Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: STAND UP FOR JESUS (don't write about the song) (04/09/15)
- TITLE: The Courage of Esther
By Rachel Barrett
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Josiah met her halfway and helped her scale the fence. “I thought you'd never get back!” He scowled. “If Father ever missed you, he'd . . .”
“I know, I know.” Esther brushed herself off, panting, and hastened to look busy. Their father, haggling with two customers over a bridle, hadn't noticed her absence.
Keeping a watchful eye on the crowd, Josiah grabbed a currycomb and joined her. “So? Did you see the man from Nazareth?”
Esther nodded. “He was on the hillside. There were so many people that his followers wanted to send them away.” She grinned at Josiah. “But I hid in the bushes.”
Josiah frowned. “Well, what did he say? Is he really a prophet?”
Esther petted a silky donkey nose, as the words she had heard struck her anew. “He said . . . he said all of us are children of the Living God, equal in His sight—you and me, the Pharisees, even the Romans.” She dropped her voice and her eyes as a pair of brawny soldiers strode past the donkey pen.
Josiah scoffed at her words. “Not likely! We're Jews. They're Romans.” He shook his head. “What else did he say?”
Esther furrowed her brow, remembering. “You have heard it said,” she quoted, “eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I tell you not to fight back against an evil person. If someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
Josiah's eyes widened. “Some prophet! Try telling a Roman to fight you with his fists like an equal instead of backhanding you like a slave. Get us all executed, is what. And you want to be his follower!”
Esther nodded. Josiah started brushing another donkey. “Enough to stand up for his crazy teachings?” He shrugged, eyeing the busy crowd. “Well, you'll have your chance one day.”
Their father dropped several coins into his money pouch and dusted off his hands as his customers walked away with the bridle. The satisfaction in his eyes turned to fear when heavy steps announced the soldiers' return.
“Move over, old man,” ordered one, dropping his pack to the ground. “We want a look at your animals.” Without a word, her father stepped aside to allow the soldiers to survey the line of donkeys.
“What else he's got isn't bad, either.” The second one gave his companion a sly nudge, and winked in Esther's direction. Her face burned hot with shame, and she turned away.
Finally they moved to leave. “You, girl!” The first soldier grabbed her elbow. “Fetch my pack.”
She dragged the unwieldy pack to his side. As he reached for it, a gust of wind whipped her robe into a frenzy of flapping. The donkeys shied. Too late, Josiah snatched for the halters, and the whole herd scattered. Esther dove aside, frantic to dodge the stamping hooves, and collided with the soldier. His pack tumbled into the melee.
“Clumsy fool!” The soldier's backhanded slap caught her right cheek, and she staggered into the fence. He swore at her. “Watch what you're doing!”
Josiah rushed to help her. She shook him off and forced her trembling knees to hold her up as the soldier towered over her.
He raised his hand to strike. She gulped the fear down, feeling his glare through every inch of her, offering him the left side of her face.
Then, to her utter astonishment, he lowered his hand, snatched his pack, and headed for the gate.
Esther clutched Josiah's hand for support as the soldiers stalked away. Her heart pounded in her throat at her own audacity. Had she just . . . ? Her knees crumbled like leaves in the wind.
Josiah eased her down against the fence and took hold of her face to examine. “That swine didn't hurt you.” He cocked an eyebrow. “He could have killed you for that.”
Esther shivered as she comprehended what she had done. “But—I had to stand up for . . .”
Josiah nodded. “I know. And I'm proud of you.” He squeezed her hand. “Perhaps you'll take me with you to see the prophet next time, eh?”
“You have heard that it was said 'an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth'. But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” (Matthew 5:38-39 NKJV). Jesus' teaching to turn the other cheek has an interesting interpretation. Some scholars explain how, in that culture, a backhanded slap was used to put an inferior person in their place. The physical act of “turning the other cheek” would challenge the aggressor to then strike with an open hand or with the fist (as the left hand would not be used). This act would declare his victim's equality with him, as curious as it sounds. Jesus shows a way for an oppressed people (the Jews) to strive for justice through peaceful nonviolence.
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