The Fisherman's Wife

The Annunciation
The Visitation
The Fisherman's Wife
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By Christine Marciniak

When Simon the Fisherman was called by Jesus, he went. But, what did his wife think of that idea.

Sunset over water

The sun was barely brightening the sky when I awoke. I rolled over on my sleeping mat and felt the empty space beside me. I sometimes wished that I hadn’t been married to a fisherman; someone who worked nights, and came home as the sun was coming up. I yawned, stretched and sat up; but I didn’t roll up the sleeping mat, Simon would need it soon.

There was work to be done. I put on my outer tunic, tied my girdle and headed out to start the meal. Simon would be hungry when he came home from a night on the boat with his brother. I had the barley and fish stew simmering in the pot before my mother emerged into the courtyard. "He’s not home yet?" Everything was ready. The sun was above the horizon now.

I frowned. Simon was rarely late. He enjoyed his morning meal too much to miss it. But sometimes squalls came up on the sea that we weren’t even aware of on shore. What if something had happened? Sometimes I wished his trade were something that would keep him on dry land all day, like a tanner or a farmer. But Simon loved the sea, and I knew nothing could keep him from it. "Perhaps they had trouble with the boats?" I suggested to my mother.

"The boats are in," she said. "I saw Jonah."

Jonah was Simon’s father. They always sailed together. Jonah would not leave Simon out in the water; he would stay with him. "Then I’m sure he’ll be here any minute."

"There’s a crowd gathered down at the water," she said.

How does she always know things like this? I know that my girls are up and rolling their mats; I can hear them. I know that the fish and barley stew for Simon is ready. I knew that it was going to be a nice day, judging from the sky; but I knew nothing that was going on beyond the walls of this house.

"It’s probably another one of those crazy itinerant preachers," she said fatalistically. "You make sure Simon stays away from him. Remember what happened to Jacob?"

How could I forget? Jacob was my older brother. Last year a man had come through preaching salvation to all who rose up against the rule of the Roman’s. The uprising had been short lived. Jacob had been imprisoned. We had heard no more of him since. But Simon was level headed. He had scoffed at Jacob last year; there was no reason to believe he would fall into the same trap himself. Simon was a solid citizen who followed the teachings of the temple; some impassioned preacher wouldn’t sway him.

Should I go down to the water and look for him. But Simon would not like it if I came to bring him home like some recalcitrant child. I would trust in God like I always have and know that Simon would be home soon: he liked to eat too much to miss his meal.

My instinct was correct and before the sun had moved much further in the sky, Simon entered the courtyard. "You’re late," my mother accused.

"Never mind that," I said soothingly. My mother could be a bit acerbic. "Wash and come eat. The stew is ready."

"And I could eat the whole pot," Simon said. He went to the water pitcher and washed his face and hands. I ladled some stew onto a plate for him.

"Did you have a good catch?" I asked as he dipped some bread into the stew and began to eat.

"Very good. One of the best ever. But, Rachel, I must tell you about the man I met."

"A man? While you were fishing?" I asked, smiling.

Simon smiled back at me. "No, when he were hauling in. His name is Jesus, and he hails from Nazareth."

"Not a big fishing town."

"No, but he didn’t talk to us about catching fish."

"Well, what else would he talk to a bunch of fisherman about. It’s all any of you ever talk about."

"He talked about God." Simon said simply.

I stood up angrily. "You stay away from him." I said.

"He’s not like the man Jacob followed," Simon said quickly. "He doesn’t talk of taking up arms against the Romans."

"Not yet he doesn’t." I insisted fearfully. "You only spoke to him once. He’ll lure you in with sweet words and then you’ll all end up being arrested. I lost my brother. I’m not losing my husband as well."

Simon stood and wrapped me in one of his great bear hugs. "You’ll not lose me," he assured.

But over the next few days I began to doubt that. Simon, and his brother Andrew, spent more and more of their free time listening to what this preacher had to say. They were late getting home in the mornings. When they didn’t have to be actively out on the boats or repairing the nets they were listening to this man. Things around home went undone. The girls were wondering where their father was all the time. I was wondering the same thing. And it wasn’t only them. Their partners, James and John, were as smitten by this preacher as they were.

"He’s going to be moving on soon," Simon said one morning, when he had finally come in for his meal, the sun high in the sky.

"Good," I said.

Simon didn’t meet my eyes. "I am thinking of going with him."

"Going with him?" I couldn’t believe my ears. "You told me that I wouldn’t lose you."

"And you won’t. I’ll still be your husband." Simon assured.

"Only you’ll be traveling with some crazy preacher."

"He’s not crazy. He heals the sick."

"So I’ve heard." The stories were impressive; but this was not the first rabbi to be able to heal people.

