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I have heard a lot about this man, how he is the best defense attorney around. With him as an advocate, all his clients who were accused went free. It never meant much to me until I realized I was in trouble.

I hesitated to reach out to him. Could I really believe what I heard was true or was it rumor? With the crimes I had committed, I knew I was condemned to die. Whoever I chose to defend me, I would have to believe in them and their ability to advocate for my life before the judge.

An acquaintance kept telling me not to believe it. “You are a criminal and you’ll always be a criminal,” he kept telling me. He acts like a devil, spewing discouraging words at me all the time. “You’re too far gone to save,” that devil insists. He keeps telling me I am no good. But something deep inside tells me otherwise; that my life could be spared despite what I did. Could this advocate actually save my life, even win me freedom?

It is true that I am a sinner. That I am doomed to eternal death. That I can believe about myself. But to believe in this Jesus; that as the Son of God he can free me from my sin — save me from condemnation before God — well, that is another question. I contemplate if what John said is really true. Did this defense attorney really pay the price for me, to free me from condemnation?

“Read it again,” I tell my friend. He picks up the scroll and reads: “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the world.”

#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 John’s words in 1 John 2:1 (NIV) read to him for the first time.

© 2019 CGThelen

I answered the call of the messengers, the call to arms. I did not hesitate to respond, immediately joining my buddies to follow the call of this Gideon. “This is our moment,” I said as we marched, joining thousands of others. I was tired of hiding from the Midianites, tired of the years of oppression. The Lord heard our cries and now Gideon would lead us to remove the stench of Midian from our midst. It was time to extract revenge on them.

Camped at the spring of Harod, I looked over the sea of men, as far as I could see. My best friend told me we were 32,000 strong. I smiled as I thought of the fear that must be present in the Midian camp. I looked north toward the valley near the hill of Moreh and imagined them frozen with fear, knowing we had come to even the score, to punish them for years of tormenting us. “Vengeance is ours this day,” I thought. “We have the strength here to save ourselves!”

Suddenly Gideon appeared and shouted something to the men. “What did he say?” I asked one of my buddies. “I think he said if we’re scared we can leave,” he replied. I couldn’t believe my ears. “That can’t be true!” I said in disbelief. “This is our moment.”

Then I saw Gideon wave his hand. A hush fell over the crowd of men. He repeated his statement as if to anticipate skepticism: “Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.” There was a moment of hesitation, then a handful of men started to leave. Soon hundreds followed them. “I’m outta here,” my buddies said. “Wait!” I shouted as I grabbed the arm of my best friend. “This is our moment!” He shook his arm free of my grip. “I’ve seen what those Midianites can do to us,” he replied as he picked up his things. “It was stupid of me to think I wasn’t scared of them.”

I watched in amazement as all my buddies left me standing alone. My heart sank as I watched a river of men pouring out from our camp. I sighed as I scanned the remaining men — a fraction of the force we once had. “Better to get rid of the cowards,” I reassured myself. “We are actually a stronger force now with brave men,” I convinced myself as I moved closer to the remaining men in the camp. Then I saw Gideon again. My heart raced. “Could this be our call to battle?” I wondered.

Gideon motioned to us to go to the water to get a drink. “Smart man,” I thought. I could tell he considered all the details. He wanted to make sure we would not grow faint from thirst as we went into battle. I followed the men into the water and knelt down to get a drink. The water refreshed me. As I stood up I noticed a few men cupped the water in their hands and lapped it like a dog. “They’re acting like an animal,” I mumbled. “What kind of soldier is that? They certainly can’t be a good soldier if they do that.” I watched as Gideon pulled those men aside. Apparently Gideon agreed with my assessment. But then he did something that astounded me.

There must have been about 300 men standing with Gideon when he announced that those men would stay and the rest of us should go home. I couldn’t believe what was happening. The men around me shook their heads and grumbled about Gideon. I had to agree with them. How could we possibly have a victory now with a few hundred men. I followed the other men as we started for home, so disappointed that Gideon had squandered this moment to beat back the Midianites. I stopped a moment and looked back at the small group of men standing with Gideon. “The dogs!” I thought as I turned and continued walking. “They’ll be slaughtered.” The man walking next to me nodded in agreement. “It will take an act of God to save 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 man who answered Gideon’s call to fight the Midianites, based on Judges 6:1-2, 6 & 34-35; 7:1-8 (NIV).

