The End of the World is near

Jesus and the disciples fear getting caught out if the world ends sooner than expected

Thomas, Monday August 21

Maybe this morning’s extra-loud shofar blast shook Jesus up a bit, but he suddenly wants to get on with making preparations for the end.  Thought for the Day was an unscripted warning about not being caught out if the Son of Man arrives unexpectedly early.  After that, everyone started worrying again.

We agreed it would be a good idea to do one last big publicity tour, specifically to warn everyone about how near we are to the end, and to send out a lot more people this time to make sure nobody fails to hear the message.  It will require a bit more organisation than before, or there will be a risk of too many people going to some places and too few to others.  There are some very keen and able people in the camp, and we might as well put them to use.  They won’t all want to do it or be able to, so we’re going to ask for volunteers tomorrow.

Only 30 days to New Year

Thomas has to keep finding new topics for the morning Thought for the Day address

Thomas, Sunday August 20

We’re into the 30 day period leading up to New Year now, which means that every day starts with the blowing of a shofar – a ram’s horn used as a trumpet.  It’s a call to repent and be saved, and given that we’re expecting our world to come to an end any day soon, it scares me half to death every time I hear it.  Somebody in the camp has got hold of a shofar and they make sure you hear it.

Once we’ve been shaken from sleep by the shofar, it seems natural to go straight into Thought for the Day.  It keeps the followers happy and gives them something to talk about, leaving us free to have breakfast and get on with the day’s work.  Having to give Jesus something fresh to say each day is keeping me on my toes with my writing, though I have been recycling a fair bit.  Today’s thought was a return to the theme of not worrying about the future, which seemed to go down well.  As we’re all expecting the end of the age, there isn’t much future left to worry about, apart from the actual end of the age itself of course, but it’s human nature to worry and it did everyone good to hear Jesus reminding them that it can do nothing to make things better.

Despite agreeing that worrying is a waste of effort and telling the others there isn’t much we could to do prepare for the end, I have reached the stage where I can think of little else.  I tried to talk to Jesus about it but he won’t discuss the big issues without Peter, who has gone off fishing.

Jesus provokes the Scribes and Pharisees

Jesus attracts attention when he goes to the synagogue and is accused of not washing his hands in the correct fashion.  He replies that true cleanliness comes from within.

Thomas, Saturday August 19

Went to the synagogue in Gennesaret again today.  I think Jesus was hoping for a relatively quiet time but he didn’t stand a chance.  The camp of followers at Magdala is now more than twice the size it was before the big meeting at Bethsaida, and every single one of them must have been in the crowd that awaited us as we set out.  With two to three hundred people in tow we tended to attract attention, and over the few miles to our destination that number must have doubled again.  The synagogue was already overflowing with people hoping Jesus would turn up, and news of our arrival soon spread around the town.

After a quick word with the elders, Jesus agreed not to enter the synagogue at all but to stay outside to speak to the crowds.  Or at least the idea was to speak to them, but many were only interested in touching him in the hope of being healed of whatever afflicted them.  The only option for Jesus was to stand there and let the process take its course.  In the end there was no thoughtful debate or even any preaching of well-chosen words, but it was possibly the biggest mass healing we have ever had.  And Jesus hardly had to lift a finger or say a thing.  The faith of the milling crowds was doing all the work.  When people finally managed to touch Jesus, they were fainting, glorifying God, jumping for joy, crying out with the voices of departing demons and generally making it clear that they had experienced something very real.

I felt a nudge to my shoulder.  It was Lazarus.

“Incredible, isn’t it?” he said.  “I’d like to see him try to cure my polio, but I wouldn’t want to embarrass a good mate.  He’d blame my lack of faith anyway.”

“You’re worse than me,” I said, smiling.  “You could show more gratitude for being raised from the dead though.  You’ve become a major sensation.”

“Don’t I know it.  I can’t go out without people staring at me or even wanting to touch me for good luck.  But yes, of course I’m grateful he came and rescued me.”

Just then we were jostled by a lurching knot of people and became separated.  When eventually things started to calm down after perhaps a couple of hours, along came the Scribes and Pharisees again, tut-tutting about healing on the Sabbath and not obeying the letter of the law on ritual washing of hands and their other usual gripes.

I’d have told them where to go but Jesus came out with a great line about the kind of cleanliness that really mattered being what came out from a person’s heart, not the way they washed their hands and food.  He said an unclean heart led to adultery, stealing, jealousy and all kinds of bad things.  I wish I’d written that.

At least their appearance killed off any remaining exuberance in the crowd, and with the sun low in the sky we took the opportunity to bring things to a close and send everyone home.  Not that we were left alone, because two or three hundred people followed us back to the followers’ camp at Magdala.

Tom leaves his family again #doubtingthomas

Tom and Jesus discuss the timing of the end of the world over a cup of wine. Peter discusses it with his voices.

Thursday August 17

Had a tearful parting with Hannah this morning, but at least it was on good terms.  She has agreed to think about joining the mission from New Year, on the understanding that if the Son of Man arrives before then she will have to take her chances.  In return I have agreed that if the world doesn’t actually end I will start making moves to find a job and return to normal family life.

