A Fictional Account
Of the Life of Paul
By Kurt Schuller
Copyright 2001 Kurt Schuller
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As they climbed up the trail, Peter found himself lost in thought. “What are we going to do?“ His brain raced along with his heart, as the incline grew steeper. It was just an hour earlier that the Master had shaken his shoulder to wake him. “Rouse the others and follow me”
Peter did not hesitate and began to wake his brothers. “The Master want us to follow”
It was nearly the fourth hour, and many of the twelve were disoriented but not one of them questioned Peter’s command. They had no idea when, where, or for how long Jesus would appear to them so there was no wasting time when the opportunity arrived. He had been talking of leaving soon and no one knew how much longer he would be among them So when roused from their sleep an hour before dawn they simply gathered up their cloaks and followed.
Peter recalled how they had bombarded their teacher with questions in the early days, and Jesus’ frustration at their lack of understanding. “We were children,” he said quietly to himself.
The pale light of a blue moon lit their path as they followed after Him. Peter had known where they were going for some time, for The master had taught to them many times before from the lush green hillside. As they approached the Olive mount, he could see the profile of the hill backlit by the first light of dawn. A grove of olive trees in full and glorious bloom stood as sentinels, guarding and protecting the mountain.
Having left before dawn, they had avoided the oppressive heat that had hung over Jerusalem for the last three days. Still, the sweat hung on him and refused to evaporate. Peter’s cloak was growing damp from it
“Oh what would I give for one fresh breeze” Peter thought. The dawn was becoming quite uncomfortable. And if the scorching heat had not been enough, the days had failed to provide even the smallest wisp of a breeze. Last night, Peter had dreamed of a brisk west wind that washed through his hair and blew the dust from his beard. Carried on this breeze was the sweet and potent fragrance of the Mediterranean, which filled his senses and reminded him of his fishing days. Awaking from this sweet dream, he was quickly brought back to reality, the air around him more like the inside of a musty tent than the shore of the ocean.
They reached the head of the trail that led to the hill‘s rocky summit. With just enough of dawns early light to guide them they started up the arduous trail. Questions that Peter would not ask of Jesus swirled in his head.
What did Jesus mean when he told them not to leave Jerusalem until they had received the gift? Had he not prepared them already? What else did they need? Peter was eager to fulfill the task that Jesus had given him. In fact it consumed him. It was the only way he could silence the voices of guilt that still tormented him.
“Where was your courage” they taunted? “Were you not supposed to be the Rock? Sand is what you really are. Was it so hard to stand up for him? You are not worthy of anything.”
Peter was able to quiet these inner demons by putting all of his effort into his work. Stay in Jerusalem! NO. He wanted to prove to his companions and to Jesus that he was worthy. He could be the Rock! And not because of his broad and muscular frame or his strong and steady hands, but because of his strength of spirit. But why had that spirit let him down? He was filled with self-doubt. He tortured himself, reliving that night over and over again in his mind. The guilt inside him had stiffened his resolve.
“ I will never deny my Lord again” he thought. “When my chance comes again I will let nothing, not even the fear of death, weaken my determination. I will help build His church, even if I die in the attempt”
Lost in his thought’s again, Peter did not see the precarious positioning of the rocks piled in his path. As he stepped on them, they collapsed under his substantial weight. Because of the steep slope of the trail he lost his balance and began to fall backwards. His arms flailed wildly in a futile attempt to regain his balance. All he was able to accomplish was to twist his body slightly to the left as he hurtled toward the ground. But instead of falling onto the jagged rocks of the trail behind him he found his himself in someone's arms.
“Peter “laughed John “You may the strongest among us but you climb like some farmers ox.”
His face red with embarrassment, Peter regained his balance and quickly stood up straight. Checking over his robes, he laughed back at John.
“I have as much agility as you do little brother. I was merely lost in thought and did not see the loose rocks. However, I am pleased that you somehow found the strength to catch me, I mean given how small you are and how large I am.”
