nets began to break and Peter called to James and John for help. Their partners took fish aboard their boat until Zebedee called out that they must stop or sink the boat (v. 7).
Peter suddenly realized that Jesus had performed a miracle. And this one was for Peter’s own benefit. He flung himself on his knees before Jesus. “Leave me alone! You don’t know how sinful I am!”
“Don’t be afraid, Peter,” Jesus replied. “From now on your catch will be men” (v. 10).
It was the last fishing that Peter, Andrew, James and John would do for a while. When they brought their boats back to the shore, Jesus asked them to become His disciples.
Leaving behind their loved ones, their goals and ambitions, Peter, Andrew, James and John left their boats with Zebedee and followed Jesus (v. 11).
Be watching for Lesson 7 from Stories from the New Testament.