[passage from an untitled novel, written 22/23 June 1995]
n the end,” said the Baptist, “Egypt is going to be important.”
“Egypt?” Simon couldn’t see it.
“Yes, Egypt. Moses left Egypt, you know,” said the Baptist vaguely, “and the Egyptians pursued him, to bring him back. Of course they failed; they were trying to go against God’s will.”
“Yes. The Lord’s will is not to be flouted.” The Baptist nodded. “No,” he went on, musing, “I must try to keep that in mind myself. The Lord’s will cannot be flouted. We forget that sometimes, become puffed up with our own self-importance. That’s why—” he turned abruptly on Simon—”That’s why Satan never really succeeds. The most he can achieve is the brief appearance of success. There is a power that ties us all to the earth, and while we may attempt for a moment to escape it, the most we can have is the illusion of flight. Even the birds return to the earth to nest. Remember that, Simon. That power that holds us to the ground is the will of the Lord, and it will break itself for no man.” He turned away. “Not even for me; not even for the messiah.”
“But Egypt,” prompted Simon. “You were talking about Egypt.”
“Was I?” asked the Baptist vaguely. “Was I indeed? Yes, Egypt it was. Your people believe in Moses, do they not?”
“The remnants of the House of Joseph,” John said. “You have your own prophets, your own history, your own temple, broken though it may be, but with us you share the Law and him who brought it.”
“Yes,” said Simon. “What of it?”
“Moses led the people out of Egypt,” said the Baptist. “So the history books say. But it never was that simple, was it?”
“No,” agreed Simon. “Not all the people came out with Moses, and many have gone back in the thousand years since his time.”
“Exactly,” said the Baptist. “The flock has strayed far afield. And who is to say that the Lord’s hand is not in this? Yes, the lost sheep of the House of Israel roam the four corners of the earth, and it is our job to gather them back into the fold. The Kingdom is for them also.” He trailed off, reflectively. “The Kingdom in the Sky is full of sheep,” he added.
“But Egypt,” said Simon. “What about Egypt?”
“Yes, that’s the point,” said John. “What about Egypt? The Egyptian branch office is no longer reporting, and somebody has to find out what is going on there.”
“Do you want me to recommend somebody to go to Egypt?” asked Simon.
“No, no, not at all. You’ve missed the point entirely,” complained the Baptist. “You, Simon. I want you to check it out personally, find out what’s happening there, and report back. Do you understand?”
“But—but I don’t think that’s a good idea,” said Simon. “The times are bad. Things are heating up here, and who can be trusted to keep the lid on it—”
“Simon,” interrupted the Baptist. “Egypt is important. You know that. I know it. Who else can I trust on this mission?”
“What about Dositheus?”
“You’re not serious,” said John, chuckling. “Don’t let your squabbles infect your judgment.”
John moved a hand impatiently. “It is no secret to me that you two get along as well as two tomcats in the same backyard. You undervalue Dositheus; he is a competent administrator, and a positive genius at making arrangements for food and the like, but can you seriously picture him on a fact-finding mission? No, Simon, you are the one called for this mission.”
“Am I to report back to you, then?”
“Let’s just say that you are to report back,” said the Baptist.
“Not to you? Are you saying this through caution, or do you have some kind of prophetic insight?”
“I don’t know,” said John. “I really don’t know. But I have a strong feeling, Simon, that when you have gone to Egypt, I shall not set my eyes on your face again in this world. Not in this world, and perhaps not an any other.” His voice trailed off. “At least not until time itself turns back and the whole cosmic drama replays itself again. We are all puppets, Simon, dancing and jigging on our strings, and the music we dance to is the will of God. The will of God—there is no escaping it.”