“A surreptitious, careless act had ignited the dry brush, fanning sparks into flaming tentacle-like tongues that licked up the landscape’s bounty. Stubborn weeds, graceful blossoming flowers, leafy plants, massive trees—all vegetation disappeared as the fire rampaged, ravaging nature’s abundance, leaving behind burnt embers and floating ash. Eventually, the fire relinquished its power to a stronger force of creation, a gentle persistent rain shower that beat the blaze into submission, ending its reign.”
“Then what happened?” my students asked as I paused in my narrative, “Did the fire win because of it’s power or did the rain win because of its perseverance?”
“My scholars, I have spoken a parable. The hidden meaning is for you to unravel.”
John, the sensitive one, scratched his whiskered face, wrinkling his brow in consternation, while impetuous Peter started accusing all those in attendance for neglecting to put out last evening’s cooking fire properly.
I smiled inwardly at the unique, totally different personalities surrounding me, waiting patiently, expectantly, for their translations.
Gentle Andrew stared down at his sandals as he puzzled over my newest story.
“I know there is a deeper meaning, for all you say has God’s mark upon it. Perhaps it would help if I found a lad with a lunch so we can fill our bellies as well as our minds.”
Guffaws of laughter erupted as his sally was repeated from one to the other.
Nathaniel, standing off to the side under a fig tree, continued to ponder the story. Graced with great imagination and creativity, he was usually quick to read the spiritual wisdom from his teacher’s allegories.
“The fire perhaps represents hell?” he wondered, as he absently munched on the tree’s tasty fruit.
Brothers James and John mused together, loudly arguing about which of them would be the first to solve the riddle, as I nonchalantly paced around the circle of my students.
Off in the distance came Thomas, tardy as usual. He arrived out of breath, worried that he had missed a miracle. He sat down on the grassy knoll beside Matthew and Judas, who were discussing the cost involved to replant the destroyed land, but they stopped haggling long enough to give the gist of their teacher’s homily to the latecomer.
“I’d want to see the property before believing it was fully destroyed. James! James, son of Alphaeus! You’re our law expert. Would we have grounds to sue anyone suspected of starting the fire?”
“Depends on how wealthy he is,” James retorted
I shook my head in disbelief as I listened to the conversations buzzing around me.
“Father, all this time they have spent with me, and they still just don’t get it,” I whispered.
Philip, although gifted in the Greek language and a powerful healer, commonly had difficulty understanding the spiritual meaning of their mentor’s messages, and was appealing to the eldest member of the group, Simon the Zealot, for assistance.
“I tell you, the only way to cure such foolhardiness is to cut off the hand that began the fire—an example, if you will, to keep it from happening again!” Simon declared, making a chopping motion with his cane.
Disappointed with their failure to grasp my parable’s deeper meaning, I summoned them to listen as I explained.
“When you tell a falsehood or spread a piece of gossip it begins as one thing but ends another. Is this not so? So, like a tiny non-threatening spark that soon is fanned into a full blown fire upon the wind, so is the lie or gossip spread from one itching ear to another, destroying reputations and jeopardizing a believer’s testimony--much like the rampaging fire destroyed all in its path. Further, the rain represents truth for when truth is finally revealed, the lie has been smothered. It has ended.
Twelve heads nodded in agreement as comprehension dawned on their faces, igniting awe-filled fragmented conversing.
Holding up my hand for silence, I ended the day’s lesson with a warning.
“Take heed, my children, to tame your tongue! Even though the rain ended the fire and the truth ended the lie, the destructive consequences still remained. For, just as the rain could not replant the fields, the truth cannot erase the damage done by the falsehood.”
As I looked in my beloved followers’ faces one at a time, each lowered their guilty gaze, remembering their own deeds, and they repented.
“Ah, Father, it has been a good day, beginning with seeking hearts and ending with forgiveness—thank you!”
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