New York Times bestselling author Ted Dekker delivers the gripping story of Maviah, a slave who becomes a queen in Arabia, A.D. 33.
My Journey Into A.D. 33
by Ted Dekker
TRUE SPIRITUALITY cannot be taught, it can only be learned, they say, and it can only be learned through experience, which is actually story — all else is only hearsay. Surely this is why Jesus preferred to use stories.
For ten years, I dreamed of entering the life of Jesus through story, not as a Jew familiar with the customs of the day, but as an outsider, because we are all outsiders today. I wanted to hear his teaching and see his power. I wanted to know what he taught about how we should live; how we might rise above all the struggles that we all face in this life, not just in the next life after we die.
We all know what Jesus means for Christians on a doctrinal state- ment in terms of the next life, and we are eternally grateful. But we still live in this life. What was his Way for this life other than to accept his Way for the next life?
So I began by calling Jesus by the name he was called in his day, Yeshua, and I once again set out to discover his Way through the lens of a foreigner — a Bedouin woman who is cast out of her home deep in the Arabian desert by terrible tragedy. Her epic journey forces her to the land of Israel, where she encounters the radical life and teachings of Yeshua, which turn her world upside down.
As they did mine.
Although I grew up in the church and am very familiar with Christianity, what I discovered in Yeshua’s life and teachings stag- gered me. It was at once beautiful to the part of me that wanted to be set free from my own chains, and unnerving to the part of me that didn’t want to let go and follow the path to freedom in this life.
I grew up as the son of missionaries who left everything in the West to take the good news to a tribe of cannibals in Indonesia. My parents were heroes in all respects and taught me many wonderful things, not least among them all the virtues and values of the Chris- tian life. What a beautiful example they showed me.
When I was six years old, they did what all missionaries did in that day and for which I offer them no blame: they sent me to a boarding school. There I found myself completely untethered and utterly alone. I wept that first night, terrified. I don’t remember the other nights be- cause I have somehow blocked those painful memories, but my friends tell me that I cried myself to sleep for many months.
I felt abandoned. And I was only six. I was lost, like that small bird in the children’s book who wanders from creature to creature in the forest, asking each if she is his mother.
Are you my mother? Are you my father?
I see now that my entire life since has been one long search for my identity and for significance in this life, though I was secure in the next life.
As I grew older, all the polished answers I memorized in Sunday school seemed to fail me on one level or another, sometimes quite spectacularly. I began to see cracks in what had once seemed so simple.
I was supposed to have special power to love others and turn the other cheek and refrain from gossip and not judge. I was supposed to be a shining example, known by the world for my extravagant love, grace, and power in all respects. And yet, while I heard the rhetoric of others, I didn’t seem to have these powers myself.
During my teens, I was sure that it was uniquely my fault — I didn’t have enough faith, I needed to try harder and do better. Others seemed to have it all together, but I was a failure.
Can you relate?
Then I began to notice that everyone seemed to be in the same boat, beginning with those I knew the best. When my relationships challenged all of my notions of love, when disease came close to home, when friends turned on me, when I struggled to pay my bills, when life sucked me dry, I began to wonder where all the power to live life more abundantly had gone. Then I began to question whether or not it had ever really been there in the first place. Perhaps that’s why I couldn’t measure up.
So I pressed in harder with the hope of discovering God’s love. But I still couldn’t measure up.
And when I couldn’t measure up, I began to see with perfect clarity that those who claimed to live holy lives were just like me and only lied to themselves — a fact that was apparent to everyone but them. Did not Yeshua teach that jealousy and gossip and anxiousness and fear are just another kind of depravity? Did he not say that even to be angry with someone or call them a fool is the same as murder? Not just kind-of-sort-of, but really.
So then, we are all equally guilty, every day.
How, then, does one find and know peace and power in this life when surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses who only pretend to be clean by whitewashing their reputations while pointing fingers of judgment?
