Emerging from the Rubble 

Chapter 1

Thomas studied his hands. He looked along both his forearms and swivelled his wrists. His hands felt and looked normal. This both surprised and comforted Thomas. Standing at six-foot one inch, Thomas was a slim man with black wavy hair. He reached up to his face and felt the roughness of a short beard.

Marvelling at how his newly resurrected body resembled his thirty-year-old self, he was pleased to find that he felt like himself, even though he was now alive again, many thousands of years after his ‘first life’. He had been so caught up in the celebrations at the feast that he had not had a chance to really notice his new body until now.

“Wow, that was amazing,” said Anne with a wistful smile.

Thomas looked to his left and grinned at Anne. She stood shoulder-high to him and looked wonderfully familiar to Thomas.

Anne was petite and had the warmest, most amazing dark brown eyes. She had a slightly shy nature; demure even. Anne and Thomas had first met in Anne’s home. Even though this had happened many centuries ago, to Thomas and Anne it felt like just a few years ago.

“Totally awesome,” replied Harmony.

Harmony was an American woman, with curly strawberry blonde hair and was an extrovert, with a motherly personality. She loved people easily and generously, and wherever she went she enthused others with her zest and enjoyment of life. Her laugh was loud and infectious, and she always seemed to find the funny side of everything. Her frame was thickset and curvy, which complimented her larger-than-life character.

“The most wonderful experience ever,” said Yan.

Yan was a short Chinese man with thick straight dark brown hair. He had scars on his arms and back from where he had been tortured for leading an underground church in China. Yan had a cheerful personality that made it easy for him to make friends. He had a demeanour which was serene, and he was incredibly wise. He preferred to listen than to talk, and his travelling companions relished his insight.

“It was so good to see him again,” said Thomas.

Having just left the marriage supper, this small group found themselves sheltering beside the remains of a concrete apartment building. The sun was setting which made the stone buildings dotted around them radiate with a golden hue.

Harmony reflected on their recent experience. “The food was just exquisite and the wine, well Jesus certainly knows his wine.”

“And there wasn’t a top table. I saw Jesus serving food to some of his guests,” said Yan with delight.

“Everyone was always thinking about how they could help the person next to them, handing them food or listening with genuine interest to what they were saying.”

“I’ve never been in a room so full of love,” said Anne.

“When Jesus asked who was ready to help him show love to the survivors still on earth, everyone stood and asked what they could do,” said Yan.


The four had been given a specific destination by Jesus. It was a small community that was scratching an existence in a devastated city. The journey there was a chance for the new friends to bond with each other. They stood enjoying the warm sunshine that would soon make way to the dim light of the moon, heralding a cold night ahead.

“Let’s gather some wood to make a fire,” suggested Yan.

They all selected a different route into the surrounding area. There was rubble everywhere. So many buildings had been destroyed by the earthquakes, and the fighting. Collecting what they needed was not easy, and they were not helped by the fading light, but they each managed to find armfuls of wood and paper.

Yan had found some matches. He soon enticed welcome flames to dance over a tangle of wood. Sitting cross-legged around the growing warmth of the fire, they settled down and talked.

Harmony was excited to hear everyone’s story. “My name is Harmony. I know Yan from conversations we had over Zoom many years ago, but I don’t believe I have met the two of you before.”

“My name is Anne. I was privileged to have Thomas stay in our house for a few nights and tell us of his experiences walking with Jesus,” said Anne.

“You must be the Apostle Thomas!” exclaimed Harmony. “I am so honoured to be in your presence.”

“Please don’t consider me to be anyone special,” said Thomas. “I was helping the fishermen in our village when Jesus asked me to follow him. The experiences with him were incredible, but you already know so much about those three years with him from the gospel accounts. I would like to hear your stories.”

Being resurrected was just like waking from sleep. Whatever had happened to their bodies had happened before they regained consciousness. It was like finding oneself in a perfectly healthy thirty-year-old body without any aches or pains.

The conversation between them flowed without the hinderance of ego. These men and women had been moulded by their life experiences to have empathy and compassion for other people. They were united by their love for Jesus, and the immeasurable honour of being among the first humans to be resurrected.

Thomas naturally seemed to provide gentle direction. He had been close to Jesus during his life and ministry. He had seen the things that the others had only heard and read about. The others were happy to defer to him. This made him uncomfortable as he had never considered himself a leader. He deeply trusted Anne, who had led a fledgling community in the decades after Jesus ascended.

“Go on Anne, share your story,” Thomas gently coaxed Anne.

