- I was born and raised in the fishing village of Capernaum. We’re located about 40 miles NE of Jerusalem on the NW corner of the Sea of Galilee. It’s actually a fresh water lake fed by the Jordan river. It’s about 13 miles long and about 8 miles wide.
- I’m married and have a 12-year old daughter.
- My job isleader of the Synagogue in Capernaum which means I went through all the Jewish rabbinical schools and am part of the network of leaders that culminates in the various leadership groups up in Jerusalem: the Pharisees, Sadducees, teachers of the law, etc., etc.
Background to my story:
- About a year, year and a half ago we had a prophet type individual, his name is Jesus, move to Capernaum from what apparently was his home town of Nazareth – about 15 miles from here.
- From the beginning it was clear that He was pretty extraordinary. By the time he got to Capernaum he’d already attracted quite a following. In fact, I think part of the reason that he wound up in our little town was that among his first disciples was a foursome from our town – two sets of brothers.
- The first were Simon and Andrew – both fishermen that work out of Capernaum – and a couple of others; James and John. Word around here is that, for no apparent reason, they just left their whole fishing business to their fathers and the hired hands and simply started following this You can imagine that, after all the years the families have been in the fishing business, to have these young men just up and leave the business, really created quite a stir in the village.
- A final bit of background is that my 12 year old daughter has been ill for quite a long time. When she first stared getting sick, we took her to the doctors, did all the Jewish prayers and offerings. But there really wasn’t any change in her condition.
- Saturday/Sabbath: Jesus visits my synagogue. As is our tradition, after reading the prophets, anyone who seems to be a teacher is asked if they would like to say something. Well, Jesus, stepped forward and immediately impressed everyone, including me, with the authority of his remarks..
- We’ve had a local man who apparently has been troubled by an evil spirit for a long time. This sabbath, he came into the synagogue shouting “Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth?”
- Jesus confronted the man and demanded that the evil spirit leave him. And, right before our eyes, it was obvious that than was healed. The truth is that all of us were amazed: My people said, “Never seen anything like this” And, of course, word spread like wildfire through the village.
Episode # 2
- Immediately after this incident, Jesus went to Simon and Andrew’s house here in the village. When they got there, they found that Simon’s mother-in- law sick. Apparently, Jesus healed her on the spot and she got up and fixed a meal for them!
- The word began to spread. Capernaum is a small town. Word spread so that: by evening of that same day Simon’s house is jammed. Reports were that many were healed of diseases and demons are cast out. The whole town turned out just to watch these remarkable events.
- People from my synagogue came running to get me. I stood in the background – frankly amazed, perplexed, and, honestly, jealous!
Episode # 3
The next day I learned –
- Apparently Jesus had spent the whole night out in the hills praying.
- Simon and Andrew had to go looking for him because people were back at the house at the crack of dawn looking for help.
- It’s reported that Jesus said, “We have to get out of here and get to the other towns in the region.”
- But, before he could get out town, a local leper came to Jesus and asked, if Jesus was willing, the leper was sure Jesus could heal him. They say Jesus simply said, “I’m willing.” Then touched the leper and he was healed!
- You can imagine the electrifying impact that’s had in the village!
- Sometime later, Jesus arrived es back in town w/His disciples. Word spreads!
- The house where he has been staying is, again, packed. Among the people were some of my colleagues, Jewish religious leaders.
- Some local men were carrying a paralyzed man to Jesus but apparently the house was so crowded they couldn’t get in. So, they took extraordinary measuresthe went up on the roof, made an opening, and let the man down in from of Jesus.
- It’s reported that Jesus said to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven.” My fellow religious leaders who were there said “Blasphemy!”
- They say that Jesus asked, “Is it harder to say your sins are forgiven or to say, take up your stretcher and walk?” And, to prove that I have authority to do either, he then said to the man, “Get up and walk.” And, he did – to everyone’s astonishment.
- Well, you can imagine our local people’s reaction! And, the growing word about Jesus and his work. People started showing up from everywhere.
- When Jesus left that house he went down by the lakeside – again followed by big crowds.
