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REMBRANDT, THE LIFE OF CHRIST: Part 6
 

Miraculous events seemed to flourish wherever Jesus was present. Once, while sailing with Simon, one of his fishermen-turned-disciples, he commanded him to cast out his fishing nets. Simon protested, "Listen, teacher, you know the things of God, but I know my own trade. With all of the other fishermen I have toiled all night in these waters, and we've caught nothing. Yet, because it is you who ask me, I will cast the nets again."

Into the sparkling sea they cast their nets a second time. And when they had done this, a great catch strained at the nets, to the point of their breaking. So extraordinary was the catch, Simon called out to his partners on the shore to sail out and help them pull up the nets.

Overcome, Simon then knelt among the nets and confusion on board his vessel, and pleaded, "Depart from me, Lord. Why keep company with such an ignorant and unworthy man as myself?"

But Jesus only smiled. "Do not be so fearful," he said to the fisherman. "From this day forward, you will begin to gather souls instead of fish." And so it was, that when they had arrived back at the shore, Simon threw aside his nets, and left everything behind in order to follow Jesus.

United in their pursuit of a new way of understanding God, the disciples accompanied Jesus from place to place, observing as he healed the sick, and comforted the outcasts; listening attentively, as he taught the people with allegorical stories or parables. Afterwards, when the crowds had returned to their homes, they would again give ear, as Jesus explained the full meaning of his stories.


A miraculous draught of fishes
Pen and brush drawing; 18 x 19.2 cm; c.1655
Paris, The Louvre


The storm on the Lake of Galilee
Oil on canvas; 159.5 x 127.5 cm; c. 1633
Boston, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

On occasion, the miraculous nature of Christ's calling impacted their lives most dramatically. Once, for example, when the crowds had grown too immense, Jesus said to them, "Let us take a boat and cross to the quieter side of the lake." No sooner had they begun their crossing, than there arose a sudden squall. Such storms were common enough during certain times of the year, and were greatly feared by the local seamen. Tremendous waves beat against the small vessel, causing it to flounder. Finally, in spite of their skilled efforts, for a number of the disciples were experienced sailors, the boat was in danger of sinking.

Frantically, they called out to Jesus to help them. But incredibly, when Jesus did not respond, they found him in the stern of the boat, sound asleep on a pillow! Above the sound of the tempest and waves, they shouted, "Teacher! Do you not notice that we are perishing?"

And Jesus arose, and spoke with authority to the wind and to the sea, "Peace! Be still." And quite suddenly the gale died, and the sea became calm. Then Jesus asked of his disciples, "Why were you so fearful? How is it that after all you have seen and heard, you still have such limited faith?"

The book of Matthew's Gospel records another experience at sea involving Jesus, Simon, and the other disciples. This time, Jesus had gone alone into the mountains above Lake Galilee to pray. The disciples, meanwhile, had taken a boat and were again crossing to the other side of the great lake. Night fell, and with it came another unexpected storm. Caught a few miles out, the disciples struggled, in a losing effort to bring their vessel to shore.

Matthew records that in the "fourth watch of the night," or, between three and six in the morning, Jesus went out to them, walking as it were, on the sea. Seeing him, the disciples were more afraid than ever. "It is a ghost," they cried.

But Jesus called out to them, "Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid!"

Simon, again demonstrating his impetuous nature, called back, "Lord! If that is truly you, command me to come to you, walking also on the sea!"

And Jesus replied, "Come."

Immediately, Simon stepped over the side of the boat, and for a short distance he seemed to walk above the waves. But the wind whipped at his clothes, and the salt stung his face, and he became afraid. "Help me," he cried out, sinking into the sea.

While he was crying out, Jesus reached his side, lifting him from the waves. And some time later, as their craft moved onto calmer seas, they talked in the boat. "Why did you doubt me?" Jesus asked.


Jesus saves Peter from drowning
Pen and ink drawing; 16.8 x 26.5 cm; c. 1632
London, British Museum

The other disciples listened and observed, and in their hearts they worshipped the teacher, and said to him, "Surely master, you are the Son of God."