Thirteen men dressed in robes and sandals boarded a plane in Jerusalem bound for New York City. Immediately passengers on the airplane were fearful, and complained to the flight attendants . . . “Those men have to be militants! How did they get through security? They shouldn’t be allowed to fly!”
The attendant responded, “If they’ve cleared security they have every right to fly with us. They carry nothing, and have no luggage. I’m sure they are peaceful men.”
During the flight all thirteen refuse strange drinks in a can and food sealed in plastic that flight attendants handed out to passengers. They thought it to be unsafe.
When their flight landed and the thirteen robed men entered the terminal people were in shock. They grabbed their bags and moved away quickly to avoid them.
“What a strange place,” Jesus said. “At home the people would flock to me. Here they run away.”
“Well,” Peter said, “you must admit that we are dressed differently.
Of course we are,” replied Jesus, “every country in the world dresses differently.
Like the Red Sea, people parted as the thirteen men left the terminal empty-handed with no luggage. Seeing they were too large a group for the taxi cabs, they approached a bus.
“Sorry,” the driver shouted over the traffic noise. “We’re full”
Peter looked at all the empty seats and stepped up to contradict the driver. Jesus restrained Peter saying to the driver, “I understand.” Turning away from the bus Jesus said, “We can walk as we usually do.”
They walked many miles on the hard cement paths and their feet were getting tired when Bartholomew shouted, “Look at that beautiful water fountain.”
Jesus smiled, saying “This will be a good place to cool our feel. Come, we’ll rest here.”
The men removed their sandals, sat on the edge of the fountain and began soaking their feet in the cool water. Only a few minutes later James pointed at a man approaching them. “A soldier is approaching us.”
Not knowing what to expect Jesus and his disciples stayed calm. The police officer stepped up to them and asked, “Just what do you think you’re doing?”
“We’ve walked far,” replied Jesus, “so we’re soaking our tired, hot feet.”
The policeman squared his shoulders and proclaimed gruffly, “Not in this fountain you don’t.”
“Well,” asked Jesus, “what are fountains for?”
“Coins, replied the officer. People throw coins into the fountain and make a wish.”
“I see. And what do you do with these coins?” Jesus asked.
“Once a year we clean them out and put the money into the city budget.”
“What a shame. Don’t you think you should us the coins to feed the poor?” Jesus asked.
The policeman appeared irritated by Jesus’ questions. “Look mister, what I think doesn’t count. This is a city fountain and the city’s money. Now, up and at’em. You’ve got to go.”
Peter asked Jesus, “Where do we go now?”
“Well, speaking of the poor,” Jesus said, “Let’s find them”
Leaving the main streets the men walked toward a bridge. Along the way they passed poorly dressed men and women holding signs and cups containing some coins. Just beyond and around the corner they spotted a handwritten sign on a wall announcing Maggie’s Soup Kitchen.
When they entered a dozen or more scruffy looking men sat at tables while a man and woman were ladling soup into bowls.
“EEEEEK” screamed the woman when they walked in. She threw her hands in the air tossing soup everywhere. She ran to the back room and his under a prep table.
The men at the tables barely looked up as they ate.
A voice came from the back room, “Take what you want, but please don’t kill us!”
The twelve disciples looked at each, and then turned to see what Jesus would do.
“Be calm, woman. We come in peace to help the needy,” Jesus said.
Still hiding under the table Maggie asked, “Well, who are you?”
“We’re men of God.” Jesus replied. “You have nothing to fear.”
“God, huh?” Well, why don’t you leave and fix the bums on the street”
“Come now,” Jesus said, “with your help we can. Come out and see that we’re men of peace.”
Maggie came as far as the doorway and leaned against it. “So, what do you want from me, huh?”
Simon spoke up. “You can see our robes and sandals cause discomfort for many. Do you have clothes of a local nature?”
Maggie eyes glared at Simon and her posture stiffened as she answered, “Can’t you read? The sign says ‘Soup Kitchen,’ not the Salvation Army!”
All thirteen men stepped back quickly. “An army?” they said. “Oh, we don’t want to disturb the army!”
“You guys must be from Mars, for Pete’s sake. It’s a charity just down the street about three blocks.” Bobbin her head to the right she continues, “That way.”
Clasping their hands in a prayerful mode they all bowed their heads, said thank you, and walked out of Maggie’s kitchen.
As they left Maggie followed them to the door and said, “Jesus Christ! Those guys scared the bejesus out of me.
Peter turned to Jesus saying, “I don’t remember mentioning your name in there.”
Jesus smiled. “We didn’t.”
The group followed Maggie’s directions and soon came upon a building with a Salvation Army sign.
“James,” Jesus said, “we’ll wait out here while you and John go in and seek clothing for us.”
Inside the store James and John saw rows and rows of clothing. When a young lady approached them James said to her, “We’ve come from another country and desire clothing of a local nature. Can you help us?”
“Of course. Come with me and I’m sure I can find something for the two of you.”
“Well, you see,” said James, “it’s not just the two of us. We are a group of thirteen.”
“Thirteen! Oh, my. I’m not so sure now. Where are these people?”