So many Christians today see a system that seems to have failed them. They have found the promises from their childhood to be suspect if not empty and so they are leaving in droves, causing leaders to scratch their heads.
What about you? You’re saved in the next life as a matter of sound doctrine, but do you often feel powerless and lost in this life?
Think of your life in a boat on the stormy seas. The dark skies block out the sun, the winds tear at your face, the angry waves rise to sweep you off your treasured boat and send you into a dark, watery grave. And so you cringe in fear as you cling to that boat, which you believe will save you from suffering.
But Yeshua is at peace. And when you cry out in fear, he rises and looks out at that storm, totally unconcerned.
Why are you afraid? he asks.
Has he gone mad? Does he not see the reason to fear? How could he ask such a question?
Unless what he sees and what you see are not the same.
Yeshua shows us a Way of being saved in the midst of all that we think threatens us on the dark seas of our lives here on earth.
When the storms of life rise and threaten to swamp you, can you quiet the waves? Can you leave that cherished boat behind and walk on the troubled waters, or do you cling to your boat like the rest of the world, certain that you will drown if you step on the deep, dark seas that surround you? Do you have the power to move mountains? Do you turn the other cheek, able to offer love and peace to those who strike you?
Are you anxious in your relationship or lack thereof ? Are you con- cerned about your means of income, or your career, or your status? Do you fear for your children? Are you worried about what you will wear, or how others will view you in any respect? Do you secretly suspect that you can never quite measure up to what you think God or the world expects of you? That you are doomed to be a failure, always? Are you quick to point out the failures of others?
I was, though I didn’t see it in myself. As it turns out, it’s hard to see when your vision is blocked by planks of secret judgments and grievances against yourself and the world. It was in my writing of A.D. 33 that I discovered just how blind I was and still often am.
But Yeshua came to restore sight to the blind and set the captives free. The sight he offered was into the Father’s realm, which is brim- ming with light seen only through new vision. And in that light I began to glimpse the deep mystery of Yeshua’s Way, not only for the next life, but for this life.
His Way of being in this world is full of joy and gratefulness. A place where all burdens are light and each step sure. Contentment and peace rule the heart. A new power flows unrestricted.
But Yeshua’s Way is also opposite the way of the world, and as such, completely counterintuitive to any system of human logic. The body cannot see Yeshua’s Way for this life — true vision requires new eyes. The mind cannot understand it — true knowing requires a whole new operating system. This is why, as Yeshua predicted, very few even find his Way. It is said that nearly 70 percent of all Americans have accepted Jesus as savior at some point, but how many of us have found his Way for this life?
Yeshua’s Way is letting go of one world system to see and experi- ence another — one that is closer than our own breath.
It is surrendering what we think we know about the Father so that we can truly know him, which is to experience him intimately, be- cause this is living eternal life now. It is the great reversal of all that we think will give us significance and meaning in this life so that we can live with more peace and power than we have yet imagined.
In today’s vernacular, Yeshua’s Way is indeed the way of super- heroes. In this sense, was he not the first superhero, and we now his apprentices, born of his blood, risen with him? Would we not rush to see and experience this truth about Yeshua, our Father, and ourselves?
In the Way of Yeshua we will bring peace to the storms of this life; we will walk on the troubled seas; we will not be bitten by the lies of snakes; we will move mountains that appear insurmountable; we will heal the sickness that has twisted our minds and bodies; we will be far more than conquerors through Yeshua, who is our true source of strength.
It is the Way of Yeshua for this life that I present in A.D. 33. Whenever we find ourselves blinded by our own grievances, judgments, and fears, we, like Maviah, sink into darkness. But when we trust Yeshua and his Way once again, we see the sun instead of the storm.
This is our revolution in Yeshua: to be free from the prisons that hold us captive. This is our healing: to see what few see. This is our resurrection: to rise from death with Yeshua as apprentices in the Way of the master.
