A Tale of Two Birth Announcements

Look over Luke 1:5-25; 57-66.

cappella_tornabuoni2c_102c_annuncio_dell27angelo_a_zaccaria
Annunciation of the Angel to Zechariah by Domenico Ghirlandaio (1490, fresco in the Tornabuoni Chapel, Florence) Public Domain

We all know the story, don’t we? Zacharias (an “official” “ordained-type” priest) goes in his proper time to offer incense within the Temple. The Angel Gabriel appears to him there, announcing the upcoming birth of John the Baptist, along with his role as forerunner and preparer of the way of the Lord.

Zacharias responds, objecting, “How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.” [v. 18] Gabriel then identifies himself by name, and declares that Zacharias will be mute until his words were fulfilled.

Time passes and so things come about. Zacharias regains his voice finally upon naming his son “John” at his circumcision, in response to community objections because this is not family name of their line.

We all know the story.

Now, please look over Luke 1:26-56.

pinturicchio2c_cappella_baglioni_02
The Annunciation by Pinturicchio (1501, fresco in the Cappella Baglioni, Collegiata di Santa Maria Maggiore, Spello) Public Domain

We all know this story, too, don’t we? We see this played out in Christmas pageants almost annually, no? The Angel Gabriel appears to Mary, declares her favored, calms her confusion, and announces that she will conceive the Son of the Most High and name Him Jesus.

Mary seems to respond much as did Zacharias, pointing out a physical incongruity as she says, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” [v. 34]

But far from punishing her, as it could seem Gabriel did to Zacharias, the angel answers graciously with not only the answer to her question (that the power of the Most High would overshadow her), but he gives her an additional sign declaring that Elizabeth (her kinswoman) is six months along expecting the birth of John. Their exchange ends with “’nothing will be impossible with God.’ And Mary said, ‘Behold the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her” [vv. 37-38]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So, like, am I the only one who ever wondered, “what’s the difference here?”

Zacharias clearly ticked Gabriel off, while Mary didn’t. It’s one thing to point to the “rank order” difference between them. There’s certainly a difference of “graciousness” between them. Lots of flavorful differences, but I always sensed there was more here than that.

And… why should we care? What difference does, or should, it make to us… to you and me… here and now… why these two encounters went the way they did?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I think the answer to both questions is the same one… “Faith”.

The difference between the two encounters is “Faith”. And the reason we should care, is also “Faith”.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It never dawned on me, until very recently, that Zacharias… even faced as he was with the terrifying countenance of an Angel of God Almighty… doubted the truth of his words. Even INSIDE the Temple, standing next to the Altar of Incense as he offered up incense to God!

Seriously?

All of Gabriel’s words spoke to FUTURE events, not present events. Zacharias was going to have to go from that place, be with his wife in the proper time, conceive John, and watch nature take its course for the next nine months.

But that wasn’t good enough for Zacharias.  He says, “how will I know this for certain?” (We know italicized words are inserted by editors.) So he wants to know, right here, right now, why he should believe Gabriel. Waiting apparently isn’t good enough. (We know for certain that the issue is doubt, because Gabriel tells us that.) Zacharias is rendered mute until all was fulfilled “because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.” [v. 20]

Zacharias needed to know these things were true before he was willing to do his part. Clearly, his part in this miracle would be of crucial importance. It was he and Elizabeth who needed to conceive this child. But before he would go to that trouble, before he would dare go communicate this to Elizabeth, before he would risk Elizabeth’s heartbreak, disappointment, or disgrace… he had to have a sign. He had to KNOW this was true, before he could obey.

Gabriel gives him an unmistakable sign of his authority and power, using his words alone to stop all words for Zacharias until the truth was borne out.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So what is different about Mary? She, too, asks a “how” question.

The difference is that her question is one of “means”, not “verification”. She was perplexed at the appearance of Gabriel, not terrified. Gabriel declares the upcoming conception, birth, and kingship of Jesus, and Mary does not express doubt at the announcement. Rather, she asks how this is to come about, what is she to do? She knows she is virgin. Is that to change for this miracle? How should she obey the will of God?

