Elijah was afraid and running for his life. The Queen had sent him a message saying she wanted him dead. King Ahab and Queen Jezebel worshiped the pagan god Baal, and they led the Israelites into this heathen practice. Earlier that day, Elijah went to see King Ahab to tell him to gather together the prophets of Baal and Asherah and meet him on Mount Carmel. Elijah instructed the heathen prophets to build a stone altar, lay a bull on the stones and call on their god to set fire to the sacrifice. Elijah told the people to prepare his altar and pour 12 large jars of water onto the offering and the wood. Then, Elijah began to pray and said, “The god who answers by fire, He is God.”
Elijah and the followers of Baal prepared their altars and cried out to their gods. All day long the heathen prophets prayed, danced and even cut themselves to try to get his attention. Baal did not respond, but God answered when Elijah called out to Him in prayer. Fire fell from heaven and consumed the sacrifice, wood, stones, and soil and even licked up the water that filled a trench they had dug around the base of the altar. When the Israelites saw this, they fell to the ground and cried, “The LORD He is God!” It must have been amazing to witness God's power and majesty that day.
Then, God told Elijah to have the prophets of Baal killed because of their disobedience to God. When King Ahab heard this, he raced home and told the Queen all that had transpired. She was furious and sent a message to Elijah warning him that by this time tomorrow he'd be dead! Elijah was terrified when he heard the Queen's words. He took off running and traveled to a desert a day’s walk from Beersheba. He saw a broom tree there and sat down under its shade praying, “I've had enough Lord. I want to die.” Elijah laid down under the tree and fell asleep. An angel sent by the Lord woke him to give him food and water; he was revived. He left and traveled 40 more days until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. He found a cave there and went inside for the night.
God spoke to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied, “I have worked hard for you, God. The Israelites have turned against you. I am the only one left, and now they're trying to kill me too.” Then, God showed Himself to Elijah not in a mighty wind or an earthquake nor in the fire he sent on the mountain that day. God spoke to him in a gentle whisper and asked him again, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” In fear and despair, Elijah cried out to God reminding Him that despite all his hard work the Israelites had rebelled against Him and now there was a plot to take his life! He was concerned there would be no one left to carry on God's work if he was gone. God told Elijah to return to Beersheba. Then, He surprised him with the news that there were 7,000 men in Israel who were not worshiping Baal. Elijah was not alone in serving God.
In this passage from 1 Kings 18 and 19, God showed His great power and glory when He sent fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice and everything around it. But, now Elijah was on the run from a vengeful Queen. He was exhausted, hungry and felt like he was all alone. Elijah thought he was the only prophet of God left in Israel.
He finally stopped running and settled in a cave for the night. God spoke to him and asked, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” God wanted him to know He was sovereign and would protect him from his enemies. He did not need to run away. Elijah had just experienced an amazing miracle on Mount Carmel, but he did not trust that the God who set the sacrifice ablaze was the same God who could protect and guide him now.
Could God be saying to you, “What are you doing here?” It might make you question how you've gotten to this place in your life. You feel like you're just barely making it through the day, and you don't have the time or energy to be involved in a ministry. God knows how you feel, and He understands how many responsibilities you have every day. If there's something Gods wants you to do, He will help you find the time and give you the strength you need to accomplish His work. It says in Philippians 1:6, “... He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
You might already be in God's will doing what He has asked you to do. But, what if God has more He wants you to achieve. Maybe you've been involved in a ministry you thought was right for you. You believed it was where God wanted you to serve. But lately, you've been hearing from God that He has a different work for you to do. You can easily settle into a routine and be involved in things you think would please God but be totally missing His will for you.
It's never too late to obey God. God is waiting, longing for you to come to Him in complete submission, and ask Him what His plan is for your life. He delights in answering prayer. Maybe you feel the Lord is asking you, “What are you doing here?” You think you've gotten off course; you're not in the center of His will. It's never too late to obey God. You can surrender your life to Him maybe for the first time or in a new way today. It will be a decision you'll never regret.
