I have always wanted to be somebody. I knew that I could be somebody, somebody special, somebody that people looked up to. I just needed the right formula in the right circumstance, with the right people, at the right time. That’s all. I feel that I was made to be somebody important.

     My problem is that others don’t recognize it in me.

     I’ve tried several things, but nobody seems to want to give me a break to do things in a big way. I keep saying to myself, “This is ‘hero time.’ This is where the real leaders will shine.” But something seems to always go wrong, regardless of how I plan and prepare. Something beyond my control seems to always step forward out of the dark shadows and trip me, right when I’m picking up speed.

     Last month, there was a guy who came to our little town of Magdala. You could tell that he was really special. People followed him. People listened to him. He moved people.  My sister Mary said that he had touched her in a way that nobody else ever had. She’s about half-crazy, so I didn’t pay her much mind. But after she told me that, I noticed that she didn’t seem quite so crazy, at all, at all.

     At Mary’s insistence, I went to see him one day. He was teaching people down by the shore. After I listened for awhile, I saw that this was somebody special, and he didn’t even try to be special. It just came out of him. I followed him around for two days. I got a feel for how he moved people, but I never saw him doing anything designed to arouse their emotions, their passions. People just responded to his presence. I also saw that there were people who simply touched him and were never the same again. I think my sister Mary was one of them.

     His name, she told me, was Jesus. He left town after a few days, and she decided to follow him. At least as far as Capernaum. I told her that people would talk, if she just took up and followed a man and his little band of disciples. She looked downward, and then while her head was tilted downward, looked up at me through the tops of her eyes and said, “Really? Do you think after all they’ve said about me over these past years (“Crazy Mary!” “Demon possessed Mary!” etc., etc.) that I worry about what people say. This man has given me my life back.

     And so, she went. People kept talking about that Jesus after he left. I heard them. I heard them tell about how he had healed people. I even heard whispering about “He made Crazy Mary well.”

     I began to wish that I had gone with Mary. I wished that I could see what was his secret. He was able to do what I knew was always my destiny. And then, I thought, “Well, why can’t I do what he did?” It really began as an accident. I was coming home from the market one day, and I saw a Roman soldier go by me on a chariot – traveling much too fast. The little neighbor boy didn’t see or hear the chariot in time; he was too busy playing. And the chariot hit, and ran over, the little boy. That lousy guy just kept on going; he never even stopped.

     I ran up to the boy and he was hurting a lot. I thought he would cry, but instead the boy passed out. I was afraid he was going to die. It just wasn’t right. He never did anything to hurt anyone. I wanted to chase down that soldier and … and what? I didn’t have any power. I couldn’t do anything.

     I’ve never had any power. I’ve never been able to do anything. I just sat there in the dirt and held that boy in my arms. I could feel him, could feel his body doing something. Was he dying? I just closed my eyes, and held they boy close to my chest. I just held him and opened by whole heart up to God. I don’t think I prayed for anything. I just was as clear and unfettered in my connection to God as I have ever been.

     I don’t know how long that lasted: me there on the ground holding that little boy, with absolutely no thought in my head. And then the word, “Jesus” came to mind, out of nowhere, it seemed.

     “Jesus.” That’s all. “Jesus.” I said it. And then I stopped. Stopped and remained very, very still. And the little boy opened his eyes, and opened his mouth, and screamed so loudly! But he was alive, and he was alright.

     I didn’t know what to do. He scrambled out of my arms and ran down the road screaming his head off, all the way to his home. Nobody saw anything. Just me, the little boy, and Jesus – the name “Jesus.” He wasn’t there. Jesus had left with my sister and the others yesterday.

     I was going to tell somebody. But I didn’t know what to say. So I just kept it to myself.

     I never breathed a word about this to anyone. But, apparently the little boy did. His father came to me a couple of days later. He asked me if I was doing magic. He asked me where my crazy sister Mary was. I didn’t want to be special anymore. I just wanted to be. I knew that I had always been special.

     It’s happened a couple of times since then. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, and I was able to go once more into that really pure, pure prayer place. And when the name “Jesus” comes to mind, I say it. And miracles happen.

