Chapter 4

Jesus of Galilee

 

FROM JORDAN TO CANA

 

 

Teaching in Galilee

In view of the great public appeal of John the Baptist, the Jews of Jerusalem sent a deputation of priests and Levites to find out who he really was, if perchance he was the Messiah or another great prophet. But John confessed to them without reserve, declaring, "I am not the Messiah."

 

"What then? Are you Elijah? Are you the prophet we await?"

 

John replied, "No, I am not." Perhaps he did not have full knowledge of this, for Jesus later declared that John was Elijah.

 

"Then who are you?" they asked, "For we must give some account to those who have sent us to question you. What have you to say for yourself?"

 

 

This refers to a custom in Eastern homes, where persons remove their shoes upon entering. But when an honored guest arrives, a servant or possibly even the host himself, hastens forward to pay his respects by removing the shoes of his guest.

John, the Apostle, later wrote of Jesus: "The life was in him, the life that is the light of men. And the same light shines in darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it."

 

Having ended his encounter with the prince of darkness, our brilliant Light of the World, shining brighter than ever before, heard the "all clear" sounded from within and hurried his footsteps back toward that which was to be his assignment.

 

He now fully realized that this mission was not to be one of earthly acclaim or glory, and such glimpses as had been seen of the path he must travel, the path ahead appeared both lonely and awesome.

 

With triumph over the adversary behind him, Jesus felt a fresh surge of confidence and strength such as he had never before known, and with it a clear certainty that God would perfectly direct all his work in the way that was foreordained.

 

In leaving the desert, it was necessary to pass again through the area around Jordan where John was baptizing. He walked past at a little distance, remembering his own baptism of six weeks earlier, and John who saw him coming later described his appearance, "We saw his glory like that of the first-born of the Father, full of grace and truth."

 

John must have thought much on him whom he had baptized a few weeks earlier, watching, hoping to see him once more. So it was with a great thrill of recognition that he caught a glimpse of that wondrous figure coming from the direction of the wilderness.

 

Seeing him thus approach, John explained to the persons about him, "Behold, there is the Lamb of God; it is he who takes away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I spoke when I said, 'After me a man is coming who takes rank before me.' He is the first-born of the flock.

 

"For this man who comes after me is yet ahead of me, because he was before me. Before I was born, he already was. I did not know him, but the very reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel."

 

And John went on to repeat the story of Jesus' baptism: "I saw the Spirit coming down from heaven like a dove and resting upon him. I did not know him, but He who sent me to baptize with water had told me, 'When you see the Spirit coming down upon someone and resting upon him, you will know that this is he who is to baptize with the Holy Spirit.'

 

"I saw it myself, and I have borne witness. This is God's Chosen One." (Or, as some say, "This is the Son of God.")

 

Jesus passed by without openly speaking; though his gaze met that of John with understanding and appreciation. He allowed his footsteps to be led until he stood before a small vacant hut, such as was sometimes used by those who guard the crops in the field. There was also a fruit tree to provide nourishment, but he could take very little after such a long fast.

 

The next afternoon he again walked toward the river, near where John was standing with two of his disciples, and John, looking at Jesus while he walked, said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!"

 

This was a repetition of what he had said the day before, and it impressed the disciples very much, bringing to mind the customary lambs sacrificed in the Temple every day to cleanse the people of their sins. This lamb would also pay their penance.

 

Because they were the disciples of John they believed his words that this man was to take away the sins of all men. So they followed after Jesus to find out more about him.

When Jesus turned, he saw them following him and asked, "What are you looking for?" They answered, "Rabbi, (or Teacher), where are you staying?" "Come and see," Jesus answered.

 

This took place about four in the afternoon, or the tenth hour since dawn. So the disciples went and saw where he was staying and spent the rest of the day with him, and on into the night as he quietly discoursed with them, answering their questions about God and Eternal Life. He had the gift of reading souls and that supreme art which knows how to speak a word in season to all.

 

These two disciples of John had also come here from Galilee, being fishermen and residents of the town of Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee. The one, Andrew, is mentioned by name but the other by his anonymity is believed to have been the writer, the beloved Apostle John, who out of modesty omitted his own name.

 

John as the youngest of all the apostles, and was probably barely twenty years of age at this time, a youthful seeker of the Way of God.

 

After their talk with Jesus, the enthusiasm of these men was boundless. They had found the Savior! Of that they were sure, and John the Baptist had testified to this. Andrew could not wait to tell his brother Simon, who had come with him to Jordan. In his excitement and joy, he cried out to his brother, "We have found the Messiah!" and persuaded Simon to go with him to meet Jesus.