The ambulance raced toward the Trauma Center, its' flashing lights alerting drivers of their dire circumstances. Despite the skilled efforts of the paramedics, if they didn't get to the hospital soon, they knew this man was going to die. Suddenly, he gasped for breath, and his heart beat one last time. While medics fervently tried to revive him, the man felt his soul leaving his body. He was shocked to see his lifeless form below him, as his spirit quickly ascended into the heavens. His body looked small as earth faded from view, and he broke through the clouds and knew he was home.
It is so peaceful and serene here, Luke thought, as he took in his new surroundings. He could not have imagined a place this perfect and wanted to live in Heaven forever. Luke sighed contentedly and realized all the pain, anxiety, and depression he'd been experiencing had just disappeared. An indescribable joy welled up inside him, and he knew it would never fade away. A brilliant light illuminated the Heavens, as the glory of God filled the celestial city. The grass was a lush, flawless carpet, like an emerald sea beneath a picturesque sky. Species of trees both familiar and new stood majestic and strong in the pristine air. Luke saw beautiful flowers in fields and displays, in more colors than he'd ever seen on the earth. He heard music so glorious that he longed to join in the chorus to worship and praise the great King of Kings.
Then, Jesus, the Son of God, appeared. His face was as radiant as the sun, and His clothes were gleaming white. He walked with such nobility and confidence that Luke knew he was in the presence of royalty. The Lord was so humble and kind though Luke felt drawn to Him and fell to his knees to worship his King. Jesus smiled at Luke, as He raised him to his feet, gently calling him by name. Luke was overwhelmed by the intensity of the love he felt coming from his Savior. It was pure, powerful and unconditional and he was sure he'd never experienced anything like this in his life. Jesus knew all the things he'd ever done, but had forgiven him and loved him in a far greater way than he could even fathom. He was trying to formulate the words to express his gratitude when he looked up and saw a tall angelic being walking towards him with a small girl at his side. As they drew closer, he was thrilled to see it was his four-year-old niece Lily who had died in a drunk driving accident two months earlier.
Lily's face lit up when she saw Jesus and her uncle up ahead, and she hurried over and gave them each a warm hug. Luke was overcome with joy and cried out, “Lily! It's so good to see you again!” She quickly responded, “It's good to see you too, Uncle Luke!” He looked around in awe and exclaimed, “Heaven's even more amazing than I thought it would be!” Lily nodded her head in agreement, and Luke realized there was no verbal response she could give that could accurately convey what she was thinking. She had so much to communicate to Luke, but it wasn't always with words. He was aware of everyone's thoughts and could read what was on Lily's mind. Luke knew Lily was full of joy living in Heaven with Jesus. She reveled in His love for her and was excited to spend eternity with Him. Lily's countenance was bright, as she gazed up at Jesus, and the look of pure love she saw on His face made her feel well-loved and secure in His care. Luke no longer questioned why God took Lily the day of the accident. He now understood God's decision was loving and wise, and He was working it all out for good.
Jesus invited Luke to go for a walk, and they talked about many things. Lily was skipping ahead of them, enjoying the colorful flowers along the path. Luke couldn't believe the Creator of the universe, his Savior, who had died to take the punishment for his sins, wanted to spend time with Him. Luke wasn't sure how long they were talking, but he did not want it to end. Then Jesus told Luke he had more work to do and asked if he would go back to complete it. He longed to stay with Jesus in Heaven but trusted He knew what was best.
When it was time for Luke to leave, Lily ran over to say goodbye. “Lily, I'll see you when I return,” Luke said tenderly. “I will be waiting,” Lily promised, and with her voice full of excitement said, “When you come back do you want me to show you some of the animals?” “I'd love that, Lily,” Luke said with a grin, “We're going to have a lot of fun together!” Then Jesus gave Luke a final embrace saying, “I want you to remember how much I love you, and I will always be with you!”
Luke's spirit returned to his body, and his monitors came alive. A paramedic shouted, “He's got a pulse! His heart rhythm's normal, and his vitals are good, but he is not responsive. We need to get him to the emergency room!” When the ambulance delivered Luke to the hospital, the Doctor determined he had a fractured right hip and shoulder. He had several lacerations and minor contusions, but the most significant crisis he was facing was a traumatic brain injury which had rendered him unconscious. Luke was transferred to the ICU, where they could carefully monitor his condition. His family kept constant vigil by his hospital bed, waiting and praying that he would recover.
