12 – American Idol

(June 20; And a Time Long Past)

Somebody’s needin’ somebody the way I do. Somebody’s wantin’ somebody they can hold on to. To be loved by somebody that’s the way it should be. Oh, there’s got to be somebody somewhere waitin’ for me.

A few days later, I was sitting in a rocking chair on my back porch listening to Conway Twitty on my radio. It was another scorcher of a day and I conspired against the heat by sipping on an ice cold lager – Beck’s to be exact – crisp, clean, and refreshing.

(Why are you so appalled that I drink so much? Don’t you know the saying “Let them drink and forget their worries?” Hey, I’m not making this stuff up – it’s in The Bible, read it for yourself).

Although nearly two weeks had passed, I still hadn’t replaced the TV that was damaged during the break-in. As a result, I was forced to listen to my Phillies games over the radio. Since the game wasn’t on for another hour, I was whiling away the time listening to some music – naturally I sang along.

“…Hurtin’ inside, going through emotions,” I bellowed out, terribly off-key, “It’s so hard to live. So many feelings, so lonely, when they got so much to give…” Closing my eye as the tune came to a close, I raised my glass, “To be loved by somebody, that’s the way it should be. Oh there’s got to be somebody waitin’ for me…

“But, why ain’t there no one waitin’ for ME?” I lamented after the song ended. Suddenly I flew into a rage, “Why is life given to the bitter of soul? For my sin is always before me and You leave me covered in disgrace!” I knew I was being overly dramatic, but I didn’t care. “You make me eat ashes as my food and mingle my drink with tears. My days are like the evening shadow. I am alone — because of Your great wrath. Why?”

A <force> pulled gently against me, but I resisted, “No — I will not repent! And I will NOT be silent!” I condemned myself. “I will complain at the bitterness of my soul. Why did You, the God of all creation, credit Job’s words as Faith when he raged against You, yet I remain despised?”

Getting more frustrated, “Damn it all to Hell! Damn all of you; especially you, Mary — it’s all your fault!”

And in a flash, I was lost in memories – unwanted memories from nearly two thousand years ago…

 

۞

 

“Damn rain.” I growled, pulling the shutters closed against the cold. In my mind’s eye I was back in the upper room of a rundown apartment building where me and my friends were planning to celebrate the Passover Feast later that evening. Turning to the group, I continued, “It’s the month of Nissan for Yahweh’s sake! Why’s it gotta be so damn cold? I thought we were coming to Jerusalem to be able to enjoy ourselves, but after our triumphal entry just a few days ago, since then it’s been pretty rotten.”

There was a large table in the middle of the room and around this Peter, my brother James, and a few other men continued preparing the board for our approaching feast. Even still, Peter took the time to reply, “John, I feel your pain. But calm down, you know as well as I that The Master could tell the winds to cease and the Sun to shine if he so desired.”

“Why doesn’t he?” I opened the shutters again and looked at the dusty streets below – yearning in anticipation.

“Don’t worry, He’ll be here.” Another man walked over and placed his hand on my shoulder as I continued searching. “He wouldn’t have us do all this and not show up, right?”

“Who knows anymore, Matthew?” I pulled the shutters closed again with a bang. “Ever since Magdala started traveling with us, it seems like SHE is calling the shots now. Does He have to always listen to her advice?”

(Looking back, I guess you could say that I never really liked Mary. Oh well).

“She does seem to always know the right thing to do.” Matthew replied. “Look how the people have responded lately. Why, even the Sadducees are afraid to touch us!”

“But why? How?” I countered. “I know that He dispelled those seven demons from her, but what makes Mary so different from the countless other peons that He did miracles for? She’s just a girl from Magdala for Moses’ sake! Why is she allowed to travel with us, when He always told others to go their own way after He healed them?”

“Because Mary continues to prophecy.” Advised a large man who joined in our conversation. “Only now, rather than speak in the demon tongue, Jesus believes Mary is speaking the words of Yahweh Himself.”

(Funny, I forgot about that. Back then, I was NOT the one with the visions – it was Mary. I never did understand why that all changed?)

“Andrew is right, John. And so far you can’t argue with her results.” Matthew smiled at me. “After all, Mary IS often correct in what she sees. I mean, here we are in Jerusalem, man! Celebrating the Passover in a place that the Pharisees said we would never be able to come back to. And all because Mary told The Master about Bartimaeus’ blindness and that man’s parents were so grateful when The Master cured him that they let us use one of their rental rooms for our Meal this evening…for free – even though this town is packed with pilgrims, and Bartimaeus’ parents could have rented this room for some big coin. Surely that is amazing, neh?”

