[00:00:05] Pioneers of The Continuum.
[00:00:07] A story for English learners.
[00:00:09] Episode six, "The Saviour", starring Ariel Goodbody .
[00:00:12] You can find the interactive transcript, subtitles and vocabulary for this episode for free at leonardoenglish.com
[00:00:25] Five members of our team had already travelled back in time and had their own adventures. Now it was my turn.
[00:00:37] “Gabriel, I hope you’re ready to be disappointed!” said Winston, somewhat unhelpfully.
[00:00:44] Out of all seven members of our team, I was the only one who was in any way religious.
[00:00:50] I mean, my faith wasn’t unwavering, it wasn’t rock solid, but I was raised in a Christian home, we went to church on Sundays, prayed before meals, you get the picture.
[00:01:02] So, what better way to use a time machine than to travel back to the time of Jesus Christ and try to meet Him for myself. I mean, I could answer questions about religion that people have been debating for centuries! Who wouldn’t be interested?
[00:01:20] It’s fair to say I didn’t have the full support of the team.
[00:01:24] “You’re wasting your opportunity,” Jacob told me. “There is nobody called Jesus of Nazareth.”
[00:01:31] “It’s all just fairytales that propagate the patriarchy,” said Ellie.
[00:01:36] “He was friends with poor people and prostitutes,” I said weakly.
[00:01:41] “Right, and I’m supposed to believe that? He could’ve run back to his bourgeois carpenter parents whenever he wanted.”
[00:01:49] I sighed. Sure, I had my doubts. And finding him would be hard enough – I only had an hour. The Bible doesn’t provide hard dates and, even though we date calendars from the year that Jesus was born, most experts agree that the year 0 is not His actual birth date and that He was born a few years earlier.
[00:02:11] In addition to that, I would be travelling to a parallel universe, close in the spectrum to our own, but there could be differences.
[00:02:21] I mean, who knows… maybe His name wouldn’t even be Jesus!
[00:02:27] However, my personal theory was that Jesus would appear in the same way across all timelines. God’s plan and all that. My plan, on the other hand, was to arrive in Nazareth when Jesus was around 30 years old, just before He began teaching. He should still be living there at that point.
[00:02:48] But still, there were so many things that could go wrong… I was worried my trip would be for nothing.
[00:02:55] Still, I wasn’t about to let the others see me doubting. I had something to prove.
[00:03:03] “Ready!” I told the others, crouching inside the box that would transport me back through time. I nodded to Winston, who was operating the controls.
[00:03:12] “Enjoy your trip, chump!” said Winston as he pressed the button.
[00:03:18] The sights, smells and sounds of ancient Nazareth hit me.
[00:03:29] Look, when you watch historical films about the Bible, you see the less pretty sides: the busy markets, the herds of animals, the cruel Romans. But smelling them is something else completely, and right now, I was surrounded by a group of goats who looked like they were considering whether I was going to give them food, or whether I might be food.
[00:03:53] “Easy, easy,” I said, pulling my robe away from a goat who was cautiously tasting it.
[00:03:59] I looked around. I was in a village or small town of what looked like around 2000 people. A man came up to check what all the noise was about, and judging by the holes in his robes, he must’ve been the owner of the goats.
[00:04:14] Frowning, he said something to me in Aramaic.
[00:04:18] “Do you speak Hebrew?” I asked in Ancient Hebrew, hoping my pronunciation was correct. You see, there’s still debate today about the pronunciation of three specific consonants. Jacob told me he was sure they were ‘ejective’, so I tried to pronounce them like I was about to throw up. With the smell of the goats, I was pretty close.
[00:04:42] Anyway, most people at the time spoke Aramaic, with Hebrew as a second language. But there weren’t many resources for Aramaic in 2039, so I had spent the last nine months learning as much Ancient Hebrew as I could.
[00:04:58] “Oh, sure,” replied the man, using the same ejective consonants as I had. Jacob was right. “What are you doing in there with my goats?”
[00:05:09] Time to think quickly. “I…er… I think I had a little bit too much wine and must have fallen asleep.”
[00:05:19] The man was not impressed.
[00:05:21] “You’re certainly dressed like an idiot. Let me guess, someone put their finger in your wine cup and said they’d turned it into water? Well, what are you waiting for? Get out!”.
[00:05:35] I climbed over the wooden fence and looked at the man. He was dressed in simple robes, like the ones I was wearing. With my next question, he would probably think I was insane.
[00:05:48] “Could you tell me, Sir, who the current governor of Judea is?”
[00:05:53] The man frowned. “You mean Prochorus?”
[00:05:57] Prochorus? I was hoping the name would be Pontius Pilate. There was no such person as a Prochorus who was governor of Judea. Not in my timeline, anyway. Now there was no way to know if I had arrived at the correct time or not.
[00:06:14] “One more thing,” I added, “I’m looking for a man who goes by the name of Jesus of Nazareth. He’s a preacher. Or he may be a carpenter.”
