Encountering Jesus: In the Beginning
Cross Over Stories from My Imagination
By Gary Piper
Authors note: Those of us who live today have at our disposal the beginning, the end, and the beginning of Jesus story. Because we are able to read about Jesus giving the gifts of hope, love, joy, and peace, we know that when he died those gifts did not die with him. Isn’t it wonderful to have the complete story? Suppose for a moment that you are struggling through life enduring pain and hopelessness and you hear of someone who can take away your pain and replace it with hope and peace. You painstakingly journey to find him only to be disappointed beyond your ability to understand. Suppose for a moment that you see give up his life when he could have lived and your hope died with him. Let’s turn back the pages of time and use our imagination and discover just how it would feel. As you read, please remember even though the story line is fiction, the story is true because it is your story.
I can’t believe that he let them do it! He was my only hope and now he’s gone and it’s gone! My legs have been hurting for so long I can’t remember what it is like to walk or run without pain and now I never will. And he just let them do it! I tried so many times to get close to him so he could heal me but with all those people pushing and shoving to get near him I just didn’t have the strength to push my way in. And now he’s gone, gone forever!
I remember the first time our eyes met, his were so warm, and friendly mine were filled with pain and desperation. His eyes said to me, "Come to me with your burdens, and your pains and I will give you the rest you need." REST HAH! Now I’ll never be free of pain, every step I take will be filled with it. With every step I will not only feel the physical pain but I will feel the pain of what might have been.
I remember thinking if I could only find a time when he was by himself then I could get near enough for him to touch me and make me whole. So I set out and followed him as best I could just waiting for my time to come. I saw him heal many people, I saw him forgive people of their sins. I saw our leaders try to discredit him because they didn’t believe and they didn’t understand what he was doing. If they were filled with hopelessness and pain they would have been able to understand, but their hopelessness and pain were hidden in their adherence to the law. I could see and understand why he told them they were blind.
One day someone brought before him a boy blind from birth and asked whose sins caused the boy to be blind the boy or his parents. I heard him say it was neither it was to glorify God then Jesus went on to heal him. I thought about my accident and pain I would glorify God in my healing. With renewed strength, I tried to get near him but his disciples led him away.
So I watched and waited for the right time. Then one evening I saw Jesus and his disciples leaving an upper room. I followed them as they left the city and headed for the Garden of Gethsemane. Since I could not walk very fast by the time I got there his disciples were sleeping. I said to myself this is going to be easy. In the distance I saw Jesus praying so I thought I’d sit down and rest awhile, it had been a long and tiresome walk and my legs were really hurting. I remember thinking, hurt all you want cause after tonight you’ll never hurt again. I thought about the way life used to be before my fall, the long walks, running, shepherding my sheep. Boy I longed for those days. Now I felt hope for a new life filled with grand expectations. As I watched Jesus praying I just knew that, he was praying for me.
I noticed him get up and go to three of his disciples, I thought now it’s my turn. As I got up, I noticed he was back praying again. Again, my thoughts turned to all the new things life had in store for me. The night was so still, all was at peace. Again, I could hear him praying although I could not make out any words. I looked up at the night sky with all its millions of points of light, I just knew I would one day be able to jump up and touch them.
Suddenly the stillness was interrupted by the sound of voices, angry voices coming through the gate. I saw Jesus going toward them, I thought now is my chance. I saw one man kiss Jesus on the cheek, and then there was a commotion. Before I had a chance to reach him, they were leading him out the gate. I tried to run, but as his disciples, scattered one ran into me causing me to fall down. I tried to get up but all I felt was pain and my strength was nearly gone. With my remaining strength I cried, "Jesus, Jesus, Master I need you, you must touch me so that I will be whole! I have been searching for so long and my legs hurt so much please Jesus help me!” As our eyes touched I saw pain in them, then I saw tears running down his cheeks. One of the soldiers hit him and made him turn around and continue toward the city.