One late afternoon, Luke opened his eyes and saw his wife, Ashley, holding his hand. She saw he was conscious and cried, “Luke, you're awake!” Then she fervently thanked God for sparing his life. His brother Matt was elated and rushed to his side, saying, “Hey, Luke. I'm so glad you're back! We didn't know if you were going to make it!” At that moment, Luke's physician entered the room and stared in disbelief at his patient who was alert and talking for the first time in three weeks. “We didn't hold out much hope for your recovery,” his Doctor stated, “Do you know what happened to you?” Luke frowned as the memories of that fateful day came flooding back to his mind.
They all looked at him with concern in their eyes as he recalled, “I was racing down the side of the highway with the other riders in our bike club, that morning. We had just completed our race, and I was crossing the street as I made my way home, when a car came barreling through a red light and sent me flying through the air to the hard pavement below. I was in excruciating pain and started to remove my helmet when someone told me to lie very still until the paramedics arrived. Then I must've blacked out because the next thing I remember was my spirit rising above my body through the roof of an ambulance, as I watched two EMTs giving me CPR on the way to the hospital.”
The room got deathly quiet as they all tried to process what he'd just said. They were astonished at what had transpired, and listened carefully as he continued, “I know this seems hard to believe, and I don't understand it myself, but I saw Jesus up in Heaven while the medics worked to revive me.” His family was eager to learn what had happened, so Luke closed his eyes and pictured himself back in paradise in the presence of his wonderful Savior. He tried to relay what he had experienced but knew he could never adequately express it. Then Luke smiled, as he shared the exciting news he saw Lily in Heaven too! They were ecstatic to know she was with Jesus, and Luke had been with her a short time ago. Her parents peppered Luke with questions about his encounter with her. As he began to describe the details of their time together, a light came to their eyes that had not been there since the day of the accident. They were amazed at how God had orchestrated these circumstances to give them hope in knowing they have a future with Lily. Then the room filled with celebration and praise to God for allowing them to see a glimpse of Heaven. They knew their child was alive and well and safe in the arms of Jesus. The Doctor was intrigued by what Luke had said, and as he left to see other patients, he mumbled as he exited the door, “I really need to get back to church!”
Matt was rejoicing over all God had done when his heart began to feel burdened. He knew the Holy Spirit was speaking to him, so he confided in his wife Christy, then approached his brother's bedside and said, “I'm so relieved you're okay, Luke. I didn't want to lose you too! Since you're feeling a little better, do you mind if I leave for a while? There's something I need to take care of at home.” “Sure, go ahead,” Luke said, “You've already spent way too much time here, I'm sure.”
Matt left the hospital feeling so overwhelmed by the events of the last few months that when he finally arrived home, he pushed open the door and collapsed in a chair. Tears flowed, as he released the pent-up emotions he'd been holding onto for far too long. The memory of his terrible accident played over and over in his mind relentlessly. He had been driving his daughter to her friend's house, when a speeding truck, disregarded a stop sign and crashed into the side of the car where Lily was seated. Matt survived with minor injuries, but his only child had died. Then his brother awoke from a coma to say he'd been to Heaven and saw Lily with Jesus. Matt was reeling from all that had happened and needed to talk to God, but resentment had been building inside him, and he didn't feel he could pray. God had taken Lily before she had a chance to grow up, and he didn't think that was fair!
In the midst of all his turmoil, he was trying to work through his grief, but rage was simmering in his heart against the man who had killed his child. Matt couldn't comprehend how this man could drive when he was intoxicated, knowing how dangerous it could be for himself and others. God didn't want Ben to drink and drive and harm his little girl, but in His infinite wisdom, He allowed it to occur. He realized if he ever doubted God's love for him when things didn't work out the way he thought they should, he needed to remember the brutal death Jesus suffered on the cross so He could pay for his sin. Matt loved Lily very much, and he would always miss her, but he knew his faithful God loved her more than he did. He may not understand why this happened until he went to Heaven, but he was going to trust his omniscient God, whose ways are always perfect.
