They had lots of problems. The homeless poor were everywhere. Diseases that they had never known before ravaged the nation. The stench of all the sick beggars in the city streets was enough to knock a person over. It seemed like they were cursed, forgotten by God. A few affluent religious leaders were saying that it was all because of sin, but nobody seemed to have any real solutions.
So what did they need with an idealist? What good did it do for some uneducated visionary to come along saying, “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied; blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh”? Why hold out to people the promise of heaven on earth when it seemed the government was trying to make life hell with all its oppressive regulations? Surely no one would listen to this man.
But strangely enough, people did listen. They traveled for miles just to see him. Maybe they just needed a little hope. Maybe it didn’t matter that he didn’t have any money to hand out or any social programs to propose to the government. Maybe there weren’t any solutions, and all that they could expect was a fantasy of love and peace that would get their minds off of their problems for a little while.
The more popular he got, the more rumors circulated about him. They said that he was a healer, a miracle worker. They said that he was a zealot, advocating a new kind of government. They said that he was a devil, calling people to abandon their religion and follow him. Eventually, he caused such a stir that some of the leaders began to be concerned. There might be riots. There might be government reprisals. A lot of decent law-abiding citizens might get hurt. All his talk about a government based on love might just be a front for an attempted political takeover, one that would surely end in disaster. Something needed to be done, so they did it.
They found someone to betray him, seized him in the middle of the night, and brought him to trial. Evidence was scanty and conflicting. His own testimony seemed to be that of a mere dreamer. “My kingdom is not of this world,” he said. “If it were, my followers would be fighting to deliver me.”
The judge handed down a bizarre verdict, simultaneously declaring the prisoner innocent and washing his hands of his death. After a tormenting six-hour-long execution, his brutally disfigured body was laid in the grave. To the thinking of most, both the dreamer and the dream were gone forever.
Seven weeks slipped past, just as inconspicuously as his followers who had deserted him on the night of his arrest. Nothing was seen or heard of his cause.
Then suddenly, vividly, they reappeared. Clear-eyed and articulate, full of peace as well as passion, these disciples testified to the goodness and innocence of their Master, as well as the guilt of the nation and its leaders for putting him to death. But they weren’t calling for blood. They were calling for repentance and forgiveness. They were saying that their Master’s death was enough blood to be shed — enough to pay for the guilt of the whole world.
They were also saying that he wasn’t dead anymore. They had seen him alive. He had gone up into the heavens to sit on the throne of the universe. He had given them his very own spirit to live in them and cause them to be just like him.
The result of their sincere, impassioned testimony was electrifying. Thousands cried out in desperation to be released from their guilt. They were each plunged into water as a sign of their cleansing and proclaimed to be new creatures with a new life, the life of a disciple of Yahshua, their slain and resurrected king.
The form that this new life took was even more electrifying. Every disciple was so concerned for the welfare of his brothers that he sacrificed his own time, his own goals, even his own possessions to meet their needs. The result was that in a nation where homelessness and poverty abounded, there were no rich or poor among these disciples, and each one had a home where he was loved and cared for. The words of the “dreamer” had come true: the poor and hungry were blessed. A new social order had begun on the earth.
What happened to that new social order? It’s hard to say. But just like the first disciples, we want to share with others the life our God has established here. We want to freely give to you what has been gladly given to us. What else can people do when they share the same dream?