An Easter Play

3 crosses

A short play in three and a half acts

Staging – stark and empty except for white backdrop, showing silhouette scenes as follows.

  • Act 1: 3 crosses with bodies hanging from them, soldiers and witnesses standing around.
  • Act 2: 3 empty crosses and soldiers kneeling over bodies lying below.
  • Act 3: the garden, tomb in background door shutting tightly as scene starts, soldiers guarding.
  • Act 4: sunrise just beginning

Sole actor, (unnamed) speaking to the audience directly.

Act 1 – at the foot of the cross 3:05 pm Good Friday

[3 crosses in background, bodies hanging limply. Soldiers standing around, with small groups further away. The actor turns from looking at the crosses, slowly towards the audience, with a look of disbelief and grief on his face.]

He’s gone. Just like that, he’s gone.

He’s dead, I can’t believe it. He was going to be our SAVIOR! And he’s gone.

[Kneels and sobs, then rises slowly and looks back to the cross and back to audience]

I was there you know, last night, in the garden over at Gethsemane, with his disciples.  I mean, we weren’t sure of how he was going to organise the movement even then, but he did tell the disciples to arm themselves, with swords. [excited, grips handle of his short sword] The word was passed on to the rest of us, and we were waiting for some kind of order from him. But…. but then he just went and gave himself up.

[passionately] Can you believe it? They turn up to arrest him, the perfect chance, because we outnumbered them, and he just told Peter to put his sword down and then he gave himself up??    Why? Why I ask?

And now this!?

You can understand, can’t you? The oppression is so great, the Romans are killing us, crushing the life out of us, with the weight of their brutality on our necks every day, and oh how we NEEDED a SAVIOUR!!!!

And we thought it was HIM (pointing to the cross, breaking down in sobs)

We were SO sure! He gave us SUCH hope. [pauses] He healed people you know. My cousin was one of them. He had a bad leg, from when he was little when a goat kicked him in the hip. Couldn’t walk straight or far at all for nearly 20 years, couldn’t even make it far as the synagogue on Sabbath, and then this Jesus comes along, and you know, he just says ‘walk’ and my cousin just up and walks. Just like that, and straight and tall as you and me.

So you can understand, can’t you? We were SO sure that after all this time, this was the one promised by the prophets,     the Saviour! [pauses, looks back at crosses, back to audience]

All that hope, gone! Gone!….

Those wretched Romans even put a sign up over his head, you can see it up there now. ‘King of the Jews’ it says, mocking at all our hopes and dreams. Mocking us so cruelly.

Oh, how I hate them. [looking up, reaching for his sword, then putting it back]

[shouts] Oh God, you promised us a SAVIOUR!!!!

[turning back to audience] All those prophecies, born in Bethlehem, a Nazarene, John the Baptist heralding him as the ONE! Right down to last week where he rode into town on a donkey, we were sure that he was the Messiah then.

Oh, it was going to be wonderful. We were laying down palm fronds in his path, I took off my good cloak and threw it down too, so filled with joy we were.  We were sure that THIS Passover was going to be our time of freedom at last!!!

And he’s gone, just like a lamb! [laughs ironically] You know, when he first revealed himself John called him ‘the lamb of God.’ [shaking head] But we wanted a LION, we wanted a SAVIOUR! Not a lamb! Lambs get hung up like that, but not lions.

And all his claims! “the Kingdom of Heaven is near!” “the Son of Man coming in clouds with great glory!”

Oh, how I wish I could make sense of it all!!

Why? Why make all those claims and then just give yourself up. Why he said that if they destroyed the temple he would rebuild it in 3 days. How’s he going to do that now? How I ask you? HOW?

All our hopes and dreams, all of it is hanging on that cross now.

[Wistfully, looking up over the audience] “The Kingdom of Heaven is near” – I remember first hearing him say those words. He spoke so often about the new Kingdom, and we dreamt about it so often too, just relishing his precious words “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

And when the disciples asked him to teach us how to pray, oh how often I’ve repeated those precious words myself – ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.’

[raising fist to heaven] And this is your will? Oh, how you mock us Lord!!!! We just wanted a SAVIOUR! [collapsing to the floor]

[rising again, exhausted] I guess we should have expected this. Oh yes, we had big hopes of course, he did teach with SUCH AUTHORITY, not like the scribes and Pharisees. But he was so, well, otherworldly, always talking about the Kingdom in strange ways, like ‘don’t store up for yourselves treasures on Earth, but store up treasure in Heaven. I guess I must really be thick; I mean if treasure’s no good here and now, then what use is it? Can buy swords with it at least, and lop off a few Romans heads! [faking a swing] King David lopped off a few Philistine heads in his day.

Jesus only needed to ask and we would have chopped more than just a few Romans heads.


‘Don’t worry about your life, or what you will eat or drink’ – yeah, that’s another one of those strange sayings of his. Well, he didn’t worry about his life did he? [turning to the cross, yells] Well what about US now you’ve gone? We won’t have any life to worry about now! We’re finished!!!

[turning back to audience] Makes sense now, [throwing hands in the air in resignation] I should have seen it before, yeah, like when he said, ‘if someone forces you to go a mile with him,’ meaning them soldiers, oh how they loved to demean us like that, anyway, he said ‘go two miles.’ [rising up in anger] How are you going to overturn the most brutal empire the world has seen by going two miles carrying their stinking bags?

Why were we so stupid that we couldn’t see how foolish the whole thing was in the first place??

[looks down] But it kind of all just made so much sense then, like so inspiring you know. Oh we were SO inspired we were!

[thunder sounds in background, he looks up frightened as stage fades to black]


Act 2 – Calvary late afternoon  [3 empty crosses and kneeling soldiers over bodies lying below the crosses.]


(actor looking weary, stooped shoulders faces audience) They’re taking down the bodies now, like sacks of grain they are, not a drop of life left in them.

(looking up at the now empty cross) So that’s what becomes of Saviours is it? Oh well, saviours come and saviours go I guess.

But those wretched Romans, they stay and stay, and their boots just gets harder on our necks.

Mind you, he was hard (nodding) oh yes he was, hard as nails, maybe hard as those nails they just pulled out of his hands and feet there.

