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What If It's True?: A Storyteller's Journey with Jesus
by Charles Martin
Learn More | Meet Charles Martin
The Word Becomes Flesh — And Dwells Among Us
The night is cool and turning cooler. The air smells of wood smoke, lamp oil, and manure. Quirinius is governing Syria. Caesar Augustus has issued a decree: "Register the world! Take a census." Under the dominating hand of Rome, men and their families scurry to their ancestral homes to register. Jerusalem is overflowing. Bethlehem is packed.
It is dark. Past the evening meal. A young man leads a young girl riding a donkey up a small trail into Bethlehem. He is pensive. Every few seconds, he glances over his shoulder.
The rumors have preceded them. As have the whispers. She 's pregnant but not with his child, and to complicate matters, they 're not married. It 's a scandal. According to Jewish law, he should put her out and she should be stoned.
The innkeeper has had a long day. He watches warily. The tired young man asks, "Sir, do you have a room?"
The innkeeper shakes his head. "Full up."
The young man strains his voice. "You know of ... anywhere?"
The innkeeper leans on his broom handle. Half-annoyed. His patience is thin. "Try down there. But you 're wasting your time."
The girl winces. The contractions have started. The stain on her dress suggests her water broke. The innkeeper 's wife eyes the barn and whispers, "We can make room."
Hours later, the couple returns. The young girl is sweating. Doubled over. The young man is frantic. The innkeeper is in bed. Upon hearing the knock, he rises reluctantly and unlocks the door. "Son, I told you ..."
"Please sir. ..." He points to the young woman. "She 's bleeding."
The innkeeper 's wife appears over his shoulder. She says nothing, which says plenty. The innkeeper trims his wick and, for the first time, looks into the young man 's eyes. The innkeeper gently grabs the reins of the donkey and leads the young woman to the barn where he spreads fresh hay to make a bed. His wife appears with a towel and some rags. She brushes the two men out and helps the girl.
The innkeeper and the young man stand at the door of the stable — little more than a cave carved into the rock wall. The animals seem amused at the ruckus. The innkeeper lights his pipe. The young man shuffles nervously.
Behind them, the screams begin.
The innkeeper speaks first. "You the two everyone is talking about?"
The young man doesn 't take his eyes off the cave. "Yes sir."
Another puff. Another cloud. "What happened?"
The young man is not quick to answer. "You wouldn 't believe me if I told you."
The innkeeper laughs, "I don 't know. I was young once. She 's a pretty girl."
Another scream echoes out of the barn.
"Is the baby yours?"
The young man rubs his hands together. Calloused, muscled. They are the hands of a stonemason.* "No, he 's not. I mean, he will be but ... I 'm not the, well. ..."
The innkeeper chuckles. "You sure it 's a he?"
The young man nods. "Pretty sure."
"You intend to marry?"
The young man glances over his shoulder. "Soon as she heals up."
Another scream and the innkeeper changes the subject. "You here to register?"
The young man nods.
"House of David."
The innkeeper raises an eyebrow. "Good family."
The screams have risen to a fever pitch. The young girl is out of her mind. The innkeeper 's wife calls from the stall. Her voice trembles. "Honey, I need some hot water."
The innkeeper disappears and leaves the young man alone. He stands repeating the same phrase over and over and over. "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one! Hear, O Israel. ..."
Above a star has risen. Abnormally bright.
Elsewhere, in the throne room of heaven ...
They are arranged in laser-perfect rows. Ten thousand in a row and tens of thousands of rows. Trailing out farther than any eye can see. They are radiant and barefooted. Every shade of skin color dressed in a sea of brilliant white robes. Decked in glistening gold. Chiseled, elegant features. Blond, auburn, ebony hair. The floor upon which they are dancing is reflective. Shiny. Not a speck. Not a smudge. They stand somewhere above ten feet tall. Many have hair to their waists. Some pulled back in a ponytail. Their wings stretch another ten feet into the air, the tips are almost touching. They are frozen in time, holding the same choreographed pose each was holding when the music stopped. Along with everyone else, they are waiting for the music to begin again and send them into the next movement. Right now, they are catching their breath and waiting for orders. Heads bowed, beads of sweat drip onto the mirrored floor.
