Not Chosen

It was still morning, but Matthias needed a drink. He was heartbroken. What’d he done wrong? He knew Jesus liked him. Hell, he knew Jesus loved him. So why hadn’t he been chosen? He’d been one of the first to follow Jesus. He’d given up everything just to follow this man. He’d done everything Jesus had asked of him, yet he’d somehow been left out of the select twelve Jesus had just chosen.

Matthias walked over to one of the many fires burning at the base of the mountain. The crowd was buzzing with speculation and criticism over the announcements Jesus had just made. Matthias kicked a log closer to the fire, sat down on it, pulled out his wineskin and took a long swig.

Abruptly, a big burly man sat down beside him. It was one of his best friends, Andy. Andy draped his beefy arm around Matthias’ narrow shoulders, “Little early for a drink, don’t you think, bubba? Why the long face?”

“Matthias looked up at the big fisherman. Andy rarely spoke; unlike his big brother Pete, who was always the first to speak, regardless of the subject.

“You know why?” said Matthias. “He doesn’t want me.”

“Bullshit. Of course he wants you. You’re one of the gang” said Andy.

“Yeah, me and the other 300 or so of his closest friends,” said Matthias as he waved his arm at the multitude who had been following Jesus the past couple of months. “You know what I mean, ” said Matthias. Why didn’t he choose me as one of the twelve? I’ve been with him almost as long as you, and Pete. A couple of those guys, like Matt and this new guy Judas, have only recently joined. I mean, I was with all y’all when we stormed the Temple in Jerusalem. I’m a little guy, Andy, not some brute like you and Pete. While all y’all were having fun kicking the shit out of everybody, I was getting my ass whipped. You remember! And why? Just so some crooked-assed late-comers like these guys Matt and Judas could be named to the counsel, and I get left out? It ain’t right Andy. It just ain’t right.”

Andy took his arm from around Matthias, and held out his hand. “Hand me that skin bubba, I love you too much to let you drink alone.”

Matthias handed over the wineskin and watched as Andy took a long pull.

After a minute or two, Andy said, “To be honest with you, it don’t make much sense to me either. I mean, he’s up all night praying and thinking about who he’s gonna name as generals, and this is the best he could do? Even though I’m one of ‘em, I can’t see how he came up with this silly-ass cast of characters. If you ask me, you should be glad you ain’t in the group.”

“What do you mean?” asked Matthias.

“I mean let’s look at who he chose. First, he chose me, and my brother Pete. We ain’t nothin’ but two dumb-ass fishermen. Sure we might be good in a fight, but what else are we good for? Same with James and his little brother John, ‘cept worse. Both of them are nothing but meatheads; and arrogant meatheads at that. Sure, they are fearful in a fight, but in reality, they don’t give a damn ‘bout nobody but themselves. I do give him kudos for picking Nate, who really is a loyal guy; but then he picked Matt, a cheating, lying, whoremongering thief. He might as well be a Roman. Matt could give a rat’s ass about Israel. Then, on the opposite extreme, he picks this wildman, Simon, who hates Roman sympathizers, like Matt. In fact, so badly he hates them, that he’s personally assassinated several. If you ask me, Jesus couldn’t have picked a worse group.”

Matthias took the skin back from Andy and took another long drink, and then sat in silence for a while. Then he said quietly, “That still don’t change the fact that he didn’t

Andy put his big paw on Matthias’ knee, “I know Matthias. I wish he had.”

“Yeah, but he didn’t Andy,” said Matthias. Matthias stood up and kicked a couple of sticks into the fire. “I’m thinking ‘bout going home.”

“And do what?” said Andy.

“Lots of things. I could get a job doing just about anything.”

“Yeah”, said Andy, “and I am sure there’s a great demand for big he-men intelligent bastards like you.”

Try as he might, Matthias couldn’t suppress the broad smile that spread across the small man’s face. “I guess you got a point, you big burly son-of-a-bitch,” said Matthias as he sat back down.

“Look Matthias,” said Andy. “I don’t know why Jesus didn’t choose you, but he always does things for a reason. We don’t know why, but one thing I’ve learned, his ways are not our ways, ya know?”

“I know,” said Matthias, affirmingly.

“One thing I can tell you,” said Andy, “ he loves you and trusts you very much and I think he has something special planned for you, we just don’t know what that is yet.”

Matthias sighed and took another sip. “Well, maybe I could stay a little longer, if for nothing else, just to see what happens. It’s never dull around him.”

“Man, you got that right,” said Andy.

“Did y’all discuss anything else of consequence in your meeting this morning?” asked Matthias.

“Not really, but he did do one thing that I thought was pretty strange,” said Andy.

“What was that?” asked Matthias.

“He made Judas the treasurer. Nobody even knows this guy, but I guess Jesus has a lot of confidence in him,” responded Andy.

“Well, at least he didn’t make that crooked son-of-a-bitch, Matt, the treasurer,” said Matthias.

“I heard that,” said Andy, “pass me back that skin.”

This fictional account is taken from Mark 3: 13-19. It also draws on verses from Acts 1: 12-26 regarding Judas’ eventual successor, Matthias.

Workin’ On Saturday

“Joel, I don’t know ’bout you, but I don’t like this,” said Amos. He and Joel were part of the crowd following Jesus. They were on their way to the synagogue in the next town. To get there, they had to walk the dirt roads that wound through the grain fields.

