Philip’s Story, Part 2

This is the second, and last, part of this meditation. You can read part 1  if you missed it. This part looks at the calling of the first disciples from just after they first meet Jesus down in Judea with John the Baptiser until he calls them to accompany him on the shores of Galilee.


Water into Wine, Carl Heinrich Bloch, Wikipedia

Water into Wine, Carl Heinrich Bloch, Wikipedia

The next morning he sought me out and told me that he was going back to Galilee and that he’d like us to go with him. The journey would give us several days with him in which we could learn about him and find out for ourselves why John had been so impressed with him, so of course I agreed. I set off to find my brother and let him know. As it turned out, he was not far away but was sitting praying and studying under a fig tree. (That may not make much sense to those of you who don’t know our customs, but because of some sayings in the prophets, under a fig tree was considered the best place to study).

“We found him, Nathaniel, the Anointed one John had told us about! His name is Jesus and he is from Nazareth.”

“Nazareth! What good can come from Nazareth?”

“Just come and see for yourself.” My brother can be such a pain at times! But come he did. And as we approached him, Jesus said “Look, an Israelite in whom is no guile!”

“How can you know anything about me?”

“Before Philip called you, I saw you beneath the fig tree.”

Nathaniel never shared exactly what happened then. Perhaps it was something he had been studying or praying about, or perhaps it was something about this man from Nazareth, but suddenly Nathaniel’s mind was made up. “You are the Son of God and King of Israel!”

Jesus seemed both pleased and amused. “You believe just because I said I saw you under a fig tree? You are going to see greater things than that! Truly I tell you that you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God are sending and descending on the Son of Man.”

For three days the five of us walked north up the Jordan Valley and into Galilee. By the time we reached the lake not only Nathaniel but also Andrew, Simon, and I had come to suspect that this man held our destiny. At the shore of Lake Galilee we had a decision to make: to turn west to Nazareth with Jesus or to continue north around the lake to our homes in Capernaum and Bethsaida In the end, however, we did neither; Jesus invited us to go to Cana where there was to be a wedding he was invited to. So we headed northwest, after all, a party is a party.

It was at the wedding feast that we first met Jesus’ mother and his brothers and sisters (his father had died about six months earlier we learned). They were good people, and his mother clearly doted on him, but none of them seem to know what to make of him by how to treat him.

Towards the end of the feast, for example, the wine ran out. It wasn’t a terrible problem—everyone had drunk well already but it was a small embarrassment for the families of the bride and groom. Jesus’ mother mention this to him but he gently pointed out to her that it wasn’t really their concern nor his place to do anything about it. Despite that, she called the servants over and told them to follow his directions. I thought at first that he would do nothing, but he looked over at us and considered then spoke quietly to the servants.

We watched closely as the servants went to the large water pots and filled a jug and took it to the master of the feast. It was a strange thing to do—true, water is good when one is thirsty, but no-one at the party was really thirsty any more and water, while it will slake a thirst doesn’t exactly make the heart rejoiced like wine will! The master drank, then called the bridegroom over, presumably to point this out to him. Imagine our surprise when instead he began to commend the quality of this new wine and to wonder why it had been kept for last!

Well, Jesus had promised that we would see “greater things” and this certainly seemed to qualify. The four of us believed, even if we couldn’t comprehend—and even though we all had an awful lot yet to learn.

After the wedding we had no real choice but to say farewell for a while to Jesus and return to our homes. Our families and work awaited us. But as we watched him and his family head out for Nazareth, none of us thought that it would be very long before we saw him again. And we certainly have a lot to tell our families and friends when we got home.

We didn’t expect to see him again for several months, but in fact it was only a few weeks. His whole family suddenly showed up in Capernaum and settled there. His brother James filled us in on what had happened in Nazareth to precipitate the move.