Gabriel responds to the “how” of the question… that “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.” [v. 34-35] (By the way, that word “overshadow” only appears 5 times in the New Testament. Once here; then three times referring to the Cloud around Jesus, Moses, and Elijah in the time of the Transfiguration that came upon (and terrified) Peter, James and John, from which came the Voice saying “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!”[Luke 9:34-35]; and third when Peter’s shadow heals the sick [Acts 5:15].)

Unsolicited, Gabriel offers Mary the sign of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Mary yields unconditionally to God’s will and embraces Gabriel’s words, the hurries off to aid Elizabeth in her first pregnancy. Isn’t it interesting that Elizabeth had only “come out”, publicly acknowledging her pregnancy in the month before Mary’s arrival? No way was Elizabeth going to endure the risk of disappointment had she miscarried, or been merely deluded into thinking she was pregnant. She would not face either the jibes or the condescending looks of other village women as her face began to round and her figure became more full. She was an elder of her town, disgraced by the curse of barrenness perhaps, but nonetheless righteous and dignified of demeanor. She would not be mocked.

But by the time Mary arrives, Elizabeth KNOWS. She knows for sure that she carries life within her. The baby has quickened, and for the first time she has the glorious sensation of life moving inside her as he responds to her motions or sounds around them. No words describe the joy of hugging new life with your very self, as a woman can in this time.

Mary comes, calls out in greeting, and the Holy Spirit already filling John [v. 15] now fills Elizabeth as well, and her joyful encounter with Mary as they attend to one another’s needs for the next three months (Elizabeth’s third trimester, Mary’s first), offers blessing to them both. Even as I type those words, I can only pause and wonder in awe at what those months must have been like. What would evenings have been like in such a home? Zacharias silent (no choice there), Elizabeth growing ever more excited even as getting around gets more difficult and stilted, and Mary finding her appetite less predictable, perhaps napping now and again, and sensing the changes in her body as the Christ waxes in form…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

What does all this mean to us, Gentle Reader?

Well, God does the impossible all the time. For those who are ready and seek Him, miracles are all around.

When they come, sometimes they are hard to believe in. That’s just the truth. But! When one is willing to yield to them, God grants. When one is willing if and only if there is a sign attesting to the truth… well, God accommodates and a sign will be given. We see this over and over again throughout the Scriptures (Gideon, etc.) However, as we see from this text, while faith that may be, it is a flawed sort of faith. (I, for one, have engaged in such flawed faith countless times, so no judgment here!)

But there’s another kind of faith. There’s a faith that takes a truth on the authority of the speaker, and simply says “Yes!” before it asks “How?”

There, I think is both the difference between the two Gabriel missions, and the significance to us today.

Zacharias wanted proof before he would act. Mary was willing to act before any proof was offered.

Both were engaged in astonishing blessing and miracle. Zacharias just had to go about it with a bit more inconvenience. That and, frankly, their lingering doubts certainly would have robbed him and Elizabeth of months of joy and consolation.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Holy Spirit, the overshadowing Power of the Lord Most High, certainly wins out in every miracle. Let us simply say “Yes!” first, ask “How?” afterwards, and watch events unfold!

Grace to you, Gentle Reader!

He is Here (Revelation 3:20)

jesus_knocking_at_your_door

Forgotten first love, our hunger is lacking

We’ve left Him adrift in a sea of disdain

He stands at the door, awaiting the asking.

 

We no longer see what with Him we obtain

The Vine feeds the branch, but we want our poison

We’ve left Him adrift in a sea of disdain.

 

Hold tight to the Vine, we’ll rejoice in union

Yet faith is belief, expecting in unseen

The Vine feeds the branch, but we want our poison.

 

We say we want God, but there’s dogma between

He longs to come and with us break bread

Yet faith is belief expecting in unseen.

 

If we’d just focus on seeking him instead

The door only opens from inside to out

He longs to come in and with us break bread.

 

We’re filled with self-made doctrine leading to doubt

Forgotten first love, our hunger is lacking

The door only opens from inside out

He stands at the door, awaiting the asking.

