One of the art pieces which hangs on my dining room wall is a painting of Jesus and the twelve disciples gathered around a campfire. I am sure the painting has a formal title, but I prefer one which my friend Gretchen gave to it: “Hanging out with the boys.” Surely, Jesus taught those men lessons which would transform their lives, yet I hear the sounds of laughter, the telling of good stories, and much shared fellowship! Suppose the painting could come to life, and that the following story’s character could step into that picture — would it make it a difference?
The evening sun had drifted well below the Judean hillside as Jubal hastened to return home on that Sunday evening. He had been hunting all day with no success; now the hour was dark, and he hesitated for fear of robbers who might be along his path. Thinking he might find a cave or some place of safety, Jubal looked into a clearing to see what appeared to be a campfire.
As he came closer, the hunter observed several men seated around the fire—in the center of the circle stood a man whose voice carried to where Jubal crouched. “Well, boys, it’s been a tough day dealing with some of those Pharisees who are bandits of joy, but listen to me- –I tell you of a joy that is deeper than Jacob’s well and more refreshing than any stream. It is the joy of knowing the Father’s will and obeying it!”
Jubal, listening to this gentle voice, sensed coming to the campsite would be safe, so he stepped forward. All of the fellows sat well within the circle except one who lingered on the edge of darkness . Jubal would later learn that man was Judas, the one disciple who never really caught the spirit of the joy of which Jesus spoke.
Jesus, looking intently at Jubal said, “ Come, young man, join us for supper and a camp for the night. We have something better than most of the inns in Jerusalem- –stars for the roof and sounds of nature to lull us to sleep! I am Jesus of Nazareth, and these are some close friends!”
As Jesus continued speaking, Jubal realized who this man was- –the teacher about whom many words had been spoken. He had heard about sermons in the synagogue, parables being taught from bows of boats or on hillsides—- now, what had been an ordinary Sunday was transformed into an extraordinary one!
“Sir, you speak with such authority. It is as if the words come from the God of Abraham and other forefathers so important to our Jewish faith.”
Jesus, smiling with a presence that was brighter than the firelight replied, “I have a mission from my Father; if you have seen me, you have seen the Father. Do you believe in faith that is truth?”
Surprising even himself, Jubal responded, “I do believe and I would very much like to join this band of believers. May I do so?”
“Jubal, this particular circle of men is being trained for particular service; however, the circle will grow wider. We have many promises to keep and hope to share. Would you be willing to stand with us in this ministry? You will be given opportunities never imagined, and when doubts arise and opposition comes, my presence will ever remain with you.”
Jubal joined in the evening fellowship with an unusual lifting of his spirit. As night turned into day, he traveled with Jesus and the company for a little distance , then returned to Jerusalem to practice his trade of making musical instruments. He picked up his flute and played a new song of praise; Jubal did not realize that this song of hope would change his daily existence….and his eternal destiny.
Weeks passed by. Jubal shared his refreshed faith with any who would listen. Some scoffed, others said “When the flame of this experience dies, you will forget the teacher”……in spite of those naysayers, Jubal continued telling the story and it was accepted by a small circle of believers who gathered to worship in Jesus’ name— -sometimes in secret because of the increasing intensity of opposition from religious leaders.
As Passover Week began, Jubal stood with palm branches waving to welcome Jesus into the city. Crowds lined the streets with shouts of “Blessed be the One who comes in the name of our God!” What excitement and hope that the oppression by the Romans would end and a new kingdom would rise !
Thursday — Jubal was doing late work in his shop when one of his friends rushed in, almost breathless from running. “Jubal, you will not believe what has occurred. Our Master was in a garden praying and a band of soldiers came and arrested him; he was identified by Judas, one of the twelve. In the confusion, the disciples scattered, and Jesus was roughly taken to a court which was not even supposed to be in session.”
The news stunned Jubal. “Perhaps those who arrested him will warn him and exile him from the city; we can only hope so, although I do recall that Jesus seemed so destined to come to Jerusalem at this time.”
Writers for centuries have told of the mock trial, the beatings which were unbearable, and of all those voices crying “Crucify him!” Friday dawned—-later that morning, Jesus and two thieves were paraded toward a hillside we know as Calvary. On what some would call a tool of tyranny, Jesus was nailed between two thieves. Jubal went to the foot of the cross, flute in hand , wanting so much to play his song for the Master. The sound was lost in the wailing of believers and the derisive shouts of “We have defeated this so called Savior!”
Late in the day after six hours on the cross, Jesus was taken down and with loving care, sealed in a borrowed tomb. Jubal and other believers sank into shock for the next two days. Never had their spirits seemed so desolate!
Sunday — Jubal traveled into those same hills where he had met the Savior. He had left early that morning, so he knew nothing of the news which was spreading quickly through Jerusalem of the visit to the empty tomb by the women and two of the disciples.
Jubal really did not want to return to the city that night, so he began to look for a place of safety. Looking toward an open area, he saw a flickering light. Tears filled his eyes as he recalled that first meeting with Jesus and the disciples. Listening for voices, the hunter heard none….the only sounds were those of the night… and the crackle of wood on the fire.
He approached carefully, for fear that bandits might be hiding in the darkness. When he was within the circle of the fire, and not being hungry, he took his flute from the pack he carried. “How I wish I could have played this worship song for the Savior”, he said aloud.
At that moment, the risen, living Lord himself stepped into the circle of light and lovingly said, “Jubal, play it just for me. Soon, I must go to my Father, but the music I have placed within your soul will echo through the centuries.”
Jubal played that song….and it was transformed into music for the ages to give believers extraordinary Sundays forever…..especially every extraordinary Easter!
– Blessings and great joy. Betty Hendrick — Easter 2013