- On the way he passed by Levi – son of Alphaeus and our local tax collector. Alphaeus is an old family here in town.
- Despite the tax collectors’ reputations, Jesus actually asked Levi to be one of his disciples!
- That night Levi threw a huge dinner party for Jesus. And, of course, Levi invited all his friends – many of them other tax collectors and individuals of questionable character.
- Along with my Jewish religious leader colleagues we were shocked by the fact that Jesus just went right in, sat down, and had dinner with these people!
- When we confronted Jesus, he said something about well people not needing a doctor. That he had come to deal with those people who are ill.
Frankly, while all this healing was going on, our daughter’s health was getting steadily worse. We were spending money on treatments and medicine and were even considering a trip up to Jerusalem to consult with specialists. And, though I saw all these amazing healings going on by Jesus, it was just impossible to think of taking my daughter to Him. Frankly, I was faced with —
- Personal pride and expectations of my role as the local religious leader.
- My parishioners who are obviously watching all of these things.
- My professional colleagues who have been trying to distance themselves from Jesus and raise all kinds of questions about him.
- The fact that Jesus no pedigree, no rabbinical education and, apparently, the only real work he’s ever done is as a carpenter in his father’s business in Nazareth.
Episode # 6
- A week or two later, back in my Synagogue, Jesus comes in again on the Sabbath.
- I’d alerted my professional colleagues to be there just in case – to watch what went on – if anything. Our rabbinical position was that healing was work and you just can’t work on a Sabbath.
- Predictably, Jesus came in and the first thing he does is spot a man with a deformed hand asked him to some forward and stand in front of him.
- Then Jesus turned to the whole crowd, including me an my colleagues, and asked “Does the law permit us to do good or evil on the sabbath?” Well, clearly, we were cornered. Jesus took the debate away from the question of work and turned it into a question about good and evil! So, frankly, we couldn’t even respond.
- Jesus was obviously angry with us. And, then, it was clear, he was sad. Then, right before our eyes, the man held out his hand and it was transformed – just like his other, good hand.
- That direct confrontation was too much. My colleagues that came for the occasion immediately went to see King Herod’s advisors. Together, they began working on plans to get rid of this trouble maker!
- The same day, Jesus went back to the lakeside.
- There was a huge crowd – almost a riot as people were desperately pushing and shouting – just trying to touch Jesus – or at least get their sick family or friends near Him.
- It was obvious, many were healed. There were major confrontations with evil spirits – spirits that were causing horrible reactions in the people they possessed. The spirits engaged in direct conversation with Jesus. It was very strange – and, frankly, pretty scary!
- After all of this Jesus went up in the hills outside the village and apparently selected the men he wanted to be part of His inner circle – twelve men. The fact is, we knew most of them because they were from around the area. But it was a strange and rough crowd of individuals. Fishermen, a tax collector, a fellow who was part of the guerilla party that’s trying to overthrow the Romans, and, of course, the one who really turned out bad – Judas Iscariot.
This was a terrible time for me.
- My parishioners were constantly asking me about Jesus – whether He was authentic, a man of God; what I thought of him; what my Jerusalem colleagues thought of Him; why were the religious leaders apparently were so opposed to him, etc., etc.
- My colleagues from Jerusalem were no help. Capernaum was ground zero for a huge part of all of this controversy. And my own synagogue was a key focal point.
- My wife and I had to take a few days off and take our daughter up to Jerusalem. Things were looking really bad. And, honestly, on the return trip we were really discouraged. The specialists in Jerusalem tried a number of things but nothing seemed to really help.
Episode # 8
Well about the time I got back to Capernaum, Jesus and His disciples were back from one of their road trips.
- He’d been invited to a house in the village and, of course, the crowds began to gather.
- His family came down from Nazareth – actually tried to take him away saying they felt He was sick – one of them actually said “We think he’s out of his mind.”
- But the religious leaders who had come from Jerusalem again said, “No, He’s possessed by Satan and does what he does is through the prince of demons.”
