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A New Way to Follow
Nations wage war, gangs battle each other, families quarrel, communities of faith divide. We hear others say and even hear ourselves saying, “There is no other way.”
In Jesus, the light of Gods kingdom draws near and a new way shines for us to follow.
In today’s gospel, Jesus first withdraws (Matt. 4:12). The word anachoreo (to withdraw) is used ten times in Matthew’s gospel—each time as Jesus’ response to violence or conflict. John the Baptist has been arrested, and tension is beginning to build. The way of God and the way of the world’s rulers are beginning to collide.
In Jesus, a new kingdom has drawn near, a kingdom of nonviolence and non-retaliation. Jesus’ withdrawal is not simply passivity but points to a vision of an alternate way of reigning as king. Jesus rules not with violence, abusive power, or through division but through voluntarily emptying himself of power, identifying with the oppressed and burdened, and healing that which is broken. Into this new reign, Jesus calls the disciples to follow him, a way that appears foolish and weak to those who cannot discern it. To those God calls, it is the wisdom and strength, the light and power of God.
To follow in the way of Jesus places one’s life at risk, for it eventually leads to the cross. To follow, though, implies someone is leading. The way God calls us to follow has already been filled with the loving kindness and mercy of Jesus who has gone before us and who leads us to the foot of the cross. There, in the shadow of the cross, God makes a way for unity in the midst of division, for healing in the midst of brokenness, for peace in the midst of violence, for forgiveness in the midst of betrayal. Around the table, the kingdom of God draws near; Jesus’ broken body announces forgiveness, healing, peace, and unity. Many bodies are nourished and formed into the one body of Christ, called and sent to follow in the way of Jesus, to be broken and shed for the sake of the world.
Gospel: Matthew 4:12-23
Jesus begins his public ministry shortly after John the Baptist is imprisoned by Herod. He proclaims the nearness of God’s reign and calls four fishermen to be his first disciples.
12Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
15“Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
16the people who sat in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
light has dawned.”
17From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
18As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 19And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 20Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.
23Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.