At this John shook his head and looked up to the summit. “If we are going to get up this mountain then I suggest that you look where you are going “Hurry!” he cried, seeing Jesus near the top, “the Master has gotten far ahead of us.”
Peter turned and saw that Jesus was already at the summit. He hurried up the trail, and arrived at the top ahead of the others, unprepared for what was waiting for him. There before him was the Master, floating a few feet off of the rocky ground. Jesus looked down at him and smiled. “I am leaving you now Peter.“
Stunned at these words, Peter felt hot waves of adrenaline racing through him, quickly filling his pounding chest and reverberating down his arms, leaving his fingers tingling. His strength suddenly left him. His legs wobbled underneath his massive frame and his head was spinning.
“What does this mean” he thought?
Jesus was now floating a few feet higher. As he looked up his Rabbi, the angle that he viewed him from reminded him of how Jesus had appeared as he was hanging on the cross. Peter was awestruck as he realized that Jesus' expression was identical to the one he wore on Calvary as he spoke the last words of his first life.
“Is it time “ he cried? “Are you going to restore the kingdom of Israel today?”
As he spoke, the other disciples began to arrive. Seeing Jesus suspended between heaven and earth they fell down on their knees.
Again Peter implored. “Is it time Lord?”
Suddenly there was the sound of rushing wind and thunder, yet the air was just as calm and still as it had been for days. At the sound of a burst of thunder Jesus' robe, which had been soiled by the dusty trail abruptly became cloud white. His face glowed as if bathed in bright sunlight.
“It is not for you to know the times or the dates that The Father has set by His authority. But you will receive a great power when the Holy Spirit comes to you, and you will be my witnesses, not only in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, but to the very ends of the Earth.”
Jesus was now more than 20 feet above them, and the roar of the thunder and wind grew stronger. The still air started to spin violently around them as they stood looking up at their Teacher, watching the cyclone lift him ever higher. To their amazement, they also began to rise, swept up in the spinning winds. As they rose, the ground beneath them seemed to vanish, as if the earth had simply been swept away like so much cosmic dust.
The disciples continued to fix their eyes on the Master, afraid that their gaze on Him was all that held them suspended in the heavens. Slowly piercing the din of the tornado, Peter became aware of a celestial choir singing softly and sweetly, as if from a great distance. The rising soprano's chorus swelled and grew louder as it rose to a magnificent crescendo. The music so filled Peter with emotion that small tears welled in his eyes. Too small to wash his eyes, they served only to obscure his vision. He looked down reflexively as his fingers reached to wipe them away. But before he looked back up he caught a glimpse of something below him.
At first it was indistinguishable, but he felt compelled to make it out. Fixing his gaze, his focus became clearer. He began to make out what appeared to be legions of manlike shapes. As he continued his stare, the revelation of this vision shook him to his core.
“They are kneeling! “ he cried. He now fully understood what he was watching. “Even Hell bows down before him.”
Raising his head he searched desperately to regain sight of Jesus, catching a glimpse of him just as he entered a large white cloud. At the moment Jesus became fully enveloped there was a final clap of thunder, and with it the earth was below them once again.
Peter felt himself falling back to earth. He looked down and saw the rocky crags below rising quickly to meet them. As he hurtled toward the earth with ever-increasing speed, he was struck by the sense of peace and calm that he felt. The guilt that had filled him moments ago was completely gone.
Peter felt no fear. Yet, just as he was about to crash into the ground, instinct forced him to close his eyes and cover his face, awaiting the inevitable impact. To his great surprise, it never came. He slowly lowered his arms and opened his eyes. To his amazement, everything was as it had been. They stood silent upon the Mount of Olives, the sun now completely ascended. The unyielding heat that had held them in its grip was gone. Still stunned from their experience, it was hard for them to comprehend that the ground was still firmly beneath their feet. It was as if nothing had happened.
