john baptize czarJohn the Baptist is standing in the Jordan River inviting the crowds to repent and be baptized. His baptizing is a new thing and people–lots of people–have come from Jerusalem and the countryside to see and hear what’s going on. Earlier in the week he baptized Jesus and a few of his disciples defected. One of John’s disciples, Zach, is on the bank of the river trying to get his attention.

Zach (waving): John…John. John!

John (standing with a repentant linen salesman): What?! I’m busy here!

Zach (excited): This is important. Come over here a second please. You’ll want to hear this.

John (exasperate; to the linen salesman): Brother, I baptize you because you’ve repented of…

Zach: John!

John: Zach, Shut. up.

Zach: Rabbi, it’s Jesus!

John (showing interest, the linen salesman kisses his hand and walks up the bank): What? Jesus send for me?

Zach (motioning him over; whispering): He’s baptizing.

John: What?

Zach: Jesus. He’s baptizing!

John: Really?

Zach: Yeah, just at the north end of the crowd.

John: Hmmm. That’s amazing!

Zach: He’s stealing your thing! YOU are the Baptize Czar.

John: Nonsense. I’m just preparing the way for him.

The part of the crowd near them draw closer.

John (shouting, pointing up-river): Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Man, is baptizing over there!

Pharisee on the bank: I thought you were the baptizer. You mean anyone can baptize?

John: Well, yeah. I’m just saying repent and be baptized to symbolize you’re clean.

Banker on the bank: Who is Jesus? Why is he baptizing?

John: He’s the Lamb of God who came to take away all our sins. I’m just dipping symbolically, but he can really forgive sins.

Pharisee: You’re crazy. Only God can forgive sin.

John: You’ll see. He’s amazing. I should know, he’s my cousin. I’ve seen him turn water into wine!

Pharisee: Heretic!

Banker: Yeah, heretic! Get some rocks!

Crowd backs up. John splashes water at the pharisee and banker.

John: Zach. Let’s go see Jesus.

They walk north.

Zach: We need to ask Jesus to stop, or go someplace else.

John: Nope. He must increase and I must decrease. I’m here to point to him. If he’s baptizing, I’m out of business.

Zach: You got here first. That’s not fair.

John: You need to go follow Jesus for a while.

Zach: What?

John: Go, follow Jesus.

Zach: You don’t want me to follow you anymore?

John: No, go follow him. He’s the Messiah.

Zach: The Messiah?

John: Yes. If you love me, follow him.

Zach: Is that where Andrew and John went?

John: Yep. I finished. Every bit of fame I have, is pointed at him.

Zach: Still doesn’t seem fair.

John: Life’s not fair. I must decrease; he must increase.

Zach: Are you sure? I can stick around. If he’s the Messiah, he probably has  disciples come out his ears.

John: Thanks, but no, go follow him.

Zach (backing up the bank): Okay…guess I’ll go north with you, but I’m not promising to follow him.

John: Let’s go see him. Maybe he’ll let us both join up.

Zach: That’d be great! You could be the Messiah’s baptizer general.

Another disciple runs up to the two men.

Ben: John! Some of Herod’s soldiers are looking for you! They’re coming down the mountain from Jericho.

John: Maybe Herod’s going to repent about his brother, Phillip’s wife.

Ben: I don’t think that’s it.

John: You guys go meet Jesus or baptize some of these people. I’ll go see what Herod wants.

Zach: Okay, I’ll baptize a while then head north to find Jesus.

John: I’m sure I’ll catch up with y’all later. Hmmm. My head feels kinda funny…

Tr8: The best you can do is decrease such that Jesus increases to those around you.

stalkerMurphy, the non-disciple, is outside his public house sitting under an awning sipping tea. Jesus walks by with James and John. Murphy flags them over.

Murph (standing and motioning): Hey, guys! Come have a seat and some iced tea.

Jesus (motioning for the others to sit): Hey, Murph. What’s happening?

Murph: You know the blog I keep on the blackboard inside? I’ve hit a roadblock. I usually like to write about you, but I have a block.

Jesus: Hmmm. What’s the problem?

Murph: Well, I’ve just finished reading I and II Kings, I and II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah and Jeremiah…I’m not seeing you in there too much. You see, I believe you are who you say you are–you’re God. Yet, you seem pretty violent in past.

Jesus (shrugging): I get this a lot. First, the big idea the writers were trying to get across is that I’m pretty jealous. No, I really jealous. Second, those folks who wrote about me, didn’t know me like you do. Plus, those folks had no appreciation of the value of a life.

