Messiah: Biblical Retellings by C.A. Gray Genre: Biblical Retellings
Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to be one of the five thousand when Jesus multiplied the fish and the loaves? Or one of his disciples when he walked on water? Or to have seen Lazarus come out of the tomb? Ever wonder what Mary thought when Gabriel told her she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit, or what the fallout was like in her personal life? Ever considered how those two disciples felt on the road to Emmaus, when they found that the man with whom they had been talking was in fact their risen Lord?
This collection of retellings from the gospels is designed to bring each of these stories and more to life in your imagination. They stick to the facts wherever the facts are known, from either the scriptures themselves or from extra-biblical commentaries. But they also add in back story when necessary, reimagining the sights, the sounds, the colors, and the emotions for the person most involved. Each retelling ends with an afterword discussion, summarizing the reasons for the choices made in the story, followed by the scriptures themselves.
Together, I hope these retellings help to paint a portrait of the Messiah.
The energy of the crowd was palpable, the dull roar of their excited chatter at a fever’s
pitch. Jesus had stopped them between Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives. His
throat was thick with emotion as he instructed Matthew and Bartholomew, “Go into the village
opposite you,” here he pointed to Bethphage, “and as soon as you have entered it you will find a
donkey and a colt tied, on which no one has sat. Loose them and bring them. And if anyone says
to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will
send them here.”
The two disciples nodded and hastened to obey. Jesus waited for them now, standing
aloof from the rest of his disciples, and from the crowd.
How many of them knew that he was doing this in fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9? he
wondered. He had told his disciples over and over again that he was going to his death, but he
knew they didn’t understand what he meant. They thought it was a euphemism for something
else. Particularly now, when he was surrounded by adoring worshippers, all bubbling over with
excitement that their king was about to enter Jerusalem.
This was the culmination of his earthly ministry. The earth had been waiting for this
moment, for the King of Kings to enter the Holy City in glory, since the fall of man in the
Garden. There was almost a “charge” in the air, of the spirit converging upon the physical; the
people could do nothing but worship. Yet these same people would turn on him and cry out for
his blood in less than a week.
He felt so very alone. Thank you, Father, he prayed silently, that You never leave me or forsake me.
Normally people crowded Jesus everywhere he went, but something about His troubled
expression today must have put them off. Many instead clustered around the
exuberant Bartimaeus, whom Jesus had healed of blindness just a few hours earlier. He and his
formerly blind friend had since cast off their beggar’s cloaks and joined his entourage. Of the
two, Bartimaeus was by far the more gregarious, and he entertained the crowds. He seemed a
Matthew and Bartholomew returned, leading the colt and the donkey to Jesus by the
reins. The people saw this, and immediately understood that they were about to head into the city
now. They also understood the significance of the donkey: kings rode donkeys to signify a
peaceful entry. Horses were for war. They got busy, excitedly throwing their cloaks over the
animals’ backs for Jesus to sit upon. Some of the people threw their cloaks in the road, an ancient
Jewish practice for welcoming a conquering king. Others cried out, “Palm branches too!” This
was a reference to a wider cultural practice of the same, and it met with great enthusiasm. The
crowd scurried about, retrieving fallen palm branches and snapping or sawing off those that they
could reach from nearby palm trees.
Jesus meanwhile mounted the colt. It meekly accepted his weight, despite the fact that it
was unbroken. Matthew and Bartholomew raised their eyebrows and exchanged a look at this,
impressed, but said nothing. Beside the colt which Jesus rode, John led the donkey by the reins
like a groomsman. As his most empathic disciple, Jesus suspected that John sensed his mood and
lingered nearby for emotional support. He felt a rush of affection for his friend.
As Jesus began the journey, the people spread the branches they had collected on the
ground before the colt along with their cloaks, and began to shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who
comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that comes in the
name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
From oldest to youngest, they all picked up this refrain as Jesus began his last ride into
Jerusalem. The people danced and sang, and once he’d passed over cloaks and palms, they
picked them up again and ran forward, laying them on the road before him. Jesus’ chest
constricted with conflicting emotions. The people who worshipped him now did so genuinely;
and yet, their hearts were the stony ground of his parable. They were those who would
immediately receive the word with gladness, but when tribulation or persecution arose, they
would stumble and scatter. It would come all too soon.
The commotion of Jesus’ entourage drew a crowd of onlookers from Bethany as they
descended the Mount of Olives, whispering among themselves. Jesus knew what they were
saying. Many asked who he was that drew such a response. Others, the scribes and
Pharisees who joined the onlookers, murmured amongst themselves against him. Finally, one of
them cried out, “Teacher, do you hear what these are saying? Rebuke your disciples!”
