Signs and Wonders: Read an Excerpt

Lamech was used to seeing crowds of people before him transformed by greed or covetousness, but never before had he witnessed this type of transformation. He himself felt a change come over him. His body was incessantly tingling. He sensed a tremendous power over these people, as if they would do anything for him if he merely whispered his desire. At the same time, he felt an urge to do something for them, to remove their anxieties, to take away their pain, to satisfy their longings, however inchoate or ineffable they may be. It was this urge to help them that surprised him more than anything, because of its strength, and because it fed off their pleas and their belief in him. To be able to do these things for people—this was a power unlike anything he had ever imagined existed.

Lamech realized he was becoming too engrossed in the proceedings and had to remove himself for his own good, yet he had no idea what to say to them. He spoke whatever came to his mind as he backed slowly to the door. In an almost inaudible voice he said "Remember to feed the hungry, and care for the poor. Remember me. I will come to you again." He closed the door quietly behind them, his cloak still draped over one arm, and then thrust his hands in his cloak as he unthinkingly walked down the stairs. The proprietor was automatically prepared to ask him to settle up his dining bill, but glanced at his face and thought better of it, for what reason he knew not. Lamech closed the outer door behind him. Soon one of the men came down from the second floor and told the proprietor in awed tones what they had just witnessed.

"It was Jehoshua. I am sure of it. I have seen him before, and he spoke exactly as Jehoshua spoke to us over a year ago. He has escaped his crucifixion, or somehow come to us from beyond the grave—he talked about not having yet gone to his Father. I don't know how, but it is the living presence of the healer. I know you must find this impossible to believe, but ask them—ask any of them!" Here he pointed up the stairs to the dining room.

The snap of fresh air that hit Lamech as he stepped out of the inn reminded him that he must hastily exit the village. He sought out Jurja at their agreed meeting place. Jurja was now expecting to head back into the inn and show people the samples of the robe, but Lamech grabbed his arm and said to him, "We must go back to the farm, and quickly."

Something must have gone wrong—maybe badly wrong. Lamech and Jurja's fast pace soon took them out of the village and on to the rutted dirt lane that led to the farm. They were in utter darkness, and Lamech had quickly put on his cloak and gloves in defense against the brittle cold that suggested winter was soon to conquer autumn. Lamech had no idea where the farm was—there were no lights anywhere in the distance, but Jurja had remembered a sequence of four trees that marked the dirt path to the farm, and they cautiously made their way back to the barn.

There was a small stove with dried wood that allowed them some bit of heat, but only after Jurja labored to strike a flint to the tinder. Neither was hungry. Lamech would only say that his appearance was successful—perhaps too successful—and they would talk more tomorrow about what to do. He then retired to the loft, advising Jurja to grab whatever warmth he could from the fire before retiring. Jurja took this advice, but then determined to sleep in the hay with the animals, as the stench of urine permeated the entire barn. Whatever had happened, it was obvious Lamech was preparing to reappear as Jehoshua.

The next morning as they ate a small breakfast Lamech told Jurja that their plan had been more than successful; everyone in that room had been quickly convinced he was Jehoshua. It would probably be necessary for him to make but one appearance in each town or village in order to have everyone talking about Jehoshua. "But let's be certain, Jurja. You should travel to Beth-Horn this morning and see if news has spread about my appearance. Bring some samples with you. I'll wait here and let's meet again around mid-day."

The hours went by slowly. Both of Lamech's hands throbbed regularly now, but he knew he could not abandon his self torture. It was the one thing that provided witnesses with absolute conviction that Jehoshua had come back from the dead. At times he thought to himself he should abandon the whole enterprise, and that no amount of money was worth whatever damage he was doing to his hands. But then he thought of the cries of the people who believed in him, and the authority his words took on when he promised them a healing, or forgave them whatever crimes they had committed. He would try this one more time.

Jurja came back later than expected. "I am sorry Master for the delay. I had to get more food, and many people wanted to talk to me when they heard I had seen you on the road. Everyone is talking about the resurrection, and they really didn't want to talk about buying a portion of the robe. Those who did could only pay two denari—these are poor people in these villages. Also, I suspect they thought to themselves, 'why should I buy a portion of his clothing, when the real Jehoshua is going to come back and perform miracles.' The witnesses said you promised them you would return."

4/16/2014 4:00:00 AM