This is fiction.

Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is (most likely) coincidental, and need not stress anyone out.

And just so we're all clear: just because i write a story where a character holds a certain viewpoint on some topic does not mean that i actually agree with their position or actions

Soli Deo Gloria

Thursday, April 13, 2017

I Was There

I didn’t go to bed happy that night. In fact, I hadn’t gone to bed happy for as far back as I could remember. Before the breakup my unhappiness was caused by depression I couldn’t figure out. In the days following the breakup, I was too heartbroken to go to bed happy. And after getting over the breakup, most nights I just felt too alone to really be happy. (Let me be clear: we never went to bed together while together; there’s just a big difference between being texted, called, or told “goodnight,” by someone you care about, and going to bed with no goodnight wishes at all.) And this night was one of those lonely nights.
I had gotten off work at 10:45. I was supposed to leave by 10:30, but since I was responsible for closing, and since the safe wasn’t balancing, I had to figure out why. This had put me fifteen minutes over, and I figured it meant a questioning the next day at work, since we are trying to not go over on budgeted hours allowed. All I had wanted to do was get home, make a cup of tea, change out of my work clothes, and relax in some peace and quiet. I was sadly mistaken when I was about to pull into my driveway at 10:47. My roommate’s girlfriend’s car was parked in my spot, so I subsequently parked in the street in front of our mailbox. A very excited, “Hey Jay, how’s it going?” proceeded from his girlfriend as I opened the door to see them sitting close together on the couch watching an episode of Psych. “It’s going,” was all I could bring myself to say in response. And in fact, the jealousy that overcame me in that moment was enough for me to lock myself in my room, skip changing, skip my tea, and fall onto my bed.
As I drifted off to sleep, the following thoughts kept me company, “You will never have someone who wants to be that close to you.” “You will forever be alone.” “God is holding out on you.”
*          *          *
When I came back to consciousness, I opened my groggy, angry eyelids and had no idea where I was. In fact, I was lying in the middle of a deserted dirt road that smelled like animal droppings. Something in my mind told me I’d been dropped off at some point in history, but for the life of me I couldn’t recall which. The desertedness of the streets reminded me of my loneliness which did nothing to assuage my anger. If a sheep walked down this road right now, I’d kick it over.
I finally stood to my feet, shaking off the dust and the confusion regarding my current situation. Seeing the Tetris-block shaped buildings lining the street, complete with flat roofs, did nothing to help me place myself in any specific historical locale, despite my love of world history. I think current situations have frustrated me to the point where my mind is becoming useless.
I looked up. The sky was a clear shade of light blue—in fact there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The breeze was chill, and judging by the sky’s shade, and lack of a view of the sun, I reasoned that it was only the first few hours of daylight. I hope it gets warmer as the sun gets higher.
The lack of life despite the seeming size of the city struck me oddly. Where is everyone?
Just then voices interrupted my thoughts. I turned toward the source to see a man dressed in a lavishly decorated robe who had three others with him, one—clearly a woman—dressed in a brown shawl with a green head covering, and two others covered in beggars rags. The rich man was holding one of the beggars, while the other walked with the help of the woman. Just beyond them was another man holding a tin cup in one hand and a staff in his other hand that rattled as he knocked it against the ground.
“Why are the streets deserted?” the rich man asked.
“They have gone to the trial.” The second man shook his cup and rattled his staff. “Alms for the blind?”
“Trial? Whose trial?” the rich man asked.
“The young rabbi from Nazareth. They are wanting His death.” The staff rattled again.
“It cannot be true!” the woman exclaimed, letting go of the beggar and approaching the blind man in a fit of frustration.
“Alms?” the blind man said, holding out his cup, unfazed by her approach.
“What has He done?” the rich man asked again, as the woman looked at him in desperation.
“Nothing I know of.” He shook his cup. “For the blind? For the blind? Help for the blind?”
The plink of a coin satisfied the blind man, and drew my attention  away from their interaction.
Young rabbi from Nazareth? Why does that sound familiar? I glanced down, and for the first time recognized that I was no longer wearing my shirt and tie I had angrily not changed out of the night prior, but was dressed instead in a plain brown robe, tied at the waist with a tan rope, and had sandals for shoes on my feet. And then it hit me. I went back like 2,000 years. This is Jerusalem and the rabbi is Jesus.
And then my anger returned. Why here? Why this? Why couldn’t I have gone back to the Exodus or the battle of Jericho—taking out my anger on some Canaanite sinners—or even go witness the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar? Why couldn’t it have been something cool? I don’t want to witness the greatest injustice in the history of the world. I growled under my breath in frustration.
Not knowing what else to do, I followed the man and his female companions as they headed towards the trial.
*          *          *
When I reached the destination, I no longer wondered why the streets were deserted. The courtyard I found myself on the edge of was packed full like sardines in a can. In addition, the violent noise filling the place made my ears hurt.
“Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” filled the air.
By the time my eyes reached the front of the crowd, I saw what they were yelling about. Two men, both dressed in long brown robes stood shackled on each side of a soldier-looking man who was reading a parchment. Both men had thick brown beards and short cropped brown hair that stood in stark contrast to the bald, beardless soldier between them. The man on my left had a yarmulke on His head; the man on my right had scars on his face. The man on my left was standing there calmly, though I could see His mouth moving slightly, and He did seem to be shifting back and forth between His feet. The other man scratched at his shackles and tried to break free of them, though otherwise he stood motionless.
The soldier raised a hand, letting the parchment fall out of his grasp, and the shouts of the crowd for crucifixion grew quiet. Then he spoke, questioning the crowd, “Why? What has this man done wrong?” He gestured towards the man on his right, my left. “I have found in Him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore, I will have Him whipped and then release Him.”
Instantly, the crowd erupted again. “Crucify Him! Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”
The noise of the crowd crashed into my already frustrated head. I don’t want to be here. I want to be back in my quiet bed. I want to be alone with my thoughts. I don’t want to be in the midst of this raucous crowd. “Shut up, you idiots!” I yelled, but my cry was immediately drowned by their shouts.
Then I had a realization. This is Jesus. The same one who supposedly loves me. The same one who has withheld a woman from me despite being all good and all powerful.
My voice joined the crowds. “Crucify Him!”
I watched as someone brought a bowl of water to the soldier guy between Jesus and the one who I realized was Barabbas. That soldier is Pilate, I realized, amidst my shouts for crucifixion.
Pilate raised his hand again, and the crowd grew silent. I did too. He reached both hands into the bowl of water and washed them in front of the crowd. While rubbing water over his hands, he announced, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. See to it yourselves.”
The crowd shouted, “His blood be on us and on our children.”
Pilate removed the chains from Barabbas and let him join the crowd. He called a group of soldiers up and gave them custody of Jesus.
They led Jesus away, and the crowd dispersed, most content to go about their day. I, despite not caring about this time period, decided to follow the soldiers who had Jesus. They took Him to the military headquarters, and once there, shackled him up to a post in what I assumed was their flogging station.
I wasn’t the only one there. Some religious-looking men had come, and several women—who were bawling their eyes out—and a good handful of other various people as well. Only the women seemed upset. I certainly wasn’t upset. Well I was, but I wanted to take it out on the man now just wearing a white tunic, who was tied to the post.
It was his fault I was mad. He’d never given me anything I wanted. He’d said, “Ask and it will be given to you,” but it was bull crap. How many times had I wanted and asked for companionship? And how many times had it been denied me? And how many of my peers seemed to find it so easily, but never with me? It was aggravating.
And now Jesus’ tunic was removed. A soldier slapped the yarmulke off his head, and laughed, muttering something about Israel’s God. All Jesus now had on was a piece of clothing around his waist. The first whip stroke fell, and how I wished I could have been the one to apply it.
It caught in His back. Just above His waist, directly between his sides. The soldier pulled back, and it broke free, pulling chunks of flesh out and a ton of blood as well. Jesus let out a loud groan, exhaling and then inhaling instantly, between clenched teeth. A scream of protest broke out from a woman nearby. I actually heard a laugh leave my mouth. He deserves it; the fraud.
A whole crowd of soldiers surrounded Jesus. All of them were holding whips and clubs and other various flogging instruments. Another whip stroke came down, slicing open His side. He yelled in pain again. In reality, it was hard to see Jesus through the throng of soldiers who  were waling on Him repeatedly with different instruments of torture.
Another and another; again and again they fell. This went on for the better part of thirty minutes. As it went on, the blood pooled around Him; He slumped against the post, lacking the strength to stand. More of His body was bleeding than was not. Flesh dangled in strips—bloody strips—and He looked more like something from a horror movie than a human being.
I couldn’t look at His body any longer. Even though I was happy about the happenings, the sight—mixed with the smell—of blood was sickening. I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t look. The women were no longer standing, but now laying—sprawled out—on the ground, crying loudly. Even the religious leaders couldn’t look—their proud smirks now wiped away.
Finally the whipping stopped. The soldiers released him from the post and His arms flopped to the ground. He lay there motionless, the only sign of life being the flayed flesh that rose and fell as He breathed.
The soldiers draped a purple sheet over Jesus, and He clutched at it tightly. They brought out a chair, helped Him into it, and arranged the purple sheet so it looked like a robe, covering all of His bloody wounds.
