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640px-Miracle_Fishes
"Miracle Fishes" by Alexander Bida - WCG. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

 

It’s been a couple weeks since we found the empty tomb and things are just not getting back to ‘normal.’ After that first night, when Jesus just appeared in our midst, James and John started talking about heading back to Jerusalem. They wanted to put Jesus on a warhorse instead of a donkey this time, and march into the city. What could stop Jesus from taking His rightful place in the temple, or in the palace for that matter?

But then a few days passed. Thomas returned and we couldn’t even convince him that Jesus had risen from the dead. We hadn’t seen Jesus in days. We got together every day in the same room where He appeared to us that first night. At first we had met there to avoid capture by the Jewish leadership. After watching the way they got rid of Jesus, we were afraid for our lives.

Since that first appearance we met there everyday, always expecting that Jesus would show up again. I wasn’t sure everyone would be back after the Sabbath, but we all know what we saw. We hoped He would join us again.

Finally, after eight long days Jesus appeared again, and this time Thomas was with us. Jesus offered his hands and His side to Thomas. But again, no word about what was next.

Of course Jesus never gave us much warning about what was next. It always seemed like He knew just what to do and when. But we never had the week’s itinerary before hand. We’d get up in the morning and Jesus would say we have to go to Samaria, or let’s head over to Cana, or sometime it was “head across the lake, I will catch up with you in Capernaum.”

In the last three years, I can’t remember any stretch of eight days when we weren’t off doing something.

But now, silence.

Yesterday morning I was pretty frustrated as we sat and waited. It was past midday and I had to do something. I said, "I’m going fishing” and about half of the guys followed me out the door. We left the rest of them there waiting, but I could not stand another day of doing nothing.

Fishing has always been what I do when I don’t know what to do. It’s been like home to me since I was a boy. I used to go out with James and John on their father’s boat. There is so much there that’s familiar. It lets my mind work out problems. It’s where I screwed up enough courage to ask for my wife’s hand in marriage. It’s where I learned to pray. It’s where I met Him, on the shores of the lake.

The others who came along, did so not because they loved the idea. It was more likely they, like me, just didn’t know what else to do.

It was a long night, and it was not helping. Usually out here in the calm of the night, under the patchwork of stars and clouds, my mind and heart opened up. But this night it was shut up tight. Something was weighing on me. I’m not even sure what it was, but there was a pressure building on my inside.

Besides all that – not one fish – every net – every cast – empty. Even Andrew, who loves to drop a line off the back of the boat while we work the nets, was coming up with nothing.

It reminded me of the first time I met Him. We had been out all night – just like tonight, and like tonight caught nothing. As we sat cleaning our nets, He just walked up with a huge crowd of folks pressing in on Him. He walked right up to me and asked if I would take Him just off shore so everyone could hear and see him.

Well, the crowd spread out on the hillside, and we put out a couple dozen cubits. Then He taught them. At first I kept busy with the cleaning of our nets, so they would be ready for the next day, but as He spoke, His words drew me. They had a force, a pull, that I couldn’t resist. I noticed James and John sat on the shore, nets in their laps, listening too.

I have no idea how long He spoke, but after a bit He turned to me and said:

“Let’s go get some fish. Take us out a ways, will you?”

I remember thinking, “This young zealot may know everything about God, but He doesn’t know much about fishing. If there were going to be fish, they would have been there last night. Now it’s the heat of the day, and we won’t be seeing any fish till evening.”

Still, I was so impressed with His speaking, it would be a chance to spend another hour with Him, even if nothing came of it.

So I cast off and headed out. I can remember John making some mocking remark as we headed back out to fish, and Jesus and I just laughed. There was such joy in Him. He could be so serious at times, but the joy was always there, like bedrock at the core of His being.

Then I let out my net, and this part I remember like it was yesterday. First I heard a patter against the side of the boat. When I looked over the gunwale, it was as if the water was alive, more fish than water. And as we started to draw the net back, I thought our little boat was going to capsize. Then the nets started to tear.

I signaled back to James and John who were just loading their nets back into their Father’s boat, and they headed out to help us. I think we got more fish in that one afternoon outing, than we had taken in the last month. That was the moment I fully grasped that He was indeed Messiah. That was also the day He told us He was going to teach us to catch men.

As I thought back, some of that tension I was feeling lifted, but then I saw that the horizon was beginning to brighten. It was morning. We were out doing what we did best, and had nothing at all to show for it. My funk, which had lifted slightly, slammed down with such force I thought I felt the boat shake.

