|From the Editor -
Kenny Paul Clarkson
||Through Their Eyes
With those words, the elder brother stood erect and looked down the open field. The spring grain was beginning to grow, flooding the hillside with a blanket of green. At the foot of the knoll rolled the mighty Jordan River. Its banks were overflowing; its brown waters rippled in the sunlight as it rushed its way southward.
By Kenny Paul Clarkson
His eyes said it all. Simon nearly burst into laughter at the sight of his younger brother. His pleading expression looked almost painful; his arms crossed in frustration.
"Andrew," Simon slung a heavy mesh net onto the ground, "we have work to do. Those fish arenít gong to pull themselves into the boat, you know. We donít have time to be chasing every troubadour that passes through town. We have a net to mend, my brother."
"Heís not a troubadour," Andrew protested. "Heís a preacher; a prophet!"
There was a long pause. "Some say heís Elijah come back from the dead!"
Simon laughed out loud. "Elijah?! You gotta be kidding!"
Come See this Man
By Annette C. Agnello
"You've got to come see this man." Abe had just got home from another one of the meetings down by the waterside.
"I know you're enjoying the show, but, Honey, you have to bear in mind the leaders of the local synagogue say he's in league with Beelzebub. Surely they know what's best."
"I know that he's a prophet of God!"
"Bah! You're always after the latest fad."
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Simon wiped the sweat from his brow and bowed his back, as if to exercise the pain from the dayís labor. He leaned hard on his staff and pointed toward the river.
"Looks like Elijah, huh?" he asked.
Andrew turned to capture the image of a man plodding into the muddy waters. A crowd was gathering on the bank and, even at a distance, the brothers could hear the preacherís voice echoing through the countryside.
"Not Elijah," Andrew admitted. "They call him John the Baptizer."
"You seem to know everything about everyone." His tone was that of frustration, but he was, in fact, quite proud of his younger brother.
John was a peculiar man; strong enough to endure the rigors of an outdoorsman and smart enough to entrance the minds of the most learned scribe. It was that rugged form that drew oneís interest; a human curiosity that ó by sheer virtue of his appearance ó demanded attention.
His eyes were captivating; not that he would stare at you. More precisely, it seemed he would look through you; as if he could read your inner most thoughts. One felt naked in his presence; not in the literal sense, of course. Just exposed.
"A rogue preacher," most said.
The townsfolk of Bethabara said to pay him no mind. But none took their advice. Even the ones giving the advice were known to walk for hours to hear his tirades on hell-fire, damnation and repentance. It was no surprise, then, when John showed up at the riverside that all left their fields and flocks to catch a glimpse of the bold prophet. Simon decided to join the crowd.
"Ok," he tossed his staff to the side. "Canít get any work done with that noise. Letís go take a look."
Andrew ran ahead.
Within minutes Simon found himself surrounded by a crowd of neighbors, soldiers and even a group of priests and Levites from Jerusalem. The sight of the bearded preacher ó dressed in his crude skin garment immersing his neighbors in the cold water of the Jordan ó seemed strange, even bizarre. The preacher thundered about the need for repentance. Simon wondered why. After all, he was a descendent of Abraham. So why repent? He wanted to ask, but decided to hold his tongue.
The priests, however, werenít so shy. They had come a long way to get answers, and they wouldnít be denied. The Baptizer admitted he was no prophet, at least not Elijah. Nor was he the Messiah. His ministry, he said, was to introduce the Messiah; "Making straight the way of the Lord," he said.
That of course, raised even more curiosity. The priests, in particular, wanted to know more. When would the Messiah appear? When would he come? Who, exactly, is the Messiah?
The last question caused a hush to fall over the crowd. Who is the Messiah? The words echoed in Simonís mind. All Israel looked for ó longed for ó the promised Christ who would deliver their nation from the Gentiles. All stood silently waiting for Johnís answer.
At first, the Baptizer said nothing. He merely looked among the hundreds who had gathered, then waded to shore, walking through their midst. The crowdís curious eyes fixated on his every move as they anxiously awaited his response.
Who was the Messiah? They wanted to know. Who is the man who would set them free? John paused one final time, then simply said, "He stands among you."
Evenings fall soft on Bethabara. A cacophony of night sounds blended the voices of crickets and lowing cattle. Stone cottages glowed like a candles dotting the countryside.
It was customary to welcome travelers to oneís home. Simon was pleased that his wife had invited a stranger ó a man named Joshua from Nazareth ó to spend the evening. He had come to hear the preaching of John the Baptizer.
A hearth ablaze warmed the family as they dined around a sturdy wooden table. They spoke of the dayís encounter with John the Baptizer. Andrew was certain the Messiah would soon appear, he said. Simon wasnít convinced. Joshua, the stranger, offered his opinions, but only when asked.
"The Messiah?" Simonís voice was that of a skeptic. "In our little town?"
What would he look like? What would he say? How would we recognize him? The questions were endless. Does John really know the Messiah?
The Messiah, Joshua offered, would be the true light that lights every man. He would come to his own, but he would not be received. But those who would receive him would be given the power to become the sons of God. And he would be the only begotten Son of God; the sacrificial Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world.
Their hearts burned within them as they listened. God in the flesh. Simon pondered the thought. And all I need do is receive him?
The night wore on. Conversation faded as the hearthís warmth surrendered to glowing embers. The stranger had found solace in a secluded corner of the cottage. And there he prayed.
Andrew stood to leave. "See you tomorrow at the boat."
Simon nodded. "Tomorrow."
Andrew pushed his way through the wooden door, welcomed by the cool night air. He then paused at the threshold and pointed to a corner in the cottage. He turned to consider the figure of the stranger agonizing in prayer.
"Joshua," Andrew said. "The say heís from Nazareth. Most call him by his familiar name."
"And that is?" Peter wondered.
"They call him Jesus."
Kenny Paul Clarkson (Kenn Gividen in real life) is the author of The Prayer of Hannah. A father of two grown children, he and his wife, Donna, are the proud grandparents of three children. He owns a direct marketing firm in Columbus, Indiana. You can write to Kenn care of the Your Letters page of this Magazine.