Who is Sacred, Who is Not

I wrote this post the other day for CSF. When I was finished writing it, I answered the phone, completed the call, and then posted it to the Life Project, and didn’t give it another thought until a few minutes ago… oops!

How would you approach such a quandary as a Christian? Would you approach it as a legalist and say that a person is sacred if they have behaved themselves and done certain other things that make them “cool” in the church? Perhaps one might say that a person who is a Christian is sacred, but that the lost are not, or maybe that people who are really good are sacred, while the rest are not. Some might suggest that a person is sacred if they are a member in good standing in their particular denomination, or even that no one is sacred until they die and go to heaven.

Yet, I wonder how God looks at this; would He see it the way we do?

Maybe God would say that a person whose sins are forgiven is sacred, and those who remain in their sins are unclean…

I wouldn’t presume to tell you that I am privy to all of God’s thoughts, but I can suggest that Scripture might give us some insight on this topic that can lead us to draw some conclusions.

As we have seen in a previous series of posts, all humans are created by God in His image, and yes, even after sin entered the world in Genesis 3, we still bear His image. With that being the case, and the image of God being in itself sacred, we all have an element of sacredness inherent in our beings; His image. Each of us was conceived in the mind of God and created in every detail with His intentional purpose in mind with talents and gifts, not to mention intelligence as God saw fit to give, and I doubt that God is in the habit of creating that which is unclean or inherently bad.

Yet in spite of this, we make choices as we walk through life, and sooner or later each one of us makes choices that are at odds with the ways of God; some really go out on a dark extreme and really make a mess of things. Yet even in such a dark place, distant and far from God’s presence and will, He still loved us:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

Because of God’s amazing love, He sent His Son to die for each one of us, while humanity was still in its sinful rebellion. I don’t know about you, but offhand, I can’t think of any cases in Scripture when God was said to have loved that which was evil, bad or unclean. In fact, the second greatest commandment was that we love our neighbor as ourselves; He made no mention of our neighbor needing to be perfect first, did He?

In fact, which of the patriarchs was so perfect? How about the great Israelite kings David and Solomon; were they perfect? No, I didn’t think so.

I would maintain that every single human being is sacred in God’s sight, not because of the way we behave, but because we were created by God in His image with a purpose that transcends this world. Of course, there are many sacred ones out there who aren’t all that attractive, and some behave in really nasty ways, in rebellion against everything God is and stands for. Yet I really don’t believe for an instant that this sad state of affairs means that they aren’t sacred in God’s sight; can you guess why that is?

Two reasons: First, they are precisely the ones Jesus gave His life to save, and second, because God has gone to all of the trouble to put you and me in this world to take the good news to such people, that they might be brought into His light. Imagine for a moment how different this world might be if more of us saw such people through God’s eyes and took our commission more seriously.

Come to think of it, I have another question to ponder: Who grieves God’s heart more, the lost person who dwells in darkness and acts accordingly, or the Christian who dwells in the light with all of the riches of Christ at his or her disposal, but who is afraid to get their hands dirty taking the light to those dark places where so many need it so desperately?

Yes, I’ll need to ponder that one for some time…

I will meet you

20160514_070935The challenges of motherhood are many, but it is who I am. I never asked God to make me famous, rich or powerful. I never asked him for a big house or lots of friends. I grew up with a sense of knowing, what I now know is my vocation, motherhood. There was never anything I wanted more than that. But I had a sense from a young age that would be a struggle. The Holy Spirit was present and alive to me ever before I knew who Jesus Christ was, and even though I was not a believer in Christ, I knew God and saw His hand in my life. So when I struggled to have children I found it a curse, cruel, a God that didn’t hear my shouts for mercy, my Hannah prayers, my desperation.

For those that have not grappled with infertility, I am glad for you. Out of all the things I have contended with in my life, this by far was the greatest fight for my soul. I wanted children like I wanted water, it wasn’t a choice, it was a necessity.

After several opinions, I stumbled across a doctor willing to help me. His name was Dr. Christie, I can’t make this stuff up. I was not a believer in Christ at the time but even I as a Jewish girl recognized the name. It was subtle. God doesn’t bulldoze his way through, He glides gently. It was one of a series of small whispers, God’s call to me. Subtle.

