Friday, 30 December 2011

The Neighbour

Matthew 4:13 says that "leaving Nazareth, [Jesus] went and lived in Capernaum."

In my mind, Jesus' baptism and temptation in the desert marked the last time that he had a house to base himself from, that he stayed in one place for a stretch of time. I assumed that these events began the wandering itinerant stage of life that would characterise the next three years of his ministry. And yet this small verse that I discovered in the depths of the opening of Matthew this morning seems to suggest otherwise, that there was a time after all the excitement at the outset, when Jesus once again took a house, settled down somewhere for who knows how long, and lived in one place.

I am of course reading into the text, but it made me wonder what it was like for Him, and what it was like to be his next door neighbour.

The passage tells us that it was "from this time on Jesus began to preach, 'repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.'" At this point, no longer was he just the carpenter's son, blending into the background of the village melee, no, this man was now front and centre and saying some pretty radical and scandalous stuff.

What would it have been like to live on his street and see him coming back at the end of the day, rumours circulating about the crazy things he had been up to. Did he have a nosy neighbour who lived across the street, peeking at him from behind her curtains? (Though she probably didn't have curtains...from behind her camel...?)

We compartmentalise the life of Jesus. We make it easy for us to understand, thinking about him at the front of a crowd making a handful of food go far further than it should, hands on the sick making them well, preaching the new way of the kingdom of God. Easy for us to get our minds around, because, after all, we know Him to be God.

But we forget that he was also human. We forget about those little interactions that happen in our everyday that no one even thinks about, that no Gospel writer would consider wasting precious ink on due to their routine and mundane nature.

We forget that God himself had neighbours, friends, teachers, someone he bought bread from. How did they feel when they met him? Did they know there was something different about him?

At this time of year, we remember Him as a baby, marvelling at the fact that God became an infant in a manger. Let's also not forget what it meant for Him to grow up among humanity, living a relatively normal life among others just like us.

A normal life, but lived a different way. Lived the way it was meant to be lived.

May each of us discover more with each day what this life could look like for us.

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