The Greatest Story Ever Told
by Matt

The Wedding at Cana. The bearded young man sat at a table laden with full bronze goblets and calf meat on tin plates in the reception tent telling "Quadriplegic Roman Centurion" jokes to his friends when his mother walked across the room with a request.

"Jesus," Mary spoke in a whisper.

"In a minute, Mother," Jesus said without turning his attention away from the apostles. "Now then, what do you call a Centurion with no arms and no legs floating in the Baths?"

The apostles sat silent until Matthew, the tax collector, finally spoke, "Tell us, Lord, what does the Son of God call this pompous Roman that is without limbs?"

Jesus's eyes twinkled, "Pontoon Pilate."

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John erupted in laughter, rolling on the dirty floor until tears streamed down their contrite faces. Jesus beamed proudly until Mary, his mother, came closer to the table and frowned at her son's joke telling. She never understood his need to be the center of attention.

"What is it now, Mother?" Jesus asked finally turning away from his friends, "I have turned the water into wine. Do you now expect me to turn the wine into Gifelte Fish?" He laughed at his joke at his mother's expense.

"No, Son. I just wanted you to meet someone." Mary said pointing to a short, clean- shaven older man standing behind her.

"I can't see him, Mother. Your halo is in the way." Jesus snapped. She moved aside and Mort Glovitz, a well dressed Canaanite, stepped forward.

"So, you're the self-proclaimed Messiah I've been hearing so much about," Mort smiled and proffered his hand. "I'm Mort Glovitz, miracle worker and tailor."

Jesus leaned forward in his chair and stared at the so-called miracle worker. "Do you claim to be the Son of God?"

The short man laughed and stuck a stubby finger into his ear, "No, no. I make no such claim. No, I'm just a tailor with the ability to do miracles." He changed the subject, "I hear you're responsible for the wine here this afternoon."

"Yes." Christ smiled and leaned back in his chair, "I took ordinary well water and turned it into the finest wine in all of Cana."

"Yeah, that's a tricky one. I did it about four years ago at my brother's bar-mitzvah."

Christ's greasy beard bristled and his nostril's flared. "Do you accuse me of stealing one of your cheap parlor tricks? Do you think you're a better miracle worker than God's only son?"

"No, no." Mort held his palms out to Jesus, "I'm not accusing you of stealing. I'm sure you didn't know it was my trick."

"It was more than a trick, my friend. It was a miracle." The young Nazarene looked around at his apostles for their agreement. "I am God's son, so don't lecture me about your cheap magic and illusions."

"Jesus Harold Christ!" Mary said using a tone he hadn't heard since he levitated his younger brother and wouldn't let him down long before the teachings in the temple. "Grow up!"

She smiled apologetically at Mort, "I apologize, Mr. Glovitz. He's gotten on this 'Son of God' kick and he thinks he's some big shot. He's just asking to get his comeuppance. The other day he went to Peter's mother-in-law's house only to discover that she was ill. Miraculously her fever disappeared and she was able to get up and make sandwiches for the boys. As soon those sandwiches were made, the fever came back. You don't have to be God's Only Son to know who was responsible for that little stunt. He was born with the ability of magic and he has no guidance." She looked at Jesus and said loudly, "One of these days you're going to get yourself killed."

"Blah, blah, blah. Tell me something I don't already know." Jesus turned back to his friends and read more to them from "The Scroll of Truly Tasteless Jokes."

(It continues after the spool of thread)

Spool of Thread

Mort Works a Miracle. Mort was hemming one of the cloaks of a man that had two when a poor, old woman walked through the archway of his small shop. She hobbled slowly to the counter and grabbed hold of its edge as she fell forward.

"Mort...Mort the tailor," the woman droppped to her knees in her beggarly dress.

"Who is it that seeks me?" Mort asked turning from the business at hand.

"I am but a poor widow from Bethany. My son is going crazy from a lack of sleep. He has not slept in forty days and forty nights; the length it rained when Noah was in the Ark."

"Yes, I know about the Ark. What is it that you want me to do?"

"I was told that you had the ability of miracles. I am but a woman of meager means, but I want you to let Lazarus rest, he needs to sleep."

"Lead me to him." Mort said, setting the robe on the counter.

The widow walked a half day with Mort on the Roman roads to her small town and led him to a small cottage.

