Chapter 30 Johan enters Zion

“Johan continued to be thirsty for facts and context throughout the fourth jubilee and the start of this one too,” Yvonne reported as Team Thomas gathered once again with Jesus to review the past jubilee period. “The angelic records describe much that is destructive and ugly, but they also note many accounts of agape love breaking through the sufferings of the Previous Age. Johan ignored these at first, but the more he read, the more he became inspired by the stories recording human kindness and empathy.”

“Inspiration is one of my favourite influences on the human heart,” said Jesus. “I felt so glad when my words inspired the people I met in my Previous Age. It’s a wonderful thing when inspiration becomes motivation.”

“It was early in his fifth jubilee when Johan’s reading inspired him to desire relationships,” said Yan. “He became convinced that the point of existence is agape love, and eventually he found the perfect opportunity to rejoin the community and put that into practice.”


Johan looked out of the window with a furrowed brow. It was unusual to hear any activity outside of his dwelling, let alone the clinking of metal spades. He placed the bookmark in the page he had been reading and closed the book. As he opened his door, a man approached him, smiling.

“Hello!” he said cheerfully, holding out a hand. Johan hadn’t spoken to anyone for a long while, and so he blinked at the man a couple of times before accepting the handshake.

“Hello,” said Johan quietly.

“Sorry friend, did we disturb you?”

“It’s ok,” replied Johan.

“We’re digging an irrigation channel. I’m Frazer, by the way.”

“Hello, I’m Johan.”

“I haven’t seen you around much,” said Frazer.

Johan cleared his throat self-consciously and looked at the ground. “No. I haven’t been out much.”

“We could do with some help. Would you be willing to join us?”

Johan felt a knot of anxiety forming in his stomach at the thought of being around new people.

“Once we get the channel to the top of the hill it will connect to a spring, and water will flow down to a new vegetable garden we’ve created over there.”

Johan felt a little guilty that he enjoyed the benefit of freshly grown food at the market each week but did so little to contribute to its production.

“Yes, I am willing to help,” he replied.

“That’s great! If you put on your oldest work clothes, I’ll introduce you to the rest of the group.”

Frazer led Johan over to where the men were digging. The sound of spades slicing through soil triggered a rush of memories of digging foxholes with his comrades in the Previous Age. Johan felt himself overcome with a sadness that he hadn’t experienced for a long time. One of the men looked up at Johan.

“Hey, mate, are you alright?” he asked.

Frazer looked at Johan’s troubled face and put an arm around his shoulder. Johan was deeply touched by the concern shown by these men he’d only just met.

The whole team put down their spades, and before he knew it, Johan was seated on the grass surrounded by six new friends.

“I haven’t been in company for so long,” he said in a small voice.

“I was nervous of meeting people, too,” said one of men. “When this jubilee began, I decided that I just wanted to paint in my garden. Didn’t feel I wanted to get to know new people after I was parted from my friends in the last jubilee. Didn’t see the point of making new friends if we kept getting split up.”

Johan nodded. “I miss my sister, and my friends – not to mention those I haven’t seen since the Previous Age. I just want to read all the time and not talk to anyone.”

“Many of us have been on the same journey,” said another, kindly. “We’re all here together because we’re all learning how to heal from our wounds. Were you a soldier in the Previous?”

“How did you guess?” laughed Johan, though tears were now quietly flowing as he made himself vulnerable.

“I somehow felt that the sound of digging might have triggered memories from army life,” the man replied.

“But… how?” asked Johan.

“You remember Ruach? Well, we sit and allow her to meet with us,” said Frazer. The other men nodded.

“We make time to be still and listen to her each day,” said one of the men. “You would be welcome to join us.”

“I find it easier to read,” replied Johan, feeling a little uncomfortable at the idea. But seeing the friendly faces that surrounded him, he continued, “But I am interested. Maybe I could join you tomorrow and at least give it a go? And for now, let me help you.”

“I’ll fetch you a spade,” grinned Frazer. “Many hands make light work!”

As he settled into the rhythm of digging, Johan felt a wave of satisfaction. For the first time in many years, he felt connected to people again.