So enter this story if you like and see if you can see what Maviah saw. It may change the way you understand and experience your
Father, your master, yourself, and your world.
— Ted Dekker
A.D. 33- Prologue
IT IS SAID that there are four pillars of life in Arabia, without which all life in the desert would forever cease. The sands, for they are the earth and offer the water where it can be found. The camel, for it grants both milk and freedom. The tent, for it gives shelter from certain death. And the Bedouin, ruled by none, loyal to the death, passionate for life, masters of the harshest desert in which only the strongest can survive. In all the world, there are none more noble than the Bedu, for only the Bedu are truly free, living in the unforgiving tension of these pillars.
Yet these four are slaves to a fifth: the pillar of honor and shame.
It is said that there is no greater honor than being born with the blood of a man, no greater shame than being born with the blood of a woman. Indeed, born into shame, a woman may find honor only by bringing no shame to men.
Even so, the fullness of my shame was once far greater than being born a woman.
Through no will of my own, I was also an illegitimate child, the seed of a dishonorable union between my father, Rami, mighty sheikh of Dumah, and a woman of the lowest tribe in the desert, the Banu
Abysm, scavengers who crushed and consumed the bones of dead ani- mals to survive in the wastelands.
Through no will of my own, my mother perished in childbirth. Through no will of my own, my father sent me to Egypt in secret so that his shame could not be known, for it is said that a shame unre- vealed is two-thirds forgiven.
Through no will of my own, I was made a slave in that far land. Through no will of my own, I was returned to my father’s house when I gave birth to a son without a suitable husband. There, under his reluctant protection in the majestic oasis of Dumah, I once again found myself in exile.
Through no will of my own, my father was betrayed by my half brother, Maliku, and crushed by the warring Thamud tribe in the great battle of Dumah.
Through no will of my own, Kahil, the prince of the Thamud, threw my infant son from the high window of the palace Marid onto the stones below, where his head was crushed. And with it, my heart.
Filled with shame and dread, I obeyed my father’s command that I go to Herod in Galilee and beg for audience with Rome, which had great ambition to conquer Arabia for its spice trade. I crossed the Na- fud desert with Saba, the mighty warrior who could not be broken, and Judah, the Bedouin Jew whom I came to know as my lion. Our task seemed beyond reason and our trials unbearable, fraught with fear and betrayal at the hands of kings.
We did not find audience with Rome. Instead, at Judah’s zealous insistence, we found audience with one far more powerful.
His name was Yeshua.
Some said that he was a prophet from their God. Some said that he was a mystic who spoke in riddles meant to infuriate the mind and quicken the heart, that he worked wonders to make his power evident. Some said he was a Gnostic, though they were wrong. Some said he was the Messiah who came to set his people free. Still others, that he was a fanatical Zealot, a heretic, a man who’d seen too many deaths and too much suffering to remain sane.
But I came to know him as the anointed Son of the Father from whom all life comes, a teacher of the Way into a realm unseen — a kingdom that flows with far more power than all the armies of all the kingdoms upon the earth joined as one.
One look into his eyes would surely bend the knee of the strongest warrior or exalt the heart of the lowest outcast. One whisper from his lips might hush the cries of a thousand men or dry the tears of a thousand women.
It was Yeshua who showed me how fear and judgment darkened my world; how shame deceived me, causing me to stumble in a stupor. It was Yeshua who told me that I was the daughter of his Father and that I too could find peace in the storms that rose to threaten me with their lies.
It was Yeshua who gave me the sight to see the sovereign realm when I was blind, and the mind to become as a child, in perfect peace through faith. It was Yeshua who gave me the power to prevail in the arena at Petra before King Aretas, an audience of many thousands who sought my demise, and his wife, Shaquilath, who had sent Judah, the man I loved, into captivity among the Thamud.
It was because of Yeshua that I was set free into Arabia with Saba at my side to gather any who might pay heed, and to liberate Judah and restore the livelihood of all those oppressed by the Thamud.