The air carries with it the fading echo of a drumbeat and the receding sound of the concert of a million feet dancing and tapping to perfection. It 's a powerful, penetrating rhythm felt in the depths. Several miles in the distance, there is a bright light. Brighter than the sun. It is the most piercing and penetrating light in the history of light. The breeze created by the angels ' wings brings with it the smell of mint, rosemary, lavender, lemon, and eucalyptus. This place is an architectural wonder. Planes could fly in here. A thousand planes. A river flows through the middle. A roof above. In the distance, fiery stones.
This is the banquet hall of all banquet halls.
Rising on the air is a chorus of voices. They come from higher up. Thundering. Declaring. Proclaiming. Pitch perfect. While each is distinct, they layer over each other. The melody forms and rises. They are reading from an ancient text. The acoustics are perfect and unamplified.
The first voice speaks of how He will be born of a woman. Another states that He will come from the line of Abraham. Another, the tribe of Judah. The House of David. Born of a virgin. Will sit on the throne of David. An eternal throne. Emmanuel. Born in Bethlehem. Worshiped by wise men. Presented with gifts. Called out of Egypt. Called a Nazarene.
The voices continue — He will be zealous for His father. Filled with God 's Spirit. Heal many. Deal gently with Gentiles. Rejected by His own. Speak in parables. Enter triumphantly into Jerusalem. Praised by little children. A cornerstone. Perform miracles — which some would not believe. Betrayed for thirty pieces of silver that would be used to buy a potter 's field. A man of sorrows. Acquainted with grief. Forsaken by His own best friends. Scourged. Spat on. Unrecognizable as a man. Crucified between two thieves. Given vinegar to drink. His hands and feet would be pierced. Others would gamble for and divide his clothes. Surrounded and ridiculed by His enemies. He would thirst, commend His spirit to His Father, and not one of His bones would be broken. Stared at in death, buried with the rich, raised from the dead, He would ascend and become a greater high priest than Aaron. He would rule the heathen. A ruling scepter. Seated at the right hand of God.
As the last word echoes off, all eyes turn toward the light several miles in the distance where a King is seated on His throne. He is resplendent. Like ten thousand nuclear bombs exploding over and over and over. He is magnificent. Splendor indescribable. Majesty on high. El Elyon. The brightness of the sun times ten trillion. To His right sits His Son. The very Word of God. Broad shoulders, the spitting image. A river — crystal clear — flows from beneath His throne. In His hand, He holds a scepter. He is radiant. Nothing has been, is, or ever will be more perfect. He is like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance, and there is a rainbow wrapped around His throne like an emerald. From the throne come flashes of lightning and peals of thunder.
Layered in the air, the several-million-voice chorus rises: "Glory to God in the highest!" The shimmering, angelic bodies below snap into unison. Twirling. Tapping. Synchronized. Each dancer has six wings. Two cover their faces. Two cover their feet. And with two more they fly. Cirque du Soleil doesn 't hold a candle.
Voices sing out:
"Only begotten Son."
"Heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power."
"For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth ... whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together."
"He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion!"
"He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it."
"The Alpha and the Omega ... who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."
"The Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God."
"The Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David."
Then the voices hush. Every angel kneels. Bowing. Face to the floor. Twenty-four elders, each holding a harp and a bowl of incense — which are the prayers of the saints — lie on the ground in a circle around Him having cast their crowns at His feet.
The Son is quiet. Unassuming. No desire to draw attention. Not feeling that equality with the King is something to be grasped. His mannerisms are that of a dove. His presence that of a lion. His demeanor like a lamb 's. His attraction like the bright morning star. Expressing both longing and joy. Both tears and a smile.
He is attended by an archangel. One of three. This angel is relatively new at his job. The other two have been here a long time. The last archangel that had attended to Jesus was described as the "seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty." He had been, "in Eden, the garden of God ... you were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you." He is also described as the "son of the morning" and "son of the dawn." He announced the morning only to eventually grow jealous of all the praise leveled at the Son. Wanting it, he reached up, tried to grab it, and fell. Disguising himself as an angel of light, he led a rebellion, and he took a third of the other angels with him. Mutiny. God the Father would have none of it and cast the dark angel out of heaven like lightning. Hurling him earthward where he has stirred up trouble for millennia.
After he left, the King made a new creation out of dust. His most stunning to date. Made in His very image. When finished, the King pressed His lips to the mouth of His creation and breathed in His very breath. The ruach of God. Giving man life. Angry and envious, the rebelling angel slithered in and took them all hostage. Kidnapped every one. Bondage. Slavery. Mass carnage. Things are bad. The only hope is a rescue mission. It 's why the Son has to leave. Whispers are it 's a suicide mission.
