Flight In The Night
The plan was for my parents to spirit Reuben/Bartholomew to Samuel’s house late in the night, preferably after the inquisitive Uriah fell asleep. We all agreed that Uriah would become suspicious if he saw my parents sneaking him out the house at such an hour. The hood Reuben would wear over his head was intended to hide his face, and with Papa and Mama on each side of him it might even appear, at a distance, as if they were ushering Samuel back to his home. Jesus would scurry ahead of them to make sure the road was clear of townsfolk, and I was suppose to watch Uriah and make sure he was asleep as they started their journey. If Uriah awakened during the transfer, I would immediately tell him that Samuel was ill and required an immediate audience with the adults in our house. Lame as it sounded, I was sure that Uriah, trusting as he was, would accept this excuse. Our chief concern was unexpected traffic on the road, such as Roman legionnaires and townsfolk, who might ask questions about the strange hooded figure being escorted to Samuel’s house.
As planned, Uriah fell asleep and snored peacefully beside me as I watched the hulking form of our guest tiptoe across the floor behind my parents. The lamp held by Papa highlighted this small, but significant procession. Silently, without fanfare, Reuben/Bartholomew slipped out of our lives. After being hidden away in Samuel’s house, he would set forth once more to remake his life. One day he would awaken beneath a fig tree after hearing Jesus’ call. No one, except Jesus, himself, knew how greatly his life would change. From tanner turned bandit to our Lord’s sixth apostle, who would have ever guessed?
That night his journey began.
I awaited my parents’ return with great expectation. To have Reuben removed finally from our house was vital for our happiness and peace of mind. Though we had grown fond of our meek, mild mannered guest, it had never seemed real to us. Always, my brothers and I, except Jesus, who knew the future, half suspected our one time enemy might go berserk in his isolation and run amuck, perhaps doing us bodily harm. If Reuben was even suspected of being inside our house by our neighbors it would be impossible to muster up a convincing reason, other than the one we gave Uriah. I heard Papa admit to Mama that no one, except Uriah, would accept such a story. Papa’s friends might wonder why they had never heard of Uncle Bartholomew from Joppa. Ezra, Papa’s best friend, was already very suspicious about the goings on in our house. Our only hope was that Uriah would forget about this detail during his stay with us before going home.
Jesus returned first, and, hearing his faint knock on the front door, I arose quietly but swiftly to let him in. My first words, in a sputtering whisper “Did everything go as planned?” were met by a shush! Into my ear Jesus murmured, “All went well. Mama and Papa will be here shortly.” Jesus then led me back to my pallet and tucked me in as he had many times before. Not daring to speak again, I lay there a moment wondering what would happen to Reuben/Bartholomew now. Would he find his sister soon and start a new life? Or, as my brothers James and Joseph believed, would he return to his life as a thief? I chose to believe the former prospect. Though I once feared Reuben, the bandit, I had grown to like Bartholomew, our special guest. I would never have imagined that one day he would become Jesus’ oldest disciple. I would also never have believed Jesus was the Messiah, who would bring salvation to the world.
When my parents entered the house, all was well. As I fell asleep, they sat quietly at the table discussing the day’s events. So much had happened to me in the last few days. For a few moments, as I drifted off to sleep, I thought about Adam, the treasure, and my fair-weather friends. Soon, a familiar dream returned to me, which I hoped never to experience again. Though not as bad as previous nightmares, its similarity to my dreams of the three crosses at first filled me with terror. Then something incredible occurred at the onset that would affect my dream world. I learned once and for all how to control the dreamscape and wake myself up. Already, in past experiences, I had “awakened” in dreams, realizing they were nightmares but forced to play them out whether I liked it or not. The setting this time was so familiar I recognized it immediately as dream imagery, but this time I was in control. Once again it was night. I was riding my horse. As I came upon the distant hill, my recollections grew until a voice in my head shouted, “You’re asleep. This is a dream. Wake up!” Without even a second glance at the terrible scene on the hill, I galloped away happily, singing an off-key tune: “I don’t hear you! I don’t see you! La-la-la-la-la!” When I awakened in the real world, Uriah, who had been sleeping next to me, was shaking my arm. His shadowy face caught the flickering light of the small candle on the table.
“You were singing in your sleep,” he whispered excitedly. “You were also laughing. Were you having a funny dream?”
“No,” I answered groggily, “I was having a nightmare . . .” Recalling how I dispelled my dream, I muttered aloud, “Uriah, I knew I was dreaming. It was like waking up inside a dream, only this time I put an end to it. I woke myself up!”
