09 February 2013

the dark and foggy night >>Jesus Stories


It was a really dark night. Fog hung amid the naked tree branches like a chiffon dress -- not serving any practical purpose, just adding to the mystery and foreboding gloom of the evening.

Questions fogged his brain too, causing him to stumble over exposed roots as he clumsily followed the others, none sure of where they were headed. He thought over the words spoken at dinner.  He still didn't understand the rushed exit and thought perhaps he had missed something. Something that needed to be done and fast...but what could that be? And why were they headed out of town on such a cold, lonely evening?

The moon, struggling to shine some light on their path, illuminated a field of vines -- dead, fruitless, overgrown and obviously uncared for. The group paused as its leader spoke:
"I'm like a grapevine planted in my Father's vineyard, and He's the gardener. You are the branches. If there is a branch on the vine that does not bear fruit, He will cut it off; those branches that do bear fruit He will keep on trimming so they can bear more fruit. Your characters have been shaped already because I shared the Word of God with you and you accepted it as such. Stay with me and I'll stay with you. Just like branches can't bear fruit on their own unless they're attached to the vine, neither can you bear heavenly fruit unless you're attached to me."
John 15:1-4 Clear Word


Jesus' face is peaceful as he continues to describe the love of the Father and the connection between Father, Son and the many branches, the followers of Jesus. James listens to His words, encouraging words about being connected and about loving others and about being hated...and....wait, what is He saying? He had drifted off again, thinking about something else. He concentrated again and heard, "They will hate me without a cause."

Why? It just didn't make sense. How could anyone hate someone who healed them, who forgave sin, who spread hope and gladness? Jesus LOVED people, no matter how they treated him, no matter who they were or how they acted. What could be intimidating about that? Why would anyone......

Once again his internal dialogue is interrupted by Jesus' voice, calm and tender, yet firm:
"Soon you'll be hurting when you see what's happening, but we'll see each other again, and then you'll be happier than you've ever been, and no one will be able to take that happiness away from you. When that happens, the questions you now have will be answered. {...}

I know that I'm still not answering your questions as plainly as I might, but I'll be talking to you again, and then I'll tell you more about my Father and myself. After that, you'll feel more comfortable in going to the Father directly and in my name asking Him for anything you need. And I'll be asking Him for things for you as well."

John 16:22-23, 25-26 Clear Word
Dead vines, haters, leaving and coming back again, rushed dinner conversations, late-night journeys. All this and more swirled around and around in James' mind as he tried to keep up with the rest. He was confused. He didn't know what was going on.

Somehow the events over the past few weeks had left him in a hazy mental state. He felt like this walk through barely moonlit orchards was a walk through the labyrinth of his thoughts -- he didn't know which way to turn, he hardly knew up from down.

He needed to get out.

Then suddenly, a flame of fire on the end of a stick illuminated the night. He realized he had slumped to the ground and was leaning against a tree, head in his hands. He lifted his head to see his friends lying around him, most still asleep and he squinted his eyes to look past the fire to the faces of those carrying torches.

Judas.

And then there was chaos. Swords flashing. Men running in all directions.

It seemed he had been holding his breath for hours when he remembered to inhale.

Within minutes, the mob was gone, taking Jesus with them. His friends had disappeared. He was left there, in the dark, moon completely hidden by thick, dense fog. He felt glued to his spot. He wondered if it had all been a dream.

---
It wasn't until days later that the pieces started to come together for him. He had seen crowds mocking and spitting and yelling. He had seen women weeping and soldiers pounding. He had heard thunder and seen lightening and watched Jesus' crushed body lowered from the cross. He had waited up all night, unable to sleep. He had listened as women exclaimed of a resurrection. His mind ached from the ferocity of it all.

Then, Jesus -- in the room with them. And Thomas is feeling the scars on his body. And his words...
"There will be those who will not have the same privilege of seeing me in person as you've had, yet they will believe in my resurrection and be just as thrilled about it as you are." John 20:29 Clear Word
A privilege? Be thrilled?

And suddenly, like a mighty wind rushing through his mind, clearing it of its fog and confusion, these words -- "and you will be my witnesses".

Everything he had seen was real! He had seen it for a reason. Everything he had heard was full of meaning! He had heard it for a reason.

He had witnessed miracles, teaching, love, healing, power, humility, suffering, submission, restoration. He had witnessed supernatural and incredible things. Seen it with his own eyes.

He had watched Jesus.

And now he stared at that Jesus, his dearest friend and Savior as his feet lifted off the ground, rising up to meet his loving Father in a place prepared for everyone. He didn't let his eyes even quiver until there was not a sign of Jesus left in the sky. Then he laughed as the sun sent out its beams from behind the fluffly clouds, embracing all who stood there with the light of the world.
"That's why it's so important that they have the same spirit and be one, just as you and I are one. Then they'll be one with us, and the world will be able to see what my mission what all about and believe that you really sent me. I in them and you in me."
John 17:21 Clear Word