A soldier came over holding a circular ring of greenery. He held it gingerly, but when he got to Jesus, he set it on His head, and they hit it with a club. Lines of blood streamed down His face as the thorns jammed into his skull.
Then the soldiers spoke. “Hail, King of the Jews!” They hit Him on the head several more times, and hailed Him repeatedly.
I felt another chuckle leave my throat.
The mocking by the soldiers continued for some time. Finally, it stopped. A soldier approached and said, “The crosses are here. Time to go.” They ripped the sheet off His body and He screamed in agonizing terror. The blood flowed, and He lifted His eyes toward the sky weakly, as tears mixed with the blood flowed down His face.
“Finally, feeling my pain,” I muttered under my breath, as they placed His tunic back on Him.
*          *          *
An hour later we were outside the city on the edge of a cliff. By we, I mean myself, the religious guys, the crying women, the soldiers, Jesus, two other condemned men—wearing shackles and showing marks of a flogging that took place earlier than Jesus’—and a whole crowd of other people.
The trip had been slow. Jesus had been forced to trudge the half-mile carrying the wooden beams of His cross, despite having lost what had to have been most of His blood. The beating didn’t cease as the journey continued either. Eventually they pulled another guy in to carry His cross for Him because it was taking too long. I had muttered, “For the supposed King of the Universe, He sure is weak and slow. I thought He was supposed to be all-powerful.”
But now we were at Golgotha. Jesus was laying—now stripped naked—on the rugged cross, as the soldiers stretched out His arms to position His hands in place. The only piece of clothing He had on was the crown of thorns jammed into His brow.
The sky was still clear, and the position of the sun showed it to be nine in the morning. It was another reason to be frustrated. A beautiful spring day totally commandeered by the execution going on in front of my eyes.
I heard the thud of a hammer fall and my gaze was drawn back from the sky to Jesus laying on the wooden beams. Another hammer thud. Jesus cried out in pain.
I didn’t have a chance to add my thoughts, because the fancily dressed religious leaders beat me to it. “He saved others; He cannot save Himself! Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross, so that we may see and believe.”
My voice joined in as I stood over Him as they nailed His other hand to the cross. “You saved others. You never saved me. Did You really save them? Enjoy dying!” I spat, and I watched, and laughed, as it landed on His bloody body.
And then they put a nail through His feet. Thud, thud, thud. He moaned in pain as the hammer fell and the nail travelled further into His flesh. While the blood on most of His body had coagulated by this point, His arms and legs now dripped.
The soldiers raised the cross, and dropped it into a hole in the ground. When it hit the ground at the base of the hole, His whole body shuddered, and He cried out in pain.
The religious leaders cried out again, “Let Him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in Him. He has put His trust in God; let God rescue Him now—if He wants Him! For He said, ‘I am God’s Son.’”
“Forget that,” my voice cried out. “If He saves Himself, He’s just selfish. I’ll believe if He saves me, and does good to me.”
Above His head a sign was written: “Jesus the Nazarene: the King of the Jews.” The two crosses on either side of Him could read it.
For this reason, both criminals were screaming, “Aren’t You the Messiah? Save Yourself and us!”
Passerbys cried, “Ha! The one who would demolish the sanctuary and build it in three days, save yourself by coming down from the cross!”
Jesus inhaled deeply, and said, “Father, forgive them, because they don’t know what they are doing.”
It stopped me mid-taunt. Forgive me? Surely He doesn’t mean me. I haven’t done anything. Besides, and I verbalized this, “I don’t want Your forgiveness. I just want Your gifts.” My thoughts resumed, as I spat at Him again, He’s obviously talking about the people here; I’m not even supposed to be here.
It was at that moment that my attention was drawn away from Jesus’ mangled body, and the taunts and jeers faded to the background, and I noticed a woman kneeling face down on the ground crying. I had not seen her before. She was noticeably separate from the women who had huddled close to Jesus’ cross.
I moved closer to her, still fed up that I was even here, as I saw her lift up her head and shout at the criminal on Jesus’ left. “Dismas, where’d I go wrong? I raised you better than this. Guilty of robbery and murder? I told you that Barabbas was bad news. And how he got released today and you didn’t is wrong!” Tears rolled down her cheeks. She turned her face toward Jesus and yelled angrily, “I hate You! You’re dying when the ruiner of my son was supposed to die!” She turned around to face the religious leaders, who were still intermittently mocking. “It’s your faults my son is up there. He could have been freed if you hadn’t brought this man.” She pointed at Jesus.
They ignored her.
She turned back to face her son, “What did I do wrong?” She dropped her head back down and wept.
I watched, and understood perfectly. My parents had said the same to me about my best friend when I was growing up, and while I ended up listening to them, he had failed to heed similar advice, if he had even received any, and now I have no idea where he is or what he’s doing.
The man hanging on Jesus’ right drew my attention back to the spectacle in front of me. “Aren’t You the Messiah? Save Yourself and us!”
Dismas answered slowly. “Don’t you even fear God, since you are undergoing the same punishment? We are punished justly, because we are getting back what we deserve for the things we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.” He turned his head toward Jesus, “Remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”
Jesus spoke. “I assure you: Today you will be with Me in paradise.”
The priests close enough to hear shouted, “Blasphemy! He’s hanging on a tree. God has cursed Him. Neitther of you will end up in paradise.” Pointing fingers specifically at Jesus, they said, “Will He never quit? Even in death He refuses to stop blaspheming.”
Dismas’ mother screamed, “Don’t trust Him. He’s facing the same punishment as you. He’s just as guilty as Barabbas obviously.”
“Yeah,” I yelled. “Why promise something no one can prove as true? Get him off the cross and he’ll really be saved, and we’ll all believe.” I paused before adding, “But You can stay; You don’t need to physically save Yourself to prove anything.” I chuckled.
*          *          *
Several hours passed. The breeze on the air made the crucifieds’ flayed flesh wave slightly. Clouds formed high up in the atmosphere and then disappeared. The sun was shining brightly, and shedding warmth on everyone still around the scene.
The soldiers were still there. The women following Jesus were still there, and Dismas’ mother also. A robe-clad man wearing a yarmulke was kneeling with the women in front of Jesus’ cross. Most of the religious leaders had disappeared, though a couple were still around, snickering to each other.
I had thought about nothing but leaving for at least the past hour, but somehow I couldn’t bring myself to move. It made me angry. My time was wasting. Jesus was wasting my time. If He hadn’t been up there, everything would be better, just like Dismas’ mother had cried out. And since He was up there, I was mad at Him. He claimed to be all-powerful, but really? What kind of all-powerful being allows Himself to be hung up on a cross?
“I hate You,” I shouted.
I probably would have kept going, but Jesus’ voice cut me short.
His voice was not strong at this point in the ordeal, but it sounded compassionate. “Woman, here is your son.” He paused before adding, “Here is your mother.”
Dismas’ mother screamed. “You take care of Your mother? You’re cruel! Here I am, almost all alone, and my son is dying. His older brother was murdered as an infant like thirty years ago in Bethlehem, but You don’t care. You dare to offer my son hope, and offer Your mother hope, but here I am to suffer alone? You’re not a good teacher. You’re a hateful, selfish, liar!” She cried again.
At that moment the sky went totally dark. It wasn’t that clouds covered the sun; it was like someone turned off the sun. The temperature dropped slightly in that moment as well, so that the breeze brought a chill to my skin.
I couldn’t see anything at this point. And as time dragged on, my vision didn’t improve. It was as if I had become blind. Though based on the shouts and screams of terror from those surrounding me, I knew it wasn’t just me. The darkness kept me glued there.
Jesus cried out in agony as well. “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
“Forsaken You?” I jeered, blotting out the other insults that were being hurled at Him in that  moment. “I’m trapped 2,000 years in the past. And if I was in the time I’m supposed to be in, I’m trapped in Missouri. And regardless of where I am, I’m as lonely as crap. I’ve been flushed down the toilet by everyone in my life.”
Jesus groaned in pain, and His groans continued for the next several hours.
In my mind I wondered why He was groaning. No one’s doing anything to You now. The pain is over. You’re just up there now until You die.
He screamed. He wept. His teeth started grinding. He groaned again.
“You weren’t acting like this an hour ago!” I yelled. “What has changed?”
He kept yelling, crying, and grinding His teeth.
*          *          *
Finally, Jesus did something different. He spoke audible words. It was a very simple statement. Two words. “I’m thirsty.” It was the weakest I’d heard Him yet throughout the ordeal.
A shuffling of feet was heard move toward the cross, and a soldier’s voice said, “Here You go!”
Several seconds later, Jesus shouted in a voice that was totally opposite from the one I heard a few seconds prior, “It is finished!” He yelled it out in a voice that pierced through the darkness.
Then, weakly again, He spoke, “Father, into Your hands I entrust My spirit.”
The ground started shaking. The sun returned, and it made me blink. Jesus’ body was still. His head had fallen forward, blood still dripping from the thorns in His head. His eyes were open, staring blankly forward, right at me.
It scared me to death and I tried running away. One step. Two steps. The earth was rolling. My foot fell, as another shake reverberated the ground, and it threw off my balance and I fell. My head crashed against a stone on the ground.
*          *          *
I awoke in a sweat. In fact, it would be an understatement to call it a sweat. My bed felt like a pond. When I opened my eyes, I realized that my blurry vision was due to lingering tears.
What have I done? I took a deep breath. Why was I there? Why did I act like that? I always imagined I’d rescue Him, not join in with the others. I wept again.
My head hit the pillow again, after I flipped it over, and I tried to return to sleep so I could forget those images.
While I have slept since then, the images are still engrained in my mind.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Stranded Chapter 1 [Awakening, book 1]

