I thought I might blog a novel about Jesus, narrated from the perspective of James the son of Alphaeus, who of course was the first of the apostles to die.
1. The life of a fisherman is very predictable. You get up early. You fish. You take your catch to the market. You take what you get and trade for what you need for your own family. You eat a meal and sit with the other men of the village until dark, telling stories. Then you get up the next day and do it all over again.
My family lived in Capernaum, on the northwest side of the Sea of Galilee. My father Zebedee did well enough with fishing. He had his own boat, along with a steady crew of workers. There was my brother John and myself. Then two other brothers from Capernaum also worked with us, Simon and Andrew.
It was very rare that something interrupted this flow of life. Rarely did the outside world intrude on this peaceful world in an insignificant part of the Roman Empire. Sure, there was that revolutionary Judas from Gamala, who collected a band of discontents and tried to defeat the Romans. He revolted when Quirinius took a census to raise taxes. He ended up dead.
Even Jerusalem was far off. I don't think I had ever seen a Pharisee in Galilee. Why bother with this insignificant country to the north, a three days walk? I had never even been to Samaria and it was close enough. A person like me might go their whole life and scarcely go further than a few stadia from home.
The priests and some of the leaders of the synagogue went to Jerusalem at least once a year for one of the festivals. Good for them. The rest of us lived off their stories. One day I would go up for a Passover, but there was plenty of fishing to keep us busy in the meantime.
2. We thrived on stories. Every night we told the same old stories over and over again. Remember when Simon got his tunic caught in the net? We grasped at any bit of news. Remember when the toll collector at the Jordan got chewed out by his boss? What was his name? Levi?
Most of the time, there wasn't much new to tell. We could finish each other's punchlines. The same stories led to the next. Occasionally there was some new tidbit from Bethsaida or Chorazin. Still less frequently was some news from Jerusalem, still less of the broader Roman Empire.
Occasionally there was talk of revolution against the Romans. We grumbled about them all the time. Judas had failed. He showed himself to be a false messiah when he died. But he called to mind how God had brought victory against the Syrians in the days of the Maccabees. One day, we believed, he would anoint another man to throw off Roman rule.
3. So you could imagine our interest when rumors flew up the Jordan that there was a man named John washing people in the River Jordan, not far from Jerusalem...