The Devil in Church

         “I’ve heard this story a thousand times, and I thought I knew what it was about. Apparently, I didn’t know squat.”

         John nodded and whispered back to Pete, “I know. It’s like he was there.”

         “It’s more than that—it’s like he wrote it.”

         As Peter and John listened to Jesus recite and explain the scriptures about Abraham preparing to sacrifice his son, they were astounded. They weren’t alone. Peter looked around at the faces of the others in the synagogue in Capernaum; people were hanging onto every word.

         Suddenly, a man stood up and bellowed in an unnaturally low voice that sounded like it came from the depths of Hell, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? We know who you are—the Holy One of God.” The shock over the sudden outburst was outdone only by the fact that the temperature in the room immediately dropped by at least twenty-five degrees.

         Jesus stopped and looked at the man. “Shut your mouth. I command you to come out of him at once!”

         As Pete watched, the man was thrown to the ground, shaking and screaming. Pete saw something like black smoke billow from the man’s mouth and then dissipate. The room warmed back up.

         “Shit,” said Pete, not whispering anymore, “Did y’all see that?”

         John could only nod.

         A man next to him asked, “What the hell? Who is this man? He gives orders to devils and they obey him?”

         “His name is Jesus,” said Pete.

         Not surprisingly, the whole demon-shrieking deal pretty much broke up the services. Jesus and the boys left the synagogue and went to Pete’s house, where Pete’s wife, Sue, was gonna fix ’em supper.

         “Peter, where’ve y’all been?”

         “We’ve been at church, Sue. You should’ve been there. You ain’t gonna believe it, but while Jesus was teaching…”

         Before Pete could go any further, she cut him off. “I don’t care what happened. Mama’s bad sick,” Sue said.

         “What d’ya mean?” asked Pete.

         “I mean she’s got a fever. Not just any fever. She’s shiverin and shakin, and her breathin’s real bad. I’m scared for her, Peter.”

         “Where’s she at?”

         “In bed,” Sue said, “I can’t get her out.”

         About that time, Jesus walked over. “What’s goin on?”

         “Sue’s mama’s sick,” said Peter.

         “Oh, yeah?” asked Jesus.

         “Bad sick,” said Sue.

         “Let me go see her,” said Jesus.

         Sue led her husband and Jesus into the back room. Sue’s mom lay on the bed, wrapped in a blanket, pale and shivering. Jesus knelt and took her right hand in his right hand; with his left, he gently caressed her brow. “Fever, leave this woman,” said Jesus. Peter heard the compassion in his voice, yet the command to the fever possessed the same authority that had ordered the devil out of the man in church. Immediately the shivering stopped and the color returned to the old woman’s face, a smile along with it. She got up from the bed and began rearranging her hair.

         “Mama, get back in bed,” said Sue.

         “Baby, I feel fine. I feel better than fine. I feel like a new person. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this good. Let me help you get supper together.” She turned to Jesus. “Thank you, sir.”

         “No problem,” said Jesus.

         After supper, Jesus and the boys sat around the table finishing off a bottle of wine. The sun was just going down.

         Peter took a sip of wine and then looked at Jesus. “Sir, there is so much I want to ask you about the things that happened today, but I almost don’t know where to start.”

         About that time there was a knock at the door. Andy got up to see who it was. When Andy opened the door, he saw a crowd of people gathering outside. More were coming down the road toward the house. “What do you want?” Andy asked.

         One of the men held a little girl in his arms. “We saw what this man Jesus did in the church today, and we’ve heard he’s healed many people, and I was just hoping that perhaps he could help my daughter. She falls to the ground all the time and has fits.”

         “My wife here’s been blind for thirteen years,” said another man, holding his wife’s hand. “Do you think he could help her?”

         “Y’all go on. He’s tired and had a tough day,” said Andy.

         “Please, sir, just ask him for us,” said the man holding the little girl.

         Andrew looked at the growing crowd of hurting people before him. “Wait here,” said Andrew, “I’ll be right back.”

         Andy shut the door and returned to the table. “Sir, there’s a whole bunch of people gatherin ’ up outside. Seems like everybody in town who’s got somethin wrong with ’em wants you to fix ’em.”

         Jesus smiled, took a long drink of wine, set his cup down on the table, and said, “Well, boys, let’s get to work.”

         Hours later, after the crowd had left and everyone in the house had gone to bed, Peter and John sat at the table and had another cup of wine.

         “Well, that was one heck of a day,” said Peter.

         “Cuttin down on your cussin, are you, Pete?” said John with a smile.

         “Ha, I guess I am,” Peter grinned, “How many miracles did we see this man do today? Two hundred? More?” asked Pete.

         “I lost count,” said John, “You know, every single person who came to him today and asked to be healed, was healed.”

         “You’re right,” said Pete, “He didn’t turn a single person away.”

         “I tell you, Pete, I love this man,” said John, “But in a way, I’m kinda scared of him too.”

         “What are we witnessing, John?” asked Pete.

         John reached for his glass of wine. “I don’t know,” said John, “But it sure is exciting.”

This fictional account is taken from Mark 1:21–28.

A Desperate Father

        “We can’t bring the fever down.” The doctor said.

         “Are you telling me my son is going to die?” asked Jake.

         The doctor shook his head. “I’m sorry, there’s nothing more we can do.”

         Jake left the doctor and walked into the next room, where his son, Levi, lay, burning with fever, his head cradled in his mother’s lap.

         “What’d the doctor say?” she asked.

         “Let’s talk.” He gestured toward the doorway. He saw fear register in her face.

         As she shifted to the side, she gently lifted her son’s head from her lap and laid it back down on the bed. The boy’s eyes never opened. His breathing was shallow. The two walked into the next room.

