Steal Our Way Onto a Ship

Mark 2:1-12

Steal Our Way Onto a ShipA throng of men moved about on the beach, talking in darkness. From the way they gathered in small groups at water’s edge, I concluded they meant to make ready in a fleet of small boats and row into the harbor. To where and for what purpose I could not discern, for not wishing to be discovered, I remained in hiding among a stand of trees.

On the long dock jutting out into the harbor there did not appear to be any sign of a ship preparing to set sail. At least not one of a size I wished to board. It seemed I had missed my chance and arrived too late to make my escape home.

“You were not at the docks as ordered.”

The words of the young woman startled me. Heart racing, I wheeled to find her crouching behind a flowering shrub near the base of palm date tree.

“I waited as long as I dared,” the young woman continued. “When it became clear you would miss our departure I relieved a neighboring fishing vessel of its rowboat. Good thing I did, for had I not, you would have found yourself on a lee shore.”

“But if our ship has sailed why do you stand in these trees?” I replied. “Do you intend to turn me over to the crowd of men by those rowboats?”

“Once I learned the Asklepia meant to move into the next bay and make final preparations for her departure, I rushed here to wait. Those men by those boats? They mean to attack the Asklepia and steal her cargo before she sails.”

“I hardly see how this improves my situation. I reman trapped with no place to hide for the night.”

“When the tide turns the Asklepia will slip away from those murderous thieves without notice. Hurry, now, we’ve not a moment to lose. We must be on our way before we are spied.”

Taking me by the hand, we slipped from the cluster of palms and, crouching low, hurried to what I mistook to be a pile of rocks. At first I thought she meant for us to hide there until the men at the rowboats departed. Without moon and stars and only the faintest of candles in windows on shore, an overwhelming darkness settled upon us. Only as we drew near did I realize that stones had been stacked in such a way as to conceal an overturned dory at the water’s edge.

Quickly we righted the small boat and waded out, taking care to keep lapping breakers from swamping her stern. Once aboard, we found places on the two benches and took up oars. The excitement of escape left my heart pounding, face damp with sweat.

“Remain low if possible,” she said. “And do all you can to keep from splashing. The out-flowing current will carry us around that headland and towards the cove where the Asklepia awaits, but it may also draw us into view of those men.”

Without making a sound, we pulled away from shore and rowed towards the tip of a low strip of land that bracketed one end of the harbor. The young woman’s warning regarding the theft of the Asklepia left me concerned, for I feared we might also be caught up in the attack.

“Tell me, how were you able to escape?”

“How did you know I had become trapped in leper’s home?” I replied.

“From the end of the street I watched until I risked being seen by that mob.”

Though I feared our voices might carry, the young woman no long appeared worried. I suppose by that point she felt confident we would reach the next bay without incident. Keeping my voice low I explained how I had removed tiles in the ceiling and crawled onto the roof of the leper woman’s home.

“Is that not also the way the paralytic was let down?” she asked. “By passing him through a hole in the roof?”

“You know of the story?”

“Only that that a man who could not walk or stand was healed with but words. Nothing like that has ever happened. Were you there? Did you witness his healing?”

I gave my oar another hard pull, taking care to dip it back in without splashing.

“The event took place soon after Jesus entered Capernaum. The Teacher had come to his home town. Many knew him as a boy, others as a young man. To find the son of Joseph now going about healing all who came to him caused many to doubt his authority and claims to be from the Father. He later explained to his disciples that a prophet is never honored in his home town. I myself have found his words to be true. It seems those who know us best and have known us longest cannot recognize the greatness others see in us.”

“You speak as though someone much wiser than your years.”

“By walking with and listening to the Teacher one cannot help but gain knowledge and wisdom.”

“Look,” she said pointing behind us. “Those men appear to be pushing off from shore. Keep down.”