As Peter began to regain his senses, the fresh sea aroma of the Mediterranean washed over him with a cooling gust. He closed his eyes, spread out his arms and opened his fingers wide to allow as much of that sweet wind as possible to flow through him. After allowing himself the luxury of a few moments to enjoy the wind's caress, he opened his eyes and looked around him. His fellow disciples did not fully understand what had just happened to them. Not knowing what to do, they continued to stare up at the large white cloud, quite content to wait and see if Jesus would come back down. But any hope of that dissipated along with the ever-shrinking cloud.
Staring into a beautiful blue and cloudless morning sky, they were startled by two strangers dressed in white standing in their midst.
“Why do you stand and stare into the sky” scoffed one of the strangers? “This same Jesus, who has been taken up to heaven will someday return in the same way you have seem him leave. Go and wait for the gift that he has promised you”
The stranger’s words still hung in the air but they were nowhere to be seen.
Slowly, Peter realized that something inside of him had changed. The guilt that dogged him since Gethsemane was gone, like the cloud that swallowed the Christ. He felt revitalized and more alive than he had ever felt in his life. His throat tightened as tears of joy flowed freely. Slowly it dawned on him the reason for this wonderful feeling. It was not the celestial choir, nor was it his vision of his Lord’s dominion over Hell itself
“Now is my time of personal redemption“. He thought. “God has given me new strength, and I can feel it growing deep within me. Now I can make amends for my weakness.”
He looked up into the heavens and cried out. “Yes Lord, I WILL be your rock“. As he looked around, he realized that all of the disciples were looking to him.
“ What should we do now Peter” asked John?
Peter responded with a newfound forcefulness “We wait........for the gift.”
Peter sat by the fire, engrossed in his work. As he patiently waited for His Master's Gift, he passed the days in prayer.
In between meditations, he worked at repairing nets for local fisherman, who in turn gave the disciples fish to eat. He was deep in concentration, weaving the coarse and uncooperative thread through the net's heavy webbing, when an increasingly loud discussion coming from the room below vied for his attention..
At first he ignored this, as it had become almost a daily event. Patience was easy in the few days after Jesus triumphant return to Heaven, but with the exception of Peter, it was lately in short supply for the rest of the apostles.
“How odd” he thought “ that I, the quickest to anger, the most deficient in patience, was now a fount of calm.”
The growing reports of arrests and persecutions by the Sanhedrin also led to fear‘s unfortunate return among them. Only Peter was unaffected. The exhilaration he had felt on Ascension Day remained with him still.
Returning his concentration to the task at hand, he nimbly manipulated the thread in and around the frayed webbing, then finished knotting it to the net‘s outer rope. Suddenly the discussion in the room below turned into a heated argument.
Peter rolled his eyes in exasperation and allowed himself a frustrated sigh. He carefully put down his work and walked slowly down the stone steps, intent on quelling yet another fight.
It had begun about a week ago with Mathias. Peter allowed for the fact that he was new to the twelve so he gave him an extra measure of patience and counsel. Then it spread, with Judas the son of James adding his voice to the growing rancor. And then there were the others, the new ones that had simply showed up at their doorstep, like Stephen. They were young, strong, impetuous, and without fear, as the young usually are.
As he descended the steps, he saw Thomas and Mathias nose to nose with gentle John attempting to put his small frame between them and keep them from coming to blows. They were so involved in their conflict that they didn't even notice that Peter had come into the room. “Brothers!” He cried in a deep, authoritative roar. This startled the combatants and they stopped their shouts in mid-sentence.
“Again! “ He boomed. “Again we show ourselves unworthy to receive the Master‘s gift. Again we let our tempers become our master? Where will we find room in our hearts for the gift if those hearts are filled with anger? Listen to me, no one knows better than me about temper. You know that I was the quickest to anger of any of us. Remember what happened in the garden the night that Jesus was arrested? I lashed out, and in blind rage cut off the ear of a blameless slave. That servant was in no way responsible for what was happening, yet my blade, driven by my anger, found his innocent head.”
“ That is the problem with anger, it is a blunt and clumsy instrument that does not always hit the target we intend. But it can spread its destructive force far beyond those we intend it for, even unto those we love and cherish.”