Dr. Christie was my third opinion. I came armed and prepared with my research and data. I had by this time diagnosed myself. I had come from a doctor who told me I’d never have children unless I paid him $25,000. The world of infertility is legalized extortion. I told myself that this time around with this doctor, I would put him to the test.

But he wasn’t like the others. He was quiet, kind… unassuming. At the time he was working in a small infertility office. He had been at the job exactly one week.  The specialist that owned the practice brought him on. That specialist was booked up for six months. But not Dr. Christie- he was available right away.

I hesitated to make the appointment. The words “he’s wide open because he’s new” are not usually a good sign. But something drew me in. I knew it was his name.

I sat down with the good doctor. He was visibly nervous. He had just moved his whole life to Florida and he was a true southern boy, accent and all. But his presence was calming to me. We spoke, and he rattled off his diagnosis- the same one I had come up with. I told him he was hired. He told me he couldn’t guarantee me anything, but that I was a good candidate for an alternative to IVF.  He told me with a smile that he had a good feeling.

We started the process, Shlomi and I. It was a perpetual wave of emotions. We started out with pills, then moved on when I told Dr.Christie that I was ready to go for it, full force. He smiled again. He knew why.

More drugs this time in the form of shots. What an emotional time. Your husband injecting you in the hopes for a baby. He was so gentle. I would cry out of sheer emotional pain. It wasn’t the needle that hurt me, it was the reminder of the needle that hurt me. But Shlomi was there encouraging me, telling me, I was going to be a mother, He was sure of it.  Another subtle reminder. Another subtle reminder of Jesus.

Several months, lots of drugs, emotions high and the blood test that changed my life. A call from Dr. Christie. I was on edge. I had been pregnant twice before and lost those within a couple of weeks. I closed my eyes.

I was pregnant, and he had a suspicion that it was multiples.

I felt the sting of the needle, unsure of God, could He be this cruel? It was my birthday, 2008.

7 weeks in I entered the room. There were three. Shlomi, Dr. Christie and me. Dr. Christie had inadvertently become an inextricable part of my journey. I trusted him. And before I looked up to see the ultrasound, to hope for a baby and not an empty sac or no heartbeat, I looked over at Dr. Christie. He told me he had a good feeling.

And there it was. His good feeling on a screen. His instinct. My pain. The needles. My husband’s confidence in God. And my husband was an atheist at best. Two sacs. Two heartbeats. Two babies in my belly. That is when I knew God had not left me. That is the moment I knew that God had not forgotten me, my destiny, to be a mother. And He didn’t stop there. Three months after I delivered my twins I found out I was pregnant with my third. No drugs or doctors or needles. God filled my belly. Why? The first prayer I ever prayed from my heart that I understood, not in Hebrew.

God I want another baby. Please God give me another baby, and He did. 

Although my third was not the result of any intervention, I only trusted Dr. Christie. With my condition, I knew there was a high chance I’d lose this one too. And I couldn’t, I couldn’t lose this one. And he happily agreed to monitor me for Meadow’s first 12 weeks of life. He was there when I heard her heartbeat too. I knew it was a miracle. Only God could do that…

I believe I was destined for the cross, destined for Christ. I believe God chose me before I ever chose Him. I believe God picked my vocation and filled my belly with three babies. I believe in divine providence and its many and numerous gifts. I believe He dresses me in sacred vestments. I believe His altar is wherever He meets you.

Exodus 30:6, “This altar you are to place in front of the veil that hangs before the ark of the covenant where I will meet you.”

The Path of Thorns

There’s no way he can worm his way out of this one! We were able to catch this woman dead to rights in the middle of adultery. I can’t wait to see the look on his face when we present her to him. If he excuses her, he will have violated the Law of Moses, and if he condemns her, he will prove that he is just like us. It’s the perfect setup! Finally, we can expose him for the fraud he is.

When we arrived at the Temple grounds, this Jesus fellow was teaching some more of his nonsense to a gathering crowd. Oh are they in for a surprise!