Though we did not stop rowing, we ceased talking, and continued to make our way down the finger of land until at last we rounded its rocky tip. Only then, as we made our turn, did the orange glow of the moon below the horizon frame the monstrous shape of a large vessel anchored in a bay.

“That’s her,” the young woman said. “That’s the Asklepia.”

“She is large. Much more so than I expected.”

“Her cargo demands it. Tell me plain, how did the man come to walk?”

“By that evening so many had gathered in the home of Simon that there was no room left, not even outside the door. As most times, the Teacher preached the word to all who would listen. As he did so, four men brought a crippled man on a mat. How he arrived at his condition, I do not know, but his countenance showed him to be someone with little hope. No matter, his friends had hope enough, for when they could not pass through the crowd due to its size, they made an opening in the roof.”

“How I wish I had such friends,” the young woman replied.

“I do… in my home town. This is why I so urgently wish to return. Some of the men I know best witnessed the four friends digging through the roof and lowering the man on the mat.”

“Is that when he was healed?”

“They laid him at the feet of the Teacher. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

“What an odd thing to say to a man who cannot walk.”

“The teachers of the law thought as much, as well. Sensing in his spirit that they questioned his authority to forgive sins, the Teacher turned to question them. I have since learned that Jesus knows the hearts of all, even our unspoken words.”

In my excitement at seeing the ship, I became distracted and banged the boat’s side with my oar. It slipped from my hand, making a loud splash.

“You there,” came a shout from the side of the ship. “Identify yourself!”

“We must make haste,” she whispered. “Row faster.”

“But we have been spotted.”

“Yes. And if we do not move quickly we will be sunk.”

Behind us rowboats launched. Avoiding waves breaking over rocks near shore, the fleet of small boats soon reached calmer water and began to close the distance between us. Two vessels peeled away from the others. I soon saw that they were much larger and more heavily manned. The two crews meant to intercept us before we could reach the ship.

“Word aboard the Asklepia is that pirates would attempt to board at the turning of the tide,” said the young woman. “Her crew fears an attack will come while the men were making preparations to get under way. We must reach her stern and remain out of sight before the crew of the Asklepia mistake us for thieves.”

With the moon beginning to peak over the rim of horizon and the current shifting seaward, our efforts to remain concealed appeared dim.

“But we are thieves,” I protested. “You stole this rowboat.”

“But our intentions are noble. The intentions of those men in those boats are nefarious at best and deadly at worst.”

Her words of impending danger rang true for, aboard the Asklepia lines were pulled, sails loosened.

“Keep a sharp eye out, men,” the call came from the Asklepia, “and have your weapons at the ready. The attack will come from astern.”

On we rowed, hidden only now and then by large boulders rising from the bay’s shimmering surface. On deck figures moved about quickly. The two rowboats meant to intercept us struggled against the tide. Had we rowed into the current, as they attempted, we might have struggled also. But the young woman knew the ways of the water. She had taken a less direct route, choosing to allow the tide to carry us sideways, past the ship and through the field of rocks and boulders as if floating out to sea. I now saw that she meant to let the Asklepia come to us.

From aloft a second voice called from the Asklepia, “You there, stand off! Stand off!”

The Asklepia, gigantic and towering above us groaned to life, her timbers creaking as sails were let down.

“Who are you? What do you want?” called a man called to us. “Make your intentions known.”

From behind and much closer than before, one of the men from the fleet of rowboats replied, “We have come to take possession of your vessel. If you abandon her, you will not be harmed. If you resist, every man aboard will be cut down.”

Relieved, I exhaled. We had not been spotted. The crew of the Asklepia had fixed their sights on the thieves rowing up from behind.

For several seconds silence fell across the water. Only the lapping of our oars disturbed the stillness.

The young woman placed her hand on mine and pulled me up. “Now we will go.”

I did not understand. Go where? Only when she began to crawl over the side and slip into the water did her purpose become clear.

“Surrender or we will fire,” a man from the rowboats called.