Matt knelt to repent of the sinful attitude he'd had towards God since Lily died. While he was praying, God gently said, “You're asking me to forgive you, but have you done the same for Ben?” Matt was taken aback and wondered why he should be the one to forgive when this drunk driver had caused the death of his child. He knew he needed God's help to be free from the animosity he had against Ben. Matt recalled the Bible verse in Matthew 6:15 that says, if you refuse to forgive others, God will not forgive you. He wanted peace in his heart and release from the bitterness he had towards this man. God knew what it was like to lose a child, he thought. He willingly allowed his only Son to be crucified for our salvation.
Matt had taken Jesus as his Savior many years ago. His sins were forgiven and thought he'd surrendered his life fully to God, but now realized he needed to let God take control of the situation with Lily. “Dear Jesus,” he prayed, “thank you for loving me even though I don't deserve it. I am sorry for the anger and hatred I have towards Ben, and I choose to forgive him for causing Lily's death. Lord, I want to know your will for my life, and I ask for your direction. Please guide me in Your path for me, and I will follow where You lead. In Jesus name, Amen.” When he finished praying, Matt took a deep breath and slowly began to smile. Waves of peace washed over his soul, as his relationship with God had now been restored. He was still grieving the loss of his daughter but was confident one day he would see her in Heaven. Matt spent some time talking to God and listening to what He had to say. When the Lord spoke to him, he rose to his feet, grabbed his keys, and headed for the door. He contacted his wife to tell her where God was leading and drove to his destination in obedience to Him.
Matt could feel deep despair and misery as he entered the cold, bleak structure. He felt compassion when he saw the look of hopelessness in the eyes of many visitors and those who were there involuntarily. He was led into a stark room and sat down on a cold metal chair facing a glass window. An anxious-looking young man in an orange uniform was seated directly across from him. The two men simultaneously reached for the phones that were on the wall beside them and began an awkward conversation. Matt stared at the man whose face had been vividly etched into his memory several months ago when he'd seen him in the courtroom sitting beside his defense attorney. He pled guilty to the charge of vehicular manslaughter in the death of a four-year-old child named Lily.
"Hello,” Matt said soberly, initiating the conversation. "Mr. Shepherd,” replied Ben nervously," I never thought I'd see you here.” “It has been difficult since Lily was killed,” Matt acknowledged. Ben winced as he nodded and said, “I have a little girl myself, and I'd be devastated if anything happened to her.” “My family has been suffering since we lost our daughter, and I've been so angry at you for causing her death,” Matt admitted, “but I had a long talk with the Lord yesterday, confessed my sin and asked Him to make me into the man He wants me to be. God sent me here to give you a message, so I drove all night to deliver it to you.” Ben's eyes widened, as he slid forward in his chair, nervously waiting to hear what he would say next.
Matt paused for a moment, then humbly continued, “I came here today to say I forgive you for causing the accident that took Lily from me. I was struggling to come to this decision, but I realized if Jesus can ask His Father to forgive those who crucified Him, I can do the same for you.” Ben was shocked at what he'd heard. He'd been longing to hear those words, but never thought he would. Ben protested, “I am the one who needs to ask for your forgiveness. I am so sorry for what I have done. My family kept telling me I shouldn't drink and drive, but I wouldn't listen to them, and now they won't even speak to me. I don't think I'll ever be able to forgive myself for causing the death of your daughter, Matt. I've made the biggest mistake of my life, and there's nothing I can do to change it.” Ben hung his head, saying, “I feel hopeless and all alone. I have so much guilt and regret for what I've done, and it just eats away at me.”
Matt asked the Lord for His compassion and wisdom to know what he should share with Ben. “Satan is the one who wants to steal your joy and keep you defeated,” Matt said, “He doesn't want you to forgive yourself, but with the power of God, you can win this battle and find a peace that defies human understanding. Even if you have wronged someone and they will not forgive you, God can give you perfect peace if you give your life to Him. Ben, there's nothing we can do God can't forgive because His grace will pardon and cleanse any sin. You can become a child of God if you confess your sins to Him and make Him Lord of your life. You will no longer be separated from God but will be purified from your sin and ready to meet the Lord in Heaven someday. He'll give you a purpose for living and power to overcome any temptation you may face. You can be an example of God's grace to your family and the people around you. He can give you all you need to fulfill His will for your life.”
