IT’S A NOVEL WITH A MESSAGE: OUR UNITY IS IN CHRIST; NOT THE BALLOT BOX.
2000 Years Ago, Jerusalem, The Last Supper
I sat at the table with men I now loathed. The last ten or eleven months, probably since the aftermath of the feeding of the five thousand, I had become less and less a part of this self-righteous clique.
We had all been together for the previous three years or so, and we knew each other well. I say we knew each other well, but the truth is, I knew them, but I don’t think they have a clue what was going on in my head. And now, I didn’t care.
I was just there to confirm the evenings plans,[i] get my things, and be on my way, albeit, with a little heavier money bag.
As I looked around, I saw Peter, such a big stupid child. He had just asked Jesus to wash his whole body,[ii] not just his feet. Such a moron.
Didn’t he know this foolish Rabbi was taking us down a path which would lead to an unnecessary martyrdom?
And John, that young, skinny little runt. He was on pins and needles of excitement, with Jesus’ latest words about those who are leaders, those who are servants and those who are getting a kingdom.[iii]
His whole family is in the “better-than-thou” crowd. Wasn’t it his mother who just last week asked Jesus to allow her boys to sit at His left and right sides in heaven?[iv] Such arrogance. John is a selfish, uppity, rich kid.
Every conversation of the recent days and weeks, it seems, has to do with heaven.
I was looking around thinking, “These foolish men. How can their focus be heaven when we are on earth and there’s so much that can be accomplished here with the right political leadership? These men are missing the big picture.”
This crazy Carpenter I’ve been following for the last three years is going to be a selfish, personal martyr, rather than a selfless, national Saviour. Numerous times recently He had the crowd behind him. All it would have taken was a step in the right direction from Him. And He refused.
I was done following this charlatan. If these men wanted to follow Him, to who knows where, they could. But after tonight, I was getting out and taking as much with me as I could.
I was stewing over all these things when Jesus looked at me. We locked eyes for a moment, and I could tell He was troubled.[v]
Foolishly, I immediately wondered, what I could do to help Him. Stupid me. I know not to think that way, I know it, and so I scolded myself for that being my first reaction.
Then He looked away. But He was speaking now, and I watched the others hang on every word which came out of His mouth. They seemed entranced by His words. Well, I was not! And I never would be again.
As He talked and the others watched, mesmerized, I mentally counted what was in the money bag.[vi] The night before I had met with some of the political and religious leaders of the various sects.[vii] I knew how badly they wanted Jesus. And I knew I would squeeze a good number of silver coins out of them.
I smiled. “After all, they had agreed so quickly to pay me.[viii] Thank goodness, they are such greedy men,” I said to myself.
As I was thinking about my finances, I remembered an odd sensation, from last night. When I had headed to meet with the chief priests and officers of the temple guard, something tangible had come over me, or in me, or something.[ix] I don’t know what it was and right now, I didn’t care.
I went back to calculating how much money I would have when I distanced myself from these fools. It was then I noticed the disciples around me. They were looking at one another, questioning themselves.[x]
I decided to reengage in their folly, so I too looked around as one bewildered. I remember thinking, “What puppets, these disciples are.”
Then Peter motioned to the uppity runt, John, to ask Jesus something.[xi]
Jesus looked at me briefly and responded to them. I couldn’t hear His words, but I saw the entire picture in that instant. I now understood completely. Jesus was going to blame me for His failure to become a political leader.
I began listening more intently and I heard the men around me asking one another if they were going to betray their Rabbi.[xii]
“What? What did I miss? Why is that even on the table?” My mind was a flurry of questions. “Does someone know I met with the religious leaders last night?”
And then I started to get angry. These guys were wondering about something only I had the foresight to see and do.
“You idiots,” I wanted to say. I wanted to tell all of these fools the truth and just about did, until I thought of the money bag, which they might take away from me if I told too much. I also thought of the added sum I would be getting soon and decided I would remain silent. After all, I deserved this money.
I could bear a little while longer with these so-called friends.
Jesus then dipped a piece of bread and gave it to me.[xiii] Peter and John’s eyes grew wide in surprise for some reason. Mine were still suspicious and now I was getting angrier. Somehow, they knew. Somehow.
But Jesus’ eyes showed hurt. That caught me off guard. I now floundered. All I could do was play dumb.
I repeated what I had heard the others say. “Surely not I, Rabbi?”
And He responded softly, with pain in His voice, “Yes, it is you.”[xiv]
We looked at each other for an eternity in those few seconds. I no longer saw Peter and John, only Jesus.
After a few moments I looked at the bread with anger and disgust. He was not offering me a peace offering but rather an affirmation to do my part in this sordid game He was playing.
