These are tough times and there is no end in sight. Let me assure you, I have been where I wish no human should go; but the tough times did not kill me. I did turn to religion. I repented. I blamed myself. I wondered why God was angry with me. My health was ruined and so was my bright future. Into my life came people with a message of hope. It was dim, but enough not to kill myself. I got a hold of hope and hope does not disappoint (Ro.5: 5).
We remember those that are no longer present for what they have done to keep this nation alive. They gave their lives, so that others could live. Their loss was our gain (Mt.10: 39). The nation has honored them by providing cemeteries where her heroes can rest. Unfortunately, not all of our heroes rest in graves. Their remains are scattered over the globe. My birthplace and that of my father's and grandfather's, including the cemetery, the Russians turned into a military training ground. My grandfather was a Russian soldier in World War I and my father was a Polish soldier in World War II. We do not know where the Germans buried our great-grandfather and grandfather. My parents found a resting place in Canada. My wife does not know where the Russians buried her father. They were all heroes. They served and died so that we could live.
The first Christian writer that believed in the immediate return of Christ was the Apostle Paul. He expected to be changed and be taken up with Christ (I Cor.15: 51). He refrained from setting a date, except that it shall be sudden and unexpected (II Thes.5: 1-2). Jesus, too, gave the impression that His followers and His enemies could witness His return in the clouds of heaven (Mt.26: 64). However, in His end-time speech, His follower would witness the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem and not the end of the world (Mt.24: 1-6). God had not disclosed a date for the final event of the world. Even small events happen when they are due without God setting dates (Mk.13: 32). John was informed that the end would not come until all the saints, yet to be born, would have come in (Rev.6: 11). God has and is giving every human ample time where he/she wants to spend eternity (II Pe.3: 9).
There will be much speculation about me in the future. There shall come up rumors that I will not die before the Lord returns. What mattered to me was that I was closer to Jesus than anyone else in our group. I, too, left the Baptist and spent some time with Jesus before we were invited to follow Him. The story, I have to tell, will be different from the others. The truth is that they did not like me very much because I followed Jesus like a little puppy. Jesus liked me being near Him and that made the other disciples envious. My association with Andrew and John the Baptist became incidental. Jesus even confided in me and that made the others even more jealous. When Jesus showed up at our landing one day and asked my brother James and me to follow him, we did so without hesitation. From that day on, I felt drawn to Him for life. I traveled with Him willingly and was ready to serve Him. I do recall that we argued over who among us was the greatest. Only, that role did not interest me. Peter was more suited as a group leader than anyone among us. I saw a higher purpose in what Jesus was doing. He was not about making people important in this world; but, important in heaven. That is why my brother and I had our mother ask the Lord to have us seated on His right and on His left in His kingdom. Unfortunately, years would pass before I would come to understand what Jesus meant by the kingdom. Even when the Master praised Peter for recognizing Him as the Anointed Son of God and told us that Peter would be the "Rock" on which Jesus would built His kingdom, I was not at all certain what He meant. But after Jesus was crucified, I grasped what the Lord was driving at and I, too, began to associate with Peter.
One day a messenger arrived with rather unusual news. It was from the man, called Jesus. He had called me, a fox and that He had three days to do something I could not understand what it was. Oh, I was foxy! That is what kept me in power and in good standing with Rome. Caesar's office made me Governor over Galilee. I would have preferred to oversee Jerusalem and Judah. But that region was assigned to Pilate. I intensely disliked the man. I was a Herod. My father was Herod the Great, King over all of Judah. My father protected the throne at any cost. Years ago, rumors spread that someone was born in David's lineage. My father exterminated all male children under the age of two in Bethlehem. When he died, he had ordered to slay people everywhere so that it would appear that an entire nation mourned for my father. The Jews did not like us because we were not descendants of David or Jacob. Our line dated back to Esau, Jacob's older twin. It was Jacob, with the help of his mother, that stole our ancestor's birthright and blessings from Isaac, our father. It took us centuries to gain back our rights. Then Rome came and took that right from us. My brother Philip was placed in one insignificant region and I in another. We should have been in Jerusalem and not the Roman Pilate. Jerusalem was the heart and pulse of the Jews. It dated back to our ancestor Abraham. In that sense, my family and I were also Jews and had a greater right to the throne than the descendants of David. Esau was the first-born and not Jacob.
