The fisherman we met in the first post of this blog series on the backstory of the Apostle John, brothers James and John, crank out the daily grind of trying to make ends meet in a job that is not very profitable. Day after day goes by. A week here a week there. People are still talking about the Baptist. People are still hating Rome. People are still yearning for a deliverer.
A few more weeks, and a new story hits the streets. Another prophet. Or maybe it is better to call him a Rabbi. He is different than John, they say. He is not baptizing. He is a teacher, and thus the title “Rabbi” fits better than “Prophet.” And his teaching is amazing! He tells profound stories that get to the heart and soul. He explains God’s word with such richness and authority. He is like no other Rabbi they had ever encountered.
He seems to be right in line with John the Baptizer though. As if John the Baptist was a Part 1, and now this new teacher is Part 2 of the same story. But then the people say something else, something that makes you squint your eyes and say, “Come on…really?” The people say this teacher heals the sick, makes the lame to walk, gives sight to the blind and releases people from demonic possession. Did they remember that man who John didn’t want to baptize (the man we met in the previous post here)? Did they make the connection?
They would soon enough. James and John go out to see this supposed miracle-worker, as he was also from their region of Galilee, but they heard he was from Nazareth. Nazareth? That small, nothing town had a reputation: “Nothing good comes out of Nazareth.”
But this man was not your typical person from Nazareth. Word on the street was that he was a carpenter, a mason, a handyman turned teacher and miracle-worker. So the fisherman wanted to see for themselves. They followed the crowds, and when they found him, it was all true. He could be funny, and he could be sincere; he could be insightful, and he had a deep authority like they had never encountered before. And yes, he healed people. The shrieks of delight resounded, and more and more people lined up to have an audience with him. It was mayhem.
Who was the man? They said his name was “Yeshua.” Or as it is transliterated in English, “Joshua.” Though we are more accustomed to “Jesus.” That handyman from Nazareth was a Rabbi? A miracle-worker? It didn’t seem possible, but people from Nazareth confirmed it was all true. James and John were enthralled. As were just about everyone in the crowd.
Then Jesus turns and walks over to James and John and says. “Follow me.” James and John do that thing where they turn this way and that, certain that Jesus cannot possibly be talking to them. They look back at him, and point to their chests, mouthing silently, “Me? You want us to follow you?” Jesus says, “Yes, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Huh? Follow him where? Fishers of men? What can he possibly mean?
We know the rest of the story. They follow Jesus, and for the next 2+ years their lives are a wild roller coaster ride. We’ll learn about that in the rest of the blog series as we study the text of John. I want to fast forward past Jesus’ ministry years, past his death, resurrection and ascension, and glance at what John was up to at the beginning of the church. Last week in our final Relationships blog series posts, we read Acts 3, and who do we find there? Peter and John. Peter, the leader of the church, and John, one of Jesus’ inner circle. They are ministering and healing. No doubt, the book of Acts focuses mostly on Peter and Paul, who were by far the two most famous members of the early church. But John was a top leader as well, even if he isn’t mentioned as much. John was a faithful minister of the Gospel. In fact, the traditional view says that he lived longer than the other disciples.
Now we fast forward even farther. John has beaten the statistics for life expectancy in that culture, and he is an old man. Now he sits down to write about Jesus, perhaps 50-60 years after Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension. He has watched the church grow, expand, and change into a movement throughout the Roman Empire and beyond. Because he is likely the last living disciple, we can view John thinking about how the church will remain faithful to Jesus when there is no longer anyone alive who actually walked and talked with Jesus. How will Jesus be remembered?
John is not alone in telling the story of Jesus. Three others also wrote about Jesus, but John’s account is very different. How so? We’ll talk about that in the next post.