Monday, March 05, 2012

The Time is Fulfilled: A Lenten Meditation

Once a week during Lent, I'm going to be offering a little meditation on some of the biblical characters who appear in typical lectionary readings for this season. I present them, not as the work of some erudite biblical scholar, but rather as a life-long Bible reader who often is so familiar with the stories and people in them that he forgets to see them as "real." So I tell these stories with the hope that I will see them with fresh eyes -- and learn some new spiritual lessons.

I am also doing it as part of IVP's Lenten Blog Tour. IVP has invited several of its authors to contribute their thoughts and devotions to a Lenten blog tour.

Every Monday until Easter, a Lenten reflection by one of the IVP authors will be posted on his or her own personal blog. A variety of authors have volunteered, and we are excited to share the different perspectives of each during this holy season.

Follow the tour—

February 20th: Rachel Stone, forthcoming author

February 27th: Margot Starbuck, author of Girl in the Orange Dress, Unsqueezed and Small Things with Great Love

March 5th: J. Brent Bill, co-author of Awaken Your Senses

March 12th: Logan Mehl-Laituri, forthcoming author of Reborn on the 4th of July

March 19th: Andrew Byers, author of Faith Without Illusions

March 26th: Valerie Hess, author of Spiritual Disciplines Devotional

April 2nd: Beth Booram, co-author of Awaken Your Senses

Good Friday, April 6th: Chad Young, author of Authenticity

This week's meditation/story is based on Mark 1:9 - 15 .

Joseph wondered where Jesus had gone. One day he was working in Joseph’s carpenter’s shop and the next he was gone. The boy Joseph had raised had become a man, almost 30 years old. No longer a child, Joseph thought about making him a full partner in the family firm, eventually turning it over to him. He did good work. His body was rugged and strong; hands steady. He was quiet and caring, good with the customers. He was the most peaceful man Joseph had ever known. Never rushing, deliberate, sure.

But there always seemed to be an undercurrent of impatience to him as well, Joseph thought. While Jesus’ eyes were outwardly fixed on the task of planing rough wood, his inner gaze seemed to be looking out over some unseen vista, his ears straining for some sound beyond that of hammer and saw.

He must have finally heard it, whatever it was he was listening for, for one day when he left home, instead of walking with Joseph into the shop he continued on, not saying a word.

Curious, Joseph followed. One block. Two blocks. Then past the outskirts of Nazareth. Joseph struggled to keep up, the younger man’s stride becoming stronger and more purposeful. Townspeople looked up from their morning chores and watched the odd, two man parade. Then, because they had better things to do than watch an old man and his son hiking out of town, they returned to their work. One mile turned to two, two to three, three to four.

Finally Joseph stopped. I’m fit for my age, he thought, but I’m no youngster. I can’t keep up. The younger man kept walking, even picking up his pace.

Walking beside Jesus, Joseph had thought Jesus’ body seemed to tingle with energy, an energy he’d never seen in the shop before. Or had he? There was always something special about that boy. Something deep within him that set him apart from others his age. Or any age, for that matter. For one he had an affinity with the wood that even Joseph never seemed to possess. He seemed tuned into to the world about him in ways Joseph had never observed in any other person. The dust of the earth swirled about his feet and Joseph strained his ears. He heard a faint music in the air.

Ah, it’s probably just the wind playing tricks on an old man’s ears, he thought. Yet Jesus seemed to be walking in time to it.

Joseph stood in the morning sun, the sky blue above him, a few clouds sailing silently by, and watched him.

Where was he going? he wondered. He had taken no pack, no lunch, no clothing, no walking stick. He had said nothing at breakfast that morning. The day was just a day. Work had to be done. And yet he just walked off – unprepared for a trip, yet obviously leaving on one.

Joseph watched until he was a just a shimmering speck on the horizon. Still the young man's pace never slowed, even as he approached the foot hills. Mount Tabor loomed against the edge of the world. Joseph shrugged and turned toward his shop. Someone had to finish Levi ben Jacob’s table.

About a week later, the merchant Mordecai stopped by Joseph’s shop with an order for a cedar wood chest. Mordecai told Joseph that on his business travels to Caperneum, Magdala, and Tiberius he stopped by the Jordan to watch this fellow John who baptizing men in the river.