For two years I traveled from clan to clan with Saba at my side, offering the presence of Yeshua and a message of hope in the face of Kahil’s sword.
At first they cried out against me because I was a woman, suited for bearing children, not for leading men.
But I returned their anger with a gentle, unyielding spirit. One by one, they began to spread word of my strength and compassion.
One by one, they joined me.
But I dared not approach the stronghold in Dumah until we were as many as the sands in the tallest dune.
Now, over two years later, that day had come. And now, following in the Way of Yeshua, I would save my lion from his dungeon.
For Yeshua came to set the captives free.
A.D. 33- Chapter 1
THEY STOOD deep in the bowels of the palace Marid, the two most powerful warlords in all of Arabia, and if not, certainly the most brutal.
Maliku son of Rami, called the betrayer, because he had deceived his father, Rami, ruler of the mighty Kalb tribe, and led their enemy into the gates.
Kahil son of Saman, benefactor of that betrayal, whose sword had led the Thamud tribe’s butchery of Dumah, and of untold thousands throughout the desert.
A single torch cast amber light through the dungeon, revealing a third occupant who slumped in the corner of the expansive chamber. Rami, Maliku’s father, once the powerful sheikh of Dumah, now a mere skeleton dressed only in sagging flesh.
Wielding bloodied swords, the Thamud army had forced all resis- tant sheikhs to their knees, and yet one now rose from the sands to bring them to their knees willingly.
She was not a sheikh, nor did she bear a sword.
She was a queen and she would threaten them with peace.
“There is only one way to defeat her,” Maliku said, watching Kahil
pace. “We cannot use force, unprovoked, or our honor will be stained for all of eternity.”
“Honor.” Kahil cut him with a cold stare. “This from a prince who betrayed his own people only two years ago?”
Indeed. But Maliku had long ago accepted this stain on his heart. He cast a gaze at his ruined father, whose head hung low, unmoving.
“Maviah must not be allowed to live,” Kahil snapped. “This sister of yours — this dog who calls herself queen — she leads twenty thou- sand now, camped only six hours south. If we allow her to live, they will be fifty thousand within the year.”
“That day will never come. We will crush her, but not until we have cause.” He took a deep breath. “You must stay your hand and al- low Maviah to take our bait.”
“And if she does not?”
Maliku had underestimated Maviah once, and she’d humiliated him before the king of Petra and all of his subjects.
“As much as I swore to you that I could deliver my father, I swear that Maviah will come upon us herself with all the fury of the gods.” He turned to Kahil. “And then you will have your blood, and I, my re- venge. We must appear to be at odds before your father, Saman. Only play your part until I deliver her to you, brother. It’s all I beg of you.” Kahil studied him with a dark stare, then grunted and yanked his dagger from his belt. He crossed to the slumped form of Maliku’s father, jerked his head back, and slashed the old man’s throat.
Blood silently spilled down Rami’s bare chest.
Kahil shoved him to one side and strode toward the door.
“Never call me brother.”
Find out more and get the second in the A.D. 30 series, A.D. 33.
They call her the Queen of the Outcasts. Maviah, a woman whose fate was sealed on her birth by this world-unwanted, illegitimate, female, a slave-subject to the whims of all. But then she met a man named Yeshua who opened her eyes. She found strength in his words, peace from the brutal word around her. Because of what he taught her, she has gathered her own traveling kingdom of outcasts deep in the desert, wielding an authority few have seen. But when her growing power threatens the rulers around her, they set out to crush all she loves, leaving her reeling as a slave once more. She must find Yeshua to save her people, but when she does, she will be horrified to discover that he faces his own death.
Enter a story full of intrigue, heart-wrenching defeat, uncompromising love and staggering victory-one that re-examines everything you thought you knew about the heart of Jesus’s stunning message and the power that follows for those who follow his easily forgotten way.