I remember one young rich guy coming up to him and asking what he had to do to get eternal life. ‘Sell everything you have, give it to the poor” he said. Oh you should have seen that man’s face, his eyeballs bulged [laughingly] and he gulped and then he disappeared real quick. Yep, hard as nails Jesus was.

But we took it you know, we loved him, we trusted him, and we took it. We turned the other cheek, a lot of us did that. Literal like too! He taught us to do that. Funny, but it was good to change like that. Once, before Jesus I mean, I’d hit a man for just looking sideways at me.

But I learned to turn the other cheek; (pauses)    what good it did us. Look at us now.

We went without, we slept rough, following him all over Galilee and Judea, waiting, just waiting for him to start building his new Kingdom. Oh IF ONLY we had gotten more swords the other night. If only [sighing]

Yes, we could have kept him out of harm’s way until tomorrow. With so many of our folk here in Jerusalem we could have brought him out in the midst of all the celebration, and taken out our swords and swept down on those wretched Romans, and cut their throats. And those hypocrite priests too. Oh I would have given Caiaphas one in the gut myself [making stabbing gesture], or maybe Pilate, the weasel.

And then! Then we could have set him up. The new Kingdom he spoke of, yeah.

Maybe we still could? Peter might be willing to lead us now. [shakes head, downcast] But no, he ran like a coward, last night even after the business with the high priest ear, ran faster than me even. I heard he shamed us all later and even denied he knew Jesus. No-one, we’ve got no-one to lead us to freedom now, no saviour now.

None of the other 12 are born leaders. (Straightens up, thinking) Maybe that was his problem, choosing the weak of the world and all that. You can’t start a revolution with weaklings, can you?

Yeah, if you really are gonna be a Saviour, you need strong men at your side, like King David…

If only……

[stage fades to black]


Act 3 – Near the tomb at evening

[the garden, tomb in the background – door shutting tightly as scene starts, soldiers guarding]

[Exhausted, drained] Buried him they have. That rich man there, he’s Joseph, the one from Arimathea. You can smell the smoke of the soldiers torches. They’re guarding the tomb already, curse them [spits at ground in the direction of them]

Doesn’t seem to matter, whether it’s the likes of those two rebels they hung up there with Jesus, or himself, they all end up on a cross, always have. They only have themselves to blame of course. The leader of the two, he was actually a friend of Barabbas you know, [whispering] they were actually plotting together, but Simon, the leader of that pair, he got caught robbing and bashing a tax collector. Needed money to buy swords. Only mistake he made I guess is he didn’t run the tax collector through. [motions with sword] Couldn’t have identified him then could he? [sighs, puts away sword]

There’s an irony isn’t there? Simon robs and bashes tax collectors, and ends up on a cross. Jesus enlists a tax collector, Matthew, and ends up on a cross next to Simon. How do we make sense of any of it?

But all those miracles? [shaking head], you know one of the crowd shouted out to him, ‘you saved all those others, how about saving yourself!’     Yeah!!  Why didn’t he? (Turns to tomb and yells)  Why Jesus!!??

But I remember now. It was in Galilee not long ago actually. One of the twelve told me himself [getting excited now]. Jesus said something about ‘being delivered into the hands of men’ and ‘rising on the third day’ and stuff like that. What do you think? Could it be true?

After all, they reckon he raised Lazarus. I never saw it myself. I was too late getting the Bethany that day, but I believe he did, everyone was SO excited; you should have been there.

[shaking head] But no, it’s one thing to raise another man from the dead, but how can you raise yourself?

Can the dead raise the dead?

Well, all I can say is he was a good man, yes, the only GOOD man I ever saw. Why else would I have followed him around the past 3 years? Yes, it was worth it just for those memories, except he’s dead now, that ‘one good man.’

[pausing and looking up in thought, as though realising a connection] That rich guy I said who ran right up to him and said “good teacher, what do I have to do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus did something else! He rebuked him and said only God was good.

[indignantly] But Jesus WAS good! He was!! [rising in angry indignation]

And if that’s blasphemy then there, I’ve said it [stamping his foot], he WAS good, and if only God is truly good as he said to that magistrate then I say here and now, then he is God too, and I’m not afraid to, …to  say it. [tapering off into momentary uncertainty]

I wish I had been good [head downcast], oh I’ve not been anywhere near good, even after I started following him around I haven’t been much. Broken most of the commandments, but I won’t go there, no. too embarrassing [shaking his head]

For that matter even the disciples weren’t that good [looking around to make sure no-one is listening], not long after that business with that rich young guy, James and John plotted to get the number one and number two spots in the new Kingdom we were going to fight for. Wow, you should have seen the bust up that that caused, the other ten were SO angry, nearly came to blows except Jesus calmed them all down.

Anyway, what was I saying?

Yes, him being so good.

So if he was good and that’s his end, and I’m as bad as I am, and I’m still here, and what’s my end to be I ask you?

How, tell me, how do you make sense of any of this?

I mean, I couldn’t even make sense of what he said to the disciples after that big bust up. He goes off about the Gentile rulers and our damnable priests, I mean that’s OK to put them in their place, but then he goes and tells us, us, the ones who have followed him faithfully for three years, that if we want to be rulers, we have to be slaves. How do you make sense of that?

And to cap it off, he then says that even he ‘came to serve’ and,   and, {realisation comes faintly] yeah, and then he said something about the Son of Man coming – [speaks now slowly and turns slowly to look at the tomb] to,    to give his life as a ransom for many.

Ransom for many? (looks back and forth between tomb and audience with sense of confusion)

Oh, how I wish I could understand it all.

Anyway, I better go. It’s been a long day, a hard day. I’m so tired, I feel like giving up altogether now.

But maybe…..? No, it’s too foolish….. (voice tapers off as he wearily traipses off stage. Stage darkens to black)

Act 4 – near the tomb, now open, early Sunday morning

[scene opens with sunrise just beginning and the tomb now open in background. Actor runs on stage excited.]

You won’t believe it [shouting and excitedly shuffling around stage] you won’t believe it, but can it be true? Can it be true?  I,   I,   I just ran into Mary. Well, she nearly ran over me truth to tell, she was so excited. The tomb, it’s empty, and she saw an angel, AN ANGEL , yes, who says he’s risen.

