01212023 – Matthew 4. 12-23
In a time when no one ever moved, no one ever changed homes, or legal residences, Jesus is now at home number four. Peculiar!
It was unbelievable and pretty remarkable. Strange. Odd. Especially for that day and time. You are given the sense of “wandering” of not being established.
Which happens to be “the original meaning” of the word “Ha’ Piru” or Hebrew, a semi-nomadic-desert-class of wanderers. Perhaps the lowest distinction of people, as economic status. The poor. The really poor.
HEBREWS! Ha’ Piru.
Likewise, Jesus is highly mobile, “you, have to give him that!”
First, there was Bethlehem, then, the hasty move to Egypt to avoid King Herod, from there to Nazareth, and now on to a village called Capernaum.
There is something about “his strange mobility.”
Jesus was in constant “motion.” He is anything but stationary.
He was known as “an itinerant prophet,” healer, and worker of miracles.
“Itinerant” meaning…traveling, wandering, roaming, and perhaps, displaced.
He was someone constantly on the move…and in motion.
And of course, you do realize, it is harder to hit a moving target. Harder too, to arrest and to imprison.
And sometimes a simple change from say Nazareth to Capernaum, can speak volumes…that go unnoticed.
With “startling suddenness,” Matthew announces the arrest or better yet, the “handing over” of John the baptizer.
It was shocking. It was unexpected. It came out of nowhere. People did not see it coming.
There are those scholars who think that after John was arrested, Jesus “withdraws” or “flees,” so as to NOT BE ARRESTED himself.
There are an equal number of scholars who would dispute that assumption…almost saying quite the contrary.
Jesus is sending a clear message, about WHO HE IS and WHOM he represents.
Jesus moves from Nazareth because the people were not listening to him there…
He could make little inroads there, he was too well known and people were not responding.
Sometimes you have to go where the people respond.
Sometimes you have to go where the people hear you.
Sometimes you have to go “where the fish are biting.” Sometimes, you have to LITERALLY go to them.
What the scriptures DO NOT tell us, and maybe even assume that we know…
Matthew describes Jesus as setting up a “home base” for his ministry in Capernaum, the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, the first two of the NORTHERN KINGDOMS to be deported in the Assyrian invasion of 722/721 BCE.
We are supposed to know that Galilee was settled by Jews and NON-Jews alike.
The road along the western shore of the Sea of Galilee was a major trade road for the area, since it connected the communities along the Mediterranean Sea, as far away as Damascus.
It was “a culturally mixed population” that was somewhat despised by the “racially PURE citizens” of Judea.
The people of Judea looked down their noses at all of Galilee. This was the area of the unenlightened. The hillbillies. The backward folks. The uneducated and the unworthy. Those of mixed blood and mixed race. For all intents and purposes, these were the people that sat in deep darkness…and in the land of the shadow of death.
It was actually referred to as being the “REGION OF DEATH” by the Jews in Jerusalem because, throughout Israel’s history, the Gentiles’ constantly waged war in that one small specific area.
Anyone who was anyone lived in the enlightened big city of Jerusalem of Judea. That is where the elite flourished.
Galilee was filled with GENTILE INFLUENCE.
Galileans were known for their distinct accents. They talked funny. They were NOT as refined. Uncultured.
It was the place of the outcasts and the less unfortunate.
And by moving to Capernaum. Jesus was making a major statement.
He stood with those who were called UNWORTHY, he stood with those on the PERIPHERY, and he stood with those who lived in the land of deep darkness.
He was where he NEEDED to be.
He was where GOD needed him to be.
It was an ordinary day.
Just another day for working stiffs.
Calloused hands, tired backs…aches and pains.
The quiet inwardness of guys…focused on the task at hand…without words.
And then a strange call, not even a question…more like a demand.
Just follow me…
And they too were drawn away from their families, other responsibilities, and their trades…
They too would be homeless wanderers…
Seeking the light of self-forgiving love…
And reaching out to others in their need…
All of it happening during the most mundane of duties…
The boring…stuff of life
And they responded to his play on words…
Why not fish for people?
Why not help those in need?
Why not DO what you can do…
And he promised them a different home…
Somewhere in the Kingdom of Heaven…
Sometimes, you have to drop anchor and cast your nets where the fish are…and where the fish are biting…
And that was in Galilee.