The deep worry lines in Peter’s forehead relaxed and his voice grew conciliatory.
“Brothers, anger is the driving force of this sad and sinful earth. Anger, resentment, ignorance and conceit are the nails with which the Pharisees pierced the master's hands and feet. Did you not hear Jesus tell us plainly?” He said “As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. We are no longer of this world. Only one last bit of forging remains. “
His eyes narrowed and his jaw set resolutely as he spoke
“ The gift that we will soon receive will complete our transformation, and we will be forever changed. And with Gods help, because of us, the world will never be the same. What we once were, all that we once knew will be gone. Dead and buried in the tomb that was meant for all men until the Lamb of God came and shed his blood on the altar that was intended for us.
That day that you seem so impatient for will come brothers, but we must wait as we were instructed.”
“I too have heard the rumors being spread by the Pharisees. They say that we cower in the dark in fear for our lives. They say that Jesus was just another false leader who raised the hopes of a small group of fools. Well, get used to this kind of treatment brothers, when we are completed this small group of fools will be hated , derided and humiliated at every turn. Spurned by friends we once counted on and cast out by family that once loved us. “
“But I am not telling you something that you didn't already know for as the Master has told us, “We will be hated without reason.” But the gift will soothe our distressed hearts and give us such strength as none of us has ever known, it will fill us with peace in the face of distress and turmoil, it will..........”
His voice trailed of as he became distracted by a sound that began faintly in his ear. Ignoring it, he tried to continue.
“It will bring..”.........the sound grew louder, like wind pouring through a dense and tall forest, changing pitches as its’ speed ebbed and flowed. The other disciples looked to Peter as they struggled to understand what was beginning to happen. Seeing their faces his eyes grew wide with excitement.
“Do you hear it?” The sound took on a physical presence in the form of a swirling wind that seemed to emanate from Peter’s head, raising his coarse black hair and whipping it like the reeds that lined the river Jordan.
“I can feel it! “cried John as the presence began to show itself in his long and thin hair. It spread inexorably from one disciple to the other until the entire room seemed to be the epicenter of a cyclone. Peter looked up into the center of the tornado and saw a familiar face looking down at him. Jesus smiled gently as Peter met his eyes. Then the Messiah raised his head and gazed upward. Placing his left hand over his heart and raising his right hand, palm facing heavenward he spoke.
“Through the gift of the Spirit I give you, My strength, which enabled me to face my crucifixion, My peace, which enabled me to face death as you all will face it, and My confidence in the Father, that sustained me through it all. Go and tell the world what you know of me, you will fear no more. “
Peter watched as Jesus' face slowly disappeared. In His place were what appeared to be hundreds of candle flames. Dancing like fireflies on a hot summer evening, they flew around the room like a cloud of hot embers when new wood is thrown onto the fire. They separated into many small groups, coming to rest on the heads of one disciple after another. When the flames touched Peter, he began shudder as sharp euphoric rushes ran throughout his entire nervous system. There simply were no words yet in existence that could accurately describe the feeling. Years ago Peter had been on a long fishing voyage. They had worked days on end to the point of exhaustion. A Phoenician who worked next to Peter however always seemed full of energy. At the end of a particularly hard day he asked the Phoenician where he got his endurance from. The fisherman said nothing, but gave Peter a small amount of white powder in a pouch of soft fig leaves. Taking another packet from the leather pouch about his thick waist he emptied the powder into his mouth. Closing his eyes, he began to shudder vigorously. A low growl emanated from deep within in him, and gradually grew into an energetic shriek. His eyes were now wide open, the whites interspersed with many tiny red blood lines. He stared intently at Peter with a crazed smile, and motioned to him to do as he had done
Tentatively, Peter unwrapped the leaf pouch. He slowly dipped his forefinger into the powder and with some hesitation he brought it to his tongue. It tingled a bit as small chills rushed down his spine. Suffering no ill effects he decided to take it as the Phoenician had. Tossing the contents into his mouth, he was awash with rushing shivers of energy coursing up and down his spine. He shuddered with a wonderful feeling of release and euphoria, and he felt as if he could do absolutely anything.
