They did not take their marbles and go home, but instead they chose to work it out. The apostles called a meeting and proposed a solution acceptable to them. “Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism,” was part of this solution. This information about Nicholas’ conversion is intriguing. The text does not say he was a convert from Judaism. Instead, it says he was a convert to Judaism. Nicholas was apparently not born to a Jewish family, but somewhere along the way he must have had an encounter with God.
Nicholas had to do something, and his journey with God initially led him to Judaism, with all the cultural, political, and religious implications that such a choice must have entailed. We don’t know the precise details of how Nicholas became a believer in Jesus, but Nicholas apparently joins together with this group of fellow believers in Jerusalem, who knew him and trusted him with a role of serving their community. The apostles confirmed that choice, embracing Nicholas along with six others known for their faith and wisdom.
The believers in Jerusalem also included “a large group of priests [who] were becoming obedient to the faith.” Unlike Nicholas, those men were entitled to their priestly role because of their birth. But like Nicholas, their journey with God led them to this community of believers in Jesus. Their decision to follow Jesus surely entailed some cultural, political, and religious implications for them, too. It must have required great courage to embrace this new way, but the community of believers undoubtedly helped make that choice possible.
Today’s gospel recounts an important encounter between Jesus and the disciples in the tumultuous sea. In the midst of their fear, the disciples want to take Jesus into their boat. This was sensible – after all, aren’t we supposed to take Jesus with us? But oddly, Jesus somehow takes the boat to shore. I wonder if this does not suggest that Jesus wanted the disciples to follow him, instead of merely taking him along with them.
I think all of us can relate to the temptation to prefer the comfort and security of the familiar. But each of us can also relate our own stories of how God draws us toward himself. Sometimes we are faced with difficult choices, but once we make them, we cannot imagine going back. As we travel, we learn that journeying is good, even when it is not easy. Let us use these examples from Scripture to strengthen us for the journey, and let us share our own stories to encourage one another so that we do not lose our way.
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