Ben knew he'd made a mess of his life and couldn't live with the guilt and shame any longer, so without hesitation, he bowed his head, and Matt joined him in prayer. With a partition between them, the two men petitioned their Creator to hear Ben's cry, “Dear Jesus, I believe you are the Son of God who died on the cross and rose again. I'm sorry, Lord, for all my sin. I surrender myself to You, and I ask You to take control of my life. In Jesus name, Amen.” Ben was in a place with bars and chains, but he'd never felt so free in all his life.
Matt smiled, and with a faraway look in his eyes said, “We are going to see Lily again!” Ben looked confused until Matt told him about his brother's accident and miraculous journey to Heaven, where he saw his Savior and had a joyful reunion with his niece. “Then Jesus asked Luke if he would return,” Matt said, “so he could tell others how much God loved them.” Ben was stunned at first, trying to take it all in. He'd read about Heaven in the Bible and knew it was real. The thought that Lily was already with Jesus, enjoying eternity with Him, caused his heart to sing, and he praised the Lord for His loving kindness to them. He turned to Matt, and with tears in his eyes said, “I'm thrilled to know Luke saw Lily in Heaven. I can't imagine the joy you feel in knowing your child is with Jesus. I've caused you and your family so much pain, but I'm glad that you'll see Lily again. I will never be able to thank you for offering me forgiveness and hope at the darkest point of my life.” “I am extending the same grace to you the Lord has given to me,” Matt said sincerely.
Then, a guard came and told him visiting hours were over. Matt promised he would return and walked out of the prison with peace in his heart, knowing God was pleased he had forgiven Ben. Matt prayed for strength to persevere until God called him home, and knew He'd give him courage for the trials yet to come. Matt was excited when he thought of the joyous celebration they would have someday when his family would be reunited with Lily, and they'd be with Jesus in Heaven forever.
What really killed Jesus?
Was it the nails that pierced his wrists and feet, or maybe the spear that punctured his side? Was it the cruel words that echoed in his ears, their shouts to crucify, crucify? Maybe it was his gasping for breath, or his thirst, or his breaking heart. Whichever of these it may have been, I’m pretty certain that I played a part in why someone so innocent, so good, so young had to die? I am quite sure that I know why. They scourged him and mocked him and stripped this man. I looked away, only to see his blood on my hands. Naked and bleeding and paraded by men. He carried the cross. He buried my sin. As I look more closely, I finally see. It’s not what really killed Jesus, but who? It was me.
"See Lord, Here Are Two Swords"
By William D'Andrea
This story is a fanfiction crossover between the former TV Series, Xena: Warrior Princess and the Bible, in which Xena and Gabriel meet Jesus.
I do not own the characters Xena or Gabrielle. They belong to the Producers of the TV Series “Xena Warrior Princess”. The Biblical Characters are all in Public Domain. Amen.
Any heresies or blasphemies are unintentional.
This story contains violence, but not as graphic as Mel Gibson’s version.
I think this is closer to what you might hear, from any faithful preacher of the Gospel, on any Sunday Morning. I’ll give this a PG 13 rating.
May the words of this writing, and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in the sight of God, our Strength and our Redeemer.
Xena and I were already on a ship far from land, before the sacred harlot was found murdered, in the Treasury of the Temple of Aphrodite in Ephesus, where a minor amount of money was missing.
By the time we disembarked at Tyre, the Priesthood of Aphrodite had added another 10,000 sesterces reward, to all the other rewards, for the heads of Xena the Warrior Princess, and me, her companion Gabrielle. Whether or not, our heads were attached to our bodies, all the rewards would be paid in full.
The two of us were now in Judea. The time was early Spring, and we were moving among a crowd of pilgrims, approaching Jerusalem, where they planned to attend the ancient Judean Celebration, called "Passover". We were dressed in the robes of Judean women.
The day was hot. We were thirsty and exhausted, and we were climbing uphill.
"Xena." My voice was hoarse. "This is the end of us, isn't it?"
"No." She told me, "Not as long as we keep moving."
"I'm tired of constantly moving. There's never any rest. Why don't we just give ourselves up, and take what we've got coming to us?"
"Do you know what we've got coming to us Gabrielle?"