Peter thought back to this experience as it was the only one even remotely close to what he was experiencing here at this moment
“A hundred times, no, a thousand times greater is this feeling,” he thought to himself.
Looking at the others in the room he saw the same flickers of light dancing on the heads of the others, each of them shivering and shaking with great joy and euphoria. But there was one exception.
Stephen had only one flame, larger than all the other ones. Peter observed that Stephen did not shudder or shake as a result of this holy stimulus, but instead had a visage of complete and utter serenity as he knelt down, hands clasped in prayer.
Spontaneously, fervent prayers of praise began to rise from all in the room, the voices rising in volume until they drowned out the sound of the rushing wind, and then the rushing wind was gone, and there was only the sound of praying.
Without a word, as if they were all of one mind, they began to walk out of the building into the busy street outside, their prayers continuing. It was then that Mathias rushed up to Peter excitedly.
“ I hear all of you in speaking in Greek,” .
Peter was momentarily puzzled but then it came to him. Mathias, though a Judean, had been raised in Macedonia and his first or native tongue was Greek. Peter looked at the crowd that had started to gather and saw looks of dumfounded amazement on every face. He went up to a stranger and asked him.
“ Do you understand my words? What language do I speak? “
The man looked surprised “ Are you not Samaritan? Your phrasing is perfect, besides I speak no other languages. “
Amazed, Peter began to realize the truth. Not only did all those present hear their message in their native tongue, but the apostles also understood everything that was said to them, in whatever language it was said.
A well-dressed merchant laughed derisively and then noisily drew phlegm from his sinuses and spat it to the ground “These men are obviously intoxicated, anyone who pays any attention to them is an utter fool.” .
“NO!” Boomed out Peter with a volume that surprised himself. “Men of Israel! These men are not drunk, or drugged and.....If we be fools, well then we are God’s fools. Many of you will find what we have to tell you sounds foolish, because you are so firmly rooted in your lives here....today. But we offer you an endless life, one without death or decay or sadness or want. We have been filled with the very Spirit of God, that is why you understand us, regardless of what language you speak.” At this the crowd began to quiet. There was no denying that something miraculous was happening. Even the merchant was paying attention.
“Count yourselves as lucky, you who are here this day, for you are witnessing firsthand a day that will forever change this world. Listen to me NOW and let me tell you Of Jesus.....the true Messiah”
A few blocks away, Marcus‘s company was riding two by two on its way to Pilate‘s headquarters. The activity surrounding Peter had not escaped the centurions notice.
“What do you suppose is going on over there, that‘s quite a crowd that is gathering? Marcus‘s tone turned sarcastic. “If I was not already a week late arriving, I would be inclined to do my duty as a Roman soldier and go and investigate.”
Saul lowered his head and covered his eyes with his hand as he sighed. If he heard about his “accident” one more time.....
“Marcus,” he sighed “ how many times will I have to apologize to you? I had no intention of getting you in any trouble with Pilate, but I am not going to apologize for doing whatever it took to beat you. After all” he added, “you know the rules.”
Marcus almost fell off his horse.” RULES, WHAT RULES!”
Saul smiled mischievously “My point exactly.“
He looked back at the crowd “As for the commotion over there I think I may have some idea. I think scenes such as those are the reason I was summoned by the High priest. Sights like that have been too common in Jerusalem the last three years.”
Turning back to Marcus he said “Have you heard about Jesus, the Galilean? “
Marcus set his jaw with a sense of pride.
“The rebel, who claimed to be a King, dealt with swiftly and forcefully by Pontius Pilate and Roman justice. What of him? He's been dead for more than three months?
Saul shook his head. “That is not exactly the way it happened Marcus. It was only after the threat of a riot that Pilate reluctantly ordered his execution.”
