Today I thought I would share a short excerpt from Fully Alive, a Biblical fiction novel I have been working on off and on for the last three years. It has a long way to go, but here is a snipit.
The busy sounds of people rushing by to complete their daily chores quieted as Jairus pushed the door to the synagogue closed. He leaned against the door and closed his eyes as he tried to quiet his racing thoughts, focusing on the words he had said to Josefa the night after the teacher had healed her. Healed her? Brought her back to life? Is that really what had happened?
Even now it was all too unbelievable to him. Did he really believe what he had told Josefa? That this man, this Yeshua was the Messiah that the prophets had spoken of?
Maybe he had been wrong to say so, to tell his daughter this man must be the true savior of his people. He’d spent his whole life studying the scrolls, learning of Moses and Elijah, about the prophesies of the Messiah. Now here he was almost completely convinced the man he had followed in the street, begging for him to come and heal his only daughter was indeed the Messiah. He knew he was being ridiculed behind his back by the other leaders of the synagogue for asking for Yeshua’s help but he couldn’t deny what he had witnessed that day.
He remembered Josefa’s fever and how she’d no longer been able to stand. Myriam, his wife, had soaked a cloth and laid it across Josefa’s forehead, hoping the cool water from the stream would revive her. For days they sat by her cot, holding her hand, Myriam weeping as Josefa moaned and faded in and out of consciousness.
Jairus had paced the room, rubbing his beard. He stopped and looked at his wife kneeling over their daughter. “You know I told you about this teacher, this man they call Yeshua?” Myriam was looking at Josefa, not responding, merely crying. “Myriam, are you listening? He’s been healing people. I saw him heal a man’s hand in the synagogue last week. The leaders were upset because it was Shabbat, but I saw the man’s hand. It was diseased, scarred, withered but Yeshua held it, touched it and the hand was whole again.”
Myriam dabbed her eyes with her shawl as her husband spoke, barely listening as she watched her daughter’s breathing become more and more shallow. Dark circles were now under Josefa’s eyes.
“I will go to him, ask him to come,” Jairus was speaking again. He resumed pacing, rubbing and pulling at the hairs of his beard as he always did when thoughts overwhelmed him.
“Do we now believe in such men who call themselves healers?” Myriam asked softly, her shoulders slumped forward, her body weary from worry.
Josefa’s body shuddered with a convulsion. Myriam gasped and lifted her daughter, holding the girl’s small frame against her chest. Josefa’s breathing came out in short, labored gasps. Jairus saw the panic in his wife’s eyes and felt it rising in himself as well.
Myriam’s voice pleaded with him. “We are losing her! Go! Go to this teacher and ask him to come!”
Jairus’ heart thumped hard in his chest as he ran from the house, out onto the crowded paths, pushing his way through travelers and locals and animals being led to market. He could see a crowd around a man, and he ran toward it. They were all moving one direction, calling out “Yeshua!” Questions were being asked, some voices mocked, some sounded hopeful.
An image of Josefa’s pale frame flashed in Jairus’ mind. He tried to move faster, pushing more people aside, but his chest tightened, his breathing more labored, reminding him of how old he was getting. Was this man he was trying to reach a heretic as the synagogue leaders and other rabbis said? What if this Yeshua was crazy like the man known as John the Baptist, the man who was covered in dirt and animal hide, and smelled? This John the Baptist, Yochanan the Immerser, had spoken of a healer and prophet who would come to save the Jews. Was this Yeshua that man?
Jairus’ foot caught a stone and he felt himself falling. Dirt flew into his face and pebbles cut at his palms. As he pushed himself up, hot tears stung his eyes. He would never reach Yeshua now.
His head still down, he looked at a pair of sandal clad feet against the dusty ground.
“Sir? Are you hurt? Let me help you.”
Jairus looked up into kind eyes. A hand reached out to him, and he took it, standing slowly. “Thank you.”
He looked frantically past the man, searching the crowd to see where Yeshua had gone.
“Do you seek Yeshua?”
Jairus’ gaze scanned the crowd. “Yes.”
“Come. I’m one of his followers. I will bring you to him.”
Jairus looked at the man, noticed his unkempt beard and slightly frayed clothes. He nodded at him, seeing kindness and concern in his gaze.
The man gently touched the shoulders of those around them and people began to move aside. Ahead of them Jairus saw that Yeshua had paused and turned to the crowd. Jairus dropped his gaze the moment Yeshua’s gaze fell on him, overwhelmed with worry for his daughter and overwhelmed with the presence of this man who had performed so many miracles. Sudden exhaustion from running and being awake for so many days watching over his daughter spread through his limbs.
His knees give way and he fell to the ground before Yeshua, sobs wracking his body as he bowed low.
He gasped out the name.
A sob choked his words and he thought he wouldn’t be able to finish speaking. He kept his face to the ground as he finally managed to speak.
“Yeshua, my little girl is dying. She is my only daughter. Please. Please, come and lay hands on her so that she will be healed and live.”