     I can’t explain it. I don’t try. It’s just real. And that’s all I can tell you.

(c) February 21, 2013

The foregoing is a “midrash” on Mark 9:38-41, in this continuing series of midrashes on the unnamed little people making cameo appearances in the Gospel of Mark. (For definition of midrash, please see January 14, 2103 blog: “An Unexpected Encounter with Jesus”)

 Mark 9:38-41:

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.”


Jesus Got Into My Head and Got Me Out

When the only sound you ever hear is the sound of your own voice, life is pretty self-oriented. It’s hard to get out of your own head. That’s the only place where you really feel at home; the only place where you are fully understood. At least that’s the way it used to be for me.

I used to hear many other sounds. I remember the sounds my mother and father used to make. They called me by name: Ephraim. I learned how to speak. They told me that I was a bright boy. I used to believe them.

Then there was the day of the rock slide out on the edge of town. I was only five years old. One of the big rocks hit my head as I was running away, and they told me I was knocked out for more than a day. After that, the only sound I could hear was the sound of my own speaking. I couldn’t really hear the sound of my speaking – just the vibrations that my speaking made inside my head. They sounded something like words used to sound to me. That’s the only way I was able to speak at all, but I suspect that I may have not sounded as good as I used to.

Funny how for those first 5 years of my life I talked and listened, listened and talked, and never paid any attention to how it all worked. For the next 20 years, I was never unaware of how speaking and hearing worked, or, better put, failed to work.

They told me when I was a small child that my name, Ephraim, means “fruitful.” I used to wonder what kind of fruit my life would bear. After I lost my hearing, I began to realize that like a barren fig tree, no one was going to want me. I just had nothing to offer. I had nothing that anyone wanted, because they didn’t know how to get it out of me.

Oh, I was fine to work. I was a hard worker, a good worker, a careful worker. But it was hard for me to receive directions of what work was to be done, and how it was to be done. So, other than the most basic working tasks, like a donkey could do, I wasn’t much use.

I cursed the day I lost my hearing. I cursed the day I lost my living.

Something about deaf people seems to just make other people angry. They feel like that if they yell loud enough I can somehow hear them. But yelling just makes their face distorted; I can’t hear them any better. And the effort seems to always make them angry. Blind people are given sympathy. People who have lost a hand or foot are given consideration. Deaf people are just shunned, because we are too frustrating, even though we look “normal.”

Then, one day I met Jonathan. [Meet Jonathan in earlier blog, “An Unexpected Encounter with Jesus.”] He came to town as a stranger one day. He seemed to gather a crowd of people wherever he went. He would talk about something and people would gather to listen. I could not hear what he said. But I was drawn to the crowds, nonetheless, because I had never seen anyone who was not a soldier or a ruler get people to come to him and listen to him. I wished I could know what he was talking about, for his stories seemed to make other people feel good.

On the second day Jonathan noticed me, standing there on the edge of the group which had gathered. He bent down and spoke quietly to someone, while never taking his eyes off me. He bent down, because he was such a big man. Then he came up to me and put a finger up to his lips, as though to silence me from talking. That made me smile. Then he put his big hands over his ears, as though he could not hear me. That made me laugh. Then he, too, laughed and gave me a big hug, like a lion would hold a cub: gently, but strongly.

He invited me to come to his home – or, at least, to the place where he was staying. I learned later that he did not have a home, but that he just wandered about from town to town in our Decapolis, telling his stories. But I get ahead of myself.

We had dinner together. He and I spoke and heard one another by making hand signs. He must have known deaf people before, because he seemed to be very comfortable in communicating like this. He signaled that he wanted me to come back to see him again on the next day – about the time the sun was highest in the sky. I nodded my assent.

The next day I met Jonathan in the center of town. He was standing in a crowd listening, much like people had stood in a crowd listening to him the day before. They were all listening to a short man, at least who seemed short compared to Jonathan. Jonathan saw me and motioned for me to come over. Then as I was walking toward him, he stepped forward into the center of the circle and leaned down to talk into the ear of the man who had been speaking.

