Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Cast a Stone into the Water; Make a Ripple

When you were a kid did you ever toss a stone or rock into a pond? What is created from that action, ripples? How far do they travel? If we take the time to notice we’ll see that the little waves generated by the rock hitting the water travel all the way to the shore. The waves keep going until they run into something solid. The energy created by the rock keeps going until it is transferred somewhere else.
Last week we remembered and celebrated Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist at the Jordan River. Today’s gospel lesson from John tells us Jesus went back to the river and there John gives testimony that Jesus is the One they’ve been waiting for, the Messiah.
Because he testifies that Jesus is the Messiah two of John’s disciples leave him and follow Jesus. Jesus notices and stops and asks them what they want. They reply that they want to know where he’s staying. So, he invites them to follow him and they spend the afternoon with him. Then they go back home.
It doesn’t end there. Andrew, one of the disciples, goes to his brother, Simon, and tells him they have found the Messiah. The next day they go back to where Jesus is and Jesus gives Simon a new name, Cephas (Peter). And the reading for today ends there but that’s not the end of the story, is it.
In the gospel of John we read that he goes back to the river and he invites Philip to follow him. And Philip went to find his friend Nathanael and invited him to come and see the Messiah. Nathanael was skeptical. He didn’t believe a rabbi could come from the small village of Nazareth.
Jesus’ said, as he approached, “There’s a real Israelite, not a false bone in his body.” Of course Nathanael wanted to know why he said that and Jesus told him how he’d observed him beneath the fig tree. That’s all it took. He was convinced that Jesus was the One, the Messiah everyone had been waiting for. So, he followed him.
These men were the first called by Jesus to follow him. They stayed with him until he was arrested and taken away to be crucified.  They committed their lives to being his disciples.
Because they wanted to be like Jesus and learn everything he had to teach them we are here this morning listening to the Word being read and the Message being proclaimed. 
God cast a rock, Jesus, into the pool of humanity and the ripples are still being carried to the distant corners of the world. The energy created when Jesus began his ministry still hasn’t dissipated. I don’t believe it ever will.
I may need to qualify that statement. It never will as long as there are people committed to giving their testimony to others who may be skeptical like Nathanael.
If the Story quits being shared I can’t imagine what God will do then. Maybe that will be when Jesus will return. I wonder.
I want to go back to the part of the story where Andrew and his friend follow Jesus. Have you ever wondered why they would leave John and follow Jesus? What prompted them to do that?
Jesus and his disciples were all from Galilee. In Acts, when the Holy Spirit descends on the disciples gathered in the upper room, the disciples begin to speak in different languages and the people outside cannot understand how they knew how to do that because they were all Galileans. They implied that people from Galilee weren’t intelligent enough to learn other languages.
Actually the opposite was true. Galilee produced most of the rabbis how taught in the temple of Jerusalem and in the synagogues in the villages. All the boys and girls went to school to study the Torah, to memorize it word for word. Then at about 10 or 12 the girls stayed home to learn how to keep house and the boys continued to study.
If they were the best of the best of the Beth Midrash then they would seek a rabbi they respected and wanted to learn from. They’d ask to follow him.  These young men were called the talmidim. They would leave everything they had and follow the rabbi so that they could learn to be like him. They listened, they watched, and they imitated their rabbi. The talmid wanted to be exactly like their rabbi.
If they were dedicated and disciplined enough they would become teachers themselves and pass along what they had learned from their rabbi.
Now we understand why Jesus’ disciples dropped their nets and left their families to follow him. They called Jesus ‘Rabbi’ out of respect for him as a person and a great teacher.
Jesus had such a huge following because he fit the description of a 1st century rabbi who was at the most advance level of learning. They were many talmidim who wanted to learn from him. That’s another reason why there were so many around him when he was teaching on the mountain or at the lake. And that’s why the Pharisees were so afraid of him.
He taught like someone who had received training from the best of the best. That’s why they questioned by what authority he taught because there were many who had his knowledge of the scriptures.
And that’s why people still gather in worship to hear the lessons from the Scriptures. They desire to learn from Jesus. They want to hear again his word. They want to imitate him, to be like him.

And when they learn it all they will teach others. They will give testimony and the ripples will continue until everyone has heard the Story of God’s love for the world in Jesus, the Christ.