“I know, man, but we got to neutralize this guy. He’s dangerous,” said Joel.

“How is he dangerous? I mean, what has he done to hurt anyone? I just see him helping people. I hate being a spy,” Amos said.

“Amos, have you forgotten the ass-whipping those son of a bitches gave us at the temple? When those bastards threw us out and tore up all our shit, they sealed their own fate when they did that,” said Joel.

“I know,” said Amos, “but since that time, what harm has he done?”

“Don’t you understand, Amos? If he has his way, we’re out of a job. He’s saying the rules don’t matter. And that’s going to be his downfall. We’ve got to catch him breaking the rules, and then we can discredit him and his message.”

“Yeah, but this guy knows the rules better than anyone else,” said Amos. “I’m telling you, man, this son of a bitch quotes scripture like he wrote it.”

“Look, we’ve got our marching orders,” said Joel. “Any infraction, no matter how small, we’ve got to call them on it.”

“Joel, if we live by the strict letter of the law, we’re all guilty. I mean, look at those two guys over there, Peter and Andy. They’re brothers, but they’re also disciples of Jesus. They’re picking sunflower seeds along the side of the road and eating them as they walk. Nothing wrong with that, except today is Saturday. Technically, they are breaking the law by harvesting. They’re working on the Sabbath.”

Joel stopped in his tracks. “Amos, you’re a genius.” Joel broke into a run and caught up with Jesus. “Teacher, why do your own disciples break the law by harvesting on the Sabbath?” said Joel, pointing toward Pete and Andy.

Peter, crunching sunflower seeds, walked over and stepped between Jesus and Joel. Towering above Joel, Peter slowly turned his head and spat one of the empty sunflower hulls onto the ground. “You kiddin’ me, boy?” said Peter. He put yet another sunflower seed into his mouth and crunched it in Joel’s face.

Jesus put his hand on Peter’s shoulder and, smiling, gently pulled him back. A crowd quickly gathered, expecting to see a fight.

Amos watched as Jesus turned to Joel. “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his friends were really hungry?” asked Jesus. “They entered the house of God, and they all ate the consecrated bread, which was against the law. That bread was only for the priests.”

Amos shook his head. He watched Joel just stand there, not knowing what to say. I warned Joel that this guy knew a lot about the scriptures, thought Amos.

“Oh yeah,” said Jesus, “and what about the fact that the scriptures teach that even though the priests, working their tails off sacrificing and preaching on Saturdays and thereby desecrating the Sabbath, are nonetheless innocent?”

He gotcha on that one too, Amos thought, now feeling kind’a sorry for Joel. Amos watched as Jesus’s demeanor suddenly changed. His smile disappeared. Amos could swear he felt the temperature drop.

“I tell you that one greater than the temple is here,” said Jesus. “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ then you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Joel, displaying uncharacteristic wisdom, turned and walked back into the crowd. He stopped and stood by Amos.

“Did he just refer to himself as the ‘Son of Man’?” said Joel.

“I think he did, but I’m not sure,” said Amos.

“So is he saying that he is the Lord of the Sabbath?” asked Joel.

“I think that’s what he said, or meant to say, but I’m not sure,” answered Amos.

“If he is, then that son of a bitch is blaspheming. And what did he mean with all that gobbledygook about mercy versus sacrifice?” said Joel.

“I think I’ve heard that saying before, but I really don’t have a clue,” said Amos.

“Well, let’s follow them to the synagogue. Maybe they will do or say something there we can use,” said Joel.

“Haven’t you had enough of getting yo’ ass kicked for one day?” asked Amos.

Joel grabbed the head off a nearby sunflower plant, rubbed it between his hands, then popped a couple of seeds into his mouth. “Come on. We’re gonna see what he does in church.”

The two rejoined the crowd and made their way to the synagogue in town. Inside, they took seats near the front. As Amos sat down, he noticed that the man sitting next to Joel had a severely crippled right hand. In fact, he thought it looked like a little bitty shriveled baby hand.

The rabbi of the synagogue waited for everything to settle down, and then he called the church to order. “We have with us today a man many of you have probably heard of. He’s a teacher from Nazareth. His name is Jesus. It has been reported that he has extraordinary powers to heal others, ha, as if by magic.” The rabbi snickered, as did many throughout the church. “As is our custom, he will read from the scriptures today.”

Jesus stood and walked to the front.

Amos noticed that Joel, instead of looking at Jesus, was staring at the man next to him with the little bitty baby hand. Joel turned abruptly back toward Amos and whispered with a smile, “I’ve got an idea. Watch this.”

Amos cringed, and whispered to himself, “please don’t.”

Jesus was opening the scriptures, but before Jesus could begin reading, Joel stood. “Teacher,” said Joel, speaking with a flourish, “this man sitting next to me has a shriveled hand. Tell us, if you can, is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

The church grew deathly quiet. Amos realized Joel’s question was nothing short of brilliant. This was a challenge to ‘put up or shut up.’ Certainly, Jesus couldn’t heal a person with such a deformity. Anyway, the law made it permissible to help someone medically on the Sabbath only in an emergency, but forbade the general practice of medicine, just like all other work. This was not an emergency. If Jesus tried to heal the man and was unsuccessful, as he surely would be, then it would show he was both a phony and a lawbreaker. If by some ungodly miracle, the man was healed, then Jesus would nonetheless be guilty of breaking the law and would have done so in full view of the whole congregation. Brilliant. Simply brilliant.