         When they were safely out of earshot, the magistrate turned to his wife, gathered her in his burly arms, and they both broke down. Neither could speak. They didn’t need to. The two of them just held each other and cried.

         After a while, his wife, Julia, pulled away. “There must be something we can do?”

         Jake sat down and held his head in his hands. He remained like that for several minutes. Eventually, he looked up. “We’ve had access to the best physicians in Capernaum. There’s nothing more we can do.”

         “There must be something,” said Julia.

         Jake stood up and began pacing. “I know this sounds crazy, but I’ve heard of a man from Nazareth who has performed miracles. Rumor has it that he turned water into wine in Cana and that he’s healed people with only a touch of his hand.”

         “Baby, I don’t care how crazy it sounds. This is our boy. What do we have to lose? Where is he?”

         “He was in Jerusalem,” said Jake. “I hear he stirred up a lot of shit there. He threw everybody out of the temple, and I mean everybody—priests and even the temple guards. I hear he’s now back in Cana.”

         “He sounds like a madman,” said Julia.

         “Yeah, he does, and he probably is. But I’ve also heard that his hands have the power to heal.”

         “Do you think he’ll come to Capernaum?” asked Julia.

         “I don’t know.” Jake thought for a moment. “You know Zeb’s sons, James and John?” He asked.

         “Yes. Aren’t they fishermen?” she replied.

         “Yeah, they’re friends of his, and he’s got two other local boys with him, too, Simon and Andrew. They’re also fishermen.”

         “Yes, I know Simon’s mama-in-law,” said Julia.

         “Well, they’re all with this guy. So we’ve got some connections. Also, if he’s a man of politics, which he seems to be, then he might see how it could be to his advantage, given my position, to come here and help.”

         “Cana is over twenty miles away,” said Julia. “Do you want to send one of the servants to bring him back?”

         “It’d be better if I go,” said Jake. “I don’t want to take a chance that he won’t come.”

         “But, baby, what if our boy doesn’t last long enough for you to get there and back? What if you’re not here when . . . . ” She couldn’t bring herself to finish the question.

         “Don’t you think I’ve thought of that?” he said as he wiped tears from his eyes. “This ain’t much of a chance,” said Jake. “But it may be the only one he’s got.” Jake’s shoulders slumped as he said, “Probably won’t work anyway.” Jake walked to the doorway and looked at the boy before he turned back to his wife. “I just don’t trust anyone else to convince this guy, Jesus, to make the trip here.”

         “Then you’d better get started. And hurry,” she said.

         As Jake jogged toward Cana, he rehearsed what he might say to convince this madman to make the trip. Surely he wouldn’t deny the pleadings of a desperate father, the father of a dying son. Besides, Jake was a man of considerable influence. Certainly, Jesus would see that.

         Jake got to the village of Cana a little before noon. He ran up to the first man he saw, and almost out of breath, asked him, “Have you heard of a man named Jesus?”

         The man looked at Jake like he was a piece of dog crap. Jake realized why. He looked down at his own clothes. He was a terrible sight, sweaty and filthy from the hasty journey.

The man spat on the ground. “Who hasn’t?” he said with obvious disgust in his voice.

         “Do you know where he is?” asked Jake.

         “Yep, he’s down yonder by the church.” The man turned and walked away.

         As Jake rounded the corner, he saw a crowd. Everyone’s attention was centered on one man. Jake elbowed his way to the front. “Sir, are you the man they call Jesus?”

         “I am.”

         “I am the magistrate of Capernaum,” said Jake.

         “Congratulations,” said Jesus with a smile.

         So much for impressing him with my position, thought Jake. “Sir, I need your help. My son is dying.”

         “What d’ya want from me?” asked Jesus.

         “I’ve heard that you’ve performed miracles and that you’ve healed people with only the touch of your hand.”

         “That’s true,” said Jesus.

         “Will you please come with me now to Capernaum to heal my son?”

         “Nope.” Said Jesus.

         Did I hear him right? Did this man just refuse? “Sir, I don’t think you understand—my son is dying.” Jake fell to his knees in front of Jesus and the others. “I’m begging you, sir. For God’s sake, please come with me to heal my son.”

         Jesus looked around at the crowd. “What is it with you people? Unless you see signs and wonders, you don’t believe.” Jesus reached down and took Jake by the arm. “Get up, Jake. I’m not going with you to Capernaum, not today anyway. I do plan to go there later.”

         “But you don’t understand. My son’s gonna die. He may not live through the day,” said Jake.

         “Jake,” said Jesus, “you go on back to Capernaum. Your son’s gonna live.”

         “But how do you know? How can you heal him if you don’t come back with me to at least lay your hands on him?”

         “I give you my word that your son will live,” said Jesus.

         “How do I know if your word is enough?” asked Jake.

         A smile crossed Jesus’s face. “That’s the ultimate question, isn’t it? Is my word good?” Jesus paused and looked around at his disciples. He then placed his hands on Jake’s shoulders and, looking him straight in the face, repeated himself. “Is my word any good? I tell you this: I am my word. My word and I are the same. Your son is healed.”

         Jake’s eyes filled with tears. Somehow, he knew Jesus was right. A sudden unexplainable peace came over him. “Sir, I believe you,” said Jake.  Jake then turned and began the journey back. As he walked back down the road to Capernaum, he saw two of his servants, Jesse and Roy, running toward him. 

“Master, the boy’s okay!” shouted Jesse.

         Jake took the two boys into his arms, and the three of them wept. Jake looked at Jesse. “About what time did Levi get better?”

         “It was around noon today.”

         Jake nodded. He remembered that it was at that exact time when Jesus had told him his son was healed. “Let’s get back to Capernaum, boys. We’ve got a visitor headed our way, and we need to get ready for his arrival.”

This historical fictional account is taken from John 4: 46 – 54.