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Some Good News Stories


SOME GOOD NEWS STORIES

At the end of the Gospel of John, the Evangelist makes the following claim:

This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true.
And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written. (24-25)

This claim is the driving force behind "Some Good News Stories." Have you ever wondered about – for example – what happened to the Roman Centurion after he made his claim as to who Jesus is? Or maybe you have pondered, the woman who was caught in adultery that Jesus refused to condemn, what is her story? If you have, then you will understand the depth of the process called “walking between the lines.”
Once a week (for however long it takes), our DRE, Earl Gervais will share some stores with you - stories in and of those told to us in the four Gospels.

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All the stories found here take their form and shape from the book Walking Between The Lines: Some Stories The Bible Didn't Tell. The process of “walking between the lines” is really quite simple. It is taking the time to look at the stories of Scripture (particularly the New Testament) through the eyes of those who might have been there. If you have read the original WBTL, you already understand the process. If you have not, then please stay right here, for I am about to give you a brief tutorial on the process of “walking.”
This TRUTH found in the above mentioned passage from John, lit such a fire in me, I could not listen to any Sunday Gospel without wondering – what else might be the case! And that is the foundation of “walking between the lines.” Here’s the way…

You pick a passage from Scripture, any passage. Then you have several options…
1)    You can take one of the characters in the story, maybe it’s Peter, the Samaritan woman at the well, or the Roman centurion standing at the foot of the cross, or even the rooster who crowed three times. (You really should hear his story; but you will need to read the first book). Then you ponder, let your heart and soul wonder - think about WHAT ELSE they might have been doing, thinking, or saying. Ask yourself a few questions. Close your eyes – SEE the story unfold.

2)    Or, as you read or hear the story, see you there. Tell the story as though you are a participant. (I can’t take the credit for this manner of walking, St. Ignatius of Loyola founder of the Jesuits came up with it first.) Or, there is a third possibility
3)    …make up a character, and have that character interacting with those that the Scripture shares. I do it all the time. I can’t rewrite the Scripture story, but I can wonder what else was happening, who else was around. Jesus did nothing in isolation.

Trust me, as soon as you start reading the stories here, or the ones in the first book, you will get it; and then, I am sure, you will never look or listen to a Scripture story any other way. And then when you complete the final step – allowing God to whisper, and speak to your heart – you will journey to places that you never imagined were there.

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How About Newly Born (John 2:13 – 3:21)


I had absolutely no idea who my father was, nor had I ever seen the face of the woman who gave birth to me. Nicodemus, the man to whom, I guess, I owe my life, tells the story that I was just sitting there underneath a terebinth tree. I must have been three, maybe four years old. He said he was on his way to a gathering of the Sanhedrin. That’s the group of men who are the real rulers of Israel, at least to those who live the life set down by the Torah.[1] Nicodemus said it was the look on my face, he said it reminded him of the story of Abraham sitting beneath the terebinth when the three strangers approached him to tell him he would be the father of many nations and that his wife was going to give birth – a miracle. This kind, gentle man took me in.

I have been in Nicodemus’ service ever since, but he has never treated me as a servant or as a slave. He has always treated me as though I was his own flesh and blood. He has taught me so much, and recently he has had me assisting him with his research on the promise of a messiah, a chosen one who would lead the people of Israel into a new life. Though I was obviously not born yet, Nicodemus was convinced that at the time of the appearance of the Great Star, the chosen one entered this world. I don’t know how many times I read Isaiah’s Emmanuel prophecy, looking for clues as to the identity of Israel’s savior. It wasn’t until recently that I realized my teacher was grooming me, mentoring me, preparing me to take his place on the council. But this night would change those plans.

It was a day like any other. I usually went to the market to buy the things that Anah needed to prepare the evening meal. I not only served Nicodemus as his student, but I pretty much did everything that Anah didn’t do. Nicodemus’ wife had died in childbirth. As he tells it, Yahweh blessed him, for in that experience he realized how fragile and how precious life is. Then he would remind me, had she lived he probably would have passed me by, and he would rub my head, and smile and mention how good at sarcasm he was.