Joel sat down, clearly pleased with his own performance. The front of the church was filled with priests and Pharisees. Amos could see that many of them, like Joel, were grinnin’ like possums.

Wham! The sudden slamming of the book by Jesus made everybody jump.

Jesus’s anger was apparent in his voice. “If any of you boys had a sheep and it fell in a ditch on the Sabbath, you gonna grab it and pull it out, or you just gonna wait till the next day?” Jesus paused for a few seconds. “How much more valuable is a man than a sheep?” he asked.

Jesus walked toward Joel and Amos. Amos’s heart began to race, but, thankfully, Jesus passed them by. Jesus helped the man with the little bitty baby hand to his feet and led him to the front of the church. “Please, sir, said Jesus to the man, turn and face the crowd.” Turning and addressing the congregation, Jesus said, “So I ask y’all, what’s lawful to do on the Sabbath, good or evil? To save life or to kill?”

The grins disappeared.

Jesus paused for what seemed like an eternity but must have been only a few seconds. He then turned back to the man with the deformed hand and said compassionately, “Stretch out your hand.”

The man stretched out his right hand, and, as if by magic, the little bitty baby hand grew to the same size as his normal, healthy left hand.

A gasp rose from the crowd. Many of those in the church broke and ran out, and kept on running, including Amos and Joel.

Once they felt like they had gotten far enough away from the church, they stopped.  They stood still, hiding behind a tree while they caught their breath.  After a few moments, Amos asked Joel, “Did that shit just happen?”

Joel was clearly shaken. “We’ve got to go back and tell Caiaphas about this. We can’t just discredit this guy; we’ve got to kill him. He’s evil.” Joel thought for a moment. “And I think I know another group that will jump at the opportunity to help us.”

This fictional account is taken from Mathew 12:1–14; Mark 2:23–28; 3:1–6; and Luke 6:1–11.

Do you Really Want to be Healed?

Josh had been sitting in the same spot now for over thirty-five years. It was a good spot. The guy who had this spot before him had died, and Josh had moved into his spot. There was no better place to beg than Bethesda, and he had dibs on the best location in the joint.

The waters in this pool were believed by many to have special healing powers. As a result, many people with all manner of infirmities, from quadruple amputees to arthritics, came to the magical healing pool at Bethesda. As legend had it, sometimes the “spirits” would stir the waters, and when they did, that healing power would empty itself into the first lucky person who entered the water first, before anyone else did. And poof, that person would instantly be healed.

Josh had been here long enough to know the truth. There was no magic in the waters. It was all showbiz. This was how the priests held on to their phony-baloney jobs. When the time was exactly right, they would bring in a plant, someone who would feign some tragic injury, to edge toward the water. From below the surface, bubbles would mysteriously rise to stir the waters. The plant, in perfect position to be first into the water, would quickly slip in and be instantly “healed.”

Josh had been a cripple now for over thirty-eight years. He had long ago given up any hope of getting better. Instead, he had learned how to turn his disability into an asset. He was now a practiced professional. He could beg with the best. He’d gotten so good that he could judge pretty close how much he could get from a man or woman from the way they carried themselves.

As he saw the young, obviously wealthy man approaching, he knew he’d get nowhere with this one. But he had to ask anyway—it was his job.

“Please, kind sir, do you have any change you could spare for an old crippled man?”

“Get a job,” the wealthy young man said dismissively as he continued on his way toward the baths.

“Asshole,” said Josh under his breath. As Josh turned to look back toward the entrance, known as the Sheep’s Gate, he saw a man enter he could not judge. He was middle-aged, probably early thirties, well-built, although not particularly attractive. But he had an unmistakable air of authority about him. As if to reinforce that impression, an entourage of young, mostly well-built men followed him.

Josh was not only intimidated by this strange man, he was actually fearful of him. I’m gonna let this one pass, thought Josh. Much to his chagrin, the man headed straight toward him. Crap, Josh thought. Maybe he’ll keep going? Maybe he’ll keep going? Please, please keep going.

No such luck.

The strange man stopped right in front of Josh. Josh looked up at the man, who was staring down at him.

“Do you want to be healed?”

What kind of question was that? Of course, he wanted to be healed. But did he? In a way, this was the only life he had known. What would he do if he could no longer make a living begging? It didn’t matter anyway. This strange man couldn’t help him. Instead of answering the man’s question directly, Josh made an excuse. “Mister, I ain’t got nobody to help me git into the pool when the water is stirred. Every time the water stirs and I try and git in, somebody else goes down ahead of me.”

“Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”

Josh was stunned. It was not a suggestion. It was not a request. It was a command. He desperately wanted to try, but it would be no use. Suddenly, Josh felt incredible warmth flooding his legs, legs he hadn’t felt in over thirty-eight years. He tried to move his big toe on his right foot, and as he watched, it moved.

He then tried to flex his left foot. To his amazement, his foot lifted and then lowered. Could it be? Josh looked up at the man’s face. He observed the beginnings of a faint smile on the man’s face. Josh watched as his legs began to move. They had been dead for over thirty-eight years, yet now they were responding to the commands his brain was sending them.

“Go ahead—you can do it,” the strange man said.

Josh rolled over onto his belly. He then lifted his torso by straightening his arms. He was able to pivot back, moving one hand back at a time, onto his knees. One of the young men who accompanied this strange man bent down to try and help Josh. “Don’t help him,” said the strange man, “he can do it by himself.”