Tears streamed warm down his face, and he shook his head to shake them away. He was startled by emotions he usually kept locked inside. A hand touched his head covering. He sat back on his knees, lifted his face upwards and stared into the eyes of the man whose healing touch had enraged other leaders in the synagogue.
“Come.” Yeshua’ voice was gentle, yet firm. “Rise and let us go to her.”
Two followers of Yeshua helped Jairus to his feet and Yeshua motioned for Jairus to lead the way to his home. The crowd surged around them, moving with them, as if one combined force, following Yeshua. Several moments of chaos followed. Jairus’ chest tightened with frustration as the crowd pushed between him and Yeshua, their voices shouting out simultaneously.
“Yeshua! What does God ask of us?”
“Yeshua, what happens when we die?”
“Yeshua, will I find wealth?”
People pushed against each other; each person wanting to get closer to the man being called a healer and a prophet, each wanting answers to benefit their own life.
Jairus faintly heard Yeshua’ voice over the noise of the crowd.
“Who touched me?”
Jairus pushed forward in the crowd, looking over his shoulder every few steps to be sure Yeshua was following.
“I felt power go from me,” Yeshua spoke louder to one of his followers. He stopped and turned to look behind him. “Who has touched me?”
The people in the crowd murmured and grew quiet. Jairus stopped to see why Yeshua wasn’t following him, panic gnawing at his insides.
One of Yeshua’ disciples scoffed. “Master, there are people all around you. Are you really asking ‘who touched me?’” His tone was incredulous, tinged with annoyance.
“Kefa, watch your tone,” another disciple whispered.
Jairus had heard of this man. Kefa, or Peter – a fisherman from Gailee who now followed Yeshua. Many had whispered in surprise that Peter, known as brash and abrupt, was following a teacher of God.
“Somebody touched me,” Yeshua said. “For I perceived power going out from me.”
His eyes scanned the crowd around him, but no one answered. People looked at each other confused why Yeshua was concerned. Why did it matter who touched him? Many people had probably touched him, without even meaning to.
Suddenly a woman’s voice could be heard barely above a whisper.
“It was me.”
Then louder, over the murmurs of the crowd. “It was me.”
“Who is speaking?” another of Yeshua’ disciples asked. “Please, come forward. Answer the teacher.”
The crowd moved aside and a woman, head down, moved toward the front. She dropped to her knees trembling, her head bowed low and covered with a shawl, her clothes tattered and stained. Tears dripped off her face and into the dirt as she clutched her hands before her.
Jairus swallowed hard, shifting in place, anxious. He wanted to grab Yeshua by the arm, drag him forward, back to his house and his daughter, but at the same time he was entranced by the scene unfolding before him. He couldn’t look away.
The woman glanced upwards at Yeshua.
“It was me,” she said softly. “I knew if I could just touch the hem of your garment…”
Her gaze fell again to the ground. She let out a shaky breath. “I heard all that was said about you. About who you are. About what you can do. . . Rabbi, I’ve been bleeding for 12 years. No one will come near me. I am unclean. I’ve been to every doctor, but no one can help me. No one has ever healed me.”
Some in the crowd winced and a few stepped away from her, covering their mouths.
Tears continued to stream down her face.
“I have tried everything. I heard of your miracles and I knew – if I just touched the fringes of your robe – the fringes – that healing would come.
Her fingertips grazed the edge of his robe again. She could barely speak as she sobbed.
“And it did. It did. The healing came the moment my fingertips grazed the tzitziyot of your robe. I felt it. I felt it stop. The pain stopped. It all stopped.” Soft murmurs of awe rippled through the crowd, mingling with her sobs.
Jairus’ heart pounded hard and fast. If this woman was saying that simply touching the hem of the rabbi’s garment was enough to heal her, then he was indeed a powerful man, a messenger of God. If healing flowed from him so easily then there was hope for Josefa.
Yeshua kneeled before the woman, reached out, and took her hands in his. He touched her chin and lifted her face up to look at him.
“Daughter, your faith has made you well.”
Yeshua kissed her forehead gently and wiped the tears from her face. He stood and helped her to stand with him.
“Go in peace.”
A sob escaped her lips again and then she smiled and laughed loudly with joy. She kissed Yeshua’ hand as she held it, still laughing. Then she backed slowly away.
“Thank you,” she said, tears of joy now spilling down her face. “Thank you.”
A hush had settled over the crowd. Women dabbed their eyes and men talked quietly to each other, shaking their heads with furrowed eyebrows, trying to make sense of what they had witnessed. A sense of urgency, along with renewed hope, surged through Jairus, tensing his muscles. He needed Yeshua to hurry. After what he saw with the woman, he wanted the same for Josefa.
“Yeshua, my daughter… please …”
Yeshua turned toward him again.
“Of course.” His tone was calm, unrushed. “Let us go. Lead me to her.”