"Ma, you're home! Geez, I've been worried about you. Where you been? Did you buy anything?" Lazarus paced back and forth in the tiny shanty. A pattern had been formed in the dirt floor where he had paced for weeks. His feet were black with dirt. "I laid down and tried to take a little nap, but guess what? No go. I'm just not that tired, even though I haven't slept in over a flood's time."

"Lazarus, I want you to meet Mort Glovitz. He's a miracle worker."

"Elijah H. Prophet!" The young man shouted as he turned and paced away from them. He swung his arms as he spoke, "Not another hocus-pocus man! I told you they don't work. And you know what else? These guys are a ripoff. Last guy you brought in here does a little dance, says a little poem, rubs dirt on my forehead and leaves. I don't sleep, but I get a rash from the dirt."

"Oy. Enough with the pacing," Mort pleaded, a headache forming above his eyebrows from watching the young man bounce around the small house like a ball, "I don't charge for what I do. I do this because I have a gift, but I don't guarantee it either."

"You see, Lazarus. He's a good man."

Mort placed his hand on Lazarus. "Stop pacing and close your eyes. Have faith in me. Now, close your eyes."

Lazarus closed his eyes but began to run in place. "No, this won't do. I still don't feel tired. I just don't think I can..." His arms went limp and he stopped running. His legs collapsed and he fell to the ground, snoring.

Mort whispered, "That should do it. Don't wake him for a few days."

"Thank you, Mort the Tailor. How can I repay you?"

"Do good to others. Love your neighbors as yourself."

"I will tell them, I will tell them, Mort the Tailor. You are my savior-"

He shook his head modestly and held up a hand, "No, I am not a savior. I am just a miracle worker. I'll just hem up his robes and be on my way."

Spool of Thread

Jesus Raises The Widow's Son From the Dead. Jesus stood in the road next to the Sea of Galilee regaling his apostles with a new parable about the Good Samaritan, "So anyway, The guy is oozing blood on the side of the road after these oxen trample him and he's wailing in pain. I can't decide whether to make it oxen or asses."

"Lord," John the Baptist, Jesus' cousin whom Jesus considered as a good storyteller, spoke up. "If you make it thieves, you will add more humanity to the story. That way he's hurt and broke."

"Yes. I see what you mean, John the Baptist. Matthew, the tax collector, write that down."

Judas protested, "I like it better with the animals, because then you can make them talk and make jokes and stuff. I like stories with animals that talk. Or that other one where the guy spends all of his dad's money and then lives with the pigs in the dirt. That one's funny."

Jesus looked angrily at Judas, "Judas, you miss the point of the story."

Judas tilted his head like a confused dog, "What is the point, Lord?'

"The point is to say something nice so people will think you're trying to be good. Anyway, Judas, you don't understand the parables."

"Oh, I understand them, Lord. I just don't think they're funny."

Peter clenched his fists and took a step toward Jude. "Easy, Simon," Jesus commanded as he held he lifted a forearm to hold him back.

"And why does he get two names? He's your favorite, isn't he?" Judas voiced a sentiment shared by many of the apostles.

"That's not true. I love you all equal," Jesus defended himself and then said, "The point is, Judas, that the parables aren't always funny."

"You're telling me!"

Christ closed his eyes, breathed deeply, counted to ten and spoke, "Sometimes the parables are to teach a lesson. They can be funny, they can be sad. But most importantly, they're my legacy. They are what I'm leaving the world after I'm gone."

"Why do you have to leave anything?"

"Because he's the Son of God." Peter spoke up. He smiled when Jesus nodded in concurrence.

"Maybe being an apostle isn't your vocation, Judas," Jesus said. "I've been thinking of cutting back to eleven anyway."

Judas argued a defense that fell on deaf ears because the attention of Christ and the other apostles was drawn to the disciple Thomas who ran toward them across a field.

"Lord!" He cried, "The widow's son is dead!"

The apostles caught Thomas as he fell into their arms, breathing deeply and coughing. Thaddeus spoke for the group. "How can this be, Thomas?"

"Wait a minute...let me catch my breath. I've got to quit smoking." Thomas begged as he leaned against Bartholomew and grabbed at his chest. "Yes, it is true. I saw it with my own eyes. And even when I first saw him, I doubted it. But I watched him for two days. His poor mother is working in the fields and won't be back for a week. it will most surely crush her to see her only son dead."

