Third Sunday after the Epiphany | Matthew 4:12-23
Leaving home or finding one is a great theme of literature all over the world. From Odysseus leaving Troy to Hansel and Gretel in the forest, we hear stories that reflect our love and need for a home, shelter, a place of safety and of rest.
Matthew tells us that upon hearing of the arrest of John the Baptist, Jesus withdrew and made his home in Capernaum, a small town at the northern end of the Sea of Galilee. Really, the entire passage is about homes, or leaving them. In a few verses we hear Jesus calling Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John to follow him, and they leave the lives they know to do so.
Yet we have a problem. Jesus had no home. Ask almost any Christian, and he will tell you so, pointing either to Matthew 8:20 or to Luke 9:58. Foxes have dens, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.
Mark 2:1 tells us this – When he entered again into Capernaum after some days, it was heard that he was at home. The phrase is literally in [the] house, but the meaning of home is straightforward. Modern English does the same thing.
Let’s think about this a different way. Many times, Jesus says something outrageously over the top (if your right eye offends you, pull it out comes to mind), and we are happy to agree that this is said for effect, a hyperbole, an exaggeration meant to illustrate the meaning and to instruct the listener.
That line about foxes and dens, though, must that mean exactly what it says? Jesus, a Jewish man at the roundabout age of thirty living in a traditional society, was homeless? Is there no possibility that this statement, spoken in reply to a nameless character who glibly boasts that he will follow Jesus anywhere, could be an exaggeration for the purpose of teaching?
Maybe it doesn’t matter. Homes with walls are not the kind that matter here, unless we are dealing with walls of habit and of comfort.
Jesus called those men to follow him, eventually to preach and to teach. They left their walls of habit, their comfortable lives.
God may have given us the idea of doing something that takes us out of our comfortable lifestyle. Like prisons, not all homes have walls. Many are made of habit, or comfort, or routine, or even fear of change. Our challenge, or our opportunity, may take us outside our habitual boundaries.
The reward is worth the effort.
When we step outside, we may find that God has been waiting for us there.