Never before was there a time he could recall that he had ever felt so tired. He ached from head to toe, his muscles screaming with each excruciating step. He felt every bruise, tear or cut like a knife slicing through his now bleeding, tender swollen skin. The pain was excruciating and almost unbearable. The stone had been unforgiving today, more so than usual he thought as they toiled through the hot scorching sun trying to tease enough rock from the mountain to please the noblemen of Rome, with very few breaks for much needed water. He longed for the days of freedom where he could rest his weary body and mind any time he wanted.
As rigorous as the days of a life on the boat had been, it still had failed to prepare him for the back breaking labor of a life spent among the quarries. It was days like these that he wondered just how long it would be before The Lord had mercy on him and let him go home. He knew that there was a place that The Lord had prepared for him, He had told them so just before he died that cruel Roman death. He had said that He was going to get it ready and that He would come back to get them. At that time he didn’t have a clue what The Lord was talking about. He just knew it sounded nice, little knowing that in just a few short hours all thought about mansions would disappear in the face of such brutality that it would leave His Lord unrecognizable to even those who knew Him well.
He shuddered as he thought of those moments spent beneath that cross. He had never witnessed anything as horrible as he had witnessed that day. It was all he could do to hold The Lord’s mother together as she watched her son bleed and die. Totally forgotten was the promise of the resurrection in the face of such cruelty and grief. A few days later when The Lord had risen he had remembered then the promise of mansions and after that gruesome day at the hill they called Golgotha, it sounded wonderful to his rugged fisherman’s ears.
Stepping gingerly through the entrance of the cave he stumbled and would have fallen down completely had it not been that he was still quite nimble on his feet even as old as he was. Years of maintaining balance on boats in constant motion had left an indelible print on his mind that his body responded to without thought.
He thought back to those days when he fished with his father and his brothers. He remembered the laughter they shared when they were catching lots of fish and the worry and stress when there were none.
Instantly, in less time than he could blink he was once again standing on the shoreline with Simon. The Master as they had heard Him called was asking Simon to go back out on the boat and let Him speak to the people who had gathered to hear Him. He thought to himself how crazy that request was but being the youngest, he had held his peace. Simon would no doubt tell him no being they were all weary from having toiled all night trying to catch a good day’s worth of fish. Every man on board the boat was irritable, including him. Yet Surprisingly, Simon issued the command and off they went. He had to admit listening to Him speak was unlike anything he had ever heard. His voice had a melodic quality to it, but it was the authority with which He spoke that resonated in his heart. Something deep within him was beginning to stir although at the time he didn’t know what.
Later on when He was done speaking to the huge crowds of people He turned to Simon and told him to cast his net on the other side and he would find a draught of fish. To his young ears this was insanity. They had all stayed up most of the night rowing and fishing and they hadn’t caught a single fish. He just wanted to go home, clean up and wait for better luck the next day. He could tell Simon was getting a little frustrated about it, no doubt he was calculating the extra payment he would have to give the men. Considering he had caught nothing during the night it would be a hard to make such extra payments. Simon was always a little hot headed when he was stretched beyond the limit, but the man called Master just calmly repeated his request. Much to everyone’s surprise Simon gave the order to move back out again.
All his life he had known Simon to be a hard man but he wasn’t unreasonable and so he instructed us all to go back to the boat, much to groans of very weary men whose grumblings and complaining’s would have made him laugh had he not been so tired. As it was it was all he could do to walk back into that water and row back to the boat. Simon stoically in the lead refused to hear the complaints of the now grumbling crew. We all knew without a doubt that once Simon made up his mind there would be no changing it.
As he made his way back to the boat, he helped drag out the huge nets again. Preparing them took some time because everyone was so tired from the all night fishing trip and then the additional trip back out to the lake for the stranger, however over the side the net went. Expecting to hear the same Ker plunk it always made when it hit the water, he was shocked when it sounded more like a thud.
Leaning over the side he couldn’t believe his eyes as he saw a multitude of fish straining the net they had just dropped over the side. He instantly started yelling the nets are full, the nets are full! The fever pitch excitement had begun to grow as nobody could believe what was happening before their very eyes. Like getting doused with a full bucket of cold water, once tired and grumpy men instantly were recharged with a renewed energy that quivered through the air like lightning bolts during a storm. You could hear the shouts and orders all over the deck as they strained to pull the nets back aboard with so many fish they feared they would break the nets.