Jesus looked at the one who had shouted and replied in as steady a tone as he could
manage, “Yes, I hear. I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones themselves would cry
The Pharisee who heard him turned to his fellows with furious grumbling. Jesus turned
away, and from his position on the slope of the Mount of Olives, he saw Jerusalem spread
out before him in the distance. The tears that he had kept at bay until then sprang unbidden to his
eyes, and spilled over his cheeks. Most of the people did not notice, but John did, and placed his
free hand on Jesus’ shoulder in comfort. Jesus cast him a quick, sad smile, and then looked back
at the city.
C.A. Gray is the author of three YA Amazon bestselling trilogies: PIERCING THE VEIL (magic and quantum physics meet Arthurian legends), THE LIBERTY BOX (dystopian metaphysics and mind control technology), and UNCANNY VALLEY (dystopian coming-of-age with neuroscience and super intelligent A.I). She starts with some scientific concept that she's interested in learning more about herself, and then creates lots of epic chaos and high-stakes action to go along with it. Her stories are free of gratuitous violence, language, and sexual content, and she abhors depressing endings... but they're not all kittens and rainbows either! She also listens to and reviews audiobooks on her website (www.authorcagray.com), Goodreads, Instagram, and on her podcast, Clean Audiobook Reviews, where she also occasionally interviews other authors.
By day, C.A. Gray practices naturopathic medicine, podcasts, and writes medical non-fiction under her maiden name (Lauren Deville). She lives in Tucson, AZ with her husband Frank, and together they maintain an occasionally contentious film review blog (under her real name: Lauren Baden. Three names. Yes.) She's kind of the queen of multitasking--so in her spare time, she creates whatever meals or crafts she found most recently on Pinterest, drinks lots of coffee (Aeropress btw) and occasional wine (reds--and she saves the corks for craft projects), works out (while listening to audiobooks), and studies the Bible (about half of the podcasts on Christian Natural Health are scripture meditations). ...She does sleep, too.
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What inspired you to write this book?
It started as a challenge from my mom. We both study the Bible extensively, and I’m also a writer—so she challenged me to write retellings of Biblical stories to get my imagination engaged. At first I just shared them with her. But I also have a podcast called Christian Natural Health that includes scripture meditations—so I thought, why not record them for those episodes? I started to do that, and before long I amassed so many of them that I decided to publish them. Then I realized, there’s too many for just one book! So now it’s a series. This is the first in the series, and I thought it only appropriate that it would be about Jesus, since everything in the Old and the New Testament revolves around Him. I also wanted to group His miracles together to try to get to know Him better. I hope this collection does the same thing for others.
What can we expect from you in the future? The second book in the series is called “Daughters of Zion,” about the women of the Bible. The third will be called “Covenants,” and it’s an in-depth look at the various covenants God made with mankind throughout the Old and New Testaments, which I think are key to understanding the Bible as a whole. The last one doesn’t have a title yet, but it’ll be a hodgepodge of the stories that don’t fit elsewhere, of the judges, kings, prophets, and apostles.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I learn best when I teach. In the same way, when writing a retelling, I ask questions that I would never ask in just a casual reading. The stories are more indelibly marked in my imagination, which is exactly what I was going for.
Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
My first introduction to Jesus from a fictional standpoint was Aslan from the Chronicles of Narnia, and oh! He is the most beautiful, most compelling fictional character I think I’ve ever read. I can’t get enough of him. I hoped to write something that brought Jesus to life in the same way for others!
What are your top favorite authors?
C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins, Orson Scott Card, Jeff Wheeler, Jane Austen… those are the ones off the top of my head!
What book do you think everyone should read?
The Bible, obviously! :)
How long have you been writing?
If we’re only counting books I’ve actually published, I started “Intangible” in 2008 and published it in 2013. But I wrote my first full length novel in elementary school sometime, though it will never see the light of day. :)
Do you see writing as a career?
It’s a side gig at the moment, though I’d love to have the option of making it full time someday!
What do you think about the current publishing market?
There are plusses and minuses to the self-publishing movement. I’m extremely grateful to have control over my work, as I think the publishing industry has its own agendas with which I largely disagree. But the down side is, it’s very hard to get noticed with so much competition.
Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre? I am getting into historical fiction and high fantasy lately, which are both new for me. YA fantasy has always been my favorite before, but I’m finding more and more that I don’t have the patience for the familiar tropes I’ve read a thousand times, or the same characters in different packaging.
Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time?
I only have 1.5 hrs four days per week to write, so I write one at a time. I'd never finish anything if I did more than that… though that created a conflict while writing this series, as I was already 100 pages in to a high fantasy novel but my heart was with this series. I finally decided to listen to it, though I fully intend to go back to the other one eventually.
What makes a good story? Compelling characters, surprising plot twists, and rich world building.
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