Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Outgoing (05/05/11)
TITLE: Life is short, opportunity fleeting
By Gregory Kane
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Some Greek said that. I can't remember the man's name. But whoever he was, he understood that life's hopes and dreams inevitably turn to ashes. I'm not yet 35 but I fear that these chains will accompany me to the grave.
Looking back, my few years of glory seem like so much chaff in the wind. How the crowds flocked to hear me. I was the man of the hour, the one on whom the Spirit of the ancient prophets rested. Men and women hung on my every word. Had I but commanded, they would have littered the ground with gold and silver. But popularity is a fickle mistress and I in turn have been supplanted.
Not that I resent my successor's achievements. Indeed we're distantly related, rubbing shoulders at the occasional wedding. Neither of us has chosen to marry but perhaps now that his star is in the ascendency he will take a suitable wife. Yet sooner or later he will discover that even the brightest star in the firmament must yield to night's black oblivion. Nothing lasts, opportunity flees.
The Greek fables warn of hubris. How I wish I had heeded their admonition. I had convinced myself that God's Spirit was directing my every step. I did not flinch from reprimanding bureaucrat or clergy, politician or soldier. None escaped my censure. Many hearkened to my words and mended their ways. Only a few were so hardened in heart that they stormed off in indignation.
The King's behaviour was thoroughly scandalous but no one had the courage to accuse him. The Lord will protect me, I thought, God will not allow the wicked to harm his anointed. How wrong I was. No sooner had the words left my tongue than spineless sycophants made haste to whisper in the tyrant's ear. When the soldiers came, not one person stepped forward to protect me. The captain grabbed hold of my hair, dragged me away from my riverbank pulpit, and bound me in chains. I was taken here to the fortress at Machaerus and left to rot in gaol.
In my absence Joshua's ministry has gone from strength to strength. To be fair, he was already starting to attract large crowds even while I was still on the scene. But now that I'm gone, the people have flocked to him in their thousands. It's the signs and wonders that draw them of course. Give a man a choice between fire-and-brimstone preaching or receiving prayer for an injured leg, and the latter will win every time. Not that Joshua soft-pedals his message. His teaching is just as uncompromising as mine ever was. It's only that God uses him in a different way. He has become greater while I slip quietly away into the darkness.
The one thing that troubles me is the tittle-tattling about his reputation. Wine has never touched my lips. No woman has ever shared my bed. I eat the simplest of foods and eschew all that is soft and comfortable. But they say that Joshua likes nothing better than to eat and drink at parties. He never fasts, they say, and there are known prostitutes among his entourage. There are some even who claim that he has set his heart on becoming King. Yet I hesitate to denounce him as a hypocrite. God knows, men have slandered me enough with their innuendos and half-truths.
That's why I sent some friends to go and investigate. I needed to know if he really is God's chosen one. The report they returned with was astonishing: people cured of leprosy; the dead raised back to life; the deaf and the blind made perfectly whole - and all to the glory of God. Neither could my friends fault his preaching. Joshua demanded that people turn from wickedness, promising the forgiveness of sins, and urging them to embrace a life of faith and holiness.
And yet still I doubt. Has God truly finished with me? Were I to be freed, I might take up my mantle once more and complete that holy task for which I was born. My followers would rally to my call. My voice would be heard yet again throughout the land. Is it wrong to think thus?
It is Antipas' birthday tomorrow. I pray that he finds himself in such good spirits that he orders my release. Please God, let it be so.
1 Hippocrates, ca. 370 BC
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