Slowly, the Son rises. It is pin-drop quiet. He places His scepter gently in the corner of His throne. Unbuckling His sword, he leans it upright next to the scepter. Next, He takes off His robe, folds it, and places it in the seat He just occupied. He pulls off His linen, tasseled undershirt and places it neatly next to his robe, folding the corners — or the kanaph, also called "wings" — gently. Finally, He removes the ring from His finger and lifts His crown off His brow, placing both atop His folded robe.
Save a loin cloth, the Son stands naked. His voice is the sound of many waters. Like Niagara. Or the break at Pipeline.
God the Father rises as His Son crosses the fiery stones. The Father hugs the Son, buries His face on His son 's cheek and kisses Him. The time has come. On earth, the sons of Adam have lost their way. Each gone their own way. Astray. The entire human race has been taken captive, and the enemy is torturing them. Not one of them will survive the night. The Son has volunteered for a rescue mission, but it 's a prisoner exchange. The whispers are true; their freedom will cost the Son everything.
His life for theirs.
The Father holds His Son 's hands in His and tenderly touches the center of His palm. He knows what 's coming. A tear rolls down the face of the Ancient of Days. The Son thumbs it away. "I 'll miss you." He glances at the earth below and hell in between. Billions of faces shine across the timeline of history. He knows each by name. They are the "joy set before Him." He turns to His Father, "I will give them Your word. And declare to them Your Great Name." The Son looks with longing at His home.
Voices rise from every corner singing at the tops of their lungs. It is the loudest singing in the history of song. "Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever." Angels bow. Brush the floor. He pats many on the shoulder. Kisses some. Hugs others. Long-held embraces. Kids rush forward and grab His hands as they dance in laughter-filled circles.
As He turns to leave, leaning against the two giant doors that lead out into the Milky Way, He turns to His Father. His eyes are piercing, penetrating, inviting. He smiles, "We 're going to need more rooms in this house when I come back." He waves His hand across the timeline, "Because I 'm bringing them with me." The Son — whose "countenance was like the sun shining in its strength" — exits heaven blanketed in the singing of more than a hundred million angels and bathed in the tears of the Father.
The Word becomes flesh, and He is gone.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. ... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory.
God With Us
The innkeeper returns as the cries of a baby pierce the night air. The child 's lungs are strong. The wife clears the mucus, and the cries grow louder. The young man exhales a breath he has been holding for a little over nine months. The innkeeper stokes the fire in the corner and hugs the young man. "Come!"
The hay beneath the young woman is a mess. The baby boy has entered the world in much the same way the nation of Israel left Egypt. Through blood and water. The animals look on. The stones cry out.
The woman places the baby on the mother 's chest, and the two lie exhausted. The young woman is exposed, and the young man is uncertain as to his role. He has yet to know her. The innkeeper 's wife leads him to the young girl 's side where he cuts the cord and then slides his hand inside hers. His heart is racing. She is exhausted. Sweaty. The afterbirth arrives and the innkeeper 's wife begins cleaning the woman. The young mother stares at the boy and hears the echo of the angel that appeared to her some ten months ago: "He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end."
This is a bittersweet moment because she knows well the words of both Isaiah and the psalmist. How the Messiah will suffer. Be cursed. Bruised. Pierced. Despised. Rejected. Oppressed. Afflicted. Cut off from the land of the living. He will bear our griefs. Carry our sorrows. All His bones will be out of joint. His heart will melt like wax. He will give His back to those who will beat Him, pour out His soul unto death, bear the sin of many ... and become unrecognizable as a man.
She turns to the man who did not leave her when he had every right. The honorable man who will be her husband. She hands him the boy and speaks His name, "Yeshua Hamashiach."
The young father holds his son and whispers, "The Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings."
The innkeeper and his wife stand at a distance. They can 't take their eyes off the boy. She whispers, "Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord." On the air above them there is an echo. Faint at first, it grows louder. The innkeeper stares at heaven. The star above them is daylight bright and casts their shadows on the ground. Finally, he can make it out. Voices. Purest he 's ever heard. Singing at the top of their lungs: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"
The innkeeper knows now. He bows low and speaks loud enough for the young couple to hear. "The Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel."
God with us.
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