When I arrived in Magdala just before sunset, Peter was already there, a day early.  He had come on ahead of the other fishermen on foot, leaving them to bring the boat tomorrow, because his voices had driven him to impress on Jesus how urgent it was to prepare for the Son of Man’s arrival on Yom Kippur.  As if Jesus needed any encouragement.

We sat up trying to make plans, but we can’t even agree on where to go to await the end.  Peter’s voices are telling him to go to Jerusalem, to be near the Temple, where God will be present for the festivities.  I don’t see why we can’t stay here, particularly as Jesus is hardly known in Jerusalem and all his followers come from round here.  Jesus is torn between the two.  He finds the idea of being near God’s presence in Jerusalem very compelling, and of course it appeals to his vanity, but on the other hand he can’t see how to convince all his followers to go there, and he’s sure the Son of Man will know where to find us anyway and will steer his cloud and entourage in our direction.

In the end I said that the best preparation we could hope to make was to save as many people as possible before the end came, and we should concentrate on preaching and reaching out instead of turning our thoughts inward and worrying all the time.  Jesus cheered up at that, and he and I relaxed over a cup of wine while discussing ideas for a speech about how worrying is a complete waste of effort.  Peter couldn’t cope with having drink around and went out to his tent, discussing his own ideas with his voices as he went.

Thomas visits Jesus’ family

Mary still thinks her son is mad. Tom’s wife refuses to discuss the end of the world.  Tom can’t believe they have so many doubts

Wednesday August 16

Went over to see Mary and Joseph this morning.  Joseph is very frail now and hardly ever gets out of his chair.  He is almost crippled with arthritis and can no longer work, but he and Mary are supported by their other grown up children and won’t starve.

Mary was anxious to hear how Jesus was.  She has heard about his successes in northern Galilee and is naturally very proud of him, but at the same time she knows the focus of the mission is on the imminent end of everything, and that really worries her.  Basically she still doesn’t share her son’s beliefs about that and thinks he is mad.  Worse, she thinks his attitude to the rich and powerful is dangerous and will get him into trouble.  Her consolation is that he is with his wife now, a strong woman who should be able to take care of him.  I said he was in good spirits and was missing them both, though actually I hadn’t heard him mention either of them for weeks.

I tried discussing the end of the age with Hannah this evening and how it might affect plans for Ruth’s marriage, but she got quite upset for some reason and has hardly spoken to me since.  I was hoping she might join the mission for the last few weeks but I fear I might be losing her again.  I have to get back to Magdala tomorrow, and to be honest it will come as a relief to get away from all this doubt and conflict.

Thomas visits his family

Tom goes home for his daughter’s birthday and worries about saving his family when the world comes to an end

Tuesday August 15      

Today must have been the hottest day of the year so far, so not an ideal day to walk to Nazareth laden with supplies.  I couldn’t even borrow a donkey because they were all at work on the farm.  Still, it made sitting in the shade after I arrived, drinking cool water and soaking my aching feet, especially welcome, and Hannah was pleased to see me.

She was especially pleased that I had come home for Ruth’s birthday, which started this evening and continues tomorrow.  I can admit to my diary that I had completely forgotten all about it, but I made a full recovery in the presence of my family and thankfully got away with it. Ruth is now twelve and the serious business of finding her a husband will soon start.  She still seems just a child to me, but in a year or two she will be ready to start raising a family and running a home.  If  the world hasn’t ended.

God, this is so difficult.   When I’m with Jesus and the disciples we make plans for the world to end by in the next couple of months, but everywhere else I find everyone looking to the future as if nothing at all is going to change.  How can I convince Hannah to be saved?  I didn’t want the end of the world to spoil my daughter’s celebrations so I said nothing this evening.  Tomorrow morning will do.

Jesus talks nonsense and the followers love it

Tom recounts a successful first ‘Thought for the Day’ and realises how impressed people can be by things that don’t make any sense.

Monday August 14

This morning I got Mary to agree to my proposal about how to deal with Matthias, and I set to work drafting an agreement for them both to sign.  It’s a bit of a gamble, because if the world doesn’t end during the next year she loses a big chunk of her land, but given his power and money it’s virtually impossible to defend his claim using the law alone.  At least this gives her the land for another year and the chance to grow another crop.

I was as surprised as Jesus at the number of followers who had gathered outside to hear the first thought for the day.  He did the one about the man who sells everything to buy a pearl, but that left them unsatisfied, partly because it was so short, so he told them the one about the mustard tree as well.  That got them nodding and stroking their chins, and Jesus was able to send them away to discuss it among themselves at length.  It’s actually beneficial to use obscure sayings for thought for the day, because it gives them more to analyse and interpret.  The one thing they won’t do is say they can’t make sense of it, because nobody wants to risk looking stupid.

Jesus is growing more and more convinced that the new age will dawn on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and I can tell he’s itching to see Peter again and find out what his voices are saying.  There really isn’t much time to prepare.

New Year begins on the evening of 17th September, barely five weeks away, after which we have the Ten Days of Repentance, with Yom Kippur coming on the evening of 26th September.  I’m starting to get that churning in my stomach that comes with anticipation of something really momentous.  And the end of the age is certainly momentous.  I’m going to stop writing now before I make myself too worried to sleep.