Now I was alone in the garden with all my broken dreams and lost hopes, something told me that I would never see Jesus again. I would be this way forever. As I lay on the ground and looked up at the sky I saw the stars as the number of steps I’d take in pain the rest of my life, I cried. Suddenly I began to feel very cold yet I couldn’t move. I just stared into the night sky and wished I were dead. Finally, sleep took my pain away.
As I dreamed, I relived the entire nightmare of the day I attended my sheep when one had wandered away. I relived the panic feeling I felt as I went in search for it. I remember hearing it crying for help yet I could not find it, then I saw the edge of a deep hole where the cries for help were coming. As I moved to the edge again I felt the loose dirt giving way, again I felt the panic of reaching for something to hold yet finding nothing. I found myself again falling and I was reaching for something now and there was nothing. I felt myself falling; I felt the extreme pain as I hit the bottom. I tried to move my legs but all I felt was extreme pain. I dreamed about the events of the last few days and the horror of realizing my dreams were now nightmares.
As the warm morning sun began to warm my face and as the birds sang their songs my tired broken body began to stir. Slowly and painfully I arose to my feet, broken and dejected I began the long journey home. What had started out as an adventure of a lifetime filled with hope had ended abruptly and discouragingly. Off in the distance I could see three men being crucified, the middle I recognized as Jesus. In anger I cried, "Why? Why? You could raise the dead, give sight to the blind, and make the lame to walk, why did you let them kill you?” The more I thought about it the more it made sense that if my life was to be spent in pain then he should suffer to.
As I began my long journey home I began to think about the words I had heard him say he was always talking about a kingdom that was not of this world it was a kingdom of peace and where love would reign. As I lay on the ground at night, after the pain in my legs had eased I began to long for this new kingdom. I could picture in my mind myself running and doing all the things I had dreamed about before they turned into nightmares. But when I awoke in the morning and started on my journey I would once again see and feel the pain of the real world. As I thought about how Jesus had killed my hopes and dreams, anger began to build in me until I screamed, "God, I wish it would have been me on that cross, take my life Lord because all it hold for me is pain and disappointment.” At night as I dreamed I began to see that one of the men who was crucified with Jesus was me and a very mysterious peace began to settle in my troubled mind.
I had been on the road for 3 days and as night began to fall I began looking for a place to rest for the night. I spotted a campfire. I thought how warm and inviting it looked. "Come friend and enjoy the warmth on my fire and share my supper with me," I heard a voice say. It had been about 5 days since my last meal, I really hadn’t been hungry suddenly I was. As I sat down the stranger handed me some bread and fish. He told me that he saw me coming down the road and that it must be very painful for me to walk. I told him about 25 years ago as a shepherd I was trying to rescue a lamb and fell injuring both legs. I told him of my journey and my disappointment in looking for the one man who could have healed me.
He told me that our lives were similar he was also injured saving his sheep. "I remember," he said, "A time when I had just discovered where my life would take me and what I’d have to go though as I walked through life. As my mother taught me the Psalms number 22 became very painful for me. Like you I used to see the stars as night as points of pain. Slowly I became aware of my Fathers love for me and the importance of my life to others, and then those points of pain became faces of his people who needed me. From then on the pain I experienced became worthwhile. I remember seeing your face many, many times in those stars."
Suddenly it dawned on me that this was no stranger, somehow this was the very one who I had been searching for. But I saw him die on the cross! How, why? Before I had time to get a hold of myself my mind focused on all of my sins and all the times I had become angry and blamed him. I wanted to run and hide I knew that I did not belong in his presence. I tried to say something but I couldn’t form any words, I just felt so unclean and unworthy, and I dropped to my knees.
As if he were reading my mind he looked at me and as my eyes caught this I saw compassion, love, peace, forgiveness, and hope in his. "My whole life has been for you and others like you as I hung on the cross I pictured you in my mind, for you I died. Do not let your guilt burden you let my death heal you and begin your life anew. Because I am resurrected so are you. I have made it possible for you to soar on the wings of God’s love, above all your burdens and pains. Because of my love for you I would live a thousand lifetimes and die a thousand deaths I have no regrets. My resurrection was for the here and now as well at some point in time when you will join me and my Father in a mansion I am preparing for you. Now my friend rest for your journey home," his words brought me a peace I had never felt before.