It was then that I heard Him. From the shore I heard Him calling, at least I thought it was Jesus. I couldn’t tell for sure, but there He stood on the shore, beside a roaring fire, signaling for us to come in. I looked at Andrew, Thomas looked at John, and all at once we said “It’s Him! Is it you?” we all called.

“Drop your nets on the other side.” He called from the shore. As we did, there it was again. That patter on the side of the boat. The fish were jumping into our nets before we even got them into the water. It was like the only reason they were alive was to find their way into our nets.

As soon as I saw what was happening I hit the waves. As I swam toward shore, I can remember thinking “I should have asked Him to let me walk again.” I got a mouth full of water as I laughed at that.

When I got to shore, I figured it out. As soon we embraced, I realized what was dragging me down, what kept haunting my days and leaving my bed empty at night.

I had denied this One whom I loved more than I had ever loved anyone. This man who had given me three years of His life, stood alone before the Roman Empire and the Jewish power system, and I couldn’t – wouldn’t – even admit that I knew Him.

We ate fish for breakfast. Some of the fish we caught, and some that He already had on the fire. It seemed everyone around the fire that morning was exploding with joy, but I was quiet.

Jesus caught my eye and said,

“Simon”

He had given me another name, “Peter,” but in tender moments He would still call me my given name.

“Simon, let’s walk.”

As we left the group He put His hand on my shoulder and asked,

“Do you love me more than these?”

What was He asking? Did He want to know if I loved Him more than my fishing companions? Was He offended that we left the upper room and headed to the boats?

“Yes Lord, You know I love you,” I said, with a defensive tone.

He said, “Tend My lambs.”

We walked along the beach in silence for a few minutes.

“Simon, son of John, Do you love Me?”

“Yes Lord, You know I love you.”

This time He said “Shepherd My sheep.”

We walked along and came to a large driftwood log, and He sat down and gestured that I should join Him.

This time He almost whispered the question.

“Simon, son of John, do you Love Me?”

“Yes Lord, You know everything. You know I love you.”

“Tend My sheep.”

It was then that I realized the last time we talked one on one was when He told me I would deny Him three times. Now He gave me three chances to acknowledge Him, three times to declare myself for Him.

Three failures redeemed. Three wounds healed. Three chains holding my heart, broken off and thrown into Galilee. Jesus would never speak of these three failures again. The evil one could never use these three denials to accuse me. These three sins were GONE, and I was free.

As we walked back to the others, we talked of other things, but just before we reached them, He said, “Follow me.”

My heart cried out, as it did the first time He said those words to me, “I will follow You.”

A few minutes earlier I would have been afraid to make any promises, after my last failure, after my last promise ended in such disaster. But everything in me knew I would be following Him till my last day. And this time, if need be, I would die with Him.

I will gladly take up my cross and follow Jesus.

===

Copyright - 2014 -  Benjamin Nelson

If this retelling of Peter's story ministers to you, would you please share it with a friend.

If you would like to read more stories from the gospels retold in this way check out:

What Am I Lacking? - A rich young man's encounter with Jesus.

What I Found at the Well. - A Samaritan woman's meeting with Jesus.

Blood in the Sheets. - A moving account of the woman who touched the hem of His robes.

 

Fictionalized John 20 and 21 and Luke 5

 

 

13

By Carl Heinrich Bloch (http://masterpieceart.net/carl-heinrich-bloch/) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“Come see a man who knew all about the things I did,
who knows me inside and out.
Do you think this could be the Messiah?”
John 4:29

What I Found at the Well

Samaritan Woman

I wasn’t always this way: a pariah, an outcast from society, cut off from my children, forgotten by those I once loved. Now, I live day to day. Then, I had a future. Hopes. Dreams.

When I was a young girl, I dreamed of the day when I would be the one in the white dress. I would be the one swept away by the dashing and gentle man. I would be the one celebrated, congratulated. The young girls would sing and dance around me.

I remember when my fortunes began to turn. As a woman in a man’s world, it wasn’t like I had much to say in the matter. My first husband threw me out one day. I know it wasn’t the first time I didn’t have a meal ready for him when he came in, but was that all I was to him? A cook?

He was nearly three times my age. When we married, his forty-six years could have been a hundred to me. He was a butcher, and my father made the match thinking I would not go hungry. At sixteen, I had done some cooking, but our family was large, and I was the youngest girl. I never learned how to manage a kitchen or plan a meal.

The marriage lasted less than two years. Now instead of a silly sixteen-year-old girl, I was a divorced woman with a broken heart at seventeen. He and his new wife kept my baby, my only joy for the last eight months.