John: I’ve wondered about that, too. A lot of killing and destruction back then.

Jesus: The Children of Abraham have been loved and warned about my jealousy from the beginning. I don’t like other gods before me. I can’t explain Old Testament violence in a way you’ll understand, so you’ll have to trust me. Just believe this: It’s going to all work out in the end in spite of all the suffering–I’m going to make all things new someday. You’ll get to see it.

Murph: So, do we need to be afraid of you?

Jesus: Yes.

John: Aw, come on, we know you. You love us and we’re good in you.

Jesus: Still, it’s not good to place others or stuff in front of me. You see, YOU guys are pretty good about keeping things in their place. I let you know when I want change.

James: True. You don’t pull any punches regarding truth and your expectations.

Jesus: Here it is: I want to be first in your life. I want you to be my disciples. I want you to think of me and then apply me in your life.

Murph: For example…

Jesus: For example, I don’t like it if you put your wife before me unless you put your wife before me because that’s what I want. Murph, you aren’t one of the Twelve. You could be, but that’s not what I want and you know it. You are committed, but you are also married with a family and influence in this community. What I want for you is for you to put your wife, family and community first because I want you to. It’s a paradoxicle–by putting me first, you put them first.

John: Sure, the first-last thing.

Jesus: Yeah, sort of.

Murph: So, when I don’t filter the rest of my life through you, you get jealous.

Jesus: Yes. The road to destruction begins with your turning away from me. Life is me, death is not me. Life is full of suffering, but I can guarantee that if you don’t put me first, the suffering will not only increase, but will seem all the more cruel and pointless. I am The Way, The Truth and The Life–no one experiences God except through me.

James: I guess I already knew this was true. You’ve been teaching us this from the beginning. I don’t see your jealousy much because I love you.

John: Me, too. You ARE love. We find abundant life in you.

Jesus: But beware. I’m not kidding. Don’t be like the Pharisees or Sadducees. I’m so disappointed in their love of Torah and traditions. My spirit groans for them. Their futures do not look bright. You guys will see–within your lifetime Jerusalem will be a wasteland, the Temple will be gone and Israel will be no more. If only they would see and hear, but they are stubborn and stiffnecked.

Murph: I hope to keep you first, Rabbi.

Jesus: You do well, Murph, but remember, I’m watching you.

Tr8: Jesus is watching and he is jealous. Keep him first and love according to his will.

baconSim and Bart sit by the lake watching their pigs forage.

Sim: Were you at the game last night?

Bart: Missed it.

Sim: Ramot won in extra innings. Ben-bar-Ben hit a two-run walk-off homer in the 11th.

Bart: Who pitched for us?

Sim: Juan Valdez relieved Pedro Sanchez, but he couldn’t pull it off.

Bart: Hmmm.

As they watch their pigs begin to hop and chase their tails.

Sim (surprised): What in the world?!

Bart (in wonder): Our pigs are dancing!

Sim: Dancing pigs! There’s denari in this! I bet people would pay to see pigs dance!

Bart (excitedly): Yeah, I’ve never seen anything like this. Look! They’re all starting to run in a circle together!

Sim: And listen to ‘em squeal and bark!

Bart: Looks like Momma Sow is in the lead.

Sim: Who’d’a thought she could run like that?!

Bart: Hang on…where’re they goin?

Sim: Whoa! Pigs! Sooee! Sooee!

Bart: They’re headin’ for the lake!

Sim and Bart run after the pigs, yelling for them to stop. The whole herd goes head-first off a bluff into the lake. Sim and Bart stop at the edge and look down.

Bart (gulping): Them pigs committed mass suicide.

Sim (wide-eyed): Holy smoke… Come on. I think we’re in trouble.

Bart turns and heads into town. Sim follows. When they reach the town square they shout and a crowd gathers.

Bart: Listen everybody! Our whole herd of pigs started dancing and then ran into the lake! They committed mass suicide!

Town elder: You guys sound like Crazy Jimbo. Show me what happened.

The elder and townsfolk follow Bart and Sim out to the bluff. They look down. Pigs are washing up on the shore below.

Elder: What in tarnation? Has anyone seen any witches?

John (a teenager): There’s a team of guys docked about an hour ago. I thought they were the ball team from Capernaum here to play tonight.

Sim: No, that game’s tomorrow night.

Elder: Let’s check this out.

