As Yeshua continues his ministry and is challenged by the religious leaders, his beloved friend El'azar falls ill in Bethany and when Yeshua finally arrives, it is too late...or is it?
About the Author
Bodie and Brock Thoene (pronounced Tay-nee) have written over 45 works of historical fiction. That these best sellers have sold more than 10 million copies and won eight ECPA Gold Medallion Awards affirms what millions of readers have already discovered - the Thoenes are not only master stylists, but experts at capturing readers' minds and hearts. Bodie and Brock have four grown children - Rachel, Jake, Luke, and Ellie - and five grandchildren. Bodie and Brock divide their time between London and Nevada.
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By Bodie Thoene Brock Thoene
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2007 Bodie and Brock Thoene
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIt was some time after the death of Yosef, His earthly father, that Yeshua returned to Nazareth to reveal the secret-to plainly share the testimony of His true paternity, as prophesied in Torah.
Though certain they had known Him all their lives, the people of Nazareth had no idea who Yeshua was or where He had come from. Nor could they imagine the eons that had passed since this moment of divine revelation had been planned.
Despite the fact that every detail of Messiah's life and mission was revealed within the text of ancient law and prophets, the good people of Nazareth did not comprehend.
After all, could Messiah live next door?
"Yeshua, my mother wonders, please, could she borrow two eggs?"
Was it possible that The Lord of All the Angel Armies, El Olam, and Ancient of Days, had descended to earth from His throne and was singing in the carpenter's workshop?
Could the descendant of David-Prophet, Priest, and King-be more than a metaphor? Could He truly be Immanu'el, God-with-us?
They had heard of Yeshua's miracles, yes, but even then, few in Nazareth believed.
"Messiah, remember me? I gave you water when you were building new stairs to my roof. So ... just give me a sign."
One particular Shabbat, Yeshua stood among His neighbors.
It was in the autumn. The fifty-first week of the cycle of Torah portions. The reading for that Shabbat was Nitzavim, which means in Hebrew, "Standing."
Certain men of the congregation, including Yeshua, were chosen to make aliyah, to ascend the bema to read. One section of the Parashah was recited by an old man with a quavering voice. It was taken from the last chapters of the book of Deuteronomy:
"Today you are standing, all of you, in the presence of Adonai, your God ... in order to enter into a covenant with Adonai, your God; a covenant Adonai is making with you today and sealing with an oath."
Taken literally, the verse informed the congregation plainly that they were in the presence of the Lord, that He was physically there.
Yet the hearers did not hear.
Those who saw Him did not see.
"But I am not making this covenant and this oath only with you. Rather I am making it both with him who is standing here with us today before Adonai our God and also with him who is not here with us today; those of future generations. See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. Now choose life."
The truth of the message escaped them. After all, Scripture was just Scripture. Familiar. Boring. An obligation. They studied it, read a different Parashah every week, memorized it, and talked about it all the time. It never meant anything literal, did it?
That the Lord Himself was standing in their midst?
Torah readings completed, the congregation recited the blessings:
"King, Helper, Savior, and Shield! Blessed are You, O Eternal! Reviving the dead; You are all powerful to save! He sustains the living in mercy, and reanimates the dead in abundant compassion; supports the fallen, heals the sick, releases those who are bound! Who is like You, Lord of mighty deeds?"
Praise was on their lips, but what was in their hearts?
Then their Redeemer, Messiah, Adonai, Immanu'el, God-with-us, stood before them at the bema of the little synagogue.
Yeshua's deep brown eyes, flecked with gold, searched each familiar face, knew every unspoken thought and secret.
The scroll of the prophet Isaias was presented to Him. Unrolling it, He found the appointed place and began to read:
"The Spirit of Adonai is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the favor of Adonai."
Yeshua rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the shammash, and sat down. The eyes of everyone were fastened on Him, and He said to them, "Today this passage of the Tanakh is fulfilled in your hearing."
"You don't say?"
The congregants eyed each other in consternation.
Yeshua's earthly father was dead, His mother left a widow.
"If you are truly the Messiah, why did Yosef die?"
Broken hearts in Nazareth were still broken. The poor were still poor. Blind were still blind. The oppressed were still burdened. If Yeshua was Messiah, He had not done them any favors!
"Today the Scripture is fulfilled, he said? Who does he think he is?"
