JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM
A tale by Johny Noer
A WAYFARING MAN
"And a highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called the way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men…" (Is.35:8)
The court-room was humming with voices. There were people from all sort of life: custom officers, church people, representatives from the police force, family-members, friends, enemies.
As it was in the High Court of Appeal, not only one but three judges resided. All were dressed in long black robes. To my surprise this case seemed to be a matter of principle. The question to be solved was only one: Did I have a ‘fixed abode’, or was I what the Bible would call a ‘wayfaring man’ (Is.35:8)?
If I was considered to live in a house with a fixed address, I would have to pay the enormous fine of 25,000 dollar or go to jail, but if I lived on the roads and was to be regarded as, what the New Testament calls ‘a stranger and pilgrim on the earth’ (Hebr.11:13), I might leave the court as a free man. The case was raised by the custom authorities because of my foreign-registered vehicles, but somehow I had the feeling that God was working behind the scene. He would have me to understand, what He was calling me to do, and He would have me to remember – and never forget – what happened that night in August 1976 in France.
"Would you be so kind as to tell the court your full name, Sir?"
The kind looking bald-headed judge in the middle addressed me with a soft voice. I was sure that he already knew my name, for he was looking down in a pile of papers, but I stood up behind the fence and told my full name and date of birth in accordance to the rules of the court.
"And your address, Sir?" I hesitated for a moment. The judge looked up from his pile of papers. "The dump hill", I answered. I heard some voices whispering behind me and noted that the court’s secretary wrote my address down in a large book.
"Your profession, Sir?" – "Pastor…" The judge looked over his spectacles. I thought it was hard for him to imagine a church building at the dump hill and I tried to explain, "Well, I am a preacher in a small travelling group, Sir, and we are stationed for the time being amongst the gypsies outside Copenhagen. It’s the old dump hill, you know, a beautiful place, Sir…"
Again I heard the whispering voices behind me and saw the court-secretary write in his large book.
Then a tall man stood up at my right side. He too was dressed in a long, black coat; his voice was sharp. He started to quote from huge books, reciting one paragraph after the other. I understood that he was my accuser and that somehow I had broken all these laws, he was referring to. This man spoke for a very ling time.
While he was speaking, his face grew vague before my eyes. In my thought I was brought to that old farmer Francois Turpin. It was in a small village of Quéré in Brittany in France. My caravan was stationed there – and one night in August God spoke to me.
I had been reading my Bible inside, but the verse from Exodus 12:11 hit me with such power, that I had to get up and go outside the caravan to pray. The story I was reading was the one about the coming out of the Jews from Egypt; I had come to the passage, where the Hebrews were eating their last meal in Pharaoh’s land. The word of God explains how they were eating it and while I was reading this specific Bible verse, it was as if somebody stood beside me and said, "And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the Lord’s Passover" (Ex.12:11).
The inner voice in my heart continued, "From now on you are going to live like that… with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand. You are going to do it in haste. Soon it is the Lord’s Passover, and it is judgment-time of God. From now on you can never live in a house: you are going to be one of my ‘wayfaring men’…
"This man has tried to tell the court that he has no ‘fixed abode’…" I was suddenly brought back to the courtroom by the sharp voice of the tall man in black. From my right side he was pointing a long, thin finger at me: "This man has tried to explain that while he is not living in a house he is to be considered as what he calls ‘a wayfaring man’. But I have clearly shown to the high court, that such excuses cannot be accepted. According to the law he has lived for such a long time in our country, that he must be treated as all other citizens. He is not a stranger. He is not ‘a pilgrim’ – as he says – he has to be subject to the law, which he has trespassed.
"I claim this man guilty!"
Another man stood up at my left side. He was in his late forties, had a settled and relaxed way of speaking and was also dressed in a long, black coat. He was going to defend my case.
"It is evident that my client is living in this country on a temporary basis", he began. He too was quoting some enormous volumes, and my heart grew light by listening to him. I knew that somewhere in the pile of papers before the three judges was a report, which I had written myself. I didn’t know whether faith was counted in this case, but I had written down my story and emphasized that I could not any longer live in a house because of my faith in God. "It’s like Abraham and Isaac", I had explained to the judge, "the Bible says that they were living in tent; they were like visitors and temporary residents, because they were like pilgrims on the way to the Holy City, whose designer and builder is God (Hebr.11:9).
"… and this man", continued my kind defender, "is on his way to Jerusalem. This can be proved by Hebrew contracts concerning the hire of land for his caravans in a place called Bet Saíd outside the Holy City. He is here in this country as a visitor, and I am sure that this high court would acknowledge that his present address: the dump hill can only be considered as a ‘temporary residence’.
I claim this man ‘not-guilty’!"
We all stood up, when the three judges left the courtroom. When their black coasts had disappeared behind the tall door with marble pillars, there was again a humming of voices in the room. The court officers looked upon the case from their side. The church people had their opinions… but I knew deep within that this was not a matter of jail or 25,000 dollar. This was not a matter of mortal men. This was God’s case. It had to do with His divine calling. Not only to me but too many of His servants all over the earth. It had to do with ‘the establishment’ and the church of Christ, which in fact form the very first century was called to be a ‘pilgrim-church’. This courtroom was on a small scale what God was doing all over the world. He was calling someone to follow Him in a new way of life and faith. And if in this moment I would wholeheartedly surrender unto the tough conditions of my new existence as a ‘wayfaring man’, and if God had accepted my testimony towards the court concerning His divine call, I could leave the courtroom as a free man: Not they, but God was my judge.
A small baby voice wept behind me. I turned around and met the eyes of Gisèle. She was sitting with our little new-born boy, Daniel: only a few days old. Gisèle gave me a warm smile. I knew what she meant. Until a few weeks ago we were both sure that she was expecting a little girl. Her name was to be Natasha, and she would be without doubt a beautiful little lady with brown eyes and black hair. But the week before the court case, I woke up one morning by hearing an audible voice in the bedroom of the caravan. "You shall call his name Daniel", the voice said. I didn’t say anything about this before we went to the hospital. "It’s not going to be a girl", I confessed to Gisèle in the car. "It’s going to be a boy; his name is Daniel."
"Never mind", Gisèle sighed. "To me it may be a boy or a girl, if only it is soon over! But why Daniel", she whispered a little while later. "What does ‘Daniel’ mean?"
"Daniel means: ‘God is my judge’", I said…
The judges came back to the courtroom, which was in passionate silence. Books were turned around and laws and paragraphs were once more read aloud. The last words, upon which everybody was waiting, was pronounced, while all were standing: ‘Not guilty’!
That day I left the majestic court building as a free man – but also as a man bound by the spirit.
From now on I was bound to be ‘a wayfaring man’.
"And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit into Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there…" (Acts 20:22).