The boat creaked and popped and men strained every muscle in their body, blowing sweat out of their eyes from all the labor trying to get those nets back on board before they broke. There was not one person complaining. Never before had he seen such a catch of fish. To his young heart it was the most glorious thing he had ever seen.
It was in that moment that he looked back out across the lake to see the man they called the Master sitting by the fire; he imagined that he had seen Him smile. In that moment of time his life would never be the same. When they had come back to shore He said come, follow me. It was then he realized he would follow this man anywhere he went. So in awe of what he had experienced, it had captivated his young heart with pure devotion. He wasn’t so naïve that he hadn’t understood what such a catch of fish meant financially to his father. So he had experienced no traces of lingering guilt or even the slightest smidgen of doubt when he told his father goodbye and had followed this remarkable man before him. This was just the beginning of things he would see over the next three years that would completely astound him time and again.
He recalled with a chuckle that it was then that He had changed Simons name to Peter , no one knew for sure if it was a compliment or not. To be called a rock surely wasn’t complimentary; they all knew it was a very fitting name for Simon.
Stumbling around the cave once more in a dazed stupor, he remembered that he had been looking for the parchment in the early morning hours of dawn, only now he felt too tired to entertain the thought of moving much less digging around for the parchment.
The day had been long and hot and extremely taxing, even to those a quarter his age. Everyone had felt the tension of the soldiers who watched every move they made, dealing out lashes when they felt the need. He knew well that many of those soldiers only dealt out the lashes just for the sheer pleasure of hearing grown men scream. He also knew the excruciating pain of lashes ripping though hardened muscles that had no fat residing on a lean hardened body. He had witnessed the evil gleam in the soldier’ eyes each time they administered the lashes, no doubt carrying out the wishes of Domitian.
Wearily he eased himself to the cavern floor, as easy as a man past ninety could do. Leaning his head against the rock, he released a pent up sigh from deep within. As was his daily routine, he thanked The Lord that he had made it through another day.
He thought he was making progress with the young lad Markus. He could see the genuine interest in the young boy’s eyes. Markus’ crime had been so miniscule that it was ridiculous that he was even here. Domitian, not wanting to appear weak before noblemen, had sentenced the lad to 20 years hard labor among the quarries. He remembered well the day he had come, the fear in his eyes had been real enough to feel, but he had also shown remarkable courage for one so young.
It had taken several months to get past the reserve he had set up, but he had finally gained a small measure of the boys trust. It turned out that his crime was not a heinous one as most of them were here on the isle, but it was a crime against Domitian himself. The boy had failed in showing the proper obeisance to Domitian in front of important dignitaries. For that he had been exiled, well he knew that it was out of spite for the boy’s family that Domitian had done so. The boy had come from a broken lineage of his own and would have someday been royalty himself had he and his family not been banished for the Glory of Rome and the insatiable lust for power and greedy appetite of the young ruler Domitian.
It never ceased to amaze him the sheer arrogance of those who ruled. Oh well, he knew that The Lord had a purpose for the young boy’s life and he would do everything within his power to bring him to his beloved Lord.
With that thought he fell sound asleep, the age old weariness clearly overtaken by the extreme toil of a day of extremely hard labor, a day in the life of the exiles of Rome.
As the light slowly began to fade around him, he again heard that beautiful haunting melody from the morning. Its’ melody pierced his weary heart and enveloped him with warm peace like a soft blanket.
Closing his eyes in this cavern of cold darkness he immediately felt himself being drawn upward. He felt an invisible hand leading him up through portals of light so bright that were he awake it would take his breath away. For a moment he thought that he was dying and this is what it felt like to be absent from the body. He didn’t have time to think about how weightless he felt as he moved upward, nor did he puzzle over his lack of fear. He felt such emotion rush through him as he had never experienced on earth. Flashes of brilliant and colorful light popped around him and multitudes of voices echoed off the chambers of this realm in beautiful melodies perfect in harmony with one another. Emotion after emotion rolled through him in wave upon wave of such love as he had never felt before.
He lifted his eyes upward with an expectancy he hadn’t felt in ages it seemed. Instantly he knew he would see His beloved Lord face to face. All these things flashed through his mind like thunder and lightning across the heavens, he understood words before any were spoken. His heart began to pound in anticipation as joy bubbled up through his belly, his mouth filling with laughter he had never felt before and then He saw Him.
All of time and space stood still, the angels it seemed were even holding their breath and in that one small glimpse of a Glory he had never experienced before he felt himself falling like a dead man at his feet….