MATTHEW 4: 12-25
(Third Sunday after the Epiphany)

John's arrest must stun Jesus. But any ruler would see John's message & his impact on people as a serious challenge to the status quo. A looming threat. As Jesus himself was (to Herod) & will become to Caesar's representatives. Think how our own rulers (over)react to perceived stirring! Herods & Pilates, even those more 'democratically'(?) elected today still thrive, still threaten & are threatened. As they should be.

Jesus travels to Galilee. To give himself more time to wrestle with the implications of JB's arrest. His testings in the wilderness, his responses, all that he's 'internalised' are now put to the test in their turn. Will Jesus be tempted yet once more, this time to step into JB's sandals as Elisha steps into Elijah's? Or is there no future in this? Might Jesus be tempted to throw in the towel? By the way, going to Galilee isn't to go off somewhere quieter. Galilee's a hotbed of resentment & resistance towards both religious & political centralism. A grass-roots issue of some moment for today's church & world as we face Globalising would- be Caesars. MT sees the way Jesus acts in terms of  Isaiah's great declaration of God's Rule & light coming in his own person, & through him, our persons too. God's Rule will never come by human political strategies, least of all globalising ones.

To take Jesus seriously is to take both present & future aspects of God's Rule seriously, holding them in constructive tension. We live under 'God's Rule closing in' [LK 10:11, Complete Gospels, Harper Collins '94]. If we don't recognize it near, how shall we know it afar?

God's Rule certainly 'closes in' on the four first followers! Maybe they've been casing JB? Now casing Jesus, too. Having sized them up, Jesus calls them & they must make big decisions about their future direction. Does God's rule grab them enough for them to want in? "Kingdom' theology, like any other, dies in a vacuum. It has to be lived & breathed, allowed to close in, to happen.

Simon & Andrew are casting nets, James & John mending them. It's a big ask to leave boats, nets, today's equivalents, family. Zebedee, whose life & livelihood will be affected too, & others like him are also called. How many of us don't follow as far as we'd like because someone can't bring themself to free us to go with Jesus?

Proclaiming, teaching, & healing all need to happen out there in the margins as well as in church. If good things are to happen, it will normally be out-side the protective walls of sacred space. Not in-side our religious establishments. How to get it out & about? Make it happen anew? There're at least two key differences between the way Jesus operates & the way JB did: You have to go out to JB, whereas Jesus makes home visits. And, where JB talks about sin & repentance or punishment, Jesus delivers compassion, acceptance, & healing.

Word of Jesus spreads via their version of the Internet. When it comes to healing, Jesus always puts his money where his mouth is. Do we tend, rather, to put our mouth where our money is? Jesus never just talks good news. He is good news! Authenticity is what makes Gospel happen. An activity of Holy Spirit often overlooked by 'Spirit-filled' people is to make Jesus authentically present in us. For all to see. If they can't see him in us, they're done for. So are we!

That Jesus is good news keeps spreading. Today it's mostly on hold. We're on hold. Lost the plot. Did we ever really cotton on to it? God's Spirit is calling us to move on from whatever boats we're going down in, nets we're tangled in, people or situations that won't let us go. So we can become authentic other little Christs.