"It’s true." Simon said. "You should listen to what he has to say."

"I know all I need to know; he’s getting my husband to abandon his responsibilities. I don’t need to know anymore."

I wasn’t going to lose Simon. I had grown to love him very much since our wedding eight years ago; and I wasn’t going to give him up to anyone. I stood up and straightened my outer tunic and head covering.

"Where are you going?" Simon asked.

"To talk to this preacher of yours. I assume he’s still by the sea."

"Most likely," Simon answered. He didn’t try to stop me as I left the house.

I spotted this preacher almost at once. He had a crowd around him. I stood back a bit and observed. There were people coming up to him, people using sticks to walk; or with lame arms. He touched them and they seemed better. He could heal; that much seemed certain. After a while he observed me on the outskirts of his crowd. Shortly he came over to me. "You are Simon’s wife." It wasn’t even a question. He seemed to know.

"I am." I answered coldly.

"Something is wrong."

"Yes, something is wrong. My husband says he may go with you."

Jesus calmly nodded. "Yes. I have asked him to accompany me."

"But he can’t just leave."

"Why not?"

Was he not right in the head? Didn’t he understand about responsibilities? "He’s got a family." I said.

He nodded. "Yes."

"He needs to provide for us."

"You must trust in God to provide."

"I did trust in God to provide," I answered, frustration filling me. "And He did. He provided me with a loving husband. One who is strong and capable."

"And if he did all that; then you need not worry."

"I worry if you take my husband away from me."

"He needs me," Jesus answered.

"How can you need him?" I said. "Aren’t there men without wives and small children you can have do your bidding?"

Jesus smiled sadly at me. "I did not say I need him; though I do. I said that he needs me."

"I need him." I said, tears pricking at my eyes.

"You do not understand."

"No. I don’t." I scuffed my sandal in the pebbles, like a small child, "Explain it to me."

"Simon is a fisherman," he said simply, as if I was the child I was behaving like. I nodded and he continued. "He has spent his life catching fish." I said nothing; that seemed self-explanatory. "I am offering him a chance to be a fisher of men."

I looked at him dumbly. "What does that mean?"

"It means that he will help me teach people about God, my father. People need to know that He is a God of love. That he doesn’t want to strangle us with rules; but that the rules allow us to be free to worship Him as he should be worshipped."

"You’re just like all of them. You want to overthrow the Romans. I don’t want Simon to end up in prison."

"I know all about Jacob," he said gently. But of course, Simon must have told him. "I don’t come to overthrow anyone. I come to show a better way."

"Well, can’t you do it without Simon?" I asked.

He nodded. "I could. But would you deny Simon the chance to learn and worship the way he should."

"He does worship the way he should. He studies the Torah. We keep the Sabbath. We go to temple. We obey the laws. What more is there?"

"Rachel," he said softly. "There is much more."

I’d had enough. "Just leave Simon alone," I said and started for home.

Simon was leaning in the front doorway when I arrived. He smiled at me. "So?" he asked.

"I told him you couldn’t go with him."
Simon raised his eyebrows at this. "Oh, you did, did you?"

I know I’ve been a bit headstrong as a wife. And Simon has always been indulgent of me. But I suppose Simon was right. I couldn’t stop him. I had no power over him. "I need you here." I said.

"You’ll be fine. My father will stay. He will see that you are provided for."

"Your father? What about Andrew and John and James?"

"We are all going."

"No Simon." I shook my head in disbelief. It was Jacob all over again. I would never see them again. He took me in his arms and held me tight. "All will be fine," he assured me. It didn’t feel to me as though anything would ever be fine again.

Simon went in then to get some sleep. I went about the work of the household. My heart might be breaking, but there was still much to do. It was while I was preparing the midday meal that I became aware that my mother was not hovering around. "Rebecca," I called to my seven-year-old. "Where is grandmother?"

"She’s sleeping," she answered nonchalantly.

"Sleeping, at midday?" I questioned.

She just shrugged. "She said she wasn’t feeling well and to leave her alone."

"Why didn’t you tell me?"

"She said she wanted to be left alone."

"Help your sisters wash up," I said and went to the sleeping chamber that my mother shared with my girls. She was lying on the mat. Her face was flushed. "Mother?" I said softly.

She opened her eyes. "It came on me suddenly," she said softly. "I feel very weak. I don’t think I ever felt this weak before."

"I’ll get you something," I offered.

"I don’t want anything," she said, uncharacteristically. I laid my hand on her forehead. She was burning with fever.

"I’ll bring you something." I insisted.

"I can’t eat or drink. I just want to sleep."

