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Rebels Lane

Adventures of the Mind

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St John and the Bandit

Whilst this story is not from the New Testament it is well authenticated and is included in Eusabius's History of the Church written in approximately 313 AD. Although it is a story from antiquity, it begs the question how well do we today feed His lambs? And to what lengths are we prepared to go to rescue one who is lost?

   After St John was freed from the isle of Patmos and had returned to Ephesus, he went away upon their invitation to the neighbouring territories of the Gentiles, to appoint bishops in some places, in other places to set in order whole churches, elsewhere to choose to the ministry some one of those that were pointed out by the Spirit. When he had come to one of the cities not far away, and had consoled the brethren in other matters, he finally turned to the bishop that had been appointed, and seeing a youth of powerful physique, of pleasing appearance, and of ardent temperament, he said,

 'This one I commit to thee in all earnestness in the presence of the Church and with Christ as witness.' And when the bishop had accepted the Charge and had promised all, he repeated the same injunction with an appeal to the same witnesses, and then departed for Ephesus.

st John and the bandit

So the presbyter, taking home the youth, was committed to him and so reared, kept, cherished, and finally baptized him. After this he relaxed his stricter care and watchfulness, with the idea that in putting upon him the seal of the Lord he had given him a perfect protection.

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But some youths of his own age, idle and dissolute, and accustomed to evil practices, corrupted him when he was thus prematurely freed from restraint. At first they enticed him by costly entertainments; then, when they went forth at night for robbery, they took him with them, and finally they demanded that he should unite with them in some greater crime. He gradually became accustomed to such practices, and so rushed the more violently down into the depths. Finally, despairing of salvation in God, having committed some great crime, he now donsidered himself lost once and for all, and expected to suffer a like fate with the rest.

Taking them, therefore, and forming a band of robbers, he became a bold bandit-chief, the most violent, most bloody, most cruel of them all.

Time passed, and some necessity having arisen, they sent for John. But he, when he had set in order the other matters on account of which he had come, said,

  'Come, O bishop, restore us the deposit which both I and Christ committed to thee, and the church over which thou presidest being witness.'

But the bishop was at first confounded, thinking that he was falsely charged in regard to money which he had not received, and he could neither believe the accusation respecting what he had not, nor could he disbelieve John. But when he further said,

  'I demand the young man and the soul of the brother,'

The old man, groaning deeply and at the same time bursting into tears, said,

  'He is dead.'

  'How and what kind of death?'

 'He is dead to God,' he said; 'for he turned wicked and abandoned us, and at last is a robber. And now, instead of the church, he haunts the mountain with a band like himself.'

Then he, when he heard, first stopped and looked down; then he threw away his arms, then trembled and wept bitterly. And when the old man approached, he embraced him, making confession with lamentations as he was able, baptizing himself a second time with tears, and concealing only his right hand, But John, pledging himself, and assuring him on oath that he would find forgiveness with the Saviour, besought him, fell upon his knees, kissed his right hand itself as if now purified by repentance, and led him back to the church. And making intercession for him with copious prayers, and struggling together with him in continual fastings, and subduing his mind by various utterances, he did not depart, as they say, until he had restored him to the church.

 

Eusebius of Caesarea. History of the Church (Kindle Location 1744). Fig. Kindle Edition.

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But the Apostle rent his clothes, and beating his head with great lamentation, he said,

  'A fine guard I left for a brother's soul! But let a horse be brought me, and let some one show me the way.'

He rode away from the church just as he was, and coming to the place, he was taken prisoner by the robbers' outpost. He, however, neither fled nor made entreaty, but cried out,

  'For this did I come; lead me to your captain.'

The latter, meanwhile, was waiting, armed as he was. But when he recognized John approaching, he turned in shame to flee. But John, forgetting his age, pursued him with all his might, crying out,

  'Why, my son, dost thou flee from me, thine own father, unarmed, aged? Pity me, my son; fear not; thou hast still hope of life. I will give account to Christ for thee. If need be, I will willingly endure thy death as the Lord suffered death for us. For thee will I give up my life. Stand, believe; Christ hath sent me.'