They all follow the elder toward the landing. They walk past the tombs cut into the bluff.

Bart: Look out for Crazy Jimbo. He was throwing rocks at Sim and me yesterday.

They pass through the tombs without incident and come to the landing. There they see a group of men sitting with Crazy Jimbo roasting fish.

Elder: What’s the meaning of this? Who are you and what is Jimbo doing here?

Peter: This is Jesus and we are his disciples. He’s the Messiah from God and he just cast a bunch of demons out of Jimbo and they went into a bunch of pigs up on the bluff. Pretty amazing stuff. This man here, is for real.

Elder: What? He wiped out a whole herd of pigs just like that? Who’s going to replace the pigs?

Jesus: Don’t you see? Jimbo was lost, but now he is found. He was crazy, but now he is back. You can walk through the tombs without fear now. You can get more pigs.

Elder: But what about our bacon? We love bacon! We want our bacon back.

Jimbo: This man, Jesus, saved me!

Elder (eyebrow raised): This is a fine mess you’ve gotten us into. Why didn’t you just straighten up and come home yourself? You’ve cost us a year’s worth of pigs.

Jimbo: The spirits living in me wouldn’t let go and I was too weak. Jesus spoke and they left. I’m a new man. We should take him and his men into town and have a feast! He can heal everyone at the gate!

Elder: Feast?! We now have a bacon shortage!

Jesus: I understand your wanting bacon, but your brother, Jimbo, is whole again. He can return to his family and open his shop again. I can also heal your sick. I’d like to come to town and show you all there’s more to life than your appetites. Appetites are the doorway to addictions and addictions are spirits who won’t let go easily.

Elder: I think not. Next thing we know you’ll have our cats jumping outa trees, turn our wine into water and cigarettes into celery. AND we are facing a year without bacon! You and your lot can get back on your boat and go where you came from.

Crowd (affirming their elder): Yeah! We want our bacon back! Go away! Go away!

Jesus (regretfully): So be it. We’ll leave.

Jesus and his disciples get back in their boat and sail away.

Jimbo (raising his voice): You’ve just sent away the best thing that every happened around here. If he could do this for me, think what he could have done for the folks back in town. The Messiah was here and you sent him away!

Elder: We’ve gotten along well enough without him. We have to find a way to get more bacon. Maybe we can get some pigs from over in Ramot.

The elder and townsfolk march back up the hill to town. The elder’s mother sits on a piece of sackcloth at the gate begging for alms. She is blind. Others around the gate are also begging. The crowd moves on into town. Jimbo stops at the gate and begins helping the beggars.

Tr8: Don’t let your appetites and addictions push Jesus away. Your pigs may commit suicide, but you’ll be better off in the end.

Luke 8:26-39

luciferAdam and Eve are sitting under a tree in Eden.

Eve: What about Serpent?

Adam: What do you mean?

Eve: Well, for one thing, he talks. Says his name is Lucifer.

Adam: Yeah, I call him Lucky. I think he’s connected to a spirit or something. I’m pretty sure he knows God. I’ve seen ‘em talking.

Eve: Yeah, me, too. And he’s tall and handsome and strong.

Adam: Yeah, at least 6’4′ and 200 pounds.

Eve: He’s easy on the eyes.

Adam: Sometimes when we walk with God in the garden? Lucky’s asked if we’ll go with him instead to the orchard. I laughed, but didn’t think it was funny.

Eve: Lucky seems different–sort of like God, but not as much. He’s approached me, too. He’s always talking to me by the river. He’s a charmer. I’m pretty sure he has a crush on me.

Adam: That’s cool. Glad Lucky likes you. What does he talk about?

Eve: He’s full of complements and asks me if I love him.

Adam: Really? He asked me the same thing today. Once again, I laughed–what a goof!

Eve: Totally. He asked me if I thought he looked like God…bizarro!

They sit quietly for a few minutes, then Adam sits up.

Adam: It’s almost 6:00. What’s for dinner?

Eve: I thought we’d have spaghetti, French bread and fruit cocktail for dessert.

Adam: Sounds good! I’m gonna go ask God if he wants to join us. He loves your spaghetti.

Eve: Perfect. I’m going to go pick some fruit.

Adam heads toward the river as Eve heads toward the orchard. While she’s on the path Lucky slides up beside her.

Lucky: Where you headed?

Eve (looking over her shoulder): To the orchard. Wanna come along?

Lucky: Sure! Where’s Adam?

