"The Stone that Loved to Watch ER"
Once upon a time, many years ago, there lived a thin brittle white stone that looked much like small tiles. His name was Durwin and he was no larger than a quarter and about the same thickness. These stones lived in a small cave near the outskirts of a large city that was where people from all over the nearby lands went when they were sick or injured to be healed. For this city’s had 3 large temples that were the ER’s of that country and that time.
Now , before I tell you more about Durwin’s story, I have to first explain that stones can actually hear each other. For while sound travels poorly through air it travels very well though the earth. Remember the seeing on old westerns the Indian who would put his ear to the ground to hear the sound of approaching footsteps. Even though they were too far away to hear through the air, the ground carries the sounds of the footsteps much better and much farther. Well because of this all stones can keep in close communication and they just love to pass on what they witness. (explain what “witness” means) Yes, it seems that stones are the witnesses of the world or in other words the gossips of the ground.
Anyway, since Durwin lived way far back in the cave, he rarely saw anything he could pass on to other stones so like so many other stones that live where no people are, he spent his life listening to the stories the stones who lived in the nearby city. Most of the stories Durwin heard during his life were about healings of people that happened in one of the cities three large temples. Yes, Durwin in his own way listened to ER every night for it was in the evenings that the healings in the temples occurred or at least it was then when the most action was going on. You see people with all sorts of sicknesses and other medical problems would go to these temples, stay overnight and come out claiming they had been healed. Durwin was fascinated and he wished he could see the temple in person. This was his greatest wish.
Now one day, Durwin was doing his normal thing just laying there in the cave listening to a man tell his family how he was healed from his athletes foot when he heard a footstep go “crunch”. Durwin had never heard “crunch” before so he forgot about the man story he was listening to and tried to figure out where the noise was coming from. In a few seconds he heard another crunch and then another and a glow of light appeared in the cave tunnel that led to the caves entrance. Durwin was very excited for it appeared he about to have a real live visitor for the crunches sounded an awful lot like footsteps which he had heard before at a great distance but much, much louder. Well, Durwin was right and in a few minutes two young men entered the room of the cave where Durwin lived. One carried a torch and was helping the other walk for one of the young men was obviously not felling well. In fact he looked quite sick. As Durwin watched the man with the torch helped his friend over to the side of the cave right next to Durwin and helped his sit down. The he pushed his torch into a crack in the rocks and sat down next to his friend.
Well as you can imaging Durwin was thrilled. Here in front of him were two real people, one of them clearly sick and in need of medical attention, the other well. Durwin wished he could shout ”Hey, I know where you can get healed” but of course rocks don’t talk to people (just other rocks) so all he could do was listen as the sick young man told his friend how bad he felt and watch as the other young man tried to make him comfortable.
After a few minutes the man who was well said, “Antipas, this is just not right. Why won’t you let me take you to the Temple to be healed. You are getting worse and I am afraid you might die. You have been my best friend for 5 years now ever since we were boys and I don’t want to see you die. Please let me take you to the temple. They can heal you there.”
The sick man, now looking more like a boy than a man, responded. “No” he said. “In the temples they do things that are not right for in order to be healed. You and I both know that first you have to worship the emperor before they will even let you see a doctor and you also have to bring a gift to scarifies to their pagan gods. Then you have to pay one of the doctors there to dream about you and consult spirits while you stay overnight. They don’t even look at you problem. And then depending on what they decide in their dream you know they can require you to participate in sexual sins with the other temple workers. No, we follow the teachings of Jesus and being healed this way is just not right. I can’t do it. I just cant” …. .. the mans objections ended as he began to cough loudly.
Durwin thought about what the man said and he was right, that is basically what happened in the temples but what was the big deal, why would you not do these things if you could be well. Surely the teachings of this Jesus, whoever that was, were not as important as being healed from such sickness. Durwin could see that the other man sort of agreed for as the sick man finished coughing, the other said; “ Antipas I know we are Christians now but all of that is new to us and we have both gone to the temple to be healed before and a lot of the others in our new church still go when they are sick. I don’t see why you are so being so stubborn about this”.