 

Jesus looked intently into the craggy face of this sturdy, unpolished diamond, then said, "So you are Simon, the son of Jona (or John?) You shall be called 'Cephas.' " Cephas is the Aramaic word for "rock," and "Peter" is the Greek version of the same word; so Simon was henceforth called Cephas or Peter, and sometimes Simon Peter. His impulsive nature seemed to contradict this designation, but Jesus had seen beneath the surface an unshakable soundness of character.

 

The next day Jesus decided to return to his native province of Galilee to consolidate forces for the work ahead. The others were also ready to travel by the same way, for the three new converts were all fishermen of Bethsaida in Galilee, where their jobs and their parents awaited them, and there, too, was Peter's wife.

 

The followers of John were not bound to him by any vow. Having been seekers of righteousness and truth, they had believed John's teaching and had repented of their sins to be baptized by him.

 

In this state of newfound grace, they were highly receptive and enthusiastic, truly open and ready for the spiritual riches which Jesus brought them. So with him they left the Jordan Valley and traveled north toward their homes.

 

Walking the road which leads parallel to the River Jordan, they felt themselves in a new dimension, overwhelmed by this new Teacher and by turns exuberant and thoughtful. Going along with him, they could only wonder at the fate that had led them there.

 

They were lowly fishermen among the many persons on earth who were more grand and holy than they, or at least acted that way. For them to discover the Messiah whose coming had been sung for centuries humbled them. Yet they knew it was he, and they could only rejoice at being here in his presence, for it was a Presence indeed. They could feel the great glow that flowed out from him.

 

By night as they rested beside a small fire -- for there was little desire for sleep in those days -- his warmth spread over them like a cloak. And at noontime, when they found a shelter from the scorching sun, they could feel a tingle run through them like a chill, something they felt sure no one had ever felt before.

 

Certainly no man had ever talked as he did, with a voice that penetrated their being thrillingly, and whose words seemed to engrave themselves on their consciousness and changed their whole concept of everything, not intellectually, but through changes that took place within themselves. His words carried enlightenment and life. It was now part of them.

 

In the company of one who spoke as though he knew God truly, they began to feel themselves almost as beings from another time and place and could view life with a whole new perspective and dimension. They saw all things new and had many glimpses of great Cosmic Realities as he opened his mind unto them, just a little.

 

Finally approaching the broad expanse of the Sea of Galilee at its southern point, the three disciples prepared to go to their homes in Bethsaida on its northern shore. While Jesus would go on inland to Nazareth to acquaint his mother with all that had taken place and receive her blessing before he finally went forth to fulfill the mission for which they had both been born.

 

But the disciples were loath to leave their new Teacher just yet, so he decided to take them also to meet his mother and receive her blessing as his first disciples and that they might know her as their own mother henceforth, also.

 

On the road near Nazareth they met a man named Philip who came from Bethsaida, the same as the others, but he was enroute to a wedding in Cana, his former town, where he still had many friends.

 

Jesus took one look and knew at once that this was another who had been sent to serve with him, so he said to Philip very simply, "Follow me." Philip thrilled to the sound of his voice and felt the compelling power of this man; he had no choice but to heed the command and continued on with the others, wondering how this could be.

 

On reaching his home, Jesus learned that Mary was at Cana, a few miles north, attending the wedding of a young Nazareth woman distantly related to her family. And Jesus was also invited to go there along with his disciples.

 

Weddings were gala events with much merriment, designed to brighten the lives of these hardworking people and were welcomed enthusiastically by all. These were also sacred occasions intended to promote new life dedicated to Yahweh.

 

Relaxing after their long journey, they all spent a quiet night with Jesus at his house in Nazareth, then went on to pass a few hours at the joyous festivities in Cana, where their friends were. Nearing Cana Philip ran on ahead to the house of an old friend named Nathaniel and called to him with excitement, "We have met a man spoken of by Moses in the Law and by the prophets: it is Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth!"

 

Nathaniel was more often called Bartholomew, which means "son of Tholmai." He was skeptical, or perhaps a little sarcastic, in answering, "Can anything good come from Nazareth?" Evidentially his opinion or his knowledge of that town was not very high.

 

But Philip persuaded him, saying, "Come and see."

 

When Jesus saw him coming, he said, "Behold, truly an Israelite in whom there is no guile!"

 

Nathaniel asked, "How do you know me?"

 

And Jesus answered, "Even before Philip called you, while you were under the fig tree, I saw you."

 

Nathaniel marveled at this, for he had been contemplating the Scriptures beneath his fig tree, as was his custom, and things had been revealed to him that went beyond the written script. Jesus had picked up what he was seeing, and Nathaniel understood this, declaring with awe, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God. You are the King of Israel."