“Don’t the rest of us count for something?” I retorted. “After all, most of us have been with him for three years or more, yet she’s been around for less than a year. I asked to sit at his right and James at his left — the rest of you practically crucified us for that — and he denied us anyway. Yet Magdala does whatever she pleases and none of you care.”

“Come on, she’s not that bad.” Matthew replied. “Look at me — Mister Former Tax Collector — yet here I am as one of the Chosen. Mark my words, John, I’m going to write a book about this one day!”

“Whatever, Matthew, you do that. But I’m serious — what IS going on with her?”

“Do you think there’s a romantic connection?” Andrew asked.

“Unthinkable!” I was quick to reply, not wanting to believe what I most feared.

“Would it be so bad if Jesus and Magdala did unite?” Matthew asked.

“Surely it would diminish our ministry.” Peter surmised.

“I’m not so sure.” Matthew countered. “Think about this, friend — we have come a long way under His direction, but as Judas says, now is the time for action. The people thirst for change. And with Mary’s vision and Jesus’ inspired oration, we could move forward with The Messiah Mission and finally wrest power from the current usurpers.”

“Think of the glory we would all share in,” Peter agreed, “if OUR faction ruled Jerusalem.”

“As good as that sounds,” James spoke up, “I have to agree with my brother. We all know that Jesus is The Son of Yahweh – the Divine Incarnate. There can be no way that he would allow himself to be defiled by a woman.”

(As far as I know, Jesus never did anything untoward with Mary. Thankfully. But I still say that she was his downfall with all her mind games.)

“But he is also a man.” Andrew replied. “Surely his flesh has needs.”

“He is a man in appearance only.” Peter rebutted. “He is without sin. He has been tempted by Satan himself – remember what he told us – he was tempted worse than we could ever imagine for forty days in the desert – without faltering. No, friends, I tell you the truth, our Jesus cannot be defiled by anything or anyone in this world.”

“But Mary has been purified by The Master.” Andrew reasoned. “Perhaps this makes her acceptable to him.”

“Who knows? Perhaps you are correct.” Peter replied. “But I believe even if Jesus purified Magdala when he cast out those demons, nonetheless, she is still a human like the rest of us and thus she will always carry Adam’s stain on her. Yet The Master is different – he is pure, he was born without Sin — always has been, always will be.”

(Ha, hear that, Mary? You could never be good enough for Him).

Silence reigned as we all pondered what would become of our club now that Mary of Magdala was gaining more influence within the group and threatening to take our Master away from us.

“What you say makes sense, Peter.” Matthew agreed. “But how can we be sure?”

“Why can’t John ask him?” Andrew offered.

“What? Why me?” I resisted.

“Come on, John.” My brother James coaxed. “You know he loves you best. He tells you everything.”

“Not anymore!” I snapped. “Now she’s his confidante. But this is nothing new because for a while it was Judas too, remember? And speaking of Judas — what’s going on with him? Even though he’s still with us, he’s not been too engaged with our plans lately.”

(Wow! Guess I was correct in that assessment, huh?)

“Yeah, I’m worried about Judas too.” Matthew said softly. “Maybe we should find out what’s bothering him? Perhaps I’ll sit beside him at dinner tonight and ask him.”

“It won’t help, Matthew. Remember, Judas is a Zealot.” Peter reminded them. “He wants Jesus to take power by force, but I get the feeling that’s just not going to happen.”

“Then what are we all doing here in Jerusalem?” Andrew asked. “Waiting for the Pharisees to come and arrest us? I mean, did you see that performance in the Temple today? If Jesus keeps insulting them, they’ll have all of our heads!”

“Let them come and try it!” I grumbled while my brother got riled up as well.

“Be that as it may, brothers,” Peter stopped us in our tracks. “Back to our problem — is there anything else we can do to perhaps minimize Mary’s influence?”

“Lazarus likes Mary.” Matthew tittered. “Perhaps we could get those two to spend more time together?”

(If only Lazarus hadn’t been such a bumbling fool and tried to play Mr. Cool by keeping a secret from Mary, he would have taken her off our hands way back then and maybe things would have been different. Oh, you don’t know that story, yet? Don’t worry, we’ll get to that, too).

“Really?” Andrew asked. “How do you know?”

“Have you seen the way Lazarus is around Magdala?” Matthew replied. “He’s practically a Bar Mitzvah Boy – all wide-eyed and ready to showcase his manhood.”