On my way back from the market I passed through the temple area, just to see if there was some little bauble or trinket I could buy for Anah. If Nicodemus treated me as a son, Anah complemented my life with her mother like love. Just as I stopped at a jeweler’s table I heard the commotion. I walked around the corner and spotted a rather tall man screaming all manners of things, and he was picking up some cords and shaping them it to what resembled a whip. He then started swinging it and threatening some of the merchants. I moved a bit closer to try to make out what he was saying.

“Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”

For the life of me, I don’t know why, but I remembered reading something, in something that Nicodemus had given me: Zeal for your house will consume me.


Some of the merchants stood up to the man, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”


The next words out of this man’s mouth hit me like a strong wind. I literally felt my legs weaken.


“Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”


While the merchants and a few Pharisees who were in the area began to argue with the man about how it took forty six years to build the temple, I vividly remember reading somewhere about where it mentioned that the messiah would have to suffer, and would be resurrected. At that point I noticed several men who appeared to be associated with the man. Never one to let a chance to deepen my spirit slip away, I walked over to one of the men.


“Are you with that man over there,” I asked.

“Yes, I am. My name is John.”

The man actually looked younger than me. I pressed my curiosity a bit further.

“What is his name, is he a prophet?”

John responded, “We know him as Yeshua. He has been our rabbi. He has spoken of things that are just too incredible to ignore. He understands the Torah almost as though he wrote it himself, but I have never seen him pick up a scroll to read.”

“Where are you staying,” I pressed further. “My master, Nicodemus, a well-respected member of the Sanhedrin, I know would like to meet your teacher.”

John gave me directions to where his group was staying. They were staying in the house of Lazarus, a well-known businessman who lived just outside Jerusalem’s walls. I thanked John deeply and practically ran back to Nicodemus. As I ran inside the house, I practically knocked Anah down and spilled most of the foodstuffs she was carrying onto the floor.

“Azarel, you little twit; come back here this instant and pick up this catastrophe.”

I could tell Anah was not happy, so my news would have to wait a few moments.

“I am so sorry, Anah, but I have some news that the master must hear.”
“News that has you acting like you are still living out on the streets? I don’t think so!”
I picked up all that I had knocked over, and begged profusely for Anah to forgive me, then asked, “Where is Master Nicodemus?”

“In the courtyard. He is with Caiphas.”

Not thinking, which I am often prone to doing, I burst into the courtyard with my news, completely forgetting about the vast difference in theology between my master and the High Priest.

“Master Nicodemus, I think I might have stumbled upon the messiah, he is staying…”

Nicodemus quickly interrupted me, “How many times Azarel, have I told you not to address me as master. I am not your master, and you are most definitely not my slave. Each of us is equal in the eyes of Yahweh. Things may have happened in our lives which have thrown us into different stations, but all of us possess the dignity and the spirit of Elohim. Thus we should always treat one another as such.”

Caiphas then spoke, “You were saying, Azarel, …something about a messiah.”

“There was a man at the temple and he was chastising the money lenders for doing business at a house of prayer, and he spoke of the destruction of the temple, and raising it in three days, and…”

Anah actually saved me from completely putting my foot in my mouth.

“Azarel, you completely forgot the dates that I asked you to get. I cannot make Nicodemus’ favorite meal without them. Go now, and get them before they are too ripe to use. Afternoon dates are simply not acceptable.”

“But…"

“Do as Anah says Azarel, we can discuss this later.”

Then I saw the look on Nicodemus’ face and I immediately knew I overstepped. I turned and returned from whence I came.

When I came back with the fresh dates I went straight to the courtyard to see if Caiphas was still there. Thankfully, he was not.