“Teacher,” one of my colleagues interrupted as we burst on the scene, “This woman was caught in the act of adultery. The Law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” As he finished his statement, I reached down and picked up the nearest rock signaling for the crowd to follow suit.

At first, Jesus looked like he had been caught off guard, but instead of fumbling for an answer, he just took a deep breath, let it out, and then knelt down to the ground. He began to draw in the sand as the watching crowd drew in a little closer to see what he might be revealing. Does he think that we’re so naive? Hah! Look at him, acting so calm and collected like he has all the answers. He’s just stalling for time!

As I glanced at what he was drawing, however, a chill suddenly shot up my spine and the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. Everyone else seemed oblivious, but somehow I knew from the first few strokes what it was—a cross!

Did he know? Had he overheard? It was only an idle comment. My colleagues and I had been discussing this Jesus character a few days earlier. I jokingly made the suggestion that we could set him up so the Romans would crucify him. Had someone told him? Had he been lurking somewhere in the shadows? Or….was he….was he really from God? My heart sank and sweat began to soak my brow as I realized we may have made a terrible mistake.

Just then, one of my colleagues began demanding an answer from Jesus. Jesus stood to his feet, closed his eyes, and let out another long sigh as though he was deeply saddened. Then, he opened his eyes and looked in my direction. At first, my heart began to race, but as I looked into his face, he had a rather remorseful look about him. I couldn’t hold the gaze for long though so I looked away—right to the ground where the completed cross had been drawn. No one else seemed to have noticed since my colleague’s outburst. I began to tremble as my grip tightened on the stone in my hand. It was only a brief moment, but it felt like an eternity tormented by the situation.

“Alright,” Jesus said, “Let he who is without sin throw the first stone.” This time a bolt of lightning rushed up my spine. I was certain of it now; somehow he knew what I had said. As I hesitantly looked back up, unsure of what to do now, Jesus was looking directly at me. At first I wanted to slink to the back of the crowd, but I noticed that his demeanor had changed—now, he had the most loving expression on his face that I had ever seen. It was like he was saying that it was okay, that he wasn’t angry with me—that…that he was letting me off the hook! Again, his gaze was too pure to look at for long and tears began to well up in my eyes. As I looked down to the stone in my trembling hand, a million thoughts raced through my mind. Why would he just let me off the hook like that? Why didn’t he seek revenge? Why didn’t he tell the crowd the truth—that we….that I had suggested he be setup and crucified? How….how could he just forgive me like that? Is this how our Father really is—loving us even at our worse? What can I do now? Oh God, this is such a mess!

As all these thoughts echoed in my head, tears trickled down my face and splashed against the parched stones. What have I done!? What have I been doing with my life!? The weight of the stone began to increase exponentially. I remorsefully dropped it from my shaking hand, and it hit the ground with a loud thud. I didn’t know what to do, but I could no longer stay there. As I made my way through the crowd, I heard the people murmuring to each other. My compatriots, though, seemed quiet, but I didn’t turn back to see what their reaction was. Then, one by one, I began to hear other thuds as I was making my way out of the crowd. Others were leaving the scene right behind me, but I didn’t turn back to look. Instead, I began to disgracefully run. I ran without stopping through the streets until I reached the residence I maintained there. I rushed to my quiet place and fell to my knees, sobbing uncontrollably.

“God, please forgive me!” I yelled repeatedly. I knew I wasn’t supposed to say his name out loud, but I no longer cared if anyone overheard. My position among the religious teachers was probably forfeit already, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to go back anyway. Perhaps I should just move back to my hometown. At least my family is still there, and they didn’t have to witness the events of today.

As I sat there weeping, a sense of immense peace came over me that I couldn’t quite explain. I felt that somehow everything was going to be alright.


Jesus and I had a few beautiful conversations after that. I found myself drawn to his loving presence though often his words were so counter to everything I’d been taught to believe. I tried to convince him to stay away from Jerusalem, but he kept assuring me that everything was going to turn out exactly as it was supposed to. I also tried to find the woman that we had condemned to stoning, but she seemed to have disappeared—and asking around was getting me into more and more trouble. Jesus assured me that everything was going to be okay with her also, and that she had her own road to travel. I tried to trust him at his word, but it’s hard to let go of the control I thought I had for so long.

