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.

Thirsty for Truth

        She was a beautiful woman, but she hadn’t felt pretty in a long time. Today that was especially true. Sweat ran down her face as she walked the dusty road. The heat at this time of day was oppressive, an oven. The walk from Sychar to Jacob’s Well was not far, but there would be no shade until she reached it.

         She wished she could make this trip early in the morning with all the other women, but they refused to be seen with her. She was outcast by the women and the butt of men’s jokes. She had no husband and had to make a living as best she could, even if that meant repeatedly selling her only asset.

As she approached the well, she could see a man sitting on the ground in the shade under a tree by the well. His back was against the tree, his knees drawn close to his chest, his arms around them. His head rested on his knees. She had hoped she would see no one.

He was a Jew. Oh, great, she thought, that’s just what I need—some snobby-ass Jew looking down his nose at me while I’m gettin water. Well, at least he won’t say nothin, ’cause them Jews think they’re too damn good for us half-breeds.

         She approached the well but didn’t dare look at him. She tied the rope to her jar and eased it down the well.

         “Afternoon, ma’am. Would you be so kind as to give me a drink?”

         The sudden sound of his voice startled her. Men didn’t speak to women in public places, and Jews certainly wouldn’t lower themselves to speak to Samaritans. But what was really startling was the way he said it. It wasn’t a command. There was nothing in the least condescending in the way he spoke, and it didn’t sound like a come on.

She looked at him for the first time. He was staring her right in the face. He looked directly at her, eye to eye. That wasn’t done. He was smiling, and there was something about his eyes.

         Don’t the Jews believe that if they drink water from the jar from someone they consider  a half-breed, like me, it will make them unclean? “Mister, how can you ask me for a drink?”

         He looked down between his knees at the dirt and sat still for a moment. Her question hung in the air. When he looked up, his smile was bigger, and the sparkle in his eyes seemed somehow even brighter.

         Slowly and softly he said, “If you only knew the gift God offers and who it is who’s asking you for a drink, you would have asked me for something instead, and I’d give you living water.”

         I shoulda known he was crazy. No Jew in his right mind would speak to a Samaritan woman. Now this wacko is talking about water that’s alive.

         “Mister,” Sarah said sarcastically, “you ain’t even got no bucket. Where, and how you gonna git this living water? Maybe you’re a great man,” she said sarcastically, “even greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well and drank from it himself.”

The man seemed to take no offense at her sarcastic tone. Instead, he got up and walked over to the well.  

When he got to the well opposite her, he looked down into its depths. “Ya know, everybody who drinks this water’s gonna get thirsty again.” He looked up at her and walked around the well toward her. “But whoever drinks the water I give ‘em will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give will become in him, or her,” he said with a slight nod of his head, “a spring of water renewing itself and welling up into eternal life.”

         Yeah, right, she thought. “Mister, gimme some of that water so I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming down here every day.” Her voice was thick with sarcasm.

         He turned back toward the center of the well and rested his elbows on the stones that formed its walls. Not looking at her, he said, almost offhandedly, “I tell you what… Go call your husband and come back so I can give him some as well.”

         She stiffened. “I have no husband.”

         He turned back and stared her in the face. His smile was gone. Those eyes, once brilliant, were now steely and cold, like deep pools of water. His demeanor, like his eyes, had changed rapidly. He was so serious that she was almost frightened. “Truer words were never spoken. Fact is, you’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re sleeping with now ain’t one of ’em.” His gaze remained upon her.

         Panic set in. How did he know? She’d never seen him before. She needed to change the subject. “Mister,” Sarah said, “I can see you’re a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that we must worship in Jerusalem.”

         His eyes still held hers. It was as if he was the first one to truly see her. “Believe me, ma’am, a time is coming when you’ll worship God neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. It don’t matter where you worship, it’s how you worship.  It’s not location, it’s attitude.  Y’all worship what y’all don’t know. We worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. But I’m tellin ya, a time is coming—in fact, it’s already here—when the true worshipers will worship both in Spirit and in truth, for those are the followers my Father seeks. God is Spirit, and his followers must worship Him through their spirit, and truthfully.”

         Somehow she could feel his love for her—not as so many had, for only what they could get from her. But this man loved her for her. No strings. “I know the Messiah is coming,” she said. “When he comes, he’ll explain everything to us.” She said it almost as an afterthought, but it seemed appropriate.

