My Ministry – Short Story

The place is a buzz. Everyone is trying to talk at once as the crowd listens intently to what we are saying. Each disciple is sharing how he had cast out demons, healed sick people, and preached to this city and that. The atmosphere is electric with excitement and I haven’t even fully shared all my stories yet – which are frankly the most amazing in my opinion.

Jesus

“Jesus, one guy started screaming while I was preaching,” Peter exclaimed, “and I told the spirit to be silent and leave him and it did!”

“That’s amazing Peter,” I whisper to myself. “Let’s not get too cocky about it.”

In my humility and wisdom, I keep relatively silent as the others fight for a chance to share their own stories. How childish. Finally Jesus has had enough, I can tell, of their immature noise and motions for us disciples to gather around.

“Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile. I know you’re all tired,” Jesus suggests.

“That’s a great idea! I haven’t even got a chance to eat we’ve been so busy with this ministry,” I agree.

Without saying much more all of us disciples pile into the boats with Jesus. There’s no need for us to discuss where we should go. Everyone knows the perfect resting place. It is a place on the other side of the lake, far away from people, noise, and all the daily drama associated with big time ministries like ours.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” Andrew mutters as we approach the other side of the lake near our destination. We all look in the direction Andrew is pointing and see crowds streaming over the hills.

“Should we turn around?” Peter wonders. “I doubt we’ll rest with crowds like this!”

We all look at Jesus for direction and we can see compassion has flooded his face. I even notice a few tears in his eyes as he looks at all the people pouring forth to meet us as we approach land.

Well, I think to myself, so what for resting.

We land our boats and Jesus dives right into teaching the crowds. The day wears on hour by hour as we sit and listen (or half-listen) to what Jesus is saying. Honestly, I don’t listen much to what Jesus is saying because it’s mainly basic stuff. I’m at the point where I’m ready for more in-depth teachings. I’ve been through the basics. Actually I just finished preaching to crowds and healing the sick and casting out demons – something the people in this multitude only dream of doing one day.

The sun is getting nearer and nearer the western horizon. Oh my goodness this is the longest day ever! Some of the other disciples agree with me and suggest I help Jesus end his teachings.

“You do it. Jesus won’t rebuke you if you do it,” they encourage.

“You’re just afraid to interrupt him,” I laugh. “Okay, I’ll do it.”

I stand up and slowly make my way close to Jesus. He is just finishing a teaching when he looks at me. He is smiling and I see energy exuding from him. Strange. Here he is, teaching all day long, and he has more energy than me!

“Do you want something?” Jesus asks, smiling as if he knows what I am about to say.

I clear my throat. “We are a long way out here in the middle of nowhere,” I begin. “And it’s very late in the day. Pronounce your benediction and send this crowd away so they can eat some supper.”

I didn’t really care about the crowd eating supper I was just tired and wanted to rest.

Jesus laughs at my suggestion. “You do it. You fix them supper,” he replies.

“Are you serious?” I ask in disbelief. “You want us to go spend a fortune so these people can eat?”

“How much bread do you have? Find out.” he answers.

I turn to the disciples to get the answer before coming back to Jesus. “We have five loaves of bread plus two fish.”

I watch as Jesus tells the crowd to sit down in groups. He then takes our two fish and five loaves of bread and lifts them up in the sky and blesses them.

“Thank you, Father, that you take what little we have and multiple it to feed the multitudes.”

Great. I’m tired from a hard week of ministry, a long day of teaching, and now I’m going to go to bed starving as Jesus gives away our supper to these crowds. I’m having a hard time thinking loving thoughts about the people in the crowd right now. Don’t they realize how much of an inconvenience they are? If only I could let them see how tired and irritated they make me sometimes.

Bread“Here, take these,” Jesus says, handing me the food he just blessed. “And start handing them to the crowds.”

What a chore! We’re tired and now we have to pass out free food to a bunch of leeches.

The sun is already halfway disappeared before we get to sit down and eat supper.

“Do you realize how many people we just fed with only a small amount of food to begin with!” Peter exclaims. “God just multiplied the food!”

