AUTHORTALK® HOST and AUTHOR: RONALD WAY
BOOK: THE DISCIPLE; THE WRITING OF THE FIRST GOSPEL
Hello everyone. I want to welcome you here today to Author Talk and Crossing the Line. I’m your host Ron Way. Today I’m celebrating. It’s a special day for me because today my book, The Disciple, is going into a new printing with the publisher WIPF and Stock, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. 35 years ago there was a very, very special event. It was the 4th of July, 1981 and it knocked me off my feet and pushed me over the edge of forever, literally. My life was changed from that day forward, and like Paul before me, I would never be the same again.
I think that you’re all familiar with the story as related in the Book of Acts in the New Testament, where Saul of Tarsus (who was to become Paul), was on his way to Damascus as he was blinded by a brilliant light and came face-to-face with Jesus. Paul says, “A light from heaven brighter than the sun shone down upon me.” Jesus said, “Stand up, for I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant and my witness. You are to tell the world about this experience and about the many other occasions when I shall appear to you.” That’s Acts 26:12-18.
This singular event was so powerful in Paul’s life he was never the same again. His life and his world—and our world—were changed forever.
Now I have a question for you. What would it be like if that happened to you? I mean laterally. If you were, oh I don’t know, on your way to work. If you were just getting up in the morning and about to get dressed and have a cup of coffee. What would happen if you were hit by a powerful light, and there in front of you stood Jesus, and he asked you to give up everything and follow him? What would you do? That’s exactly what happened to me? So, for you to have an open mind, I have to ask you what would you do?
I couldn’t do anything but follow him, because you don’t have a choice when that happens to you. I’m not talking here about a whisper in your ear in the back your mind and you think that God has just spoken to you. I mean a genuine, a genuine miraculous vision.
I ask you again, what would happen if that occurred to you? Would you tell everyone? Would you give up your job? Would you really?
Would you go home and tell your family, “Listen, I’ve just had a vision and we’re going to get rid of everything and we’re going to follow Jesus.” That’s what Jesus asked several of his followers to do, isn’t it, including the rich man. He had told him to go home and give away everything and then follow him. What would you do if it happened to you?
That’s exactly what happened to me on the 4th of July weekend 1981. Several of our friends had come down that weekend to help celebrate with us on the morning of the 4th. We started off down the beach. It was a lovely day. There were a lot of people on the beach. The noise was fun, and the air was filled with joy. The dogs were barking, and kids screaming. We walked all the way down the beach for about a mile, until we were right under the Western White House of Richard Nixon. You could see the mansion up above.
Once there, we turned around and headed back toward camp. On the way back, as we were walking along the beach, all of a sudden I happened to see a small, exceedingly bright light. It was way down the beach.
Have you ever been blinded by the sun off the windshield of a car that’s coming at you? It blinds you for a second. That’s exactly what happened to me. Way down the beach I saw this glint, this very, very bright flash, and it was coming straight at us. As I was watching, my brain tried to absorb what was happening, for it was coming very, very fast and I was terrified. I thought, “Is that an airplane? Is it about to crash? It is involuntary, our mind tries to make sense out of this kind of thing.
All of a sudden it was coming too fast, so fast that I couldn’t move. I froze it in terror. I knew that it was going to hit us. Then hit me it did, and it knocked me off my feet! I fell to my knees.
Instead of the sound that I had been hearing, the sound of the waves crashing against the shore, the sound of the children and dogs playing, everything became silent. It was absolute silence. In that silence there was a white mist. In the white mist, slowly I could see figure forming. There in front of me stood a man, and I recognized him as Yeshua ben Yosef, Jesus of Galilee. I can’t tell you how I knew; I just knew it was him. I recognized him. There in this special place of absolute silence he said not a word. He just looked down and he waved his hand and invited me to sit at this low wooden table. He sat cross-legged on one side of the table and I kneeled on the other. I could see the only thing on the table was a cup, and in the cup it appeared that there was red wine.
Then the table caught my eye. As an architect it’s funny the things that you notice when you’re going through an experience like this. I mean, why would I notice the table was roughhewn, hand cut and pegged together? That is the reality of it all. That’s what I remembered.
Jesus began to speak to me. What I remember now, 34 years later, is this; he asked me if I would be willing to give up everything and follow him. Give up everything? In my mind do you know what I thought? This is the truth, “Not my new Porsche, Jesus. Not my new Porsche!” I just picked it up. Jesus responded, “ , and if you do I will awaken a memory long buried within you.” As I said before, if this really is happening to you, what are you going to say? Of course, it’s real. You’re going to say yes, and I did say yes.