"Who is this widow?" Jesus asked.

"You know, Lord. The widow in Bethany." Peter said.

", I remember now," he responded in a vacant way. "You're sure he was dead?"

"He was snoring, but other than that, he sure looked dead."

"Gather up some news reporters and town gossips and take me to Bethany. This should be good publicity." He said pointing across the body of water that the road ran past. "We'll take a short cut across the Sea of Galilee."

"But, Lord, we have no boat." Thaddeus protested.

"We'll walk."

"Walk on water, Lord? We are not all the Son of God." Matthew said, afraid of drowning.

Jesus frowned. "Oh, yeah. Sorry. Meet me in Bethany then."

Jesus headed across the waters and eleven apostles went by land to the widow's house in Bethany to "wake" Lazarus from the dead. Judas followed closely behind the apostles until they dismissed him with a barrage of sticks and pebbles.

He sat down on a wood railing beside the road at the sea's shore. The parables should be funny, he told himself. If Jesus wants to be remembered, he needs to give audiences what they want, not preachy monologues and moral heavy stories. Some day Judas would have his own disciples and his own religion. But in the meantime he needed a means of survival. His meal ticket had just taken off across the sea toward Bethany.

Spool of Thread

Judas Seeks Gainful Employment. Judas had limited skills and was a man of so little intellect that small animals often outwitted him. He was good at following others and repeating what they said and that made him a good apostle. Unfortunately, it was not a business that one could freelance in.

Judas remembered the short, hairy tailor he had met at the wedding in Cana. Surely, if he is a miracle worker, he will need a disciple. Yes, of course he will! What prophet doesn't need a barker? Judas stood up from the rail and marched down the street toward Mort's tailor's shop.

Inside the cramped tailor shop, Mort sat at the counter eating some cold lamb and Laughing Cow cheese when Judas walked in. "Hey. How you doing. Are you here to drop off or pick up?"

"Are you Mort the Tailor?"

"What? Does the sign say Murray the Baker?"

"I'm sorry, I thought maybe you would be out converting the pagans to your religion."

Mort set down his sandwich, "Converting them to my religion? Everybody's already a Jew around here."

"But I thought you were a miracle worker."

"I am, part time. And a good one, too. But I don't claim to be a prophet. You want that young guy. What's his name...Jerry, or something."

"Jesus." Judas corrected.

"Jesus? What? That's not even a Jewish name. That's Hispanic, isn't it?"

"I don't know. Listen, the reason I came in here is because I'm looking for a job."

Mort looked at him with his good eye, "You're good with a needle?"

Judas smiled uneasily, "No, sir. But I'm a very good disciple. I can spread your Good News all over the kingdom."

"What good news?" He threw his arms up in the air, "I'm practically broke, I've got cataracts, my gout is acting up. Did you bring me good news, because I don't have any."

"I mean, I can bring your teachings to the people."

"Aww, I don't need anyone to teach my beliefs. You know what we need? We need people to think about somebody other than themselves. Everybody is out grabbing what they can get these days. If they cared half as much about their neighbors as they do for themselves, I'd be happy. Love your neighbor as yourself, that's what I say."

"That's what Jesus says!"

"I've been saying it for twenty years."

"Jesus says he thought of it."

"That schmuck stole it from me." Mort responded and then returned his eyes to the lamb chop in his hands. "Sorry, kid, I don't need an apostle. Try that Nazarene, he's supposed to be the Son of God. I'm sure he's looking for someone."

"No. I can't go back to him."

"Sorry, kid. I don't need you either."

Judas stood around for about thirty minutes looking at the floor.

"Thanks, anyway," he said and wandered out of the shop and into the sunset. Mort followed him to the archway and watched Judas's back as it was absorbed in the dying sunlight. He worried about the boy and his generation. He thought about the insecurity that caused the time's youths to cling to anyone that claimed to be a savior. And he wondered if, in the future, people would still be doing works for some dead, ancient god and not for the sake of humanity? Oy.

Spool of Thread

Jesus Cures the Lepers. "Lord," cried one of ten, scabrous lepers kneeling in the dirt road before Jesus, "I am but a poor leper that needs your forgiving touch."

Jesus smiled and chuckled under his breath. With his left hand he reached out and nipped the man's nose and pulled back a closed fist. "I got your nose!"