         As she watched, his smile returned, and his eyes brightened. He took her free hand in his. Softly he said, “Here I am.”

         Chills suddenly ran down her back. Tears filled her eyes. She knew, somehow, that it was true. This is the Messiah. This man is God’s chosen one. She could say nothing.

         Just then, the gang returned.

         Pete turned to his friend John. “Is he speaking to a Samaritan woman?”

         “Yep. You know Jesus. His ways are not our ways.”

         Just then, Sarah put her jar, full of water, on the ground, turned, and ran back toward town.

         “Where is she going?” asked Pete.

         With a knowing nod, Jesus said, “She’s running back to town to tell ’em about me.”

         “But she left her jar, and it is full of water,” said Pete.

         Jesus turned to Peter and said with a laugh, “I guess she ain’t thirsty anymore.”

This fictional account is taken from John 4: 4–42.

A Secret Visitor

         The night was dark and cold. His robe was plain, not ornate like those he usually wore, and the wind chilled the old man to the bone. But, he was sweating anyway.

         He’d been standing in front of the closed door for more than a full minute. He wanted to knock, but he was scared. What was he going to ask the man? He didn’t know. He only knew in his heart that this man had the answers to questions he didn’t even know to ask.

         He looked right and left, then knocked lightly. He waited. No answer. Was this the right house? His head was covered, yet he still feared someone might recognize him. With each passing moment, the risk increased. He had to get off the street. He knocked again, this time slightly harder. Still no answer. Finally, he banged on the door. After a moment he heard the board that barred the door being lifted, and the door slowly opened a crack.

         Nicodemus could stand it no longer. He pushed the door open and burst into the room. Immediately, he was grabbed by the throat and forced against the wall. The strong hand that held him lifted him off the floor. Only his toes touched.   

“Who are you?” yelled the burly man holding him by the throat.

         Nicodemus couldn’t answer. He had no air. He could only stare at the face of the furious bearded man lifting him off the floor with his left hand, his right fist cocked, ready to break the old man’s jaw. Behind this furious man, Nicodemus saw a circle of strong young men.

         “Who is he?” said someone.

         “I recognize him,” said another. “He’s one of the wealthiest men in Jerusalem. He’s also one of the priests we drove out of the temple last week.”

         “Peter, let him go.” The calm voice came from behind the circle of men.

         Nicodemus felt the hand holding him relax, and he was slowly released. He slumped against the wall, holding his throat, coughing. After a moment, Nicodemus was finally able to speak again.

         “I’m sorry. I know it’s late, and I apologize for the uninvited visit.”

         “What do you want?” said the brutish man who had held him by the throat.

         “I mean no harm.” The crowd surrounding him parted, and the man he was looking for, the man who had spoken to Caiaphas before throwing them out of the temple, stepped forward.

         “Pete,” said Jesus as he placed a reassuring hand on Pete’s shoulder. “We must always welcome those who seek our company. He’s just scared of being seen with us. You’re the one they call Nicodemus, right?”

         Nicodemus nodded.

         “Come and have a seat, Nick. John, could you get Nick and me some wine?”

         Jesus bent to help the old man up and escorted him to the table in the middle of the room. John brought both men a cup of wine. Then retreated to the corner of the room to stand with Pete and the others, out of the way.

         Nicodemus took a drink of the wine, both to soothe his throat and to give him time to think of a question. “Sir,” said Nicodemus, “I know you’ve come from God as a teacher. No one could do the things you do unless God was with him.”

         You idiot, thought Nicodemus. That wasn’t even a question. It was a statement. Instead of continuing, Nicodemus waited for his statement, which called for no answer, to be answered.

         Jesus looked down into his cup. He slowly swirled the liquid in a circle. Then, abruptly, his gaze shifted from the contents of the cup to his new guest.

         Nicodemus felt those eyes pierce him. It was as if Jesus was staring into his soul.

         As Jesus regarded Nicodemus, everyone in the room became uncomfortable. No one said a word. The silence screamed to be filled. Instead, Jesus took a sip of wine, never shifting his gaze. Finally, Jesus put down his cup. “I’m about to reveal to you a great truth. Here it is: unless someone is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

         That’s what I meant to ask, thought Nicodemus. That’s the ultimate question: how can I enter the Kingdom of God? How did he know the unasked question in my heart, the question I didn’t even know how to ask? But the answer is incomprehensible.