I nodded. "We're warrior women, so you and I'll be sentenced to fight each other to the death in the Arena. You'll kill me, with no trouble at all. Then they'll kill you with a lot more trouble. We'll die fighting, beautiful and brave, just like warrior women should."
"If we were ordinary warrior women, who'd been captured in battle, that's what would happen, but for all the things you and I've done, we're not getting off that easy. You and I are gonna be getting crucified."
I said, "Then let's keep moving."
We were moving through a village named Bethany. We stopped to rest, in the shade of a whitewashed, stucco building, and sat down there, under the eave of its red tile roof, to rest awhile, leaning against the wall.
Many people dressed in black garments were entering and leaving through the doorway of the house.
Through the window, we heard people repeating, "I was so sorry to hear about Lazarus."
A woman said, "We sent word to the Master a week ago. We told him, 'The one you love is deathly sick.' But He has not come."
Another man inside the house said, "The Master is coming now."
A young man in rich garments stepped outside, and stood beside the doorway. His eyes scanned through the passing crowd. A young man, in dusty, plain garments, stepped out of the crowd, and came over to him.
He spoke respectfully, "Good day, Joseph of Aramathea."
The wealthy young man said, "And good day to you Phillip. I hear that you are among the Disciples of the Rabbi Jesus of Nazareth."
"True. I am."
"Tell me Phillip. Who do you say that He is?"
Phillip told him, "He is the Christ. The Son of the Living God."
Joseph of Aramathea put a finger to his lips.
Xena groaned and spoke softly. "Another son of another god?"
I smiled, "Another Hercules?"
Xena groaned again.
Now there was a commotion in the crowd. Everyone was turning their attention along the way we'd just come. A group of about a dozen men had entered the village. Xena and I stood up, to see what was going on.
People kept calling out the name "Jesus!"
This Jesus was in the center of the group of twelve. He was no Hercules. He looked like any man.
He approached the doorway, where he was greeted by Joseph of Aramathea and Phillip.
Joseph said, "Good teacher. What must I do to inherit eternal life?"
I couldn't imagine anyone asking that of Hercules.
Jesus answered, "Why do you call me good? No one is good--except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother."
"Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy."
"One thing you lack." He said. "Go sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
Joseph of Aramathea was taken aback. His face was sorrowful, and he went away down the street, apparently grieving.
Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, "Children, how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
His disciples looked at each other. One of them asked, "Who then can be saved?"
Jesus told them, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."
I also couldn't imagine Hercules telling any of those things to anybody.
Now a woman stepped out through the doorway, dressed entirely in black, and stood in front of Jesus.
"Lord," she said, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask."
"Martha," Jesus said to her, "your brother will rise again."
"I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
"Yes, Lord," she told Him, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world."
After she said this, she went back inside the house.
I heard her call out, "Mary! The Teacher is here, and is asking for you."
Martha, and a younger woman, also dressed in black, came back outside. The younger woman fell at his feet and said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."
When Jesus saw her, and everyone else weeping, He looked deeply troubled.
He asked, "Where have you laid him?"
"Come and see Lord."
Now Jesus wept.
Some people in the crowd said, "See how he loved him?"
Others asked, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?"
Then Jesus, His disciples, Martha, Mary, and everyone in the crowd, including me and Xena, headed away from the house, going to where Lazarus was buried.
The tomb was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.
Jesus said, "Take the stone away."
"But Lord," Martha said, "By now he will be stinking, for he has been there four days."
Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"
So they took away the stone.
Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.
When he had said this, Jesus called out in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!"
Then the dead man came out alive.
That is what happened. I was there, so was Xena, and so were many of the leaders of the Judeans.
When I'd first seen Jesus, I'd thought, he's no son of Zeus. Now I wondered. Is He the Son of the God of Israel?
Now the crowd returned from the empty tomb of Lazarus, along with Lazarus, Mary and Martha, Jesus and all his Disciples.
Xena said, "I thought I'd seen and heard it all. This is one day I will never forget."
Phillip was walking near us. He said, "With Jesus, this is an ordinary day. He is constantly healing the sick, raising the dead, and casting out demons. He's fed 5,000 with an offering of five loaves and two fishes. He stopped a storm by saying 'Peace! Be still!'; and I was there when He walked on water."
A man in priestly garments, named the Simon the Pharisee spoke to Phillip.
