Having a little fun with historical fiction. Do you know who is telling the story? Enjoy!
The atmosphere was charged. Peculiar clouds gathered near the top of Mount Tabor, whispering eternal secrets later retrieved by the wind and whisked down rocky hills leaving a wake of jagged stones and upturned thorn bushes. The recondite gust nearly bowled over a cluster of rugged fisherman, spent and sweaty as they threw lines and hauled baskets along the seashore.
The rumors were grand enough that many flocked to hear him or catch a glimpse. Sometimes I
loitered publicly other times camouflaged in shadow, but like the commoners--I too sought
I'll never forget the ripple of fear that reverberated through me the previous afternoon, outside
the temple, when the shrill voice of a poltergeist set loose from the bowels of Hell squealed and
shrieked. It called him the Holy One of God. It asked if he--a lowly carpenter's son from Nazareth
would destroy him? This--while its human host writhed and sputtered on the polished stone floor
of the temple court.
We watched in grotesque fascination as the demoniac bashed his head repeatedly, gouging
himself--his face a bloody mask. His tongue, swollen and obscene--hung from his mouth like a
mad dog's. It was disgusting and shameful and I wondered how this Jesus of Nazareth would
manage such a display. It was hopeless. I readied myself to leave--when I heard him speak--
audibly yet it couldn't have been more than a whisper. The fear I felt when I heard the demon's
call was nothing in comparison to the dread that washed over me now.
"Be quiet, and come out of him!" he commanded. And it did.
There was talk of a local beggar, riddled with leprosy, an outcast according to our law, who fell
down before him, pleading: "If you are willing, you can make me clean." His lips trembled as he sat in the mire, head bowed; eyes downcast.
The upright man was almost unremarkable in his appearance--plain features etched in olive skin
with deep-set hazel eyes. But I said almost, didn't it? Those eyes would occasionally flash and
sparkle like lightening during a rainstorm--his whole presence exuding inscrutable beauty; his
The groveling leper never should have approached him. If he knew this man's strange power--
as I did, he would be too terrified to get close.
A wave of compassion spread across the Nazarene's face--not embarrassment or annoyance
as I predicted. Furthermore, he reached out to the man with his right hand. He grasped the
beggar by the back of the head, cradling his face and tilting his wanton eyes up. He sought the
man's attention, consideration--dare I add: devotion. They stood like that for some time, like one was a devoted father and the other a bereaved son. The leper looked up, slowly with dawning
knowledge--his blistered face muddy and tear-stained.
"I am willing, be cleansed" Jesus said. And he was.
When I heard he was returning to Capernaum I ensured space at the house where he planned
to speak. Scribes and other members of the council were there so it was permissible that I was
in attendance. Though his message seemed to suggest unity--a palpable divide was slicing its
way through the region. It was difficult to articulate but we all felt it--from the highest-level
Pharisee to the common laborer--there was something polarizing about this man. Caution and discretion were essential.
I intended to linger toward the back of the room--keeping one eye on this enigmatic miracle-worker
and the other on the crowd whose devotion seemed to flourish by the day. However, the
sheer number of people--easily more than a hundred, ushered me forward and I found myself
separated from my colleagues, lost in a sea of onlookers.
Jesus sat in a chair on a raised platform up front. A throng of women of all ages gathered on
one side and a group of young children on the other. His students stood at various locations in
the packed house--their faces grave as they saw the number of people and felt their desperation
and curiosity. This situation could easily become dangerous--and that's when we heard
pounding on the roof.
The disciples jumped to alarm--two running to their leader--who seemed utterly unperturbed, the
others looking for the source of the commotion. Just then dust began to fall from the ceiling,
then clumps of clay and roof tiles--then a man.
The young man, barely more than a boy, his body broken and mangled, lay deathly still on a
bamboo pallet that had been lowered, quite roughly, from the rooftop. Three friends still up
above cheered as they stared down at him. One jumped through the hole, apologized aloud to
the homeowner and told the harrowing story of how their friend and his brother was paralyzed in
a farming accident. The man wept for his young brother and laid a hand on him--the other
wiping his eyes as he pleaded for help.
"Son, your sins are forgiven,"Jesus said to the crumpled heap before him.
I gasped and without even looking, knew the other council members were fuming. There had
been other messiah-types but none so bold as this. What does forgiveness have to do with
paralysis? Only God can forgive sins. This so-called rabbi is nothing more than a shameless....
"Blasphemer." I didn't say it, I only thought it but I thought it to his face. A hundred pair of eyes
focused on me but I actually felt his. They burned. Feet shuffled and pathway opened between
us as the crowd parted. Despite the multitude, it was just him and me.
"Which is easier to say?" he asked me, "Your sins are forgiven? Or...." His pause was
deliberate. Did he want me to say it? My mouth was dry--my body frozen. "...Get up, pick up
your pallet and walk?" His eyes teased the question.
The whole room fell silent. Only a moment ago physical healing would have loomed as the
greater of the two, the giver of such a gift clearly possessing power beyond our knowledge, but
now I wasn't so sure. I was a Pharisee--a teacher of the law, yet stood tonged-tied before this
Nazarene. Facing me, he spoke.
"So you may know I have authority on earth to forgive sins," he turned his gaze to the injured
youth on the floor, "I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home."
Immediately, the boy's body returned to its intended form, his countenance changing in the
process. He looked at his benefactor--smiling, then broke into laughter. He stood up with ease
and followed the commands he'd been given joyfully. The crowd rejoiced, I grew hungry for
answers and the healer retreated.
I sought him that night, desperately, like a child lost at the bazaar would seek his father. He told
of Regnum Dei, the Kingdom of God, of being born a second time of water and Spirit. I didn't
understand yet he was patient. He said God loved the world and offered up his son that
whomever believed in him would live and not die. He was the son. And I believed.
Later, I was mocked by council members who in a murderous scheme, plotted his demise. I will
not describe the atrocities they committed against him. It was equally heartbreaking to watch the
crowds who had been blessed by his teaching, to become vehement. They wanted blood.
A death worthy of a treacherous criminal was his. I half expected his eyes to flash with power as
he severed himself from that torturous Roman cross--saving himself as he had saved so many
others. But he didn't. And then I recognized a familiar emotion bloom on his face despite
unimaginable anguish. He bore the same expression when encountering the leper: compassion.
I wondered then who his grief was truly for.
He died soon after. Myself and another man received his body with hearts heavier than the bags
of spices I hauled. We buried him according to our custom, bound tightly in linen strips soaked
in aloe and myrrh. We carried him to a garden, blooming with tulips and lilies and laid him in
Joseph's own tomb. I made a mirthless joke: Where would Joseph's body go upon death? But then I remembered Jesus' words, his promise, that whoever believes in him, the Holy One of
God and the carpenter's son, proceeding from Heaven and Nazareth, wouldn't die, but live. I
knew then the tomb couldn't hold him for long.
My head swam with truths that seemed contradictory while hope sent my heart soaring. I held
tightly to my burgeoning faith, pondering our encounter while pouring over the ancient texts.
Returning to the very place where the demon had spoken his name, I spoke it too. Loudly for all
to hear. The wind caught my words and carried them, sowing them near and far.
"Lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily entangles and run with endurance the race set before you. "