As I fell fast asleep I began to relive all of the painful experiences I’ve had and as each one passed before me I would see Jesus and the pain he endured for me. In turn each experience was transformed into points of love and points of peace. Again I saw myself on the cross next to Jesus, in a way God had taken my life just as I had asked him to. When I awoke in the morning he was gone. As the warm sun warmed me and as the birds sang their morning songs I felt a very strange peace. As I began to get up I noticed that the pain was still with me yet it wasn’t pain it was a reminder. Instead of reacting to the pain in the way I had before I began to feel very humble as I took a step I felt the love of Jesus and I felt that strange peace instead of pain. I began to see that my physical pain was a strong bond linking me with Jesus the more intense the pain the deeper the sense of peace. As I walked down the road I passed a man with 2 oxen that were yoked together the thought occurred to me that my physical impairment was the yoke that connected me to Jesus. I also remembered that Jesus had said that his pain reminded him of others, I wondered if I could do the same. Almost instantaneously I began to see that everyone walks through life with pain in one form or another, I began to see the faces of some of my friends. I began to feel their pain and I began to feel the strength of Jesus Christ.
As I walked the road home I began to hear the sounds of life for what seemed like first time. I never knew how much I missed the sounds of birds singing, the winds whistling through the trees, and all the noises the small creatures make. Together they sounded like a great choral singing praises for just being alive. And I remember thinking how much of life I missed because I so wrapped up in myself. I can see why Isaiah wrote Jesus would free the captive because he freed me from the pains and loneliness of a miserable life.
As night began to fall I looked for a spot spend the night, since there were no Inns or anything near I would be spending another night under the stars. But I didn’t mind because it reminded me of the night Jesus touched my life. I found a spot under a large tree and sitting on a small knoll enabled me to see the road in both directions. I thought about building a fire but it was a warm night and the moon was full so there was enough light so I lowered myself down to the ground and began to enjoy the evening.
I began to talk to Jesus because I knew that he was with me in spirit. As I looked up through the tree I was sitting under I observed all the millions and millions of stars and I felt so small and insignificant. Then I noticed one star in the eastern sky that shown so bright it stood out from all the rest. That star reminded me of my life because Jesus had made my life shine amidst all the darkness that is contained in life.
In a spirit of thanksgiving I prayed, "Jesus what do you want me to do with my life? I am so grateful that you have given me freedom from my old life and given me a new one. But what do I do with this new life?"
As I looked in the sky for some sort of answer I again felt small and insignificant. How could I, one person, make a difference in such a big world? Then I noticed a small star near a brighter one, it seemed as if it were struggling to maintain its existence. As I watched suddenly they moved together. And the dimmer one seemed to shine brighter. As it twinkled it did become brighter and brighter and then they both began shinning brighter than before. In a short time the stars moved back to their regular place. At first I rubbed my eyes I couldn’t believe what I had just seen. Then in the midst of my turmoil I began to see that brighter star as myself and the star that was fighting for its life someone who needed to learn about Jesus and the way that he can bring light to a dark life.
As I walked toward home I would tell my story to anyone that would listen. Some would listen and believe some would mock me. I found that the ones who listening were helped the most by what Jesus had done for me. I also discovered that the ones who needed Jesus the most were the ones who said they didn’t need him that they were doing just fine.
I remember man named Jacob, in particular because his story was a lot like mine only he was physically healed of leprosy. There were 10 who left the colony in search of Jesus when they heard he could heal people. He told me that after he was healed he felt wonderful for awhile then he began to feel empty that he did not feel spiritually whole. Ever since he searched for Jesus so that he could find out what happened.
He heard stories that Jesus had been killed, but he didn’t believe them. "He gave me life when I was certain to die, anyone who has power over life and death cannot die he is alive and I will find him," he said.
