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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Beautiful Beggar (Short Story) Acts 3:1-11

I feel kind of helpless as I’m being carried up this long row of stairs. The two men hold me up as they ascend step after step.

“I really would help you if I could,” I say half-jokingly.

“You seem to have put on weight since yesterday,” one of the men laughs.

“Well, we’re almost there,” I encourage.

There are only two types of people in the world: The beggar and the giver. Now, I’m proud to say I’m a professional beggar. I’m not ashamed of it. Some beggars I run into are ashamed of their profession. They feel bad asking people for money without performing some sort of work. I guess I’m different in that respect: One, I have absolutely no problem asking people for money and two, I wouldn’t say the money isn’t hard earned – begging is a lot of work.

The reality is most people are beggars they just don’t know it. They argue their case and try to point out how they’ve never asked for anything from anybody but the truth can be seen in their faces. Deep down they are longing for something, begging for something more.

“Just set me down in my usual spot, thanks,” I say to the men carrying me as we reach our destination.  “Ah! Easy now!”

The men set me down gently in front of the Temple gate we have affectionately dubbed the Beautiful Gate. I’ve sat in front of this same gate for many years now mainly because it’s almost always busy. In my profession you have to be where the people are and that’s why the key point in my marketing strategy is location, location, location.  I also picked this gate because I feel like the name is a very accurate description of my complexion.

“Here’s your pay.” I hand out the coins to the two men who carried me to my spot. “Now don’t forget to come back tonight to pick me up!”

“We won’t,” they say, chuckling to themselves. “We haven’t forgotten you for years now!”

I smile at them. “Yes, I know but eight years ago you did forget me.”

“That was only once!” they argue. “And that was during a nasty storm that came through . . . “

“I know,” I interrupt. “Now hurry up and leave. Here comes a lady who looks like an easy target.”

As my two friends slowly ease away I see my first customer approaching. She is a middle aged lady, probably married, and who looks well off.

“Isn’t God good?” I say when she’s in earshot.

“What’s that?” she asks, coming closer.

“I said, isn’t God good?” It has always been my philosophy to start off with a religious comment that has nothing to do with the fact I want money.

She pauses for a moment. “Are you a beggar?”

She isn’t buying my small talk.  “I don’t like to call myself a beggar,” I answer in sincerity.

“Really? Why not?”

“Well, I think the public perception of the word ‘beggar’ isn’t always positive. The problem is, I haven’t settled on an alternative title for myself but I’ve been kicking around a few ideas.”

I can tell the lady is amused by my reply. “So what are your ideas?”

“Well,” I begin, acting a little embarrassed to share my ideas. “I’m not exactly sold on it, but I like the phrase Empty Vessel. It sounds religious, sort of humble, and yet implies the fact that I want you to give me something.”

The lady laughs at my explanation. I have her right where I want her. My begging technique is to strike a conversation with the customer, keep it funny, and keep it honest. I’ve been far more successful using this method than trying to pull on the heart strings and put on a fake show.

“Empty Vessel, huh? I kind of like it. So, how long have you been crippled?” the lady asks.

“All my life! But I don’t let that detour me from my calling!”

“Oh I’m sorry. Well, that’s the spirit to have! What do you consider to be your calling?”

“To be an Empty Vessel,” I say, smiling slowly.

She shakes her head and laughs. “Alright, here you go,” she says, tossing me some coins. “And to answer your first question, yes, God is good.”

“He sure is,” I whisper to myself as she walks away and I put the coins into my collection box.

“Look here,” a man’s voice suddenly says, coming out of nowhere.

I look up to see two men staring at me with marked attention. I can’t believe how easy it is going today! One right after another! I start to say something but the man beats me to it.

“I don’t have any silver or gold . . .” the man begins.

That’s a bummer, I think to myself. Not much I want from him if he doesn’t have any money.

“But what I do have,” the man continues, “I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!”

I can hardly believe my ears. Walk? Is he crazy?! I can’t walk! I’ve heard of Jesus before but . . .

“Whoa!!” I cry as the man grabs me by the hand and pulls me up to my feet. “I’m not quite ready for this!” I try to object.

Before I completely know what has happened, I am on my feet standing without any pain. I think my feet register the miracle quicker than my brain as I suddenly start running and jumping and going wild.

Finally my mouth gets wind of what has happened. “I’m healed! I’m healed! I’m healed! Praise God! I’m healed!” I shout at the top of my lungs.

The two men are laughing and praising God right along with me! Whoever this Jesus of Nazareth is I want more!

In my ecstatic joy, I see one of my co-beggars watching me with his mouth wide open. Suddenly it dawns on me: I’m not a beggar anymore! All these years I’ve been begging for money, money, and more money but what I really needed was a touch from God delivered by these two men.

I look around as I continue jumping for joy and I see all the other people – not just beggars but common people and religious scholars – they are all in search of something. They think activities, work, people, money, and pleasure is what they crave. They think doing religious routines will satisfy their souls. But I finally know that what they really desire, what they are really begging for is an encounter with God. Mine came just now, simply because two men took the time, not to give me money and just keep going, but to stop and extend to me the invitation to experience the glory of God.