Eve: He’s inviting God to dinner.

Lucky (enviously): No kidding? Wouldn’t you rather have supper with me?

Eve (laughing): Where do you get that stuff?! No, but you can join us. Bring some monkeys. They’re always fun, too.

Lucky: Hmm. You know, I’m like God. Come over here, I wanna show you something.

They walk up to a banana tree.

Lucky (touching a branch): Recognize this tree?

Eve: You crazy serpent! That’s the tree God said to leave alone.

Lucky (reaches up, snaps off a banana, peels it and eats it): Voilà!

Eve (startled): So?

Lucky (confidently): So?

Eve (snapping off a banana, peeling it and taking a bite): You know, Lucky, I don’t think we should be alone together. I’m starting to feel naked.

Tr8: Love God with all your heart. Don’t be alone with Lucky.

theophilusJames, the brother of Jesus, and Luke, a doctor in Capernaum, are at the back of a room watching Jesus heal people. Both are scratching their heads.

Luke (with raised eyebrows): Did you see that? Healed Max–the guy who stands at the corner of Broad Street and Jericho Road–brushes down oxen and horses for a quarter.

James (raised eyebrow): I wondered where Max went.

Luke: A Goth cavalryman didn’t want his horse touched and hacked him with his sword. I sewed him up, but it looked infected on Wednesday. I treated him for two weeks–Jesus tags him and he’s good to go.

James (nodding): Yeah, he got all the healing genes in our family.

Luke (glances at James, stands and shuffles toward the door, over his shoulder to James): Don’t see much need for a doctor around here. I may head to Caesarea or become a barber. I can do hair and teeth pretty good…

James (standing, too): Feel unneeded? Let me walk you out. People say I’m “blessed” being Jesus’ brother, but it gets old. Does your brother think he’s God?

Luke (smiling): I guess if he needs us, he’ll know where we are!

People get up and step aside as James and Luke head for the door. They almost make it.

Jesus (calling out): Yo! James! Luke! Wait for me outside a second. (To the crowd,) that’s it for now. Let’s take a break and get some fresh air. I need to talk to my brother.

Lady: How blessed to be your brother!

Jesus: It’s more blessed to be a friend of God.

Jesus steps out and joins James and Luke by the curb. Luke is smoking a cigar.

Jesus: What’s with doctors and smoking? Stop it. It’s not good for you.

Luke (stomping out his smoke): Where does it say, “Thou shalt not smoke?”

Jesus (rolling his eyes): Whatever. I need you guys to help me out when I’m gone. I’m heading to Jerusalem soon.

James: What?

Jesus: I’m going there on a special mission. So, who do you think I am?

James: You are my brother, Jesus. Maybe the Messiah. But I’m not seeing it. You aren’t King material. You’ll have to do more than heal people and preach to make me believe you are anointed. I love you and you are amazing with people, but at the end of the day you’re the guy I shared a room with for 15 years.

Jesus: Luke, how ’bout you?

Luke: I find your story really interesting, that’s why I’ve been following you around. What you do is amazing. I love God, but I’m pretty sure you aren’t him.

Jesus (to both): That’s okay. This will all come together on Easter.

James: What’s Easter?

Jesus (smiling): You’ll see.

Luke: Hmm. Well, you said you needed something?

Jesus (nodding): James, after Easter, I need a leader–someone who understands belief is more than just thinking. Just act according to what you believe about me. We’ll talk again when you believe I’m God.

James (waving him off): You know I love you Jesus, but that’s not going to happen. Go with Peter or John. I don’t believe all the Messiah stuff like they do.

Jesus: Wait and see. When the time comes, I want you to write about the joy of persevering.

James kicks at the curb and shakes his head.

Jesus (turning to Luke): I need you to write down everything for Theophilus. “Theophilus” is code for anyone who seriously loves God. You don’t have to become a barber, you’re our historian. Matthew, Mark and John will write memoirs, but you’ll write from a non-disciple perspective. Kinda like Murphy. After I’m gone, keep writing for “Theophilus.” In a few years I’m going to send a real humdinger to join The Way. You’ll be friends.

Luke: I’ll follow. I’ll write.

James: I’ll wait and see.

Tr8: May you perceive YOU are “Theophilus”–God’s beloved. Luke wrote his gospel and The Acts of the Apostles especially for you. After the resurrection James indeed believed his brother was God! He wrote to you about his brother in The Epistle of James, near the back of your Bible. Enjoy.