Oh, I must go and tell my brothers, you go too, tell everyone you see, quickly, go, GO!

I don’t understand what it means yet, but he is risen, he is risen, brothers, he is risen…. [voice fading off as he runs off stage, or in smaller venue, runs down aisle and out of room]




The Visit

Garden Gate.jpg

An old man arrived one day in a local village and bought a prime tract of land. He set about landscaping it, planting trees, constructing lovely wending paths through the flowering gardens, and building attractions; lakes upon which couples and families might row across the placid water, amusement rides for children, and curiosities for the adventurous to explore. He planted many fruiting trees and vines so that all year something there bore delicious fruit to be enjoyed by all who passed by them. He constructed little stalls in various places where delicacies were dispensed to all who might desire them. Lastly, he constructed a large wall around his creation with a gate, lovely and welcoming.

On the day his works were complete he placed his own son at the gate and announced in the village that all who so desired might enter freely, by coming to the gate and asking of the son permission to enter.

Many did just that and were both enchanted and delighted at the wonders in the man’s garden and the free and delicious provisions laid on so freely.

But one day one of the villagers complained. ‘Why should he have to always enter by the gate?’ ‘Why do I have to ask the son’s permission?’

‘Let us enter any way we please!’ The cry arose and spread quickly from one set of lips to another, till there was a crowd chanting, ‘Down with the wall, Away with the son.’ ‘Let us come and go as WE please!’ they cried in unison.

And so the man and his son quietly packed up and left. The villagers demolished the wall and gate and came and went as they wanted. Intime though the grass grew wild, the trees unkempt, the waters stale and soon the villagers lost interest. The tract of land overgrew once more and soon they forgot about the paradise that had visited them for a season.

Starving in a land of plenty

Starving in a land of plenty

Each Tuesday for some time now a dear friend and I have been fasting till the evening meal. For us that means no solid food all day, perhaps a fruit juice just to keep our sugar levels on an even keel if needed, and plenty of water.

Now, why on earth in a land of plenty such as we live would two sane men go without food like that. Even Christians often respond to the notion of fasting with obvious recoil.

By coincidence last night I watched a short clip where a Christian pastor shared his time of imprisonment by the Communist regime in Romania back in the 1980’s, how at times the jailers would starve their prisoners hoping to break them. I loved how he reflected ‘how foolish they were, for we are not just bodies, no we are spirit, and you can kill the body but not the spirit.’

He had transcended and conquered their futile attempts to starve him into submission. He knew he was being sustained by God, despite the brutality of his treatment.

Have we Christians forgotten that we too are spirit before body?

That is not the initial reason my friend and I committed to this weekly fasting, but it sure is humbling to realise that I so easily and naturally seek to satisfy my physical hunger, and yet so easily ignore the need to nourish the inner man, the spiritual man. Tuesdays remind me, powerfully, how weak I truly am in this respect.  Fasting humbles us, awakens us to our own spiritual poverty or hunger, and draws us nearer to God’s will for us and the world around us.

700 years before Jesus the prophet Isaiah recorded God’s own powerful statement regarding fasting. I’ll share just a snippet here –

“..this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. “Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind. (Isa 58:6-8 NLT)


That unpacks another vital truth.  It should radically change our thinking as we turn from inward thinking (self) to very much outward thinking (blessing others)

Oh, and I’m sure I have much more to learn each Tuesday.

Bitcoin, Greed, and cranky old Accountants


Yet again, another wave of ‘investor’ excitement reaches down into the lives of the common man and woman.

Bitcoin, Ethereum, cryptocurrency, blockchains; we are all suddenly becoming investors, experts, advisors, and soon we will all be rich. Yes, all of us, after all when Bitcoin, which cruised past the $100 mark, the $1,000 mark, and now is breaking the $10,000 barrier, blasts through the $100,000 mark there is no stopping it is there?

Yes, we’ll all be rich.

Like the boom, like Poseidon, the oil boom, like the property boom currently going on in Australia, we’ll all be millionaires.

But this one is different I hear.

Want to know something? This ‘cranky old accountant’ heard the same lines each and every time in those previous booms,     and they all went bust.

But this one is actually different. Yes, it really is. I have to concede that.

It is more audacious than any previous boom the world has seen, and for one simple reason.

Whereas those previous booms in value were at least grounded, albeit feebly, in some tangible commodity, a company making stuff, or an asset somewhere, this cryptocurrency boom is elegantly beautiful in what it offers you –


Remember the descriptor? ‘Virtual currency.’

The dictionary definition of ‘virtual’ in computing terms is simply – “not physically existing as such but made by software to appear to do so.”

So when this latest investment mania ends, all that will have happened is that once again a lot of real money will have moved, and as always it will have moved from the latecomers to the party, across to the early arrivers at the party. The latecomers will not even have the benefit of agonising as to whether the document they are holding has any residual value, as in the case of share certificates. After all, cryptocurrencies are virtual, nothing.

I could go on and on about the various pyramid schemes I’ve watched come and go, the friends caught up in the frenzy, suddenly becoming experts and promoters, the stories about ‘someone I know who is rolling in it.’ But what is the point? You want to get rich. It’s a great story, so go ahead, empty your bank account and buy some Bitcoin, and learn life’s lessons the hard way yourself. It seems that is the only way we learn.

No, damn it, don’t be so stupid. How about doing something revolutionary and learning from someone else’s bitter experience? Like the week’s wages I invested in Golden Products when I was 18, gone; or the sure thing that our CPA’s talked me into 20 years ago (Yep, even the ATO gave this scheme its seal of approval we were assured), only to find myself in debt to the ATO for multiple times the early tax gains we made.

Money for nothing is the old saying, when you are tempted to make ‘money for nothing’ just remember, the world has seen it all before. There is nothing new under the sun, not even Bitcoin. A scam is a scam is a scam, no matter how much makeup you plaster on it, no matter how much techno-mumbo-jumbo you fluff it up with.

