I strolled down the dusty street toward the synagogue. I relished the fact that I could usually slip in undetected. The Pharisees there were so focused on their petty laws.
Hey, I gave my tenth regularly, and hadn’t needed to give a guilt offering for some time. They couldn’t touch me. I was one of the richest, most powerful men in all of Capernaum, maybe even in Galilee.
I smirked when I remembered the time I booted an older teacher out because he kept nagging me about my attitude. I got the town on my side, and sent him packing. A week later, I was delighted when I discovered he had been attacked and killed by robbers.
The crowd was larger than usual. We had traveling rabbis, and there must have been a popular one visiting this week. But as I slipped in, I saw the teacher. I didn’t know the man, but something deep in my gut churned. Something wasn’t right. I instantly broke into a sweat.
I was confused. Going to the synagogue never made me nervous. But something about this common-looking man made me feel as if I was sitting on a bed of nails.
“So, who’s our rabbi this week? “I casually whispered to my neighbor.
“I heard he’s a carpenter from Nazareth.”
Ha, Nazareth? I’ve got nothing to fear then. Nothing good comes from Nazareth.
“But you’ve missed a lot. He’s talking about the law and with such authority! I’ve never heard anyone like Jesus.”
Jesus? That’s the scruffy carpenter’s name? At that moment, Jesus stopped speaking and looked directly at me. His flashing eyes pierced me deeply. My mirth evaporated into horror. My head pounded and my feet twitched. Everything in me wanted to run. What’s going on?
Before I knew what was happening, he was up and walking toward me. Something inside me screamed. I suddenly couldn’t breathe right. The scream reached my lips, and created angry, guttural words.
“It’s you! What are you doing here?”
I tried to stop, but I wasn’t speaking. Something else was inside. Fear gripped me, and my body trembled. Everyone in the synagogue pulled back in shock and everyone went quiet. The voice speaking through me continued.
“What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?”
I fell to my knees, and my whole body was wracked with pain. It was if a violent storm raged inside of me, battering me from the inside out.
“I know who you are–the Holy One of God!”
Jesus stepped closer. “Be quiet!” He called. My throat suddenly clamped shut. He still held that piercing gaze. But I could tell he was not looking at me, but deep inside of me.
“Come out of him! Now!”
In that moment, I had never felt such searing pain in my life. It felt as if my heart and spine were being rent in two. I struggled to stay upright, my body quaking. That terrifying voice was screaming; it strained and it clung like claws digging into my chest.
With one final shriek, the thing inside of me let go. It fell away like a stone, a dead snake. My lungs filled with sweet air. The last thing I remembered is falling, and someone catching me.
“Jesus, are you sure you want to be that close?”
I was aware of someone’s hand on my forehead, the other on my shoulder. I awoke to find Jesus kneeling next to me in the dust. Looking at me with those eyes. The eyes that had been so terrifying, so piercing, were now so soft.
His rough hand on my head eased my tattered thoughts. The entire synagogue had formed a wide circle around me, except for this man.
A friend of Jesus approached him, “Jesus, I think you should move–“
“It’s okay Peter.”
He helped me sit up. “You’re going to be all right.”
Tears flowed freely. This darkness inside of me was gone. I hadn’t noticed it until it had vanished. My heart felt ten times lighter. I looked into Jesus’ soft eyes. “What happened?” I sniffed.
“You had let your heart serve a cruel master. You are free now. But you will fall back unless you let me be your master.”
I said yes. The darkness was gone forever, now replaced with clear, fresh, perfect light.
Copyright 2012 by Molly Anderson. Use by permission only.