Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Lock and Key (08/21/14)
TITLE: Stolen Apples to Freedom
By Jody Day
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“I stole some food. Herod is having another party. I deliver bread from the baker for a living, and happened upon the celebration. I stole a few apples for my children. I didn’t think anyone would notice.” Andrew hung his head.
“Ah.” What more could he say? John’s history with Herod wouldn’t cast a positive light on his cellmate’s predicament.
“Pretty big party going on. So much food just lying around. I thought just a little for my family wouldn’t hurt. Now I’m locked up in here and there’s no one to care for my children.” His chest heaved.
“I’m sorry. It was wrong, but still, I’m so sorry for you and your family. Let me pray for you.” Typical. Herod can take his brother’s wife, his niece to boot, but a servant can’t have a few apples.
“What’s the use? I heard there’s only one way out of Herod’s prison. We’ll both be dead by morning.”
“It’s possible. Yes.” Kind of treacherous being a voice, crying in the wilderness and all that. John smiled. He should be afraid, but joy just insisted on bubbling up.
“If you don’t mind my saying so, you don’t have the countenance of a man behind bars with his hands over his head in chains. Aren’t you afraid?” He may not be, but I certainly am. Andrew tried to control his trembling hands.
“Maybe a little. But I’m actually quite free.” Free. The word buzzed and burned deep in John’s belly. A strange desire to jump always resonated in him. His mother claimed he’d been jumping since before he was born. He only knew that the mere thought of his cousin caused him to want to leap. His laugh echoed the dismal cell walls.
“I see. You must have had some pretty strong wine. Man, you’re in Herod’s prison where death is the only key to escape. But go ahead and think that, if it makes you feel better. I’m going to just sit and think of my poor children.”
“I’m not drunk, young man. I’m not talking about freedom the way you’re thinking. I mean free in my spirit. I’ve been born again. Nothing can hold me down in this life or the next. If I die, I actually live.”
“Uh huh, good luck with that. You must be a follower of the Nazarene.”
“I am. He teaches salvation is repentance and believing in him, that he is the Son of God. It’s the truest thing ever spoken. That’s why I’m free, either way.” John paused to let that sink in his cellmate’s soul.
Andrew’s wife believed in the Nazarene, but she died in childbirth just a few weeks ago. Maybe if he’d listened to her he wouldn’t have stolen fruit from Herod’s table and landed in prison.
“So, tell me more about this party.” John frowned at Herod’s flaunting sin before the whole city.
“Well, Herod’s step-daughter, uh, niece, whatever she is to him, danced. It really pleased the old guy, because he offered her whatever she wanted. I couldn’t believe what she asked for.”
“What was that?”
The guards came for John. They unlocked his bonds and dragged him to his feet.
“Don’t forget you can be free, my friend,” John said as they yanked him out the door.
“What is your name?” Andrew called after him.
“They call me John the Baptist.”
Andrew gasped and reached for his throat. Herod’s step-daughter must have gotten her wish. What shone from John’s eyes, even as the guards dragged him away? Not fear, not even anger. He’d seen that look in Anna’s eyes.
Love. A very different kind of love.
Maybe he’d give the teaching of the Nazarene more serious thought before he joined his wife in death, and maybe he’d better do it quick.
Maybe that love would find his children. He made this his last prayer.
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