If you walk away from this investment wave with a million real dollars in your bank account, just remember, someone else has that exact same amount LESS in their bank account. If you had built them a house, made them a chair, mowed their lawn, or given them something of value, then I laud you in having earned those million dollars. If you have it because you were early to this party, I can do no other than say shame on you, someone else is poorer now, probably in financial trouble, because you now have their money, for nothing.

Yes, money for nothing as they say.

Marriage is Death

marriage is death

Marriage is Death.

No, it is not white dresses, rings and flowers, nor church bells and receptions. And marriage is not vows exchanged and sealed by some minister or celebrant in front of happy witnesses.

Marriage is death.

OK, now I have your attention let me admit to just a tiny degree of clickbait in that title, despite standing firmly behind those words. Let me explain.

Two definitions are inevitably evolving today, one steeped in tradition and religious thought, the other rapidly evolving with a rapidly changing society, one which makes judgments and choices based on what feels good and fair at an emotional level, but which is changing with breathtaking speed to a destination few can foresee.

The marriage I speak of lays behind the former definition, but deeper, more fundamental in nature, and further back in time. In fact before time itself.

When the first ‘groom’ and his father spoke of the bride he wished to wed, they both realised that proceeding with the planned courtship and wedding would mean one thing, the death of the groom.

And Jesus did not blink. The proposal was made, and mankind was created, and any of that race who wished was welcomed into that bride, the church.

And as Father and Son well knew, she would, both before and after pledging her vow of fidelity, betray those vows, run away in fear, and hide in shame.

Yet again and again, the groom would run to her, and lovingly point out to her that he died, died to pay the penalty for her infidelities, and His Father stood eager and ready to forgive, to wash her clean, to dress her once more in white raiment, to wipe out any record of her infidelities.

And this is the grand sweeping heavenly drama that the Christian couple acts out as they pledge their vows; yes as they each stumble, betray, repent, forgive, and prayerfully restore each other in their own marriage. You see, Christian marriage is a picture of the greatest heavenly drama imaginable; Jesus wedding and taking his bride, the church, into his heavenly home.

For this reason, this reason above all, Christian marriage will never be defined by the world, least of all the parliament or people of Australia.

When you are speaking to friend and family about marriage, why not use this opportunity to share with them why marriage is so important to you, because it is a picture of the heavenly reality.

The end of life, the end of death.

Dead raspberry cane

I’m sitting here with a cuppa after an early morning winter task of cutting away the dead raspberry canes. Reflecting on the sudden surge in funerals and hospital visits lately. Good friends, family of good friends lost to us all; waves of grief mingled with a deep sense of compassion towards those now without their loved one.

Is that it? So brief a life it is too. I look out at the frost still covering the gardens full of dead leaves and barrenness and reflect that life indeed is kind of like the seasons.

Our first 20 years is like Spring, full of rapid growth, flowering, colour and exuberance, joy and hope.

Our next 20 years our Summer, full of strength and vigour. We have stamina and confidence and bask in its warmth as we go about our ventures and adventures.

Then comes Autumn, our 40’s and 50’s. Yes, we slow down but still enjoy vigour and strength in some measure, just like in nature, this is a time of much harvest. For many our finances prosper, our bank account builds up, we look to the future with perhaps a quieter confidence, but with a smile.

And then comes Winter, our 60’s and 70’s, creeping up at first, arthritis or some other annoyance, but as the years flit by, and they do with ever greater rapidity, annoyances and decay multiply, and like my Raspberry canes the time inevitably comes to lop them off to the ground (Mine are Autumn fruiting, and require this harsh winter treatment).

As the writer of Ecclesiastes wrote, ‘there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the sun.’ But what hope does that bring us who are in the Winter season of life?

He just tells us of a time to die, or weep, or mourn.

Better for me to look to God’s revelation in nature this morning.

As I pruned those ‘dead canes’ off at ground level, I noticed something.

Buds, blushing ruby red, as though embarrassed at their fecundity. Tiny yet filled with promise of new life come Spring. So I cut off the strongest of them and planted them deep in another bed, to rest quietly through the remaining winter, quietly sending out roots and preparing for new life.

“I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. (Joh 11:25 MSG)


What a great encouragement those buds are. They point me to the sweet and sure promise of Jesus.

If you are in the winter season of your own life, here is real hope. Do not despair over the ill fortune of this season, or allow regrets over past seasons to spoil the joy on offer now. There is a new year ahead, and a new life ahead

“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal. (Joh 12:24-25 MSG)


Wars of the 20th Century

No comment, just posting for a share with someone.

wars of the 20th century

An Aussie Prodigal


I’ve been shearin’ and drovin’ all me life. And I’ve seen some things in me time, and folks of all types.

But the time I spent on Donovan’s station after the war, well that was really somethin’.

Old man Donovan was the kind of boss every jackaroo or shearer just dreamed of. Fairest man this side of the Murray I say, well both sides, and don’t let any man naysay. But what he done that year of the big harvest, well they still talk about it to this day down at O’Malleys pub.

Like I said, it was 3 years after the war, and well, old mother nature had dished out one hum dinger of a year. The wool on the sheep was so fat you couldn’t see their legs, and the wheat, well it was so high in the paddocks they hired school kids to sit on the shoulders of the horses to steer the reapers. Yeah, that was a good year for old man Donovan. He was sittin’ pretty. And Casey the bank manager, he had a smile a mile wide too.

And then it happened, the day his heart was broke. Reckon it near broke every man jack of us too.

You see old widower Donovan had two boys. Loved them somethin’ fierce too. Mick, the eldest, well ‘e was big and strong, the silent type. And work? Never a man could out shear, out ride, or plough a straighter furrow in double quick time as Mick. Knew every paddock, every gully, every tree of Donovan’s lease like the back of his hand, and worked harder than any man I ever saw. Loved his dad, loved his land, loved his work, Mick did.

And then there was Toby, the larrikin. Don’t get me wrong, ‘e was a fair worker was Toby, but oh he liked a party Toby did, and a practical joke. He’d just as likely start a two up game in the middle of the crutching, or bet a tenner that he could shear the house cat without getting a scratch as do just about anything. And we all loved Toby. But that summer ‘e broke old Donovan’s heart.

