Father, Abba! How so much has changed! I am afraid that I am not new enough to follow any longer, not strong enough to fall forward. I am still only a Hebrew of the Hebrews, though like a Gentile of the Greeklands I speak this alien tongue, so that we all can know who You are and why he has come. Y’shua, Jesus!
I thank You, Father, for this Sabbath rest. I give thanks to Your mercy, that I have this bed on which to lie and take selah under Your wings in this long pre-dawn darkness of Shabbat. I am grateful to You and to the kind woman who opened her door to me, to us strangers, as we flee the wrath of antichrist and his unholy city. I have labored there long, Father, who knows my every act, word and thought. I thank You, Father, for counting me worthy to suffer for Your Name. This northern autumn’s days are so dark and becoming darker and the nights longer. Are these signs of the times, Lord? Now the beast’s tenth year is upon us, and my heart flees to You, and to a place of refuge, like a bird flies back to its mountain.
Yet I am troubled as I lie here before You on my bed, meditating on Your mercies and Your mighty works, for nothing and no one comes to us without Your will, without Your knowing. Who was he, that beautiful youth, one of the House of Israel, dark hair of head and beard lush and glistening, bright of eye, and amiable of speech, who greeted me on the road, seeing me, an old man no longer Hebrew-kempt, shorn of sidelocks, white mop of hair cropped as an elder of the Greeks? Who was he who with a smile called out, ‘Pou ypageis, kyrie? Where are you going, sir?’ stopping to greet me, as our opposite paths met on the same road? What could I tell him? I was doubly ashamed, as a Jew a Greek, as a Greek a Jew.
He was obviously a Jew, a lover and keeper of Torah, young and full of bright devotion, overflowing with love for fellow man, even for me. You can always tell when a man’s love asks nothing in return, like the sun he shines, like the rain he falls watering every field. He was a Jew, yes, but why would a Jew like that greet me? Like so many others, why did his tefillin not hide me from his eyes? His sidelocks not shield his ears from me? Why did he not take me for a Gentile, and save his greeting for his brothers? But no, he stopped and took selah with me, the two of us standing in the road, with my companions around us, wondering as was I, who is this man? At that moment, he heading into Rome, and we heading out of it.
‘Pou ypageis, kyrie?’ O Lord my God! What was I to say to him? Should I have told him the truth, that I was running away? That would be new to him, but not to myself. When have I not been running away from You, and much closer, from my Lord, Jesus of Nazareth? When have I not been stopped in my tracks by Your words meeting my fearful ears, yet coming at me just the same? When my brother came jubilantly bringing the good news, ‘We have found the Messiah!’ what did I do? Yes, I ran, but at first the other way. It was Jesus who had to call me to him and rename me ‘Rock’, giving me a heavy weight to carry to keep me from fleeing hastily. Yet rocks make strong foundations too, he said, even knowing me.
What was I to answer? You are always watching, listening. Even I cannot evade that knowledge. I could not lie, but could I counter with a question of my own? Unnerved by but still attracted to his friendly face, I answered, ‘Leaving the city…’ and then, ‘Say, where are you going this fine Sabbath eve? Should you be stopping somewhere soon? It is nearly sundown.’ I wanted him to know, though I do not look like a Hebrew, I am not entirely severed from Your people. Instantly my heart sank, ashamed of my cowardice. Here I was, a follower of Jesus, a witness to his resurrection, again denying him, today as always, when to speak but a word might heal my soul, and share salvation with this young brother.
‘Yes, it will be night soon, when no one can work,’ he responded. I was startled to the depth of my being to hear those words, for who but my Lord once spoke them, etching them forever in my memory? ‘But do not be anxious. Where am I headed? I am going to prepare a place for you.’ I looked at him more closely, my eyes poised in a squint as though peering at the sun. Who was this boy? As I paused to approach the answer that I was afraid might be true, he touched my shoulder quickly and, after giving it a firm squeeze and aiming a serious smile at me sidelong, he released me and continued on his way. The old man in me half-paralyzed stood up, ‘But where should I go?’ He called back, ‘Return to the throne!’
Now I am confused, Lord. O Lord my God, Holy One of Israel, have mercy on me, and reveal to me what I am to do, for dawn is breaking, and the sun of the Sabbath day is about to rise. Enlighten my eyes, or I shall sleep in death, and my enemies will say, ‘we have overcome him!’ Why must I always not understand? Why must I always be too late to grasp the Truth? Yes, I ran to the tomb and was bold to enter therein, weighing my faith against my doubt. Now that I thought it was all over, I was not afraid anymore. But what was ‘all over’? What part of me was ready to die with Jesus on the cross, to say with him, ‘It is finished’? Why not the whole man? No, the old man must run to his death, not from it.
Who was that youth, whom I met on the road yester eve? Who was that beautiful, handsome boy who wore his Torah-faithfulness so confidently and lovingly? He was suddenly there to meet me on the road. You placed him in my path. No, you placed me in his! Blessed be Your Name, Lord God, our God, Holy One of Israel, Most-High! …
… Lord of life and destroyer of death, Master, anointed One, why did you not tarry with me, as you did once with the brothers on the road to Emmaus, even just long enough to break bread with me? I know who You are now, my Lord and my God, I know who you are, but too late to fall at Your feet and worship You. Yes, Lord, yes, I love You, I love You, I love You and will care for Your sheep.
Get up now, my body, arise from your bed of remembrance, take up your cross and follow Him. Wake up the others. Your path is to follow Him on the road, on the royal road of the cross, no matter what it costs, for He has already paid the price, the ransom has been paid, your accounts are clear, you have been bought and paid for. Now, let us arise and go forth to purchase others by the Blood, the Blood of the Lamb without spot, sacrificed before the world ever was, before all ages, for the Life of the world. Get up now, brothers! No, we are not on the road to Ostia. We are not heading out to safety. There is no safety in this world of mere men, only in the city, the City of God, where we go, to return to the Throne.
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