After returning from his sojourn in the wilderness, we are told that Jesus entered Galilee "preaching the gospel of the kingdom of G-d, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of G-d is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:14-15). Thus far, we notice that Jesus continues John's message. The "gospel" is no more and no less than that the Jews have to repent to receive the immanent coming of G-d's messianic kingdom on earth. Since John's imprisonment, Jesus is now the NEW messenger of the kingdom.

Mark relates that Jesus went immediately to Capernaum, on the shore of Lake Kinneret, but both Matthew and Luke report that first he went to his home town of Nazareth and preached there, in the synagogue. Luke tells us that Jesus was given an ALIYAH in the symagogue, that is, he was called to read from the Torah and the prophets. Using a text from the prophet Isaiah that G-d would send a prophet to heal the sick and set free those that were captive, Jesus announced that he was applying these verses to himself. The people in the synagogue were stunned at his words. Who was he to speak like that, they wondered. After all, he had grown up among them ("Is not this Joseoph's son?" 4:22), and they had not heretofore witnessed anything so special or so unique about him as to identify him as a prophet. It would be one thing to preach repentance and declare the advent of the messianic era but quite another for someone so familiar to suddenly announce to his fellow townspeople that he was a healing prophet. They refused to give him that honor, and when they asked him to heal someone as proof of his power, he refused, saying that their disbelief had made them unworthy.

But Jesus did not stop there. Luke reports that he reminded the congregation, in a very inciniary way, that the prophets Elijah and Elisha went out of their way to heal gentiles at a time when the Israelites needed healing. This may not necessarily be an historical speech but may be nothing more than Luke's editorial way of hinting that Jesus would ultimately be accepted by gentiles and not his own people. Luke goes on to report that this controversy escalated to an emotional degree wherein they kicked him out of town. Jesus declared: "Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country" (4:24). Depart ing Nazareth, Jesus made his way to Capernaum where he was to make his first disciples.

Did the historical Jesus indeed attempt to begin his ministry in his native town and clash with the local population there? In makes sense that he would want to try to influence the people he knew best first. It would also not be surprising that those among whom he had grown up would not think that he was anyone special. Familiarity breeds indifference as well as contempt, and many great men men in history have first had to prove themselves "out of town" before they were accepted at home. The New Testament story says that Jesus established his "headquarters" in the towns on Lake Kinneret, and there is no further importance given to Nazareth after this initial incident.

Jesus came to Capernaum (Kfar-Nahum) on the northwestern shore of Lake Kinneret, between Bethsaida and Magdala. Originally the home of the prophet Nahum, Capernaum had become an important fishing and trade center in the first century of the Common Era. It lay directly on an important caravan route between Damascus and the Mediterranean Sea. The Romans called that route Via Maris, "the Sea Road"; they paved it and set up tax collection stations along it. Lying on such an important and well-travelled cross-road, Capernaum was a natural choice for Jesus to finally decide upon as his unofficial "headquarters". It was also probably a hot-bed of Galilean militant nationalism, its native population no doubt very sympathetic to Zealot anti-Roman activities, especially so when we visualize the daily presence of officials collecting Jewish taxes for the Satan, Caesar. Capernaum also had the doubious distinction of becoming THE Galilean town most closely associated with the Jewish followers of Jesus during the first centuries of the Common Era. Talmudic literature refers to the early Nazarenes as "Sons of Kfar-Nahum" (Midrash Kohelet Rabba 1:8).

It was here that Jesus acquired his first close disciples; the two pair of brothers, Simon and Andrew, and James and John, the sons of Zebedee. Of these four, Simon (later nicknamed Peter), James, and John eventually became Jesus' closest disciples, constituting an "inner circle" of leadership after his death.

The gospel writers quaintly relate that Jesus saw these four casting their nets by the sea-side, and simply called them to him, say-ing that he would make them "fishers of men". Undoubtedly, he had known them before, and the possibility exists that his calling them to dis-cipleship was the primary motive for coming to Capernaum.

There is a tradition that the family of Zebedee (Zevadyah) had originally been disciples of John the Baptizer, and that they were of a comfortable socio-economic strata, - being the chief suppliers of fish to the house of the high priest in Jerusalem. (Not all of Jesus' follow ers were necessarily poor, simple people despite that common beief.) Of Zebedee's wife, Salome (Shelomit), few details are given in the gos- pels. Mark relates that she was present at the crucifixion, and Matthew reports that she once asked Jesus to give her sons a position of promi- nence in the Kingdom to come.

