Sabbath worship for Asher offered scant respite after an eventful week, especially with so many of the men of Capernaum keeping him under their curious surveillance during the service.
He’d invited them home with him, but they were still under the spreading cedar tree just outside the door of the synagogue, when his neighbour Jacob launched the inquisition...
“Asher, what were those guys doing on your roof yesterday?” he asked.
“Yes,”Jebedah chimed in, “weren’t they also up there when you were crowded out the day before?”
“They all looked pleased to be there,” commented Meshech.
“I was happy that they were up there too,” Asher replied.
“What do you mean?” asked Isaac, “Was it anything to do with that ex-carpenter rabbi?”
“All in good time, my friends,” Asher responded.
A courteous silence descended on the group, but as they approached Asher’s doorway, he turned to them.
“As you know, Rebekah is a gracious hostess, and many of Capernaum’s leading citizens often visit here…”
“Ah yes,” Levi smiled, “hospitality—how to make people feel at home when you wish that’s where they were, eh Asher?
“Maybe so,” he replied, “but this week we had so many people under our roof; and we didn’t know half of them! Word had got out that Rabbi Jesus was here, and it was amazing.
“We were spellbound as he told of his kingdom, but not about tossing the Romans into the Great Sea, which they claim as their own – Mare Nostrum - imagine that! But Jesus wasn’t pushing politics.
“Instead, he talked about everyday stuff, and allowing God to bring everything together. I enjoyed his humour; when he talked about the changes that his kingdom brings. He used an hilarious image of a stingy old wine merchant who’d used a dried-out wineskin to hold freshly-fermenting wine. Only to find the wine creating more leaks in the skin than he could plug with his fingers, his elbows, and finally his thighs, his knees and finally his ankles.
“Hah! Everyone was laughing as we pictured this old skinflint, as if he were trying to ride this empty dead animal—only to end up flat on his back with wine soaking his skin instead of being where it should be!
“Then I stopped laughing; for I could hear scratching sounds overhead; and we were suddenly showered in plaster dust and odd lengths of reeds from the roof. But worse; four grinning vandals were looking down at us through a huge hole!
“Next thing I knew, the hole was blocked by a big mat, which they began lowering—with a lame man aboard—right at Jesus’ feet. Naturally he paused to look at him. Then he looked up and smiled at the vandals, before he said to the cripple, ‘Your sins are forgiven! Get up and walk!’
“Was I ever angry! That’s all very well Jesus, I thought. But he’s done nothing wrong. What about those vandals? Who’s going to fix the mess they’ve made? You’re the one with the carpentry experience!
“But my complaint was ambushed, for some Pharisees were already stealing the indignity momentum. ‘This is blasphemy!’ they murmured. ‘Nobody can forgive sins but God!’
Jesus chuckled softly. ‘Why get all upset?’ he asked them. ‘For is it easier—to say, Your sins are forgiven; or to say, Get up and walk?’ Then he told everyone, ‘I, the Son of Man, have authority here on earth to forgive sins. Then he turned his eyes down to this bewildered-looking cripple and said to him, ‘Pick up your mat, get up and walk!’”
“And that’s exactly what he did; to everyone’s amazement. I heard those vandals cheering, but when looked up they’d vanished. Last seen stepping it out with their friend, who was keeping up with them just fine.
“Until they came back the next day, when they happily offered to repair my roof. Now all those damaged beams and reed ends all meet together in a stronger join than I ever had before,” he said with a smile.
Asher’s friends were astounded at his story. Imagine Jesus bringing so much together: his teaching; healing a cripple; and an offering everyday link with the grace of the Almighty to share forgiveness without needing a special festival or a sacrificial animal. Such things had always ended short of each other, but now for the first time they had come together.
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