My parents let me back in my childhood home, but things were not the same. They looked at me with different eyes. Rather than seeing my pain, they saw the shame I brought them.

My father tried for a couple years to find me a match, but a good man did not want a divorced woman.

That’s when I began to settle. I settled four more times, and each time I found myself back on the street. Now I live with a man, and he’s a brute. He does not have any interest in marrying me; he just wants someone to boss around. I have finally learned to get supper on the table promptly, since the alternative is so painful.

After my second marriage, the women in Sychar began to talk. It got worse and worse, until I just didn’t want to be seen in town anymore. Every time I showed up in the village, my shame burned me. It was like holding my hand over an open flame. When I entered a shop or market, all the talking stopped and the glaring began.

Twice a day—morning and evening—since the day I was first married, it fell to me to fetch the water. A few years back, I stopped going with the rest of the women. As their distaste for me grew, I looked for different times and other places to find water. I began to travel all the way out to Jacob’s well. It was deeper than the one in town, so I needed to bring more rope. It was fifteen minutes farther away, but it was private in the heat of the day.

When I got to the well today, I was a bit surprised to find a man there. Not just a man, but a Jew. I could tell by the locks of hair curling down beside his cheeks and by his Galilean accent. I can’t even imagine how he came to be there.

It was rare to see a Jew in Samaria. They didn’t like us. They didn’t like our animals. They didn’t like our roads. They didn’t like anything about us.

This Jew looked tired, having most likely spent hours traveling, and he had nothing with him—no waterskins, no luggage, no food. Who traveled across this desolate tract without water? But here he was.

I was hesitant to approach. The Jews could get pretty hostile toward Samaritans. The fighting wasn’t of a physical nature, but there was no love lost in our dealings.

Then, out of the blue, He spoke to me.

“Will you give me a drink?”

I looked up. I had not let my eyes meet His. Eye contact was usually painful for me; the scorn or condemnation I found in most eyes drove mine to the ground. But when He spoke it startled me, put me off-balance.

At first I thought I would just ignore Him. This Jew could only have malice in mind. But I could feel His eyes on me. He did not turn away and was not put off by my silence. He just sat there on the edge of the well and watched me. When I finally looked up and met His gaze, something in His eyes said He was there just for me. He didn’t look at me like other men. He was looking at the “little-girl me”—like my father used to when I sat on his lap. There was somehow safety in His gaze.

Still, this could not end well for me, so I took another moment, gathered my wits, and put up my guard.

“You’re a Jew and I’m a Samaritan, a woman. How can you ask me for a drink?”

Then He started talking to me about some living water. At first I didn’t get it. I couldn’t tell if He was flirting with me or making fun of me. But there was something in His tone, in His way, something completely genuine.

Next thing I knew, He told me to call for my husband.

There it was again. Every time I dared to hope for something good, for a new relationship, my past stood like a locked gate before me, an iron barrier between me and life.

I wanted the living water. I wanted eternal life. But who would ever love someone with my past?

“I’m not married,” I mumbled. It was true after a fashion. The man of my house won’t even let my children visit when he’s at home. He would never marry me—love me.

He waited a beat. My heart waited, too. Did He know I was bending the truth?

“That’s nicely put: ‘I have no husband.’ You’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re living with now isn’t even your husband. You spoke the truth there, sure enough.”

How could He know these things? They say Messiah will come, and when He comes He will tell us all things. Could this be Him?

We spoke of other things—of temples and worship, of Mount Gerizim and Jerusalem. But what I wanted to ask Him—Are you the One?—I couldn’t get my tongue to say the words.

Finally I edged up on the question.

“I do know that the Messiah is coming. When he arrives, we’ll get the whole story.”

His answer broke the iron gate, and the floods began to flow. His answer was like living water to my soul.

“I AM He.”

This Man-Jew-Prophet-Messiah-Savior of the World, this Jesus, flooded my soul with living water. He made me a temple, a place of worship to the One True God. And He did it knowing who I was and what I’d done. He knew me—all of me—and loved me.

Today, when I lie down to sleep, it’s not in blankets of shame. The flood within me springs up to life daily.

The acceptance I pined for these forty years, I found at the well.

The cleansing I wept for year after year, I found at the well.

