A.D. 33

By: Ted Dekker

My Journey into A.D. 33




TRUE SPIRITUALITY cannot be taught, it can only be learned, they say, and it can only be learned through experience, which is actually story—all else is only hearsay. Surely this is why Jesus preferred to use stories.

For ten years, I dreamed of entering the life of Jesus through story, not as a Jew familiar with the customs of the day, but as an outsider, because we are all outsiders today. I wanted to hear his teaching and see his power. I wanted to know what he taught about how we should live; how we might rise above all the struggles that we all face in this life, not just in the next life after we die.

We all know what Jesus means for Christians on a doctrinal statement in terms of the next life, and we are eternally grateful. But we still live in this life. What was his Way for this life other than to accept his Way for the next life?

So I began by calling Jesus by the name he was called in his day, Yeshua, and I once again set out to discover his Way through the lens of a foreigner—a Bedouin woman who is cast out of her home deep in the Arabian desert by terrible tragedy. Her epic journey forces her to the land of Israel, where she encounters the radical life and teachings of Yeshua, which turn her world upside down.

As they did mine.

Although I grew up in the church and am very familiar with Christianity, what I discovered in Yeshua’s life and teachings staggered me. It was at once beautiful to the part of me that wanted to be set free from my own chains, and unnerving to the part of me that didn’t want to let go and follow the path to freedom in this life.

I grew up as the son of missionaries who left everything in the West to take the good news to a tribe of cannibals in Indonesia. My parents were heroes in all respects and taught me many wonderful things, not least among them all the virtues and values of the Christian life. What a beautiful example they showed me.

When I was six years old, they did what all missionaries did in that day and for which I offer them no blame: they sent me to a boarding school. There I found myself completely untethered and utterly alone. I wept that first night, terrified. I don’t remember the other nights because I have somehow blocked those painful memories, but my friends tell me that I cried myself to sleep for many months.

I felt abandoned. And I was only six. I was lost, like that small bird in the children’s book who wanders from creature to creature in the forest, asking each if she is his mother.

Are you my mother? Are you my father?

I see now that my entire life since has been one long search for my identity and for significance in this life, though I was secure in the next life.

As I grew older, all the polished answers I memorized in Sunday school seemed to fail me on one level or another, sometimes quite spectacularly. I began to see cracks in what had once seemed so simple.

I was supposed to have special power to love others and turn the other cheek and refrain from gossip and not judge. I was supposed to be a shining example, known by the world for my extravagant love, grace, and power in all respects. And yet, while I heard the rhetoric of others, I didn’t seem to have these powers myself.

During my teens, I was sure that it was uniquely my fault—I didn’t have enough faith, I needed to try harder and do better. Others seemed to have it all together, but I was a failure.

Can you relate?

Then I began to notice that everyone seemed to be in the same boat, beginning with those I knew the best. When my relationships challenged all of my notions of love, when disease came close to home, when friends turned on me, when I struggled to pay my bills, when life sucked me dry, I began to wonder where all the power to live life more abundantly had gone. Then I began to question whether or not it had ever really been there in the first place. Perhaps that’s why I couldn’t measure up.

So I pressed in harder with the hope of discovering God’s love. But I still couldn’t measure up.

And when I couldn’t measure up, I began to see with perfect clarity that those who claimed to live holy lives were just like me and only lied to themselves—a fact that was apparent to everyone but them. Did not Yeshua teach that jealousy and gossip and anxiousness and fear are just another kind of depravity? Did he not say that even to be angry with someone or call them a fool is the same as murder? Not just kind-of-sort-of, but really.

So then, we are all equally guilty, every day.

How, then, does one find and know peace and power in this life when surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses who only pretend to be clean by whitewashing their reputations while pointing fingers of judgment?

So many Christians today see a system that seems to have failed them. They have found the promises from their childhood to be suspect if not empty and so they are leaving in droves, causing leaders to scratch their heads.

What about you? You’re saved in the next life as a matter of sound doctrine, but do you often feel powerless and lost in this life?

Think of your life in a boat on the stormy seas. The dark skies block out the sun, the winds tear at your face, the angry waves rise to sweep you off your treasured boat and send you into a dark, watery grave. And so you cringe in fear as you cling to that boat, which you believe will save you from suffering.

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