To Josh’s amazement, he felt strength flowing back into his long-dead legs. Slowly, Josh straightened his back. He was now upright on his knees. He bent down and put his right hand on the ground, then, pivoting to his right, he raised his left leg and placed his left foot on the ground. Placing his left hand on his left knee, he then slowly stood.

Because Josh had been at Bethesda almost every day for over thirty years, all the regulars knew him and understood the severity of his condition. Thus, when he stood, all those around him gasped in amazement.

“Like I said, pick up your mat and walk.”

With tears of joy streaming down his face, Josh bent down, picked up his mat, and walked out of the bathhouse, toward his home. As he was walking home, two Pharisees stopped him.

“What are you doing carrying that mat? You know today is Saturday. It is the Sabbath,” said one of them. “No work is to be done on the Sabbath.”

What the hell? thought Josh. I’ve just experienced a life-changing event and these bozos are worried about some stupid rules. “Mister, you probably don’t recognize me, but I’ve been lying on this mat, crippled and begging for money, almost all of my life. In fact, both of you have, on occasion, helped me out. I was just minding my own business when this guy I’ve never seen before came up and healed me. I mean, he just flat-out healed me. It was a miracle. The man who made me well told me to pick up this mat and walk, and, by God, that’s just what I did.”

“Well, he’s not supposed to be healing anyone on the Sabbath either. What’s this guy’s name?”

Really? thought Josh. “Look, man, I don’t even know the dude’s name. He didn’t say.”

“Well, if you find out his name, let us know. People cannot be breaking these holy rules, and someone like him who is breaking our rules needs to be disciplined.”

“Yes, sir. If I find out his name, I’ll let you know.”

This fictional account is taken from John 5:1–18.

Eatin With Sinners

Matt was a wealthy man. But personal wealth always comes at great price. The price he had paid was great—too great.

He had a killer job. The Roman taxes had to be collected. As a tax collector, he was just doing his job, and he deserved to be paid to do it. The law allowed him to collect the taxes from each person and to keep whatever amounts he could collect above that for himself. So what if Matt sometimes collected more than he should? Matt was good at his job and deserved to be paid for it.

Matt had been chosen for this job because he could write and was meticulous in his record keeping. Now he was resented for those skills.

From the beginning everyone in town, even his family, hated him. It was like they wanted him to just look the other way. It wasn’t fair. Some accused Matt of using his position as a license to steal. Well, if he didn’t do it, someone else would, right? At the same time, Matt knew down deep that he was nothing more than a common thief. 

People now considered him not only a thief but a traitor. None of the “good” people would even associate with him anymore. Now his only friends were the other rejects of the community, the drunks, whores, and others like himself who were considered unworthy of polite society. He and his friends had even been banned from church.

Screw those son of a bitches, he thought. I don’t need ‘em anyway.

But he did.

Despite his bravado, Matt missed his family and old friends. Even though he was now rich and had the best job in town, his life was shit. It was empty. Being treated like a traitor in his own hometown had taken its toll. He’d even been beaten recently when he was caught outside after dark. He had no purpose, no joy.

He was sitting where he did every day, except Saturday. His table was set up along the side of the road in the middle of town. From this spot, everyone in town, eventually, had to pass by him, and if they owed him money, he could harass them daily. As he saw the gang approaching, he got nervous. This was going to be bad, he thought. The gang was large. They looked rough. If he was lucky, only contemptuous looks and a few insults would be cast his way. If he wasn’t lucky, then he was probably in for yet another ass-kickin. 

It was obvious who the leader was. Besides the fact that everyone else was following him, he possessed a certain air. He was well built, powerful, confident, and unnervingly relaxed.

Maybe they’ll just walk on by, Matt thought.

They didn’t.

The leader walked right up to Matt and stared at him for a moment without saying anything. The deep brown eyes beneath his furrowed brow seemed to peer right through Matt. Neither man spoke. Slowly Matt watched the corners of the man’s mouth turn up in a slight grin. The man reached out and touched Matt on the shoulder.

“Follow me.”

Matt’s mind started reeling. Only two words had passed from the man’s lips. Yet, somehow, they carried more meaning than anything Matt had ever heard before in his life. Perhaps it was the way the man had strangely emphasized the word “me” instead of the word “follow.” Matt somehow knew that this man was calling Matt to do more than just follow him to eat or go to a meeting. This man was calling Matt to leave everything he had, his money, his family, his friends, and even his job, the best job in town—the job he had worked so hard to get. This man was calling Matt to leave everything he held precious in this life, to give it all up and just follow him.

Instead of the hatred and contempt Mathew had expected, he felt nothing but love, respect, and acceptance from this man. This man cared for him, in spite of the fact that Matt had cheated others, in spite of the fact that others considered him a thief and a traitor. 

Matt knew that if he left this table, he could never come back. He would be abandoning the best job he could ever hope to have. Even if he tried to come back, the Romans would never forgive him for abandoning his post.

Without further thought, Matt got up, left everything as it was on the table, and simply walked away.

Shit, thought Matt. Am I really doing this? He realized that he had just guaranteed himself permanent unemployment.

As they walked together down the road, Jesus put his arm around Matt’s shoulders. “Gentlemen,” said Jesus, “this calls for a celebration. I feel a party coming on. All we need is a joint to throw it in.”