Day 1, 6:30 p.m.

I OPENED MY eyes and confusion hit me like a semi-truck. (I know it’s a stereotypical way to begin a story, but it’s exactly where this experience began, so it’s how I will begin recounting it.)

My nose was buried in dirt. It smelled stale, and it was clear that rain hadn’t been around for a long time. While nothing else was clear to me in that moment, for some reason I knew that my hometown never got rain. However, the sight that was presented to me when I raised my head was anything but familiar to me. I was laying down in the middle of a burnt-out forest. The trees stood as ghosts of the trees that they had once been. Some were taller than others, but none were green as far my eyes could see into the distance. What a place, I thought to myself. This is going to be fun. (I’m not the best with sarcasm, especially since I don’t like others’ sarcasm.

It was then that I realized that I was sweating. I looked around to see if I could spot the location of the sun in the sky, and, sure enough, after several seconds, I found it low in the western sky. However, that did little to assure me that this was going to be a comfortable vacation (if it was even a vacation). The temperature had to be at least 90 degrees, and the humidity was sweltering. I felt like I was sitting in a bowl of honey, except instead of smelling sweet, it smelled like dirt.
I was confused. I couldn’t remember anything—even my name—except that I was sure I didn’t live here. However, I really didn’t remember where I lived, so I decided to stand to my feet and explore the place in which I found myself. As I stood to my feet I saw a lone mountain, which rose conically from its base to a flat peak, in the distance. Sweet, I thought to myself. I can figure out exactly where I am from the top of that mountain.

