How Christmas Continued, 14

WE HAVE FOUND THE CHRIST (Jn.1: 35-51; Lk.5: 1-11; Mk.3: 13-18; Ac.1: 6-8; 1 Jn.1: 1-4).

Andrew and I lived in Bethsaida, Galilee. A fisherman built a house on the eastside, where the Jordan River enters Lake Galilee. When others settled, they continued to call the place Bethsaida or House of the Fisher. Most of us made our living by fishing. The Simon family and the Zebedees were partners. I am John Zebedee and I am the brother of James. Andrew was the brother of Simon, who would become Peter. Simon married a lady in Capernaum, just a short distance west and south from Bethsaida on Lake Galilee. Capernaum was a major small city with a Roman Garrison, a Synagogue and a tax office where Matthew was employed. The Roman officer in charge of the town was friendly toward our people and tolerant to our religion. He gave us the impression that he preferred our religion to his own and we soon learned that his faith was more visible than ours. He was the one who did not feel worthy that our Teacher should enter his home. All He had to do was say the word and his servant would live. Our Teacher also snatched his daughter from dying.

Simon and James did the fishing and Andrew and I did the traveling and selling. That is how we became acquainted with a lad by the name of John Mark from a wealthy family and with Judas in Jerusalem. And that is how we heard of John the Baptist who had stationed himself on the River Jordan, south of Lake Galilee. He looked wild, dressed in animal skins and spoke boldly about our sins. Crowds came to listen and were dipped in the river. What interested us was his insistence that God had dispatched the Messiah and that He was about to resurrect the kingdom. Naturally, we assumed that it would be similar to what Moses and David had done. Andrew and I began to spent time with this prophet and we were prepared to wait and see whom he would identify. Then, all of a sudden, the prophet stopped baptizing and arguing with a man. He demanded that the John baptize Him. The Man insisted and John obeyed, but not before some voice out of nowhere called this Man the “Son of God.” And when He came out of the water and He was leaving, there was a dove sitting on His shoulder. The prophet pointed at Him and proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world!” We were puzzled by the announcement and spent the night thinking about it. We learned that the Man was Jesus, a cousin of John the Baptist, a carpenter from Nazareth. He was no stranger at all, but one of our own people. It was the surprise of all surprises.

The next day, Jesus appeared again and the prophet and John reaffirmed that Jesus was “the Lamb of God.” To Andrew and I, it meant that we had to follow and find out for ourselves whether He was the Messiah? He was alone and we followed at a distance between us. Jesus was aware of our presence. He stopped and asked us what we were looking for and we asked where He was staying. He invited us to join Him. Well, He took us to a lonely place where He spent most of the night meditating and praying. He was sort of engaged in a mental struggle with some invisible force. We could not see what was hindering Him from doing what He was sent to do. Whatever Jesus was doing, convinced us that He was in league with God and about to begin our deliverance. We carried home that impression while Jesus stayed on in the lonely place. Andrew was fully convinced that Jesus was the One and went to his brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah.”

Simon was a hard man to convince. It was about forty days later that Jesus showed up in Capernaum and asked Simon to let him use his boat to address the people. Then He told Simon to try his luck at fishing. He had fished all night and he had come up empty; but, hesitantly obeyed Jesus and to our amazement our fishing nets were full and we required the help of other boats to bring in the catch. Simon fell on his knees and face begging Jesus to leave him because he was a sinful man. Jesus dismissed Simon’s pleading and told him that he would be called Peter (a rock) and that he would fish for men. Instantly, Simon Peter followed Jesus and so did Andrew, James and I. A day later, Jesus asked Philip to follow Him and he invited his friend Nathanael. Nathanael did not think that “anything good” could come from Nazareth. Jesus surprised him by telling him that He saw him while he was resting under the fig tree. Whatever Jesus saw he was doing, made Nathanael declare, “Teacher, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel!” It was then that Jesus assured us that we would see heaven open and angels carrying messages between God and the Son of Man. From that day on, we knew that we were in the presence of someone who was in charge of our destiny.

In addition to the six of us, Jesus asked Bartholomew, Matthew Levi, Thomas, James Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon Zealot and Judas Iscariot to follow Him. Except for Judas, we were all from Bethsaida, Capernaum and Nazareth. We were not educated in the knowledge of our teachers and religious leaders, nor did we know how to make speeches or write stories. We were simple folk with dreams and hopes that Jesus could fulfill. It was for that reason that we traveled with Him and ended up suffering for Him. Jesus spoke to us of a kingdom that would never end; only, we linked it with Israel, while Jesus had God’s will for man on earth in mind. His kingdom was spiritual, while ours was temporal. When our Teacher died on the cross, we assumed that the end, for us, had come. It was when we met the Risen Jesus that we realized that Christ had not ceased to exist, but that He continued to build His kingdom with and through us. We still had not fully understood what our Teacher had in mind because we expected Him to return and lead us. Slowly, His Spirit opened our eyes and we began to put in writing some of the events that were significant to keep the memory of Jesus alive. I, John Zebedee, was especially privileged to share my insight regarding our Lord and so would others, for we were with Jesus on His earthly mission in our behalf.