"Isn't this Yosef's son?" an old man asked.
Yeshua said to them, "Surely you'll say to me, 'Doctor, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard you did in Capernaum.' I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his hometown. There were many widows in Israel in Elijah's time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine in the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath."
"Elijah was sent to outsiders, he means!"
"Is he comparing himself to Elijah? Saying he can raise the dead, is he?"
If only they had let Yeshua speak, He would have taught them how Elijah raised the widow's son from the dead and miraculously provided flour and oil enough for her and her son to eat while all the rest of the country hovered near starvation.
If only they had opened their hearts, they might have understood that Yeshua was The One Sent from heaven to lavish Yahweh's endless chesed, mercy, on all who called out to Him.
But the people of His hometown were in no mood to listen.
"He's a nobody, this son of a carpenter!"
"Yet now he declares he meets the criteria to be Messiah!"
"Heal the sick and raise the dead? To cleanse the Temple of corruption and set up a kingdom? And bring the exiles home?"
"Yeshua claims he is the fulfillment of all the writings of Torah and the prophets?"
"He's a madman! Or worse!"
It was a mob comprised of old friends and good neighbors who dragged Him outside the town with the goal of hurtling Him over a cliff.
The Sovereign Lord of the Universe, the Anointed Messiah promised by the prophets, had indeed lived next door. And they drove Him away.
The Parashah proclaimed, Listen! Today you stand before Adonai! He has come to you personally to seal the covenant He made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! Choose life!
They chose, instead, to try to kill Him.
Yeshua never returned to Nazareth. Not ever. There were other towns, other needs, others who hoped He would come to them ... and His time to live as a man among mortal men was growing very short.
* * *
His name was Abel. Abel begins with alef, the first letter of the alphabet. He was Eve's first and only son-her miracle, her joy. He was her life. He was everything ... the substance of every hope.
Like Isaac, the baby was a miracle child-a gift from God, his father, Absalom, said. So they named him Abel, meaning "God is my Father." Circumcised into the covenant of Abraham at eight days, Abel was the lone offspring of Eve and Absalom the Scribe.
Perhaps her dreams for him were unrealistic, her love for him too extravagant. Much later the people of Nain would say she should have known better, should have been more cautious with her love.
After all, nothing ever turns out the way it should.
Eve, daughter of the innkeeper, was a homely girl with a kind spirit. Married off to the childless and much older scribe after his second wife died, she was a good match for him. Absalom treated her kindly. When she became pregnant, he was pleased and felt young again, though friends in the synagogue jokingly called him "Father Avraham."
Like the original Father Abraham, Absalom was proud to have a son learn his craft and carry on his trade.
A sign bearing the image of a writing case and a quill pen hung above the door of their house near the center of the town.
Letters and deeds and sales documents were the bread and butter of his business. However, Absalom the Scribe was best known as a ketubah artist. Famous throughout the Galil, he drew up marriage contracts that were works of art.
Ordinary legal terms for matrimony-bride price, dowry, and the like-were set down on scraped and bleached lambskin. Perfectly formed Hebrew letters were intertwined with a garden of gold leaf vines and flowers created from the rare purple ink of a sea snail.
No matter if the bride was homely or the groom a dolt, a ketubah drawn by Absalom was fit for the wedding of King Solomon and the queen of Sheba. It was said that arranged marriages, if sealed by a document drawn up by the Scribe of Nain, were sure to be blessed with many strong, healthy sons.
For some, this may have been true, but Eve, the wife of Absalom, had only one son. Abel was neither strong nor healthy. Even so, his mother widely proclaimed that Abel was better to her than ten sons. She thanked Adonai daily for the gift of Abel's life.
As befitting the son of a scribe, Abel learned his alef-bet easily and could read and write his name before his fourth year.
It was whispered that if he lived, Abel would inherit the writing case of his father, along with his father's reputation.
If he lived? The issue was indeed a matter of concern. Almost from the beginning Abel's hold on life was tenuous. He could not run and play like other boys in the village of Nain. When the winds blew in from the fields and orchards, he was put to bed and ordered not to venture out. The boy sat beside his aged father in the doorway and wheezed worse than the old man as they watched the world pass by.
