Chapter Seven

This entry is part 8 of 22 in the series Free Book


As John and I were preparing dinner, Elizabeth was sitting in her wheelchair at the dining room table. I sensed that she was uncomfortable with the idea that we were having company and that she was unable to do anything to help. She was getting to the point that if she got any worse she would have to have someone stay with her all the time. She was still insisting that I go out and work my normal schedule and that she could take care of herself, but I was beginning to feel uneasy about her.

I looked her direction. “Sweetie… Do you have any questions you want to ask John?”

“You guys go ahead and finish putting the meal on, and I’ll let John have it then.”

I looked at John. “Do you drink wine?”

“A little now and then.”

“How about some Gewurztraminer? It’s our favorite for special occasions.”

“You have good taste.”

“I was a little nervous in offering it to you. After all, your contemporary, John the Baptist, was supposed to eat nothing but locusts and honey.”

“But when he was in prison, he ate whatever they gave him. Every food, every element in the universe, is good and beneficial if taken in the right portions, in the right combinations, and bad when the limit is crossed. Quinine is a good example. It has been added in minute amounts to drinks for many years, but is deadly if any substantial amount is taken.

“Research now shows that moderate amounts of alcohol have a beneficial effect on the heart. Even cigarettes, if taken in small doses, like just two or three a week, could have a beneficial stimulation to the system for some. The trouble with them is that very few people have the self-control to limit their intake on these and other habit-forming substances.”

“How about pot? How is that beneficial?”

“Pot, as you call it, is a medicine and should be administered by a knowledgeable healer. It should not be used on a regular basis without the advice of a physician or spiritual teacher. Overuse can have the negative effect of weakening the power of the will and delaying the correct use of the energy centers in the head. Extreme overuse can cause physical and other problems.”

“Interesting,” I said. John and I took the food to the table. “Looks like we are about ready to dine. Elizabeth tells me that I make the best salmon steaks there are.”

“Looks as good as anything the French can dream up,” John said. “And salmon is very good for Elizabeth’s diet.”

“Let me propose a toast,” I said, as I raised my glass. “May the truth always prevail.”

“A great toast,” John replied, smiling. “That is not the first time I have heard you propose it, nor will it be the last.” He saw a question mark in my eyes. “Don’t ask me to explain that remark yet… May the truth always prevail,” he said.

John and I drank deeply. I always filled Elizabeth’s wineglass about half-full so she could drink with her shaking hands. Still, she spilled a couple of drops. “Excuse me,” she said, wiping herself with a napkin.

“No problem,” said John. “Didn’t you promise to interrogate me?”

“Yes, I do have some questions.”

“This may be somewhat of a special occasion.” John interrupted. “This is the first time I have opened myself up to questions with knowledge of my identity on the table for several hundred years.”

Elizabeth set her fork down and wiped her mouth. “So, you really think you are John the Beloved? Tell me in your own words who you are. This is such a fantastic claim I want to hear it from your own mouth.”

John leaned forward and looked at Elizabeth thoughtfully. “The Beloved was a term originated by one of my students, and for some reason it stuck and I was called the disciple that Jesus loved in the final edition of the Gospel of John. I did not feel at the time that I deserved any such title. In many ways, back then I was somewhat immature and fell short as a disciple of the Master. All of us betrayed Him in some degree. Someday, I will tell you why Jesus chose me to wander the earth until He comes again. In a way, it has been a great honor, and has had many rewards, yet in another way it has been very difficult.”

“What do you mean you all betrayed Him in some degree?” asked Elizabeth. “I thought you were all holy men.”

“Jesus was the only holy man among us, and even that was not obvious until one looked below the surface. The disciples were much more ordinary than any of the churches would ever want you to believe. The twelve apostles were not much more out of the ordinary than a group of salesmen at a convention. The only thing we had in common was a desire to learn the deeper mysteries. We were also attracted to the power Jesus had and wanted Him to share it with us, but our motives were not entirely pure.

“At one point we let jealousy overcome us and accused Jesus of being a glory seeker. We told him that He needed to let us do and take credit for some of the miracles, so He would be forced to stay humble. Now I see, on reflection, that it was we who needed to be humbled. He was just doing the job He came to do, and it attracted attention. At the time we felt like we deserved attention just as much as Jesus did, and we wanted our share.”

“Well, if you are the Apostle and this is true, why are you telling us? I would think you would want to keep anything negative about your history under your hat,” Elizabeth said matter-of-factly.

“That was our basic attitude when we related the story of the Gospel to students that was finally written down in permanent form. We were somewhat defensive when the story of how we deserted Jesus on the night of his arrest kept surfacing. None of the eleven remaining apostles wanted that to go in a permanent record, but the truth was out about it shortly after the resurrection and there was no suppressing it. Peter suffered the most, however, because Jesus actually predicted he would deny him three times before the cock would crow. Many ignorant people thought he did not deserve to be a leader because of this act, and some who were jealous of his position even crowed like a rooster when he walked by so as to remind him of his mistake. Peter suffered great pain because of his error, yet he also performed the greatest of miracles among us.

