Monday, June 13, 2011


The young man hung his head and walked away.  The teacher’s words had hit him hard, and he had the dazed look of a man who had the wind knocked out of him.

Judas held his steady, studying gaze on the wealthy young man.  Silence hung in the air around them.  Everyone was surprised at the teacher’s words, though of course, surprising words had become surprisingly common.  They were what had drawn each of these disciples and friends, Judas included, to the teacher in the first place.  

As the young man’s footsteps faded, Jesus turned to his friends and spoke quietly, with the faintest trace of disappointment.  “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”

“Weren’t you a bit hard on him?” Thomas asked.

Jesus nodded.  “It’s hard, kids.  So very, very difficult, for people who trust in wealth to enter into the reign of God.  It’s easier for a camel to squeeze into the eye of a needle than for a rich man to come under God’s kingship.”

Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek.  Whatever the language, however somber the situation, the rabbi rarely resisted a good pun, and almost never resisted a bad one.  James and John exchanged glances and smiles.  Judas squinted thoughtfully.  Thomas was confused.  

“Wait,” Thomas said.  “Do you mean ‘camel’, like the horse with humps, or did you mean ‘rope’?”  He mimed a rope with his hands, and elongated the similar sounding words with great care.

“You really know how to ruin a good joke,” James sighed.  “If you get either one through a needle’s eye, Thomas, let me know.”

Thomas ignored his comment.  “Teacher…  Wealth comes from God, doesn’t it?  If a wealthy person can’t come into the Kingdom…  Well… Then who can be saved?”  

Judas held his gaze on Thomas, his face earnest and furrowed and waiting. Though his friends often rolled their eyes at Thomas’s questions and his general struggle with literalism, they were grateful that he was willing to ask.  It spared the rest of them the embarrassment.

“In human terms, yes, this is impossible.” replied Jesus.  “But not with God.  Everything is possible with God.”

Peter spoke up, timidly, but with some measure of pride.  “But look at us, Lord…  I mean, I know we’re not rich, but we left everything to follow you.”

Judas, again, was glad that someone else had spoken what he himself was thinking.

Jesus smiled.

“Frankly, kids, there is no one who has left house and home, or brothers or sisters, or mother and father, or even children or farms for my sake, and for the sake of this gospel, but that he’ll receive a hundred times as much, here and now.  Look at what we have gained by having nothing: Houses, homes, brothers and sisters, and moms and kids and farms.  All these things are ours,” he smiled, “because we don’t own them.  And, yes, persecutions and hardships, too.  But in the age to come, eternal life.”

Jesus still had his eyes on the despondent dandy, and sighed.  “But many who are first now will be last, and the last ones first.”

Judas turned to watch the rich young man, now a distant shape against the sand and the ancient walls of the nearby city, and felt the slightest glow of pride within his chest.  He had given up all these things to follow Jesus.  House and home.  Even the prospect of having his own family was something he was willing to set aside to see this Kingdom come.  And it was true, what they had gained.  People had opened their homes, mothers had fed them and fathers had blessed them and children had followed them. And then, in the age to come, when his people were free...

This camel’s through, he thought.  I’ve given everything for him.  

His fingers played absently at the moneybag hanging from his belt.  


Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The Real World.

He would get little sleep tonight.  His thoughts were agitated.  He was seething as he lay silently under the stars.  The others lay scattered around the smoldering fire, Thomas in arm’s reach to his left, Andrew to his right, but he was as distant from them as the wan moon.

How nice for him. How nice for him to slow down and take his time while we have work to do.  How does he think this little band of followers keeps going?  Not once has he ever even acknowledged what I do to keep these morons fed.  “Render unto Ceasar!” he says.  “Consider the birds!” he says.  Meanwhile I’m working myself dry to keep enough in the moneybag to keep us from starving.  “I’m in no hurry,”  he says.  That’s just the problem, you idiot.  People are suffering.  Your people.  Our people.  And he talks about love.  What does he know about love?  What does he know about suffering?  Yeah, let’s all just love one another.  We’ll make a nice little family where we sit around and pat each other on the back and just loooove one another.  Meanwhile there are people starving.  Meanwhile there are people being crucified for speaking out against this government.  Yes, I’ll just drop everything and make sure little Peter’s feelings aren’t hurt while a family goes hungry tonight.  I’ll go have a little fellowship and get to know little Matthias while Roman soldiers beat a man to an inch of his life just for being a Jew.  “Love one another.”  God, what an idiot.  He has no idea what love is.  He has no idea about the real world.

He would get very little sleep tonight.  There was just too much to think about.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Building Something Beautiful

“I remember being in my dad’s workshop.  I wanted to make a box for my mother.  Something to keep her jewelry in.  I was very little, and it was years before I realized she’d never even worn any jewelry, but in my mind she sparkled, so I suppose it made sense to me.  In any case, I was very determined.  

"So I asked my Dad if he would help me make one.  I was so eager to get it made.  The second he’d square off a corner on a little piece of wood, I’d slap it in place and ask for a nail.  But he would slow me down at every step.  And every time I thought we were finished, there would be another little detail to take care of.  I remember him saying, ‘Slow down, son.  We’re not in a hurry.’  He took my hand and ran it across the flat of the wood, and I saw that it needed a little more sanding.  So he’d take my hand and show me how to sand more finely.  Then I’d see that a corner wasn’t quite true.  He’d crouch down next to me, with his breath on my cheek, and help me line it up just so.  Eventually, I stopped just trying to finish the thing.  I started to enjoy the rhythm of creating it.  And that’s what it was. It was… creation.  You’d never guess the work that goes into creating something so simple.  But I began to notice these little things for myself, and I began to take pleasure in refining them.  I remember my Dad so well, saying it in that low old voice of his,  ‘Slow and sure, son.  Take your time.  Steady, slow and sure.  We’re building something beautiful here.’ ”

The sound of twelve men in silence is a rare thing, but here it was.  The fire popped an ascending spark into the dark sky.

“I’m in no hurry to build this Kingdom, my friends.  Time is fleeting, but it’s only time.  My Dad in heaven gives it to us as water from a stream, and we receive it so, to refresh us.  And we build his Kingdom the way my earthly father helped me build that little box.  Slowly.  Sure, but slowly.  We take care of the details.  We love one another.  We’re building something beautiful here.”

More silence.

Thomas spoke up.  “Did she like it?  The box?”

Jesus smiled.  “It’s still sitting on her mantle.  Empty, as far as I know, but still sitting on her mantle.”