- There was huge conflict in front of all the people: Jesus and Jewish leaders debating over spiritual authority. Jesus talked about civil war; a house divided against itself – then a chilling warning about attributing works of God’s spirit to Satan!
- Jesus family, came back – this time with His Mother. “They are asking for you.”
- “It’s reported that Jesus’ response was, “Who are my brothers, sisters, and Mother? Anyone who does God’s will.”
One evening Jesus and His disciples got in a boat to cross the lake – it’s just 8 miles.
- The story was that they were caught in a huge storm. Apparently, in the middle of this storm, Jesus was sound asleep in the back of the boat. Word around the village is that the disciples were scared to death – but they finally woke Jesus up (I wondered how he could sleep in such a storm!). But, the local men say that as soon as he woke up, he held up his hand and the wind stopped and the lake became calm. You can imagine what our local, experienced fishermen, with years on this lake, thought about that!
- The story is that that over in Gadara, the other side of the lake, Jesus drove out demons and sent them into a herd of pigs!
By this time, my 12=year old daughter was just about gone. And, while Jesus and his disciples were on the other side of the lake, I’d been seriously praying and thinking. And here’s what I had decided:
- My daughter’s the most precious thing in the world to me.
- I’d rather see my daughter well and our family whole than please my fellow religious leaders in Jerusalem who think I shouldn’t have ANYTHING to do with Jesus.
- The truth is, my wife and I had tried everything – all the traditional options of prayer, sacrificial offerings, doctors, etc.
- Even though it was a “court of last resort,” I’d decided to swallow my pride and ego and ask for Jesus’ help. Clearly, as far as my daughter was concerned, it was 11:59:59. She was dying.
- I was out of my mind – ‘why had I waited so long?’ “Why was I so proud?” And, most of all, “When was Jesus coming back – would he get back in time for me to talk with him?”
Episode # 10
- Well, Jesus and disciples did return. As they came up from where they left their boat, Jesus was right in the middle of the village. Of course, wherever he went these days, there was always a crowd. So, there was no way talk with him privately!
- There was nothing for me to do but, in front of all my Capernaum friends, meet Jesus, face to face there on the street. I was desperate, so I fell down on my knees and begged Jesus to come and deal with my daughter.
- Frankly, I was surprised that he didn’t quibble or argue. He knew me and I knew him. He knew that, as part of the existing religious establishment, I had been keeping my distance ever since he had gone public with his work. I had expected him to say something like, “Where have you been, Jairus, when I’ve needed your support over recent months?” Yet he said nothing but, “Let’s go.”
- As we started for my house, two things happened.
- First, my neighbors came to us and said, “Your daughter’s already dead, Don’t bother the teacher.” You can imagine that I thought this was the last straw – all hope was lost. But Jesus said, “Don’t pay any attention” and kept on walking.
- Then, with the typical crowd pushing and shoving, apparently a woman who had a long-term hemorrhaging problem reached out and touched Jesus, hoping to be healed. Jesus stopped cold and asked who had touched him. His disciples almost laughed – “Everybody’s touching you.” But Jesus insisted that someone specifically had touched him – apparently in a different way. Frankly I was impatient – almost frantic at this further delay.
- But, eventually the woman admitted it and Jesus assured her that she would be healed.
- When we got to my house, all my neighbors and friends were already there – weeping and wailing – all as part our typical Jewish support in times of tragedy.
- When Jesus and I arrived, he said to everyone, “Get out. Leave us alone. She is only sleeping,” to which all the people laughed.
- After these people left, Jesus took me, my wife, and three of his disciples into the room where my daughter was lying on a sleeping mat – not breathing.
- Jesus took my daughter by the and simply said, “Little girl, I tell you to get up!”
- She immediately got up and started walking around the room! Jesus said, “Give her something to eat.”
- Well, you can imagine, my wife and I were out of our minds with joy!
- And, as the elements of what had happed came increasingly into focus for me, I realized that my old assumptions about the Jewish law, the opinion of my colleagues in Jerusalem, and what my synagogue parishioners thought didn’t really make any difference.
- Jesus – his message and his life – the power and generosity – they were clearly from God. And I had become a believer.