It has become a gun used against Christians for not implementing the "Golden Rule." The English version is, "In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets" Mt.7: 12). Jesus was speaking to Jews, that were mistreating each other, and not to the world. He hinted at the Ten Commandments and the Levitical Code. It was an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth on small matters (Ex.21: 24; Lev.24: 20). Jesus had come to restore fair justice (Mt.5: 17). They were to treat (measure) each other alike (Mk.4: 24). How was He going to restore the Law and the Prophets?
I am Barabbas. I made it into history. For the world of me, I had very little to do with it. I owe it all to a man called Jesus. You might like to know how it happened. The leaders, of my day, hated Him more than they hated me. The good-hearted Governor from Rome figured that if he picked one of the worse bandits and put him beside a good man that the people would ask that Jesus be set free. The Governor was in for a surprise and most of all, so was I. I could hardly believe it that they were shouting, "Release Barabbas and crucify Jesus!" The helpless Governor was stunned and set me free.
I have been labeled, unfairly, as the "doubting Thomas." If you had lived during my time and had any sense; you, too, would have wanted proof for what was happening. We just went through the tragedy of losing the Man who was to be the Messiah that would restore the fortunes of Israel. Instead, He was betrayed by one of us and taken from us by brutal force. He was sentenced to death as one of the worst criminals in our history. And then, He was crucified hung on a shameful cross. During all this time, we who were brave with our mouths ran and hid. When I decided to drop in on them one evening, they were telling me that I had missed the experience of a lifetime. They had seen Jesus alive in the flesh and I had not. How do you think I felt when I heard such an impossible and unbelievable tale? I believed in facts and not fairytales. I am one that must see in order to believe. And I could not, in good conscience, believe what these people were telling me that had demonstrated nothing but cowardice and disloyalty. They had a yellow streak in them. Let me refresh your minds. Lazarus had died. Jesus decided to go and resurrect him. All His followers, except I, counseled against Him going up to Jerusalem. I was the only one that urged them on to go and die with Him. I was not afraid to die for our Christ. Now, they were trying to tell me that a dead man was alive and He had called on them. It seemed, to me, that they were making me feel guilty. Had I been hiding with them, I too would have seen the Lord.
I was an ambitious mother, not for myself but for my sons, James and John Zebedee. I loved my boys and was anxious that they moved up in the world. One day, John returned from a trip all excited about a Man that was going to establish a kingdom. His name was Jesus and John was convinced that He was the One whom Moses predicted would come. When Jesus came to our town and healed all kinds of sick people and preached about a kingdom; I, too, became enthused. I was especially pleased when He invited our sons to become members of His team. It did not take long that James and John, along with Simon Peter, formed an inner circle with Jesus. Hereinafter, the three accompanied Jesus constantly. He never went anywhere without them. And of the three men, Jesus began to confide in was John. John had a nag about hanging around the Teacher, who did not mind at all to have a loyal and close companion. To me, that spelled opportunity.
Cleopas and I (Simon) were dashed in our hearts and spirits, as we walked back home to Emmaus. While we shared our disappointments, a stranger joined us and asked why we were so dejected? His question surprised us and Cleopas asked Him, whether He was the only one living in Jerusalem who had not heard what had taken place during these days? "What things?" asked the stranger. Then, we told Him what our leaders had done to Jesus of Nazareth, a prophet, who was mighty in words and deeds before God and the people. We thought that He was our Deliverer; but, our leaders and the Romans killed Him. On top of it all, we are being troubled by rumors that someone had snatched His body. Some of our women claimed to have seen angels telling them that Jesus was alive. Some of our people went to the tomb and found it to be empty. No one seems to know what has happened to our Jesus?