Matt had never been accepted like this, especially when he had done nothing to deserve it. “We can use my house,” said Matt.

“Great. Why don’t you invite all your friends over, and we’ll have a throw-down,” said Jesus.

Matt’s head dropped slightly. “Sir, I don’t know if you’d like my friends.”

“Why not?” asked Jesus.

“They’re not exactly the country club crowd,” Matt said.

“Matt, look at us,” said Jesus. “Do we look like we belong to any country club?”

“I mean, some of them are really, really shady characters,” said Matt.

“Sounds like my kind of people,” said Jesus.

Later that night at the party, Matt looked around at his friends. It was the damnedest assortment of characters one could imagine: whores, homosexuals, drunks, and crooks—a collection of everyone rejected by polite society. 

Almost everyone, that is. Standing out like undertakers at a wedding were two officials from the local church. Matt suspected they were not there to enjoy the party; they were there to dig up dirt on Jesus.

As Matt was talking to Jesus, the two dudes walked up to Pete and Tommy, who were standing nearby. Speaking in a voice clearly meant to be heard by everyone around, one of them said, “Why do y’all hang around with such people?”

Things got quiet.

Before Pete could respond, Jesus turned around to face the two men.

“It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, do they?” said Jesus. “It’s the sick. But I tell you what you need to do. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ Because I didn’t come for you righteous boys. I came for the sinners of this world.”

Later, as Matt and Tommy were cleaning up after the party, Tommy asked Matt, “Jesus only said two words to you—‘follow me’—and you left everything. Why?”

Matt thought about it for a minute. “A couple of things,” he said. “First, I immediately felt his love for me, even though he knew I was a thief. Secondly, I realized that everything I had, and that I had worked so hard for, meant nothing. Following him meant everything. Tommy, let me ask you a question. What did Jesus mean when he said, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’?”

“I don’t know,” said Tommy, “but I’ve heard him say it several times, so it must be important.”

This fictional account is taken from Mathew 9:9–13; Mark 2:13–17; and Luke 5:27–32.

Bringing Down the Roof

“Y’all know it’s hopeless,” said Joe.

“Joe, maybe you’ve given up, but we haven’t. I tell you, dude, this guy can do miracles.”

“Yeah, right,” said Joe.

“No, I mean it,” said Jason. “I know this guy named Benjy. He had leprosy. It was bad, man, real bad. Took him ’way from his family and everything. I used to see him digging in the garbage for food. Looked terrible. Then last week I saw him here in town. He was completely healed. I mean completely healed. He looked just like you or me.”

“Looked just like me, huh?” asked Joe. “Paralyzed, and laid out on a bed, and couldn’t get out?”

“You know what I mean, dude,” said Jason.

“I ain’t going,” said Joe.

“Well, you ain’t got no choice. We’re gonna do it anyway, and yo’ cripple ass can’t stop us,” Jason said with a grin.

Just then, Sam, Levi, and David walked through the door. “How’s our boy doing?” asked Sam.

“Aw, he’s bitchin and moanin like always,” Jason said.

“Of course he is,” said Sam.

“Look, fellas, I appreciate your help, but it’s no use,” said Joe.

David walked over to the stretcher where Joe lay. “Joe, we just got back from over there. Let me tell you, everybody and his mamma’s over there. And if I’m lyin, I’m dyin—people’re gettin healed from all kinds of shit right and left. I really think this guy can heal you.”

“It’s been three years since the accident. I’ve been prayed over by every priest and his brother. It’s no use,” said Joe.

“Well, dude, I believe this guy can heal you, and we’re going anyway,” said Jason. “Sam and Levi, y’all grab the stretcher at his feet. Dave, you and I will take his head. Let’s go.”

Jason heard the crowd long before they got close enough to see it. When they rounded the corner, it was much larger than he had imagined. There had to be over two hundred people surrounding the house.

As they approached a man at the outside edge of the crowd, Jason said, “Hey, that guy Jesus inside?”

“Yep,” said the man. “Good luck trying to get in to see him.” The man turned his head and spat on the ground with obvious disgust. “Apparently, you gotta be a bigwig to get a front-row seat,” he said.

“Well,” said Jason, “we sure as hell ain’t bigwigs. Guess we’ll just wait out here with all y’all till they get done.”

They set the stretcher down and waited outside with the others for over two hours. The sun was brutal. During that time, they couldn’t hear or see what was happening inside. Apparently, Jesus was in some deep discussion with the bigwigs about theology—at least that’s what someone told them.

Finally, Joe spoke up. “Jason, let’s go. There ain’t nothing gonna happen here anyway, man.”

Jason looked down at his friend. Joe looked bad. Joe smelled bad. Because he was paralyzed, he couldn’t control his bladder or his bowels. Joe was in a very bad way.

“Screw it, dude,” said Jason. “We gotta do something, even if it’s wrong.”

“Like what?” Sam asked.

A broad grin spread across Jason’s face. “I got an idea,” he said.

“Oh shit.” David groaned. “Why do I feel like you’re ’bout to say, ‘Hold my beer an’ watch this’?”

Jason looked at him and grinned. “Well, I ain’t got no beer. But you do know me pretty well, dude.” Jason gave David a high-five. “Here’s what we do,” said Jason. “We’re gonna git up on the roof, make a hole, and drop our boy down right in front of the man.”

They all looked at Jason like he had two noses.