[00:06:26] Showtime. I crossed my fingers.
[00:06:29] “You are a strange fellow,” replied the man. “There are plenty of Jesuses, preachers and carpenters around here and they’re all ‘of Nazareth’. But, yea, I know of one who’s a carpenter.”
[00:06:43] He turned and pointed towards the outskirts of town. “Walk that way for a few minutes and you’ll see a yellowish house on the right with no gate. There’ll be a couple of sheep milling around. That’s where Jesus the carpenter lives and works.”
[00:06:59] I thanked the man and walked on anxiously, wondering if this could really be THE Jesus.
[00:07:07] I saw some yellowish houses, but they all had gates. The people I saw were simple peasants, engaged in manual labour of various kinds - carpentry seemed to be a common occupation here. I smiled and relished the idea of telling Ellie just how ‘bourgeois’ a profession it was.
[00:07:27] Finally, I came upon a house that fit the description:. yellowish, with a kind of open-air workshop at the back. There was no gate and several sheep sat inside the compound. Was the owner not afraid of them escaping? I heard hammering coming from out back.
[00:07:45] My chest tightened. Could this be Him? Until this moment, the idea of having my religious beliefs confirmed or denied had only registered vaguely with me, like a young child who’s been told they’re going to a place called ‘school’ for the first time. Did I actually want to know the truth?
[00:08:09] I walked nervously to the back of the house and was shocked to see, not a grown man of nearly thirty, but a strapping teenager of perhaps sixteen or seventeen. He was working away with his back towards me. If this was Jesus Christ, something had gone wrong with my quantum coordinates. Or maybe he was just a lot shorter than in all the pictures.
[00:08:34] Good morning", I called out in English. It was my theory that Jesus, being of divine origin, a worker of miracles, would understand me if I spoke in English. Plus, my throat was tired from the Hebrew.
[00:08:49] The young man turned to me. Like in the pictures in my church, he had long flowing hair and a beard and was wearing simple robes, but his skin was darker, like the other people I had seen here. Well, that made sense. Otherwise, he’d be awfully sunburnt.
[00:09:08] “You come to me speaking a strange tongue,” replied the young man in Hebrew. “You look like you have questions.”
[00:09:16] I decided to get straight to the point.
[00:09:19] “Are you Jesus, son of Joseph?” I asked.
[00:09:23] “I am Jesus, son of David,” replied Jesus. “Do you come here seeking carpentry, or something else?”
[00:09:31] I groaned. Half of the male population of Nazareth was probably named David and the other half Jesus. When I got back to 2039, the others would roll on the floor laughing at my wasted trip.
[00:09:47] But something occurred to me. The way he had asked whether I was seeking carpentry or something else… It was an odd way to phrase the question. Jesus of the Bible wasn’t exactly the most straightforward speaker. You didn’t have your words written down and repeated for thousands of years if you said things like, “Yeah, it’s just about being nice to people, isn’t it? Pretty simple, really.”
[00:10:13] Plus, he had understood my English, so this young man was either exceptionally good at reading body language or, in fact, a divine being.
[00:10:24] “I’m seeking something else,” I said boldly.
[00:10:28] “Is that so?” said Jesus, laying down his tools on the workbench. “I find a good solid bed frame is enough to solve most people’s problems, but have it as you like. What is it that you wish of me?”
[00:10:44] Another cryptic question. Good. We were getting somewhere.
[00:10:50] “Answers,” I stated.
[00:10:52] “To get answers, first you need to ask questions. But I have a lot of work ahead of me, so I will only answer five questions.”
[00:11:03] I considered his words. ‘I have a lot of work ahead of me.’ He could be talking about his upcoming ministry! Or… he might just have a lot of work. His bench was piled high with materials, and my Hebrew wasn’t perfect, either.
[00:11:21] My mouth went dry, but I did not want to waste a question asking for water. The questions I had been considering for years sat on the edge of my tongue, waiting for the baptism of speech. But I couldn’t just go out and ask directly about his divinity. This was before his great works.
[00:11:41] “My first question is this. You say that you are a simple carpenter, but I think you are more than that. Is that true?”
[00:11:51] Jesus picked up a piece of wood and held it out to me. “The beautiful thing about carpentry is that we take a thing which has no value or purpose… and give it one. This wood began as a fallen tree, but it will live on as a table, a chair or even something greater. Hence the task of the carpenter is a noble one. Judge me by my actions and my example, not my profession.”
[00:12:21] I considered his words, and suddenly wished I’d paid more attention in religious education lessons at school. He was a slippery one, I thought. And then I immediately felt bad for thinking such a thing. But my impression of him so far was less ‘the future saviour of mankind’ and more ‘kid who’s a bit too smart for his own good’.
[00:12:46] “What I meant was, you’re going to go on to do great things in your life. Not related to carpentry. What will they be? I think you know.”
