Saturday 21 January 2023

Epiphany 3, January 22nd 2023.

Rise within us like the star 

And make us restless

Till we journey on

To seek our peace in you


Song “Will you come and follow me”


Reflection on Matthew 4v12-23

Having heard of John the Baptist's arrest, Jesus leaves the wilderness of Judea and heads for Galilee, making the centre of his operations Capernaum, a Gentile area, rather than Nazareth where he grew up. 


Matthew does not record Jesus' early Judean ministry which, from his baptism till his move to Galilee, which probably lasted about a year. John's arrest triggers a retreat. Jesus takes up John the Baptist's preaching ministry, proclaiming the coming of the kingdom. 


John's arrest prompts Jesus to change his ministry style. With Capernaum as the base of his operations, Jesus now takes on the role of an itinerant preacher and healer. The time lag between Jesus' temptation and the commencement of his ministry in Galilee could well be around one year


Jesus could be confused as one of John's disciples, although Galilee, as is Perea where John was arrested, is in the territory ruled by Herod Antipas.

Capernaum is a large, significant town, with a large Gentile population.

It is by the lake Galilee and inhabited by the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali.

It is from this devastated and unwanted place that Jesus begins his ministry in earnest. In Isaiah, the invading Assyrians may overwhelm the land occupied by the northern tribes of Israel, but out of this darkness a light will one day shine. Isaiah's prophecy of a light to the Gentiles is fulfilled in Christ's move to Capernaum. Jesus comes preaching the coming kingdom, Jesus like John calls for repentance and a reliance on God.

Foreigners from the north east heading through Israel to the Mediterranean (as with the Assyrians' invasion that Isaiah consistently predicted) came across the Jordan, through Galilee, on the way to the Mediteranean sea. Jews only made up some 50% of the population of Galilee. For those living in a deadly shadow, a light has dawned. (How much do we need this!)

The people of Israel often understood the kingdom in terms of the restoration of the Jewish state, the prophets described something more than a new Davidic empire. God will call together a people who will gather in the presence of the living God and dwell securely under Gods reign. 


Jesus tells people to repent, to turn around. a radical change of heart and mind. 

Lake Galilee (21km. by 11km.) had a prosperous fishing industry. Simon and Andrew were from Bethsaida and probably came to the area for employment. They had probably had heard Jesus speak on a number of occasions and were now called by him. Jesus said follow me, be disciples, go with Jesus, learn from him. These fishermen are called to prepare the people for the coming kingdom. Usually a disciple would usually choose their teacher, not the other way around.


Jesus saw them when he was walking beside the Sea of Galilee near Tiberius. Simon and Peter were busy throwing their nets out into the lake.  

A net thrown into the sea catches fish of every kind. 

They left immediately and followed him. Moving on they saw the 

sons of Zebedee, James and John in a boat with their father preparing their nets repairing and mending them. The two brothers also left immediately and followed him. 

Jesus went teaching in synagogues and preaching outside. He initially exercised his ministry in the local synagogue - until he was banned. Note it is "their" synagogues. Jesus is a Jew so it was his synagogue. The authorities restricted Jesus' use of the synagogue. The institution religion opposed Jesus ministry almost exclusively. 


When Jesus called the fishermen he made no conditions, just come he said and they came as they were. Similarly Jesus asks us to come as we are, and he will use us as we are. We are all the same. There are no conditions to being a Christian except to want to follow Christ. You may have committed great sins you may subsequently mess your live up but Jesus says just come. Come, follow me, warts and all. 


It was an act which changed the course of human history but it began with a simple act of complete faith. Jesus calls us to leave behind our old lives and just come.


The church in the West has a similar journey to make. It has lived with ways of being and structures that served it well in a previous age, but not in this. It too has to let go of the past and embrace a new future, one perhaps less tidy. It has to trust God and just come. 


We are also called to follow the God of Truth and Wisdom. It may involve upheaval, upset people around who don’t want things to change. it may involve a change of attitudes, it may involve traveling and the giving of what is costly. But of such stuff are dreams made of and of such stuff is the journey as Christians we embark on when we decide to truly follow the Light of all Lights. Amen.


Song “Lead me on”


When the star in the sky has gone

And the wise men have gone back to their homes

The real work of Christmas begins

To find the lost, heal the broken, feed the hungry and release the prisoner




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