         “But how can anyone be born again when he is old, like me? Can he reenter his mother’s womb?”

         “I’ll say it again. Listen up, for it is a great truth. Unless someone is born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh; whatever is born of the Spirit is Spirit. Now don’t be freaked out when I tell you you gotta be born again,” Jesus answered with a smile. He looked around the room at the gathering of young men around him. “The wind blows where it wants to. You hear it, but you don’t know where it comes from, and you don’t know where it’s going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

         “I don’t understand,” said Nicodemus.

         “Neither do I,” said Peter, stating what everyone else in the room was thinking.

         Jesus continued speaking to Nicodemus. “You mean to tell me you’re a teacher of Israel, and yet you don’t know ’bout the Kingdom of God?” Jesus said with a laugh. His expression became serious again; he leaned across the table. “Listen to me, Nicodemus, because what I am telling you is extremely important. We speak about what we know, and we tell you about what we’ve seen, and yet you don’t accept our testimony. If I tell you about earthly things and y’all don’t believe me, how will you believe me if I tell you ’bout things of Heaven? No one has gone up to Heaven,” Jesus pointed skyward, “except the one who came down from Heaven, the Son of Man” Jesus’s finger now turned to point at himself. “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.”

         Nicodemus remembered the strange story in the Scriptures when the Israelites were plagued by snakes after doubting God. The bites of the snakes were fatal. Moses had again pleaded on their behalf. God, instead of removing the snakes, provided an unusual cure. He ordered Moses to make an image of the snake, reminiscent of the snake in the Garden of Eden, and hang it on a stick. Anyone who was bitten by the deadly snakes need merely look on the snake hung upon the stick to be instantly cured.

         Pete turned to John. “Do you understand what he’s talking about?”

         “I wish I could say I do, but I don’t.”

         Jesus then glanced over at John and Pete, as if he had heard what they had whispered to each other. Then he said, loudly enough for everyone to hear, “God loves the world so much that he has given his one and only son so that everyone who believes in him will never perish but have eternal life. For God didn’t send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save it. Anyone who believes in Him isn’t condemned, and anyone who doesn’t believe is already condemned. That man is condemned because he hasn’t believed in the name of the one and only Son of God.”

         Jesus then poured himself and Nick another cup of wine and beckoned for the others to join them. “I’ve given y’all enough to chew on for one night. Let’s have a drink, welcome our new friend, and enjoy each other’s company.”

This fictional account is taken from John 3: 1–21.

Whippin’ a Priest’s Ass

         “What is that?” asked John.

         “It’s a whip,” said Pete.

         “A whip?”


         “Pete, where’d he get a whip?”

         “He made it.”

         “Made it?”


         “How’d he make a whip?”

         “John, he’s a carpenter. He makes things.”

         “Why’d he make a whip?”

         Pete cocked his head to the side and regarded John as though he was an idiot. “Well, John, maybe he’s making a whip ’cause he’s fixin’ ta whip somebody’s ass.”


         “I don’t know, but he started making the whip as soon as he got back from the temple. So, if I had to guess, it’s probably somebody at the Temple.”

         “Did you ask him?”

         “Hell naw, I didn’t ask him. Nobody’s asked him. We’re too scared to ask him. He’s too pissed off.”

         About that time, Jesus raised the whip, flipped it in a circle over his head, and, with a violent thrust of his right hand, snapped the whip downward. As the tip of the ten-foot-long, woven leather whip broke the sound barrier, the resulting crack got everybody’s attention. 

“Come on, boys,” Jesus said. He coiled the whip and tied it to his sash on his right side. “Follow me. We’ve got some house cleaning to do.” With that, Jesus strode outside and began the steep climb up the winding narrow road toward the Temple Mount. Pete, Andy, Jimmy, John, Nate, and Phil, along with about twenty others they had picked up in recent days, followed behind.

         “Pete, I don’t know if we should be doing this,” said John.

         “We knew he was going to do radical things. This is probably just the beginning. Besides, I think it’s going to be fun to beat the hell out of some of these pompous, self-righteous, church-going bastards.”

         Along the way, the procession got everyone’s attention. 

