(A recent archeological dig in the Kidron Valley on the eastern side of the Old City of Jerusalem uncovered an earthenware jar in which were discovered papyrus fragments. The following is a translation of the original Aramaic into today’s English.)
Jesus is a hard act to follow! I remember when he called us. First, Simon and Andrew, casting for fish, and James and John, mending their nets. Then the rest of us. We all stopped, dropped what we were doing and followed. What were we thinking? To this day, I can’t say, save there was something charismatic about him in a rugged sort of way.
I hate to be fussy, but everything hasn’t been perfect. Jesus called all of us, but he likes Peter, James, and John best. I see why he keeps Judas Iscariot at arm’s length. You can’t trust someone who never looks you in the eye. But I wonder how Andrew, Simon’s brother, feels about being excluded from the inner circle. Me? With all of my inclusion and abandonment issues, I feel left out! (In the picture, I’m the one standing at the far right with his arms crossed!)
Still, at the beginning, all was well. The parables. The miracles. The crowds.
Then he decided to go to Nazareth. I expected a huge hometown welcome! I also wanted to learn more about him. He can be enigmatic. One moment, genial; guarded the next. I’ve asked him many questions. About him. He always answers: “The kingdom of God is like this…the kingdom of God is like that…” (I keep guessing he’s trying to tell me something, but I just don’t get it!) In Nazareth, I planned to talk with those who really knew him.
At first, the townsfolk were amazed. Jesus was his spellbinding best. They “Oohed!” and “Aahed!” at his teaching. Then one by one, they grumbled, “Who is he to speak to us like this! Don’t we know him?” Talk about familiarity breeding contempt. Exasperated, he sighed, “Prophets are without honor in their land.” Somebody in the back of the crowd hollered, “Who said you were a prophet?” I hated to be fussy, but I said, “Let’s get outta here!”
We went to surrounding villages where Jesus continued teaching. One day he told us to count off by sixes and to go out two-by-two and do what he’d been doing. No one spoke up, so I did. “Excuse me?” I hated to be fussy, but after Nazareth I wanted no trouble! But he gave us a look. His was a command, not a request. I got paired with Peter who has real control issues. Always taking charge. Dealing with him was tough enough, but then Jesus told us to take nothing: No food, no money, no extra clothes! I hated to be fussy, but I said, “Would you please excuse me?” He gave me that look.
The trip wasn’t bad. Everyone didn’t welcome us, but most did. We taught. We anointed the sick. Some were healed! We even cast out demons! Peter and I were thrilled! We couldn’t wait to tell Jesus! By the time we got back, the others were there, too. Peter spoke up and took all the credit as if I wasn’t there. But I was too tired to argue. Even if I had complained, Jesus probably would have said something like, “Fuggetaboutit! It doesn’t matter who gets credit as long as it gets done.” I hate to be fussy, but that’s easy for him to say. He does miracles every day!
He then told us to go to a deserted place to rest. “Thank you, Jesus!” But the people followed us. When he saw the crowd, something inside (must be the extrovert in him) lit up. He began to teach. God, that man can talk. I hate to be fussy, but there are times when I wish he’d shut up! A few hours later, he was still talking! And we were still tired. Hungry, too. So was the crowd. “Jesus, (I wasn’t the only one this time; we all said), will you please tell the people to go? They’re hungry!” He said, “You feed them.” We all complained. He gave us that look. All we had were five loaves and two fish. But he took them, blessed, broke and gave them to the crowd. I still don’t know what happened. Did he give each person only a morsel? Or did others, seeing his generosity with little, share their provisions? Or did he multiply the provisions, maybe making fish cakes? I don’t know, but somehow all were fed. Leftovers, too! I scanned the crowd and stopped counting around 10,000. I hate to be fussy, but the authorities always lowball crowd estimates. They reported half that number. Whatever!
Then Jesus told us to get into a boat and go to Bethsaida. Finally, he would dismiss the crowd and catch up with us later. The water was choppy. It was slow going. Then, the wind. We were getting nowhere. I was bailing as fast as I could, but the boat was swamping. I also got seasick. I hated to be fussy, but it was fine for Simon and Andrew, James and John. They’re fishermen and used to it. Not me! I was screaming, “Help! Somebody! Anybody!” “Shaddup!” they yelled, “O ye of little faith!” But they were scared, too. Suddenly, out of the mist and over the waves, we saw a figure, a phantom walking on the water. Scared the bejeezus out of us! Then we heard a voice, “Fear not, it’s me.” It was Jesus! He stepped in the boat and the storm ceased!
All is calm now. Everyone is relieved and happy. Except me. I’m a wreck and I’m mad! I hate to be fussy, but I want to ask Jesus, “What in heaven’s name…nah, what in Hades took you so long?”
As soon as we get to shore, I’m leaving! I bet he’ll try to convince me to stay. And, truth to tell, I do believe this journey is going somewhere. Something marvelous, some miracle of miracles is going to happen. Maybe it’s already happening…to me! I can feel it. And I really don’t want to miss it!