The next thing I remember was being bodily tossed around, and pain in my nose, burning in my nose because what happened during this time, which lasted about 15 minutes according to our friends, was that the tide had come in. A wave hit me, knocked me head over heels, and I was tumbling in the surf. I was choking and coughing. The saltwater was forced up my nose, and that’s what yanked me from the vision I was having.
I staggered to my knees and tried to get up. My friends, who had just been sitting there, because they knew that something was going happening to me, something very special, ran forward and helped me to my feet as I staggered out of the surf.
We walked back to the beach where our towels were spread on the sand, and we all laid down. I laid face down and I just started to silently cry. I couldn’t take it anymore. That silence was gone. Now it was cacophony of sounds. It was all so loud. Finally, I got up and started walking back up the dirt path, up the cliff to our house trailer. Once I got in the trailer I couldn’t stop sobbing. I just sobbed, and sobbed, and sobbed for hours. I couldn’t control myself. The experience was so great, so powerful, it just overwhelmed my senses.
The following Monday I went back to work and my architectural practice. I was so excited. I had had a vision and I wanted to tell everyone. I told first Tom, my partner, who thought I was crazy. He was a good Catholic. He thought I was absolutely insane, but I was so imbued with the spirit and the experience, that didn’t bother me. I told my friends. I told the members of Rotary. I was president of the Rotary club at that time. I told everyone. I was so overjoyed with the experience. The only problem was, no one believed me. That doesn’t surprise you does it? You probably are saying the same thing as you’re listening to me.
In the vision I’d been given a year, given a year to give everything up. Being the logical business person I am I commenced a business plan to do exactly that, to liquidate it or sell all my assets. I arranged for the sale of my share of the businesses to another architect. That meant my architectural firm, our real estate development firm, and our construction firm. I thought everything was moving smoothly along God’s path, but what I had forgotten was that Jesus had asked me if I would, “give up everything.” He didn’t ask me if I could sell everything.
On Christmas Eve of that year, I met with my partners. We met every year on Christmas Eve to exchange gifts, have lunch together, and then we took off for the rest of the day; and we didn’t come back to work until January (on the 4th of January in 1982). That’s exactly what happened this year, except my partners had a different plan for me. They had a special gift for me. I’d given them plenty of time to make arrangements to eliminate me in the business. By me giving them six months advance notice that I was going to sell my share of the business, it allowed them to go behind my back and sell the business to my prospective buyer for half of what I was selling it to him for, and I was no longer needed. They told me I didn’t need to come back on January 4th because I was out of a job and out of the partnership. They had voted to dissolve the company and reform it after the first of the year. I got my share of petty cash in the company at the time and accounts receivable owed the business at the end of the year, and I was gone. It was amazing.
One year to the day after the vision, we were heading to Michigan where we rented a cabin and we stayed there for a year. During that year, every day, I expected that Jesus would come to me again. He will tell me about this “memory long buried within me.” There’s got to be a reason for this, for this vision. I kept waiting for it. In fact, I can remember autumn was upon us; autumn in Michigan was different than I had experienced in my life in Southern California. It was getting cold. During that period, I was cutting 22 cords of wood that I had to saw from logs (yes, tree logs!), split and prepare for the winter.
I can remember walking around downtown in the little village called, Gaylord, Michigan. I was looking in the store windows and I was wondering, “I wonder if they’ve got a coat with long white sleeves, made out of white canvas with leather straps on the end that wraparound behind you.” I thought I was insane.
I came home and told my wife, Trudy, that I was crazy. I must not have had a vision, because there’s no memory. “We’re running through all of our life savings living back here in Michigan, waiting for something that isn’t going to happen.”
Fortunately for me, Trudy says, “You have not fulfilled one other part of the vision that you promised, and that was to go to the Holy Lands.” We hadn’t because the trip for two of us to go back there and to Egypt at that time, was going to cost about $6,000. That was a lot of money in 1982! She continued, “We have come this far, we put our faith in your vision, let’s finish it. Let’s do what he asked,” and that’s exactly what we did.
Later that fall, in October, we were on a plane to Israel. We landed in Tel Aviv. Late that afternoon as we landed, it was stormy. I can remember the passengers were filing out of the airplane (a big 747), going out through the left-hand door, down the stairs to the tarmac, when the pilot pulled Trudy and I aside. He pointed to the door on the opposite side of the airplane which was wide open where they delivered the food and they resupplied the airplane. He walked us over the few steps to the open door and he said, “Look.” We looked up and out of the opening, and there in the late afternoon the rain clouds parted and there was a shaft of light on the beautiful white city up on the hill. He said, “Look, isn’t it beautiful. There is Jerusalem.” I knew that I come home. At that time, I didn’t know why I felt that way, but I did.