Y’see he said to his dad, and I tell no lie, Murphy, the ringer heard it clear as day, ‘I’m off Pa, I’m going to Melbourne to make my way. And I want my share of the family dough. It’s been a good year and you’ve got cash to pay me out. You and Mick like this life, but I want more. I can make it big in Melbourne, but I need my stake, and I need it now.’

The old man tried to talk to him, but when Toby said what he said next, well it took the wind right out of him. ‘You might as well be dead livin’ ‘ere.’ Says Toby ‘It’s the life of the livin’ dead, it is.’

Yep, old man Donovan was broken hearted. Y’see, he loved his land, loved the bush and was proud of what he built. And he always dreamed of setting up the boys one day. Did it all for them. The light just plain went straight out of ‘is eyes that day.

But strike me ‘e did just like Toby asks. So before the summer was out ‘e sold the South bend lease to raise the extra cash. Didn’t really have what Toby figured ‘e was due. And then Toby just gets all his gear together, and rides off. Eleven thousand guineas they reckon he give Toby that day, a princely sum even for a station owner the likes of Donovan. Casey, the banker and him had a blue over it too, but his mind was made up, and off Toby went, with horse and cart, and a banker’s cheque for eleven thousand guineas, heading for the big smoke, to make it big. I had a terrible fear for the lad, too right I did. Smart and quick, but a country boy ‘e was, an’ I’ve seen what those city coves are like. That’s why I ride boundary on Donovan’s station. City life’s too ugly, too cutthroat for any decent man.

From that day on, the old man just gave in. Mick picked up the slack, and took over runnin’ the station. Donovan just moped around the house, would stand for hours at the gate and look down the track, like ‘e was waitin’ for Toby to just walk back in.

Well, I heard from a mate later that year what happened to Toby. Got caught up with those Carlton spivs and pimps real quick. They can smell a tenner on you even if it’s tucked in your boot, they can. And Toby lasted about 3 months while they bled him dry. Yeah, make it big he said, make it big.

Seems he just couldn’t resist the booze and party girls, poor Toby. He always was a sucker for a pretty face and a bottle.

Well Charlie, me mate in Carlton, reckons Toby went to laboring at the Footscray cattle yards first. An’ then the next year the big drought set in. We was all right up on the Murray, but those poor sods down south, well it never rained for 10 months on the go. Farms was just dust from one end to the other, and even the gums died. Never seen the likes I tell you. The cattle yards closed, and men was out of work all over Melbourne as well as the bush. Grim times I tell you it was.

So as it turns Toby ends up working for a piggery in Bendigo. Strewth, how far down can you go? Mucking out stalls, washing down filthy sows to go to market, and sleeping rough in the pig sheds, all for what? Pride I guess. Toby had a lot of that, but then don’t we all?

That’s where I ran into him one day. Old Grumpy and me were down to Bendigo with a truck picking up supplies and seed, and Mick asked us to get a couple of sides of salted pork to supplement the station fare.

You coulda knocked me down with a feather. We was talking to the boss at the piggery, makin’ the deal, when he calls out “Toby, here lad, I need ya.”

And this stick of a figure, filthy as the any pig on the joint come sloping out from one of the sty’s. But I recognised him alright. Can’t mistake Toby, even if the gleam and swagger had gone from him.

What to do, tell him how his pa was missing him so? Nah, you gotta remember we are Aussie blokes. Most things are best left unsaid by our rules. Toby and another labourer loaded up the two sides of pork, and he just slunk off.

A month later, well what a turn up. I hadn’t dared tell the boss about Toby, might have made him worse, ‘cause he was still spending most of his time standing at that gate lookin’ down the track. Coulda sworn he was praying too. Maybe he was, pillar of the church as well as of the community he was, so I guess ‘e was a prayin’ man.

That’s just what he was doing this chilly Spring morning, cuppa in hand, standing and staring, when all of a sudden that tea just flies up in the air as ‘e lets off a shout, “Toby, it’s me boy Toby!” and the old man is off and running down that track lickety split. Never seen an old geezer with such zip in him in all me days.

‘E outran us, and when Charlie and I finally caught up with ‘im, there ‘e was, arms wrapped around this washed out, filthy rag of a lad on ‘is knees cryin’. Toby alright, no mistaking it.

“Pa,” ‘e was cryin’ “I been starving Pa, and I know I’m not your son no more, I gone and done so much wrong ‘agin you and God pa. But gimme a job in the shearin shed will you? I’ll do you right I will.”

The old man never answered; ‘e just turned to me, and in between his own tears says “Harry, quick, go up to the house. Find my best riding coat, the boys cold. And my best boots too, and woollen socks.”

As I turned, he calls out “Harry, go into my room too. In the dresser, top drawer, is my best watch, the gold one mama bought me for our anniversary, bring it with you, don’t forget.”

“Charlie” he called out to me mate. “Go find one of the new calves in the East paddock, get the boys to help you kill and dress it quick. Get it on the spit right away. We’re going to have a party tonight, nothing but the best. My boy was dead but now he’s alive. We’re celebrating big time.”

And we got busy, and how the whole station was abuzz with excitement, that is till Mick rode in from checking the mob in the river paddock. He just looked, station hands running round excited, spit fired up, an ‘e asks me “What’s goin’ on Harry?”

So I tell him, “Toby’s come back Mick, ‘e looks a sight but it’s ‘im for sure, and your pa’s got a spit goin’ and us organisin’ a party. ‘E said to watch out for you, to let you know so you can go and see the boy straight away.”

“See Toby?” he roared at me, “See that filthy rag that wasted most half the value of this station on booze and hookers? I’d rather choke on a dust storm than see that toerag.” Furious ‘e was!

Just then his dad comes out and seein’ Mick there comes runnin’ over to get him. Tries to get him to go and see Toby, whose resting up in his old room.

What a raging row that was, all Mick mind you. ‘is dad was in tears tryin’ to get ‘im to go in and see ‘is brother.

But Mick riled up even fiercer, “Pa, not once, not once do you hear, did you ever make this kind of palaver over me. I’ve worked my butt off my whole life, run this place while you pine away lookin’ down the road for that mangy rat you call your son. Why, you never even put a stringy goat on the spit so me and my mates could have a barbie. Now nothin’ but the best for that worthless toerag soon as ‘e turns up after nearly ruining us so ‘e could waste it all on ‘is spiv mates and scrubbers. No way pa, I ain’t comin’ in!”