“Master,” Nicodemus gave me that look again, “I am sorry - Nicodemus; I am so sorry, on the walk back from the market I realized what a complete fool I was sharing that news with the High Priest present. I know your differences with him. You teach me all the time about kindness and understanding, and about the true spirit of the law; not the strict application of it, as Caiphas preaches.”

“It’s okay Azarel. Now, tell me what did the man say?”

I shared the entire story with Nicodemus, and he had a glint in his eye, the same one he always gets whenever we discuss matters and teachings that relate to the messiah, the one to come.

“Do you know where this man is staying?”

“Yes, in the house of your friend, the merchant Lazarus of Bethany.”
“We will go tonight. Send word to Lazarus, that I wish to come and meet this, what did you say his name was?”

“Yeshua!”

Salvation! Not a better name for a chosen one of God. I can only pray.”
***
Nicodemus and I have traveled to Bethany many times, so traveling at night was not as difficult as it might be had we not known the roads. When we arrived at Lazarus’ house we were greeted by Mary, Lazarus’ young sister. I had spoken with her several times when we passed this way. She too was very intrigued by Nicodemus’ thoughts that the messiah would appear in our lifetime.

“Shalom Mary!”

“Shalom, Nicodemus. Shalom Azarel. I pray your travel was safe.”

“It was,” I answered.

Nicodemus spoke, “We seek the rabbi, called Yeshua. We were told by John, that he was staying here.”

“He is, come this way.”

Mary led us to a large room. Reclining at table was Lazarus, and I recognized John, who had told me the teacher was here, and ten, maybe eleven others. Mary’s sister Martha was serving the guests. Then I spotted him, he looked so calm, peaceful even; not at all like earlier when he was knocking over tables and chastising the merchants. His eyes met mine. He rose and walked over to where Nicodemus and I were standing. He bent over slightly and whispered in my ear.

“Azarel, Yahweh knows your heart. Do not be afraid. Do not fret your worry of your birth. You will one day glorify the name of my father. Your service I will treasure forever.”

The most unbelievable sense of peace, and calm came over me. All questions of why me, were suddenly removed as though they were wagon tracks blown by the afternoon winds.

Nicodemus spoke, “Rabbi, we know that you have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”

Yeshua turned slightly so that everyone in the room could hear his words.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus asked, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?”
Yeshua answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus countered, “How can these things be?” 

Yeshua looked right at Nicodemus, “Are you, the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?  Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony.  If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life.”

Yeshua returned to the place he was reclining then sat up. Every eye and ear in the room was turned to this incredible spirit.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.  For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.  He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”

Yeshua returned to his eating. Lazarus got up and came over to where Nicodemus and I were standing.

“Thank you for coming, old friend.”

“Thank you for your hospitality, but now we must return. Lazarus, the salvation of our people is now among us. I can only we hope we are wise enough, and open enough to accept it.”

Lazarus embraced Nicodemus, then he did the same to me. Mary once again led us, this time out into the world. Nicodemus and I rode for a while before either of us spoke. When I saw the lights of the great city, I turned to my master, my friend.

“Did we just meet the one who will change the heart of the world?"

“Azarel, I think we did. What did he whisper to you?”
“That Yahweh knows my heart. That I would one day bring glory to His name. All my questions of why I came to be under that tree, the day you found me were swept away in that moment. What matters is who I am now!”

“Say nothing of this to anyone, especially to anyone in the Sanhedrin, other than me. I am not sure how this is going to play. One thing is truly certain my dear Azarel. Tonight, we have been deeply blessed.”


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[1] “Teaching,” or “Law”… Torah consists of the origin of Jewish peoplehood: their call into being by God, their trials and tribulations, and their covenant with their God, which involves following a way of life embodied in a set of moral and religious obligations and civil laws (halakha).




NOTE: If you have missed any of the previous stories, just e-mail me at egervais@arch-no.org, and I will send them to you. There is a new "Good News" Story posted every Friday.