The gospel of Mark says that Jesus nicknamed James and John BOANERGES, "the sons of thunder", a description of their temperments. BOANERGES is a transliteration into the Greek of the Hebrew "bnai-roges", "the sons of wrath". Being "angry young men", they probably were emotionally tied up with zeal for the Kingdom of Heaven, which translates politically as young zealots against Rome. Not necessarily that they were actual members of the Zealot party, but as Galileans whom the New Testament itself testifies to have been religious "activists", they probably were Zealot sympathizers.

James (Yakov) became the first one of them to be a martyr for the Nazarene cause, being put to death by Herod Agrippa (Acts 12).

John (Yochanan) became known as the "beloved disciple" of Jesus; supposedly he was present during Jesus' arrest and throughout his trial. He is also probably the ORIGINAL author of the fourth gospel, which bears his name.

Of the four mentioned disciples, Simon's brother, Andrew (Jewish name unknown) appears to have been the most passive. He and Simon were originally natives of Bethsaida (Beit-tsayada), a fishing village on Lake Kinneret upon whose site Herod Phillipus later constructed a Greek city called Julias. Andrew may, at one time, have been a close disciple of John the Baptizer. According to the author of the fourth gospel, it was he who introduced Simon to Jesus (John 1:41-42).

Simon, nicknamed Cephas (Aramaic "the rock") by Jesus, was the first of his disciples to call him the messiah. He is known in Christian tradition as Peter (from Greek petros "rock"). He became designated by Jesus as the leader of the Nazarene movement, but after Jesus' death his position of leadership appears to have been usurped, first by James the brother of Jesus, and later by Paul the Apostle. Roman Catholic tradition identifies him as the first Pope. In Capernaum, the home of Peter became Jesus' unoffcial "headquarters". He is called Simon bar-jona, ostensibly "the son of Jonah", but some have theorized that this actually represents a transliteration of the Hebrew "baryon" - "resistence fighter". The baryonim were the Zealot rebels who led the defense of Jerusalem during the war with Rome. If indeed, he actually was call ed Simon Baryon, and if he were a member of the Zealot party, it would explain, among other things, why, at Jesus' arrest, he is the one described as offering armed resistence with a sword. (the possible presence of a Zealot among the the disciples of Jesus should surprise no one as will be demonstrated presently.) After Jesus' death, Simon Peter became most active in the activities of the "Judaizers" among the Naz- arenes, insisting on formal conversion to Judaism of any non-Jew who wished to enter the movement. His sudden disappearence from the New Testament narrative, in the midst of all its fervent activity is very strange and unexplicable. Peter is placed in prison by Herod Agrippa from which he miraculously escapes. Immediately following this, he asks some disciples to tell of his escape to James, the brother of Jesus. Then "he departed, and went into another place" (Acts 12:17). Where he went is not disclosed and he is not mentioned in the story of Acts again. His disappearence marks the beginning of the emergence of James and Paul to leadership of the Nazarene movement.

Jesus entered the synagogue and began teaching "as one having authority, and not as the scribes", according to Mark 1:22. And there were sick people in Capernaum whom he healed. Afterwards, he travelled throughout the towns of Galilee, preaching and healing. His fame quickly spread throughout Galilee. Matthew (chap 4) adds that it spread beyond the confines of Galilee, to Syria, Transjordan, and Judea, as well as to the cities of the Decapolis. Soon he was beseiged with people who flocked to him so that he "could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter" (Mark 1:45).

Jesus had started out his mission as a messenger, following in the footsteps of John, preaching the "gospel" of the coming Kingdom and telling people to repent. But then shortly, he began to feel the power within himself to attract masses, and to heal their infirmities. He saw this as a sign that he was more than just the messenger or preacher of the Kingdom. He began to feel that he was the PROPHET of the Kingdom. He viewed his ability to heal as a sign of the approach of the Kingdom when all affliction would cease. The excitement of the Galileans, and of the others who began to flock to him only increased the feeling of the Kingdom's immanence in which all became caught up. Jesus began to feel the pressure of fame, and whether out of sheer exhaustion, or out of fear of attracting the attention of the authorities, or both, he saught retreat in the wilderness. He felt the need of PERSONAL disciples, - good Galilean men who would be close to him and whom he could trust, and soon he would increase their number. His fame would spread throughout the Land of Israel, and with it, his message of the "gospel" He would not confine his his message to the mere hope of the Kingdom's arrival, but he would also establish a plan of living for his followers in anticipation of its arrival. He would teach them "as one that had authority, and not as the scribes."