I never returned to my position in Jerusalem, though I often pleaded with some of my former colleagues to abandon their pursuance of Jesus. I spoke with Herod also insisting that Jesus really was the Messiah—the Son of God! I even petitioned Pontius Pilate not to give in to the Sanhedrin, but all was to no avail.

Now…here he is—the Messiah…our Savior—-beaten and bloody, forced to make the trek to Golgotha bearing his own cross. Tears streamed down my face as he stumbled onward, hardly able to carry the weight. I felt powerless. Is this really the path he was destined to take?

And then….he collapsed.

My heart sank as I thought of all the anguish he had already endured. I looked up to see some of my old colleagues across the way. Some looked smugly satisfied at the scene, though others looked troubled, like deep down they knew this whole charade was wrong. Was it happening to them too? Were they becoming remorseful at what was going on? Was Jesus’ love breaking through to them also?

As one of the soldiers prodded Jesus to get him on his feet again, I could no longer stand there and do nothing. As I stepped out, Nicodemus grabbed my arm and whispered harshly, “Simon, what are you doing!? You’re going to get yourself in trouble with the Romans—and the Sanhedrin—and Herod! Think about your family back in Cyrene!” As I looked at Nicodemus, tears dripping from my face, his eyes too begin to swell as he could no longer hold back the pain in his own heart. He sighed remorsefully then nodded as he loosened his grip on my arm.

As I stepped out, I placed my hands together and upright in front of me to show the Romans I had no weapons or intent of violence. I immediately caught the attention of one of the soldiers. He began to ready his spear, but then realized my composure. For a moment, he seemed a bit perplexed. He looked back to the other soldiers that were still attending to Jesus. After a brief moment’s thought, he looked at me and nodded. “You,” he stated loudly enough to catch the attention of the other guards, “come and carry this man’s cross.”

Relieved that he understood, I walked over to Jesus and placed his arm across my back and his cross on my shoulder. We then, slowly, made the agonizing trek onward to Golgotha.

Lost Hope

Rocky beamed will glee, as did we all, when Josh said, “That is enough.”

We were having a lively discussion (again) about who was the best of us when Josh commented about how the greatest among us would be like him, a servant. We barely had time to consider this when Josh turned solemnly to Rocky and started talking about how Satan was going to sift him like wheat.

A hush fell over the room and Rocky’s face glowed red as he began to work up a nervous sweat. Suddenly he blurted out, “I’m ready to go with you to prison and death!” We all echoed Rocky’s sentiment, yet Josh stated that Rocky would deny him three times before the rooster crowed at dawn.

Before we had time to contemplate this, Josh, looking a bit saddened, began to talk about how he had sent us out before. Now thinking about it, when we returned then, we were argu….discussing who was the greatest and Josh brought a child before us to illustrate.

Josh interrupted my thought derailment with a question, “You didn’t take money, or luggage, or even shoes when I sent you out before yet all was provided, correct?”

We all just set there, unsure of what to say or where he was going with this or if he was just asking a rhetorical question.

“But now,” Josh continued, “you need these things. Go ahead, sell your coat and buy a gun if you don’t have one.”

With this, a rush of exhilaration brushed through the room. It was time at long last! The revolution was about to begin! The invaders of our country were about to be thrown out! The corrupt government and the religious scoundrels were about to be overturned! Finally, it was time!

Someone blurted out excitedly, “Look Josh, we have two guns right here!”

But Josh, looking a bit distraught, sighed almost sadly, “That is enough….”

We all just set there a bit confused as Josh stood up to walk out. What did he mean by the two guns being enough? Is that all this coup would take? Was he going to use his powers to end things swiftly? Was he going to call up his Dad to send in his troops?

Or…did he mean something else? Was he tired of that discussion? Was he trying to make a point? Was he telling us to stop thinking that way?

“That is enough….,” That one phrase still echoes heavy in my head and through my heart today.