Though Abel did not have the breath to sing, his mother sang to him constantly. He knew and loved the psalms and could write the words by heart before he was seven.
Abel was only eight when his father suddenly died. And just that suddenly the boy was the lone remaining joy in his mother's life. She clung to him and thanked Adonai that at least she had this one reason for living, so her life was not over!
Even then people whispered that she should hold something back-be cautious in her dreams. After all, nothing ever turned out the way it should ... not on this side of olam haba, the world to come.
Abel mourned for his old father seven days. In the silence of his grief it was as though the boy was old and wise beyond his years. When he rose from the ashes, he whispered aloud a thought that was surely a prophecy about his future.
He told Adonai how very much he longed to be with his father one day. When Abel became very ill, he told Adonai he wouldn't mind dying, except for the fact that his mother needed him.
He was only thirteen years old when the life that had begun with such joy moved inexorably toward its end.
Much later, perhaps, Eve would say she knew all along there was something greater, something eternally necessary, some purpose more important than the suffering she endured for the sake of loving her child.
But not now.
Not yet! He's so young!
Not in this terrible hour when night fell heavy and crushed out the only light left to her.
There is no dawn for me without him!
Not as she sat helpless at his bed and bargained with a silent God for the life of the only one who loved her in all the world.
Please! My life for his!
Not as she held her son in her arms and watched him die.
Don't leave me all alone! Hazak! Be strong!
Help for her only child had been a mere twenty-five miles away from the tiny house, yet she knew now that help might as well have been at the other end of the world.
Vain hopes for his healing had killed him. She was responsible.
She would have to live with that guilt.
If only. If only we had stayed home. If only we had not set out in search of a miracle! If only!
No one else in the village would blame her for trying, except perhaps the doctor. After all, was there anyone-anyone-in Galilee and Judea who had not heard about Yeshua, the wonder worker of Nazareth?
Mired in hopelessness before Yeshua came, the am ha aretz, the common folk, were resigned to suffering. Bitterness was a kind of opiate that numbed the pain of living and the inevitability of death. Beaten down by unrelieved despair, they accepted the fact that life was brutal and unmerciful, and they made the best of it.
Then rumors stirred the watch fires of Israel. The quiet whisper was passed from one to another as water was drawn from the village wells.
"They say the Deliverer is alive! His name is Yeshua!"
Hadn't Yeshua healed someone who knew someone who told someone who told everyone?
Yeshua, a descendant of King David, restored health to the sick, gave galaxies and sunsets to the blind!
Poetry and song poured from the throats of the mute!
Music and laughter tickled the ears of the deaf!
Cripples danced at the Temple gates!
Lepers were made whole again!
There was free bread for all who were hungry!
Tenuous roots of possibility sank deep into hearts and minds with every new report. Then suddenly it was not enough simply to hear about Him anymore. Those who were most desperate for an answer lay in bed and stared into the darkness at night.
With trembling hands they constructed an image of their savior out of the very stones that weighed them down. But it was a false image, nothing like the truth of Who and What He Was and Is.
They plotted ways they might meet Him personally. Imagining themselves close enough to touch Him, they rehearsed what they would say to Him if only.
If only ...
"You are the Messiah? I've been waiting for you to come. You see, I want a lot! But I've heard you can do everything for me. Health, first of all. Yes. You haven't got anything if you don't have your health. Heal me. And after you make me healthy, please make me be happy always! I heard you can arrange everything. I want to be loved. I want my children always content around me, appreciating me, honoring me. I want my problem solved right now. You can do it if you're really the Messiah. I want to be right, and I want everyone to know how right I am. I want to win. I want those who hurt me to be punished. I want guaranteed success. Prosperity for my business. Always. I want you to thank me for being so righteous. I want ... I want ... I want...."
Everyone wanted something. Few made the journey simply to meet Yeshua face-to-face. Tens of thousands of the am ha aretz took up the pilgrim staff, drawn to Him as the baker of endless bread, the panacea for every problem. Searching, longing for a personal miracle, they swept in like the tide.
"His name is Yeshua! Where can I find him?"
So many glutted the roads and camped in the fields that year that it was impossible to count them or know their names or ask why they had come.
They sought him in cities and in desolate places.
"Yeshua. Have you seen him? You're looking too? Do you know where he camps? I have a favor I must ask him."