“I couldn’t believe it! We just kept passing it out one loaf after another and it never ran out!” John adds.

“Praise God for his miraculous supply!” the others chime in.

I hadn’t even noticed the miracle. It just now dawns on me how amazing this accomplishment is. When I had been passing out the food I guess I just assumed there would be enough and didn’t really pay attention.

“I guess I’ve just been so accustomed to miracles,” I say out loud, “that I didn’t even notice until now.”

The disciples laugh.

“Alright,” Jesus says, coming over to where we are sitting. “When you finish eating you can go ahead and get into the boat and cross over to the other side of the lake. I’ll take care of sending the crowds home.”

“Are you sure?” John asks. “We don’t want you to have to do all that work!”

“I insist. I know how tired everyone is anyway.”

I don’t argue with Jesus’ suggestion. Shortly after we finish supper, we all climb back into the boats and head for a more peaceful location to sleep. The night is closing in but it won’t be long before we make it to the other side.

Seven hours later we are still in the middle of the lake! Tired, worn out, and rowing with all our might against the harsh wind, we keep pressing on toward that other side.

I am beginning to think I am living in a nightmare. Either that or I’m on my way to having a mental breakdown. Will I ever find rest!!?

“Ahhhh! A ghost!” Thomas screams.

I’m not sure why, probably because we’re so tired, but we all believe that there really is a ghost. We strain hard and see a figure walking on the water.

“Row harder!” Peter shouts. “Before it gets here!”

“Courage!” Jesus calls out. “It’s me. Don’t be afraid!’

We hardly believe our eyes as Jesus walks on the water to our boat and gets in. He is peaceful, calm, and looks refreshed. How on earth does Jesus look so rested?

Suddenly it seems to set in. This whole day was a lesson. Jesus was trying to teach us that our ministry was not about us and  that rest was found when we stopped striving. He had taught us that by giving away our last bit (whether that be food or strength or time) our Father would multiply it back to us.

Jesus went through the same circumstances but he was refreshed as he gave to the multitudes, flowing in the energy and miraculous power from God. We became tired and more tired as we focused on our own needs all day long and kept striving to get away from them. There is nothing more tiring then being focused on yourself all day. Focused on my tiredness, focused on my ministry, focused on my stories, focused on my pain, focused on my hunger.

In reality, the crowd was a gift from God to refresh us. Jesus had already known they would follow us to the other side. Maybe if we had given to them we would have found an energy we didn’t know existed. Maybe we would have tapped into a spiritual vitality flowing from God.

I am seeing now that my strength fails. It couldn’t heal a single body, cast out a single spirit, or even row across a stupid lake. Jesus was showing me that my strength isn’t worth relying on. Refreshment and rest comes from entering God’s rest and strength.

As I’m pondering this, I look up and our boat hits the lake shore. Funny how easy it was after Jesus came into our boat.

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The Dreaded Night – Luke 7:36-50

The dreaded night has finally arrived. I still can’t quite believe the mess I got myself into. When I had asked Jesus to my home for supper it had been a spur of the moment invitation and not at all thought through. At the time of the invite I had just heard him share an exceptional parable with the crowds and I had been impressed. That was the last time I would ever let my emotions get the best of me!

All week I had been suffering repercussions. First my family wanted to know why I had invited the revolutionist into my home. Then my colleagues wanted to know why I, a devote Pharisee, had invited an uneducated self-proclaimed teacher for supper. And then I began to question myself as to why I had done this ludicrous thing.

Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see Jesus and his rough looking disciples standing at my door. Not about to greet them myself, I catch the attention of Joseph, my head servant.

“Go show Jesus to his place,” I say in a low tone with my back to Jesus.

Joseph looks at me with a puzzled expression. “Do you not want to greet . . .”

“No!” I argue with as much force as I can muster. “And make sure you seat him away from the head of the table. Keep those places reserved for my friends when they arrive.”

Joseph doesn’t respond as he obeys my orders. Jesus and his disciples are brought inside and seated. I try very hard to avoid making eye contact with any of them. The awkward moments that follow seem like an eternity. When are my friends going to get here?