Once we realized Josh had exited the room, we quickly rose to follow him. It seemed we were all hoping that what Josh meant was that the revolution was about to commence. We followed him by moonlight to one of his normal digs. He stopped us at the entrance to the garden and said, “Pray so you don’t give in to temptation.”

Huh? Was he referencing what we were all thinking? Was he saying that our revolution wasn’t about to start?

Josh walked a bit further and collapsed to the ground. I heard him begin to pray aloud with increasing intensity. He sounded like he didn’t want to lead the revolt. I was jostled back and forth between hope and despair. Was he really who we’d been expecting? Was he the one that was going to lead us into our new golden age? I thought I saw a figure clothed in white with Josh comforting him as he began to pray more earnestly, blood dripping from his brow.

The next thing I remember is Josh poking me and telling me to wake up and pray so that I wouldn’t fall into temptation. Had I really fallen asleep? How long had I been out?

Just then, I saw something that snapped me awake. A crowd was approaching in the dead of night. And of all people, Judy was leading them! Was this reinforcements for the revolt? Had Judy been gathering together our army while we were here? Was this what Josh told him to go do? But then I saw he had priests and their bodyguards with him. Before I could consider what was going on, Judy leaned in and kissed Josh.

“You would betray me with a kiss?” Josh asked as Judy looked away ashamedly. What was going on? Did he give up on Josh leading the revolt? I mean, we all had our doubts, but we would never sell out Josh like this!

Rocky caught wise to what was going on quick. He drew his pistol and fired it from the hip right towards one of the priest’s servants. The bullet ripped the servant’s ear clean off of his head. We all began to search for any weapon we could find. I could hardly believe it myself, the revolution was starting! Finally we would have our revenge for all of those years of being oppressed! Finally we would be able to take back our country at the barrel of a gun—with Josh leading the charge!

“Put you gun away!” Josh exclaimed,  “Don’t you know that those who live by the gun, die by the gun?” We all froze stiff not knowing what to think as Josh reached down, cleaned off the servant’s ear, and reattached it to his head. Josh spoke some more to the priests and bodyguards, but my head was spinning so much that I couldn’t focus on what he was saying.

In the midst of my confusion, Josh responded to their question with a resounding, “I AM he.” The priests and bodyguards all fell to the ground with only that pronouncement! I was startled myself as my hope began to rise again. Perhaps Josh didn’t want us to fight at all but just follow him along as he overthrew those in power and struck down the outsiders by himself.

Before I could finish forming another thought though, Josh was being escorted away in handcuffs. It was then I began to wonder just what his plan was. I had always assumed that he would conquer by force and restore our nation to its’ rightful place. But now…he was walking away shackled…

What was going on?!


As the next few days passed, I could think of nothing else to do but return to my former job. When Josh was captured, we all scattered and it seems we were, fortunately, forgotten about by the authorities.

From what I heard, Josh didn’t have much to say at his trial, and I couldn’t bear to go to the execution. I mean, I didn’t want the soldiers to recognize me or I could have been executed too…and what good would that have done?

Still, I feel…I know…that I failed him—that I should have done more. But what?! Even when we tried, he told us to stay our hand. There had to be something we could have done, but if not with a gun, what? Pray?! Josh did a whole lot of that, and even with all the power he had, he was still executed.

Perhaps I should count myself lucky and just keep my mouth shut and my head down from now on. I can’t possibly see how our world will be changed anytime soon now that Josh is gone….

The Master Builder

By Wally Fry from Truth in Palmyra

The Master Builder

Psalm 127:1

A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon. Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.

Mathew 7:24-27

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it

Jesus was a carpenter a long time ago.Joseph taught Him all thingsHe needed to know. He grew up straight and strong, working on the shores of Galilee. He learned to use a hammer, and He learned to drive a nail. We read, in our Bibles, primarily about the ministry of Jesus on this Earth. So, naturally that is what we talk about most, because very little is revealed about His life before the beginning of His ministry. Let’s ponder that some quickly. Although there is debate about exact numbers and such, we know the length of His ministry was around 3 years, and that He lived on this earth for around 33 years. Jesus had much more time on this planet as just a regular guy than he did engaged in His ministry.