I backed out of the room, worried. She’d been fine this morning. What kind of a sickness comes on so quickly? Nothing good: that much I knew. I did try to get my mother to drink something, to take a mixture of healing herbs I prepared for her, but she wouldn’t touch it. By the time Simon woke up; I was near frantic with worry.

He wrapped his arms around me in a comforting embrace. "She’ll be all right," he assured.

It was a thoughtful thing to say; but I had my doubts. This looked like a death sickness to me, and I didn’t want to lose my mother. "I must prepare the meal." I said, pulling myself together.

Rebecca came into the courtyard then, "Papa, there is a man here who wishes to buy fish."

Simon turned to our eldest daughter. "You take care of it. I need to go out." And straightening his tunic, he left.

Rebecca looked at me for direction. I was at as much as a loss as she was. We were in crisis here, and Simon just left the house. It was not like him at all. I needed to take charge, "You heard your father." I said briskly, "You know how much to sell a fish for."

With a smile that was half pride and half bravado, Rebecca left to tend to business. I prepared the meal, Mary and Hannah constantly underfoot. I gave them each small tasks to do, to keep them out of trouble. But my mind was not on them. When Mary nearly fell into the fire, I grabbed her away, just in time. And holding her close to me, started to cry. Why was my mother so sick? Where had Simon gone? He was never around when I needed him anymore. And I really needed him now. When had things started to unravel in my life?

It was when that preacher turned up. That was the cause of all the problems. Before that, Simon was home when he was supposed to be. And mother wasn’t sick. I shook my head slightly, as if to clear it. I really couldn’t blame mother’s illness on that man.

The meal was ready and Rebecca had already sold fish to five different people, when Simon walked back in. He wasn’t alone. He had that man Jesus with him. The last thing I needed right now was a guest for dinner. I was hardly prepared to be a gracious hostess. "Simon, is it wise to bring a guest, when my mother is so ill?" I said through clenched teeth.

Simon didn’t answer. Instead Jesus turned to me. "Where is your mother?" he asked gently.

"I’ll show you," Simon said.

"No, let Rachel take me to her," Jesus said.

So I led him to my mother’s pallet. Mother looked even worse than before. Her brow was glistening with sweat. Her closed eyes looked sunken in her head. Her breathing was shallow. She was near death. I knew it. I couldn’t hold back tears. Jesus went right to my mother’s side. He touched her brow and said, "Sarai, arise and be well."

Mother opened her eyes. She frowned at the sight of him. "Are you like the last one?" she asked with her customary brusqueness.

"I’m not," he answered with a small smile.

She closed her eyes briefly, and when she opened them again she looked more relaxed somehow. "I’ve heard about you. And you’ve come to see me." She stated this as if it was only right and proper.

"Yes I have," Jesus answered.

"Good." Mother sat up. She seemed completely well. There was not a trace of illness about her manner or look. "I have questions for you. I believe my daughter does as well." Now mother stood up, and adjusted her outer tunic. "You must be hungry and thirsty," Mother said, "I will prepare something for you. Come out to the courtyard."

Mother went out to the courtyard, and I was left standing, looking at this preacher. "Thank you," I managed to say.

"Your mother says you have questions." He answered.

"Who are you?"

"Jesus of Nazareth," he answered simply.

"But, Who are you?" I repeated. "Are you a prophet?"

"A prophet shares God’s word with the people." He answered. "I suppose in a way I am a prophet."

"In what way aren’t you a prophet?" I asked.

He smiled at me. "I do not receive revelations," he explained.

I did not feel any more enlightened. "I’m scared," I said quietly, thinking of Simon leaving me to follow this man.

He took my hands in his and looked into my eyes. "Do not be afraid," he answered. And I felt the fear drain out of me.

"You are different than the man that Jacob followed."

"I am. I am the truth. The way to salvation is through me."

"Others say that our salvation is to overthrow Rome." That had been the line that Jacob’s preacher had been fond of. It had also been the line that had gotten him arrested.

"Salvation is not in this time or place," he answered.

"So, you do not wish to bring war?"

"I do not bring war. I bring peace."

"They say the Messiah will bring war." I said. There were many who were looking for a savior that would cut down the enemies of Israel.

"They are wrong."

They were wrong, I realized, because this man in front of me was the Messiah. I knew it as surely as I knew that my name was Rachel. I don’t know how I knew it. Perhaps God had given me a revelation.

Jesus smiled at me. It was as if he knew what was in my thoughts. "We must go eat the meal that your mother is ready to serve," he said.

I started out to the courtyard, but then stopped and turned back to him, "Will you teach me, so that I understand why Simon must go with you?"

"I will teach you." He answered. And together we went into the courtyard, where the rest of the family was gathered, and my mother served Him the meal that I had prepared.

Copyright 2006 - Christine Marciniak

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