Come! See a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?

~~~

To read the original story, see John 4:1-29.

Copyright - Benjamin Nelson - 2015

Encounters With Jesus - Available Now
Encounters With Jesus - Available Now

The story above is a chapter from my book Encounters With Jesus, which is a compilation of forty such stories. It takes the reader from Christ's conception to His resurrection through the eyes of dozens who were touched by His ministry.

You can get your copy today in paperback or kindle on Amazon, or for your Nook at BN.com If you want both you can get the Kindle version for only 99c when you buy the paperback on Amazon.

22

Jumping out of the boat,
Peter walked on the water to Jesus.
Matthew 14:29

Master, if it’s You

Peter

I’ve never seen anything impact Him like the news we got this morning. John was dead, John the Baptist. And not just dead—murdered, decapitated by that tyrant, Herod. He was visibly shaken when He heard the news.

All He wanted to do was get away—away from the crowds, away from the city, away from us. Away. He needed to take in this sadness, to process this loss. He no doubt wanted to talk to His Father about it. That’s where He, Jesus, turned when . . . well, just about any time. When stress was bearing down, when decisions had to be made, even when He was full of joy, He went to the Father.

We’d all been out in the towns and villages. He had sent us two by two, and, well, we had some stories to tell. Andrew and I were amazed, and as the others began to arrive, the stories kept growing. Matthew and Thomas were telling a story about casting a demon out in Capernaum. James was relating how he and Bart laid hands on a woman’s eyes, and she saw for the first time in her life. We were all laughing and rejoicing as we shared our own accounts.

Then Philip came in with the news about John, and the tone of the gathering changed abruptly. Jesus got quiet. Everyone got quiet.

“Let’s get out of here,” He said.

He headed down to the boat, and we all followed. He asked me to navigate to a secluded place, away from the cities and towns and multitudes. We’d been there often to be alone with the Master. There we had laughed and learned for hours on end without interruption. But it was not going to be like that today. The word was out, and huge numbers of men, women, and children were there to meet us as we disembarked.

I don’t know if the crowds grew because we were all doing His works now, spreading His name—His fame—in the region, or if those who opposed us were just sending the mobs in order to get under His skin. Either way, as always, He took immediate control of the situation.

He settled in, the rock embankment at His back creating a natural amphitheater, and began to teach. As He did so, the assembly continued to grow. It was late afternoon, and we had not even had lunch. As the sun began its descent, I pressed my way over to Jesus and suggested He should wrap it up.

“We’re out in the country and it’s getting late. Dismiss the people so they can go to the villages and get some supper.”

He turned to look at me. The twinkle in His eye asked, “Ready for your next lesson?”

“There is no need to dismiss them. You give them supper.”

His words tossed me like a wave of distress.

“Me? I didn’t bring any food. I didn’t even know we were coming across the lake. If we go and buy food, it will cost a year’s wages. There have to be 5,000 men here, and most of them have their wives and kids. How could I possibly feed—”

Jesus put His hand on my shoulder and said, “Peter, Peter, just have them sit in groups of fifty. What food do we have?”

Thomas came up with a tiny satchel.

“There was a boy who had a couple fish and some bread, maybe five little loaves. But what good is that among all these?”

“Bring them here,” Jesus said.

And isn’t that always the answer?

“Jesus, there is a man here with a withered hand.”

“Bring him to Me.”

“Jesus, my son is sick.”

“Bring him to Me.”

“Jesus, my daughter’s dead.”

“Bring Me to her.”

He took the bread and lifted it up toward heaven and gave thanks. Then He broke off a piece of bread and fish for each of the twelve of us and told us to share what we had.

I went to my first group of fifty and handed my entire stash of lunch to the first person. I watched in astonishment as each person took some and passed it. When it came back to me, I was sure it was larger than when I started. As I went on to the next group, I noticed the first fifty were all busy eating.

As we passed the food around, the din began to rise. Astonishment ran amuck in the crowd. Many were there to see a miracle; some came to hear Him teach, and I am sure some were there to undermine Him, to get some bit of dirt. But now all were eating—eating this heaven-sent fish sandwich—and there wasn’t a naysayer in the bunch.

When the feasting was over, Jesus told us to gather up the leftovers and take them down to the boat. He said He would meet us back across the lake. We gathered up twelve baskets full of scraps. Some of the scraps were the size of my original portion.

I looked back as we headed down to the boat, and I saw Jesus touching people as they left—a handshake, a touch on the shoulder, a pat on the back. I know He wanted to be alone, but Jesus always gave all of Himself when He was with others.

As we cast off, I could see Him heading up the mountain, where He could be alone. I expect He poured His heart out to His Father. I had almost forgotten about John, with all that had transpired since our reunion that morning.

It was night by now, and as we headed out into the Sea of Galilee, the waves grew. The sky began to anger, or so it seemed, as the star-specked black turned to a foreboding gray. In short order, the wind whipped up, and the waves pounded us.

We pulled at the oars for hours, making little headway. Eight of us would pull for a quarter hour while the others rested; then, four would step in and four more rest. But the night, the wind, the waves . . . They would not end.

Andrew, on a rowing break, looked out into the night.

“What’s that?” he said.

At first we all ignored him. I was exhausted. It had to be four watch, and I was not in the mood for sightseeing.

“No, really,” Andrew said, more insistent this time. “What— or should I say who—is that?”

I rested my oar and turned my head to see what he was squawking about. Sure enough, off the port side of the stern, perhaps fifty cubits out, I could barely make out the form of a man. As we drifted, pounded by the waves, we all stared in wonder.

Someone let down the anchor so we would not end up back at the shore. As I heard the chain running, James yelled out exactly what I was thinking.

“Is it a ghost?”

“Whoever it is, He walks like Jesus,” John shouted above the commotion.

Then Bart said, “I think He is going to walk right by!”

The figure was now almost to the bow of the boat but still about thirty cubits off.

“Master?” I called out.

It was only then that He turned toward the boat and walked toward us.

Walked toward us?

It rose up in me—I’m not sure why—but the next thing I knew, I was calling out to Him again.

“Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.”

He was just close enough for me to see His face, its ready-for-the-next-lesson expression so familiar to me.

“Come ahead.”

When I think back on what happened next, I shake my head. The rest of the men stood in stunned silence, staring, but I pulled off my coat, climbed up on the gunwale, and into—or should I say onto—the waves I went.

As I looked at Jesus, He stopped coming toward me and held out His arms to me like a father welcoming a toddling child. His eyes were saying, “Come on, come on! You can do it!” Then all at once, a wave smacked my back, and I turned to take a quick look.

That was when I started to sink. But Jesus reached down and grabbed my hand. He looked at me and shook His head. For a minute, I thought He was going to drag me through the water and back to the boat, but then He pulled me up, and we walked back to the boat together.

As soon as He stepped onto the boat, the sea settled down.

When I looked around at the boys, they were all on their knees.

“You really are the Son of God!” Andrew said. “Amen!” we all cried, as what had just happened penetrated our hearts and minds.

As each day passes, I am more in awe of Jesus..

Truly, He is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