I told him that I had seen Jesus die on the cross but that I had also talked with him after his death. I then told him of my search for him but in the end it was Jesus who came to me. I told him that Jesus had healed me. Seeing that I had a noticeable limp he inquired as to what I had been healed from.
"My healing came in the form of a release from the captivity of pain in my legs saved from a life of only existing. All I ever wanted was for my life to end so I would no longer feel the pain. You would never know Jesus had touched me by seeing me walk because I still limp but now the pain has no power over me," I said with a great big smile.
I continued, "I once heard him say that we must take up our crosses and follow him. As he talked with me he left me with the impression that our lives were the cross that he bore, it was because of us that he died. And it was because of God that he lived again. I see my cross as the pain in my legs, it caused my spirit to die, yet through the powers of Jesus he restored my life. So I bear my cross proudly and with each step I received strength and with each step I know that there are others who need strength to bare their crosses."
"That’s a marvelous testimony you have and I see you are bearing your cross rather well. I am sure Jesus is pleased with you. But what about me? I was completely healed, there are no remnants of leprosy, yet I am left with an empty heart and an empty spirit," he said.
We walked in silence for quite awhile. As looked at him I could see that he was greatly troubled. I thought it strange that here was a person who had been totally healed yet he was still did not have peace. And here I could still feel the physical pain yet I was totally at peace with it. I wondered how that could be it wasn’t long before I received my answer.
"I sure wish Jesus would have healed my spirit like he did yours," his voice was beginning to break up.
Our situations were similar both of us were motivated to seek Jesus for our own desire. Jesus responded to us in different ways. I began to consider the idea that Jesus’ touch affects us in two ways one our body and one our spirit. Yet they seem to affect us separately, my spirit was affected yet my body was not and he was just the opposite.
The idea began to formulate in my mind that maybe the real healing that Jesus gives is spiritual. And as a result our bodies may or may not be affected. What if Jacob had received a spiritual healing but something was preventing him from feeling it? Maybe he was looking for a physical healing and not a spiritual one. I remembered in my own case I had learned to live with the pain but I couldn’t learn to live with what it was robbing me of.
"Have you ever stopped to think that Jesus did heal your spirit and something is preventing you from experiencing it," I asked? "Look at me I am the same person on the outside I was before I met him, but on inside I am a new person."
"I don’t really know. I suppose that it’s possible but what could it be," he asked? "All my life I have been an outcast shunned by everyone including my family you will never know what that feels like. All I ever wanted was to be normal so I could pay back those who made my life miserable."
I told him that his problem was the leprosy was no longer eating his body away but it was still eating his spirit away. I encouraged him to reconcile himself to the past to forgive those who did not understand. We give thanks to Jesus not through words but through the way we live our new found lives. I felt sure that if he could do those things he would find a new spirit in him.
We walked pretty much in silence until it was time for our paths to part. We stopped just before we parted and I told him that as he walked down the road he chose I would be praying that the peace of Jesus would bless him and be with him. He said something about not being at peace until he was satisfied and then left. As I stopped to rest I watched him walk away and I asked Jesus to go with him. I wonder to this day what ever happened to him. I would like to think that our lives crossed for a purpose and that that purpose was fulfilled.
I began to see that living life is like a walking down a road. A road that sometimes runs alongside other roads but it’s one we must walk by ourselves. It is a road filled with dangers that come from disappointments, from selfishness, and unforgiveness. It’s a road that leads to loneliness, depression, and a meaningless life filled with emptiness. Then along comes Jesus and places us at a fork in the road. If we choose the right way he then joins us on our road and we are no longer alone. As I walked along I thanked him for helping me take the right fork in the road.
I walked the rest of the day by myself, but I wasn’t really alone. I wondered what my wife Hannah would say when I got home. She had prayed so hard that Jesus would heal me. I prayed that she would not be disappointed like Jacob I couldn’t wait to get home and tell her about Jesus.
As night fell again and I was sitting around my campfire I noticed another person coming down the road with a limp just like mine. As he came into the light of my fire I could tell by the expression on his face that he was in extreme pain. I could also tell he was not a shepherd because he was too well dressed for that. I started to be concerned that perhaps he meant to harm me but almost instantly I felt at peace.