The men talked as they worked, cracking jokes and reminiscing about their lives in the Previous Age and the jubilee periods they’d experienced so far. The atmosphere was more friendly and jovial than Johan had ever known with other men. As the hours went by, swift progress was made forming a channel down to the level ground where the new vegetable beds had been prepared.

“Johan, you should be the one to break the barrier at the top of the hill,” suggested one of the men.

“But I joined the work last,” Johan protested. “It shouldn’t be me.”

“You’re the newest member of the team, and this is your welcome,” said Frazer.

“Why don’t we all break the barrier together?” suggested Johan, smiling at his companions. “Come on, let’s go up, all of us.”

The seven men walked back up the hill, following the line of the irrigation channel until they reached the place where a short span of earth kept the spring pool from flowing freely down the new waterway. The men each began to remove the earth, a spadeful at a time.

“Here it goes!” shouted Johan as the last slithers of earth fell away.

The men cheered and laughed as the crystalline water cascaded down the channel. Some began to run, trying to keep pace with the water, and the others followed suit, until they were all at the vegetable beds, joyfully watching the water flow.


Johan had found a way back to community and connection with other people. He was delighted to learn from Frazer that there were women and children living in the village, as well as entire families who had died together in various wars. Using his experience with Gerty from his first jubilee, he threw himself into volunteering at the village school, showing the children the basics of thatching and roof repair.

As the days, weeks and months went by, Johan developed a teaching method that was firm but fair and showed that he expected each child to do their best. Teaching enabled him to practise the skills of patience and empathy that he had read so much about in the angelic records.

He quietly resolved to spend quality one-to-one time with every young child at the school to learn more about their interests. Slowly but surely, Johan came to be liked and trusted by each child in the village, as they realised that this man cared for them deeply. Johan also got to know each of their families and their different stories. He saw the beauty in their journeys and helped them process some of what they had experienced.

One warm evening Johan was putting his thatching tools away when he noticed a man and a woman standing behind a low stone wall looking in his direction. As Johan looked more carefully, he saw that the woman was wiping tears from her cheeks.

“Gerty!” he gasped, rushing towards her and vaulting over the wall. As he enveloped her in his arms, he realised that the man standing next to her with a beaming smile was Jesus. Johan’s eyes widened in surprise, and then he reached out an arm and brought him into the embrace.

“Johan, we have come with some news,” Jesus told him, as Johan stood back, quite breathless from the surprise.

“We are here to invite you to Zion. Your heart is ready. You have learnt how to give and receive agape love and have overcome the temptation to isolate yourself from other people. Ruach has told me how you have been meditating with your friends and letting go of the resentment and bitterness that held you back in the past. You have allowed agape love to become your compass and your source of inspiration.”

“Come to Zion!” said Gerty. “I live there now, and so do Mum and Dad.”

Johan hadn’t thought about his parents for some time. Life had become sweet in the village, and he realised he had no longer been thinking of the past, nor of the future, but had truly learned to inhabit the present.

Gerty took his arm. “Come and see?”

Johan nodded. “Yes, of course. Mother, Father…”

“And so many friends!” added Gerty with a giggle.

Johan took a deep breath. There was so much to take in, and he could only begin to imagine how he would feel seeing his family reunited again. But at the same time, he knew it meant leaving the people in the village he had come to love and care for so deeply.

“That will be wonderful, Gerty. But I need to say some goodbyes first.”

Jesus nodded. “Of course, Johan. We understand. We’ll be here and ready when you are.”

Johan made his way around the dwellings in his community. He looked each person in the eye as he embraced them. Words of affection and thanks were whispered as adults and children alike wished Johan well for the new chapter that lay ahead. Everyone accompanied him back to his house and waved as he was ushered onto a seraph’s back by his excited sister.

A short ride took Jesus, Gerty and Johan to one of the towering open gateways into the city, where they climbed down from the seraph’s back just outside the city walls.

The three walked under a colossal arch and into a landscape of fields and lush meadows, interspersed with wooden houses with exposed beams. In the distance there were rolling foothills that led to mountain ranges far away in the distance. A figure, who had been sitting under a large weeping willow, stood up to greet them.

