One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God.
He noticed two empty boats at the water's edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets.
Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there.
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Now go out where it is deeper and let down your nets, and you will catch many fish."
"Master," Simon replied, "we worked hard all last night and didn't catch a thing. But if you say so, we'll try again."
And this time their nets were so full they began to tear!
A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.
When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, "Oh, Lord, please leave me -- I'm too much of a sinner to be around you."
For he was awestruck by the size of their catch, as were the others with him.
His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed. Jesus replied to Simon, "Don't be afraid! From now on you'll be fishing for people!"
And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.
In one of the villages, Jesus met a man with an advanced case of leprosy. When the man saw Jesus, he fell to the ground, face down in the dust, begging to be healed. "Lord," he said, "if you want to, you can make me well again."
Jesus reached out and touched the man. "I want to," he said. "Be healed!" And instantly the leprosy disappeared.
Then Jesus instructed him not to tell anyone what had happened. He said, "Go right to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy, so everyone will have proof of your healing."
Yet despite Jesus' instructions, the report of his power spread even faster, and vast crowds came to hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases.
But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.
One day while Jesus was teaching, some Pharisees and teachers of religious law were sitting nearby. (It seemed that these men showed up from every village in all Galilee and Judea, as well as from Jerusalem.) And the Lord's healing power was strongly with Jesus.
Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a sleeping mat. They tried to push through the crowd to Jesus,
but they couldn't reach him. So they went up to the roof, took off some tiles, and lowered the sick man down into the crowd, still on his mat, right in front of Jesus.
Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the man, "Son, your sins are forgiven."
"Who does this man think he is?" the Pharisees and teachers of religious law said to each other. "This is blasphemy! Who but God can forgive sins?"
Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he asked them, "Why do you think this is blasphemy?
Is it easier to say, 'Your sins are forgiven' or 'Get up and walk'?
I will prove that I, the Son of Man, have the authority on earth to forgive sins." Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, "Stand up, take your mat, and go on home, because you are healed!"
And immediately, as everyone watched, the man jumped to his feet, picked up his mat, and went home praising God.
Everyone was gripped with great wonder and awe. And they praised God, saying over and over again, "We have seen amazing things today."
Later, as Jesus left the town, he saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at his tax-collection booth. "Come, be my disciple!" Jesus said to him.
So Levi got up, left everything, and followed him.
Soon Levi held a banquet in his home with Jesus as the guest of honor. Many of Levi's fellow tax collectors and other guests were there.
But the Pharisees and their teachers of religious law complained bitterly to Jesus' disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with such scum?"
Jesus answered them, "Healthy people don't need a doctor -- sick people do.
I have come to call sinners to turn from their sins, not to spend my time with those who think they are already good enough."
The religious leaders complained that Jesus' disciples were feasting instead of fasting. "John the Baptist's disciples always fast and pray," they declared, "and so do the disciples of the Pharisees. Why are yours always feasting?"
Jesus asked, "Do wedding guests fast while celebrating with the groom?
Someday he will be taken away from them, and then they will fast."
Then Jesus gave them this illustration: "No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and uses it to patch an old garment. For then the new garment would be torn, and the patch wouldn't even match the old garment.
And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. The new wine would burst the old skins, spilling the wine and ruining the skins.
New wine must be put into new wineskins.
But no one who drinks the old wine seems to want the fresh and the new. 'The old is better,' they say."