Jesus’s strides were long and purposeful. The coiled whip hung from his belt, and he looked neither right nor left. The gang of sturdy men behind him spelled nothing but trouble. Soon, a large crowd was following.

         Pete watched as Jesus reached the base of the temple and mounted the steps to the courtyard gate, two at a time. At the top of the steps was a huge walled courtyard known as the Court of the Gentiles. Jesus and the gang entered the courtyard.

         The Court of the Gentiles was a rectangle spanning an area of more than thirty-five acres, surrounded on all four sides by walls of polished stone. In the middle, slightly toward the rear, stood the much smaller temple itself.

         The sights, sounds, and smells of the Court of the Gentiles were unlike anything Peter had ever experienced. Now, during the time of the Passover, over twenty thousand people crowded into this massive courtyard.

         The courtyard was essentially a barnyard set up around a temple. Those who did not bring their own animal to sacrifice could buy one there.

         “It smells like shit up here,” said Pete.

         John looked at Pete. “Do you always have to talk like that? I wish you wouldn’t cuss so much, Pete.”

         “What would you prefer: dung, or feces, or how about doo-doo?’” Pete spat on the ground. “No. What do you think it smells like to him?” Pete said, pointing toward Jesus. “I’ll tell you what it smells like to him. It smells like shit, that’s what. That’s why he’s so pissed off. His Father’s house smells like shit, and it’s filled with people making a buck off other people’s guilt.”

         Peter remembered Jesus’s rants that morning that had taught him the priests’ principles of economics. The priests, jealous of the merchants making money hand over fist, had found an ingenious way to guarantee their share of the take. The priests understood that whoever controlled the monetary system controlled both the buyers and the sellers.

         With respect to the buyers, the priests had simply instituted a rule that if a sacrifice was to be purchased, it had to be purchased with temple money that had been made and issued by the priests. Thus, anyone who came to the temple, hoping to have God forgive their sins, would first have to exchange their real money for temple money so that they could buy a sacrifice. This gave the priests control over the rate of exchange, allowing them to charge whatever rate they deemed the market could bear.

         With respect to the sellers, the priests instituted a rule that if a merchant wished to secure a spot in the Court to sell sacrificial animals, he had to pay rent, and rent was only payable in real money. In addition, for the seller to make real money, he had to exchange the temple money he received from the sale of the sacrificial animals for real money. The only way to do that was through the priests. This system returned the otherwise useless temple money back into the priests’ hands to be exchanged over and over again for real money. The priests were making a killing.

         Jesus walked over to one of the corrals holding oxen and sheep.

         A man quickly hurried over. “I have some of the finest oxen and sheep for sale here. If you wish your sins to be forgiven, then I’ll be happy to sell one to you. Of course, if you want to make sure all of your sins are forgiven, then you’d be wise to buy nothing but the best.”

         Jesus said nothing. He simply stared coldly at the man, while he gathered the loose folds of his robe between his legs, pulled them up and tucked them in his belt so that his bare legs were free to maneuver and his groin was protected. He then untied the whip from his belt. He turned to Peter and the other disciples and said, “Gird your loins, boys. We’ve got work to do.” He then grabbed the rails of the corral with his left hand and ripped them down. With his right hand, he swung the whip above his head before sending it down with a sharp crack to drive the sheep and oxen from the corral, into the crowd.

         Jesus went from corral to corral doing the same thing, causing havoc as he went. Every money-changing table that lay in his path, he overturned, spilling and scattering the temple money and the real money over the ground. Those who tried to stop him were met by the readied fists of Pete and the other disciples. A huge fight ensued.

         A few moments later, the temple guards hurried over to attempt to quell the uprising. At the head of the guards strode two priests, wearing elaborate and ornate robes. “What’s going on!” one of them shouted.

         Jesus, with fire in his eyes, turned to him and said, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace.”

         “You don’t know who I am, do you?” asked the priest.

         Jesus didn’t respond. He simply looked the priest in the eyes.

         “I’m the high priest. I am Caiaphas.”

         Still, Jesus said nothing.

         “What authority do you have to do this?” demanded Caiaphas.

         “I’ll tell you what authority I have. Destroy this sanctuary, and I’ll raise it up again in three days.”

         “It took forty-six years to build, and you’re gonna raise it up in only three days?”