A hand clutched Jairus’ shoulder and he turned to see Josiah, standing next to him, tears streaking through the dirt on his face
“Master, there is no need to hurry now. Josefa . . .” His voice trailed off and Jairus began to shake his head. “There is no need to bother the teacher now. She’s —”
“No!” Jairus wouldn’t let him finish. He felt bile rushing up into his throat and his hands began to shake. He pressed his hands to his head, as if trying to wake himself from a dream, rocking slightly where he stood. “No! Josefa…” Tears burned his eyes, and he clutched his robe against him as a sharp pain seared through his chest. “Oh Adonai. Adonai help me.”
He looked up as Yeshua touched his arm.
“Do not be afraid.” Yeshua’s voice was soft, comforting. “Just keep trusting.”
Jairus’ mind reeled. He could barely comprehend what the teacher was saying. If only Yeshua had moved faster. If only that woman hadn’t stopped them. Josefa would still be alive, and her laughter would still fill their home.
“She’s gone,” he told Yeshua. “We cannot save her now. You can not heal her. If only . . .”
Yeshua looked over Jairus’ shoulder, his gaze moving above the crowd.
“Come. Lead me to your home.”
Jairus did as Yeshua told him, but with heavy legs. Before they even reached the corridor near his home, the wailing assailed his ears. Mourning had already begun.
Mourners were outside the home, trying to comfort Myriam, who was clearly in shock as she pulled at her clothes and repeated “No. No. No.”
Jairus rushed toward his wife, grasped her by the shoulders and pulled her against him. She clutched at his clothes and shoved her face into his chest.
“She’s gone. She’s gone. Oh, Jairus. Our little girl is gone.”
Yeshua pushed forward in the crowd. He laid his hand against Myriam’s back to comfort her.
“There is no need for tears,” he said with a gentle firmness. “The girl is not dead. She is merely sleeping.”
An angry voice shouted over the noise of the crowd.
“She’s dead! You give these people false hope! You are a liar and a fool! Like all who have come before you!”
Other voices joined in agreement.
“You say you can heal but you only bring hollow promises to these people,” a man sneered.
Yeshua stood with his back to the crowd, kneeling down beside Myriam and Jairus who had collapsed together into the dirt by their front door.
“Send these people away and come inside with me,” he instructed. “Peter, James, John, come with me.”
Jairus opened his eyes to the sound of someone moving inside the temple, interrupting his thoughts and memories of that day. The images of Jesus and his followers faded as the inside of the synagogue came into focus.
“Jairus? Is that you?”
He recognized the voice of Ezra, another leader in the synagogue.
“Yes, Ezra. Good morning.”
Ezra walked toward him holding scrolls. His mouth lifted in a wry smile.
“Have you come to help me organize these for the scribes?”
Jairus returned the smile. “I did not but I am glad to help.”
The men laid the scrolls on the table next to a bottle of ink.
“I do not know how so much has become in disarray in here – and outside,” Ezra said.
Jairus nodded, pulling at his beard.
“Tell me, Jairus. How is Josefa recovering?”
Jairus smiled. “Well. She is well. It is – dare I say it? A miracle.”
Ezra smiled, but his expression faded into a more somber one.
“Jairus, I must ask you – I’ve heard many talk of what happened with Josefa. Is it true, what they say? Was she dead before Yeshua arrived?”
Jairus’ chest tightened. He was unsure what Ezra hoped to learn with his questions. He pondered how to answer. He wanted to lie, say she hadn’t been dead. Telling the truth might encourage Ezra to help him understand more what had happened, though.
“Myriam and her hand maiden said there was no breath. She was cold when I entered the home, and I felt no heartbeat beneath my hand. Her skin —” His breath caught in his throat and he paused, choking back emotion. He shook his head as if to shake the image from his mind. “Her skin was pale, tinged with blue. And so cold.”
Ezra put his hand on his friend’s arm and squeezed gently. “You’ve been through much, my friend.”
He unrolled a scroll to read its contents, rolled it up again, and stuck it back in a space in the temple wall. “What do you believe happened that day? Really?”
Jairus let out a slow breath. “I don’t know, friend. I truly don’t. All I know is she was gone and when Yeshua came she arose at his bidding. He took her hand and instructed her to rise and live and she did.”
“After all you have seen —” Ezra paused in stacking the scrolls and turned to look to Jairus “After meeting this man who calls himself the Son of Man – who do you say he is?”
Jairus didn’t know how to answer. He had seen Yeshua do miraculous things and heard of even more. He believed his daughter was still living because Yeshua touched her, but was he truly the son of Jehovah? Or was he simply a great teacher, so holy Jehovah used him to heal?
He looked Ezra in the eyes, opened his mouth to answer then closed it again. “Ezra – I wish I could say, but truly, I do not know what to believe about this man.”
Lisa R. Howeler is a wife and mom from Pennsylvania who also happens to write. She’s been writing for 25 years, fourteen of those for smalltown newspapers in rural Pennsylvania and upstate New York. When she isn’t writing about love, faith, and family life in a small town, she’s taking photographs and homeschooling her two children. She blogs a little bit about a lot of things on her blog Boondock Ramblings at www.lisahoweler.com.