A blazing light sliced through the crisp blue sky above the Jordan River. Heaven exposed, released a dove. The white bird descended in slow spirals before alighting on the head of a man being baptized in the river.
Shocked, Simon could not take his eyes off the bird. He had expected a lightning bolt, or the fist of God, when he saw Heaven unlocked.
But a dove?
Simon focused on the divine gift as it perched on the man’s head in the river. A voice from Heaven, calm, non-threatening, transformed Simon’s skin into tiny ranges of chill bumps.
“This is my Son in whom I am well pleased.”
Simon, a father himself, was at the river with his elderly mother. They traveled far to see the prophet who proclaimed he was preparing the way for the Lord. Actually, Simon only went to the river to make sure his mother was safe. He planned to journey home to his family once her curiosity was satisfied.
While everyone else bowed in awe, Simon eyed the dove. When he saw the bird fly away, he bolted from his mother’s side. Her pleas tried to arrest him.
“Simon, where are you going? Jesus is here. The Messiah is here.”
He didn’t listen; fixated on the dove he saw come from Heaven, he gave pursuit.
Simon lost sight of the miracle at sunset. Depressed, he bedded under a tree. The next morning, Simon smiled when he saw the dove perched above him. The chase was on again.
This routine continued daily. One afternoon, the bird led him to a man speaking to a large gathering.
“Come to me,” the man said, “all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”
Untouched by the words, Simon craned his neck in search of the dove. Spotting it on a nearby tree, he trotted away from the man and his proposal.
Weeks later, Simon’s journey after the gift led him to a lake where a man was speaking to fishermen.
“Come follow me,” the man spoke, “and I will make you fishers of men.”
Simon gave the man a quizzical look, but quickly turned his attention to the miracle perched atop a nearby pier and left the man and his offer.
Many miles later, Simon rested on a hillside amidst a throng of people eating fish and bread. He partook of the meal with them.
An aged man asked, “Are you here for the miracle?”
“Oh yes.” Simon smiled and walked toward the dove.
The miracle would always lead Simon to the man he first saw at the river.
Years later, Simon’s journey after the gift led him to an angry crowd of people showering insults at the man he had often seen, and at times listened to.
The dove was perched atop a rugged cross the grotesquely beaten man was dragging. Suddenly, there was a thud. The man fell beneath the weight of his burden. The dove fluttered, almost in slow motion, hovering above the man. Simon could see tears in the bird’s eyes, as the gift, flew to the top of a barren hill where two other crosses already stood erect.
A soldiers voice startled Simon.
“Pick up that cross and carry it for your King.”
The soldier laughed.
Simon picked up the bloody cross.
He could hear others in the background crying Jesus and Lord as they made their way up the hill. Instantly, everything he ever heard the man say flashed through his mind.
Simon’s attention switched from the dove to the man?
By the time the soldiers finished planting the cross in the ground, Simon was on his knees. He looked at the blood on his hands and then at the disturbing sight before him. The miracle fluttered away just before the sky went dark and the ground rumbled. The man cried out in the wake of the dove’s departure.
“Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”
“Surely, you are the Son of God.”
For three days following, Simon moped around the countryside. His journey led him full circle back to the Jordan River. He waded out from the bank to wash.
It was his mother, but standing next to her was the resurrected Son of Man, who waded toward Simon.
“Allow me,” Jesus spoke, and gently baptized him under the water.
When Simon resurfaced, he didn’t see a dove, but the face of Him who is the gift from Heaven.
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