Over the next week we hired a guide and we traveled from the north to the south of Israel. We saw Jerusalem. We saw Galilee. We saw Nazareth. We saw all the sites that we should see. Then we traveled south of Jerusalem all the way down to the Dead Sea and Masada. Masada is the fortress that was the last stronghold of the Jews when the Romans conquered Israel in 70 A.D.
Little did I know things were about to change, and change dramatically.
We left Israel and traveled to Egypt. Once in Egypt we spent a couple of days in Cairo. It is a fascinating city, fascinating, but that wasn’t why we had come.
From Cairo we boarded a plane and headed south to Luxor, or the ancient city of Thebes. There we boarded a cruise ship and spent the next week floating down the Nile, ending up back in Cairo. While we were in Cairo, and later heading south, I was so upset. I could remember thinking, “Why God, why?” In fact, the first dawn that we were on the ship I remember going up to the top deck and sitting in meditation and prayer and saying, “God, why? Why did you send me halfway around the world, telling me that I would have a memory, that I had forgotten and it would be revealed to me and nothing has been revealed. We’ve traveled from the north to the south of Israel and Egypt. There are no memories!”
In that moment, something changed. Without me knowing it all of a sudden it felt like I was falling. It was just incredible. It was like an elevator just breaking loose and in free-fall. All of a sudden, BAM! I landed. I thought we had run aground. I popped my eyes opened, because I thought we had hit a rock, or shoals, and the ship was about to sink. Instead of being on the Nile, however, I was looking out of the eyes of an old man. The old man was short. He had a long beard that I could feel when I wagged my head left and right. I knew who he was. It was me, and my name was Asher, Asher ben Ami. I was maybe 60, 62 years old. I lived in Jerusalem and it was there that I met the master, Yeshua ben Yosef, Jesus.
I don’t know how long that first vision lasted, but I do know that when I woke up I was so exhausted. I wrote down what I saw, what I felt, what I touched, what I smelled because I could. I could smell the incense from the temple. I could smell the wood smoke and the dung. I could smell it all. I could hear the sounds of the donkeys braying, the camels, and the cacophony of voices from around the world. I could hear and see it all. I lived in Jerusalem in a very wealthy part of town. I was a trader and I’d bought my way into a position of power in the Sanhedrin. I felt it was me. I knew it was me—and then it ended—and I was back on the ship.
I told my wife what had happened, but I was incredibly exhausted. I just tried to write it down the best I could before it slipped away.
The next morning I got up and I went back up on the top deck to try to make it happen again, and all of a sudden it did. Every morning thereafter, for the next seven months, coming back to the United States to the north of Michigan, I would get up early before dawn, I would light a big fire in the fireplace, I would sit down, I would meditate and instantly I was falling deeply within, and down this tunnel if you will, or the elevator. When I open my eyes I was Asher again.
The book that I wrote, The Disciple, tells his story. I wrote what I saw, what I felt, what I touched, what I knew, and that’s the story of Asher, Asher ben Ami. Asher met Jesus because of his son John. John became fascinated with this preacher from the north, this itinerant preacher from the north, from Galilee. Everyone in Jerusalem knew that nothing good came from Galilee. Yet, Asher’s son was fascinated by this man, and spoke incessantly at the dinner table about him.
One afternoon Asher decided he would follow his son. It was close to twilight. He pulled a robe on, and he pulled the hood over his head because he didn’t want to be seen or recognized going to a party where this itinerant Jesus would be talking.
He followed his son until he walked into a closed patio. Asher waited a few moments to let things settle down and then he walked in too; slowly, unobtrusively. He tried to hide among the other people. There were perhaps a dozen or two people there. They were all gathered around this preacher who was talking quietly to them with his back to Asher. Asher couldn’t hear him so he crept closer. Then all of a sudden, when he was about 10 feet away, Jesus stopped talking. Slowly, he turned around and looked directly at Asher, and their eyes met. In that moment Asher knew that he was in the presence of someone far greater than himself. Then and there he became a follower of Yeshua ben Yosef.
The story that I have told in The Disciple, The Writing of the First Gospel, is the story of about a two-year span of time when Asher knew this incredible man. It ended when Jesus died. He watched from the rooftop as Jesus was crucified. He only lasted maybe a few weeks after that, then Asher himself died. He died of a heart attack. In that moment that he passed over, in one last memory that I have, he saw the Messiah. It was Yeshua, and he was waiting for him.
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