Saul leaned into Marcus‘s ear and whispered, “Pilate did not know, nor could he have known, exactly how dangerous this man really was.”
Leaning back, he continued.
“Those of us who have studied the Torah knew exactly how dangerous he was. He had a command of Scriptures that rivaled any of the masters, and Caiaphas has written to me, describing how he could twist and contort if to fit with his teachings. He was able to fool so many people, because so few have studied and gained the understanding that we, the Pharisee's and priests, have succeeded in attaining.”
“This great knowledge in the hands of an obviously master con man was a recipe for revolt and anarchy. Rome, my good friend and fellow countryman, was fortunate that Pilate came to his senses.”
“Sounds like Judean revisionist history to me Saul “Marcus observed, “but what does it matter, he dead.”
Of course, he is dead! That is exactly why they have called me to Jerusalem. In his letter, Caiaphas told me that this con man had predicted his death to his followers. He then went on to tell them that he would rise from the dead within three days after his death.”
“That is utter nonsense” interrupted Marcus .“Look Saul, I know you to be a level headed, sound thinking man, and I can‘t believe that you would let such a foolish story take you away from Tarsus.”
Marcus, who had been looking ahead as he spoke glanced quickly at Saul. What he saw caused him to do a quick double take. Saul had locked onto Marcus with a stern and forceful stare, furrowing his eyes into a narrow and driving focus that seemed as if it could burn through the centurion’s face.
Marcus gave Saul a weak and nervous smile. He decided it was time to listen now.
Saul continued “After that rude interruption, I seem to have..... Oh, now I remember. Pilate was informed of this prediction and at the priests urging, placed guards on the criminal‘s tomb. But whether they were bribed, drugged or were simply fools, they were unable to stop his followers from removing the body from the grave. Since then the Priests have been preparing for the inevitable. That his followers would proclaim him resurrected and continue teaching his lies to the uneducated masses”
“Pilate must have used mercenary guards,” Marcus mused “for no real Roman would let these simple Judeans outwit them. I‘ve always said the man was unqualified. This only proves it”
Saul had learned long ago not to take offense at these slights of his people. He knew Marcus did not think that of him. To Marcus he was just another Roman who happened to pray to only one God, and that bothered Marcus not at all, since he prayed to one less than Saul
“I am curious Saul“ When did you first realize this man, this Jesus, was this dangerous manipulator of simple minds”
“Actually I have never even seen him But Caiaphas has told me all I need to know.”
Marcus wrinkled his forehead “You have never met him? Then how can you speak with such certainty to his motives? I have never known you to make a judgment about a man without sizing him up for yourself first”
Saul looked supremely confident. “Caiaphas is the High priest of The San Hendrin. He would never lie to me!”
“Ha.” Laughed Marcus” Caiaphas is a Pompous bureaucrat. Like all politicians everywhere, if it suits their purpose they will lie. Have you heard the story of the fox and the scorpion? The scorpion begs the fox to carry him across the river. To which the fox replies “If I do you will sting me” The scorpion scoffed at this and said. “if I were to sting you we would both drown, Now why would I want to do that? “ Now this made sense to the fox so he bid the scorpion climb on his shoulder and entered the river. About halfway across the scorpion stung him. Just before paralysis set in and they both drowned the fox asked. “why did you do that, now we are both going to die? The scorpion yawned and said only this as they sank ....”Its in my nature”
“Same with Politicians. Lying is in their nature, they can’t help it”
Looking Saul in the eyes he reached over and grasped Saul’s forearm firmly. “Only I will never lie to you. You will do well to remember that Saul.”
Saul smiled at his friend and returned the gesture. “And I will never lie to you, good friend.”
Coming to a stop as they locked their forearms, they both began to feel the weight of the stares from the soldiers behind them. They released their grips and continued on in embarrassed silence. The time came for them to part, and they do so, with a knowing glance and a final wave. Marcus continued to Pilate's palace while Saul headed to the Temple, but in their hearts, they were still traveling together.