         With that, Jesus swung his whip and cracked it above Caiaphas’s head. Both priests ducked and ran like scared little chickens as Jesus and his boys cleared the courtyard of every merchant, animal, priest, and guard.

         When the Court of the Gentiles was finally cleared and the fighting was over, Peter turned to John. “Was that fun, or what?”

         John untied the robe from around his waist and used it to wipe the blood from his face and hands. “Pete, you enjoy a good fight more than anyone else I know.”

         “You and your brother ain’t too bad yourself”, said Pete. “I see why Jesus calls y’all the Sons of Thunder.” He bent down and gathered a handful of dirt in his hands using it to clean the blood from between his fingers. He looked over at Jesus. “But I’ll tell you, one guy I wouldn’t want to mess with,” said Pete.

         “I know,” said John

         “Yeah,” said Peter. “I wouldn’t want to be on his bad side.”

         “Pete, let me ask you something. What do you think he meant when he said, ‘Destroy this temple, and I’ll raise it up again in three days?”

         “I don’t know, John. Sometimes he says stuff that just doesn’t make much sense.”

This fictional account is taken from John 2: 12–25.

The Celebration Begins

         “This is one hell of a party, John.”

         “Yeah, Pete, these folks are doin it right.” John looked around at the crowd of people in the courtyard. Practically everyone in town had been invited. And since Jesus’s mom, Mary, was one of the primary organizers of the wedding, Jesus’s new friends had found themselves on the guest list.

John watched Jesus working the crowd. He was clearly the life of the party. Eventually Jesus made his way over to them.

“I see you boys are having a good time,” Jesus said with a smile. In his right hand he held a glass of wine. He put his other arm around John’s shoulders. “You know, there’s just something special about a wedding. The birth of a new family is so filled with promise and possibilities. Y’all met the new couple yet?”

         “No, sir, we haven’t,” replied Pete.

         “Well, here comes my mama. I know she’d love to introduce you.”

         John watched as the striking woman made her way through the crowd to where they were standing. Before anyone could say anything, Mary said, “Jesus, could I see you for a minute?”

         “What is it, Mama?”

         “We’ve got a problem, and it’s rather embarrassing.”

         Jesus looked at Pete and John. “Mama, these are my friends. You can talk freely in front of them.”

         “We’re about to run out of wine!”

“That’s terrible!” said Jesus with a smile, as he lifted his glass for another swallow.

“Son, I’m serious. It’ll be embarrassing for the new couple, their parents, and for those of us who have helped them with this wedding. We’ve still got two more days before the celebration is over.”

“Woman, what do you want me to do?” Jesus looked down at his glass of wine, then back up at his mother. He was suddenly serious. “My time has not yet come.”

Mary ignored her son’s reply. She turned to a servant named Sam, standing nearby. “Sam, do whatever he tells you.” She turned back and stared at Jesus.

Jesus held up his glass of wine, and looked intently at it for a moment. As John watched, Jesus’s mood slowly changed. His eyes brightened, and the corners of his mouth slowly turned up. Jesus put his free hand on Sam’s shoulder. “Sam, where’s y’all’s washing jars?”

“Our what?” 

“Your washing jars—you know, the jars used for ceremonial cleansing before religious ceremonies.”

Sam shrugged. “Come on, I’ll show you.”

Jesus looked at Pete and John. “Come on, boys. Follow me.”

As the four men made their way through the crowd, John said, “Sir, please don’t take this the wrong way, but wasn’t it a little rude to refer to your mama as Woman?”

“No, it’s an inside joke with us. You see, when I was about twelve, she and my dad took me to Jerusalem for the Passover. When the festival was over, they left to go back home. They thought I was somewhere in the group returning to Nazareth too, but I wasn’t. I was still up in the temple talking to the priests there. When they realized I wasn’t in the group, they got mad. I don’t know if they were mad at me or at themselves for leavin’ me. Anyway, when Mama found me, she grabbed me by the arm, and said, ‘Son, where’ve you been?’ Well, I bowed up, turned to her, and without even thinking, said, ‘Woman, you should’a known I’d be in my Daddy’s house.’ When I called her Woman, she got tickled. From that time on, it’s been a term of affection between us.”

Sam led Jesus, John, and Pete to the rear of the courtyard. There, behind one of the walls, stood six large stone jars. Each jar was about five feet tall and held about thirty gallons of water. Some of the jars contained water; others were empty.