A few of the lepers whispered in awe and one even applauded. The man fell to his knees and wailed, "Lord, I am a sinner. Please...we are poor lepers. I have a family to feed." His tear stained cheeks turned to Christ daring to look directly at Jesus' face.

"I'm just kidding. It's a trick. I don't have your nose." He opened the clenched fist to show the repentant man. "Oh...I guess I do have it. Sorry."

"Amazing!" cried a leper toward the back.

"Thank you, thank you very much. Now then, what is it that I can do for you?"

"We want to be productive members of society again. Please, Lord, we heard that you have the powers of God. Is it possible for you to cure our leprosy...and maybe return my nose?"

"Return your nose?" Jesus turned his back and winked at the apostles. "why, I don't have it, because..." He placed a fist on the side of the man's scabby head and then pulled it back to reveal the man's appendage in his palm, "'s in your ear!"

"Bravo!" one of the other leper's shouted. "Surely you must be the Son of God!"

"Excuse me," Jesus said, rubbing his nose. "I need to blow my nose with this handkerchief that I'm pulling out of my pocket. But, what's this? It seems to be endless and multicolored!" A shushed "wow" rose from the lepers.

By now even the leper that had first spoken to Christ was applauding. "It is a miracle!"

"May I have a volunteer from the audience come up to verify that these rings are solid bronze?" Jesus held aloft three separate rings.

"And tell your friends." Shouted Peter as they left the apostles and Christ. "He's the Son of God."

And the lepers returned to the caves they lived in outside of town with light hearts. The powers of Christ had relieved them of their heavy burdens for a brief time.

Spool of Thread

Judas Betrays Christ. In the following days, Judas squandered his meager savings and soon was destitute. As his purse grew lighter, his heart became heavier and he became resentful toward Jesus. He gave three years of loyal service to this man and received only rejection in return. He tried to get jobs in the food industry, as an attendant at the baths, as a senator, and finally as a mime. All of his attempts failed miserably. Through interviews and applications, Judas learned that his training in discipleship prepared him for few jobs and a once unthinkable cash source began to look attractive.

For as long as Judas had been an apostle the pharisees offered a reward for the man that turned Christ over to them. Finally, his empty hands and his grumbling stomach convinced him to visit the temple.

The chief priests were sitting in ornate chairs smoking king sized cigarettes when Judas walked through the twenty foot tall bronze doors. They wore chains and tight black leather pants andleather vests that revealed their hairy chests. Their shoes were actually high heeled boots with varying themes. One pair were shaped like snakes' heads and its teeth were the heel and sole. Another pair looked like a dangerous dragon. Their faces were made up in black, white and silver makeup. The high priest had a silver star around one eye and another had his face made up to look like a cat. All four wore their hair in long black locks.

"I am Judas Iscariot. I have come with news of the man who calls himself the Son of God."

"I am Caiaphas, the high priest," said the man in the tallest of the wooden chairs as he released a billowing cloud of smoke from his nostrils. "You got the scoop on the boy Jesus?"

"Only," Judas smiled at his own cleverness, "I have a hard time remembering."

"Then why do you come to us?"

"I think some money would help me to remember, if you know what I mean."

Caiaphas's massive eyebrows raised up on his white forehead and he pursed his lips. "Oh. I see. I'll tell you what; if you give us Jesus Christ, we'll give you thirty silver pieces, tax free."

"Thirty? I have no formal training in the maths. Is this an amount more than five?"

"It is much more than five. It is as though you had six hands and a coin for every finger."

"But I possess only two hands."

"It is though you would have six."

"I asked for money, not limbs." Judas said, standing firmly by his original request for money.

Caiaphas shook his head and shrugged to the other high priests before turning back to Judas, "so be it."

"Okay. Jesus says that he can destroy his father's garden and rebuild it in three days."

"But this is impossible!" Caiaphas roared, stepping out of his chair, "this is blasphemy!"

"If his dad is Yahweh, I bet he's got a big yard and Jesus is not even a gardener," Judas chimed in. "He says he's a carpenter, but I've never seen him lift a finger."

Caiaphas turned his massive frame toward the beggarly Jew, "This garden he speaks of is all Jerusalem. He cannot tear down all Israel and rebuild it!"

"So, do I get my money?"

"You shall receive your money when Jesus is in our hands."

"I gotta turn him over?"

"If you want your money you do."

"What are you going to do with him?"