We know Jesus was a carpenter, or builder, or whatever term seems right. How do we know this? Well, first and foremost, his adopted earthly father Joseph was. That’s how things worked, you became what your father was. (That’s a point to ponder, for sure). When He preached in the Synagogue in his home town of Nazareth, we hear the people saying the following: Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

Jesus was a baby, a young boy, a teenager, and ultimately a man just like any other man. He was fully human, just like any man. He had to be one of us. Why? Let’s recap quickly:

Only a man born under law could redeem those under law. Man had sinned, therefore man had to pay. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

Only a living man could shed the blood needed for the forgiveness of sins. Under the Old Testament sacrificial system we learn that the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life. We can read that even under the New Covenant, blood had to be shed for the remission of our sin and that nothing had changed:  Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves. He was one of us: tempted in the same ways, enduring the same hardships as us, being sad and happy as us.

And when He finished building, it served Him mighty well. Cause He started on a building that stretched from sky to sky and sea to sea. Even though Jesus was just as normal, and fully human as you or I, He was also God incarnate in the flesh. He was 100 percent man, and 100 percent God. Not only that, but He was likely living His life knowing His mission was not of this earth.When Mary and Joseph lost track of Jesus when he was 12 years old coming back from feast time in Jerusalem and returned to find the boy teaching with great wisdom in the Temple and inquired about what was going on, Jesus answered as follows:  Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house? In Cana, at the famous wedding Jesus showed an understanding of the special nature of his mission on our Earth when His mother asked him for help with the situation at the wedding, responding Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.

Now He’s back in Heaven and He’s building once again. He’s working on a city called the New Jerusalem. It sits on a firm foundation according to the Master Builder’s plan. The streets are lined with mansions for the saints to move right in. It was customary in the day of Jesus that once a man and woman were betrothed to on another, committed to be married in other words, for the Groom to return to his father’s house to begin to prepare a place for he and his bride to live together as husband and wife. It’s no different here. Jesus is the groom and we are the Bride; we are the Bride of Christ. Who is the Bride? Well, we aren’t told any list of requirements believers must meet to be part of the Bride, but we do read that our groom’s expectations of us are similar to what any groom of the day might have had for his betrothed,   For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.

And when He’s finished building, He’ll come back again. To take us to that city fashioned by the Master Builder’s hand. Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

Jesus is the Master Builder.He built His church upon a rock.He built it upon a firm foundation. When Jesus said to Peter And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Who is the rock? We won’t debate that here, but note some things: Jesus is the foundation and the cornerstone, as we are told This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone, and that no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the Master Builder. He takes the old and  makes it new.He can take a life of sin, make it clean and pure within. And He can make a brand new you. Jesus rebuilds us. We all come from a life of sin; we all live lives of sin, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Yet  while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. There is nothing we can do to make ourselves any better in the eyes of a perfect and Holy God, as all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.

We don’t,however, have to stay in the condition. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Jesus is the one who had no sin, made sin by God the Father to pay the price we owed. All we have to do is call, for whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Once we do that,  if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Are you a brand new you?

Jesus was a carpenter a long time ago
Joseph taught Him all things He needed to know
He grew up straight and strong, working on the shores of Galilee
He learned to use a hammer, and He learned to drive a nail
And when He finished building, it served Him mighty well
Cause He started on a building that stretched from sky to sky and sea to sea

Jesus is the Master Builder
He built His church upon a rock
He built it upon a firm foundation
And the work is never gonna stop (no, it never gonna stop)
Jesus is the Master Builder
He takes the old and makes it new
He can take a life of sin, make it clean and pure within
And He can make a brand new you

Now He’s back in Heaven and He’s building once again
He’s working on a city called the New Jerusalem
It sits on a firm foundation according to the Master Builder’s plan
The streets are lined with mansions for the saints to move right in
And when He’s finished building, He’ll come back again
To take us to that city fashioned by the Master Builder’s hand

Written by Dianne Wilkinson

Performed by The Cathedrals

Read more posts by Wally Fry at Truth in Palmyra