I remember thinking, “What a fool He is.” And so, I took the bread, shoved it into my mouth and immediately my senses were rocked, by what, I don’t know.[xv] But the feeling was the same as I experienced the evening before.[xvi]
I looked back at Jesus, into those hurt eyes as He spoke again, but somehow, I got the feeling His next words were not for me.
He said, “What you are about to do, do quickly.”[xvii]
I slowly got up and backed away from the table. There was something inside me which wanted to sneer at Jesus, but I was too scared of having the money bag stolen from me by these traitorous “friends.”
I also think I was scared of Jesus, maybe, I don’t know for sure.
I just needed to get out of there and get on my way to the religious and political leaders of the Jews.
Would these foolish men know why I had left?[xviii]
“Did Jesus know where I was going? How could He? He seemed to know something, though. But, how could He?” My mind was again full of questions.
It was dark when I left,[xix] which was fine with me, because I wanted to get this over quickly, and be on my way.
As I left the upper room, I couldn’t help but think about the previous three years.
I found myself asking, “It wasn’t always like this, was it? I used to enjoy these times, didn’t I?”
I felt like something inside of me was mocking me. It was bizarre. And then as quickly as I reflected on my time with Jesus, I realized when my future with Him had changed.
As I stepped onto the street, I said, “That was it.” I said it so sourly I could have spat the words out. I saw what had turned me from being excited about this political Messiah to understanding He was just a fake.
Now I was snarling. In fact, I seethed with anger. It was a loathsome, hateful anger. The feelings were worse than I think I have ever experienced. I didn’t understand the depth of them or where they were from, but they were oozing out of me with every step.
Some nine or ten months ago Jesus fed the five thousand[xx] and the crowd saw the miracle that it was. They knew Jesus was the Prophet, who was to come into the world, and they advanced on Him to make Him their king, but He withdrew.[xxi]
It made me sick, just thinking about it again! “He is a pathetic coward,” I snarled as I walked to the Pharisees who were at the Temple Guards’ post. That event was when I knew I would stay with these fools only as long as I needed to.
Well, my time with them was over, and I was glad. I had a better offer (praise Jehovah).
September 27th, Arlington VA, 40 Days Before the Presidential Election
I had been up for a couple hours, spending some time in prayer, and in the Word, before my day went crazy. Today was bound to be another twelve-hour day.
Actually, all of the days lately have been very intense. It is the last Thursday, in September, exactly forty days before our presidential election and I’m the Religion Consultant for one of the candidates.
And my wife? She is in politics too. In fact, she is also a Religion Consultant. But she works for “the other presidential candidate.” Yep, we’re on opposing teams.
Hi, my name is Jude. My wife is Issy, and this is our story.
Forgive me but I’m stressing a little because she got into the shower late today, and we’re running out of time to read our devo before work.
Our morning devotional is a little unique. Monday through Saturday we read a particular passage, the same passage, each day, and then on Sunday, before we go to church, we study it together.
During the week, after our devo we usually ride into the city together, getting off at the Capitol South Metro Station, and then we each head off to our respective offices. People who know us sometimes joke that we each go to our respective corners.
I just laugh when they joke like that, because Issy and I have a great working relationship, which we are determined to maintain. And, thank the Lord, our employers trust us. As well they should!
I better explain. Issy and I often work for opposing candidates. Our political views are not the same, to say the least. But our work ethic has been bathed in prayer and has become the foundation of our lives and of our ministries, if you will.
When we share them with prospective employers, to my surprise and Issy’s relief, they usually accept our work ethic and commitment, which means they hire us.
There are only two commitments we make, but they work for us, and our employers.
First, we promise to live out Colossians 3:23, making sure that in every single thing we do, every bit of work we engage in, we work at as if we were working for the Lord and not our employers, who are usually candidates. They don’t always know how to respond to this, but they realize they can expect excellence from us, in everything we will do, or are charged with doing.
Second, we will not share any trade secrets with the other. Nor will we say anything which would give the slightest hint to the other person about our candidate’s plans. In fact, if we are ever in doubt about something we want to say, or ask, our rule is that we default to shutting up.
We go so far as to not even go to one another’s candidate’s parties, which they often have for staff and spouses, or partners. We will never put the other in a position to hear something they ought not to know.
As such, the only parties we’ve attended together lately have been church soirées.
Issy and I are very active in our church. We have been involved in church work or ministries for nearly all of our twenty-nine years of marriage, which is why we do what we do now, and, thank the Lord, we have excellent reputations.
I should probably explain what we do as Religion Consultants. Our focus includes two areas, international and domestic.
Internationally, we help our candidate maneuver through the political minefields of International Religious Persecution, and the religious nuances of delegates which will be met by people on our teams, assuming we win the election.