Leaving my oar in the floor of the rowboat, I slipped over and lowered myself into chilly water.

“If you do not retire at once,” came the call from the Asklepia, every one not cut down by the sword will be hanged. I command you to disperse!”

With her anchor up, the Asklepia began to move, turning towards open water. The young woman shoved the rowboat away from us, presenting it as a decoy.

From the lead rowboat a man called, “We’ve come to take possession of your ship. If you give up peaceably, you will not be harmed, but put ashore at the first available island. Resist and we will show no mercy.”

By swimming with only our heads above water and doing so without making hardly any noise at all, we soon placed ourselves before and slightly to starboard of the Asklepia. On her current heading she would run over us.

From directly above us a man shouted from the Asklepia,“Archers to the ready!”

The bow of the great ship shaved past so close I could have touched her hull.

“For safety she will be trailing a stern line for those who may be swept overboard,” the young woman whispered. “You have one chance to grab it. See that you do.”

“And you?” I asked.

“I will remain behind.”

“No,” I replied. “We go together.”

“My home is here.”

“But you know the sea. Please. I do not wish to attempt this alone.”

Sensing my desperation, she kicked hard, coming along side to join me in the swift-moving current.

Kicking feverishly, we fell into the wake of the Asklepia. Immediately I became entangled in the rope she warned of. With both hands, I pulled myself along until I could touch the Asklepia’s rudder.

I feared the young woman might change her mind, but she kept to her word. Panting, the two of us dangling from the beneath the great bulk of the Asklepia stern. For a long while we said nothing, only listened as the men above raced about in preparation for the attack to come. Then…

“Do tell me how the man came to walk,” she said.

The whooshing of water slicing past the hull offered some cover for our conversation but I remained fearful we would be discovered.

“Are you not worried we will seen?” I asked. “Heard?”

“Arrows will soon fly. Some lit. It may yet be that the thieves overtake the Asklepia. Once the attack comes, her crew will be distracted. We will attempt to make our way aboard then. If unsuccessful, we may not get another chance to speak.”

“Very well. With the paralyzed man at his feet, the Teacher turned to the teachers of the law and asked, ‘Which is easier to say?  “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up, take your mat and walk?” But so you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins, I tell this man, “Get up! Take your mat and go home.” At this the man got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. The people were so amazed that they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

“No, I suppose they had not. Nor I. Where can I find this man Jesus?”

Before I could reply a head appeared close above us.

“You there, below! Identify yourself!”

“I am John Mark,” the young woman replied. “I have stolen aboard to deliver an important message for the owner of this ship.”

“You know my name?” I whispered.

“Tell the captain and owner what you told me. Tell it exactly as you told me. Then pray he spares you your life. . . . and the lives of his precious cargo.”

With that she let go of the rope and dropped into the sea.

 

See it. Sow it. Speak it. Reap it.

Book Marketing Jesus' Way

See it. Sow it. Speak it. Reap it.Out of your heart are the issues of life, both good and bad. Keep you heart safe with all diligence. Guard it. Pray God’s protection over your heart. (Proverbs 4:23)

Lord, out of the desires of our hearts seeds are conceived. With our mouths we sow both good seed and bad. From within our hearts, by faith,  we bless what we have sown.

If we sow bad seed and bless it with bitter water, we will reap a harvest of disappointment. If we envision evil and sow seeds of corruption, we will bring forth death, rotten fruit, and decay. (James 1:15) 

May it not be so, Lord. We ask you to remove all imperfect seeds. May only your seeds of life live within out hearts. We confess right now, right here, that you have sown good seed in our hearts and will continue to sow seeds for tomorrow and the days to come.

My heart is rich, fertile soil. I declare that I am careful to sow only what is pure, good, and honors you. I will know the seeds sown in my heart by the fruit that tumbles off my lips.

I have and will continue to sow abundance in my heart. I have and will continue to speak life to my books—each and every one.