Jesus turned to Sam. “Empty all of those jars, and then refill them with fresh water.”

“What’d you say?”

“I said, I need for you to empty these earthen vessels of whatever is in them and then fill them with fresh water.”

“Water?” said Sam.

“Don’t worry,” Jesus said with a laugh. “Trust me. Just do it.”

“Okay,” said Sam, shaking his head.

John looked at Pete. Pete just shrugged.

About an hour later, the three friends were talking to the newlyweds when Sam walked up to Jesus. “Sir, we’ve done as you asked.”

“Great. Where are the jars?”

“Come, and I’ll show you.”

The four men walked across the courtyard to the well. By it stood the six giant jars.

Jesus walked over to them and casually touched each with his left hand as he passed by. After touching all six, he turned back to Sam. “Now, Sam, if you would, please draw from one of those jars and take it to the Master of Ceremonies for his approval.”

Sam hesitated for a moment before he selected a glass and dipped it into one of the jars. When he lifted it, it was clear to all that it was no longer water; the liquid was now blood red.

John felt chills run down his spine. Was this an illusion? Was it magic?

“Go ahead,” said Jesus. “Take it to the Master to see if he thinks it tastes good enough to serve to the other guests.”

As Sam hurried away on his appointed task, Jesus grabbed a couple of glasses and handed one to Pete and the other to John. “Drink up, boys. Don’t be scared.”

John accepted the glass from Jesus and walked to another jar. He dipped into the jar and upon drawing the glass out realized that it too held a deep-red liquid.

“Go ahead. Take a swallow, and see what you think about my new vintage.”

John lifted the glass to his lips and took a sip. The wine was beyond delicious. Full-bodied and potent, it overwhelmed his senses. Even after the wine had gone down, the complex aftertaste lingered long in his mouth, throat, and nasal passages.

“Well, what’s the verdict?” asked Jesus.

“It’s fantastic. I didn’t know anything could taste this good.”

         “Well, I guess if times get tough, we can always go into the wine business,” Jesus said, with a smile.

A few moments later Sam came running back with the Master of Ceremonies and the groom in tow.

“Where’d this wine come from? It’s the best I’ve ever had,” said the Ceremonies Master.

Jesus turned to Pete. “Pete, you explain it to him. John and I are going back to the party.”

The look on Pete’s face was priceless.

As John and Jesus made their way back to the party, John turned to Jesus. “Teacher, I believe you are the Promised One who is to become King, but I didn’t realize you had special powers.”

“John, my boy, you ain’t seen nothing yet. But I want you to be perceptive. There is special meaning in everything I do.”

John thought about what he had just witnessed. A thousand questions swirled in his head. “Sir, those jars were meant for ceremonial washing. Why did you use them to hold the wine?”

         Jesus put his hand on John’s shoulder and looked him in the eye. “Wonderful question, my young friend. It’s too soon to try and explain it to you now, but one day I think you’ll understand. In the meantime, let’s have another drink.”

This fictional account is taken from John 2: 1–12.

Called to Follow

         These figs are good, thought Nate. A tree like this, not yet picked over, loaded with fat juicy figs, was hard to find. Nathan loved figs. This tree had grown right next to a large white rock. The almost-flat top of the rock was slightly cupped in the middle. It fit the contour of his butt almost perfectly. Sitting there, he could lean against the trunk of the fig tree, which leaned slightly in the opposite direction, and prop his feet up on a smaller rock that lay next to the large one. As Nathan reclined against the fig tree in the cool shade, he feasted on figs and sipped wine from his wineskin. It was a good day.

He was almost asleep when he saw a man running toward him. It was his best friend, Phil.

         “Nate,” said Phil, almost out of breath, “I found him.”

         “Found who?” asked Nate, as he took another sip of wine and bit into another juicy fig.

         “The next king,” said Phil.

         “Yeah, right,” said Nate. “Somebody who is strong enough to kick these damn Romans out?”

         “Yep.” Said Phil.

         “Yeah, right.”

         “No, I’m serious,” said Phillip. “I’m tellin’ ya, man, it’s him. He’s the one that Moses and the other dudes wrote about. This man’s name is Jesus. He’s from Nazareth.”

         “You’re full of shit, Phil. Nothing good’s ever come out of Nazareth.”

