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Vision After the Sermon

WARNING: Contains Disturbing Imagery. Discretion is advised.

“In order to be with God, and let him in our hearts, we must shun the jealousy and covetousness that tries to burrow itself in us,” The man on the small mount spoke calmly as a father educating his son might. The sky was a brilliant blue without a cloud in sight, and the Sea of Galilee sparkled as gentle waves ebbed and flowed on its surface. “Think of the little child who sees his brother’s toys and wishes for those to be his. This seemingly insignificant lack of appreciation for what we have can grow into Greed and Envy within us…” As he spoke, the nearly 5,000 around him listened with wrapped attention. Though he was soft-spoken, all could hear him. Those who hadn’t finished before the man had begun the sermon happily continued eating the pita and fish he’d provided. 


It was a true miracle, that food. The city was starving. Scores of people fled as the food dwindled and the earth seemed sown with salt as the crops failed time and again. All seemed lost and hopeless when this man came and told them not to be afraid. He found all they had: a small bundle of pita and a meager basket of small fish. After a simple prayer, it multiplied and became a mighty bounty for all - able to fill even the emptiest of stomachs. That was the first miracle, great and benevolent. But by the time the man had finished his sermon and walked away, the city’s people would know not all miracles are that way.


“And so,” Jesus continued, “that is why we must show mercy to those who covet our fortunes. We must give compassion and turn away from dark thoughts so both we and they may turn into the light of the Lord and His love.” Jesus paused so the weight of his words could settle in everyone's minds. He was about to continue when a single word arose from the crowd. 


“Why?” The speaker rose to his feet. He was a large man, bald with a scraggly beard and deep set eyes. His hands were the rough and calloused hands of a carpenter and the aura about him was that of a man who referred to his wages as “takings” instead of “earnings”. “Why?” he repeated and all were silent as they looked between him and Jesus. “You stand up there preaching about love and compassion and that empa-whatever. But why should we listen to you?” The man thumped his chest proudly. “I’ve gotten far in life with the way things are. We all have. From the beginning of life we have gotten by, learning and living the tenets of ‘eye for an eye’. Our laws are built on the values of retribution and consequences and look at us now.” He gestured to the city with its towering spires and large temples. “We have cities and kingdoms that rival the grandeur of ancient pharaohs. We crawled out of slavery to rule the land we stand on. But now you say to do away with that? For what?


“Where would I be if I didn’t seek just retribution for wrongs done to me?” The man paused and a wave of murmuring and nodding swept through the crowd. Many looked up at Jesus, who stood calmly while the man went on. “I would be lesser and be seen as vulnerable. A lamb among wolves. And where would those who wronged me be? Those who stole from my shop or trashed my home? They would be free and bolstered by their success. Where would that little bastard who stole my family’s heirloom tools and a piece worth a month’s amount of work be if I had not found him and been allowed to take care of it? They’d certainly have both their hands, all the more to take advantage of others.” He paused again and the rumble of assent got louder. Pockets of people rose similarly and began to turn away to walk back to the city gates. Jesus held up a hand and a hush fell over everyone. 


“I understand your opposition,” Jesus said, “The world has come this far and there are those who have benefited from this system. But for us to progress, we must achieve the enlightenment of love, charity, and compassion above all else. If we -.”


“What’s this ‘we’ part,” the bald man scoffed. “You claim to be ‘The Light of the World’ and tell us that we should be like your disciples and follow you - to be more like you - then claim to be the same as us? Do not claim perfection for yourself then condescend to us as if we can’t achieve it as well. Do not say you are the same as us while claiming to be the ideal for us to strive to. No, I’m not falling for it.” The man turned his broad back to Jesus and began walking away himself. Those who didn’t get up watched those leaving then looked at Jesus. There was the expectation for Jesus to begin begging them, imploring them to stay. Those closest to Jesus on the mount could see his face fall and a mask of something like fear or pain come over him. And that’s when the breeze and the sound of the sea suddenly went deadly silent. Those walking stopped and turned to see the horrible sight.


It all happened in a manner of moments. The clear blue sky rapidly filled with dark, iron-grey storm clouds and what seemed to be black smoke swirled up from Jesus’ feet. His red and white cotton robes became a black hooded cloak with the hems frayed and smoldering with burning embers. Jesus’ skin became grey as ash and his eyes glowed with orange fire. When he straightened up, taller than before, a pair of great wings of black feathers expanded from his back - stretching nearly 50 feet on their side of him. Below his feet, the rocks of the mount on the Sea of Galilee split and the heat and light of a deep raging inferno emanated from the cracks. And when this dark form that had taken over Jesus Christ of Nazareth spoke, its voice was deep and echoing. 


"I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother or neighbor without cause shall be in danger of the Judgement. And whosoever shall say to his fellow ‘fool be you’ shall be in danger of the Council. But whosoever shall curse his brother shall be in danger of Hellfire. Judge not, lest ye be judged the same.” When the dark visage’s voice ceased to echo, a chorus of agonizing screaming and wailing rose up - not from the congregation, but from the burning rocks below. 


After a moment longer of the dark visage standing over all, as quickly as it had come, the form faded, the rocks sealed themselves, and the sky and all cleared and became as they were before. Those who had been standing had fallen to their knees and wept.  Jesus stood there, his forehead glistening with sweat and his body frail looking. Through a coughing wheeze, he concluded his sermon without much left to say. Nearly all 5,000 people stayed there at the mount until dusk. The silence and cold breeze sent chills down their spines. 


No one saw that side of Jesus again. He never spoke directly of Hell again - never letting the word cross his lips. Though some would forget some of his teachings and parables, and some forgot most of what he said on the mount that day, no one ever forgot that which even the Son of God feared speaking of. No one forgot about Hell. 

Text Copyright © Maximillion Almgren-Bersie 2023

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