“And Simon, don’t be a jerk.”
“Me? A Jerk? Come on Andrew, you know me better than that.”
“Exactly, don’t be a jerk. Give Jesus a chance.”
We had just arrived at the home where Jesus was staying, and I was getting last-minute instructions before we went in.
“Just keep an open mind and listen to what he has to say, okay? That’s all I’m asking.”
“Fine, let’s do this so we can get out of here.”
As we stepped through the door, I heard, “Andrew, Simon, thanks for coming. We’ve been expecting you.”
Expecting us? Ten minutes ago I didn’t even know that I’d be here.
Seven eyes turned and looked at us, I knew most of the men, except the one who had spoken and the guy wearing the patch over his left eye.
“Jesus, this is my brother Simon.”
“I know who he is Andrew. Come on in, I’m not going to bite. I’m pretty sure you know everybody here, except my one-eyed friend. He’s another Simon and if you let him, he will regale you with how he lost his eye to the Romans in a heroic fight for our freedom. It’s a pretty good story, but the truth is, he lost it playing with a sharp stick when he was a kid.”
Simon grinned and his eye lit up, “Sure, but the Roman story is a lot more effective in rallying folks against the empire. I don’t know how many times my mother warned us about our stick sword fights, ‘somebody is going to lose an eye’ she’d say. Who’d of thought? My brother was playing the part of a centurion, so it’s kind of true.”
Jesus just shook his head, “If you are going to follow me Simon, kind of true isn’t enough. You’ve told that story so many times you hate the imaginary soldier who blinded you.”
Simon’s face clouded over, “if they didn’t blind me it’s only because they’ve never had the chance. They’ve done worse to others and I won’t rest as long a Rome continues to rape Israel. The patch and the story have won more converts to our cause than all of John’s sermons. All he called on the soldiers to do was to act nice. Nice, I’ll show them nice, there are a lot more of us than there are of them, all we have to do . . .”
I thought the man was about to explode when Jesus interrupted, “Take a deep breath Simon and relax, you’re with friends. Now you see why those who know him, affectionately call him the Zealot.”
I was thinking, Perfect, I’m stuck in a room with a bunch of crazies, but I smiled and stuck my hand out, “Good to meet you Simon, you sound like you have a lot in common with my kid brother.”
Andrew was standing next to me, nodding his head and grinning, completely missing my jab at him and his new hero.
I turned back to Jesus, “If this is a recruiting drive for the new Maccabees, I think I’m in the wrong place. I’m really not interested in a revolution. I’m just a fisherman, love my life and love my wife and have no interest in politics or rebellion.”
“I know who you are Simon, and I know your heart. You’re not nearly as blasé as you pretend to be. You just need to find your passion. Let’s chat while your brother and the others plot the overthrow of the empire”
I could see I wasn’t the only one who embraced sarcasm as my friend. “Jesus, I don’t know what Andrew told you about me, but seriously ‘not interested’ would be an understatement. So, I’ll let you and your band of merry men get back to whatever you were talking about and leave you to it.”
“I guess nobody has ever said; I wonder; what is Simon really thinking?, have they?”
The carpenter nodded toward the others, “They think all they have to do is rid Israel of Rome and everything will come up roses, but Rome’s not the problem any more than the Babylonians were, it goes way deeper than that. They don’t know it yet, but the movement I’m calling them to will be greater than Rome will ever be. And it won’t happen because of swords and bloodshed.”
“Simon, you need to ask yourself, are you content to spend your life catching fish or do you want to change the world? Whatever you decide, the choice will be yours and yours alone.”
And then the conversation shifted when one of the others asked Jesus what John was like when they were growing up and Jesus told of how his family would take holiday trips to Jerusalem when he would get to spend time with his older cousin.
“Cousin might have been a bit of a stretch,” Jesus confessed, “Mom called Elizabeth her cousin, but their parents weren’t siblings, just the entire extended family thing, when you don’t know what to call them, then they are a cousin.”
“John is only six months older than me, so whenever my family was in the city we picked up where we had left off, whether it was playing or fighting. And there was always this weird destiny feeling we had. Sometimes I felt closer to John than I did to my brothers and sisters.”
And so, for the next couple of hours, we talked and laughed until I noticed the sun was disappearing and reminded Andrew that we had fishing to do.
“Thanks for coming,” Jesus said as he walked with us to the door, “And Simon think about what I said about changing the world. I will be away for a while, but when I get back let’s talk. Everyone calls you Simon, but I think I’ll call you Peter, it will save confusing you with our one-eyed friend, and Peter is more in keeping with your personality.”
Andrew laughed as we walked toward the beach, “That wasn’t so bad, was it? You made a new friend and got a new name, not a bad evening.”
“He seems like a good guy, but I’m not sure he’s intense enough for the entire Messiah gig. And the entire name thing seems a little strange, I mean who knows someone for a couple of hours and then arbitrarily changes their name?”
“And Simon, don’t be a jerk.”