Monday Rewrite: The Angel with Skeleton Keys

Drawing on Acts 5 vv 17-21

Andrew has a cruel bruise on his cheek, not the side with the blackened eye, the other side. One or two of Peter’s fingers feel as if they might be broken. Hopefully not, and James, who couldn’t help but fight back took too many blows to the stomach. He’s thrown up once and might well have a second go. John watches the others and mutters.
‘Keep calm,’ he says.
‘Keep calm!’ says James. ‘What d’you mean? What good is it being in here? How are we supposed to spread the good news if they’re going to keep throwing us in prison?’
‘They’re just jealous.’
‘Jealous? Jealous! People who are jealous spread a few rumours about you, they don’t throw you in jail.’
‘Well these aren’t normal people, are they? They’re people with a lot of power.’
‘Yea and we rocked their world-view,’ says Peter.
‘No. He did. They’re terrified now because they killed him and figured that would end it. They didn’t expect to have to keep locking up a bunch of people who claim he’s alive and well and not going anywhere. Word is spreading. Numbers are growing. The message is starting to bleed out to other towns and cities. They have a problem.’
‘Are we going to bleed out?’ Andrews asks, quietly.
‘D’you think they’ll try and kill us?’
‘I’m scared,.’
‘Of course you are, we’re all scared.’
‘I’m not.’
They look at James, he stands strong for a moment, then loses his composure and throws up in a corner.
He wipes his mouth and leaves a smear of discoloured spit on the back of his hand.
‘Just because I’m damaged, ‘ he growls, ‘it doesn’t mean I’m scared. They can do what they want. But they can’t stop what Jesus started. They never will. Remember the old Psalm – Why do the nations rage? – perfect question for them, why are they bothering to rage, they cannot win. They might satisfy their egos and play their power games, but they’re just like grass that burns up and dies.’
He turns and throws up again. The sound of his retching mixes with a screeching. That’s why they don’t hear it at first. But as James wipes his mouth again they realise there is another noise in the prison. They spin round, slap hands to shield their eyes from the blazing light. Little by light their eyes grow accustomed to the glare.
‘Hurry, you have to go back to the temple, keep passing on the message of life.’
The speaker is a stranger, tall, taller than all of them, and looking way more powerful too. He beckons with an outstretched hand. Even James can’t find any words. They glance down at their chains, every link lies shattered at their feet.
‘Hurry! Come on!’
So they do, feeling the radiated warmth as they pass the figure. John looks back as they venture back out into the night. He catches the last afterglow, but the prison-breaker has gone. Disappeared. James stares at him open-mouthed.
‘You’re not going to be sick again are you?’ John says.
James shakes his head, presses a hand to his stomach. ‘No, I feel fine.’
They go. They sit on the temple steps and talk quietly, even James is reverently subdued. At some point the talking becomes praying and the praying worship. The volume rises and they no longer worry about waking anyone. The sound of the praises begins to filter back along the streets. Dogs back and restless children stick out their ruffled heads. A yawning, early morning crowd begins to gather. The men stand up and start telling of prisons and angels and freedom. And of course, the risen son.

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