Well, old Donovan just looks deep in Mick’s eyes, like ‘e could feel the boys pain. ’E goes kind of quiet, ‘an ‘e reached out and took Mick by the shoulders and looked ‘im in the eye, an’ ‘e says –

“Mick, you’re my number 1, always have been. This whole spread is yours, and you know it. Toby’s done ‘is dash on that score. But your brother, yes Mick, not just my son, your brother, ‘e’s back from the dead, and yes, we’re gonna celebrate.”

Well, time’s a wastin’ and the fires near out.

Yeah, I know you’re itching to know what Mick did next, and how it all turned out. It’s late boys, time to hit the sack. Reckon I’ll have to save that story for another day.

But to wrap up, we all learned somethin’ deep that day from old man Donovan. Before that I reckon not a man jack of us on the station would have given Toby time of day.

Forgiveness! That’s what Donovan taught us that day. Reckon every one of us went to bed thinkin’ on the grudges and resentments we were all carryin’ round ourselves. Carryin’ round like back packs full of rocks if you get my drift.

Never gonna forget it m’self, the day Toby came home, and how old man Donovan welcomed ‘im and forgave ‘im.

The woman caught in adultery

woman-caught-in-adulteryJohn 8:1-10. A dramatisation by R Robertson (this is my own imagining of the ‘story behind the story.’ I wrote this out of times of meditating on the real personal struggles of the many people Jesus encountered, ministered to, and brought eternal hope to.)


“Whore!” “Adulterer!” “Stone Her! Stone Her!”

The cries and shouts rang in Leah’s ears as she stumbled up the dusty path, the small crowd swelling behind her like a thirsting herd of cattle rushing toward the smell of water.

Oh, if only they would rush over her now, crush her to death, save her from further shame.

The Priests had already torn her tunic when their ruffians had taken her before them last night, as custom dictated. Leah recalled now her face had burned with humiliation as they had stood around her shouting their pious condemnations. Then they had thrown her into a dark room where she shivered in fear, listening to the muffled voices as men came and went outside.

Why they hadn’t taken her out and stoned her then, before the Roman guards made their rounds? They still did it occasionally, when it suited them, even though the Romans forbade it. That is, unless it suited their own purposes. Years ago she saw a stoning. The invisible hand of fear gripped around her heart as she recalled the contorted face of the writhing victim.

And now, before dawn, they had dragged her out of her temporary prison. Amongst the shouting and cursing she had overheard something about a plan, a use for her. At the temple, they said, and something to do with one of those itinerant preachers they hated so much. And laughter, some kind of joke about someone losing no matter his choice. And more laughter.

‘Oh please God, let them kill me now. I know I sinned against you, but not this humiliation too.’ Leah stumbled, falling to the hard ground. Someone grabbed her by the arms, jerking her upright and pushed her roughly in the back, recommencing the bizarre procession past the markets just filling with people in the early morning, and up towards the temple.

“Harlot! Harlot! Harlot! …..” The cries now formed into a rhythmic chant around her. ‘No!’ her mind cried out. ‘I’m not a harlot; we loved each other.’ But it was no use now.

Where was he? When those men rushed in and tore them apart she had cried out for him. Had they already stoned him? Surely not, after all he was one of them, at least his father was. He would be too one day, he said. And she did love him so. And he said he loved her too. She had felt so good, so loved, laying there in his arms. So good after everything else that had been happening these past years. The images flashed through her mind as she stumbled, hardly hearing the baying crowd any more, the taunts from women standing on the roadside now echoing distantly as the events of the past year rushed through her mind.

Images of the divorce came flooding into her mind, when Jathniel had thrown her out, accusing her of flirting with her cousin. Her own cousin? The man she had grown up with? Her friend? How could Jathniel have thought such things of them? No, it was an excuse she as she had realised soon after. So he could marry that woman; but no, it didn’t matter now.

She remembered the shame she felt when she was cast out of the house with nothing. She wanted to die that day, but not now. And the days of disgrace and humiliation as she tried to survive on her own, not able to see her beautiful sons. Leah’s family had refused to take her in, believing those awful things Jathniel told them. And trying to bake bread and sell it in the market to provide a small income to survive. But no-one would go near her, let alone buy from her.

Her mind skipped to that day when Nathan stopped in the back alley and spoke to her. That was her salvation. Oh yes, kind words he used. ‘Did she need a room to stay in, a little money for a new tunic?’ His gentle touch that first night he visited her in her rented room. She almost felt like a prostitute, told him so. But he was so reassuring, said he loved her, would look after her, it would be their secret. Life seemed to be better, at least a little, even though his visits were always at night, and she couldn’t tell anyone about him.

And then last night, when the ruffians burst in, it was all over, and Nathan was gone. ‘Oh Nathan, where are you. If only we had run away together.’ But she knew that would never have been. He was training to be a lawyer, one of them. Was he dead, or had they let him go back to his ordinary life. She had heard that they protected each other, the lawyers. Surely not Nathan though, he said he loved her.

The small crowd was now hustling her up the wide stairway that led through those huge wall and into the Court of the Gentiles. She saw the Roman guards watching intently. But no, there was no hope there. ‘Oh Lord, hide me from this shame!’ her heart cried out.

Lahad was enjoying the prospect of the moment. When those fools, Caiaphas and Annas had been wringing their hands at the last council meeting over this stupid prophet, only Lahad had the courage to offer to come up with a plan. Already the crowds were saying that this Jesus had the approval of the Council. ‘That’s what comes from inaction.’ He thought, smugly to himself. ‘Well, now was the time for action, and the man who could eliminate this heretic would certainly earn credit in both Herod’s eyes and even Pilate’s. Yes, both were useful allies even if they were abominations.’