Lord, you asks, “What is it you want?” I see a harvest ripe with good sales, good reviews, and readers whose lives are changed by the words you placed within my heart. I sow your words. I speak your words. I reap a harvest from your words and expect abundance to be my reward.

Amen and amen.

First Healing — The Tales and Adventures of John Mark

Mark 1:22-34

First Healing — The Tales and Adventures of John MarkThough the ship upon which I was meant to board would sail soon, I could not risk leaving the rooftop without being discovered.

The banging below in the home of the leper woman continued until at last the owner on whose roof I crouched stepped into the street. After the home’s owner called for quiet, a door slammed next door and men departed up the alley, cursing as they trod past.

My chance had come. I would make my way towards the waterfront and inquire as to which ship might soon be departing. But as I began to back down the roof’s ladder, I recalled a time when others crowded about on rooftops watching for the Teacher to pass by.

On that day Jesus had gone into the Capernaum and began to teach in the jewish synagogue. Because he taught as one who had authority and not as the teachers of the law, people found themselves amazed at how he opened the Scriptures.

While speaking, a man possessed by an unclean spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

At the time I thought it odd that filthy spirits knew Jesus to be the Father’s Son but the religious rulers did not.

“Be quiet! Come out of him!” Jesus commanded.

At once the spirit shook the man violently and with a shriek escaped. Where the spirit went, I do not know. But within moments the man was back in his right mind and as calm as though he’d never been tormented at all.

Many wondered aloud at what they had witnessed. “Is this a new teaching and with authority,” one asked. “Not even the Pharisees can cast out such spirits with simply a word,” another remarked.

News spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee and soon many came to be healed. Even Simon’s mother-in-law who was in bed with a fever, found herself healed by the Teacher’s touch. Once the fever left, she arose and began to wait on Jesus and his disciples.

By sunset the whole town had gathered at the door. People brought all the sick and demon-possessed to the home and the Teacher healed all, though because the demon spirits knew who he was, he forbade them speak of his glory.

All this I considered while in the distance a bell clanged three times.

I knew from our passage at the port of Sidon that once a ship’s bell tolls, her lines will soon be let go. If I were to make the ship and escape back home I needed to hurry.

Certain no one below was watching, I backed down the ladder. Once more I searched the narrow alley for any of the mob who might be loitering. Then easing around to the front, I softly rapped two times on the door, waited and then rapped three more times.

“You have returned,” the leper woman said. “If it is directions to your ship that you seek, you only need to go to the end of this alley and turn—”

I forced my way in and pushed the door shut behind.

She had placed the table back beside her mat, which was now tossed and missing some of its straw. In my haste to leave I’d left several of the roof tiles askew, but with the table and candle so far removed, the men had not noticed.

“If you are willing,” I said, “the Teacher can make you clean.”

With wet eyes reflecting the candles dancing light, she reached out her hands and clasped mine.

“I am willing,” she said softly.

With eyes closed I looked up. “Jesus, my Lord, the Messiah, the Christ, you alone are righteous. In you we put on our new self, which was created by the Father for this very purpose. We have died to our sins in order that we might live for righteousness. It is by your stripes that we are healed. Father, you did not send your Son to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. Where there is righteousness, sin and sickness cannot remain. No one who is born of the Father will continue to sin, because his seed remains in them. They cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. For this reason with the power and authority of my Lord, I declare that Jesus has forgiven this woman of her sins. By the blood of Jesus, my sister, you are forgiven, healed and made whole.”

Her fingers grew strangely warm, but I only had a moment to consider this, for suddenly a clanging bell warned of a ship’s impending departure.

Without another word, I escaped into the alley, slipped around back, and fled into the narrow corridor that separated the homes. Only when I reached the end of the alley did I hear the woman’s cries of joy echoing in the street, “I’m healed! I’m healed!”

With haste I turned in the direction of the wharf and sprinted towards the smell of the sea.