At last I see Caleb and Cleopas approaching my front door followed by a few others of my close acquaintances.

“Welcome!” I greet with as large a smile as I can manage. “I’m glad you could make it!”

“It’s always a pleasure to be in your company,” Caleb laughs coming inside.

“The sunlight is fading fast,” Cleopas points out.

“Yes, and you all must be hungry!” I say. “Come and sit down! I’ll have my servants bring some water for your feet and some refreshments while we wait for the first course to be served.”

Jesus and his disciples watch as my friends are carefully looked after by my servants.  I want Jesus to know I don’t see him as my equal in society. I want Jesus to see that he is the one honored to be in my home.

“Joseph, we are ready for the first course,” I say when I see that my friends have been prepared for the meal.

With the arrival of food and with the conversation among my friends rising, I am able to totally ignore that Jesus was in my home and at my table. This is just what I was hoping for: He is here but isn’t the center of attention.

Remainders of the second course are just being taken away when our dinner is interrupted. My friends gasp and I look up to see Sharon, our neighborhood harlot, standing in front of Jesus. She knows better than to come to my house when I have company! What on earth is she doing here?!

Silence fills the room and I can hear weeping. The weeping is coming from Sharon who lets her tears fall down on Jesus’ feet. Jesus remains composed when the woman suddenly falls upon his feet, wiping them with her hair, kissing them with her lips, and weeping all the more.

I am not only disgusted by this lady’s outburst of emotions but by Jesus’ response to her! He sits, looking at her with eyes that show compassion as if he understands what she is doing.

Things go from bad to worse. Sharon pulls out an alabaster flask of perfume and begins pouring the contents over Jesus’ feet. The fragrance takes over the room and drowns out the smell of the meal.

I can’t look anymore. I can’t watch this parade of sin. I know that Jesus isn’t from here but if he was a prophet, if he was anywhere close to God, he’d know this woman was unclean and a convicted sinner!

“Simon,” Jesus’ voice says splitting through the silence and invading my thoughts. “I have something to say to you.”

Disgusted I reply, “Oh really? What could you possibly have to say?”

Jesus doesn’t miss a beat. “Two men were in debt to a banker. One owed five hundred pieces of silver and the other only owed fifty. Now neither of them could make payments on their debt any longer so the banker decided to forgive them both. He completely wiped their slate clean. Tell me, which of the two would be more grateful?”

“I suppose,” I start to say, “Well, I suppose the one whom he canceled the larger debt.”

“That’s right.” Jesus turns to the woman yet he continues to speak to me. “Look at this woman here at my feet. I came to your home; you provided me no water for my feet, but she washed them with her tears. You gave me no greeting, but she hasn’t stopped kissing my feet. You didn’t give me anything to freshen up, but she has soothed my feet with perfume. Impressive, isn’t it?”

Jesus pauses to look around the room. We are all silent.

“She was forgiven many, many sins and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal. I forgive your sins,” Jesus says, looking at the woman. “Your faith has saved you.”

At these words the woman seemed to have been released of a million ton load. Joy, peace, and relief seem to sweep over her. And at these words, I suddenly feel like the burden she carried has been placed on me. I now understand why I invited Jesus into my home.

I invited Jesus because deep down inside I had sin that I wanted free from. Deep down, underneath my mask, I had things I wanted Jesus to forgive. Something told me he could do it. Something told me he had the keys to freedom. Something had told me he could forgive – even though it didn’t make sense to my brain.

But my pride has been holding me back. This woman threw herself upon Jesus. I reserved myself, afraid to be seen too close in public. This woman wept upon his feet. I had remained proud, unable to humble myself to repentance. This woman gave her best perfume, probably her life’s savings, and I couldn’t even give him the best place at my table. This woman saw her sin as a heavy debt she could not pay. I had thought of my sin as minimal compared to most, but in reality my sin is greater than this woman’s for she will be leaving the room free.

The night is still young. Jesus is still in my house. Will I get the courage to humble myself before him? I take in a deep breath.