He said, "If your master is a righteous man, why does he eat and drink with tax collectors and with sinners?"
Now Jesus called out to him, "Those who are healthy have no need of a physician, but those who are ill. I have come to call the sinners, not the righteous to repentance."
We returned to Lazarus' house. That night people were crowded inside. They'd come to see both him and Jesus. Many of the Chief Priests had come out from Jerusalem. Joseph of Aramathea had returned, along with an elderly priest named Nicodemus.
As we were going inside, I happened to overhear Simon the Pharisee speaking quietly to one of the Chief Priests, with whom he was standing in a corner.
Simon said, "What are we accomplishing? Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation."
The Chief priest told him, "You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish."
Now inside the house, Jesus continued teaching.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Now Simon the Pharisee spoke. "Teacher," he said, "we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"
Everyone was silent. There was tension in the room. If Jesus said no, then he could be executed for treason.
"You hypocrite," Jesus spoke sharply, "Why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax."
They brought him a denarius.
He asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?"
Then he said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."
Then he spoke to us all, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
That night I told Xena, "Whoever He is, this Jesus is no Hercules."
Xena said, "Who is Hercules?"
The following morning, Jesus rose early; so did we all. He sat upon a young donkey, and rode off toward Jerusalem, surrounded by His Disciples. The rest of us followed.
Joseph of Aramathea and Nicodemus remained with the crowd.
Nicodemus said, "Behold Joseph, the scripture is fulfilled which says, "Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey's colt."
Then we rounded the corner and Jerusalem came into view. Upon seeing the City Jesus wept over it.
He said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace--but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you."
A great crowd came out from Jerusalem, carrying palm branches and shouting.
"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"
"Blessed is the King of Israel!"
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!"
"I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out!"
Then we entered the City. Jesus, His disciples, and many in the crowd entered the Temple. Xena and I were not Israelites, so we were forbidden to enter.
In the middle of the afternoon, a large crowd emerged from the Temple. Jesus was among them. There was shouting and angry arguments were going on.
I asked someone what was wrong.
He said, "Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers, and drove them out of the Temple. He denounced the Chief Priests as hypocrites. He said they had turned God's House of Prayer, into a den of thieves."
Then man returned to the arguing crowd.
Xena said, "He's gonna get himself killed."
I told her, "Then He's gonna need us."
She nodded. "That's what we're here for."
Phillip was in the crowd near us. Xena and I went over to him.
"Sir." she said, "We would like to see Jesus. My name is Xena, the Warrior Princess. She is Gabrielle. You may have heard of us."
The Disciple nodded.
"We believe He is putting Himself in great danger, and we are offering Him our protection."
Phillip stepped away from us, and spoke to another disciple. The other man looked at us. Then the two of them went over to Jesus and spoke to Him.
Jesus looked at us, and for a moment, I saw fear in His eyes.
Then He spoke. "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
"Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father glorify your name!"
Then I heard a thundering voice which said, "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again."
Everyone in the crowd was startled.
Xena said, "That was thunder."
I said, "An angel has spoken to Him."
Jesus said, "This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for the judgment of this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself."
That night, Jesus and His Disciples gathered in an upper room, where they celebrated the Judean's Feast, called the Passover, and ate their Sacred Meal together. Xena and I stood guard at the door. Jesus and his twelve disciples reclined at the table.
Then Jesus told them, "I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me."
His disciples stared at one another.
Then he spoke to his disciple named Judas Iscariot. "What you are about to do, do quickly."
Then Judas got up from the table, and went out the door.
Now Jesus said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God."
After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, "Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes."
In the same way, after the supper, He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."
Then He spoke to His disciple Simon Peter. "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen you brothers."
The man replied, "Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and death."
"I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me."
Then Jesus asked them, "When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack for anything?"
They answered, "Nothing."
He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: 'And he was numbered with the transgressors': and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment."
Then Phillip looked at both me and Xena and said, "See, Lord, here are two swords."
Jesus replied, "That is enough."
Then the Passover ended. Jesus and His disciple went out to a garden. Xena and I stood guard at the gate.
He told them, "Pray that you will not fall into temptation."
He went a short distance away from them knelt down and prayed "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."