Johan’s face broke into a broad grin. “Chester, you’re here!”

“Got here yesterday!” said Chester, throwing his arms around Johan.

“Chester has had an interesting journey since you last saw him,” said Jesus. “But you will have all the time you need to hear about it.”

Gerty grabbed Johan’s hand, pulling him along, just as she had done as a little girl. Though she was now a grown woman, she still had the unmistakeable air of someone who had not witnessed the suffering of the Previous Age. There was an unbridled joy and enthusiasm for life that she had never lost, and Johan marvelled at her infectious spirit. But now, at last, Johan felt that nothing was holding him back from embracing life in exactly the same way as she did. 

“Let’s meet up tomorrow, Chester!” Johan called out as his small party continued along a pathway that led through the fields towards a building that reminded him of the alpine skiing lodges that he had seen in picture books. Chester waved a hand in acknowledgement and entered a nearby house. Johan’s heart began to race with anticipation at seeing his parents again.

Gerty let go of Johan’s hand and hurried towards the doorway of the house. Before she could knock, the door opened and Johan saw a man and a woman standing in the entrance. They were strangers, and yet instantly familiar. He knew without doubt that these were his parents, but they looked so young and happy.

His mother covered her mouth and his father held out his hands. Johan approached slowly, taking in the fullness of the moment. The four family members held each another for some time, allowing the silence to hold all their emotions.

Jesus had gone through into the kitchen, where he began preparing refreshments. The family began to talk, slowly at first, but soon they were animatedly taking turns to describe their individual journeys in the Previous Age and then on the New Earth. Laughter and tears flowed as they learnt of the joy and the pain they had each experienced and the events that had created the path leading to this moment.

“Johan, there are loved ones you have yet to meet,” his mother said, as they ate the food that Jesus had prepared.

Johan put down his plate.

Johan’s father cleared his throat. “There’s something that we haven’t talked about yet.”

Johan looked into his father’s eyes and knew immediately what he was going to say.

“Dad, you were gay,” Johan smiled.

His father looked much relieved and nodded. “Yes, son. I was.”

“Your father loved a man,” continued his mother, placing her hand on her husband’s arm.

“His name is Gregor,” said Gerty.

“It’s ok, Papa. I knew you were gay before I died.”

“Gregor is here, too,” continued Johan’s mother. “All of us consider him a dear friend.”

“And what of you, Mama?” asked Johan. “Were you lonely in the Previous Life?”

Johan’s mother opened her hands. “I knew your father loved me as a wife and that he loved me as much as he could love a woman. We remained married until he died. However, I knew that Gregor gave your father much that I could never give him. I grew to accept that and chose to love who they were together. Eventually we became a secret family, the three of us, and Gregor cared for me after your father died. It wasn’t always perfect, and yes, I was sad sometimes.”

Johan’s father took his mother’s hands. “This woman showed Gregor and I what grace looks like.”

Jesus stood leaning against the worktop in the kitchen, listening intently. Johan looked up at him enquiringly.

“Yes, Johan, even during the war when your parents lost their daughter and their son, and in the misery of post-war Germany, these three chose goodness and demonstrated love for each other in their intentions and their actions. I condemn no one. And I know when a human heart can understand, accept and demonstrate agape love enough to dwell here in Zion.”

Johan nodded.

“I think it’s fair to say,” said Johan’s father, “that we all accepted how poor in spirit we were at that time. Your mother, Gregor, myself – we were all humbled by life. All we could do was trust and believe that a better day would come. Of course, we had much to learn and to heal here on the New Earth, but Jesus and his friends never failed to love us.”

“Faith, hope and agape love,” said Jesus. “These are the qualities that remain. These are what were within the three of you when you died and what you awakened to in this age. We just… helped iron out any creases.”

“And for those of us who needed more time to reach Zion, it was our experiences in communities on the New Earth that made it possible for these qualities to take root in our hearts,” added Johan, thoughtfully.

“And now we all have so much of these that we can forever share them with everyone!” laughed Gerty with delight, looking forward to sharing the joys of life in Zion with her brother and her reunited family.