The rustling of pages was the only sound that echoed across the recesses of the vast cavern walls. As the man desperately searched for the one passage he hoped he would never forget. The desperate hope clinging to his breast in faint whispers, soothing his mind with assurances that soon he would hear that calming familiar voice once more.
He could not explain the rush of emotion as he carefully considered the detailed intricacies woven along the banks of his internal memory. The highs and the lows of a life lived in such an age and time, the joy and the pains all reminiscent of days gone by in an ancient blur. Such were the memories he could recall of miracles beyond explanation, of fishes and loaves that fed thousands, crippled men walking and blinded eyes being opened. He could remember well that stormy night when The Master had defied nature itself and had walked upon storm-tossed seas.
He realized his mind had started fading again into a world all of its own, so he deliberately drew it back to the present moment. Again his mind called out for him to take that ride upon the waves of a time gone by wherein he walked with The Master. He knew once the first toe of longing touched the ocean of memories that he would be riding those waves hours on end, so vast were the memories of those three short years.
Continuing to rustle through these parchments was a waste of time he knew, so he finally just gave in and allowed his mind to drift back to that time before, a time before one man forever changed his destiny. To a time where life consisted of only what he needed and how he would attain it. What used to be a familiar ache in his bones had now faded to a memory that remained elusive to his mental grasp. The sheer weight of the life that had become his own overshadowed any memory of what had been before. So radical had been the change in his life when The Master had looked at him and said come, he felt that he had never really existed before then. He realized time had woven in on itself and anything before seemed swallowed up in what was.
Yesterday he was just a boy, now he’s an old man confined to a cave, exiled at Rome’s mercy on this dreadful isle called Patmos. At least he had fared far better than any of his beloved brothers and friends. He had heard that Peter had been crucified upside down and a chill ran up his spine as he recalled the very words of The Master saying that Peter would be bound and taken where he would not choose to go. It would seem The Master was right about that as well. He had heard of the others as well but thinking about them and their circumstances had brought pain to his heart that he could not endure. There was a time that Domitian had tried to kill him by boiling him in oil, shivering he thanked Yahweh that His hand was upon him sparing his life. Still it caused him tremendous pain that he lived while all the others had died. Thinking of his very own brother James caused his heart to ache for the brother he loved so much. Sons of thunder they had been called, remembering those fishing days brought a chuckle to his heart. He had looked up to his brother as a lad, even now he was proud that James had done such mighty things for The Master.
For the millionth time he questioned why he was chosen to live while the others were not? Why had his life been spared the agony of death and the brutal torture for his faith as the others had been required to endure? It was in these agonizing moments that he searched high and low for the page where he had written what The Master had said his fate would be. Oh, he could quote it word for word but somehow looking at it and touching that one tangible thing that was written down seemed to bring peace to his heart that nothing else could in these days he had spent in exile. Don’t misunderstand, his lack of peace had nothing to do with the fear of dying. Death was preferable to this life of exile I’m sure. No, the peace brought to his heart was that The Master had comforted him long before the reality of living in exile had taken hold of his physical body. He couldn’t explain why the very thought of reading the words out loud had brought such comfort to an old mans’ heart. But they did and with this in mind once again he began his search.
Soon the light began to fade within the walls of the cavern and he shivered as he knew that it would soon be time to sleep. He knew his life was in the hands of his beloved Lord as they had all called Him since he rose from the grave, but still his soul within him quaked at the thought of all those violent men here on the isle with him. Several of them were in fact prisoners of Rome under the rule of Domitian and like John found solace in the fact they had indeed survived so far. He bore no hatred toward these men whatsoever and did everything within him to win their hearts for The Lord he loved so much. Still he wasn’t so foolish as to believe that if given the opportunity to quite him and win favor from Rome, specifically Domitian, one, if not all would do so and not have the slightest apprehension about carrying it out. For this reason he was always careful not to offend lest one night they steal upon him unaware and cut his throat. He wasn’t scared he was just cautious and rightly so.
On this particular night as he was sliding down that slope to sleep it felt as if someone had turned on a very bright light? In his slumber he felt awake yet he also felt disconnected from the world he knew so well. He wondered if he were dying. A conversation he had with a brother came vividly to mind, one of his brethren had remarked one day that to be absent from the body surely was to be present with the Lord. He had told him then, you should write that down you might want it one day for remembrance. He recalled vividly the look of intensity upon the young man’s face and he carefully considered his words. He had felt even then that something about the young man was set apart and that he would do great things for the beloved Lord. Last he heard he had done that and put together a rather good compilation of letters for the various churches to remember their Lord by and for instruction of how to live godly. Not a small task he thought. He knew this same young man had also been a prisoner of Rome as well.
He would have never thought that one young man would have brought such radical change to the gospel of his beloved Lord. Yet he had seen it with his own eyes, the transformation of Paul formerly called Saul of Tarsus was nothing short of miraculous. Then again such is the power of the man he affectionately called the Master. In his musing he hadn’t realized that the light had left slowly being replaced by streaming sunlight creeping in from the cave entrance.
Rousing from sleep he heard the muffled voices of the men moving about trying to grab a bite to eat before it was off to the quarries again. He knew it would not be very much longer before he would not be able to keep up. He had long ago lost count of the years of his life not because he was losing his mind but just because he no longer cared. What is age but a number? He was assuming that he numbered in the ninety mark. Even though the life on Patmos had hardened his muscle it would not deny the age process that slowly crept up on him. Maybe that is why it was remarked one day that exercise profits so little. He knew full well that it did nothing to slow the aging process. He had a suspicion that it might slow it down in his physical man a whole lot more but it would not slow down his mind at all, if anything it seemed to be speeding up.
More often than not he was apt to fall asleep while in the quarries and if not for the kindness of a few of the men around him he might have borne more lashes than he had received already. Many times he wondered what they would do if his body just refused to keep going. Realizing where that thought was headed he pushed it aside and rolled over to stand so he could prepare for the days labor ahead.
He would continue his search for that parchment later providing he had the strength. He was pretty sure they would be pushing even harder today because he had seen the ship coming into the harbor several days earlier. Usually that meant long back-breaking hours of work and at his age it was all he could do to keep up. For now, he would head off to the quarry with a prayer of thanksgiving mixed with a plea for strength as well. Stepping out of the cave he began to hum a melody so achingly sweet that it sent butterflies rushing throughout his belly and chills running along his spine. He never knew where the melody came from he just knew that when it did something supernatural always followed. This day he felt such an unusual expectancy that he almost defied the punishment and stayed in his cave. Of course he knew that he couldn’t but he was tempted none the less…
If you enjoyed reading this and would like to hear the rest of my journey with John drop me a comment below. As always I love to hear your thoughts so please leave me line or two.
I really enjoy reading God’s Word from a human perspective. I try to place myself within the storylines and gauge how different my response would have been. More often than not I’m rewarded by a view that absolutely blows my mind. I admire the courage and the stamina of these our blessed ancestors of Faith.
I’m hid with Christ!
~Copyrighted 2014 ~