Domestically, there is a plethora of Faith-Based things we get involved in, from Prison issues, Schools, Adoption, Outreach, Jewish relations, Child-care, Food banks, etc.
Most of this stuff was rarely discussed publicly, prior to the Bush 43 years. He opened up the government to Faith-Based Operations and it has become a huge goldmine, or minefield, depending upon your candidate. But that’s why Issy and I have jobs.
Since we don’t talk about our work, our home life is focused on our relationship with the Lord and with one another, and sometimes the Washington Redskins, who, did amazing this last season. Of course, with the “Nats,” World Series winners, we are now Washington Nationals fans also.
We’ve never had children. Issy has never had the maternal itch.
Another work issue we both have to deal with is religious folk who want to have an influence, although I don’t know the principals with whom she speaks. The closer we get to an election, the more they crawl out of the woodwork.
And they do crawl, like bugs.
Relationships in our business are a necessary evil and are often tough to navigate. After working with religious folks for so long, I can affirm the adage, “Church would be great, if we didn’t have to deal with people.”
A couple years ago I was speaking to a group of Southern Baptist leaders. The context of my comments had to do with Southern Baptist Deacons, but I accidentally said, Southern Baptist Demons. There was mild clapping, very little laughing, some cleared throats and a red-faced speaker (me).
That evening I told Issy, who quipped, “If the shoe fits.”
Here comes my Issy now. “Baby, I started this short account of our…”
“Story?” she said with the playful sarcasm she has developed.
But it wasn’t just the one word of sarcasm. Typical of my fun-loving wife, at the same time she spoke, she blew me a kiss, turned on her toes, and purposely dropped her towel, heading into our closet.
I stared in unbelief at this gorgeous woman I’m married to, knowing I have twenty pounds to lose while she looks, well, “exquisite,” which I said a little too loudly.
“Thank you, baby,” she responded.
I just shook my head.
“Hurry up, babe,” I said, “Our devo is a little longer read today and I want to quickly go over it before we head to the Metro.”
This week we are reading the portion of the last supper when Judas is sent out by Jesus.[xxii]
Issy turned slightly, just to tease me, and said, “Fascinating words. Jesus sending Judas out to engage the religious and political leaders of his day.”
I looked longingly at her, both of us knowing we didn’t have time for this. She added, “In this study you started us doing, dear, I’m seeing there is little difference in our political attitudes of today than those of Jesus’ time.”
“Yeah, I know baby. I have thought the same thing. People are as vocal and arrogant and selfish today, as they were two-thousand years ago.”
This particular daily devo, for we both have a couple of them that we do, is something we started on the New Year’s break.
For the last twenty-nine New Year’s Eves together we have shared a tradition. We make two choices; one is which movie series we are going to watch that day, and the other is, what we will study in scripture together all year.
Don’t ask me how, but a long time ago we learned to let one person make both decisions, and the next year the other person would choose. And in case you’re wondering, yes, unequivocally, yes, I’ve watched a lot of chick flicks on New Year’s Eve and Day.
This year was my year, so we watched the Mummy Series with Brendan Fraser. I still remember my thoughts that night, now nine months ago. Issy and I were in bed and I asked, “Did any line in the movies catch your ear, or stand out to you?”
“I can’t think of any,” she said sleepily.
I rolled onto my back and spoke, as much to myself as to her. “I can; ‘what harm ever came from reading a book.’”
“Indeed, what harm?” I thought.
It’s a foreboding line in both the first and second movies.
My idea for our devotions this year was to spend the next ten months of our lives, reading the last ten months of Jesus’ life.
That day, New Year’s Day, we had begun our reading with the feeding of the five thousand.
And now, today, some nine months later, we are exactly forty days before a presidential “ascension,” and it just so happens what we are reading is exactly forty days before Christ’s ascension.
“What harm has come from our reading?” I asked myself, still waiting for Issy to finish dressing.
I shuddered, thinking about that foreboding line, because this year had seen intense relationships, unforeseen challenges, cyber intrusions, new brilliant relationships as well as new difficult relationships and incredible peace.
And on top of all that, how much more has occurred from which the Lord has shielded us?
[i] Luke 22:6
[ii] John 13:9
[iii] John 13:27-30
[iv] Matthew 20:21
[v] John 13:21a
[vi] John 12:6
[vii] Luke 22:4
[viii] Luke 22:5
[ix] Luke 22:3
[x] John 13:22
[xi] John 13:23-25
[xii] Mark 14:19
[xiii] John 13:26
[xiv] Matthew 26:25
[xv] John 13:27a
[xvi] Luke 22:3
[xvii] John 13:27b
[xviii] John 13:29
[xix] John 13:30e
[xx] John 6:1-13
[xxi] John 6:14-15
[xxii] Matthew 26:21-25, Mark 14:18-21, John 13:21-30