The sick man thought for a moment and then looked around the cave until his eyes fell on Durwin. Before Durwin could say “stat” (you see hearing people say “stat” was Durwin’s favorite part of an ER story) .. well anyway before Durwin could say stat. The sick man picked him up, brushed Durwin off, and held him out to his friend. “Do you see this white stone” he said. .. “Yes” the well man answered. “Are you my very best friend in the whole world? Antipas continued. “Of course you know I am” the well man responded. “Well then take this small stone and write across it the secret name we used to call ourselves when were young.” . Oh yes the other man said smiling, I remember that. He took a small pencil from his pocket and did as requested. When he was done writing Antipas said. “Now break it in half”.
“What ! Break me in half”, Durwin thought as he tried to scream, but he had no chance to argue for as brittle as he was he cracked instantly as the man applied pressure between his thumb and his fingers. Durwin was now suddenly twins. Funny though, Durwin did not feel any pain nor did he die. He just suddenly felt like two people at one time but just lonelier than he used to be… As Durwin tried to get used to the new sensation, the man who broke him asked his sick friend, “Now what”.
“Now” said Antipas; “I want you to keep one of the pieces and I will keep the other. This white stone will be a symbol for you and I that we are best friends now and always will be. For I think the time is coming that I may die and you and I will be apart but this stone will server to remind you that we will one day be together again and on that day we can put the two pieces of this stone back together. It will be our special memory of our friendship and loyalty to one another.” As he took one half of Durwin from his friend he passed out.
After seeing his beloved friend fall unconscious, the well man began to cry for it was clear that he dearly loved his friend and he did want him to die. So he picked him up and carried him out of the cave. Durwin wondered were they were going but did not have to wait long to find out for soon they entered the city and there Durwin saw the sight he had longed to see for so many years. For the man had carried his friend and Durwin to the steps of the Healing Temple of the Emperor and their called out for help as he laid his dying friend on the steps.
Durwin was thrilled as he saw the temple workers come rushing out and carry the dying man into the temple. Once inside they immediately checked him to see if he was still alive and breathing. He was so they took him and his friend into a big room that had an enormous statue of a man in it that sat on a throne. Then thy placed a small pot of a very stinky liquid under the sick friends nose. Durwin held his nose because the pot of liquid really was rank. The smell was so bad that the sick friend woke up and looked around. Now conscious again the temple workers carried him over in front of the statue set him down and backed away from him.
Antipas now realized where he was. He looked back at his friend and shook his head no and with what little strength he had he turned his back on the statues and proclaimed to the temple workers, “I worship no one but the Lord Jesus Christ who died that I might live”. He then turned to his friend, held up his half of Durwin and said. “You see, I am loyal to the Lord Jesus just as I am loyal to you. I cannot trade his ways for the ways of this temple even if they might heal me. For I love him and am a loyal friend for he has promised to be loyal to me. In my heart I have a piece of him just like this stone and that piece of him reminds me that we shall one day be together again in heaven. This temple may have healing and it may not but it does not matter for me because my loyalty to Christ means I cannot do the things they want me to.
As Antipas spoke these words, the eyes of the temple workers grew angry. then as Durwin watched in horror, one of the workers approached Antipas, took out a sword and killed him right there in front of them. (pause) That day as half of Durwin left the temple with the well friend he no longer was fascinated with medical science or the temple or its medical miracles. For Durwin was no longer whole and all he could think about was how long would it be before he and the man who carried him rejoined his other half that was still in the limp hand of Antipas. Today Durwin learned what it means to be loyal to someone you care for as much as yourself. Do you know what that is like?
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Kids, Following rules are not what Christianity is about although Gods word is full of rules that God want us to follow and adults are often explaining the rules like they are what is imporant. Being a Christian is about being loyal to Jesus Christ. Being his friend and wanting to do things his way because he died for you and has made you his special friend. Jesus says in John chapter 14 that is the one who Loves him that obeys him. Is there a desire in you to make Jesus your best friend? You see he offers you a friendship stone just like Antipas gave his friend.
Read Revelation 2:12b - 17
Next time you have a choice to do something Gods way or the way your friends might do it. Consider who you are most loyal to. Is it Jesus or another child?. Antipas was so loyal to Christ he decided he would rather die than do things that dishonored God even if his best friend disagreed.
Note: While Antipas was a biblical character briefly mentioned in Revelation 2, who did die for his beliefs, this story of his death is a fiction created soley from cultural research on Pergamum.