“Waiting outside,” John said.
“If I’m going to help you,” the young lady said, “You’ll have to bring them in.
Like a mother duck leading her ducklings to water, the young lady was followed around the store by all thirteen men.
A brief look at T-shirts with devilish images and crude words caused everyone to turn away from them.
Their choices were buttoned shirts of all stripes, plaids and colors. Pants ranged from khakis to sweat pants and denim. When they were all dressed in their new clothes the group looked like someone had mixed up their laundry.
“This is good,” said Jesus. “Now we can do our work without distractions. First we must find out where the poor and homeless people live, that we saw at Maggie’s.”
Thomas shook his head, saying “We’re so unfamiliar with this place there’s no way we can find where they live.”
“You’re right Thomas,” Jesus said, “There’s no way to do this on our own. Andrew, will you go to Maggie’s and wait for the men to leave. Then follow them to learn the places they live.”
A couple of hours later Andrew returned with much information. “Master, I see the men live by pillars under the big road and sleep on brown mats they call cardboard. But, I was blessed to pass a furniture store where I saw two mattresses sticking out of a dumpster. Wouldn’t it be better for them to be used by Maggie’s men?”
“Yes it would,” Jesus said. “Fine work Andrew. Now, we’ll need more than one or two mattresses, so let’s go out in groups of two and find more for these men.”
The homeless men were grateful as the disciples delivered mattresses for them to sleep on. Jesus sat next to one man named Hank and asked, “Where do you get your food?”
“From garbage cans and dumpsters mostly. We might eat at Maggie’s every other day. When she’s open, you know.”
“So Maggie’s isn’t open every day? Jesus asked.
“Not anymore. She don’t always have enough food to open.”
“I see. Well, I have an idea that might help you out. It’ll take some time, but I’ll try it.”
“Well sir, from what I can see it would take a miracle to change things around here.”
Jesus patted the man on his shoulder saying, “Hank, we’ll talk again.”
As the thirteen walked away from the big highway they came upon an empty lot. The sign said RENT A GARDEN PLOT, for $25.00. Jesus smiled immediately, turned to his disciples and said, “This is what we need to make food for the poor. Judas, go seek donations so we may rent this garden plot.”
Judas went to the fountain where many coins lay at the bottom. When he returned and Jesus saw that Judas had $25 he asked, “Judas, where did you get this so quickly?”
“These are generous people, Master. Many donate a little to make much.”
“This is wonderful,” Jesus said. “Now we have enough to rent a garden plot.”
The disciples gathered the homeless men and taught them how to prepare the soil for a garden, plant seeds, and water them in. Weeding and caring for the garden gave the men purpose. And when the men tried to donate their produce to Maggie, she wouldn’t have any of it. “I’ll pay you, like I pay all my other vendors. Maybe then you can buy yourselves another garden plot.”
That’s just what they did. Their venture grew to four garden plots. The homeless men sold Maggie all the produce she wanted, and then took the rest to the Saturday street market, and split the profits among themselves. Learning to grow food in their garden was filling their bellies as well as their pockets.
One by one the men got off the streets and into government subsidized housing. The media soon noticed that “hobo row” was vacant. Why was a haven for the homeless vacant? What had happened? Where did they go? How could they suddenly afford to leave? There were many questions for the media to ponder. The media’s reporting caused concern for the city officials. They sent their agencies out to find out what had happened to these homeless people.
In the meantime, Jesus rounded up the former homeless men and presented a challenge for them.
“You’ve seen how we helped to rehabilitate you by providing opportunities for you to care for yourself. Now, go! Go seek others who are homeless and lead them as we led you.”
“Can’t you stay and help us?” Hank asked.
Jesus smiled and patted Hank on the shoulder. “Hank, my work is done here. I’ve taught you the way to care for yourselves. Have confidence and go help others.”
As the thirteen walked away Jesus said, “We need to find a way home.”
“But Master,” Thomas said, “We have no money. And if we did, how could we ever get back to Israel?
“Pray, Thomas.” Jesus said, “Just Pray.”
While the twelve were praying Judas slipped away and wasn’t seen for a day. When he returned Jesus asked, “Judas, why did you leave us?”
“I had to solicit donations for our return trip. I have tickets for our trip home.
Jesus looked at one of the tickets and frowned. “Judas, this is a ticket from a tour company. We have no time for a tour.”
“Oh, but Master. Look closer. You’ll see the tour goes to Israel.”
“My oh my!” Jesus said with a smile. “This is extraordinary.”
The thirteen took their tickets and began walking to meet the tour group. As they passed the fountain Jesus looked in the water and declared, “Look, they’ve removed the coins from the fountain, like the officer said.”
“Judas bowed his head to hide his smile and slid toward that back of the group so Jesus wouldn’t observe him.”
When they reached the tour group they separated and mingled with the crowd.
Everyone was excited and chatty, expecially the elderly lady standing beside Jesus tugging on his sleeve to get his attention.
Bubbling with enthusiasm she said, “Oh, isn’t this exciting. Just think, we get to walk where Jesus walked!”