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The room was dark. I rolled over on my mat, but the moaning, the breathing, the smell of humanity packed into this small room was too much for me. Here we were, descendants of a great king and now we had descended to this new low. Herded like cattle to be counted by some ruthless ruler.

“At least I didn’t have to opt for a stable,” I thought as I lay on my back and stared into the darkness. It seemed heartless, yet somehow humane for the innkeeper to send that young couple to his stable. Afterall, she was pregnant and looked like the baby could come at any moment. At least they had a roof over their heads.

I lay there in that packed room, remembering the fatigue, the tired eyes in the faces of that young couple. I was sure they had traveled far, like all of us, to be counted.

“To be counted,” I whispered to my self, letting the words escape my mouth with my breath. I just wanted to matter to someone; we all wanted to matter. I just wanted to be hopeful for something better.

I closed my eyes and tried to sleep amidst the groaning humanity that surrounded me. We were all packed into this small inn, brought together by fear of a king we did not believe in. At that moment I heard the faint cry of a baby. “It must be that young couple,” I thought. It bothered me that this child was born in a stable, yet I smiled at the thought of new life. In this, the least of all places, there was hope.

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” – Micah 5:2

#WednesdayWalk Through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of someone in the inn near the stable where Jesus was born as told in Luke 2:1-7 (NASB).

© 2019 CGThelen

The fire crackled as I watched sparks fly up into the evening sky. I stared at the faces of the men sharing the warmth of the fire with me.

“You are a long way from home,” I remarked to them.

They nodded in agreement. I struggled to make conversation with these visitors. I had never encounted a group of men so thoughtful, so wise. There was something different about them. Instead of worshiping the stars as a god, they used the stars to navigate — one star in particular.

“Why are you following this star?” I asked.

“We are seeking the one who has been born king of the Jews. We saw his star when it rose and we desire to worship him.”

“Worship him?!” I exclaimed.

They just smiled and nodded. I wondered if they realized what they were saying. Herod wouldn’t be too pleased to know the Jewish people also had a king.

“So where is this ‘king of the Jews’ supposed to be born?” I asked.

One of the men looked at me with a surprised look, like I should know. “In Bethlehem in Judea, for this is what the prophet has written: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

I nodded as if I knew what he was talking about. That was an old writing I read as a boy. It was one of many prophesies I read, but could this actually be happening as it was foretold? These men seemed so sincere about their journey, men of power and prestige. Yet they were willing to humble themselves before this newborn king. I grabbed the metal rod next to me and poked at the fire, stirring up the flames. I watched as sparks effortlessly floated up and I fixed my eyes on the vastness of the starlit sky.

#WednesdayWalk Through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of someone who encountered the Magi as they followed the star based on Matthew 2:1-12 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

Some days the pain was too much to bear, yet I could find no one who could give me relief. Some told me of this man, this prophet named Jesus, who was healing people. Word was out that he was coming to shore from across the lake. I hurried to meet this man, but I was disappointed when I arrived and saw a large crowd pressing in around him. I knew that must be Jesus.

I tried to get closer, but too many people were in front of me. I strained to see above the crowd to get a glimpse of this man. That’s when I saw Jairus, one of the synagogue leaders, standing by Jesus. I was amazed when I saw Jairus fall at the feet of Jesus. I could see the tears in his eyes as he spoke: “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.”

A woman next to me had a wide-eyed stare. I recognized her as the woman from town who suffered for years from bleeding. I met her a couple times when I visited the doctor. She had spent all she had on doctors, seeking a cure, but her condition only worsened. “Are you okay?” I asked her.

“Jairus said if Jesus just put his hands on his little girl, she would be healed.”

“Yes,” I nodded. “That’s what he said.”

“Maybe if I just touch his robe,” she said as she continued to stare at Jesus.

“Just touch him? But how could that heal you?” I questioned her.

She didn’t respond. She just pressed into the crowd and disappeared from my sight. I looked at Jesus and saw him following Jairus as they walked. “He must be going to Jairus’ house,” I thought. I moved with the crowd as we followed Jesus. I wanted to see if his touch could really heal.

A moment later I saw Jairus and Jesus stop. “Who touched my clothes?” Jesus asked.

One of his disciples said what I thought, “You see the people crowding against you and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’”

But Jesus persisted and kept looking in the crowd for who had touched him. I pushed my way into the mass of people surrounding Jesus for a closer look. That’s when I spotted the woman, who I saw just moments ago, fall at his feet. She was trembling as she told him what she did.