Here and there pilgrims who had set out too late in life ended the quest as they were carried to their graves.
Families turned back, disappointed, with new reasons for bitterness.
"If only he had been here! Where is he? The journey was too much! If only! Why didn't he come? Why? If he is the Messiah, why did this happen?"
So it had been that morning when the widow and her thirteen-year-old son set out in search of Yeshua. Their need was as great as anyone's need. Perhaps Yeshua would answer their request, and life would forever be different for them!
The wonder worker was in Capernaum. Only a day's walk for a healthy person. Surely the boy could survive the journey. Mother and son would take it slow. Camp early. Make the trip in two or even three days if necessary.
It was spring. The flowers of Galilee bloomed. Hills were a vibrant green. The tendrils of vines grew strong in the sunlight. Orchards blossomed. In the ultimate irony, this season was the most dangerous for Eve's son. Normally he would be confined to his bed in the corner of the one-room house. The Greek physician had decreed that the boy must never inhale the scent of flowers or ever, ever attempt to run across the fields with other boys on pain of death. Travel beyond the city walls in the spring was strictly forbidden.
And yet ... perhaps a miracle waited in Capernaum. Wasn't it worth a try?
Excerpted from Seventh Day by Bodie Thoene Brock Thoene Copyright © 2007 by Bodie and Brock Thoene. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Seventh Day starts off with a bang, and manages to keep the pace up throughout. I loved the way in which the Thoenes handled the circumstances leading to Lazarus' death¿very convincing! The teaching portions are few and far between, which is a pleasure. Still on style, they chose to have a first-person narration from Peniel for a large section of the story. In my humble opinion, this choice didn't add or remove any value¿the first-person and third-person narratives weren't that different in quality (at least none that I noticed).I have a complaint to make on the inconsistency of names in the series. For example, the village where Lazarus lives is 'Bethany'; however, in a previous book it was 'Beth Anyah'. Other changes include Marianne/Mariamne and Beth Karem/Beth Kerem. In conclusion, this is a book that Thoene fans will enjoy, despite knowing how it will end.
Another great addition to this series! Macus, the Roman Centurion has returned to Jerusalem as the political/religious situation is heating up. Jesus has raised both a girl and a widow's son from the dead, and the high priest is concerned about maintaining his power. At the same time a diphtheria epidemic has hit the Jerusalem sparrows, but the Sanhedrin is more concerned about their own health than the boys who are dying. Lazarus leaves Bethany to tend to the young torch bearers, but comes down with the dreaded disease when he returns home. None of the sparrows died under his care, but where is God now? Mary, Martha, and their friends must deal with the question of "what if Jesus had been there?" The answer they eventually receive is better than anyone could have imagined.
The latest entry in their Biblical historical fiction series returns us to the last year of Jesus' life as everyone seems to be plotting against him. But when Lazarus gets caught up in the plot, what will happen? I enjoyed this book much better then the last one, but it's constant switching from first to third person wasn't handled well.
Bodie and Brock Thoene have brought out the most thought-provoking parts of Jesus' story through the possible thoughts and actions of those around Him in this story about the brother who was raised from the dead.
Word of Yeshua had spread throughout the region. Everyone seemed to be demanding something from him. They were looking for a leader to organize a rebellion to destroy Rome. The Pharisees, Sadducees, and Sanhedrin were concerned about their power. They were more concerned with keeping man¿s laws than man. Here was a man that could raise the dead when the religious leaders would not go near the dead, because it would leave them unclean. Here was a man that would heal on Sunday, even though Jewish law forbids any labor on Sunday. In the eyes of the religious leaders, there was no choice Yeshua must die. Yeshua came that others might live! Seventh Day by Bodie and Brock Thoene is the seventh in the AD Chronicles. I have not read the first six but will rectify that. The Thoene¿s are extremely talented authors. They have brought the gospel to life on the pages of Seventh Day. This book is not only entertaining, but is spiritually enlightening. There are many characters to keep up with, but the lead characters are well-developed. My soul trembled as El¿azar came forth from the tomb. It is obvious that the authors researched their topic well. Seventh Day grabs the reader¿s attention from the first page and does not let go until the last. The Thoene¿s paint a vivid picture of the life of Jesus Christ. The message of this book is informative and uplifting. I will be recommending Seventh Day to all of my friends.