Chapter 9

Jesus of Galilee

 

IN HIS OWN COUNTRY

 

After his enthusiastic reception by these Samaritan strangers, Jesus, in the power of the Spirit, returned once more to Galilee, predicting to the disciples that a prophet would find no honor in his own country, ("and neither does a physician cure those who know him.")

 

At first this seemed not the case, for the Galileans he met welcomed him warmly, some of them having been in Jerusalem when he cleared the Temple and having seen other things he did there at the Passover Feast they were expecting great manifestations from him now.

 

He by-passed for now the fork of the road which led toward Nazareth and went on to Cana where Nathanael lived. From here the disciples began to disperse, each to his own home. Returning here to the scene of his first miracle to perform a second completed a cycle for Jesus. The first turn of the wheel (meaning of the word "Galilee") was completed, and this had taken them from Cana to Capernaum; to Jerusalem, to Jordan, and back to Samaria to Cana once more. Now he would begin a new and different cycle.

 

The homecoming disciples soon spread abroad the news that Jesus had returned, the word reached the ears of a certain nobleman and official who lived at Capernaum by the Sea. Hearing that Jesus was there he made the journey in person to beg him to come to Capernaum and heal his son, who was at the point of death.

 

Jesus, who thought more of healing souls than bodies, spoke for the benefit of all his hearers, "Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe." He regretted that they had to see something with their physical eyes, and not from within.

 

Even when he began to show them countless signs and wonders later on, few were changed by them, few continued to believe -- though the report of them throughout the centuries since has undoubtedly helped bolster the faith of Christians.

 

The official, overcome with concern for the life of his son, pressed him further, saying, "Sir, come down before my child dies." This man was not even a Jew, but his faith was so explicit that it could not be denied, so Jesus said to him, "Go; your son will live." The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him (for that is the only way the Word can work), and went his way back to Capernaum the next morning. As he came near to the town, his servants met him and told him that his son was living. So he asked them at what hour he had begun to mend, and they answered him, "Yesterday, at the seventh hour the fever left him." The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, "Your son will live," and he himself believed, and all his household.

 

This was the second miracle which Jesus did when he had come again from Judea to Galilee.

 

The disciple John, whose witness we have been reporting since the first miracle, now seems to have gone on home to Capernaum in company with the nobleman, for John's own family lived in the next town, in Bethsaida, where they earned their livelihood as fishermen. John makes no further mention of Jesus' ministry in Galilee at this time, returning to take up the story only at the time Jesus left to make his next trip to Jerusalem some time later.

 

So we now turn to the other three Synoptic Gospels to follow the thread of what happened in Galilee on this visit.

 

Jesus went briefly to speak to his mother and brethren, then left his home town of Nazareth and went to dwell in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of which the prophet Isaiah spoke:

 

"The land of Zebulon and the land of Naphtali,

By the way of the sea, across the Jordan,

Galilee of the Gentiles -

The people who sat in darkness

Have seen a great light,

And for those who sat in the region

and the shadow of death

Light has dawned."

 

So Jesus went about in the power of the Spirit preaching the gospel of God and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. The time has come and the kingdom of God is upon you. Repent and believe the good news."

 

The first months were spent in strenuous teaching and continuous activity. Jesus spoke Aramaic, the language of the average man in those days. Fired with a great zeal of the Spirit, he preached wherever the occasion presented itself, in the synagogues, the homes, and the open country.

 

A little later on in his Galilean ministry, another healing incident took place which was so similar to that which happened at Cana, that it seems well to mention it now. For one day when Jesus was entering Capernaum, there came forth to meet him a centurion, (which is to say a Roman captain over one hundred foot soldiers). Capernaum was a fishing town, but Herod maintained there a garrison to protect the border.

 

The man beseeched Jesus saying, "Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, in terrible distress." And Jesus willingly spoke, "I will come and heal him."

 

But the centurion answered him, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes, and to another, 'Come,' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this,' and he does it." (These words, "Lord, I am not worthy . . . ," etc. are repeated in the Roman Catholic Mass.)

 

When Jesus heard him, he marveled and said to those who followed him, "Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while their descendants, sons of the kingdom, will be thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth."

 

And to the centurion, Jesus said, "Go; be it done for you as you have believed." And the servant was healed at that very moment.

 

In his words about Abraham and the others, he was speaking of the forebears of all the Israelites and the foundation of the nation of those to whom the Messiah was promised. But most of the Jews, who were the "sons of the kingdom," were unbelieving of their wondrous gift of salvation now that it was here, while many non-Jews untaught in religion were showing a simple belief which would gain them a place at the heavenly feast which the Jews were losing by default.

 

At another time also, he spoke similar words. Someone said to him, "Lord, will those who are saved be few?"

 

And he answered them, "Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the householder has risen up and shut the door, you will begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, 'Lord, open to us.' He will answer you, 'I do not know where you came from.' Then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.' But he will say, 'I tell you, I do not know where you come from; depart from me, all you workers of iniquity!'

 

"There you will weep and gnash your teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. And men will come from east and west, and from north and south, and sit at table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last."

 

This was fair enough warning -- here he was teaching them in their own streets, eating and drinking in their presence, offering them the kingdom of heaven, and they knew him not. Should he then know them in heaven?

 

Jesus began teaching on the Sabbath in the synagogues about Galilee. The usual scene was somewhat as follows: In a closet concealed by a bright-colored curtain to represent the veil of the Temple, the Torah was deposited. A lamp, like those in our churches, was always burning before the roll of parchment on which it was written. In the midst of the hall was a pulpit from which seven readers, three times every week, the Sabbath, Monday and Thursday, read passages from the Law and a portion of the Prophets. Then the reader interpreted in the Aramaean tongue the Hebrew verses which had been read; and the president of the synagogue, or one appointed by him, recited the final benedictions to which the people, standing and turning towards the distant Temple, answered "Amen" in a loud voice.

 

On benches covered with mats or cushions along the walls or around the pulpit, the congregation, their heads covered with the "taleth" and clad in long tasseled cloaks, were seated, praying in a low voice, rocking their bodies and heads in measured time. The women apart from the men, often stood at the door, little children in arms following. It was quite natural that Jesus should teach them in the synagogues, for there were the audiences ready and waiting, and according to the traditional custom, after the reading of the Scripture, the ruler of the synagogue would invite someone to give the usual preaching or instruction. So Jesus volunteered at such times, as well as often teaching in the homes of those who sought him, or in the open to any who stood about listening, and he was so outstandingly qualified that all welcomed this dynamic new speaker.

 

As Jesus taught, the people were astonished at his words, for they were spoken as by one who had authority and power -- not as the Pharisees taught, from rote.

 

On one such Sabbath, there was a man in the synagogue possessed by a devil, an unclean spirit. He shrieked with a loud voice, "What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are -- the Holy One of God."

 

Jesus rebuked the entity, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him." Then the entity, after throwing the man down in front of the people, left him without doing him any injury. Amazement fell on them all, and they said to one another, "What is there in this man's words? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out."

 

On leaving the synagogue, he went to the house of Simon Peter's mother-in-law who resided in Capernaum where Jesus was teaching; and he found her in the grip of a high fever. They asked him to help her, so Jesus came and stood over her and rebuked the fever; and as he took her by the hand and lifted her up, immediately the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve them.

 

By sunset the news of these things had spread about, so all who had friends suffering from one disease or another brought them to him; and he laid his hands on them one by one and cured them. Entities also came out of many of them shouting, "You are the Son of God." But he rebuked them and forbade them to speak, because they knew he was the Messiah.

 

The people kept him busy nearly all the night so that near daybreak he went out and made his way to a lonely spot, but they sought him even there and urged him not to leave them. Jesus told them then, "I must go to preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, for that is the purpose for which I was sent."

 

During his ministry he performed many healings of demoniacs, a subject which has often been misrepresented or misunderstood, because we hear so little of demoniac possession in scientific or fashionable circles. Victims of such possession are being concealed beneath the label of mental abnormalities and cast into mental institutions, instead of having the entity cast out of the suffering individual.

 

In Jesus day the true facts were more simply recognized, and Jesus and his disciples, through the power of God, removed the entities or "devils" as they called them. An honest psychiatrist will admit that he does not understand the cause or cure of many common psychic disorders. Some orthodox churches, when they contact a case of diabolical possession, perform a rite of exorcism, but little is mentioned of such things, so they have fallen into disuse, under a sort of mysterious hush. It requires recognition of the facts to make a return to the only correct way of handling this as Jesus practiced, by removing these parasites of human life, and setting the afflicted one free, returning to sanity him who was never insane.

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