I set out west, towards the mountain. Is there any danger here? the scared portion of my psyche questioned.

I didn’t want to think about that possibility. I remembered always being told by my parents: “Safety first.” And sure, this would have been a good time to employ it, but I didn’t care about the advice my parents had given me. It doesn’t make life any easier.

You don’t know what—or who—else is here, the scared part reminded me.

It was true, and maybe I was a little worried, but who isn’t a little scared at some point? I would be fine. I was sure of it. If there are lions or tigers here, as long as I don’t bother them they will leave me alone. Same with snakes.

I continued walking, working on keeping those thoughts suppressed. Think positive, I told myself; that was my life motto, and even if it wasn’t before, it certainly would be now. The palm tree cemetery had given way to a stretch of long grass. However, the long grass wasn’t standing up; it was also dead, scattered across the ground. Rocks of varying sizes dotted the landscape as if hurled by an angry giant in a fairy tale. Some were as large as a person; some were smaller than a quarter. There were no trees—not even burnt-out husks—in my current position, and I was sweating like a dog. The ghostly forest resumed a hundred yards ahead, but I felt as if I’d never reach it, and even if I did reach it, I knew that their dried out trunks and fronds would provide much shade.

Ten minutes later I was in the forest. As I walked, I observed the appearance of the trees more closely. I touched one and soot came off on my fingers. I walked from tree to tree in the sweltering heat, observing their appearance, trying to determine where I was. All of the trees I inspected were burned. Some were worse than others, but they all showed signs of being burned. I was surprised to find shoots of greenery on several of the trees. It seems to have been a tropical paradise at one point in time, I reasoned.

My eyes glanced towards the mountain standing in the distance, and I had to look away, because the sun was right next to it—incredibly bright in the evening sky. It reminded me of yet another personal fact: I prefer overcast days to sunny days. However, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and I didn’t expect that to change any time soon. I hoped it would rain, and my positive thinking philosophy urged me to keep hoping for that.

Still, as I walked through the palm tree forest, there was an unusual peace in the place. It was silent. No noise. (Not even chirping birds.) No people. No technology. Nothing but nature. It was beautiful. It really was. Tall ghosts of palm trees stretched to the cloudless sky. Brown grass surrounded the base of the palm trees. Boulders were scattered around randomly. Despite the absence of life in the place, it was a perfect get-away.

I wonder if I have it to myself.

Don’t get your hopes up, I told myself.

Shut up. I don’t want any more negativity.

I’m just being realistic.

Well maybe I don’t want to be realistic. Anyways, there’s no reason to say that is realistic. (I had inner debates with myself all the time. They were normally just as pitiful sounding as this one.)

While I was enjoying the peace—still walking west—I heard running water. I was overjoyed. It was coming from ahead of me, probably behind those boulders up there.

I ran to the rocks and to my surprise, I was correct. I walked down the boulder, which was actually just a flat rock that sloped down into the standing pool of water. The pool was fed from the north by a stream, and it left the pool to the south by another stream. It’s the perfect spot. If I had to camp here—wherever “here” is—I’d choose this site.

I waded into the crystal clear water and it came up to my hips. It felt amazing compared to the heat of the sun. It was refreshing and cool—it made up for the lack of shade afforded by the dead palm trees. I waded out and lay down to dry on one of the flat rocks that sloped into the pool. The rock was warm and I immediately understood how snakes feel. This is the life.

I lay there for several minutes. I finally sat up and freaked out for the first time in this story. Three duffel bags, towels, and junk food wrappers were scattered around the palm trees ten steps west of my location. Other people. I didn’t know what to do. Should I stay; should I run? I didn’t know.
I decided on neither. I stood up, as water dripped off my clothes and splattered into the dust on the ground, and I walked west again, continuing my venture towards the mountain. As I passed the stuff that was scattered on the ground I found where the unopened junk food was stored. I grabbed a bag of Cheez-its and a chocolate bar and continued heading towards the mountain.

I ate the chocolate bar as I walked, but stuffed the crackers in my pocket. I hope they don’t get totally crushed in there. I finished the chocolate and stuffed the empty wrapper in my pocket. I don’t want to give away my presence.

Just then I heard voices moving towards me. I couldn’t make out words, but I knew they were getting closer. A boulder was sitting a few feet away, so I decided to hide behind it. I’ll wait for them to pass, and then continue on my way. I made it behind the boulder just in time. This rock was not flat, but rather very bulky and covered in little holes like a sponge.

“That was craze, homie,” said a male voice. “Da fire was huge. I don’ know how we made it safely down here. It looked like it was about to explode, but it didn’. Dat was sick, homie. I’m so happy to be alive.”

It sounded like the voice’s owner had stopped walking. I warily poked my head around the side of the rock, hoping that no one would see me.

The voice’s owner was four feet away from me, standing next to another guy who was about the same height. They both looked about eighteen years old, they were both white, and they were both smoking cigarettes. The difference between the two came in clothing and hair styles. One had a blonde buzz cut, and the other wore a flat brimmed baseball cap straight forward over his black hair. The black haired one wore basketball shorts, and the blonde one wore long sagging blue jeans. Both were muscular—not ripped—but they both clearly worked out a little every day or so, or were just gifted with a decent body type.

I ducked back behind the boulder to consider my own appearance. I looked down to see a scrawny guy with no muscle. From wrist to shoulder, my arms were just about the same circumference the whole way. I was wearing a white baseball cap that said Angels on it. My jean shorts cut off above my knees at that moment because my knees were bent as I sat behind the boulder.

I peeked my head back over the rock, hoping that I would remain invisible.

“I’m happy to be alive too, Joey,” the black haired kid said.

So the blonde kid is Joey. That’s cool. Is he friend or foe?

The black haired kid turned towards my hiding spot so I ducked back behind the rock again. Please don’t hurt me.

“Come on, Joey. Follow me. We’ve barely explored this island.” A pause. “Joey, what you staring at?”

“There’s, there’s,” he began. “There’s something behind dat rock.”

I’m done for. I stayed hidden behind the rock. Please don’t walk over here.
Joey was still talking. “Kevin, it might jump out and scare me. I hate getting scared. You know how I am when dat happens. Don’ you remember what I told you about da time we were at Jay’s house and his mom scared me?”

“I remember,” Kevin said. “I see nothing though, bro. You need to control your fears. I’ve never known an almost nineteen year old to be as big a scaredie cat as you.”

“Shut up, Kev. I ain’ scared.”