“You’re out of your freakin mind!” said Levi. “You think if we tear the dude’s roof off he’s gonna heal our friend?”

“Boys, we’re out of time,” said Jason. “More importantly, Joe’s out of time. Look, I don’t know if this dude can help Joe, but I believe he might. What have we got to lose?”

“So, how’re we gonna do this?” David asked.

“Here’s what we’re gonna do. Levi, run back to the house and get a rope. While you’re doing that, the rest of us are gonna take the stairs up to the roof. We’ll pull the tiles off the roof and use the rope to slip ole Joe right down in front of the man. Then we fix the roof.” Jason flipped his arms up. “Simple.”

“That ain’t simple—it’s more like crazy and stupid,” David remarked. “But I like it.”

The commotion on the roof drew everybody’s attention, but before anyone had time to do anything about it, Jason and his friends had busted through. As they lowered their friend, Jason observed the man who commanded everyone’s attention. He had to be the one they called Jesus. He was surrounded by the high priests, and all the other community bigwigs were seated around him.

Jason feared that Jesus would be mad at them for bustin through the roof. But as the boys lowered Joe, Jason could clearly see the broad smile spreading across Jesus’s face. Everyone in the room below grew quiet. Jason didn’t have to strain very much to hear what Jesus said.

“What’s your name?” asked Jesus


Jesus looked up at Jason and the others on the roof. “Your friends must love you very much, Joe. They’ve gone to a lot of trouble.” Jesus looked back at Joe. “Well, cheer up, son. Your sins are forgiven.”

A collective gasp rose from the crowd below. It was obvious that Jesus had just pissed everybody off. It was also obvious that Jesus had known what effect his words would have on these pompous pricks, thought Jason.

Jesus turned from Joe and regarded those around him. “Why do y’all keep on doubting? I know y’all are thinking I’m blaspheming. Who can forgive sins but God alone? Let me ask y’all a question. What would be easier for me to say to a man who is paralyzed? ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or, ‘Get up and walk’?”

Jason watched as Jesus paused, giving everyone in the room time to try and figure out what he’d just said. After what seemed like an eternity, Jesus said, “Well, I want y’all to know that the Son of Man has authority on Earth to forgive sins.”

Jesus turned back to Joe. “Joe, get up and walk. Go home, and you can take that raggedy stretcher with you.”

Jason watched as Joe got up and put his stretcher on his shoulder. Jason could just barely see the tears of gratitude streaming down Joe’s face through his own.

When all the boys got back to Joe’s house, David said, “You know, I’m not sure what just happened. I know it was a miracle, but why’d he say all that stuff about the forgiveness of sins?”

Do you think he was trying to tell me that because I was a bad guy, that’s why I got paralyzed?” asked Joe.

“Naw, I don’t think that was it,” Jason said. “I think he was trying to tell us something about him. If you think about it, he called himself the Son of Man, whatever the hell that means, and then he asked a rhetorical question.”

“A what?” asked David.

“A question he already knew the answer to, dumbass. He said, ‘What’s easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or “Get up and walk”?’”

“Now that I think about it,” said Joe, “it’d be easier to say your sins are forgiven. That way, no one can call you a liar ’cause no one can tell if your sins have been forgiven or not. Words alone are cheap. On the other hand, you’re really putting your ass on the line when you tell somebody that everyone knows is paralyzed to get up and walk, go home, and take his raggedy stretcher with him.”

“That’s exactly what I was thinking, dude,” said Jason.

This historical fictional account is taken from Mathew 9:1–8; Mark 2:1–12; and Luke 5:17–26.

I’m Dirty

As he walked down the road, he couldn’t feel his feet. Benjy hadn’t felt his feet for several months now. Like his hands, the feeling had gradually, almost imperceptibly, vanished. As a result, anytime he cut his feet or his hands, he didn’t realize it. The cut invariably became infected. Even if he could control the threat of infection, eventually his toes and fingers would rot and fall off. He’d seen it happen to others.

His body was rotting away. It was one of the insidious, slowly consuming symptoms of this wretched disease called leprosy. Like the scaly white patches of skin covering his body and face, the disease was obvious and repulsive.

But that wasn’t the worst of it; leprosy was contagious. As a result, he had been compelled by law to leave his wife and two kids; though he’d left voluntarily. They were all he had in the world. He loved them too much to put them at risk. He had no choice. Strict laws were enforced to ensure that he, one of the “dirty” ones, would have no contact with “clean” people. He couldn’t eat or associate with them. He couldn’t draw water from any well. He was required by law to warn people of his approach by yelling “I’m dirty” before he approached so they could run. The only sustenance he got was from the garbage. He was dying from hunger.

To add insult to injury, everyone believed that the reason he had this wretched disease was he had committed some great sin. Somehow he was to blame for being so sick. Benjy himself had come to believe that must be true.

Benjy knew it was a race to see what would kill him first: hunger, infection, or the rot. Probably he would just die from loneliness. He didn’t care. Death was preferable to this miserable existence. Rabid dogs were treated better. At least they were put out of their misery quickly. Not him. His suffering was prolonged. It was as if people took some sort of comfort in his suffering; perhaps it allowed them to feel good about themselves.

He’d lost everything: family, friends, home. He had nothing, and he considered himself as less than nothing.

He’d heard of a stranger who roamed from town to town, teaching and healing. What more did he have to lose? This man was his last hope.