What do the authors of the gospel story mean by the use of that expression, "one having authority"? Simply, that Jesus did not rely upon the Jewish TRADITION of teaching. This is very important to note. Among Jews, it is the common practice to back up anything that one teaches with the AUTHORITY OF THE SAGES OF ISRAEL! The teaching is TORAH, that is, it somehow is founded upon the oral and written reve-lation to Israel as interpreted by the bearers of the chain of Jewish tradition. The Mishnah PIRKE AVOT begins:

     "Moses received the Torah at Sinai and handed it over to Joshua;
      Joshua to the elders; the elders to the prophets; and the pro-
      phets handed it over to the men of the Great Assembly (undet Ezra
      and Nehemiah). They said three things: Be patient in the adminis-
      tration of justice; develop many students; and make a fence around
      the Torah."
                              Pirke Avot 1:1

A teacher in Israel is expected to develop students through the application of the principal of "fencing the Torah". The Torah's fence is the whole corpus of handed over tradition from generation to generation. A teacher in Israel never teaches anything based on his own authority. He bases his teaching on the authority of the Sages of Israel which is the authority of the inherited tradition of Israel. He cites his teaching in the name of his teachers who went before him, and THEIR teachers before them. In doing so, he adds to the fence around the Torah. The cardinal teaching of Jesus own rebbe, Joshua ben Perachiah, was that one should "acquire for himself a rabbi". The greatest of rabbis himself has a rabbi from whom he learns a midrash (explication of a Biblical text), or upon whose traditional expertise he bases a psak (judicial ruling). He does none of these things on his own authority, but by the authority of past generations.

Jesus taught as one that had himself as an authority, and it is this first departure from Jewish tradition which began his estrangement from that very Jewish tradition and ultimately led to his estrangement from the Jewish people. A teacher may not depart from that tradition; a prophet may. The propher receives his authority directly from G-d. How-ever, Jewish tradition insisted that the age of prophecy had ended with the generation of Ezra and Malachi, centuries before Jesus' birth. Yet Jesus had referred to himself as a prophet. We have already seen that he used this authority to distinguish his followers from those of main-stream Jewry, ("Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not?"). The question to ask is why he decided to adopt this philosophy. In answer to the question of why he did ot have his disciples fast, he said:

     "No man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment: else
      the new piece that filled it up taketh away the old, and the rent
      is made worse. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else
      the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and
      the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bot
                          Mark 2:21-22

Jesus answers his questioners that the new age is to dawn shortly in which G-d's Kingdom will be firmly established, and the Jews must prepare for it by beginning to act as though it is really immanent. Thereby, they show their faith in G-d's coming redemption of His people Why should they fast? Fasting is a sign of national mourning in an unredeemed world; it is the symbol of historical tragedy, and memorializes that history of non-redemption and failure. Fasting is an old suit, an old bottle. But the new age is to be met with hope and optimism, new cloth, new wine. Jesus was FIRMLY CONVINCED that the Kingdom would come at any moment! For he would shortly commission his disciples to go out among the Jewish people, saying to them:

     "And as you go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
      Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out dev-
      ils: freely ye have received, freely give. Provide neither gold,
      nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor scrip for your journey,
      neither two coats, neither shoes ... for verily I say unto you,
      Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of
      man be come."
                      Matthew 10:7-9,23

These words attributed to Jesus must be historically genuine else the gospel author could never have included them without embarrass ment. Generations after Jesus' death when Matthew committed his gospel to writing, the traditin yet remained that his master had proclaimed that the Kingdom of G-d would come IMMEDIATELY, and in a time of immediacy, he who is the prophet of the immediate may act on his own initiative to do what is necessary, and on his own authority.

Jesus took it upon his own authority to tell his Jewish followers to make themselves part of the new age internally. However positive ly he may have meant this, he began a rift between the actions and atti tudes of his disciples and the rest of Jewry. In time this rift would widen, and minor differences in outlook between the Nazarenes and the rest of Israel would grow into irreconcilible differences. As long as these differences existed within the Jewish family in an era of relative stability, they would be tollerated by either side. But when the followers of Jesus took these differences outside of Israel and the era turned into one of chaos, those very differences would mark those who were different as outside the pale of Jewish acceptance and tolleration.

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