Trapping this stupid preacher on a point of the law would be simple, he mused, as his lackeys shoved and prodded the pathetic figure along towards the temple. After all, he was an uneducated Galilean. Lahad had encountered them before; boorish and loud, but they crumbled when challenged and tested by a skilled lawyer every time. Hadn’t spent any time studying the Torah or Halakah, the fools. Not like himself, an expert in all the law. Why, he was the only man he knew amongst the scribes, or any of the Pharisees, that was able to recite so many entire scrolls by heart. And he had just finished memorising the book of Job. The entire book. That would impress his followers, and show up Caiaphas for the ignorant pretender he was.

Simple, he thought; but his plan was beautiful too. Just showing up this Galilean on some simple point was not enough. No, everyone would soon forget that. It was time to totally discredit him, with something dramatic, right in front of his mob of filthy followers. Lahad sneered at the thought of the last time he saw them, all clamouring around that Jesus, the fools. Tax collectors, fishermen, women. How flagrant, he thought, women sitting at the feet of a preacher. Never would he waste his time like that. Better uses for them, like this pathetic creature, stumbling and whining and loping along like a whipped dog.

He grinned to himself as he approached the steps leading up to the court of the Gentiles. His spies had already told him that Jesus had gone to the temple earlier, before dawn. If only he knew, the poor fool, what lay in front of him; the terrible choice that he was to be confronted with. ‘Well, let him choose.’ thought Lahad, smiling grimly.

Jesus could play safe and choose to defer to the Romans. But he would not do that. No, not in front of this idealistic rabble, always dreaming of freedom and their precious new kingdom. He’d lose all his followers that way. That’s why the mob hated the Pharisees. The fools didn’t understand the need to work with the Romans, get their stamp of approval in matters such as this.

He could choose to let her go. That would be good too, Lahad thought. If he chose this response it would just take a little longer to corner him. But siding with such flagrant sin would open up a huge hole in this preachers armour. Before long Lahad would be making this fool defend even murderers. Yes he could round one of them up easily too.

No, he would have to choose the law to save face with the crowds. The law was clear in these matters. No room for interpretation. That’s what the common Jew longed for, a return to the old ways, when Israel was a real nation. Ha, with the agitators he had planted in Jesus own crowd egging him on he would be seen as instigating an insurrection; and then; and then his men would alert Pilate’s guards and have this Jesus arrested on the spot.

Pilate didn’t take kindly to the Jews taking the law into their own hands, especially capital offences. He had already and often demonstrated his eagerness to enforce his will. Lahad shuddered as he recalled the torture and crucifixions he had already seen. That’s why it pays to work with them. Yes, his spies had already alerted the Centurion on guard in the temple of his plan. No point taking chances on some misunderstanding with the Roman guards.

They reached the outer porch. “Thomas,” he barked to his assistant, “get them to settle down. We must look dignified. Remember what I said. Get your ruffian friends to go now and sit amongst his disciples, ready to start their whispering if this Galilean chooses to free her, and to stir up a protest if he chooses otherwise. They know what to do don’t they?

“Oh, yes, master. They know well what to do.” Thomas turned to his men. “Go now, sit amongst his followers and be quiet until you see my signal.”

Sixteen men, the hirelings Thomas had enlisted, skulked off, disappearing into the crowds. That left the twenty of them, all Pharisees and masters of the law. Thomas looked up at Lahad. He was old now, tall, lean and leathery of skin; the wisest and most learned of the Pharisee sect by Thomas’s judgement. And wily too, like a fox. Yes, a good choice for a mentor for Thomas if he wanted to get ahead.

They checked their robes and phylacteries carefully. The woman whimpered, cringing against the wall of the hallway they had stopped in. “Shut up you whore. You’ll get what you deserve soon enough.” Lahad spat the words at her.

“Come on. We’ll see what this preacher is made of. And let’s solve Caiaphas’ little problem for him.” Lahad led the entourage out into the sunlit court of the Gentiles, already filled with people, most of them grouped around various teachers, listening and learning. Lahad’s demeanour soured as he saw that there was one crowd that was far bigger than any other. ‘Yes, this would be Jesus, making a name for himself certainly.’ He thought grimly. ‘Well, no more.

“Come on men, get her out in front. Now my dear is your time of usefulness.”

Jesus’ followers were already mostly seated. But those in the way parted swiftly as the procession approached. Twenty Pharisees, ornately dressed, heads high; and one lone woman, clothes torn and filthy from dust and many tears, desperately but vainly trying to hide her shame. The crowd murmured and then hushed as the Pharisees stopped in front of the teacher, who was already sitting down, ready for his lesson to them. They knew what she was purely by the circumstance, an adulterer, probably a whore. But why were the Pharisees bringing her here, to the master?

Thomas pushed her forward till she was standing right in front of Jesus. In her utter shame she cried, sobbed again, her tears plopping on the ground in front of this man, this teacher, who, despite the sudden commotion, did not even look up, seemed yet not to have noticed either her or the Pharisees.

Suddenly his head moved back. He looked up, straight into her eyes.

Her heart leaped.

She couldn’t identify the feeling at first, but,  –   hope, yes at last she felt hope. These eyes were kind and gentle, but his gaze was strong and steady, as though he were peering deep inside her. A glimmer of hope flashed through her. Perhaps he could save her. He arose slowly and looking away from her now surveyed the group of Pharisees, pausing at each to scrutinise, again seeming as though he could see deep inside each of them.

“Teacher,” Thomas called out, breaking the short silence. He was proud that Lahad had entrusted him to speak first, to issue the challenge. It was good planning to let the senior scribe wait, come in at the appropriate time and settle matters. Anyway, this was Thomas’s chance to show Lahad his worth.

“Teacher,” he was purposefully solicitous, but measured, ensuring that everyone present could hear, (‘get him off guard if you can,’ Lahad said) “this woman was caught in the very act of adultery.” He paused, the onlookers already knew that from her appearance of course but it didn’t hurt to let them look her over again, allow the disdain and revulsion to grow.

“In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.” He paused again for effect, pleased at the steadiness in his voice. Yes, Lahad had trained him well.

“Now, what do you say?”

The preacher looked at the woman briefly then down at the ground, then slowly bent down as if to resume his lesson. Thomas was shocked at first, confused if only for a moment. The insolent fool was going back to his lesson to the crowd, ignoring the challenge totally.