"Greetings Josiah may I rest with you for the night," he inquired. "My legs are really hurting and I need to stop I have been on the road for three days straight."
At the time it did not occur to me that he, a total stranger had called me by name. The more he talked the more he put me at ease. As he lowered himself to the ground I noticed again the expression on his face was one of pain and for an instant I could feel the pain he was feeling.
"My name is Zephaniah and I thank you for sharing your camp with me. I don’t know how much longer I could go on with each step I was getting more and more tired. What puts you on this lonely road Josiah," he asked me.
I told him many years ago I was injured in a fall and I had since lived a life of pain, of hopelessness, resentment, and anger. And I told the story of my search for Jesus, my finding him and about how he changed my life.
"I noticed that you were limping and appeared to be in a considerable amount of pain," I said. "I know that Jesus lives because he touched me after his death. And more than once I have felt his presence with me. I also know that he could give you dominion over your pain as he did me."
"Nothing would please me more but Jesus touched me and for awhile I did not feel any pain. For awhile I felt alive again, life had taken on a new meaning for me. I told everyone I met of my experience and of the blessings he had given me. Then one day I met a very wise and smart man who told me that I had been tricked, that my pain was still very real. He told me that Jesus had just blinded me to it. One day I watched my shadow and as I saw the painful way I walked suddenly I was no longer blind to the pain it was real," He said with a detectable anger tone in his voice.
I started to say something but the words would not come because there were no words. Then the impact of what he was saying began settling in my mind. Here was a man with problems similar to mine saying that Jesus had tricked him. Had Jesus tricked me? Did my pain really exist? What did it all mean? Almost instantly I began praying for some sort of sign from Jesus. I found myself afraid to move for fear the pain would be there and life again would be worthless.
As I looked up the stars were no longer shining instead all I could see were dark clouds there was no gentle breezes only cold winds. I began to feel my heart racing, I could feel a chill coming over me, and I shivered. My peace began to fade.
"Please Jesus don’t let this happen to me," I prayed. "I know what I felt after your life touched mine was real and I know that it still is. Everything around me is telling me that my life is headed into darkness and despair and I face great storms unless you strengthen me. I need to feel your peace. Please Jesus, please." I had no sooner got the words out when my mind began recalling some of the things I heard Jesus teaching and I remembered him saying one who looks over his shoulder is unfit for the kingdom. Trying to process everything that was happening to me suddenly I remembered he called me by name. How did this Zephaniah know my name? I had never seen him before and I had not given him my name then suddenly the peace I felt at first began to be replaced with the question who this man? Where did he come from?
"Who are you and where do you come from and how did you know my name?" I asked him.
"I thought I told you, my name is Zephaniah. I have been following you for some time now. I was watching you when you visited with Jesus. I saw him deceive you into thinking that you were a new person. But I saw you as you really were. You are a tired and defeated person living a life of hopelessness you do not need Jesus you need me. If you will denounce Jesus and follow me I will see that you never feel pain again. Jesus is a fraud, his spirit haunts the earth, but his body still lies in the grave."
"Your name is not Zephaniah it is Lucifer the father of lies, creator of darkness. Jesus always brings light you have brought nothing but darkness. Jesus brings peace you bring fear. Jesus gives me the power to see you for who you are. And he gives me the words to say be gone Satan walk your life in the pain that Jesus had defeated you again." my voice had a commanding tone.
In an instant he was gone looking into the heavens I could see the stars once again. The violent and cold wind was replaced by a gentle breeze carrying the sweet smell of nearby field. I could feel the warmth of my fire again. Peace once again took hold of me and I began to search for words to thank Jesus but there were none. Sleep took hold on me, and I knew I would be safe.
That was 10 years ago yet it is still as fresh in my mind as if it happened yesterday, I guess in a way it happens to me every day. So if you see me walking in pain. Think about Jesus and his walk for you. Don’t feel sorry for me, pray for those who still walk through life in pain.