“I lived in a small village just north of Lake Galilee. I had a happy childhood. My father worked with horses and my mother knew how to make things from wool. When I became a woman, I married Benjamin, a kind man from a nearby family. Shortly after we were married, we heard the good news that God had come to earth as Jesus of Nazareth, the promised Messiah. When Thomas and his friend Bartholomew came to us on their journey, they told us all about their years with Jesus.”

Thomas pursed his lips as he anticipated the next part of her story. He remembered the news reaching him all those years ago.

“We saw many come to believe in Jesus, and we met regularly at our house to discuss the good news, but the local leaders of the synagogue hated us meeting together. They arrested Benjamin and found him guilty of blasphemy.”

Anne fought back tears as she recalled those painful memories.

“They had him stoned to death. I was so distraught that for a few days I could not eat. I was encouraged and comforted by all who visited and supported me. We continued to meet, so they came for me.”

Thomas, Yan, and Harmony were gripped by Anne’s testimony. Only the crackle of the fire could be heard between her sentences.

“One day three men came into my house in the middle of the night. They dragged me out of bed and into my vegetable patch. The first rock hit my shoulder, the second hit the side of my head and stunned me. I don’t remember the third. I must’ve died quickly. The next thing I knew, I was standing with all of you, in a crowd that included Jesus!”

“You were very courageous,” said Thomas, wrapping his arm around her shoulder.

Yan and Harmony nodded with understanding.

“What about you, Harmony?” asked Anne.

Harmony glanced sideways and gathered her thoughts.

“You were very brave,” she said. “Well, I grew up in a strict religious house. You know, no TV, no radio except religious radio. I wasn’t allowed to go to the cinema or the mall. I was told all sorts of things about God as a kid that scared the crap out of me. My folks wanted me to be a housewife, but I had other ideas.

I worked hard at school and got a place to study medicine. As soon as I moved out of the family home, I went a little crazy! At university I embraced my new freedom like a bat out of hell! Drinking, drugs, sleeping around. I just wanted to do all the things that I thought God would hate me for, because I hated God, you know?

But I could not shake Jesus offa me. He just seemed to keep turning up. I made some good friends who were believers but weren’t religious. They liked to drink and talk about Jesus until the small hours. They liked to party, but it never got out of hand. They invited me to join a Facebook group and my eyes were opened to loads of ideas about God that I had never heard of before. It really changed everything for me. Soon I was talking to Jesus more than I ever had, and not because it was my duty, but because I loved to!”

“How did your family react?” asked Thomas.

“Well, at first they were horrified with my rejection of their religion. But, when I got my degree in medicine with first class honours, they started to see that I was ok. I went from there to volunteering in Yemen, helping get medicine to the victims of war over there. One day the hospital was shelled and the last thing I remember was the window blowing in and everything going black. Then, like you Anne, I’m waking up in my body with you all, just before the marriage meal!”

“Wow,” said Anne, “you died serving others. You really gave your life for love!”

“I guess so,” replied Harmony, “but it didn’t feel like that at the time. You just… get on with what you know is right, you know?”

Harmony turned to Yan, who sat next to her, listening to everyone, and occasionally adding more wood to the fire. “And Yan, how about you?”

Yan took a deep breath. “My story is a bit long,” he laughed self-consciously. “I am so used to hiding my true feelings I am not sure where to start.”

“Go on,” coaxed Anne, making sure she made eye contact to reassure Yan.

“Well, I will start at the end.” Yan threw a large log on to the fire. The flames lit up the concrete walls, making their shadows dance.

“They shot me with three others. They came in one morning before the sun came up and took us. They read out the charges of sedition against the government to a small crowd of locals they had rounded up. We were shot in front of them at the sports stadium.”

“Who were ‘they’?” asked Thomas.

“The secret police, and those loyal to the government in my country. The rulers hated our communities because they knew we believed in a power higher than theirs. We met together as often as we could to learn about the kingdom of God and encourage each other to always show love to our neighbours.”

“The powers in our time were the same,” said Anne. “People usually hate what they can’t control.” All four of them nodded silently.

“I come from a poor family. My brothers and I had to work in the factory to support our parents. My father died when I was twelve and my mother found a new husband who was much older. He was violent. My two brothers drank too much, and I felt very alone.

When I was eighteen, I heard about God’s love from a man my age I knew from my village. He invited me to a secret meeting, and I felt the love of God in my body. I experienced the power of God and I was never the same again. Suddenly I felt free and could see a better way to live, much better than just obeying the orders of the government. I kept working in the factory but wanted to spend more and more time with the community. They became my family. The older members were so kind and wise, and the younger ones were just like me. We did all we could to tell people how God loves us, and that Jesus’ way leads to inner peace. The community grew quickly.”