Jesus began to write in the dirt, a habit of many preachers, writing the first verse of their scripture down and then commencing their discourse from there on. Thomas’s momentary panic was quickly replaced with glee though as he looked over at Lahad and saw his grin. ‘Yes we’ve got him all right. He is trying to worm his way out without a word.’

Lahad motioned with his eyes to several of the other Pharisees.

“Yes what do you say?” one added

“Will you speak against Moses?” “Interpret the law for us, teacher!” A small chorus rose from the Pharisees.

Still he remained seated, continuing to write out his scripture for the now murmuring crowd.

Lahad had waited long enough. “Tell us teacher, is Moses to be obeyed, or the Romans?” he called out in his stentorian voice, silencing all murmurs. All eyes were now on Lahad. ‘Yes,’ he thought ‘now he’s lost control. I’ve got him where I want him.’

The teacher looked up, directly at him. Lahad shuddered, as though a chill had suddenly descended. The man looked at him not with malice as he expected, nor fear as he hoped. No, the expression reminded him of the way his father would look at him so many years ago, when he was a boy. A look of knowing, knowing that he had done wrong today, but of loving him all the same. ‘What right does he have to look at me like… No.’ he curtly told himself, refocussing on the task at hand.

Jesus rose, his eyes steadily fixed on Lahad. “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” And then, incredibly, he bent down, continuing to write his passage.

Leah let out a sharp cry. Only the words ‘stone her’ sank in at first. Now she was dead, she knew; her heart sinking in an instant.

All hope was gone. ‘Oh let it be quick, Lord. I’m so sorry, just let it be quick.’

Through her tears though, she looked up as she realised that all was still silent. Why weren’t they carting her away? She had been condemned. What was wrong with them?

Every eye was looking at Lahad. Except for the teacher, writing in the dirt. But the crowd, the Pharisees, all looking at the venerable scribe. The Pharisees glancing furtively at each other in between their pleading looks to their leader for direction as moment by moment passed silently.

Lahad’s face revealed only the slightest tremor as he weighed the significance of the statement still ringing in his ears. His mind screamed out, ‘No, you’re not supposed to debate like that. She’s the issue we’re arguing. Not ME you fool…. No, he was no fool, this Galilean. We’ve miscalculated.’

‘What now?’ His mind raced; he could feel his pulse throbbing in his head, feel the eyes of the crowd. He quickly scanned left and right, seeing his compatriots looking to him, pleading for direction. Uncertain they were of what was transpiring in this silent exchange but willing to cart her off and cast a stone if only he would lead.

‘Idiots,’ his mind screamed at them, ‘can’t you see we’ve miscalculated, bringing this wretch here. He’s turned our own argument on us.’

He lowered his eyes. ‘Must think, fast.’ But all he could see were the stones laying on the ground, challenging him to stoop down and pick one of them up. ‘Without sin. Without sin.’ The Scriptures raced through his mind. All that memorising, all that training, brought them rushing to his minds eye. David’s cry in the Proverbs ‘Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin”?’ He knew, an adulterer. And Job’s futile cry to God “I am pure and without sin;” He could see too God’s fury with Job as his mind rushed through the scroll and his voice answering like a mighty wind. “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.”

‘I will question you. I will question you. What to do? What to do?’ His mind swirled.

He looked up. The woman had stopped her crying now and was staring at him too. And this damnable teacher was now stooped down, scribbling in the dirt again, leaving him to answer, to choose.

The silence of the crowd echoed in his ears against the challenge of God to Job, ‘I will question you. I will question you.’

Lowering his eyes at last, he turned without a word, and in silence walked slowly away from the paralysing scene. “I will question you.’ The words rang in his ears. ‘Could he really be? Might he be the one …’

He did not see as Thomas, eyes now full of fear and confusion, hesitated, and then, pulling his cloak around him tightly, scurried after him.

One by one they retreated. The most senior first, departing each in turn down to the most junior, in strict accord with their rank in their private pecking order, as each in turn realised that he could not take on the mantle declined by his superior.

Leah stood silently, alone with her confusion except for this preacher now standing before her. His followers remained seated and silent throughout the exchange, still not understanding what had just taken place.

Jesus turned towards her and looked into her eyes with that same gentle, enigmatic expression.

“Woman,” his words were clear and firm, but soft on her ears, “where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

She looked around her, not comprehending what had just transpired. But there was not one of her accusers left. “No one, sir,” she said. Tears flowed freely now, but tears of hope and relief.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” he raised his voice now so all could hear clearly. “Go now, and leave your life of sin.” In an instant she knew that somehow it was possible; possible to at last be free of this terrible condemnation she had been living with.

Pulling her torn tunic up over her shoulders she walked haltingly towards the rear of the crowd, and finding a bare patch of pavement, sat, waiting for her saviour to start his lesson.

Cars and Children


Driving around my neighbourhood. I take special care backing out of the driveway, stopping at two specific points and looking round, both in the mirrors and directly, before I cross the footpath, and then before entering the road.

I drive slowly when there are a lot of cars parked in our narrow street too, scanning for possible kids hidden from view (they love to play football on the street too, real footy, Aussie Rules).

All this caution is because I LOVE the neighbourhood kids, not because I’m worried about the law. In fact the law does not even enter my mind each morning as I get in the car.

I was reading Romans 3 a couple of nights ago (I’m going through Romans right now in my evening reading) and I was struck by the determination of Paul’s language as to the place of the law; that is, it is still there, but NOT what drives him.

Here is the transition in chapter 3 that got my attention

Rom 3:19-20  Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.  (20)  Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

And then, having dealt with ‘law’ Paul goes on into what he passionately wants to tell the Roman church.

Rom 3:21-24  But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.  (22)  This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile,  (23)  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  (24)  and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

So, as Paul writes, yes, the law is still there to convict those who do not yet act out of love for neighbour, but once love rules the heart, we don’t drive ‘under the law.’

Likewise, with God’s moral law, we no longer are constantly looking at the law books and interpreting and applying to daily life like the Pharisees and lawyers of Jesus’ day. No, we look to Christ, who lives and works in and through us, in the Spirit.

I pray, soak in the gospel this morning, the good news of God’s grace, His love for you, your love for Him, and thus your love for fellow man, before you ‘enter the road’ today.