~~~

To read the original story, see Matthew 14, Mark 6:14-54, and John 6:1-21.

Copyright - Benjamin Nelson - 2015

Encounters With Jesus - Available Now
Encounters With Jesus - Available Now

The story above is a chapter from my book Encounters With Jesus, which is a compilation of forty such stories. It takes the reader from Christ's conception to His resurrection through the eyes of dozens who were touched by His ministry.

You can get your copy today in paperback or kindle on Amazon, or for your Nook at BN.com If you want both you can get the Kindle version for only 99c when you buy the paperback on Amazon.

53

“I Shall Be Whole” { The Woman with an Issue of Blood } Painted by Al Young http://alyoung.com/art/work-hem.html
“I Shall Be Whole”
{ The Woman with an Issue of Blood }
Painted by Al Young
http://alyoung.com/art/work-hem.html

“If I can put a finger on his robe,
I can get well.”
Mark 5:28

Blood in the Sheets

Woman with the Issue of Blood

At first I thought it was my time of month.

Blood in my sheets.

I am so tired of blood in my sheets, but now I am too weak to even care.

My little one was only three then; now she is a young woman, and she is probably finding her own blood in the sheets. It’s strange to think of my daughter in that way, but to me it is always blood.

I have not been able to live with her in over a decade. She and my husband live in town, in our little home right down from the market. Oh how I miss the market!

I was selling my olives there when I first noticed the twinge of pain I now know is my hemorrhage. It was the first night of thousands strung together to make up who I am, who I have become.

I was Gilda the olive girl. I sold olives in the market. I was beautiful. People always remarked about the color of my eyes. They said my eyes matched my olives.

I can’t remember the last time anyone even looked at my eyes.

Now I am forgotten.

This blood—this hemorrhage—has robbed me. It’s as though a thief broke in and took everything.

Not my silver, and linen, and fine china, though those are all gone, too. We sold it all to raise money for the doctors. The doctors couldn’t do a thing. I went to doctors in six villages. I even went down to the hospital in Capernaum, but I returned much as I’d left, only bruised and penniless.

The thief I speak of did not walk away with my possessions; he stole my family, my dignity, my humanity, my identity. I was Gilda the olive girl. Now I am no one. I am invisible. I am a scar on the roadside, to be stepped around, avoided. Who am I? I don’t have an answer.

