Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Extra (08/29/13)
TITLE: The First One Thousand Paces
By Melanie Kerr
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Over the next hundred paces we exchanged small talk. His name was Lucius. He’s been in the army since he was a young lad. I told him my name was Justus. I was never conscripted into the Roman army on account of having flat feet. He laughed and said that with all the marching her had done over the years he was probably flat footed too. He doesn’t much like Israel he said. It’s too far away from Rome. The people here are too volatile. I told him that it is just a Middle Eastern thing. We explode at the least provocation, but we cool down very quickly too. We don’t talk quietly.
For the next hundred paces we talked about family. He has a wife he hasn’t seen for nearly two years. She was a sickly woman. He spoke of the healers that buzzed around sick people like mosquitos. So much money wasted on useless cures. I hopped excitedly. This really was a God appointment. How could I tell him about Jesus? I talked about my neighbour, Abigail. She had a wasting disease. Abigail had been to see a healer called Jesus. She had touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and had been cured.
“Funny you should say that...” for the next hundred paces Lucius told me about a centurion who had a servant who had been sick. Some of the more hardened of the legion had been running a bet to see how long the servant would take to die. The next thing he had heard was the centurion went to find this man Jesus. They talked about authority and faith. Jesus could just say the words, not needing to touch the servant and he was healed.
The next hundred paces were quiet ones. I had a stone in my sandal. I wanted to stop and sort myself out.
“So…have you met this Jesus then?” The wise thing might have been to change the conversation. Knowing Jesus can get you into trouble. I trusted Jesus’ promise that His Spirit would give me the right words to say. I spoke at length, two or three hundred paces, about the Jesus I knew. I had been there in the synagogue when he cast out a demon. Imagine that, a demon turning up at the synagogue every week and no one being suspicious! I had also been around when Jesus had turned five loaves and two fish into a meal for five thousand people. I shared some of the stories Jesus told. The one about the lost son was a favourite of mine.
“It’s just a story, Justus.” I liked the way he called me by my name. “No one behaves like that.” I agreed. But the story is not really about a person, it’s about God. I spent two hundred paces telling him about a loving and forgiving God. I knew my own sins. God knew them along with a whole list I didn’t want to admit to. Despite them all, God chose to forgive me and call me His son.
Lucius stopped. Perhaps I had gone too far. I prepared myself for a hard slap about the head. The Romans were sensitive about their gods. The notion of knowing so much about individual people, and caring about them was not Roman.
“So does God just forgive Jews then?” I’d heard the preacher Paul say that God forgives everyone – Jew and Gentile alike. It was only then I noticed that Lucius was wiping tears from his eyes. As a soldier, he told me, following orders wasn’t always easy. He began to tell me some of the things he had done. I wanted to tell him not to tell me but to tell God, but sometimes we just need another human being to hear our story.
“God forgiveness is for everyone, Lucius.”
A soldier is entitled to a thousand paces, a mile, of my labour. Jesus said to go an extra mile. Lucius and I stopped counting as we walked and talked about Jesus.
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