A Man of Bethsaida

By Ethan McGuire

Author’s Note: A free verse poem inspired by my devotions in the Gospels, December 2019.

I am a man of my people,
and I am loyal to my community.
My city stands steadfast and proud,
and my fellow men and women, friends, are strong.
Yet, something inside me has always nagged me,
and try as I may, this feeling continually intensifies:

      A knowledge our pride is empty,
      knowing we stand upon a hollow foundation,
      an intuition our strength is corrupt.

A man and a woman, strangers both,
foreigners, ne’er-do-wells perhaps,
have visited our town, strutting through the gates.
Side-by-side, they stand in our city square,
their dusty, drab garments stained,
their hair matted, outlined against
our city’s clean walls and washed streets.
Of all things, they attempt instructing us.

We require no instruction.

“Laborers are needed for the harvest,” they say.
“The work is difficult and plentiful,
but the workers are few.”
They are lambs among a pack of wolves, they think,
or so it certainly seems
as they walk ever meek and guarded.

These two, they carry no purse, no provisions.
They travel with no extra clothing or shelter,
no obvious preparation.
They approached our city quickly even,
stopping not on their road at any juncture.

They entered my house;
I invited them out of pity.
As they came across the threshold, they proclaimed,
“May this house see peace.
May its inhabitants be at peace.”

Our visitors ate and drank much, with minimal manners.
Though they were not rude,
they paid our common ways little mind.
“If sons and daughters of peace reside here,” they said,
“may peace rest upon them.”

The two strangers wandered about our town,
claiming to heal the sick, saying to the healed,
“The kingdom of God has approached near by you,”
and in the square they shouted oddly,
“The kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

The strangers stirred up unrest in our city, fair,
and their doctrines did not benefit our loyalties.
Preaching in our streets was the last straw.
“Who are immigrants to teach us?” we mocked.
I am curious as I observe the scene.

The two wanderers have gone quiet now.
Concern and sadness fill their faces as they turn,
leaving us at last, respecting my city’s wishes.
They were not welcomed at first, only tolerated,
and now they must go.

Yet, as they depart, shaking our dust from their feet,
the emptiness inside of me grows.
Will our city ascend unto Heaven? No.
If the strangers are right, we shall descend,
descend into Hades.

A longing to follow after the two invades me.

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