Not long ago, some lepers were talking about a man. This man, I overheard, was wandering all over the region of Galilee, doing things I’ve never heard of before except at the storyteller’s. Jesus, they call Him. He was opening the eyes of the blind, healing all manner of sickness, and even cleansing some lepers.

Oh that name! Jesus! The LORD is salvation. O how I need a Savior!

When I heard the stories, I felt something deep in my chest, something I had not known for ages. I felt hope. After twelve years of blood on the sheets, after a decade alone, an outcast, forgotten, I felt hope.

My first thought was to go to Him. I must have Him put His hands on me and command this blood to stop. But my own husband was unwilling to touch me. The last time he came and held my hand, they would not let him back in the congregation for a week.

The stories kept coming. He healed everyone in town, laid hands on the sick folk there. I even heard He forgave a man’s sins just a few days back.

Who is this Jesus?

I began to wonder if I could get to Him through the crowds that are always thronging Him. I wondered if I could get close enough to touch Him. I remembered a story from my childhood of the day they threw a dead soldier on the corpse of an old prophet, and the soldier came back to life.

If this Jesus is anything like the old Elisha, I bet just touching the hem of His cloak would be enough to stop my bleeding. As soon as this thought entered my mind, I felt warm all over, like the healing had already started, like the LORD Himself was telling me to do it.

I knew what I had to do. He was walking by, and the crowd, as always, spread around Him like a river flowing through the street. So I went for it. I wrapped my tattered robes around me, covering as much of myself as I could. I kept my eyes to the ground and edged my way into the mob.

I could not see Him yet, but I knew He was only a few paces ahead of me. I kept saying to myself the words I’d heard deep inside my soul: “Touch the hem of His cloak. Touch the hem of His cloak.” It was all I could think, all I could hear.

Then I heard a voice right in front of me.

“Master, where did Jairus say he lived? Do you think it is much farther?”

“Patience, Peter.”

That voice! The heat in my body doubled, and I knew it must be Him. I dove to the ground, my outstretched hand barely brushing the fringe of His robe.

Everything stopped. I could hear my heart pounding in my chest.

The Master stopped. The crowd stopped. My heart stopped.

To my horror, Jesus turned around and said:

“Who touched me?”

Peter laughed. “Who touched You? Everyone touched You. Maybe You should ask who didn’t touch You.”

“Someone touched me. I felt power discharging from me.”

I knew I was caught. I knew He was talking about me. I had broken the law. I had come into the crowd, making them all unclean like me. I had touched Him, and not only was I not allowed to touch anyone, but to touch this man who was not my husband . . . They could arrest me, or excommunicate me, or even stone me.

I was already on the ground, so I found my way to my knees, buried my face in my hands, and blurted out the whole thing.  I waited for His verdict. What would He do? What would He say?

Then there was that voice again.

“Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed! Be healed of your plague.”

Then I understood. The heat I was feeling was right at the source of the bleeding.  As the heat faded, the trickling of blood I’d felt for twelve years was gone. I knew right then and there my nightmare was over.

That was yesterday.

Today I awoke on my cot, and there was no blood.

Today I will return to my home, my husband, my beautiful daughter.

Today I will return to my life, my identity.

When Jesus healed me, He didn’t just stop my bleeding. He restored everything the thief had taken.

