I’m Shimon ben Yohanan, or Kefa, as you wish.
Born and bred in Kfar Nahum, I would still be there, if not for that eventful day.
Hearing Yeshua preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near,” we just knew something was going to happen.
My father, Andrew and I had been fishing all night. At dawn we were busy hauling the net ashore, when we saw Yeshua walking towards us.
“You want some fish?” I asked.
He shook his head. “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men!”
We Galileans react rather impulsively and love adventures, so Andrew and I looked at each other, said,
“Good-bye, Abba! This is what we’ve been waiting for,” and followed rabbi Yeshua.
Yeshua choose ten additional “talmidim”. All of us were amazed by his wisdom and knowledge, his love for the down and out, but also his anger at the hypocrites.
He had many followers – those who came to listen and those who came only for the miracles.
Two by two he sent us out to spread the “good news”, as he put it. We were afraid, but like he promised, miracles happened wherever we went.
On Shabbat people listened with open mouths when he taught in the Synagogue. However, the teachers of the Law hated him.
One day, Yeshua asked the twelve of us, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
Some thought he was Yohanan the Immerser, Eliyahu, Yirmeyahu or one of the prophets.
“But who do YOU say I am?” Yeshua asked.
“You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” I blurted out.
Obviously pleased by my answer, Yeshua said, “You are Shimon ben Yohanan. You are Kefa, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
That was awesome! But at that time I didn’t have a clue what he meant.
Traveling throughout the land with Yeshua was exciting, that was, until he began to speak about his future suffering.
I’m still ashamed that I deserted my beloved rabbi during his humiliating trial.
All of us were confused and frightened and didn’t understand why he had to die on that Roman cross.
At first I didn’t believe Mary when she told me Yeshua was risen; However, when I did see him, I could have died from shame, having disowned him three times – as he predicted I would.
Yeshua took me apart. I didn’t dare look into his eyes.
“Shimon ben Yohanan, do you love me unselfishly,” he gently asked, “to the point of willing to sacrifice yourself?” [Agapeo]
“Yes, Lord,” I said, “You know that I’m your friend.” [Phileo]
“Feed my lambs,” he said.
Again, he asked the same question, and I told him we had the same interests.
“Take care of my sheep,” he said.
Yeshua asked the same question, for the THIRD time.
I was hurt! Didn’t he believe me? I told him so!
“Feed my sheep,” he said and gave me a glimpse of future events I couldn’t comprehend then. (Good I didn’t.)
When Yeshua was taken up into heaven, we feared the crowds and locked ourselves in. That was, until we were baptized by the Holy Spirit. Speaking about change!
There I was, an uneducated fisherman, preaching boldly to the crowds that Messiah had come and delivered us from our sins.
Fishers of men indeed!
We continued to meet in the synagogues until the persecutions began. Many believers were killed; others fled to other countries, spreading the news of God’s salvation through Yeshua’s sacrifice.
I somehow ended up being one of the spiritual leaders of the believers in Jerusalem.
While Paul was sent to the Gentiles, God used me to minister to my fellow Jews.
By God’s grace, many “ecclesia” [churches] have sprung up throughout Asia. We are one in the spirit with the saints over there, those who follow God’s call, and worship and fellowship together.
Now that I’m an old man, I try to remember all that has happened.
I’m still amazed that God wanted to use a quick-tempered, impulsive, emotional person like me. And the responsibility he entrusted me with – caring for so many churches. God’s grace is truly amazing!
Yeshua called me “Tsur” – rock, and said that the church would be built on it.
I am nothing, just God’s vessel, but I know that each “ecclesia” should be built on that Eternal Rock of our salvation – Yeshua haMashiah!
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