“Daughter, your faith has healed you,” Jesus said to her. “Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

“Had she really been healed by just touching him?” I wondered. “Could I also be healed by just touching him?”

I tried to get closer to Jesus and Jairus, but some people pushed past me and stopped in front of Jairus. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”

I could see Jairus’ face sink as tears began to stream down his face. That’s when I heard Jesus say to him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

I wanted to follow them to Jairus’ house, but he only let a few of his disciples go with him. I watched as they disappeared from sight. I was amazed as I stared at the woman who had suffered for years. The pain she always wore on her face was gone, replaced by joy. Could he bring Jairus’ daughter back to life?” I thought. His words echoed in my mind, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

#WednesdayWalk Through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of someone who encountered the woman healed from years of bleeding as told in Mark 5:21-36 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

I was tired. Fatigue overtook my body. All I wanted was to lay on my mat in my home and hide under my blanket. Life was overtaking me. I was tired; tired of it all.

Yet my friend encouraged me to go. “You have to see this man. He is like no one I’ve ever seen.”

“Whatever,” I told him. “I don’t need to see another freak in the desert who thinks he’s a Messiah.” I told him I’ve seen these guys come and go, reminded him that John the Baptizer character is in prison now. But my friend tugged at me and told me it would at least be good for me to get out, to at least listen to this Jesus.

So there I stood and wouldn’t you know it, some of that John the Baptist character’s followers were there quizzing this Jesus. They wanted to know if he was “the one” or if they should look for someone else. Jesus told them, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

Okay, so I heard about this guy healing people, but I couldn’t quite grasp raising people from the dead. That seemed to be a stretch. I watched those followers of that John the Baptist leave. Perhaps they felt the same as I did, not really buying that whole thing about raising the dead. I looked at my friend and tugged on his cloak. “Let’s go.” But he pointed toward this Jesus. I turned to look at him and he was now talking to all of us gathered there. “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind?”

He continued to speak, about John the Baptist; about the Kingdom of Heaven being raided. “And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. Whoever has ears, let them hear,” I heard him say. His words swirled in my head as he continued to speak of woe to different towns. My heart was heavy. Woe described my life. Sorrow filled my days. I just wanted to go home and hide under my blanket.

I was about to turn to my friend and tell him I was leaving when Jesus said something that caught my attention: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” I looked at him and it felt like his eyes were piercing me. He continued as if he was speaking directly to my weary heart: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

#WednesdayWalk Through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of someone who heard Jesus speak, based on Matthew 11 (NIV).

© 2019 CGThelen

The dampness in the cave chilled me to the bone. I pulled the blanket tighter around me. I looked at the faces of our haggard group of 50 survivors of this reign of terror. In the dim light of the lanterns I could see the fatigue on their faces. Yet there was an unmistakable joy within them, a joy that could only come from the Lord.

I stood and walked to our supplies. Even though we were holed up like rodents in this cave, we had food and water. Like our ancestors in the desert, we were given sustenance by the Lord’s faithful servant, Obadiah. Despite Jezebel’s rampage to kill us off, the Lord’s prophets, we remained alive. We remained faithful to our Lord.

At first I thought it was a trick when King Ahab’s administrator Obadiah gathered us together. I was certain we would be executed like the others. But I was shocked when he secretly whisked us away to this cave. The Lord had truly heard our cries for help. I had no idea Obadiah was a follower of the one true God. In the midst of such evil in the kingdom, God spared us. For what purpose I do not know, but here we sit waiting on the Lord.

In the quiet of this cave, we continue to meditate on your truths dear Lord. Give us the strength to overcome these evil days. No matter what happens, we trust you dear God. I pray you encourage your servant Elijah who we hope is still out there. Fill him with courage to stand against those who reject your ways.

#WednesdayWalk Through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of one of the 100 prophets Obadiah hid from Jezebel in a cave based on 1 Kings 18:1-15 (NIV).

© 2019 CGThelen

I could hear the ship creaking as it strained against the gale force winds and powerful waves. I had never seen such a violent storm in all my years sailing. Like the rest of the crew, I cried out to my god to spare us, afraid the ship was about to break apart. I gripped the railing on the deck as the ship listed against another massive wave. I strained to hold on as the wave crashed over the side of the ship and drenched me.

As soon as the ship leveled out for a moment I moved back to the entrance to the decks below to grab more cargo to throw overboard. It was our hope that lightening the ship would help us survive this violent storm. My crew mate handed me a large clay jar. I grasped it tightly in my arms as another wave hit the ship and flung me hard against the doorway. The impact released the jar from my grip. I watched it roll across the deck and break open against the railing, spewing its contents overboard.