What manner of man is this?

~~~
To read the original story, see Matthew 9:18-26, Mark 5:21-43, and Luke 8:40-56.

Copyright - Benjamin Nelson - 2015

Encounters With Jesus - Available Now
Encounters With Jesus - Available Now

The story above is a chapter from my book Encounters With Jesus, which is a compilation of forty such stories. It takes the reader from Christ's conception to His resurrection through the eyes of dozens who were touched by His ministry.

You can get your copy today in paperback or kindle on Amazon. If you want both you can get the Kindle version for only 99c when you buy the paperback on Amazon.

Rembrandt: Christ in the Storm

“Wind and sea at his beck and call!”
Mark 4:41

Hush

Matthew

The strangest thing happened yesterday. I have to tell you this story. I would never have believed it if I had not been right there on the boat.  Every day with Jesus is just amazing, but today . . . I’m not even sure I can make you believe this. I’m still running through it in my head. Thomas and Andrew and I compared notes all the way back from the docks tonight.

It all started this morning as we left the synagogue. Right in the middle of the crowd, a leper walked up, and Jesus healed him on the spot. Then a Roman soldier stopped us and talked with the Master about his servant. When we got to Peter and Andrew’s house, Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law. She’d had a fever for months, and just like that, she was back to serving us Sabbath dinner.

We spent a few blessed hours around the table, laughing and talking and always learning. Somehow, Jesus managed to teach us about the kingdom of Heaven even when He was just playing around with us.

As we left the house, we found a multitude of people pressing in at the door. The sick and infirm covered every inch of yard and street. There were beds and stretchers and people lying in the dust. Here and there were men and women who looked possessed.

Mind you, it was already after sunset, but Jesus went to each one. He asked what they needed, and He ministered, touched, loved, and cared for every single one of them. He spoke their names. He touched their wounds. He held their hands. He rebuked the demons. He didn’t leave until every single person was whole.

What an amazing day it was! Right? But there was more to come! I thought we would spend the night at Peter’s house, but Jesus headed down to the docks. He climbed right on Zebedee’s boat—the one James and John brought up a few days ago.

Jesus asked John to head for the other side of the lake, and then He went to the stern and lay down on the cushioned bench across the back. He was asleep in minutes.

Suddenly, the wind picked up, as it often did on the Sea of Galilee. Before I knew it, the waves went crazy, crashing over the sides of the boat. The water rose to my knees in minutes.  Peter, Andrew, James, and John ran bow to stern, port and starboard, yelling words I didn’t understand. After all, they practically lived on boats.

They told me to grab this, haul that, crank the other thing. I’m a tax collector! What do I know? They shouted to me to wake Jesus before He drowned.

We all screamed to Jesus, while two of the boys tried to ready the lifeboats. The sea opened wide, threatening to swallow us whole. I thought we were going to die.

Finally Jesus awoke and dropped His feet down into the water on the deck. He stretched as He rose slowly to His feet, like He wasn’t quite awake yet. We continued to shout:

“Master, save us! We’re going down!”

“Teacher, is it nothing to you that we’re going down?”

“Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

At that moment, the most astonishing thing happened. He looked over the port side of the boat, just noticing the storm crashing around us.

“Hush! Quiet down,” He said.

In an instant, the sea was as flat as glass. It was as though the smallest ripple would shatter the perfect reflection of holiness that surrounded us on every side.

He turned to us, and I could not read the look on His face. Was He angry? Amused? Was He just exasperated with us? Honestly, I’m still not sure. I was in shock.

“Why were you afraid?” He asked. Then I looked down and noticed the deck was dry. “Where is your faith?”

I looked over at Thomas, and I think we said in, unison, “Who is this? What kind of person can talk to the wind and the sea and they obey?”

I’m still trying to figure out what He meant. He asked us where our faith was. He wanted us to see that waking Him shouldn’t have been necessary; we should have been able to deal with the storm ourselves.

He was so calm. I think He actually went back and finished His nap, but I’m not sure I will ever be able to sleep again. With three simple words, the peace that let this man sleep in a storm silenced the wind and the waves.

What manner of man is this?

~~~

To read the original story, see Matthew 8:1-27, Mark 4:35-41,
and Luke 8:22-25.

Copyright - Benjamin Nelson - 2015

Encounters With Jesus - Available Now
Encounters With Jesus - Available Now

The story above is a chapter from my book Encounters With Jesus, which is a compilation of forty such stories. It takes the reader from Christ's conception to His resurrection through the eyes of dozens who were touched by His ministry.

You can get your copy today in paperback or kindle on Amazon, or for your Nook at BN.com If you want both you can get the Kindle version for only 99c when you buy the paperback on Amazon.

A few years ago I had been meditating on the accounts in each gospel of the woman who wept over Jesus and anointed Him with the Spikenard. I was asked at that time to share with a group of about 20 college folks and I decided to put together a dramatic presentation – sort of a One Act play bringing together aspects of the various tellings.

I will warn you  - I make many assumptions which I cannot defend at all. You might be better off considering this fiction based on true events.

I am assuming (or maybe pretending) that:

  • All 4 gospels that tell this story at different times in Christ’s ministry with differing details are actually telling the same story from their own perspective when it bests fits in their narrative

Simon who hosts this dinner which she invades is:

  • Simon the Pharisee
  • Simon the leper
  • Simon the father of Judas Iscariot
  • Simon who I saw on classmates.com in Mary’s high School year book. (just kidding)

The story is told for the most part from Simon’s perspective and I hope it speaks to you.

The background, and true stories can be found in the following passages:

  • Luke 7:36-50
  • Matthew 26:7-14
  • John 12:2-8
  • Mark 14:3-9
  • Luke 17:12-18 (10 lepers)

One act of Worship

Simon – To himself – Thinking out loud

Today is the big day – dinner party – make sure the guest all are seated in the correct place. Make sure the right people get the places of honor. Mayor here, Annas and Caiaphas  - well not right next to each other, but at this end of the table. And we will put Jesus right in the center.

