Scroll VII
Dancing Shadows

Fishing was what most of us knew, and since Peter was the consummate fisherman, we decided to join him in resuming his business, all of us except Matthew.

He not only didn't enjoy fishing, but he could not return to being a tax collector. But after much encouragement we convinced him to stay with us and try to learn the trade.

Peter's boat was in serious disrepair after these years of neglect and needed work, so we all helped him refurbish it. It was a job pulling a thirty-three foot boat up on dry land, turning it over and scraping and pitching the hull. After that came repairs of sail and nets. Once everything was sea worthy again, we were on the water every day. After a motley fashion, we all became fishermen. I quickly discovered that it is hard work, not at all pleasant, yet in many respects, deeply refreshing.

After one particularly grueling night of catching nothing, Peter gathered us around him and said, "I've come to believe that this is not what the Lord would have us do. His message and all that he was to us must not die among fishing boats. We should return to Judea." To a man, we all agreed. After a rest, we set off for the South. The ninety-mile trek was not as easy walking as it had been in the past; at least, not for me. I hoped this would not be the plan, to be on the road continually.

Near Bethany, where Lazarus, Mary and Martha lived, we camped. We awoke just after dawn to another crisp spring morning. As we began to stir about, each taking care of his own personal needs and discussing where we might take breakfast, Jesus appeared once again. When we saw him, we were overjoyed. As we gathered about him he said, "Remember the things I taught you while I was still with you. Everything must be fulfilled that is written of me in the writings of Moses, the Prophets and the Songs of David."

As he spoke, it was like the tops of our heads were opened and we began to understand the Scriptures as we had not known them before. At least this was true for me. It seems that once one encounters the fullness of Jesus, the old writings come alive with meaning and power. He told us, "This is what is written. Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day. As you can see, this has happened. Now, love, grace and forgiveness must be taught to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You have been with me and witnessed the things I have done. I have trained you and given you all that I have. In addition, I am going to send you what my Father has promised, the Holy Spirit. He will continue to order your steps and empower you with his presence."

Off and on over the next forty days, Jesus appeared to us, teaching us more of the kingdom of God and those things that pertain thereto. "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me," he continued. "Therefore, I authorize you to go and seek followers, do what you can to stimulate faith among men and women of all nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them everything I have taught you. I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me. And never, ever forget, I am with you always, even to the end of all things. But stay in this city until you have been clothed with power from on high." There on the Mount called Olivet, near the outskirts of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed us. As he did, his body began to rise from the earth. As we watched, awestruck, he left us and ascended into the golden blue of the morning skies. We fell to our knees with arms outstretched. We worshiped. Oh, how deeply did we worship. And when he had been received up into the clouds, we returned to Jerusalem with great joy.


I think once again of the old priest standing before the angel Gabriel. Put yourself in the old man's place. Walk for a moment in his sandals. You have lived better than your threescore and ten years and never once have you ever encountered a heavenly being. You have read about them, studied past encounters between men and angels, but did you really believe it? Did you own the story as if it were your experience and not just some religious quasi-fictional tale from the past? Isn't your faith a bit tempered by the routine day-to-day "realities" of living? I surmise that you are likely not that much different from Zechariah.

I should speak, perhaps, for myself. It is unwise to surmise. I spent several years with the Son of God and his chosen twelve; now well past my own threescore and ten, I wonder sometimes if it were only a dream, an apparition of a mind not entirely tethered. No matter. Whether real or imagined, my dream has shaped the rest of my insignificant existence. Unlike Paul, the famous teacher from Tarsus, I make no claim at having seen Jesus since that day he ascended through the clouds. There have been no visions, no heavenly encounters. Just silence. Only silence.

I'm afraid Gabriel would have more trouble with me today than he had with Zechariah then.

Still, I haven't forgotten my dream. Or my own reality, whatever it was. Deep in the place where I am centered is the unalterable and unshakable truth that I am yet loved by him. And that, my friend, mitigates all doubt. I have visited the portal of death more than once. I confess that when those ominous shadows of the valley fell over me, I trembled. Yet there is, in the core of my being, the certainty that in my flesh I shall see God--yet again. He has been near all these years, yet in my cloudy befuddlement, I sometimes feel I have missed him. It will be a pleasant reunion when once again, I see his face; when once again, I feel his warm embrace. Despite my stumblings here, my heart trips in anticipation.

Many shadows from countless candles have watched me scratch away at these scrolls. Hours upon hours have passed while my heart has savored the memories. Now, I am Joseph bar Sabbas, called Justus, a servant not too far from the end of my days. I will not be able to complete this project, for, you see, this book is incomplete. There are so many things Jesus said, did and taught that are not written here. You can be sure that if every one of them were written down, it would take the lifetimes of many Josephs. There was so much that Jesus taught, so much that he did. So much has been lost and not recorded. But this much is enough for you to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and if you believe, you will have life in his name. If that happens, then the shadows will not have danced in vain.

Some think of shadows as ominous and threatening. A shadow cannot occur unless there is light. It is but an effect of light cast upon an object positioned between a source of illumination and the surface upon which the shadow is drawn. I am that object. The shadow exists because of me. It is I who have been bathed, and who is awash with light. I turn to behold. I see the light. It blinds me with beauty and love. Dance, dear shadow. Dance, indeed. Dance to the music of my heart.

Next page