“We’re doomed “ I shouted at my crew mate as I stared at him gripping the ladder just inside the hold of the ship. His face was filled with terror.

“Captain’s getting that Jonah character to pray to his God,” he shouted back. “Maybe that will spare us.”

I nodded as I joined him below deck. The sound of the wind and waves was muffled below, but the creaking of the straining wood beams was louder. I joined the crew huddled together around a dim lantern swaying back and forth with each wave that hit the ship. A moment later the captain joined us with this Jonah character we picked up in Joppa. I thought he was trouble the minute I saw him, but the captain gladly took his fare money.

That’s when my fellow sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” It was no surprise to me when the lot fell on Jonah. “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us?” My fellow sailors asked. “What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?” We wanted the truth from this guy.

I stared at the solemn face on Jonah in the dim light below deck as he glanced at us. For a moment there was only the sound of creaking wood. We braced ourselves against each wave, trying to hold our positions on the floor. Seawater trickled down the ladder from above as another wave crashed over the ship. We stared at him, waiting for his answer.

“I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land,” he answered.

That’s when we put the pieces of the puzzle together. We recalled he had told us he was running away from his God, but he did not tell us his God made the land and the sea! We were filled with terror as we asked, “What have you done?” No sooner had the words left our lips when a wave hit the ship so violently that we were almost thrown against the side of the ship. It seemed impossible, but the sea was getting rougher and rougher. So we asked Jonah, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”

Jonah bowed his head for a moment, then looked at us with regret. “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied. “And it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”

This was not a request we were quick to respond to. Sacrificing someone to the fury of the ocean was not something we took lightly. Instead, we did our best to row back to land. But our efforts were futile. The sea grew even wilder than before. That’s when we reluctantly agreed to Jonah’s request.

“Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life,” we cried out as we took hold of Jonah. “Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.”

I’ll never forget that moment as we threw him overboard. I watched him plunge into the violent waves and disappear below the surface. At that moment the sea grew calm. We had witnessed the power of Jonah’s God. It filled us with fear of the Lord, so we offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.

#WednesdayWalk Through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of a sailor on the ship Jonah boarded in Joppa to flee the Lord, based on Jonah 1:1-16 (NIV).

© 2019 CGThelen

I could feel the heat from the blazing furnace even at this distance. The king’s anger against these men was as hot as the furnace. I had never seen anything like it. I was horrified to think that these men would be tossed into that furnace. They would be incinerated into nothing. The punishment seemed excessive, yet I didn’t dare mention it to the king.

I remained silent as the king’s soldiers struggled against the heat to drag the men to the furnace. I tried to watch, but turned my head because of the flames. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the soldiers drop dead from the intense heat and the three men, firmly tied, fell into the furnace. My heart sank as I realized these noble men were being burned alive. We were all silent as if to be mournful, but I tried not to show my distaste for the King’s method of executing these men. It was awful to watch.

“Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” The King blurted out as he sprang to his feet. It seemed like a silly question as we had just watched the three men tumble into the furnace. “Certainly, Your Majesty,” we replied in unison. “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods,” the king uttered in amazement.

“Impossible!” I thought. “The king’s rage was making him see things.” I turned my gaze toward the furnace and was startled to see not only three men, but a fourth walking around inside the furnace! It was just as the king said. My mouth gaped open in astonishment. How had they survived such intense heat that killed the soldiers ordered to toss them in and who is that fourth person?

Then the king approached the opening of the furnace. I wanted to grab him to stop him from being overcome by the flames like his soldiers. Yet I watched the four figures walking inside the flames, untouched. I stood silent as the king shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” The three figures inside the furnace walked out of the fire unbound. It was as if they had never been bound or even been inside those intense flames.

I joined the others who crowded around Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. “How could this be?” I thought. “It’s impossible.” Unlike the soldiers, the fire had not harmed their bodies. Not even a hair on their heads was singed. I had watched in horror as those soldiers were killed by the flames and yet the robes on these men were not scorched. There was not even the smell of fire on them. I glanced back in the flames, looking for that fourth figure. My heart ached as I longed to also see that person come out of the flames. Could that have been the God who saved them?

#WednesdayWalk Through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of a person who saw Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego tossed into the furnace by Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3 (NIV).

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” – Ephesians 2:8

© 2019 CGThelen

There was something that bothered me about setting up the table in the house of the Lord.

“I don’t feel right about this,” I said to my friend.

“Don’t worry,” he replied. “Look at this crowd. There’s money to be made here.”

“But shouldn’t we be doing this on the street?”

