Why do miracles at all? (Prologue -- The Angry Man)

"At least I have a place to live," The Angry Man thought. "If you call this living."

It wasn't more than a hole, hewn out of the rock by one of his ancestors. He didn't remember which. It hardly mattered, anyway. If he had one complaint -- and he had a lot more than just one -- about where he lived, it was the gnarled and twisted olive tree that stood a few paces from the opening to his home. He hated that tree. It reminded him of his legs.

The Angry Man hated a lot of things.

He looked down at his legs, then back at the tree, just as he had done thousands of times since he was struck by the mysterious illness that confined him to the cave. His knee joints were large, knotted and misshapen below thighs whose muscles had atrophied to the point that, really, they were no longer there. The bottom half of his legs stuck out in awkward angles from those knee caps, just like the branches of the olive tree that mocked him every day.

Mostly he hated it because it lived in the sun.

The Angry Man rarely saw daylight overhead, except when four men from the local synagogue came to visit. They came every week to carry him out to sunbathe by a nearby creek. Most of the time he wished they wouldn't bother. Many times, he'd curse their efforts, and not always quietly.

After all, didn't he have to lie on a wooden plank they'd built -- it was terribly uncomfortable -- and be further mocked because he couldn't walk himself? He never let on that, in the end, it was more than worth it, just to feel the breeze, smell the water, hear the trickle of it across smooth stones.

There, just past the tree. The Angry Man squinted as they approached. His "friends."

He didn't expect them for several more days, yet here they were. He'd get to see the creek today, that was true. But he didn't like surprises.

The Angry Man tried to ignore the olive tree.

They were approaching fast. They weren't smiling, as usual. Well, maybe they were a little. But they were strange smiles -- condescending, if you want to know the truth -- and he didn't like it at all.

The fat one stepped through the door first.

"Just go away," The Angry Man said. "Can't you see I'm trying to sleep?"

"Oh, you'll want to be awake for this," the man said. "Jesus has come home."

The Angry Man remembered the name. The man was a prophet, some said. Elijah, come back from heaven. Others went so far as to claim Jesus was the Son of David, the Messiah. The Angry Man knew the type. Capernaum had seen its share of fools claiming this and that, making promises they couldn't keep. Jesus was nothing more than another charlatan, a simple fraud.

Still ...

"We'd like to take you to see Him," one of the men said. "He's speaking at a house not far from here. We brought your bed. Will you come with us?"

The Angry Man did not want to go. He'd have to listen to their incessant optimism. They clearly bought whatever Jesus was selling. This could benefit The Angry Man, of course. The fools could believe whatever they wished. If they had to suffer the disappointment of knowing their messiah was a fraud, that was their problem. At least he could get a free trip out of this God-forsaken cave and, just maybe, he could con a meal out of his four "friends." They were gullible enough to fall for it. They always were.

"I'll go with you," The Angry Man said, "if you'll take me to the creek after we're done."

They all smiled.

"My friend," one said, "when we're done, you can go yourself."

(To be continued)

(copyright 2006, andrew j. beckner. all rights under copyright reserved.)