         “Fine. Come and meet him. Make up your own mind. What you got to lose?”

         “I’m gonna finish off these figs first. Then I’m gonna take a nap. Then I’ll go meet your new friend.”

         Nate had only been asleep for about 30 minutes when Phil woke him up. “We can’t sit around any longer. We gotta go.”

         “Okay, “said Nate, resigned to the insistence of his friend. “let’s go see this son of a bitch from Nazareth.”

         Several hours, and miles, later, Nate found himself running to keep up with Phil.  “Slow down, dammit!” yelled Nate.

         “Can’t slow down,” said Phil. “Scared we might not find him again. I know where I left him, and I don’t want to lose him.”

         As the two topped the last hill near the sea, Nate saw a group of  men gathered on the beach.

         “That’s got to be them,” said Phil.

         “Thank God,” said Nate, as he stopped and put his hands on his knees to catch his breath. “Can we now walk like dignified humans?”

         As the two men approached the group, Nate instantly recognized two of them: Simon and his little brother, Andy. They were fishermen; in fact, they were from Nate’s hometown, Bethsaida. They and two other guys Nate didn’t know were listening intently to a man whose face they couldn’t see. As Nate and Phil approached the group, the man turned around and looked Nate right in the eye.

         “Here stands a true believer, a man who doesn’t even know how to lie,” said Jesus.

         “How do you think you know me?” said Natel.

         “Let me tell you how well I know you. I saw you right before Phil found you. You were sitting beneath a fig tree, on that white rock, leaning against the trunk, sipping a little wine and eating one of those figs you love so much, when your friend, Phil ran up to tell you about me.”

         Chills immediately ran up Nate’s spine. “Teacher, you’re him, aren’t you. You’re gonna be the next king.”

         “Ha!” said Jesus. “You believe me simply because I told you I saw you sitting under a tree, eating figs,” Jesus replied with a smile. “I can assure you, you’re gonna see much greater things than that.” Jesus’s mood changed. He suddenly became very serious. “I tell you the truth. You’ll see the heavens open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

         Later, while they were getting something to eat, Nate had a chance to talk to the other guys. “Andy, I haven’t seen you and Simon in a coon’s age. How long y’all been hanging around with this guy?”

         “I actually met him only two days ago,” said Andy. “Me and my friend John here were following another guy. We call him the ‘Baptist.’ He kept telling us that the time was right for the next King of Israel to make himself known. So, two days ago, while we’re talking to the Baptist, this guy Jesus walks up. The Baptist looks at him and says, “Look, the Lamb of God.”

         “What did he mean by that?” asked Nate.

         “I don’t know, but it was clear that this was the guy he’d been talking about. So we followed him.”

         “What did the Baptist say when y’all left him and started following this guy?”

         “The Baptist actually insisted on it. We really didn’t want to leave him. But the Baptist told us that his entire purpose was to point this guy out to other people. I could tell that it made the Baptist happy for us to leave him and follow Jesus.  It was like his whole life had been lived just to point out that this was the man. So me and John, after getting permission and even a blessing from the Baptist, ran after Jesus.”

         “Yeah,” said John. “When Jesus saw us following him, He turned around and said, ‘Boys, what do y’all want?’ It was the way he said it. It was not, like, ‘Why are y’all following me?’, or that we were bothering him, or that he was even pissed off. It was more like, ‘What is your purpose?’”

         “I think it was even deeper than that,” said Andy. “It was like, ‘What do you want out of life?’ We spent the rest of that day with him. After spending only one afternoon with him, I knew he was the one,” said Andy. That’s when I found my brother Simon and told him he had to come and meet him.”

         “Yeah, little brother,” said Simon. “The excitement in your voice when you told me that you had found him made it obvious that something was happening. I really didn’t want to go at first, but Andy insisted. And when I got there, just like you, Nate, somehow he already knew who I was. He knew my name. He even knew my daddy’s name. Then he did something very strange. He changed my name, from Simon to Peter.”

         “Why’d he do that?” asked Nate.

         “Beats me. He said it meant ‘the Rock.’”

         “Well, you are built like a rock,” John said.

         “If you ask me, I think Jesus was referring to the thickness of his skull,” said Andy.

         “Careful, little brother,” said Pete with a grin.

         Nate turned back to Phil. “What about you? How’d you meet him?”