They both smiled. Jonathan got down on one knee in front of the other man and again motioned me to come forward. The other man smiled, and put his hand on my shoulder. The this other man guided me out of the center of the circle, away from the crowd, his hand still on my shoulder.

He turned and looked straight at me. It looked to me like he said my name, “Ephraim.” I assumed Jonathan had given him my name. They told me later that this was not what he said. But I answered him, “Yes, my lord.” And then he put both hands on my shoulders and looked straight into my eyes and said that word again. This time I could see he said something other than my name. I don’t know what. But, after just a second or two, I realized that there was something new going on all around me. I could hear the crowd.

I could HEAR the crowd. The sound of their speaking was so very, very loud. I turned and looked at them. They were all looking at the man and at me and talking excitedly.

And then I turned my head back to stare at the man, who had said something I couldn’t hear, but after which I could hear everything. This time he DID say my name: “Ephraim, go bear fruit, but don’t tell anyone what just happened.” At least that’s what I think he said. There was so much noise pouring into my ears now, I had a hard time separating all of the sounds.

I said, “Thank you. Please tell me your name.”

He said, “Jesus.” And then he turned and was gone. He and Jonathan walked away from me.

I never saw him again, not Jesus anyway. But Jonathan and I have spent our time together ever since that day. We travel together, all around the Decapolis and beyond, telling people about Jesus, and how he changed both of our lives. I think that what we have done has indeed borne fruit, for there are many who have heard our stories and have gone to find out more about this wonderful man who said my name, and opened my life.


Jesus Cures a Deaf Man (Mark 7:31-37)

 Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”


(c) 2013 0218

When Did THAT Happen?

Read Mark 3:1-6  

Aside from my circumcision, I don’t suppose there are too many changes in my body that I remember exactly when they happened. Like many things in life, we might remember when we first noticed the change, but not when the change itself happened.

Like my withered hand. I can no longer type. One hand works, but the other one just won’t respond. I used to be good at typing. No secretary ever had job security based merely on typing skills, for I always was a better typist. It was a matter of pride.

It came on slowly; I can’t even tell you when it began. Typing along and I looked up and saw the spell check color underlining splayed out across the document like some sort of “modern art.”  It eventually occurred to me that the mistakes were all the fault of my left hand.

I looked at it. Nothing at first. But, over time, I noticed that when I laid the left hand down on top of the right one, I could see the right one sticking out — the left hand was smaller.

It got worse over time. Smaller, smaller. And, I swear, the skin seemed to shrivel up, like you see the peeling on an orange that has stayed in the fruit basket too long. You don’t realize when that peel first began to shrivel, but there it was. Oranges are one thing; hands are quite another. I usually throw the orange away and go get another.

I began to fear that the same would happen to my hand; I would have to throw it away. No! It may be shriveled up, and it may not work like it used to, but it’s been part of me for my whole life. It’s been a good hand! Even when things lose their usefulness, you don’t just throw them away – fruit maybe, but not people’s body parts.

And it’s MY body part. Other people may feel differently. They may decide that if I can’t carry my share of the load – or if I’m too unpleasant to look at – then maybe I should be thrown away. It’s not THEIR body part. Some people only care about productivity. Just look at how they treat older folks who can’t keep up, at women who need to take time off to have the babies their men impregnated them to carry.

I just have to work harder, produce more, make myself indispensable.

It didn’t work. Hard as I tried, I could not keep up.

Hard as I tried, I couldn’t hide the deformity. People tried (mostly) to not stare, but I kept catching them – looking from one hand to the other, wondering what I had done to bring this condition on myself.

Hard as I tried, I could not help the fact that I did not feel like a man – not a whole man – not a man with full worth.

And then, one day in the synagogue, I met Jesus. Yes, there’s another time when I remember exactly when my body changed. When I met Jesus.

I just never could figure out why his healing me would make some of those people so angry. What was more important to them: my hand or their teaching? I bet it would have been different if it had been THEIR hand and not merely MINE.


(c) 2013 0215