“Don’t lie, bro. Now get moving. We need to get back to Justin before it’s dark.”

“I ain’ lying.”

The footsteps started up again, heading east, away from my location.

My mind started spinning. Who are they? I’m trapped on an island? What was on fire? Who’s Justin? Who’s Jay? What’s going on? The thoughts crashed through my mind like a pinball in a machine. I want answers, but I don’t want to die. My heart beat had accelerated like a drag racer during their conversation, and it was just beginning to slow down. Half of me wanted to talk to Joey and Kevin, but another half told me I could survive on my own.

No matter what I choose, I decided I needed to get moving again. Who are they?

If I’m truly on an island like they had said, I have no need to go to the mountain, I figured. Follow them, my mind told me.

Shut up! I shouted at myself. I wasn’t ready to die and there was no way to know for sure if they were friend or foe.

Weren’t you listening? Joey’s scared of getting scared. He won’t touch you.

I had to admit that that was a good point. What if it’s an act though? His speaking habits could be a ploy as well. Maybe they just want me to follow them so they can kill me.

You’re absolutely ridiculous. Don’t be scared. Be a man and get answers.

I’m convinced. I was nervous, but I stood up and set out east anyways, forsaking my investigation of the mountain to pursue Joey and Kevin. I started jogging.
*          *          *

IT DIDN’T TAKE LONG for me to catch up to them. They had been slowly ambling away from my hiding spot, smoking and laughing up a storm.

The two minutes it took me to reach them had been filled with questions—ones I wanted answered and ones I didn’t. Can they answer my questions? Are they going to kill me? Who else is here?

They must have heard me following them because they turned around. When they saw me, their reaction took me completely by surprise.

Joey, the blonde, spoke first. “Jay! How’s it going, homie?”

I’m Jay? I was shocked. These guys were at my house one time? I put my hands on my backside to slide my fingers into my back pockets (to show I wasn’t nervous), and the feeling of mud coming off on my fingers surprised and grossed me out at the same time and changed my mind about the placement of my hands. It’s from wading in the pool and hiding from these two by sitting in the dirt. As I brushed my hands off against each other, I remembered that I hate the feel of mud.

Before I could respond to Joey, Kevin greeted me too. “What you been up to recently, Jay?”

“Who are you two?” I was finally able to spit out. They act like they know me, but I have no idea why. I’ve never seen them in my life, have I?

“It’s Joey and Kevin, your friends from church,” Kevin said.

Joey continued his thought. “Yeah, Jay. Are you losing it? We’ve hung out almost every day since kindergarten. We spent da night at each other’s houses, ding-dong-ditched, went to birthday parties, and have grown up at church together too. Did you hit your head or something?”

It sounds familiar, but I don’t know. He could be trying to trick me. All I want is answers. Sure, Joey just gave me some, but I’m not positive that it is true. I finally stopped thinking and decided to speak. “You tell me if I hit my head. You said something was on fire. Maybe I hit it then.”

“It’s possible. You clearly aren’t feeling so good after da crash.” Joey’s face looked concerned as he took a drag on his cigarette.

“Crash!” I yelled. “What crash?”

“We were on an airplane. It crashed just offshore of dis island. It was da freakiest thing ever—flames all around us. I thought we were going to die. Shi’, homie,” Joey grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me. “I’m so dang happy to be alive.”

“Me too,” I replied. I gave Joey a look that told him to get his hands off me. Other than supposedly being my best friend, who does this guy think he is?

Joey slid his hands into his pockets—a sheepish grin covering his face.

“Where’d the plane go down?” I asked. Maybe if I see it, some of my memory will return. So many pieces are flying through my head; all I want is for them to fit together into one complete puzzle.

“It was over there,” said Kevin, pointing east with his right hand. “Why you ask?”

I explained my hypothesis about my memory returning.

Joey vetoed it. “You don’ wanna do dat, homie. Some annoying li’l punk named Jared declared himself king of dis place. Kevin and me got kicked out for disagreeing with him.”

“Yeah. He some rich kid. Thinks life owes him everything he wants.” Kevin’s facial expression showed disgust.

I need answers. Maybe this Jared guy can help.

Kevin continued, “I can’t stand the guy.”

Joey interjected. “His girlfriend hot as hell dough. I’d tap dat.”

“You’d—” Kevin started.

I cut him off. “I need answers. Ima go find out some stuff. Don’t stop me.”

“What you need answered?” Joey asked.

“For one: what’s my name?”

Joey answered very matter of fact. “Jay Matthew Liyfer. Born February 2, 1992. Age eighteen. You live in Desert Valley, California; right up da street from me.” He paused. “You need yo social security number too?” He paused again. “I don’ have it.” He laughed as he took a drag on his cigarette.

So I’m Jay and I’m eighteen? Good to know. “Do I have a girlfriend?” I asked.

Joey looked at Kevin, shrugged, looked back at me and said, “Yeah. Her name is Cami or somethin’.”

“Oh thanks,” I said as I felt a smile spread across my face. I started walking away.

“Good luck with Jared,” Kevin called. “If you need a place, we got a camp set up in the middle of the island.”

“Thanks. I’ll think about it.” I ran off east, leaving them behind. The last thing I overheard was them arguing over the Jared guy’s girlfriend.

Those two are hilarious, and they still seem real enough. I just hope they are who they say they are, but I really have no clue.

So I have a girlfriend? I thought, as my mind changed topics. Life isn’t so bad after all. I hope she’s stuck on this island too. If not, this place will suck.

I kept walking—wondering about Jared and my girlfriend. Who are they? What are they like? Did Joey and Kevin blow Jared way out of proportion or is he really like that? The thought made me nervous. Cami. What does she look like? Is that actually her name? Joey is hard to understand, I reasoned. Either way, I can’t wait to find her and tell her that I’m okay.

As I kept walking, I noticed that the sun was gone, and the shadows were growing on the ground. I also began to notice how tired I was, and I wondered how long it had been since I slept (before going unconscious in the middle of the island). How’d that even happen? I forced myself onward. I need answers.
*          *          *

AFTER TWENTY MINUTES of stumbling through the dead forest, tripping over burnt out roots and scattered rocks, I realized I would hurt myself if I kept going in the dark. The sun was gone, and shadows covered everything.

Don’t stop, a voice in my head said. Don’t you want answers?

I do, I countered, but I’m tired and I don’t want to hurt myself. Safety first, remember?