They had arrived home and things had begun to settle into their normal routine. Then, on the second or third Sabbath, the synagogue leader had given the scroll to Jesus for him to read aloud. He read from the prophecy of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me for he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

Now, it is a tradition that the one who reads then explains or comments on the passage. Usually most of us repeat one of the commentaries we have learned, some insight from the scribes, but according to James that is not what Jesus did. Instead he announced that he was the one that the passage was talking about. I think James said his exact words were “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Not surprisingly, this caused a major stir! At first many were impressed, but as they talked about it they got angry. After all, Jesus had grown up among them, his family was well known. Such presumption never goes down well and Jesus did nothing to calm things down. If anything, he put more fuel on the fire with a comment about how prophets are never recognized in their hometown. The ensuing riot would have proven disastrous except that in all the chaos and confusion Jesus slipped quietly away.

There was really no way that they could stay in Nazareth. Jesus, as the oldest man in the family, decided they should all move to Capernaum; in part because he knew there would be plenty of work for a family of carpenters and in part because we were there and would welcome him.

Jesus began to preach and teach both in Capernaum and in the surrounding towns, taking up the same message that John had been preaching in Judea—that the Kingdom of God was coming. Indeed not a few people thought that he was John come to Galilee. On one trip to Cana (where the marriage had been) a wealthy man from Capernaum went to see him because his son was sick. As we came to know Jesus better we would learn that he always had compassion on the sick and maimed and healed as many as he could, but at the same time he was often reluctant to do so, not because he didn’t want to but because such things tended to be what people remembered and wanted rather than the message he was trying to get across. So it was in this case, at first he complained about how everyone wanted signs and miracles but then he sent the man home where he found his son restored to health.

Not that Jesus wouldn’t use a healing if it would underscore his message. When he got back from that trip he was in the synagogue in Capernaum when a man, clearly possessed by an evil spirit began to cause a scene. Jesus at once rebuked and cast out the spirit which, of course, really enhanced his reputation as a teacher with true authority. People started coming to him from all round, many, it is true, to see these “signs” for themselves, but most also listened to his teaching.

I remember it was that same day that he also healed Simon’s mother in law. We had left the synagogue and gone to Simon’s house to eat and when we got there we found out that Simon’s mother in law had a fever and was bedridden. Without any pomp or ceremony, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, Jesus simply took her hand and helped her to stand up. And just like that the fever was gone! That evening the crowds started arriving, bringing many who were sick with them for Jesus to heal.

Over the next few days more and more people crowded into Capernaum to see him. At first he spoke to them outside the synagogue but soon there was not enough room there and he moved down to the shore just outside the town. That worked for a while, but as the crowd continue to grow he was in danger of being forced into the lake. So one day he “borrowed” Simon’s fishing boat. It is one of the images of him that I often see in my mind’s eye: the vast crowds thronging the shore and him sitting in the prow of the boat above them and teaching them about what things would be like in the kingdom of God.

After he finished teaching, he suggested to Simon that they should go fishing. Simon Peter confessed to us later that he was, to say the least, sceptical. After all, he was a professional fishermen and he and his crew had been out all night and had no success, now this teacher/carpenter comes thinking he knows better. He tried to refuse, being tired, but finally gave in and they went out—and landed one of the biggest catches of his career!

That day marked a turning point in all of our lives. I don’t know if it was because the crowds had reached a critical size or if Jesus just felt that his family was finally settled, but he clearly felt that something had changed. When the boat came back to shore he told Simon and Andrew that it was time to go fishing for men and for them to follow him. After what had just happened they did just that. Now Simon and Andrew worked with another pair of brothers, James and John, who were in their boat nearby. They had also been spending time with us and as he passed their boat Jesus called them too. They also came with us, leaving the business to their father and the hired help.

And off we went on the most amazing, wonderful, terrible adventure.


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One Response to “Philip’s Story, Part 2”

  1. WHERE IS YOUR CAPERNAUM? « "Working for Christ" Says:

    […] Philip’s Story, Part 2 ( […]

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