John continued: “To answer your question why do I reveal my past weakness? For two reasons. Joseph will write about our conversations, and in this round I must reveal the truth about the humanity of the little group who followed the Master. In the past, we tried to portray ourselves as greater than we were. Second, I want you to realize that I am just a human being like yourselves. I have many answers, but not all the answers. I have some power available, but not all power. I would rather give you more than you expect, rather than less.”

I asked John if he wanted more salmon, and he happily accepted. My interest in John increased by the minute.

“So, how would you rate yourself now?” Elizabeth asked. “Have you made some progress?”

“I appreciate that question. Yes, I have made a lot of progress. Back in those days, I was like a kid in a candy store. Now, I’m more like the father who had too much candy as a kid deciding how much candy his own child should have. My perspective and judgment is much improved. Even so, I cannot just blurt out the few mysteries of the universe that I know. Higher knowledge cannot just be poured into you like placing data into a computer. To be fully understood, it must be verified through a person’s own soul.

“And what is the difference between lower and higher knowledge?” Elizabeth asked.

“Lower knowledge deals with facts and can be used as soon as it is memorized — like how to spell certain words or the multiplication tables. Seven times seven is forty-nine. As soon as anyone memorizes this, he can use it in the practical world.

“Higher knowledge deals with principles and requires a certain attuning with the spiritual self to be able to apply it. For instance, anyone can learn how to write down musical notes, but to compose a beautiful and original melody requires an attuning with music itself. Anyone can memorize a scale of notes, but only the person who is in tune with music can come close to understanding the principle behind music and write original scores.

“So the first key, which is WHO OR WHAT AM I? cannot just be told to us,” Elizabeth concluded.

“That is correct. You must tune into it to understand the meaning. My job is to merely guide you in the right direction. I am like the person coaching the songwriter. I could say to such a person: ‘That doesn’t even sound like music. Try again,’ or, ‘That sounds beautiful and stirs my soul. Keep on writing.’ I will know within myself when you have reached the required level of understanding.”

“Interesting,” said Elizabeth. (I was just sitting back, relaxing and enjoying watching Elizabeth give John an interrogation.) “Now I have some real questions for you,” she mused.

“Ask on,” John replied, obviously pleased with Elizabeth’s curiosity.

Elizabeth reached into the pocket of her skirt and pulled out a list. “Here they are:

“One: What is the meaning of life? Two: Where did we come from? Why are we here and where are we going? Three: How much of the Bible is really true? Four: Is there a true church? And if there is, which one is it? Five: Is there reincarnation? Six: Is Christ really coming again? If so, when? Seven: When did the universe begin, and when will it end? Eight: Who or what is God, and why is He not doing something constructive on the earth today? It looks to me like He doesn’t care much about starving children, for instance. Nine: Does this earth have any future awaiting it, or is there going to be some dark apocalypse where life as we know it will cease to exist? Ten: Why does God allow suffering, disease and untimely death? What father would let his children suffer as some of us have to? If God is really a loving God, it just doesn’t make sense. Take me, for instance. I know I’m not perfect, but there are a lot of rapists and murderers out there who are in much better physical shape than I am. Why am I punished and not them?”

John smiled. “That’s an impressive list of questions. Did you think them up yourself?” he asked.

“My husband and I thought them up last night when we sort of brainstormed.”

“For several reasons I will only give you so much at a time. I will take one question from you tonight. Pick the one that means the most to you.”

“I think you know which one that is,” Elizabeth said evenly.

“That could be.” John said. “Nevertheless, you must clearly state your question.”

“Why is that?” she protested.

“There is a principle governing the transmission of higher principles. Have you heard the statement by Jesus in the Bible where he says: Ask and you shall receive?”

“I believe so.”

“If you want to know any mystery, you must ask and know what you are asking. The one being asked must know what is being asked, and the one who is asking must be willing to receive if the answer is given.”

“And if I reject the answer?”

“Then it will be as if the question was never asked,” John replied.

“I’m not sure if you are really John the Beloved, but at least you are unusual… How do I know if I am ready for the answer?”

“When you are ready to consider anything, no matter how crazy it sounds,” said John.

“So the answer to number ten could be that God is really a spoiled cosmic brat who is torturing us like a kid who sticks pins in bees and pulls wings off flies?”

“You never know,” John said wryly.

“OK. I will not guarantee I am ready, but here’s the question. It’s number ten.”

“Articulate the question,” said John.

“OK. I’ll repeat it.” Elizabeth shifted in her wheelchair. “Why does God allow suffering, disease and untimely death? Why do some innocent children die? Why do some of us suffer with painful disease, and others who deserve to suffer seem to be vibrant and healthy?”

“I’ll answer at least part of your question,” said John. “In particular, you want to know why you suffer with such a dread disease when you have been basically a good person and do not deserve such pain. You wonder why your life will seemingly be cut short while other people can gracefully grow old with their partners. Is that what you want to know?”

“Basically, yes.”

“I will give you a partial answer now and more later when you have additional pieces to the puzzle. Can you accept this?”

“I suppose so. Go ahead. Show me what you’ve got.”

I smiled at Elizabeth’s spunkiness and looked at John with great anticipation for the answer.

Copyright 1997 by J J Dewey

Chapter Eight

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