I have to make sure everyone knows that I know him, and make sure everyone sees what kind of relationship we have. After all look at my hands – clean as a new born baby – not white as snow – the way they were with that leprosy.

That was horrible – imagine – me – a Pharisee, with a great future. I had it all going for me. Circumcised on the 8th day – Barr mitzvah in Jerusalem with the high priest present to officiate.  I went to all the rights schools, and was accepted by the religious leaders. I became a Pharisee – and was looked up to by the whole town. I had such power until that fateful day. At first I thought it was just a rash – nothing to worry about. But soon it was obvious – I had leprosy – it could not be – not me – I was a Pharisee – how could I have leprosy? Now I was no Pharisee – now I was a leper! No longer a big wig in town, but an outcast. I could not stay in my own house. I had to go and live with the others. What a vile group – the smell was enough to make you gag. And the dogs that came and licked our wounds – it was horrible. I have never known such humiliation – such shame – such degradation.

Then one day it happened – I was with a group of lepers outside of Samaria and one of them started calling to Jesus. I had heard of him before, but I had never heard or seen him myself, but there he was walking right toward us. We were desperate, and asked him if there was anything he could do for us. He told us to go show ourselves to the priest! What was he thinking – we were lepers, how could we go to the priest? So we all turned and headed back down the road, and as we went – the leprosy disappeared. I could hardly believe it. I was clean again. I made a bee-line to the temple where I showed myself to the priest, and made the offerings required by the law.

It was not long after my cleansing that my boy Judas started traveling with Jesus’ men. Last I heard he was actually the treasurer for the group. He may come to something after all my son.

Getting back into the good graces of the temple has not been easy. I am just starting to get back on my feet, just starting to make the right connections. Today, this party I am throwing should really get me back in. The mayor is supposed to come, and maybe even the high priest. And the best part is Jesus will be here. Maybe he will do something amazing. He is always surprising people with his stunts.

So I have to make sure everything is just so – I hired Martha to come and wait tables – she can bring off a feast like no one else.

Guests are arriving. Yes Caiaphas – you sit here, and Mayor – you sit over here, and we will put Jesus here, right next to Gamailiel. Nichodemus, you sit down here, and yes – that is just perfect. I have not forgotten anything. Here comes Jesus and His men. I think I will sit Judas right beside Jesus. Maybe I can help his career at the same time as I help mine.

Wait – what is this – what is she doing here? Mary – that slut – what is she doing in my house? How did she get in here, and what is she doing near Jesus? Always strutting her stuff, that one. I remember when we were teenagers together and she was always wearing clothes that were too flashy and low cut. I have heard stories about her and half the men in town. What is she doing with Jesus? What is that racket – how can we carry on a normal conversation? I am trying to get the nod for that position in the temple, and all everybody is looking at is this spectacle. All that weeping. Can’t she keep it down? She is fawning over Jesus. Sitting behind him and weeping, and now she is wiping his feet in her hair!

Wait – what is that smell – it smells like the costly perfume I bought to bury my uncle last month? That is it – it’s spikenard – look – she is pouring it all over Jesus. There must be a pound of it – that would cost a full year’s wages even for me. And she is just wasting it! This is a disaster – what will all my guests think. I have to get her out of her.

I really don’t get it – it does not take a prophet to know who this is. Could Jesus be so blind not to know that she is the town whore? I wouldn’t even let her touch me – after all – what would people think? And imagine this colossal waste – it would have been better to just give it to help the poor. Then at least there is a tax deduction. But this is sheer waste.

Jesus speaks to Simon:

Simon, don’t stop her. This that looks like a waste to you is actually preparation for my burial. You can do good things for the poor any time, but I will not be here much longer. When I arrived, you did not even assign a servant to wash my feet, and yet this woman has not stopped wiping them with her hair, and washing them with her tears. You did not anoint my head with oil, but this woman has anointed my feet with her costly perfume.

Tell me what you think. If a land owner has two men who owe him money, one $100 and one $1,000,000, and he forgives both of them, which do you think will love him more? Of course the one who was forgiven the larger debt.

Jesus speaks to Mary:

Mary, because you have loved me with abandon, I forgive you all your sins, which are many. And because of this great act of love you have displayed on me, you will be remembered everywhere anyone tells my story.

Copyright - 2012 -  Benjamin Nelson

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