“Look around you. Everyone else is doing it. You don’t see the chief priests or Pharisees objecting, do you?”

I nodded in agreement. No one seemed to object.

“We’re doing a service to the people selling doves right here in the temple court.”

“I guess,” I reluctantly agreed.

Suddenly I heard a snap like a whip. I turned to see a man approaching the tables. There was another crack of the whip and he started to overturn tables as he began to drive people out of the temple courts. My friend and I froze as he approached our table.

I winced as he raised his whip and stared at us with steely eyes.

“Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”

My friend grabbed what cages he could and fled as the man overturned our table and moved to the next. I followed close behind. I had never seen someone with such zeal for God.

As we fled to the street with the others who were selling in the temple courts, my heart was filled with remorse. “Had I violated the sacredness of the temple?”

#WednesdayWalk Through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of a person who saw Jesus clear the temple in John 2:13-17

© 2019 CGThelen

Why did I have to be with the last ones? I knew it was my own fault for hesitating to leave when my division packed up and headed out laden with silver, gold and clothing as well as their unleavened bread. It all happened so fast. I couldn’t believe my own eyes when I saw the Egyptians urge us to hurry and leave. I think they were actually scared to have us around after all those plagues, especially that last one. I have to admit I was scared as the first born son, but we did as the Lord instructed through Moses and I was not harmed.

Only the mighty hand of God could’ve ended our slavery and brought us out of Egypt. But now fear and doubt returned as I stood between two walls of water. It was the same fear I felt when we were camped near Pi and I thought the Egyptian army was going to overtake us. I thought we were going to die right there in the desert. Moses’ words still echoed in my mind: Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

I saw it all with my own eyes. A pillar of cloud kept the Egyptian army from reaching us all night with darkness on one side and light on the other. I thought we were trapped by the sea until I saw Moses stretch out his hand and a strong east wind blew all night so that the waters of the Res Sea parted creating a dry path to the other side. It was an amazing sight to behold. But now here I stood watching the Egyptian army advancing, pursuing us on the same path through the Red Sea, but with fast moving chariots. I quickly trudged up the dry shore to the other side of the Red Sea with the last few people to cross, knowing I would be the among the first struck down by the army.

I wanted to run as fast as I could after reaching shore, but the word of the Lord that Moses gave us caused me to stop and turn around. “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” The Lord has brought us this far, yet fear began to fill me again as I watched the army coming closer. “Can I just be still and trust the Lord will fight for us, for me?”

#WednesdayWalk Through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of a person who is part of the exodus out of Egypt through the Red Sea based on Exodus 12:31-14:31.

© 2019 CGThelen

My father. He’s a hard man. We didn’t part on the best terms. I said some things I shouldn’t have said; awful words thrown at him like poison darts. I intended to hurt him.

“What does this Jesus know,” I grumbled to myself. “My father would never take me back. He would never forgive me.”

I rolled over on my mat and tried to forget standing in the crowd listening to this Jesus teach with stories. The afternoon was hot and I laid down to rest a bit to get out of the heat. People in my village told me I should at least go and listen to him. They were right. I had never heard anyone talk like that.

I tried to clear my mind, but his words replayed in my head:“I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

Repent. How could that even happen to a serial sinner like me? The Pharisees told me I was too far gone, that there were not enough sacrifices to cover my sin. Could my father really care that much about a nobody like me, the lost sheep, the black sheep of the family

How could he be so joyous over a totally lost person like me repenting from sin? I get it, I mean in the sense that Jesus talked about in that story about the lost coin. If I found that coin I lost last month I’d be filled with joy. But I hardly think I have that much value, certainly not the value of a silver coin. I don’t think my father would waste time searching for me, someone with such little value.

I rolled on my back and stared at the ceiling. All I could think about was how I squandered so much of my life, my time and my resources on worthless things. I felt like that son in the story Jesus told, the son who took all his father’s inheritance and spent it on wild living. I too would willingly be a slave in my father’s house just to share in his abundance, just to have a small portion of his wealth.

Unable to sleep, I left my mat and walked to the front door. The rotted wood door creaked when I opened it and flakes of plaster fell from the wall. I stepped outside then sat on the front step and watched the people milling about the neighborhood. I looked down the street and noticed the shadows of people moving on the walls of the buildings. A dusty haze lingered, stirred up from the movement of people and animals. I imagined what it would be like to see my father on the street spot me sitting here, then run arms open to hug me. No one was ever that excited to see me. Could it be possible?

#WednesdayWalk Through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of a person who heard Jesus tell the parables in Luke 15.

© 2019 CGThelen

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