Wednesday, August 6, 2014

My Name Is John

 My name is John. How shall I tell you about my life? I was the Lord's best friend. Well, no...the Lord was my best friend. Does that sound arrogant? He loved us all--He loved everyone that He met. But we were like brothers...even though He was a rabbi, and I was just a fisherman. I was a young man then, impulsive and brash--not as brash as Simon the Stone, mind you--but, oh, the arguments we had, Simon, my brother James and I...and then the Rabbi would speak, and our squabbles would seem so petty and small by comparison. He made the world seem so alive, and yet so calm. But yes, I was allowed to be there even when most of the others were away.

 I saw the most amazing moments--when He let His true self start to shine through on the mountain, and the bright day seemed so dim by comparison. When He learned of the death of His cousin--and prophet--John the Baptizer. His cousin and prophet--can you imagine that? How He took the news quietly, calmly...with a clear undercurrent of anger at the injustice and loss, but also with acceptance that John was now at peace, his mission complete. When He was faced with impossible conundrums from the "holy men," but would turn toward me with a wry smile before confounding them with His wisdom and understanding. These amazing stories He would tell us--so energetic, so full of truth--and yet we would not understand the point. And He would shake His head, almost laughing, "Do you still not understand?" And calmly, He would explain His meaning. And His rampage in the temple! I had never seen Him so furious! The anger burning in His eyes, as He flung tables across the floor, the clanging of bags of money spilling about, the fierce slapping of His whip startling the shocked bankers, as He shouted louder than I had ever heard Him shout before, "My house shall be a house of prayer!" The hurt in His voice was palpable. And yet, whenever there were children around, He almost became as one of them--smiling, laughing, holding them close as if they were His own.

 But we were like brothers. In a sense, all of us were--we traveled together, ate together, dealt with the enormous crowds together. We'd be crammed together on a little fishing boat, either traveling across the sea, or pushed just far enough from the shore so He could speak to the multitudes. Our last meal together, though, He spoke with such passion and fervent longing--as if imploring us to understand, cherishing each moment. He had washed our feet--we were shocked, all of us! But He made us each feel like royalty in that moment--and yet, I felt so undeserving. And then, after all that, we ran. Every single one of us. When He needed us most, we ran. I felt so awful...but I made myself go back. I was determined to stand with Him again...but I was ignored by the council. Simon the Stone went back too--ever the talker, he drew some attention, and started yelling and cursing, before a glance from the Rabbi silenced him. But I, I could not make myself speak. I was there, and yet I couldn't bring myself to offer a single word in His defense. What I would give to change those moments....

 And yet, even as He struggled on the cross, covered in blood and scars, He looked at me, and I saw not anger...but warmth, and understanding. He charged me to take care of His mother. How could I not see Him as my brother now? It was a charge I never forgot. In her later years, as she grew weaker, I would spend hours recounting all the times we had spent together, miraculous and mundane, and I do believe it gave her some comfort as she reflected on all that had happened since she was told she had been "chosen." And I'll never forget that feeling of improbable elation and anxiety when the women came and told us the impossible news--He was gone! We buried Him, watched them seal the giant stone, and yet...He was gone! And then we met Him! Touched Him! He was changed, somehow, but that smile was the same. That look in His eyes was the same. He tried to tell us, and we never quite believed Him, but somehow--He knew. He knew it had to happen that way.

 Now as I look back over the years, I think of all that has happened. We saw Him float away into the sky. What a sense of wonder, and also a sense of dread--He's really gone from us! Not dead, but gone away. And then when crowds gathered around us, we felt so confident to tell them what happened, in a way we'd never felt before. Even when the leaders threatened us, we knew we had to go on telling what had happened. Not that it was easy--my own brother was murdered for speaking the truth. A man named Saul who was sworn to stop our movement suddenly came to us asking for forgiveness and acceptance. Such a brilliant mind, but trusting him took every ounce of faith I could muster. And after all this time, the story seems so clear--a perfect picture of faith and redemption, such a perfect display of love. I've seen so much happen--like the world is transforming before me, small stones creating a mighty onslaught that can wipe away the evil of these days. For evil they are--we are chased, persecuted, and murdered. Our teachings of truth and love are called demonic, and those who would claim to be part of us teach of having special knowledge that never came from the Rabbi. But lives are changed. The most vile folk transform into gentle and loving souls--reflections of the Man I walked with when I was so much younger.

 Did I say these days are evil? Surely they are. Indeed, I see troubling images in my mind--glorious nightmares, horrible and terrible visions, but they all end the same. He overcomes. For His truth is completely invincible. So magnificent that no weapon, no empire, no demon can topple it. There is so much uncertain, so little I can predict, except one thing I know with absolute confidence. In the end...we win. He wins. And on that day...I know I'll see Him smiling.

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