Harmony nodded her head in agreement. She had seen how people in war zones had been so comforted by the love of God, and how they had been able to face suffering with the hope of a peaceful future. Yan and Harmony had become friends in the age of the Internet. Their lives had been lived out in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Connecting with each other due to a passion for social justice, they had become confidants. Yan had been a great source of comfort to Harmony when she was rejected by her family, and Yan had also gained a lot of comfort by talking to Harmony when he was being persecuted for helping members of his community.

“The good news travelled to nearby towns and villages and I found myself spending many evenings passing on what I knew to other people. But, the secret police were watching the communities, and I was taken in for questioning many times. They began to torture me. At first it was making me stay awake for days on end. Then they began to beat me. The last time they took me in, they used electric shocks. I sometimes felt abandoned and lonely, but the love I had in my heart for the communities gave me strength. I never told the secret police what they wanted to hear.”

Anne was visibly moved by Yan’s story. It reminded her of her own life, being constantly worried that the authorities would arrest her.

“They let me go after a while, and things went quiet for some years. I was able to see the communities grow stronger and trust Jesus more deeply. It was a great joy, the way people came into the family of faith and were transformed by the love of the people around them. The sadness came when some people loyal to the government found our groups, and told the local officials about who was in them.

Then the dark day came. Many people were taken from their homes and put in a ‘re-education camp’. The leaders, including me, were proclaimed as traitors to our country and dangerous. That is when we were taken to the stadium and shot. The last thing I remember was the loud bang of the gun and then nothing. I didn’t feel any pain.”

Yan began to chuckle, his shoulders bouncing with joy.

“And then I found myself standing in a crowd of people and Jesus was there in the mist of us all. I looked across the crowd and I saw people I knew who had also died for leading the communities and sharing news about the kingdom of heaven. You were all there, too?”

Anne was wiping tears from her face. “Yes, Yan. We were there with you. We were called up to the great feast with Jesus, too. People from every country across history were called. People who overcame the temptation to depart from the way.”

Yan turned to Thomas. “What happened with you?”

“After the Holy Spirit came to us in the upper room, we felt a new power. That’s when we started to go our different ways. A few of us went north at first. The road was easy at first, and we rejoiced greatly in the things we had seen and experienced. We were happy just to make light conversation with the people we talked to. We waited for the Spirit to show us what to say. We left Andrew in a small town near Nazareth, where he found it felt natural for him to share the good news. He had old friends nearby who were already believers, for they had also seen the amazing things Jesus had done. Bartholomew and I continued north, and soon after met Anne and Benjamin. They were so ready to hear more about the Kingdom of Heaven. So, we stayed with them for some time.”

“It was the happiest time of our lives,” blushed Anne. “We learned so much and began to know the power of the Spirit.”

“After a few days Bartholomew decided to stay in the region to support the small communities that were being formed. I understood that I had to go further east. I was asked to take the good news outside the Roman world. I began a daily practice of waking early, and praying while walking, opening my heart to the Spirit. I got used to sensing peace, or resistance. It helped me determine where I should spend my day, and who to be with.

I managed to stay away from the authorities who were harassing the communities of faith. After some months I eventually reached India and stayed there, spreading news of the Kingdom of Heaven. It was received with joy by many people, and I made wonderful friends and saw many beautiful things.

However, there was opposition from some people in India, and one group hated me for being a foreigner challenging their traditions. They ambushed me on a hill where I went to pray and seek the Spirit. I was killed by a blow from a sword, but like you all I did not suffer in my death. I remember feeling shocked at the sensation of the blade inside my body, but excitement at the same time because I felt sure that God would receive my spirit. Also like you, the next thing I knew was that I am in my body again, but it is younger and stronger, and I was standing before Jesus.”

“And now here we are,” said Thomas. “Alive again, just as he promised we would be!”

“And we are joining him in bringing good news to the world again,” laughed Yan.

“Being, good news,” added Harmony. “We get to work with God in this time of great suffering and uncertainty. Whatever happened after we had all died, it must have been truly awful. The cities are in ruins, and the population is a tenth of what it was when Yan and I were alive.”

“Yes, everyone has been forced to live in small communities, totally dependent on what they and their neighbours can produce,” said Yan. “The infrastructure that used to provide water, electricity and the Internet has been destroyed.”

“It does however present the opportunity to regenerate society with a more compassionate framework,” said Harmony.

“Well, that’s why we are here,” said Anne. “To help everyone recognise God’s love for all and accept his guidance in their lives. Bit by bit, we will see it happen, and I can’t wait!”