A few years back my nephew’s fiancée moved from Cork to Wicklow. That was not exactly a mega move. However, what was big for her was that she moved from city life with its many conveniences to rural life where there were only fields and hills in sight.
Today we meet Jesus making a move. He is moving from the insignificant small rural village of Nazareth to the larger commercial town of Capernaum. Distance wise the move is not great, maybe 30 miles or so, but culturally a major change. Why did Jesus make the move from Nazareth to Capernaum? We can only speculate. There is a suggestion in Matthew’s account that it fulfills a prophecy. The three synoptic gospels have Jesus make this move shortly after he returns from his sojourn in the desert. There is an understanding in the Gospels that Jesus was led to the desert by the Spirit, and emerged in the power of the Spirit. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that Jesus made his move by the Spirit’s promptings, rather than to fulfill a prophecy.
In Capernaum the harvest was ripe. Josephus describes the area as beautiful and its climate allowing for a vast variety of fruit trees which would not normally be found surviving in the same region. The town was prosperous. It was close to the Roman road and so provided services to travelers. No doubt it welcomed strangers for commercial interests. Its citizens consisted of fishermen, farmers, tax collectors, and traders, as well as those who fell by the wayside of economic growth. It was surely a good place to proclaim an alternative lifestyle through the reign of God.
Jesus is not the only one to make a move in today’s Gospel passage. Peter, Andrew, James and John respond to a simple invitation of Jesus and immediately follow. They don’t immediately move from their home territory of Capernaum. Their move is in mentality and lifestyle. We don’t know how much they knew about Jesus. Perhaps, they didn’t know much because it would appear he was fairly new in their neighborhood. We can assume they never had time to study their scriptures and traditions. Jesus would have known that too. But he was moving in the power of the Spirit, and their response was in that same power.
As we enter the story of Jesus, we notice straightaway the importance of moving. Jesus made a physical move. The disciples whom he called had to make a psychological and mental move, a cultural and religious move. Whom did Jesus call to make the move? It appears it was not those whose minds were blocked with knowledge, but those whose spirits were free, free enough to take on the task of letting their lives be moved by the same Spirit that moved in Jesus.
Elizabeth Ferguson, OP