“How strange,” murmured Uriah. “How’d you manage that?”
“I’m not sure,” I replied slowly “. . . I just looked around, remembered I’d been there before, and I wasn’t afraid. I usually know I’m asleep. This time I felt great power, like I could fight an army or ride my horse into the clouds, and I was in control. Most importantly, Uriah, that dream will never bother me again.”
Uriah’s eyes seemed as large as almonds. “Tell me about it Jude. Was it a scary dream? I once dreamed a lion entered my room and tried to eat me up!”
“Shhh! You’ll wake my brothers,” I shushed him. “It was much worse than monsters chasing me. I stopped having those silly dreams after my brother cured the dead bird. Until I talked to Jesus, my last three nightmares scared me a lot. They were,” I searched for the word, “revelations. I’ve had many of these kind of dreams, but my dreams of the three crosses were the worst.”
Resting his pudgy chin on his palms, Uriah’s facial expressions were caught in the lamplight as he listened to my terrible dreams: fear, disbelief, and awe—sometimes all at once.
From my first dreamscape of the distant crosses until the glorious moment I rode my white horse away from the dreadful scene, I quickly outlined the series of images I feared were revelations (or, more correctly, prophecy, another word Jesus had taught me). I told Uriah about Jesus calm reaction to my dreams. He had scoffed at the significance of them and advised me to concentrate on childhood matters, but he would not admit if my dreams were really revelations or not.
Uriah made a face at me. “Humph, he didn’t say they weren’t either. What if you have that dream again?”
“I’ll know it’s not real.” I frowned thoughtfully. “I chased away my nightmare. I bet I can do that with all the nightmares I have.”
“But if you have that dream again and you know your dreaming, its like having a vision. God talks to us this way in our sleep . . . . Jesus just didn’t want to frighten you,” Uriah explained after deliberating a moment. “As you sleep, the Lord’s still talking to you but in the language of dreams.”
I was impressed with Uriah’s knowledge. I hadn’t considered such a notion. Papa had a vision once, when an angel came to him in his dream. This frightened me so much, I rolled over and bit my fist. “Why’d you go say a thing like that?” I spat angrily. “I don’t want that kind of stuff in my head—I’m still a child. Jesus saw that; why can’t you?”
Uriah had proven to me once and for all that he wasn’t stupid. A sly smile broke between his chubby cheeks. “I’m sorry Jude. I’ve been a rabbi’s son too long not to recognize what this is. It’s a vision. If you’re not really asleep, it’s even more important. It’s a prophecy of things to come. Have you ever wondered just exactly who was on those crosses? Did you recognize one of the men?”
“No!” I cried too loudly. “Please, if you want to be my friend, don’t say such things to me again!”
This time Uriah didn’t whimper and beg forgiveness, because he knew he was right. I could almost feel his dark little eyes staring at me.
“Jude,” he said, tapping me gently on the shoulder, “don’t be angry.”
“I-I thought you were stupid.” I looked back in frustration. “What was all that dumb stuff you’ve been doing—just an act?”
“I’m might not be smart like you Jude,” he confessed, “but I’ve listened to my father rant and rave long enough to know that your family’s special. Your oldest brother has always been kind to me. I don’t believe all the awful things about him.” “Jesus is not like us,” he added, his face resting on his arm. “God listens to him, and he listens to God. There’s something strange about your dreams, Jude: your white horse, the Romans you meet, and all those other strange scenes. I’ve had some strange dreams, myself. Jesus was in one of them. I bet he knew what your dreams mean. If he told you not to worry about them, he’s trying to protect you. I’m glad you’re able to control your dreams. It seems like you’re finally listening to him, at least in your sleep.”
I could scarcely believe my ears. What he was saying made sense. Perhaps Jesus was behind my sudden power over my dreams. Soon, however, to my relief, Uriah had fallen asleep and was snoring peacefully beside me. I had felt momentary anger toward him for his blunt words, but I couldn’t argue with what he said. It mirrored my own feelings. What gave me comfort as I drifted back to sleep were the words spoken to my by Jesus when I asked him to interpret my dream.
“. . . .What you were seeing were glimpses, shadowed in symbols, of the future—prophecy. Only God has pure knowledge of events. Even divine prophecy can be changed by God’s will.”
Jesus had dodged answering my questions, but I remembered the many times he said that God gave us freewill, which meant that we could change our minds. It seemed to me that God could change His mind too.