There’s a big difference between “ships” and “boats.” I learned that as a teenager, when a gentleman asked me why I wasn’t interested in joining the Navy. I told him I couldn’t imagine being stranded for six months on a boat.
He was a retired rear admiral, who – I later learned – didn’t take kindly to America’s mighty vessels being referred to as “boats” by a snotty kid from west Texas. He was right, of course.
But standing near the shore of the Sea of Galilee, I was pretty sure the admiral would agree we were looking at a boat. But not just any boat; this was the remains of an incredibly well-preserved 2,000-year-old fishing boat. It was the most common vessel one would have found sailing the waters just feet away.
The local tourist industry calls it the “Jesus Boat.”
To be clear, there is zero evidence the boat belonged to one of Jesus’ disciples. There is no evidence that Jesus ever set foot on the boat, or – for that matter – even laid earthly eyes on it.
Yet this boat gives us insight to the men who Jesus called into ministry. Renaissance paintings often depict the disciples as soft, slightly overweight men of advanced age. They appear almost grandfatherly. That’s not who would have been working these boats. They would have been tough, hard, strong men, accustomed to a rigorous – and often disappointing – work.
In other words: they were perfectly suited to Christ’s call even if a cadre of such men would have raised eyebrows among the more genteel people of the day (or in our day).
But that’s the thing: they were not called to genteel work. And neither are we. They were not called to a contemplative life, but one of rigorous action. They were not called to a life of earthly success, but eternal significance.
They had a choice to make: keep fishing, or become fishers of men. They abandoned what was known in exchange for the risky opportunity to be part of something bigger and more meaningful than themselves.
Just as they were asked and called, so are we. What will be our response?
It’s easy to prefer the safety of what we know, even if that’s a flimsy boat on a turbulent sea. Yet the greater risk is in ignoring the call of the Author of Creation in serving our fellow man.
We must answer Him, every day.