“Yes, but Mary was there when Lazarus was raised back to life,” Andrew added. “I think it was rather unsettling for her, so I don’t see the two of them getting together.”

“If nothing else, it can’t hurt to include Lazarus more in our affairs.” Peter concluded. “At least, Lazarus might take up some of Mary’s time and leave The Master more with us – so things can get back to normal. After all, if Jesus really is not going to accept Mary’s advances, surely she won’t wait around forever, right?”

 

۞

 

And with that my vision snapped back to the present…

“Ha! ‘Surely she won’t wait around forever?’ Eh, Peter?” I quipped to myself as I took another sip of my iced tea. “It seems we were wrong about that.”

Still on my porch, I snickered to myself with chagrin – for it seemed that nobody got what they wanted: Lazarus never did get Mary, Jesus never accepted Mary’s advances, and I’m still here rotting in this worn out husk of a body.

         All of our dreams have been dashed.

“Why have you cursed us like this, Lord?” And I threw my glass down on the porch – watching it smash into countless pieces, even as the remaining liquid quickly seeped through the floor boards. Overwhelmed with shame, I cried, “I am worn out calling for help, God. Will my life never end? Even if I end up in the land of gloom and shadow – even still I will go if it means I can only escape this so-called life!”

As if on cue, I noticed the radio was playing yet another one of my favorite songs – the Jim Reeves classic, “Am I that Easy to Forget?”

Guess I could find somebody, too. But I don’t want no one but you. How could you leave without regret? Am I that easy to forget?        

I was about to let myself be drawn deeper into the song, when…  “We interrupt this broadcast,” came the urgent words of the announcer, “with a special report about the assassination of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon…”

“NO, not again – what about my Phillies game?”

I stewed as the Special Report was delivered — no less than thirty minutes of rigmarole about how, as yet, no one knew who had assassinated Ki-Moon (although I had a pretty good idea); that an emergency meeting of the UN had already taken place; and that Ghaz al Ridwan Ma’bus (Bingo!) had already been elected as interim Secretary General — with only the United States and Great Britain casting negative votes. After this, there was a short audio clip from Ma’bus’ acceptance speech in which the beloved world leader explained that while his first inclination was to advise he was not worthy of such an honor, in fact he agreed to accept the nomination – at least on a short term basis – because he realized that the world needed him, and therefore he promised to do his best to lead the planet to prosperity.

Now as odd as this might sound, during the initial newscast I was quite dour, yet while Ma’bus’ clip was playing, I actually found myself getting inspired (just a bit) by Ma’bus’ passion? It was a contagious sensation that I could not shake and soon enough a smile began to form beneath the scraggly curls of my beard the more I listened to Ma’bus.

Again, that <force> beckoned me. And then, as if the shackles of two thousand years of lethargy were suddenly released, I jumped up and looked to the Heavens.

“Could this really be The Time?” I was actually hopeful. And in spite of myself, I began to praise, “When my soul is downcast within me, I will remember you. O Lord, have you returned to us in the person of Ma’bus?”

Meanwhile, Ma’bus continued to talk – encouraging the world to unite in brotherly love — and my Hope sprang even higher!

“Lord, are you him?” I desperately clutched my radio, hanging on Ma’bus’ next words.

But then it happened, for as the applause from the crowd became so overwhelming, Ma’bus himself could no longer be heard.

“Noooooooo!” I collapsed in despair. “Don’t desert me again!”

Yet, my protests were to no avail. And when the regular newsman’s voice came back over the speaker, my newfound inspiration evaporated; once more I felt as if I was nothing more than a worthless sinner who had yet again been forgotten and abandoned.

(Pity? I don’t want your pity. You can stuff your sorry’s in a sack!)

If there were any last vestiges of hope, I quickly beat them down. And even when a small, still voice inside me seemed to say “John, John, why do you forsake me?” even then I refused to listen. Instead I simply reached towards my radio, and clicked the dial <off>.

A lone tear trickled down my cheek, as I resolved to go inside and get into bed – to put an end to another miserable day.

“As for me, it’s always the same – I am scorned and disgraced. Shame has broken my heart and left me helpless. Why do You forsake me so?”

And trudging along the porch, “Let the world take care of itself. Or let Ma’bus do it. He doesn’t need me. You don’t need me, Lord. Nobody needs ME anymore.”

And with that, I went inside and closed the door – leaving even my Phillies to fend for themselves.

(Bummer, huh?)

 

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