I stopped where I stood at that moment, lay down, and closed my eyes for the night.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Peter's Walk

The day that would change the course of the rest of my life began like any other day. And I’m not talking about the day Jesus of Nazareth first called me to follow Him, though if it wasn’t for that day, I would never have experienced the events I’m about to relate. This was the day that I started to change from a timid follower into a faithful disciple. Allow me to explain.
The day had started like any other. I woke up, drank some milk, kissed my wife goodbye, and went out to meet Jesus, as I’d done every morning since He’d first called me away from my fishing business. We walked around Galilee, following closely behind Jesus as He spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven, answered queries from strangers, dodged tests from Pharisees, ate meals with sinners, healed people who asked him for healing, and forgave peoples’ sin. None of it was unusual for a day in the life of a disciple.
Things changed when a messenger came from the Essenes. Jesus’ cousin, John, who had lived out in the wilderness under rigorous conditions with their sect, had been executed by Herod. John had been preaching about repentance, was always dressed in a camel’s hair garment, eating locusts and honey—which didn’t do much for his case—and was baptizing people in the Jordan River for forgiveness of sins when he had been arrested and thrown in jail by Herod’s soldiers. Word on the street was that he had been accusing Herod of an immoral relationship. But now the news was out that he had been executed. Jesus didn’t take the news of his death very well, but none of us twelve blamed Him for that, though Iscariot did mutter something to me under his breath about how Jesus should grow up; “everyone dies,” he’d said.
It was at this point that Jesus decided He needed to get away from the crowds, so He called on John and James, Andrew and me to prepare a boat to take across the Sea of Galilee.
We prepared the craft quickly, raising the sail, raising the oars, and raising our eyes and voices to heaven asking Adonai to grant us a safe voyage across the sea. I noticed storm clouds forming over the surrounding mountains as we were crossing the halfway point, but thought nothing of it, because Jesus was in the boat with us. He’d calmed a storm for us before; if one came up today, it would be no different. But no storm came up, and after about an hour of sailing, we were on the opposite side of the sea.
So were the crowds. Somehow they had beaten us there, and as soon as Jesus’ foot crossed from the boat to the shore, the needy people were standing there asking for favors. I attempted to tell them to come again some other time, but Jesus told me not to, because He had no qualms about helping them. He reminded us that this was why He had come. So we all got out of the boat, and decided to help bring the lame and guide the blind to Jesus in order to be healed. For five hours we did this, and finally the sun was approaching the horizon.
I was tired. I wanted to eat dinner, maybe hear a story or two from Jesus, get a good teaching on the Torah from Him, and go home to be with my wife. So, I approached Him, taking Andrew, Thomas, and Judas along with me, and told Him, “This place is a wilderness, and the time for the evening meal has already passed. Send the crowds away so they can go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”
Jesus responded as only He could. “They don’t need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
I was taken aback. Who does He think I am? I’m certainly not Adonai. He told us to pray, “Give us today our daily bread,” and now He wants me to give them their daily bread? I was dumbfounded. All I said, though, was, “We only have five loaves and two fish here.”
“Bring them here to Me,” Jesus said.
I handed them over to Jesus, and, beginning with that, I had no clue that the next twelve hours of my life would be one of the most intense sets of twelve hours in my entire life. Jesus proceeded to instruct the large crowd on how to gather around on the grass. Then, He looked up to heaven, blessed the food in Adonai’s name, broke it into pieces and gave the pieces to us twelve to pass out to the people. As He broke off the small lump of bread and handed it to me, I couldn’t believe the idiocy of what I was being asked to do. There was no possible way that this would feed everyone, let alone one-twelfth of everyone. But I did as I was told, and broke pieces off to give to everyone. By the time I’d passed out my section of the loaf, I’d handed pieces to more people than I could count, and I wasn’t giving skimpy amounts either. I broke off part of it, handed it out, broke off another chunk, handed it out, broke off another chunk, handed it out, as did the other eleven of us, and by the time we ran out and returned to Jesus, everyone had received food.
I spoke first, “How’d that happen?”
Jesus replied, “You’ve seen nothing yet, Simon.”
It was true. After everyone ate, Jesus sent us out to gather leftovers. We came back with twelve large basketfuls; one for each of us. It made no sense, but I had no time to question it before Jesus told us to get in the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, yet again.
We obeyed. We were all still completely dumbstruck about the bread, and we conversed about it as we prepared the boat for the return voyage to Gennesaret. I felt better knowing that I wasn’t the only one who was amazed that food had multiplied the way it had; it proved I wasn’t dreaming. But as we set out on the sea for the return home, any great dream the food episode might have been was forgotten by the nightmare that was about to strike in the figure of a storm at sea.
The trip started well. The darkness was heavy, barely pierced at all by the small lantern at the prow, but I was a fisherman. This was my life. My brother Andrew, and John and James were also fishermen. We lived on this sea. We’d spent many nights on this sea. We’d sailed it many times. We knew where the best fishing spots were. If anyone had a question about this sea, we were the go-to guys. And I, as the oldest, was the leader. But Jesus’ words after handing out the bread and fish stuck with me: “You’ve seen nothing yet.”
The thought snapped me back to reality. I looked up at the sky and noticed not a star in sight. That’s when I heard my brother holler, “I just felt rain. Prepare for a storm.” Then I felt a drop as well. It was followed by many more. Why did Jesus send us off alone? I wondered. Then the wind struck the mast, resulting in a tearing sound. “I’ll have to replace that now,” I said to myself, cursing that I didn’t know where the money was going to come from to pay for it. The wind kept blowing, the rain kept falling, and then the first wave crashed over the side.
There we were, trapped on a boat—eighteen cubits long by five cubits wide—totally at the mercy of the wind and waves. The rain poured down as Andrew and I pulled the broken sail down and stowed it under the bed upon which Jesus had slept the last time we were in this predicament. The sight again reminded me that He was gone. I felt betrayed. But there was no time to think about that at the moment. All of the disciples minus Iscariot, Thomas, Matthew, and me picked up oars, and sat down in the puddles that were forming from the storm, and began to row.
It was crazy outside. The winds were blowing hurricane force winds; the waves were churning our ship up and down in the water like a milkmaid churning butter. We all thought we were going to die. The darkness outside didn’t help either; the only light came from the small lantern on the prow, and I wondered to myself just how long it would be before that lantern was snuffed out by the wind or waves. My questions were answered as another set of waves crashed on the deck, flooded the top, smothered our light, and soaked down onto the rowers below. No one was happy, and we all began praying to Adonai to rescue us from this certain death.
*          *          *
After several hours of the same, nerves were at the breaking point. Thomas, Iscariot, Matthew, and I were all complaining that Jesus had certainly called us to follow Him just so we would die on this stupid body of water. Cries of complaint came from the rowers who were soaked to the bone, cold, and frightened, and I had to remind them repeatedly, “We’re no better off.”