         “Well, he just walked up to me and flat out said, ‘Follow me.’”

         “And you did?”

         Philip shrugged and answered with a mischievous smile, “Hell, I guess I didn’t have nothin’ better to do.”

         Jim, John’s big brother, looked over at Jesus, who was walking by himself toward a grove of olive trees. “Y’all really think this is the guy? You think he is the one who’s gonna be our next king and get rid of these damn Roman bastards?”

         “I don’t know,” said Pete, “but I think it’s safe to say he’s going to stir up some shit. There’s only about fifteen of us right now, counting him. If we’re gonna have any chance of getting a revolution started, we’ll need a lot more people than that.”

         “That’s for sure,” said Nate. “And what was all of that mumbo jumbo about the heavens opening and angels going up and down?”

         John looked back at Jesus, still walking by himself in the grove. With a shrug of his shoulders, he remarked, “I think he was just being dramatic.”

This fictional account is taken from John 1: 35–51.


The previous ten days had felt like thirty. I, along with the rest of the mission team, was completely drained. As the Psalmist said, “… my strength was poured out like a potsherd.” I didn’t know what a potsherd was, but I sure as hell knew how one felt.

English is the international language of business.  For this reason, many whose native language is not English yearn for the opportunity to converse in the language with native speakers.  It’s potentially their ticket out. 

Like God’s free gift of salvation, we were there to bring the free gift of English to these people, and in so doing, also hoped to tell them about God’s love for them.  We had been specifically warned that there would probably be government agents who would infiltrate our English classes.  I would learn, firsthand, that this was true.

In the Comunist country we had just left, Satan had done his best to defeat God’s plan; but Satan is no match for the grace of Christ.   The contest is laughable.  We had seen many come to a saving belief in Him in spite of the blatant persecution faced by all in that country who chose to place their faith in Christ. On the plane ride to Vienna I watched as God rewarded us with a spectacular sunrise.  The symbolic passing from darkness to light was not lost on me.

Several hours later, I boarded the plane from Vienna to Chicago.  By this time, I had been up for twenty-eight hours straight.  The plane was wide enough that the seats were eight abreast.  Mine, one of the cheap seats, was near the very back of the plane.  There was very little legroom.

It was a blessing I had little legs.

As the plane filled up I prayed the same prayer that all international travelers pray, that no one sit in the seat next to me, enabling me to stretch out and sleep all the way home.  When the plane began to move and no one had taken that seat, I prayed silently, “Thank you.”  

I was completely exhausted, physically, emotionally, and spiritually…or so I thought.  I had my plan for the flight back all mapped out.  I would take one of my magical little sleeping pills and wake up in Chicago. 

After taking my precious pill and getting comfortable, the plane’s steward came by serving the noonday meal.  He asked if I wished to dine, and I declined, knowing that I would probably not be able to hold on to my fork once the combination of fatigue and medication took their effect.  But then the Steward asked an unexpected question, “Wouldn’t you at least like some bread?”

I smiled.

“Yes, and I would also like a glass of red wine to go with it please.”

I chose three large hard-crusted rolls from the basket he held out to me, as he filled my glass to the brim.

As I raised the bread to my mouth, I said quietly, “Take. Eat. For this is my body which is given freely for you.”  As I reached for the full glass of wine I recited, “Drink.  For this is the blood of the New Covenant.  Whenever you eat of the bread, or drink of the wine, do so in remembrance of me.”

This communion was unlike any I had ever experienced.  The bread was not the tasteless, meager, paper-like portion that we received in church. Instead, it was heavy and rich.  I ate heartily of it, symbolically filling myself with Christ.  Likewise, the wine was not the thimble-sized cup of non-alcoholic grape juice. Instead, my cup overflowed and the wine was potent and strong, full of flavor and power. 

As I ate the bread and drank my fill of the wine the tears of joy flowed freely down my face; as they do now as I write this. 

You see, I had been mistaken in my assumption that the seat next to me was vacant.  For more than an hour, God and I laughed and wept together.  I expressed my feelings and emotions with Him, and listened to His calming words of peace and joy.  Most of all I experienced His unbridled and unconditioned love.  Finally, when the wine and bread were gone, and I was filled to overflowing with God’s presence, He blessed me with His precious gift of rest.

Persiciatis Unde

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Sed Ut Persiciatis Unde

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