According to John: Act 2, Scene 2 (L’Chaim! or, “Excuse Me, Sir, You Can’t Come In Here Like That”)

Joel Michael Herbert
9 min readApr 29, 2024

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After this was the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles, a celebration of the harvest, and Salvation ascended back up the mountain to City of Peace for the festivities.

Now in City of Peace, near the livestock entrance (known as the Sheep Gate), there is an indoor pool called Graceland and a walkway with five large stone columns. This pool was notorious for being a hotspot for beggars — between the columns there was always a congregation of blind, crippled, withered and paralyzed folks.

There was one man there who had been suffering for thirty-eight years. Salvation happened by and greeted him. Upon learning that he had been in such a dismal state for a very long time indeed, Salvation asked, “do you want to be of sound health? Would that be helpful for you?”

The man answered, “my lord, I have no one. Many of the folks here have family to help them, at least one person who cares, but for me it’s just me. As you can see, I can barely move myself. Everyone here is hopeful for healing in these waters, when they are stirred up by an angel, but whenever it happens, I simply can’t get myself there in time, and someone else descends down into the water ahead of me. It is mighty discouraging. Yes, I want with all my heart to be a whole man again.”

Salvation stood abruptly, a grin on his face. “Okay, well get up, pick up your pillow, and walk.” The command was so unexpected and direct, the man simply obeyed without thinking. He was on his feet before it had even clicked what had happened, and as he bent down to pick up his pillow, the reality of everything crashed in on him. He whirled around in shock, but Salvation had disappeared into the crowd.

The man stood for a moment in wonder, staring down at his feet beneath him, holding him up, and gingerly took a step forward. They worked! Everything worked, just as it had when he was a young man, before the accident! He practically floated out of the Graceland corridor toward the Temple Mount, looking quite ridiculous as he bounced among the sheep and cattle, dirty, unshaven, and holding his disgusting pillow under his arm.

He waltzed up to the Temple Mount, realizing that it was the Feast of Tabernacles, and that for the first time in forever he could participate as a whole human being. He could go into the Temple as a worshipper! He was no longer excluded by the ritual laws keeping him at arm’s length. He was abruptly stopped by a cadre of Temple Guards and a handful of priests. “Ho, sir!” called one of the priests, wrinkling up his nose as he approached, “why are you carrying that… pillow?” he looked the man up and down, eyeing the dirty cushion under his arm. “It is the Sabbath, which you are in clear violation of by carrying that abomination around.”

Oblivious and still on cloud nine, the man stared in awe at the Temple standing in front of him, its massive white colonnades nearly blinding in the midday sunlight. He thought he had never seen anything so beautiful in his life. “Terribly sorry, sir,” he responded absently. “The man who fixed me told me to pick it up and walk!” He turned and looked at the priest, his eyes shining with tears and his face breaking into a goofy grin. “Isn’t it wonderful?”

The priest remained wholly unimpressed. “Where is he? Who told you to carry your mat and walk on the Sabbath day?”

The man stared at the priest, unbelieving. “I don’t know, man! He’s gone! There’s like, ten thousand people here today. I have no idea who it was!”

“Alright, well,” said another priest, stepping forward. “You can enter the Temple Court, I suppose, but you will need to rinse in the ritual washing station behind me, and you will definitely have to lose the… whatever that thing is you have under your arm.”

The man glanced down, suddenly becoming aware that the mat he carried was the source of the strange conflict. “Oh!” he cried, dropping it to the ground as he realized that he was, in fact, in violation of several purity laws at the moment. “Yes, of course! Thank you so much!”

He bounced off again, leaving the pillow right where he had dropped it, giddy as he spent far too much time at the ritual washing station, anxious to worship, but even more anxious to be clean before presenting himself before God.

Several hours later, after performing his ritual rites, the man walked out of the Temple Mount and bumped straight into… Salvation himself! “It’s you!” the man cried. He threw his arms around Salvation in an embrace before he could stop himself. He pulled back, beaming, and Salvation laughed heartily, both of them caught up in the moment of sheer joy. The man could see now that Salvation must be an important rabbi, his phylacteries and teffilin pristine, his long sideburns curled in the manner of the observant Torah teachers and scribes. “Look,” he exulted. “You’re whole! Up and walking around! How does it feel?”

The man threw his head back to the sky and let out a full-throated laugh. “I feel… well, I feel holy! I worshipped today in the Temple for the first time in my life, and I just… I can’t thank you enough, Rabbi!”

Salvation beamed back at him. “Well, Mister Holy Man, God has been very, very good to you. Go and live a life of Truth and Beauty, and stay away from vices, lest something even worse come upon you.” Salvation winked, grasped his face in both his hands, and gazed into his eyes. “You beautiful, beautiful man. Go with God.” And then Salvation turned and once again disappeared into the crowd.

“Hey!” the man heard a shout behind him. Priest Grumps-A-Lot was striding toward him, a scowl on his face. “Was that him? Was that the man who healed you?”

“Why, yes it was,” said the man, as the priest and his entourage swept past him in pursuit of Salvation. The man shook his head, bewildered. He would never understand these religious types.

The priestly delegation caught up to Salvation at the bottom of the steps. “Salvation!” the head priest called out gruffly. “We’ve had this conversation before! You can’t just go around doing this stuff on Shabbat. You show contempt for the Torah.”

Salvation turned to face them, exasperated, several men and families stopping to listen to the exchange. “My Father is working all the time, so I Am Working.”