Andrew specifically called me once, “Simon, is it really worth it for us to row against this storm? We’re just wearing ourselves out.”
I didn’t want to agree with him, but he was right. This storm had us trapped. We’d be lucky to survive, let alone make any progress before the storm ended. I kept my mouth shut though, simply reminding him, “We’re no better off.”
That was when I spied something in the distance. I wasn’t entirely sure what it was, given the churning waves, spray from the waves, falling rain, and utter darkness. I kept looking and it began to come into focus. It was a blacker spot against an already black background. I didn’t have a clue what it could be, so I called Matthew over to me. He looked in the direction I pointed, and conveyed the same sense of confusion I had expressed. We didn’t know what it was. It was definitely getting larger though, regardless of what it was.
I told the rowers to stop rowing, and they hurriedly obeyed. When they had stowed their oars and reached me, I urged them to look in the direction of the figure. They obliged.
Leave it to my little brother to say something stupid, but he was the first to speak. “I think I know what that is,” his voice started to shake. “I heard some soldiers talking one day about phantoms that can walk around and kill people.” He paused, gulped, and continued, “It’s a phantom!”
It caused everyone on the boat to break out in a panic. “It’s a phantom! We’re all going to die!” If I’m honest, I was screaming just as much as everyone else. “We’re doomed. The phantom will destroy us all.” Never mind that the wind, waves, and rain were more likely to kill us all, though they were all but forgotten amidst the excitement of the new observation.
That’s when it happened. The phantom spoke. And when it spoke, I recognized His voice. “Be courageous. I am. Have no fear.” It was Jesus, but it was what He said between the first and last sentences that gave me pause. “I am.”
Not, “I am here,” but just the plain and simple, “I am.” It brought to mind what I had learned in the synagogue on the Sabbath growing up as a good Jewish boy. When Moses met Adonai at the burning bush, he asked Him, “Who should I say sent me?” Adonai replied, “Tell the Israelites, ‘I AM sent you.’” If I wasn’t mistaken, Jesus had just claimed to be Adonai, and there He was, walking on the water.
I wasn’t the only one who realized it was Jesus either, because all twelve of us on the deck of the ship looking out into the distance had clearly understood what He had said. We had completely forgotten the storm amidst shouts of, “It’s Jesus,” “He’s come for us,” “He really does care,” ringing out all around the boat. My brother shed some light on the situation again. “I heard the soldiers also say that only deities can walk on water; are you sure that’s Jesus?”
“What do centurions know?” the Zealot replied.
“I would cast a lot that He’s standing on a log,” Thomas quipped.
I had to agree with the Zealot over Thomas. Soldiers are a bunch of numbskull freaks wearing armor, living for Caesar, hurting our people, who have been hit in the helmet once too many times with a sword or shield to know what they are talking about. I decided to make my opinion known to my fellows in the boat. “I promise you that that’s Jesus, and I promise that He is simply walking on the water.”
The boat grew silent. No one said anything for several seconds. The figure in the distance standing on the water still stood there, dark against the darkness of the water and sky. Then Andrew spoke. “Okay, Simon. If you’re so confident that that really is Jesus, prove it. Don’t be a Pharisee. Do something about it.”
So I did. I called out to Jesus. “Lord, since I believe that it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” It was out before I could stop myself. I didn’t know what to do. I mean, Jesus did crazy stuff; of course He can walk on water. But me?  There’s nothing in me to enable me to walk on water, just like there was nothing in the pigs at Gergesa to prevent their drowning in the sea when the demons fled into them. I hoped beyond hope that Jesus would see my faith and not call me on it.
But it was not to be that way. As I’ve learned in the days since that day, faith is worthless if it’s just something spoken; faith has to work itself out in action as well. That’s why Jesus proceeded to say, “Come.”
It was a simple, one word command. And when Jesus commands something, I must go. So I did. I knew I could do this. I multiplied fish and bread earlier by Jesus’ enablement. So I jumped over the side, keeping my gaze planted on Jesus, and when my feet hit the water, they didn’t sink. They didn’t sink at all. It was like jumping off the boat onto shore after a day of fishing. I couldn’t believe it.
Things like this don’t happen. My wife would never believe that I walked on the sea. Humans don’t walk on the sea, but here were two humans—Jesus and myself—walking on the sea. I took a step toward Jesus; I still felt like I was on dry ground. I took another step; no difference. I took another step; Jesus was getting closer; before too many more steps, I’d be able to reach out and touch Him.
A wave crashed over me, and my mind was instantly jerked back to the storm surrounding me. The water was not calm, even where I was walking. Waves had been lapping over my feet the whole time since I’d stepped out of the boat. I hadn’t paid it any mind until the huge swell crashed over me. The wind was blowing.
Jesus was still fathoms away from me, walking calmly towards me, as if nothing was going wrong. I actually noticed huge waves rushing toward Him simply vanishing, as if they were bowing before Him. It upset me that He was untouched by the waves, but they were crashing over me. I was totally at their mercy.
Now that I was soaked, the wind chilled me to the bone. I glanced back to the boat, and they were still staring out towards me. I heard someone yell, “He’s sinking,” and that’s when I realized the water was up to my waist. Then it was at my neck. I started flailing in the water, not knowing what I should do. My mind flew back to a psalm I had learned as a child, so I cried out, “Save me, Lord. For the water has risen to my neck.”
That’s when I felt Jesus’ hand touch my shoulder. He had knelt completely down, reached His arm under the water, and grabbed my shoulder with His hand. He pulled me up with His carpenter-strong arm, and as I stood next to Him on the water, not sinking, I felt like a fool. I was such a foolish disciple. I was the most unworthy. I was the one whose faith and trust were tested, and I was the one who failed. As long as I’d looked at Him, I was doing fine; as soon as my gaze moved off Him and onto my situation, I was sinking in the water. I knew for certain that I’d hear a reprimand from my Master.
As I stood next to Him, I thought of all the ways I’d answer the reprimand that was surely coming from Him. I figured I could argue that I at least tried to follow Him out on the water; no one else had. I figured I could argue that I was perfectly content to be under the water; fish live there, so it would be an adventure. I figured I could argue that it had been a long day, and all I really wanted was sleep; if I had been more awake, I could have focused better on Jesus.
Just as I was about to open my mouth and preempt His reprimand, He beat me to it. Our eyes met as He asked, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” His eyes weren’t accusatory, but rather understanding. Full of understanding. It was the same look He gave me the other fateful early morning when we were together, yet apart; the day I denied Him three times before He was crucified, after assuring Him that I would never leave Him. And just like that day, and that look, His gaze and His question crushed any opposition inside me.
I had no response to speak. Rather we walked silently back as I just stared at Him. It was as if He intimately understood me. He didn’t say, “You’re an idiot for not having more faith!” He didn’t say, “I hate your lack of faith.” He simply asked, “Why did you doubt?” as if to get me to search out my motivations.