“I’m always up for a little entertainment,” he chuckled, “especially by those river preachers. They are something to watch – all that shouting and holy fervor.” Then he spied a man walking out of the Galilean hills. This man came to where John was baptizing in the Jordan. Mordecai asked who it was, covered with dust yet eyes brightly shining. Jesus of Nazareth, some one told him.

“That’s your boy, isn’t it?” he asked Joseph. Joseph nodded yes, while thinking that the closest point on the Jordan River was thirty miles from where he lived. That’s if Jesus had traveled in a straight line, which Joseph’s carpenter’s eye said he had been doing. There were no roads that led directly to from the Jordan to Nazareth. Not that the young man seemed to need any. It appeared that he was comfortable with the dirt, rocks, trees and mountains and they with him.

Perhaps it was singing I heard, thought Joseph, while Mordecai rambled on. Even though I am just a simple carpenter, I know there is more to this life than what most people see. I witness it every time I take a piece of wood and try to shape it. If I work with it, and let it become what it wants to be the results are beautiful. If I force it to become the way I think it should be, it looks that way. Perhaps the boy, I mean the man, had a similar connection with rocks, dirt, mountains, and grass that I had with trees.

Joseph was brought back to the conversation when Mordecai startled him with the announcement that Jesus had John baptize him. And that a dove descended from heaven and a voice was heard proclaiming “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

“It wasn’t your voice I heard,” said Mordecai.

“No,” Joseph replied, “I’m sure it wasn’t.” And he remembered other times when the boy had done remarkable things and other voices had come from heaven. Times of him teaching in the Temple in Jerusalem while a boy of 12 or so. Of angel visitors telling of miraculous births and evil kings. Life had certainly been far from the dull, but satisfying life he though he’d have when he first had apprenticed to be a carpenter.

“Then,” continued Mordecai, “after the voice from the sky, he came up out of the water and started walking into the wilderness on the other side of the Jordan. He just kept on walking. Clothes dripping wet. Not a sack of food or a sleeping bag. I’ll tell you, Joseph, I am worried about that young man.”

“I am, too,” said Joseph, though he wasn’t for the same reason Mordecai was. Jesus wasn’t possessed by demons, like Mordecai thought. Something more powerful had possessed him. God.

Another week passed. Then a month. Then two. Joseph went about his work. His wife, Mary, did, too. She never mentioned the fact that Jesus had just disappeared one day without a word, heading out over the Galilean countryside without so much as a goodbye. She was surprisingly peaceful, though traces of worry etched her brow. Joseph wondered at that, too. How could she not be wondering where her first born had gotten himself off to?

As the second month since Jesus walked out of Nazareth ended, he walked back in, coming back over the same route he traversed when he left. Joseph was hard at work on Mordecai’s chest when a shadow filled the doorway. He looked up, eyes straining through the shops sawdust laden air to see who stood silhouetted against the sunlight.

“Hello, Joseph,” Jesus said. Not “Hello, Father.” Joseph knew something had changed.

“Come in, son, come in,” Joseph called to him, and hugged him to him. “I’ve missed you. Where have you been?”

“I have been to the mountain,” Jesus said, “and the riverside and the wilderness.” And Jesus went on to tell Joseph about his baptism, the dove and voice, and spending forty days being tempted by Satan in the desert.

“My only attendants were wild animals and angels,” Jesus chuckled. “I’m not sure which I was more afraid of.”

It had obviously been a harrowing, life and soul changing time, Joseph thought. The caring, sensitive lad he had known was still there in the man standing before him, but there was steel and fire to him now that had not been present before. Jesus told him what had happened during those forty days and nights and while it sounded incredulous, like the ravings of the demoniac Legion who lived in the tombs overlooking the Sea of Galilee, they were clearly not the tales of a madman. They had the ring of truth. A life changing truth. For both he who spoke the words and those who heard them.

“What now, son?” Joseph asked, as Jesus ended his story.

“I have new work to do,” replied Jesus, softly, but firmly. “The kingdom of God is at hand. It is time sound repentance and good news throughout the land. The time is fulfilled.”

“Yes, I supposed it is,” though Joseph. And what a time it will be, he thought. I hope I am ready for it. I hope you are ready for it. I hope the world is ready for it.

The time is fulfilled.

-- Brent

1 comment:

Friar Tuck said...

i loved this. thank you!