Benjy hobbled toward the crowd. Both men and women were seated on the ground, circled around the man standing and talking in the center. That must be him, thought Benjy. As he took another crippled step forward, Benjy did as the law required. “I’m dirty,” he tried to yell. It came out as a weak cry, almost a whisper.

Nonetheless, one of the men heard him and turned around. “What the hell?” he exclaimed as he turned and saw Benjy. The man stood up. “Git yo’ ass ’way from here, boy!”

Others saw Benjy and immediately jumped to their feet. Some men and women in the crowd began running, screaming, “He’s dirty! He’s dirty!” Others picked up rocks and threw them at Benjy. Several men stood shoulder to shoulder, forming a barrier between Benjy and the man who had been speaking.

“You heard him!” yelled one of the men standing in line as he hurled yet another rock at Benjy.

“Don’t come any closer!” another shouted.

Benjy, pelted with rocks, fell face down on the ground. He heard someone say, “Teach, don’t go any closer. I’ve seen people infected like him. The disease this boy’s got is just like a hungry monster. If you get any closer, it will leap on you, andl eat you alive.”

Suddenly, the rocks stopped hitting him, and everything got quiet. Benjy dared to look up. Standing before him was the man who had been speaking to the crowd. Benjy lowered his face to the ground, “Mister, please—if you’re willing, you can make me so I ain’t dirty no more. You’re my last chance. I believe if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Benjy raised his head again and saw a tear fall from the man’s face. The man squatted next to Benjy; he reached with his hand and placed it on Benjy’s head. “Son,” he said, “I am willing. Be clean,” Benjy could see a hint of a smile spread across the man’s face.

Benjy was suddenly flooded with overpowering warmth that started at the top of his head where Jesus had touched him and flowed all the way down his body, through his arms and legs. It was like being bathed in refreshing, clean warm water.

Benjy inherently understood this strange power—it was love. Pure love. A love like he had never felt before. A love he did not deserve, that he did not merit. He was one of the dirty ones. This strange man would have been within his rights to flee from him. Yet, somehow, this stranger had loved him so much that he dared not only to touch him but to love him, and in so doing he had healed him.

Benjy could once again feel his hands and feet. The numbness was gone. As he looked at his hands, he watched the scales fall away. He brought his hands up to his face and felt the scales on his cheeks, nose, and ears loosen and fall to the ground; he felt new, healthy skin underneath. It was like he was a brand new creation. Benjy burst into tears of joy and bent again to the ground, kissing the feet of this man he’d never met before who had dared to touch him and to somehow heal him with his love.

“Get up, Benjy—that is your name, isn’t it?” the man said.

Benjy rose to his feet. “Yessir, and you’re the man they call Jesus, aren’t you?”

“I am. Now, Benjy, here is what I want you to do. Don’t tell anybody ’bout how you got healed. I want you to follow the law, and go do what you are supposed to do right now. Find a priest who knew you as a leper, who knew just how dirty you were, and show him that you ain’t dirty no more. You’re clean. Ha, in fact, you’re real clean.” The smile on Jesus’s face spread. “And I want you to make the offerings the law says you gotta make to testify to the priests, and to everybody else, that you are indeed clean, and that you give God the credit. You got that?”

“Yessir. Thank you, sir.”

As Peter watched the man leave, he turned to John. “Do you believe what we just saw?”

“I’m trying to, said John.

“This man is something,” Peter remarked. “With him as our leader, no telling what we might accomplish. But I’m concerned that he would so readily expose himself to such danger. Nobody touches anybody who’s as dirty as that boy was.”

John was quiet for a moment; then he turned and said to Pete, “Maybe we’re all dirty.”

This historical fictional account is taken from Mathew 8:1–4; Mark 1:40–45; and Luke 5:12–16.

A Good Day Fishing

“Where’d this crowd come from?” said Pete.

“You know how it is Big Brother, wherever he goes the crowds follow,” said Andy.

“Crowds don’t put food in our bellies,” said Pete. “I got a wife and parents to feed. I’m beginning to question whether we need to keep hitching our wagon up to his.” 

“Stop bellyaching, and help us wash these damn nets,” said Andy.

“Andy, we didn’t catch a single fish last night. I know this guy has done some amazing things. I can’t explain them, and I’ve seen him heal so many people. Hell, he even healed my own mother-in-law. But so what? I like being around him as much as the next guy, but that ain’t putting food on the table or money in our pockets.”

“I know we’re going through some tough times, but I think we need to stick with him at least a little longer,” said Andy. “Look, I’m tired and hungry just like you. I’m beat and ready to get home and take a nap. And that ain’t gonna happen anytime soon ‘less you help us wash these damn nets.” Andy turned his head and shouted over his shoulder. “John, tell this half-ass brother of mine that he needs to stop his bitching and get back to work.”

“Andy, you know I can’t tell that mule-headed brother of yours anything. He ain’t gonna listen to me; or anyone else for that matter,” shouted John back.

“Alright, alright,” said Peter, “But I’m telling all y’all I’ve about had enough. Look at him,” Peter said as he pointed at Jesus. “He could be helping us. Instead, he’s running his mouth again.” Peter grabbed two jugs so he could go down and fill them with water.

About that time, Jesus emerged from the middle of the crowd, and walked over to the two boats anchored to the shore. These were the boats that Pete and Andy, and Jimmy and John had used during the night to try and catch some fish to provision this ever-growing contingent of followers Jesus had drawn. 