Several of the priest’s delegation audibly gasped. “Don’t make us prosecute you, Rabbi,” the head priest spat. “Not only have you broken the Sabbath, but now you’re making yourself equal with Hashem?”

Salvation rolled his eyes, defiant. “Listen to me, Rabbi,” he inclined his head in mock deference. “The son does not act on his own — he does what he sees the father doing. Haven’t you ever seen a child with his dad? He’s virtually a little clone — walking like his dad, talking like his dad. And the father loves it! He leans into it, showing the boy how to do everything he does, helping him hone his skills. And He will show him far greater deeds than these, until you are absolutely in awe.”

The altercation had now gathered a small crowd, so Salvation turned and directed his energy toward them, capitalizing on the moment. “Just as the Father awakens the Dead,” he raised his voice now, “the Son, too, awakens to life anyone he chooses! Furthermore, the Father judges no one, but grants all judgment to the Son, so that everyone will honor the Son just as they honor the Father. It’s obvious, isn’t it? You can’t say you honor the Father if you hold his Son in contempt. Now this is the truth — if you listen to my Wisdom and trust in the Divine Love behind it, that is how you lay hold of the Life to Come, the Good Reign of God, and you will never come under condemnation, because you are no longer under the jurisdiction of Thanatos, the cursed false Greek god of Death, but you are in the Kingdom of God, the Realm of LIFE! L’chaim!” He shouted these last words, the crowd bursting into applause, hundreds gathered at the bottom of the steps now, the Temple delegation frantically trying to figure out how to stop the impromptu street preaching session they had inadvertently created. They should have known better — Salvation was becoming quite famous now for his ability to move a crowd.

Salvation continued, dropping his voice dramatically. “Mark this down, my friends,” he gazed intently at each individual, “the hour is coming, and is now here, when even the dead will hear the voice of the Divine Child, and those who hear will live. If the Divine Father has life in Himself, so too the Divine Child has been granted Life in Himself, in Herself! And He has been granted authority to hand down judgment because yes, He is the bar-Adam. Why should this surprise any of you? You know the hour is coming when all those in their graves will hear His voice and burst forth into the Resurrection of Divine Life! The good and generous and kind will awaken into Life, and the evil will awaken into condemnation.”

Salvation paused for a moment, letting the energy settle, speaking deliberately now. “I can do nothing on my own. I make judgments only through listening, and I judge with justice because I am not seeking my own pleasure, but the pleasure of the One that sent me.”

“If I stood out here and just talked myself up, you would not take me seriously, nor should you. If you want to know about me, you’ve come to the wrong place. I’m not here to pump up my own brand. There’s a fellow you all know well, out in the wilderness, and he’s said everything about me that needs to be said, and everyone here knows and respects what he has to say.”

Salvation turned and locked eyes with the fuming priest. “You sent a delegation out to God-Is-Gracious, and he has testified to the Truth.” Salvation sighed, dropping his voice and speaking as if only to the priest. “I don’t care about any of it — we’re all just humans trying to speak of the infinite — I’m saying all of this so that you can find God’s shalom.” Salvation sighed, suddenly sad. “God-Is-Gracious was a candle in the wind, burning bright and giving light, and you were happy to promote him and bask in that light as long as it supported your bottom line. But I have a witness greater than him. These works that I am fulfilling — these ‘signs,’ as you call them — I am on a timeline from my Father to bring them to fulfillment, and if these don’t convince you that I am on a genuine Divine Mission, I don’t know what will.”

Salvation suddenly had a faraway look in his eyes, flashing back to the moment in the River with God-Is-Gracious, who had now only recently been imprisoned by the pretender Antipas. “You know,” he said softly, speaking to no one in particular, “my Father Himself affirmed me. You’ve never heard that Voice, you never saw that form of a Dove” — he looked at the Temple entourage again — and you certainly don’t have His Wisdom residing in you — it’s obvious, because you can’t hear the Voice of the Spirit speaking through any of his messengers.”

“You spend all your time studying the Torah because you think that’s how you will attain to the Life to Come. They bear witness about everything I am saying, but you refuse to open your heart to Me, to the I Am, to Life. I don’t care what people think about Me. I am not here to draw a crowd — you made sure of that — but I know you and your obsession with the praise of the people, your need for everyone to see you as the spiritual authorities — and yet for all your knowledge and study, you are completely devoid of Divine Love. I have come purely to point to Divine Love, intentionally not marketing myself — I didn’t even tell that man this morning who I was, for crying out loud! The tragic irony is that when someone shows up on a self-aggrandizing mission, proclaiming himself Messiah — you’ll listen to him, alright.”

Salvation spoke sadly now, and a hush had fallen over the crowd. How many messianic pretenders had come and gone just in the memories of those standing there? The heaviness was palpable now as he spoke slowly, deliberately, as if to every single individual in earshot. “How can you possibly enter into the childlike trust that is needed in the Divine Kingdom, when your whole shtick is getting back slaps from each other, and you give one single shit about justice, about mercy, about the things the Divine Heart cares about? Don’t worry, I’m not the high priest. I’m not going to go in and accuse you before the Divine Father. That’s already been done by Moses, the one whose every word you supposedly hang on. If you really believed Moses, you’d believe Me too, because we’re saying the same thing. But if you don’t believe what Moses wrote, you certainly won’t believe Me.”

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Joel Michael Herbert

Husband. Father. Artist. Storyteller. Armchair Theologian. Advocate, activist and politician. Gryffindor. [neuro]Divergent.