• Mark Whitten

The Gospel According to Hemingway

Updated: Feb 18

Pages. [02172022]


Luke 4:16-30 Part One


He came to Nazareth. He came to the town where he was a boy. Where he became a man. There were memories here. Mother calling him for dinner. Friends shouting in the gray-brown roads that connected stone houses. Animals bleating and clucking. And dust. Dust on a thousand feet and in ten thousand toenails.


There was a well in the town. A well where everyone in the town had to go. A gathering spot where dust turned to mud and feet found relief for a second, when a splash or a slosh broke free from a bucket. The well where foot washing was made possible. And necessary.


It was the last day of the week. The seventh day. The Sabbath day. The day when all eyes were watching. Watching their neighbors. A day of rest that was anything but restful. A day when you couldn’t afford to be discovered.


On the other side of the town. Just above the rise. Above where the well was. Was the synagogue. The only building in the town that seemed to be on purpose. Formidable for a town where laborers lived.


He entered the synagogue, on the seventh day. It was a sabbath day, a day when all were watching. A day when all were hiding. A day of faith and fear. The day of rest. But this day there there would be no rest. He entered the synagogue as he had done 1,404 times before. His feet layered with a layer of yellow brown haze. Small splotches proved he had been to the well just below the rise on the other side of town where everyone in the town had to go, every day, or at least every other day.


The place was pregnant on this particular sabbath day. It was droning with muffled whispers and shuffling, dusty toes. Strange hope and strange whispers. And on this day of rest where there was no rest, came a curious rest. And then he stood. Neither tall nor particularly handsome. Though kind. And blameless in a town where it was hard to rest, and hard to hide when one had to go to the well just below the rise every day, or at least every other day.


The hazzan weaved his way to Yeshua, producing Isaiah’s scroll. His old hands clenching the Logos while the Logos clenched his own words. The old hazzan could not let go. He was locked, gazing into eyes that were looking out through him. Eyes that saw everything in him. Eyes seeing him seeing. Eyes where nothing could hide, but eyes where everything in you wanted to be seen. A seeing that gave you rest.

And everyone else saw it. They were swallowed up in this seven second sabbath. The exchange. The scroll. The grip that couldn’t let go. The patience. The kindness. The connection where everything and everyone became still and naturally holy.


Coming to. The elder shook his head. He smiled. Slightly embarrassed but not regretful. Jesus returned a knowing smile. And then a revival of smiles just above the rise in the town where laborers lived.


He unrolled the scroll, loving the feel of ancient paper swimming across his dry hands. He knew it well. He knew exactly where to scroll, on this sabbath day, in this town where the gray-brown roads connected stone houses and this synagogue that rested just above the rise from the well where everyone had to go.


“God’s power is on me. Can you feel it? It’s traveling like a traveler looking for rest in a town where few lamps remain lit. This power covers me like oil. It’s running down my beard and draining down my robe and splashing on my feet. And it keeps coming. Like a traveler with dusty feet, looking for a well at which to wet his dusty toes and quench his dusty breath and sooth his gritty teeth. Oil. Oil searching for a place to rest. And flow. And spread. And bring possibilities to the poor. Salve for the infected and bandages for broken hearts.


“Fathers, brothers,” he said. “Today I offer you eyes that can rest. Eyes that can gaze again. Into heaven and imagine being loved. Sight to see the unseen and to appear naked without shame.”


“Sisters and mothers,” he said. “You're not prisoners anymore. Don’t you see, I have come to you, so you can become who you are. I have come to announce that you are not condemned. God accepts you."


“Children,” he said. “It has begun. We will build a city that summons the earth and covers the cosmos.”


He paused.


Then he rolled up the scroll, which swam across his dry hands, and smiled again.


Every eye saw into heaven for another seven seconds that sabbath, in Nazareth.


Coming to, some realized he was Joseph’s son. The ordinary laborer who lived in the town, with a well, and ten thousand dusty toes and a synagogue just above the rise.