 

Jesus said to him "Is that the basis of your faith, that I told you I saw you under the fig tree? You shall see greater things than that. In truth, in very truth, I tell you all you shall see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man."

 

Cana

 

Jesus and his disciples had passed some vineyards on their way to Cana. Just outside the town stood a large winepress, so after their two-hour walk in the early morning sun, they were quite prepared to enjoy a little of the fruit of the vine along with the other guests, many of whom Jesus knew. Wine for weddings was held rather special. In Arabia today one sees earthen jars in a dark corner set aside not to be touched until there is a wedding in the family.

 

The wedding festival had already been in progress a couple of days, and people were rejoicing indeed! Jesus had wanted to tell Mary, "The mandate has come . . . " but with so many people milling about there was no chance to speak privately with her. However, she had seen him enter after an absence of two months, and she stood very still looking at him.

 

This was not her son of old, except in appearance. This was a new man with a radiance shining out from him such as neither she nor any other had ever seen. It was evident that her eyes alone could see this Light; for to the others present he was still Jesus from Nazareth. She saw the entranced look on the faces of his followers, how their eyes hardly left his face at any time and how they hung on his every word, and she went aside for a bit to pray and to praise God that this great day had come at long last. She could share this only with Him Whose Son this Man was, and to Whom she must now fully give him over.

 

Mary was a respected guest here, and had been assisting as well with the preparations for the feast, so the servants acquainted her with the alarming fact that they had run out of wine, and there were still many hours to go, with many extra guests beyond those expected. How could they handle the situation?

 

Normally they might have scoured among the neighbors to procure more, but this was embarrassing, and Mary saw a simpler way. When Jesus eventually reached her side, she let him know that she already was aware of the great change in him. So she said, "They have no wine." He knew at once what she was saying, but was not yet ready to proclaim his hand before the public. He needed time to gather forces and to quietly prepare the ground before going on open display.

 

So he said, "Woman, what have I to do with this? My hour has not yet come." The literal translation of this in the Vulgate is, "Quid mihi et tibi?," which means "What (is that) to me and to thee?" He questioned what this had to do with his mission, and why they should feel concerned with another's hospitality.

 

She displayed both tactful diplomacy and quiet authority by leaving the decision up to him, with these words to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." Her years in Temple service had taught her the value of symbolism, and she knew that the alchemy in such an action would begin his ministry in a new key of great potency.

 

She also knew that he was capable of this, for once in their own home, after an evening meal when they all sat about in quiet conversation, as each lifted his cup of drinking water to his lips he found that the liquid in his cup was fine wine instead. Only Mary knew that she had filled the cups with water, and she told no one. She felt now was the time to let it be known to family and friends that he was the Messiah sent for their salvation.

 

Jesus saw that this could be done without public knowledge, in the presence of only the servants and his disciples, and he noted the six large stone water jars standing near, of the kind used by the Jews for their purification rites. Each held between twenty and thirty gallons of water, a goodly amount. Jesus told the servants to fill them all with water, which they did, then he commanded them to draw some out and take it to the wine steward, the person in charge of serving the guests.

 

The wine steward tasted the water which had now turned to wine, not knowing where it came from, and complimented the bridegroom, saying, "Others serve the best wine first and wait until the guests have drunk freely before serving the poorer sort; but you have kept the best wine until now." So the situation was saved by their tact.

 

This deed at Cana in Galilee is the first of the signs by which Jesus revealed his glory and led his disciples to believe in him, even more certainly than their inward senses had already declared.

 

Of course, it was not of himself but of the power of God that Jesus performed miracles. For God Who had created all things, as well as the Laws by which they operated, was the Power that presided over these Laws. All things were as they were because God willed them so, and all these mighty and changeless Laws were still subject to God's Will. Therefore, He Who had power to create any system also had the power to control and direct it. The Miracles were not violations of the Laws of creation, but were uses of the Laws in a way that was beyond the authority and understanding of humanity at that time.

 

Jesus fully knew this Omnipotence of God to the extent that he was part of it and it was part of him. Spirit was the personality of God, and the Spirit of God could do or undo anything, as could one ordained to act in His Name.

 

After the wedding feast at Cana, Jesus with his mother and brothers and the new disciples walked together the full day's journey to Capernaum beside the Sea of Galilee. Mary was now about fifty years of age, but in excellent health and easily able to keep up with the rest. Their travel was not fast; all were listening intently to Jesus. Nor did Mary wish to miss a word.

 

In Capernaum they stayed for a few days with friends and relatives while the fishermen went on home, only an hour's journey farther at Bethsaida by the Sea. They had much to tell and much to do, for they supported themselves and their families and knew that they might be called at any time by their new Teacher to go forth to they knew not what.

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