© 2019 CGThelen

I had never before heard teaching like this. Who is this man who teaches what the Kingdom of God is like? His words resonate with me like none other. “It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”

A mustard seed so small yet it grows large to support birds. Could someone like me, so insignificant, be seen as so great in the Kingdom of God? I continue to listen, drawn to his teaching, hanging on every word until evening approaches. Finally I watch as he wraps up and walks away from the crowd. I hear him tell his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”

I don’t want him to go. I see him get into the boat with his disciples and they push off from shore. I see other boats push off from shore to follow them. I quickly run to shore and spot my friend starting to push his boat into the lake. “Let me go with you!” I shout as I run toward the boat. My friend smiles and waves at me as he pauses. I quickly climb onboard and he shoves off.

We start to follow not too far behind Jesus’ boat when suddenly a furious squall comes up. The waves break over the boat so that it is near the point of sinking. We fear for our lives. In the midst of the panic in our boat I catch a glimpse of Jesus getting up. A moment later the wind dies down and it is completely calm. I have never been so fearful in calm water.

We were close enough to the boat to hear Jesus across the still water. “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” I was sure he was speaking to his disciples, yet his words penetrated my heart. Across the water I could hear his disciples asking each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Indeed, who is this man? Is he truly the son of God? I wonder if I, like the wind and the waves, could obey his words.

#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 based on Mark 4:30-41 (NIV), particularly verse 36 which mentions, “There were also other boats with him.” It is written from the perspective of someone who ends up in one of those boats after listening to Jesus teaching.

© 2019 CGThelen

“This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Many were grumbling in the crowd. They spoke the very question on my mind.

Indeed, what he taught was very hard to accept. It drew a line between my life as a Jew and one following this new teaching. There was no middle ground. To choose one meant leaving the other. Apparently others felt the same.

There was an awkward silence among us casual followers of Jesus. I waited for his response. So often his words pierced me like a sword, to my very soul. He touched me deeply in a way I could not explain. There was something different about him. Yet I wrestled with what following him meant to my life. Already my family and friends were making comments about how much time I was spending with Jesus.

“Does this offend you?” Jesus said. “Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.”

How did he know? Once again he cut to the heart of the matter. I questioned myself if I really believed he is the Messiah. Could he be the Son of God like he claimed to be? I could feel his words penetrate me. “They are full of the Spirit and life,” I whispered to myself. Somehow he knew who was struggling with fully committing to him.

“This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” I could feel something stirring in me to commit to follow Jesus, yet what would my family and friends say? I feared they would abandon me.

I watched as several of his followers turned and walked away. His teaching is hard. There is no middle ground. It caused people to choose — a new life with Jesus, or a life without him. I watched a couple of my friends start to leave. They stopped and motioned to me to follow them. I sighed and started to walk with them.

From behind me I could hear Jesus say to the few remaining followers, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Then I heard one of them reply, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” A surge of regret filled me inside, yet I continued walking with my friends.

#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 casual follower of Jesus who hears Jesus’ challenge in John 6:60-69 (NIV).

© 2019 CGThelen

#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 on the cross based on Mark 15:33-39.

It was a strange darkness unlike any I had ever seen. Around noon it suddenly covered the whole land in a way that was unlike any severe storm I had ever seen. My friend commented that he wondered if this was what the darkness looked like when it covered Egypt at the time of Moses before the Exodus. Some said it was because they crucified Jesus.

It wasn’t something I necessarily liked to see, but curiosity got the best of us so my friend and I made our way to Golgotha. There in the darkness we could make out three crosses. I barely recognized Jesus, the man I had seen a few times teaching the crowds. It was a gruesome scene with blood dripping down the wood beams from bodies suspended with spikes. I became nauseated at the site. What had this man done to deserve such severe punishment? What had he done to deserve death?

Suddenly we heard Jesus cry out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Indeed, I could not understand why God would allow such a brutal injustice.

Someone near us remarked, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” My heart ached. It wasn’t enough that they crucified him. Now he had to endure these people mocking him. I wanted to turn my head and shield my eyes, but someone brushed by me with a staff that had a vinegar-soaked sponge on the end. I watched as he hoisted it up to Jesus and offered him a drink. Someone else shouted, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down.”

“Yes, leave him alone!” I whispered to myself. Something stirred deep inside me as I gazed at Jesus on the cross and then looked at the people mocking him. Something did not feel right. Why were so many so intent on making fun of him?

“We should go,” my friend said to me with a sad face. “I’ve seen enough.”

I nodded in agreement. As I turned to leave, I heard Jesus cry out. I looked back at the cross and saw his body suddenly slump with a sigh as he breathed his last. Tears began to stream down my cheeks as I traced trickles of blood down the wood beam to a pool on the ground. My head slumped with sadness. “Who was this man,” I wondered to myself. That’s when I heard the centurion standing in front of Jesus say, “Surely this man was the Son of God.”

© 2019 CGThelen

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