[00:12:59] Jesus raised his eyebrows. Perhaps it had a different meaning in this time, but it felt like he was finally understanding me. He ran a hand over his carpentry tools as he spoke, as if distracted. “My time on Earth is to be short. If I’m not a carpenter, perhaps I’ll be a fisherman. Perhaps I’ll be a shepherd and give my life to save the humble lamb from the fearsome lion. Or perhaps I’ll be a teacher, since that’s what you seem to think I am.”
[00:13:34] In the Bible, Jesus asks his followers to ‘walk his path and become fishers of men’. And the Bible refers to Jesus as the Lamb. But also, at Jesus’ birth an angel came to tell some shepherds the good news. The message felt… mixed.
[00:13:54] As I pondered this, I noticed something surprising. Amongst the tables, chairs and shelves, a wooden cross leaned against the wall of his workshop. The type of cross that was used to crucify criminals and people who spoke out against the Roman occupation.
[00:14:13] I pointed to the cross and asked, “Why would you build such a thing? The Romans use this to torture and kill people.”
[00:14:22] Jesus just smiled.
[00:14:25] “There are things that belong to this world and things that belong to the next. If ‘Caesar’ wants a cross, then I shall build him a cross. Consider a criminal who is executed. It takes time for a man to die by crucifixion. In that time, what thoughts go through his mind? Does he repent? Does he beg God to forgive him? Perhaps the cross is the path to redemption.”
[00:14:55] The cross is the path to redemption? That’s exactly what Jesus would say! But… it also sounded like what a carpenter might say if he had to decide between his conscience and a Roman officer testing his own cross on him.
[00:15:13] I decided to go with something more abstract.
[00:15:17] “Why does God allow suffering?”
[00:15:20] Jesus answered with a parable.
[00:15:22] “Once, a man was preparing for his wedding. It would be the best day of his life. But this man had a bad habit of sleeping late. Every day, his father woke him with a slap across the face. It was the only way to rouse him from his bed. His father reserved the most painful slap of all for his son’s wedding day, and he struck him so hard that he fell out of bed.
[00:15:50] “What do you think? Was the man filled with rage from his father’s slap? Or was the pain overshadowed by joy for the great event that lay ahead?”
[00:16:01] I considered his words. It was hard to get over the excitement of hearing an original parable, though I somehow imagined they wouldn’t be adding it to the next edition of the Bible. Then again, this could just be a common form of discussion at this time.
[00:16:19] I wanted to believe that this man was Jesus Christ, but I couldn’t shake the doubt from my mind. And I only had one question left!
[00:16:30] “Lord Jesus, what spiritual advice do you have for me?”
[00:16:35] The young man smiled. Because I had called him ‘lord’?
[00:16:40] “You obviously come from somewhere far away. Do you not have a religious text where you come from?”
[00:16:48] “We do,” I said. “I think you know of it. It’s the Bible.”
[00:16:54] “And does this ‘Bible’ not contain wisdom and guidance?”
[00:16:59] “It does. Great wisdom.”
[00:17:03] “Then surely any spiritual advice you need from me can be found in the words of that book.”
[00:17:10] Hmm, it seemed like I was getting somewhere. Time to pry a little further…
[00:17:17] “But… how…?”
[00:17:19] Jesus raised his hand in the air, holding it out, as if to say enough.
[00:17:26] “You’ve asked five questions and I’ve given you five answers. You know all that you need to know from this carpenter.”
[00:17:34] And he turned and resumed his work, hammering some nails into place. This was clearly my signal to leave.
[00:17:44] As I wandered out of the gap where the gate should be, lost in thought, I bumped into the man I had first met, the owner of the goats. He was herding them down the narrow road.
[00:17:55] “Ah, the strange drunk man! Did you find Jesus?”
[00:18:00] “I think so, but… I’m not sure,” I replied, reaching into my robe for the chronotrigger.
[00:18:07] I decided to present him with my own miracle: “the disappearing man”, and I pressed the button.
[00:18:14] But just before the trigger activated and I was thrown back into the future, I heard something. Words that I had heard before, but only in my mind, so quiet I could’ve imagined them.
[00:18:30] Could it really be?
[00:18:32] A voice as soft as a sheep’s wool had spoken to me. “Goodbye, my son.”
[00:18:40] The voice spoke not in Hebrew, but in English.
[00:18:45] By the time I had turned around, Nazareth had disintegrated, and I stood back in my own time.
[00:18:55] “Well?” said Winston. “Did you find your lord and saviour?”
[00:19:01] I smiled. “That’s a question I cannot answer.”
[00:19:06] Pioneers of The Continuum was a Leonardo English production.
[00:19:14] The story was written by Emile Dodds and me, Alastair Budge.
[00:19:19] Gabriel was played by Ariel Goodbody from Easy Stories in English.
[00:19:25] Make sure to subscribe and follow the podcast to get the next episode straight into your favourite podcast app.