I’ve moved around quite a lot in my life. Because of my Dad’s changing job situation and some other factors at the time, I went to a different school in each of my four years of high school.
That was followed by my first and second years of university at different schools.
Gina and I were then married and moved near Louisville, Kentucky for my student teaching, only to move back to Indianapolis for a couple of years, living in two different apartments there.
I was then offered a new job in St. Louis, where we went to live for 11 years and were in two different houses and an apartment there.
Another job offer and we moved to Denver. Two different houses there as well.
And finally (or at least “finally” up to now), our move to Catania on the island of Sicily.
By my count, that is 11 cities, in at least 15 homes, in 2 different countries and 3 US states over the last 30 years. It makes me tired just doing the counting!
So you might think that I would be the last person to talk about growing where you’re planted, but I prefer to think that having had these experiences helps me to see the significance of what I read and saw while in Israel last October:
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.
This seems like a fairly innocuous verse, at least until you take a look at the context of what had just happened. Jesus had just seen two very significant things happen in his life.
First, Jesus had just been baptized by John the Baptist, was given the Holy Spirit, and God Himself speaks from heaven, telling Jesus who he is and that he loves him.
At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Second, the Holy Spirit takes Jesus into the wilderness where he would be tempted by Satan. Satan speaks to him to offer him food to overcome his hunger, tests his identity, and offers him power over the kingdoms of the world. In the end, though, Jesus defeats Satan and doesn’t fall victim to his temptations. Satan leaves and the angels are watching over him.
Given this context, it puts that first scripture in a completely new light for me. For most people, I think that, if we know that we have been called and blessed by God, and especially if we sense that we have any power whatsoever – both of these things happened to Jesus prior to him returning to Galilee – we would be thinking of the most strategic location in which we could be setting up a ministry work. In other words, my guess is that we would be thinking of the best way to grow the largest ministry to affect the greatest number of people. In Jesus’s case, if he were to follow this path, I would have thought that he would have immediately entered Jerusalem. That is the capitol, the seat of power, both religiously and in the government. I would have thought that is where he would have gone.
But here, we see Jesus return to Galilee. Do you know what is in Galilee? Outside of the “Sea” that we read about in the scriptures (really, a large lake), there are some small towns, but even today, there isn’t much. 2000 years ago, there would have been a lot less!
Just to give you some perspective, here is a picture that we took on a plateau that overlooks the northern side of Galilee.
Somewhat strangely, we see that this is the area where Jesus calls and teaches his disciples. This is the area where he teaches most of the parables and performs most of his miracles. It isn’t in Jerusalem. It is here in Galilee, where there aren’t a lot of people. There isn’t a seat of political power. In fact, among the Jewish leaders, there is at least indifference, if not disdain, for this area. There was even a saying amongst the Jewish people that no prophet would come from Galilee, even though the scriptures didn’t say this. The Jewish people’s dislike for this area blinded them such that they couldn’t see what God was doing through their own nation.
As I’ve thought about this over the last couple of weeks, I was reminded of something that we learned while on this trip to Israel, seeing this area, and understanding that this was Jesus’s home for most of his life. The lesson that I learned was that, regardless of where we are, God’s desire for us is to be faithful, to live lives that honor God, to make disciples and teach others to do the same. There is no need to do what seems heroic to other people. The primary thing that we should do is figure out how God is working around you where you are and be part of that work, being faithful to follow Him throughout our time.