THE TWO WERE SOMEWHAT stunned by the abruptness of the big man’s reply.
“Who is he, Lucas?”
“How should I know? I never seen him before.”
“He sure was rude! Do y’ think he really is as poor as we are?”
“I doubt it.” The older man scratched his scraggly beard. “He was probably just sayin’ that t’ keep from givin’ us anything. Some people are sure stingy with their money!”
“But he said he was plannin’ somethin’. 'Wonder what it might be.”
The older man shrugged. “Who cares?”
“But, why did he say that about there not bein’ any poor people one day? Do y’ think it could possibly be true?”
“Of course not! It’s impossible. Anyway, let’s not get carried away with fancy dreams of what could be. Let’s concentrate on how t’ keep from starvin’ t’ death here and now. This spot doesn’t seem t’ be doin’ so good. We haven’t had a decent take all week, and our food supply is runnin’ out. Let’s try and find us a better spot tomorrow. Whata y’ say?”
“Good idea, Lucas. An’ speakin’ of food, I’m gettin’ pretty hungry.”
“So am I.” The older man opened a cloth sack that was lying on the ground beside them and pulled out a few pieces of fish and a loaf of bread. “Looks like we got only enough fer t’night. Let’s enjoy it while it lasts, and hope we find a good spot t’morrow.”
The meager evening meal was eaten in silence. Then, Lucas spoke again. “Come t’ think of it though, I met another really weird fellow some time back. At first he didn’t give me any money either. Just asked a lot o’ stupid questions about what I thought o’ th’ government, and tried t’ tell me how bad a shape it was in. I told ‘im I didn’t know nothin’ about th’ government, nor care nothin’ either. He just started t’ walk away, till I coughed and held my hand out again. Then he did drop a few coins.”
“All this sounds kinda strange to me.”
“Yeah, come t’ think of it." The older man’s speech slowed somewhat, as he stroked his beard thoughtfully. “With first him, and now this one, maybe somethin’ strange is goin’ on.”
“Yeah!” Excitement rang in Timotheus’ voice as he spoke. “It sure seems like it, doesn’t it?” The thought of something new and mysterious was a welcome addition to an otherwise humdrum life.
But, his excitement was not to be shared by his partner. “But, like I said, it surely doesn’t concern us. So what do we care anyway, huh?”
“But, perhaps there’s a chance, Lucas – just a small chance that it could affect us.”
“There’s that ‘could’ again! Like I said, let’s concentrate on now, and let whatever it is take care of itself. If it’s gonna happen, it’ll happen, with or without our thinkin’ one whit more about it.”
“True. But, it’s enough t’ make y’ wonder a little.”
“Well, do your wonderin’ in your dreams. Let’s get some sleep. We got a big day ahead of us.”
AS THE SUN’S RAYS BEAT upon the dusty roads, the two set out once again, in search of a new and more prosperous location, asking alms of any person they found along the way. Yesterday’s events and questions were soon forgotten in the light of today’s urgency. Their supply of food was gone and they were in desperate need of a good take in order to replenish it.
By noon, the pangs of hunger had set in. For the first portion of the day, their search had proved uneventful, and they were feeling quite discouraged and frustrated, not to mention hungry. They stopped at a food store and begged the owner for something to eat, but he refused, saying, “Come back when you got some money!”
Suddenly, as they were wearily pressing on in the middle of the afternoon, Timotheus caught sight of a crowd of people some distance ahead. “Say, we just may be blessed after all. Look at that crowd up there!”
“I’m sure glad you got better eyes than I do, son.”
The crowd was indeed a large one, as they confirmed upon getting closer. “It makes y’ wonder,” observed Timotheus, “what could be attracting a crowd this big.”
“Well, let’s not wonder. Let’s take advantage of it, whatever it is!”
As they drew closer, they could hear a man’s husky voice booming out loudly. Apparently, the crowd had gathered to hear some rabbi or prophet speak. As they infiltrated the crowd, they were able to get a view of the speaker. He was a tall man, dressed in camel’s hair, with a girdle of leather around his waist. He was preaching about repentance, urging the people to turn away from sin.
Timotheus’ eyes were fixed upon this strange looking preacher. The man’s words seemed to be speaking directly to him, revealing the sinfulness which lie buried within his own soul. He was reminded of all the times he had lied, been needlessly angry, lusted and many other things. Perhaps sin was his main problem, and he just hadn’t realized it before now. Could it be?
But a rap on the arm from Lucas brought his contemplation to an abrupt halt. “come on! Did y’ forget why we came? Let’s get busy!”
As they went through the crowd, asking alms, Timotheus still managed to catch parts of the stranger’s message. Although many of the people also had their attention focused sharply on the speaker, most did not mind being interrupted for a brief moment and most gave generously.
“Well, we did quite well,” commented Lucas, after counting the money.
“Yes! We’ll have t’ come back here again.”
“Hopefully that strange looking preacher’ll come here again. Come on! Let’s go get some food.”
On their way back to the store to purchase the food, they talked. It was Lucas who began the conversation. “That guy sure did draw th’ people.”
“Yeah! I wonder who he was,” mused Timotheus.
Lucas scratched his head. “I believe someone in th’ crowd said his name is John.”
“And who, I wonder, is th’ one he was talkin’ about– th’ one who he said would come after him.”
“He said someone will come after him?”
“Didn’t you hear?”
“I wasn’t really payin’ attention. But, it’s probably somethin’ else t’ do with politics, like those two we were talkin’ about yesterday –things that don’t concern us anyway.”
“But, what he was sayin’ about sin, that relates to all of us.”
“I don’t really see how it relates to us. We haven’t done anything terrible, like murder someone, er somethin’ like that. We don’t even steal. We’re honest beggars.”
“—-Playing on the sympathies of others. I’ve had some reservations about that. But, it seems it is the only thing we can do, so I guess there’s no use t’ question that. But, anyway, like th preacher said, those big sins aren’t th’ only sins there are. There are even sins of attitude, like regret, bitterness, anger, lust or coveting.”
“You were really listening, weren’t y’?” The older man stroked his beard. “But, should we really be concerned about it? –such poor folk as us? Doesn’t it seem like God owes us somethin’, anyhow? How can he expect us t’ be perfect?”
Timotheus thought for a moment and then shrugged. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. Anyway, there’s th’ store up ahead. I’ll sure be glad t’ get some food in my stomach.”
“You and me both.”
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