Then things were quiet in the garden, for a good amount of time.
Then I heard Jesus shout. "Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation!"
Now a crowd was approaching the Garden. Xena and I drew our swords. The crowd included a detachment of soldiers, and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.
Xena called out, "Who goes?"
He was the disciple, who Jesus had told, to do something quickly.
I told Xena, "He's brought help."
The two of us stood aside, and the crowd walked right passed us.
Judas approached Jesus, and greeted him with a kiss, in the manner of the men of the desert.
Jesus asked, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?"
Then Xena and I raised our swords, rushed into the crowd, and someone slammed me in the head with a heavy club.
I was aware of nothing.
I opened my eyes. I was lying on a cot, inside a cell, with bars across the entrance, which faced out onto a courtyard, and it was daytime.
So I wasn't killed last night. I thought, I woke up today. That probably won't happen again.
A man was seated on a cot across the cell from mine. He was leering at me. Xena stood beside the man, glaring at him.
He said, "I suppose you're not a harlot either."
Xena ordered, "Don't say that word again Barabbas, or when they come to crucify us you'll already be dead."
I sat up straight.
"They're gonna crucify us?"
"I tried to plea bargain it down," Xena told me, "to us fighting to the death in the Arena; but gladiator combat is banned in Judea; so you and I won't be getting a light sentence."
"Well I never expected any kind of light sentence. We're getting what we've deserved for a very long time Xena."
Barabbas chuckled, "I, on the other hand, will be dying beside two beautiful, naked women, so it won't be entirely bad, at least for me."
Xena and I both groaned.
Then Barabbas stopped leering. He pointed out through the bars.
"But that man does not deserve this."
Out in the courtyard, Jesus stood in a dirty purple robe, with a crown of thorns on His head, and he looked very weakened.
Xena said, "The Governor had him scourged."
The Governor Pontius Pilate, was seated upon a platform above the courtyard.
He called out, "Behold the man!"
There was a large crowd of Chief Priests and other officials from the Temple, standing there watching. They shouted "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!"
He asked Jesus, "Are you the king of the Jews?"
"Is that your own idea," Jesus asked, "or did others talk to you about me?"
"Do you think I am a Jew?" Pilate replied. "It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?"
Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest. But now my kingdom is from another place."
"You are a king then!"
"You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."
Pilate shrugged. "What is truth?"
Then the Governor addressed the crowd. "I find no basis for a charge against him. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release 'the king of the Jews'?"
"No, not him! Give us Barabbas!"
Barabbas said, "They want me? Instead of him?"
Pilate called out, "Behold the man!"
Now Simon the Pharisee called out, "If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar! Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar."
Others cried out, "Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!"
"Shall I crucify your king?"
"We have no king but Caesar!"
Then Pilate told them, "You take him, and crucify him yourselves!"
Then the guards took Jesus away, and he was gone from our sight.
Other guards came to our cell, and opened the door. They shackled Xena and me, but they let Barabbas go. He ran toward the door, went around the corner, and was gone from our sight.
Then Xena and I were led out of the fortress, along with Jesus.
We were taken outside the City gates; and there they crucified us; with Jesus in the center. Xena hung on a cross, on his left hand, while I hung nailed to a cross, with spikes through my wrists and ankles, to Jesus' right.
I hung there in agony, wanting only to die quickly, like everyone who I'd killed had died; but I would be dying slowly; remembering all the murders, thievery, whorings, and the man who I had not married, preferring this life of crime, and the children I had not borne. I deserved to suffer like this, I thought. I had no right to even wish to die faster.
As I hung there, I heard Jesus cry out, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."
A small crowd had gathered to watch him die. Temple officials were among them.
One of them was Simon the Pharisee. He sneered, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One."
Then I heard Xena jeer. "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!"
"Xena!" I shouted, "Don't you fear God, since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong!"
Then I said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
He answered me, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."
Then in a moment, my life and my agony was gone; and that very day, I was with Him in Paradise, and I will be here with Him forever.
I acknowledge that this story does not follow the exact time line as the scriptures. I was not writing "The Gospel According to Gabrielle." This story is told from the viewpoint of someone who saw only part of what happened, and understood it only in part, and told it as well as she could remember; just like all of us do.