Jesus walked over to the boat belonging to Pete and Andy and stepped over the gunnel into the boat.

What’s that SOB gonna do now, thought Peter, go fishing?

Jesus turned and looked at Peter as though he had read Peter’s thoughts. Chills suddenly ran down Peter’s spine.

“Pete, would it be asking too much, if you’d just row me out from the bank a little bit so I can speak to these good folks. I’m scared if I don’t they’re gonna push me right into the water, and that water might not hold me up.” A slow grin appeared on Jesus’ face.

Peter stood there for a second, pissed off, but not knowing what to do, which was unusual for him. He took a deep breath, and put the jars down. “Sure, Teach. Whatever you want,” said Peter.

  Jesus settled in the back of the boat while Peter sat on the middle bench manning the oars. Peter rowed just a little ways out, and then let down the anchor to hold the boat fast. Jesus climbed to the front of the boat and sat in the bow.

For the next two hours, Peter had a front row seat as Jesus spoke to the crowd. Peter found himself transfixed once again as he listened to this gifted teacher. His words were biting, yet consoling at the same time. He did not hesitate to speak words of hard truth, yet they were always tempered with compassion. His knowledge of the scriptures was phenomenal. He spoke with power and authority. Yet, he also possessed a fresh view about dealing with the problems of everyday life that astounded Peter. 

Peter could see his brother Andy, along with Jimmy and John, standing on the edge of the shore. They had stopped washing their nets and were hanging onto every word Jesus said. Eventually, Jesus told the people to go home. They didn’t want to. As if to give them no choice, Jesus turned to Peter, “Pete, how ‘bout let’s go fishing?”

“Teach,” said Peter, “I’d like to, but it’s no use. Me and the boys fished all night. We didn’t catch doodley squat. The sun’s up now and it’s the heat of the day. This is the worst time of the day to fish.”

“Well, humor me, Pete. I know a little ‘bout fishing. Why don’t we pull out just a little ways into deeper water.” Jesus, sitting on the bench in the bow, clasped his hands in front of him as his elbows rested on his knees. His eyes met Peter’s, “Trust me,” said Jesus.

Peter shrugged his shoulders,“Teach, this don’t make much sense, and I don’t know why I’m doin it, but since you’ve asked me to, I will.” Peter turned around and sat with his back toward Jesus. He pointed the bow toward deeper water and began to row.

After a few minutes, Jesus said, “This looks far enough, Pete. I think this looks like a good spot. I’ll help you with the net.”

The two men grabbed the net and together threw it into the water. Almost immediately, the net began to fill with fish. 

Jesus, grinning ear to ear, turned to Peter. “Hold on, my boy, we’re fixin’ to load the boat,” said Jesus.

Both men, stout as a pair of oxen, struggled to try and pull the net in. They couldn’t. The ropes were beginning to tear into the flesh of the men’s hands. Peter could hear the net beginning to rip. He had to get help. “Teach, see if you can hold it by yourself for a second, I’ve got to try and signal the others for help.”

Jesus, who had been holding on to the port line with both hands, first braced his right foot against the stern of the boat, then, while holding fast with his right hand, let go of the rope with his left and instantly grabbed the starboard line being held by Peter. He then raised his left leg and braced it also against the stern. Jesus was no longer standing erect. He was standing horizontally. The strain of his body against the ropes and the net held him in place. His body quivered, and he was covered in sweat. Peter could see the muscles and veins bulging in his neck, shoulders, arms and back.

“I got it, my brother,” said Jesus through clenched teeth. Even though Jesus was straining almost beyond the point of endurance, he was somehow smiling at the same time. “Get those other boys out here quick.”

Peter jumped to his feet and began whoopin and hollerin for help. Directly, he saw Jimmy and John jump into their boat, along with Andy. The three began rowing out to Jesus and Peter as fast as they could.

Peter went back to the starboard line and took it from Jesus. The two men held the net, bulging with fish, while the other boys rowed out to them. When Jimmy, John, and Andy got to them, Andy jumped into the boat with Jesus and Pete, while James and John worked from the other boat. The five men began unloading fish from the net into the two boats.

John, standing next to Jimmy, both knee-deep in fish, shouted, “We’re slap full. We only got about three inches of freeboard left. I’m scared we’re gonna sink.”

Peter, standing in his boat with Andy and Jesus, was also knee-deep in fish. Like John’s boat, his too was not far from sinking. But Peter wasn’t thinking about the fish or even sinking. Instead, Peter was thinking about Jesus. And it scared him. He was also thinking about his own doubt and lack of conviction; and most of all, his own petty selfishness. Suddenly, Peter was overcome with guilt and shame. With tears in his eyes, he turned to Jesus, “Teach, you don’t need to have nothin’ to do with me. I’m a low-down, no-good, lousy, son-of-a-bitch.”

At that, Jesus laughed. “Well,” he said, as he threw another fish into the boat, “we know you’re not much of a fisherman, Pete, but we’ll get over that. I tell you what, if you follow me, I’ll make you a fisher of men. What’da’ya say?”

“I don’t know what to say, Sir,” said Peter.

“Then just say, ‘yes’,” replied Jesus.

“Yes sir, I’d be honored.”

“Glad to hear that. Well, you gonna yap all day, Pete, or you gonna fish?” said Jesus.

This historical fictional account was taken from Luke 5: 1-11.

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.

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.