Saturday, October 26, 2013

Jesus by Allen C. Shelton

Where the North Sea Touches Alabama

After the miracle of the loaves and fishes Jesus sent the disciples on ahead. They would meet at the other side of the Sea of Galilee. They embarked on a fishing boat. Several had been fishermen before following Jesus. A storm came up. The waves were rolling. During the fourth watch of the night Jesus came walking toward them on the surface of the water. Those who saw him thought he was a ghost: on whether the ghost of Jesus or someone else, the Scriptures are silent. Peter called out, “If it is you ,Lord, call me.” He gestured for Peter to meet him on the water.  Peter climbed out of the boat and onto the dark water. Peter’s faith held him for a moment before he wavered and he began to sink underneath the waves. Jesus reached for his hand (Mathew 14:22-33). In the gospel account there are no obvious sea monsters. There is no indication that the boat’s mast and the cross Jesus would be crucified on may have been made of the same kind of wood. Both Jesus and Peter were to be crucified: Jesus on a hill and Peter upside down.

Lazarus was alive again and would die again presumably, though how this second death would unfold is still impossible to decipher. An absolute zero of biographical details is recorded in the Scriptures. Would his second death be more composed since he had glimpsed the other side, like falling asleep or more like freezing to death or drowning, shivering and gulping?

At the last moment before Simon Peter’s death, would the dizziness and vertigo from hanging upside down and looking up at the sky recall for him the rolling of the waves and the same dark sky that he saw sinking beneath the water as he was drowning on dry land?

In the conventional histories of Jesus, the attention is focused on Jesus. The post he is nailed to is omitted. He is the axial point on the map on which everything turns. How deeply the post he is nailed to is screwed into the ground isn’t mentioned. The vultures lazily soaring overhead against the blue sky escape notice. The flies in the wounds aren’t colored in or counted. Various other human actors are noted. The name of the hill is given. But details on the map are scarce.

Bridget of Sweden in a vision enumerated 5,490 wounds on the body of Christ.. When Jesus appeared to Thomas, all these were completely healed except the wound in his abdomen where the centurion’s spear had been thrust. This is where Thomas’s hand was fated to appear. But this miracle was for Thomas alone. Whether the wounds will turn miraculous in my lifetime is uncertain, despite the claims of Jesus’s imminent return

Jesus was a superorganism, not a single entity. A tree was cut down, split with wedges and hammers, shaped with an axe, stuffed into a gaping hole, and then packed with iron rids with rock and dirt to hold it upright. Some commentators see the pole as a descendant from the Tree of Knowledge in Eden. A beetle was crushed underfoot. Sparrows scattered into the air. A mole’s head was splintered. Jesus is the head of one big screw that turns deep into the landscape. A rough-cut pine cross is sinking into the mountain like a splinter into a fat thumb. The whole valley aches with the vibrations on it.

There is talk about appearances of Jesus, miraculous healings, and demonic infestations, reports of satanic rites in the hills that reach all the way to the State police. Charismatic revivals sweep through the local churches.

Among all the tiny pieces of paper scattered across the floor was the memento from my grandmother – the Sunday school lesson she had written on the back of a check listing how all the apostles had met their end. It was a bloody list. Mathew died in Ethiopia. He was killed by the sword. Mark made it to Alexandria to be dragged by horses through the streets. Luke was hanged in Greece. John was boiled in oil but survived. Then he was exiled to a prison in Patmos. Later he was freed and died an old man in Turkey. James was thrown from the southeast corner of the Temple a hundred feet to the ground. Then he was beaten with a fuller’s brush. James, son of Zebedee, was beheaded at Jerusalem. Bartholomew was whipped to death in Armenia. Jude was shot with arrows. Matthias, who replaced Judas, was stoned and then beheaded. Judas hanged himself from the branches of a redbud tree. Andrew was crucified. Thomas the doubter walked into  India spreading the gospel and was never heard of again. Now that check too met its end in Christ’s presence.

It isn’t necessary to see the resurrected Jesus. That’s why the Holy Ghost was sent –to be a comforter and an inspiration. Of the twelve disciples only Thomas immediately recognized the risen Christ, and then only when he was instructed to place his hand in the wound. The others, who loved him, knew him, couldn’t or didn’t see him until he developed in front of their eyes like a photographic negative.

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