Doubt has always been my biggest struggle. It led me to fear. It led me to lies. It led me to violence. It led me to denial of the greatest Person I have ever known, the greatest Person who has ever known me. But He never gave up on me; even after this sinking incident, He took me by the hand, set me back on my feet, and later said that I was blessed for knowing that He was the Messiah. What’s better than hearing from Jesus’ own mouth that you are blessed?
But as we walked the rest of the way to the boat that morning, in silence, I was awed by Jesus. I didn’t know what to say or do, except to keep my eyes on Him. I could hear the wind. I could feel the waves. I could hear the others in the boat, but I paid them no attention. Jesus was walking with me. He cared for me, even though I often failed Him, and would continue to do so—and still do.
My excuses for failing to walk well seemed so pathetic in the presence of Jesus. It didn’t matter what others did; what I did was what I was responsible for. Of course I don’t want to be a fish; am I stupid? My exhaustion was no excuse, though I often resorted to that excuse; Jesus deserved my everything. I once told Jesus, speaking for all of the twelve, that we’d left everything to follow Him; I knew that I certainly hadn’t left my sleep to follow Him, so what a bold, arrogant assumption that had been.
And He could have let me drown in my failure, but He didn’t. He knelt down and lifted me out. He humbled Himself, lowering Himself down upon the raging waves to pull me back onto my feet. It reminds me of the fact that He humbled Himself to become a man at all. I hadn’t completely understood it at the time, but Adonai Himself had been walking on the water that day. My little brother had been right; a deity had been walking on the water. And it humbles me to think that He saw me important enough in His eyes to give me the honor of participating with Him in His power.
We clambered back into the boat, and I couldn’t bring myself to stand. I flopped onto my back and gazed up at the dark sky as rain smacked me in the face. I was exhausted. Being awake since sunrise the day before had taken its toll. In addition, my experience on the Sea with the Lord of the Sea left me empty. The emotions that went into that moment were more than I could handle, and they left me exhausted. I closed my eyes.
Cries jolted me back to alertness. The realization of Jesus’ presence, Jesus’ power, and my experience had worn off the people in the boat, and the water level inside was still rising. The wind whipped around, waves crashed, men cried out to Jesus and Adonai simultaneously. It was chaos. A dead person couldn’t sleep through it.
And then, just like that, the rain stopped, wind stopped, and the waves grew calm. The only thing that continued for a few seconds afterwards was the cries of the men in the boat. They soon ceased as well, as the clouds disappeared, and the glow of the sunrise in the east started to show over the mountains.
What happened next was amazing. It was totally unexpected, but looking back it was exactly what needed to happen. And, it’s a good thing only us twelve and Jesus were in the boat, because if the Pharisees had seen what happened, they would have hounded Jesus a lot harder.
It started as I turned from my back onto my front—still laying in a puddle of water—and looked ahead of me. Jesus was standing there, His eyes gazing down at me. I don’t know what caused me to do it, but I drew my knees under my chest—assuming a kneeling, prostrate position—and stretched my hands out to Jesus. “Truly You are the Son of God,” I said. “Thank You for saving me from the waves. Thank You for calling me to trust You. Help me to trust You better in the future. I just want to be a worthy follower.”
I was too caught up in the moment and too caught up in my own praise to worry about what the others were doing or saying, but all around I heard splashes (as if they were falling to their knees) and the phrase, “Truly You are the Son of God.”
It was a day I’ll never forget. The day that changed me from a timid follower into a faithful disciple.
*          *          *
“But Peter, sir,” the young man began, “how did that event change you into a faithful follower. You were unfaithful later, when you denied Christ. You’ve told me that yourself in many sermons since I joined your faith fellowship.” The young man had dark brown hair and eager eyes, wore a grey toga, and sat cross-legged on the floor (with a writing tablet and ink on his lap) at the feet of an older man.
The older man spoke. “Mark, my son, would you consider yourself faithful to Jesus?”
“Yes,” came the instant reply.
“As would I consider you to be,” Peter said, pausing. “But, would you not also admit to having deserted Paul’s ministry early on?”
Hesitant to respond, he answered, “Yes,” as his face grew somber.
Peter pulled on his greying beard as he spoke. “Faithfulness is not seen in light of perfection. It is seen in light of pattern. Your pattern has been faithfulness. Faithfulness to Christ, faithfulness to me, and hopefully one day renewed faithfulness to our brother Paul as well. In my case, I did deny Christ in His moment of greatest temptation, but so did Judas. And while I hate comparing myself to anyone but our Lord, it is important to recognize the difference between Judas and myself. Judas hung himself; I was restored and continued with Jesus, and still continue with Jesus to this day.”
“I understand, sir. It’s quite a remarkable difference, and a very good point to remember. Thank you.” He paused, before looking at the writing materials on his lap, and then asked, “So how should I write this episode for my relation of Jesus’ life?”
“The first thing to do is make sure to leave out any personal details about me. I don’t want this to be Peter’s story; I want it to be Jesus’ story. Can you do that?”
“Yes.” Mark then began writing. Several minutes later, Mark said, “I’ve got it. Let me read it to you:
‘The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to Him all that they had done and taught.
He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest for a while.” For many people were coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.
So they went away in the boat by themselves to a remote place, but many saw them leaving and recognized them. People ran there by land from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. So as He stepped ashore, He saw a huge crowd and had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Then He began to teach them many things.
When it was already late, His disciples approached Him and said, “This place is a wilderness, and it is already late! Send them away, so they can go into the surrounding countryside and villages to buy themselves something to eat.”
“You give them something to eat,” He responded.
They said to Him, “Should we go and buy 200 denarii worth of bread and give them something to eat?”
And He asked them, “How many loaves do you have? Go look.”
When they found out they said, “Five, and two fish.”
Then He instructed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in ranks of hundreds and fifties. Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke the loaves. He kept giving them to His disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. Everyone ate and was filled. Then they picked up 12 baskets full of pieces of bread and fish. Now those who ate the loaves were 5,000 men.
Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He dismissed the crowd. After He said good-bye to them, He went away to the mountain to pray. When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and He was alone on the land. He saw them being battered as they rowed, because the wind was against them.
Around three in the morning He came toward them walking on the sea and wanted to pass by them.
When they saw Him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out; for they all saw Him and were terrified.
Immediately He spoke with them and said, “Have courage! I am. Don’t be afraid.”
Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. They were completely astounded.’ ”
Mark waited a second before speaking again. “How does that sound?”
Peter’s voice quaked as he spoke. “That sounds very good, my son. My name didn’t even come up once. Just as it should be. Thank you.” He paused, closed his eyes, and a minute later spoke again. “That writing will impact many people. The Spirit of Christ will certainly use it for His glory.”
Mark was silent.
Peter was silent too.
Then Mark spoke again. “So what happened next in your encounter with Jesus?”