"We're going to kill him. What did you think we were going to do?" Caiaphas looked at Judas.

"I thought you'd just scare him a little."

Caiaphas climbed back into his chair and looked down at Judas. He stood in front of the high priests and began to reconsider his offer to Caiaphas. But he knew he needed that thirty silvers to survive. Reluctantly, he agreed to the priest's terms and left the temple quickly after being given instructions on how to entrap Jesus.

"When the centurions are at the edge of the garden, kiss the one that is Jesus."

"Kiss him? Like that won't tip him off that something's up?"

"Make it look natural."

"Can't I punch him in the arm or give him a wedgie?"

"No, he must be kissed."

Spool of Thread

Judas is Repentant. It wasn't until Friday that Mort again heard news of Jesus Christ. In the morning, Judas returned to the tailor shop, looking feverish with sweat.

"Ooooh...Ooooh." Judas moaned, holding his head between hands as he ran into the shop. "Oh, I blew it. I really blew it." He danced around in a little circle doubled over at the waist.

"Hey, hey! You're going to scare my customers," Mort yelled from behind the counter, pointing a large needle at Judas.

Judas grabbed Mort's arm and looked at him with his glazed eyes, "Mort! Mort, I did it! It was me!"

"You did what, kid?"

"I turned Jesus over to the Sanhedrin for thirty silvers!"

"Yeesh," Mort grimaced. "You are stupid. But why do you tell me this?"

"They're going to kill him. they're going to nail him to a cross."

"Did you think they'd have him over for Passover?"

"I didn't know, " Judas cried, "I just thought they'd talk to him or something." He placed his hands on the back of his neck and bent over, "Oh, God...oh, god."

"Look, this is sad news and all, but what do you want me to do?"

The former apostle raised his head and looked at Mort. "You're a miracle worker. Make it so he won't die."

"If I did that with every criminal they nailed up, the Romans would kill me in my sleep. Besides, I'm a businessman. These crucifixions and the street festivals they inspire bring a lot of business into the shop. Look, Jesus was a nice guy and all, but he was a troublemaker. He was full of all this grand theory and air, but he was a little big on himself too. Besides, I need the weekend business. I do sandal repair now, spread the word."

"What about later? Maybe you could let him die for now, and then bring him back later."

"Maybe." Mort said, affected by the tears in Judas's eyes, "but I'm going to be busy all weekend. The earliest I can get around to it is Sunday."

Judas stopped his dance, looked up and smiled, "Really? That's okay. That's all right. You will do it, then?"

"Okay, okay. I'll do it," Mort conceded, hating to see anyone suffer the way Judas was. "I won't do this stuff for free, you know. And normally I don't raise people from the dead."

"I have no money." Judas protested.

"You miserly cheapskate! You just told me you got thirty silvers from the Sanhedrin. And now you claim to have no money." Mort looked stonily at the young man.

Judas lowered his head and muttered, "I gave the money back."

"You what?" he knew Judas was not smart enough to lie. "My God! How could you be so stupid? You turned him over, they said they would kill him, and then you give the money back? If you're going to turn someone over and then feel bad about it, you might as well enjoy the money. Don't start feeling bad once it's too late."

"I'm sorry." Judas buried his face in his hands, "So are you going to do it?"

"I don't know. It depends how much time I've got." He knew that he could not consciously allow anyone to die.

"Oooh." Judas began jumping up and down again. "Ooooh. Ummm." He mumbled as he ran out of the store, his head cradled between his forearms and his hands clasped.

Spool of Thread

Epilogue. And Jesus was put to death on a cross. The Romans mocked him and made a crown of thorns to place on his head. They gashed his side with a spear and gambled for his clothes. His bravado and boasts disappeared as his limp, pale body hung from the three spikes. At the day's end, his body was moved to the tomb of a friend and a large stone was rolled in front of its entrance.

Judas was so consumed with guilt that he ran to the desert and hung himself from a tree before Mort could resurrect Christ. Had he waited until Sunday, he would have seen that Mort did as he promised, because Jesus rose from the dead. And it was certainly the same Christ. He joked with the apostles and charged people a shekel to put a finger through the holes in his hands or two shekels to put a hand through the gash in his side. Arrogant as ever, Christ claimed that he had raised himself from the dead on his own just to prove his point.

Mort said nothing. He didn't care. He had robes to alter. He had better things to do with his life.

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