The Dead Sea Scrolls are ancient Jewish and Hebrew religious manuscripts discovered in 1946/47 at the Qumran Caves. These scrolls are considered to be a keystone in the history of archaeology with great historical, religious, and linguistic significance because they include the oldest surviving manuscripts of entire books later included in the biblical canons.
In another lesser known cave (Bob's Cave) was discovered the following 'manuscripts' scribed (aka scribbled) on five napkins from a popular first century delicatessen Shapiro's Deli. These napkins are covered with what is believed to be the fingerprint smudges in mayo and DNA samples of the one and only Apostle Paul. Of course the authentication of these 'Napkins from Bob's Cave' has their doubters as we unfortunately don't have a sample of Paul's DNA for a true match. So I will go with my gut feeling to their authenticity. If you disagree .. suit yourself.
excerpt from Bob's Cave 'napkin #1'
Hi, my name is Paul and let me tell you a bit about myself. Before I ever traveled any dusty Damascus road I was a big shot Pharisee who went by the name of Saul. The last thing I was .. was a Christian. In fact I was in charge of putting an end to this original 'Jesus People' nonsense.
As a young man, I even checked coats during the Stoning of Stephen. Acts 7:58
It was said about me in Acts 9:1-2 that I breathed out murderous threats against the disciples of The Way. I sought to find any (men or women) who belonged to this new movement, and take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.
We were NOT on the same team!
This was my life's mission.. my purpose until that day on that road to Damascus when I saw the light (both literally & figuratively). Of course my momma always said don’t look directly into the sun or you’ll burn out your eye balls.. well.. momma was right.
But this light stopped me dead in my tracks like a traffic light on main street .. and there was a voice from the light calling me by name “Saul (my friends used to call me Saul).. why are you persecuting me?” These were the words of truth from Jesus and they cut me to the core. Acts 9:3-5 This light, this voice, this Jesus had my full attention.
So here I am blind as a bat with cataracts and have to be led the rest of the way to Damascus. This is where I met God and to show God’s ironic sense of humor. I resigned from my position as ‘Chief Church Prosecutor / Persecutor’ and make a 180 degree change now sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to both the Jews and Gentiles.
excerpt from Bob's Cave 'napkin #2'
Once my sight returned I could not stop preaching Jesus Christ. I was of course at first received cautiously by Christians who were unsure of my motives as my whole breathing murders and threats up until this point made a negative impression. GO FIGURE.. , and my whole 'Jesus loves me this I know' attitude was now also a 'mystery wrapped in an enigma' with my Pharisee Lodge brothers.
But in time Christians saw my passion for Jesus was real, and the Jewish community realized this was not a Pharisee mid-life crisis. My life would never be the same. It was a very dangerous, but miraculous time to be a follower of Jesus Christ, but this would be my journey/mission for the rest of my days.
There was even a time where differences between myself and Silas resulted in us prayerfully and respectfully going different directions while still both serving the same God. There were some who were concerned that we would not come to agreement, but we liked to use the little word denominations to accommodate 'the church' being described as one body of many parts. Not sure this will ever catch on. Anyways..
It was a time to sing , and a time of high drama , and a time to stand up to share truth that Jesus is the Messiah!
Side note: I also remember when a young man named Eutychus fell asleep during one of my sermons, fell from a balcony to his death, but .. got better?
Anyways let’s just say from this day forward this young man was known as the unofficial patron saint for those who ‘sleep in church’ . And no hard feelings towards Eutychus, I tend to get a little long winded when I preach.
excerpt from Bob's Cave 'napkin #3'
It was the Tale of Two Ministries where it was the best of times, and the worst of times. It was a time of both great revival and great persecution. And no matter the price or personal loss the gospel message of Jesus Christ must be told to both the Jews (God’s chosen people) and also the Gentile (that is everyone else).
It was a time where zealous anger of the religious establishment had me arrested while others plotted my death .
Of course prison life, and being hated by those in power was not on my 'bucket list'.. BUT God was able to use these times to share his Gospel truth like only He could. While I suffered, God gave me peace that none of this was about me, but It was about sharing the greater hope in Jesus Christ.
excerpt from Bob's Cave 'napkin #4'
I even endured a storm at sea , and was shipwrecked on the island of Malta. I believe the name of the boat was the S.S. Minnow, and if not for the courage of the fearless crew we would have all perished . Special thanks go out to the Skipper and his first mate.. who I think the professor called.. Gilligan.
Then while around a fire on this island I was bit by a poisonous snake . Of course God protected me again.. I shook off the snake and the only frustrating after affect was that several of the crew took this as a sign to start a ‘Snake Handler Church’. Oh brother!
After 3 months on this Island we set sail again and made our trip to Jerusalem where again I could plead my case for Jesus and the truth that he was the son of God who came to earth, lived, was crucified for our sins, and was resurrected, and now is in Heaven with the Father.
excerpt from Bob's Cave 'napkin #5'
What a great honor for God to choose me the once great hater of the church to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ! God is so good, and I am blessed.
To sum it all up after the Damascus Road I was blinded, beaten, hated, ship wrecked, snake bit, and had a discount punch card for all my time spent in jail… BUT truth be told.. I was too busy serving to really notice.
These were the best years of my life.
My prayer today is that God blesses each of your lives with opportunities to serve Him and others in ways that make your lives full and complete. In ways that are beyond your dreams.
Be faithful in the moments that make up your day, and may your happiness never be measured in comfort or wealth but in service to God and others. When you discover this, then you also will be living the best years of your lives.
Ok, there you have it. The Apostle Paul's life summed up on 5 (2000 year old) delicatessen napkins. I am not sure why the world is not convinced of their authenticity. Ok, other detractors of these 'manuscripts' note they were written in English and included cartoons.. but I still believe. MAYBE.
Anyways, we do not need these 5 napkins to prove out the life and times of the Apostle Paul. We have the book of Acts, and all his letters/epistles recorded in the New Testament. The true and beautiful message of Paul's life is one of a calling from God to know Him and to serve Him. I believe all have this calling in big and small ways. As recorded in 'napkin #5' (maybe).. we are ALL called to be faithful in the moments that make up our days. Obedience to this call is where true joy and fulfillment comes from.
May God bless each of you and find you obedient to His call on your life to where you are living the best years of your life.
Jeff (best days ever) Larson
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson