Many, many years ago, when Pearl Island was undeveloped and only a few people lived on the island, a man journeyed from the south to the north. This was long before the days of cars and Vespas!
The man lived during a time of famine in the south. His family was starving.
He had heard that if he built terraced fields at the foot of a mountain his family would always have water because of perpetual mountain springs. If a farmer there staggered the times of planting and used the mountain spring water for the fields, his family would always have a harvest.
That's what this man wanted for his wife and children because at that time on the island, the south had endured many, many dry seasons. And no harvests. His family was going hungry.
That's why the man decided to go alone on the long, dangerous journey from the south to the north on foot. He wanted to see if the story he had heard about the always-watered fields in the north was true. If the story turned out to be true, he would return for his family and bring them there. He longed for rich harvests and much food for everyone.
The name of Pearl Island is from a word that means "straight." And this man took pride in knowing how to walk in the straight way. He knew he would be headed straight from the south to the north - to the base of the mountain.
And at first he did walk straight.
But he grew hungry. He thought he smelled bananas to his right. He thought, "It won't matter much if I go off the straight way just for a few minutes to find bananas to eat."
It took him longer to find a banana tree than he thought it would. Up a hill. Through a ravine. Several twists and turns. There they were. Bananas. So good. Then a little further out, he saw pineapples. So good, too. Next, mangos! He gorged himself.
Suddenly, he remembered his mission: stay on a straight path to the north - to the mountain - so he could feed his family. He frantically tried to find his way back to the straight path. But he had strayed too far when he had pursued his own appetites.
And so he wandered. Up and down the hills. Around and around the dry places. Trying harder and harder to find the straight path. But he was lost and twisted.
He was losing hope. Then he heard a voice. It was not a native voice. It was from someone outside Pearl Island.
The voice was powerful, persuasive, full of promise, "I will lead you to the mountain, where the springs always flow and the harvests always come. There you will find paradise for you and your family."
So, the man followed that voice. Day after day. Week after week. Year after year. The voice always promised paradise.
The voice wasn't as helpful as he had hoped. The voice made many demands: "Promise you will always be loyal to me. Walk faster. Walk straighter. Now, run! Try harder. Do more. If you don't walk the way I say you should - if you don't keep my rules - then you will never make paradise."
The voice which always seemed so powerful and true in the beginning now sounded harsh and unkind.
Although the man always wanted to have a relationship with this voice, the person with the voice was elusive and distant, even cold and harsh.
The man had done all he could do for the voice. He had made the promise to be loyal. He had followed the voice's demands as best he knew how. But no matter how hard he tried, he always failed.
To make matters worse, paradise never came.
Something did not feel right in the man's soul. The mountain never came closer. It was always distant. Deep down inside the man knew that he was not walking the straight way. Instead, he knew that the voice was leading him in twists and turns away from the promise. The voice was always promising, paradise, but never delivering.
The longing in the man"s soul for the fertile fields and the always-watered terraces increased. He longed to lead his family to a better place.
The man said, "Surely there must be a better way." But the voice kept saying, "No. My voice is true. You must fulfill my demands."
So, the man quit hoping. He lived in fear, following the voice down crooked path after cooked path because he knew no other way.
Then one day, he looked up at the top of a hill. He saw Someone dressed in bright white clothing. And he heard another voice. This voice was different. It was powerful like the first voice. But also gentle and kind. The One dressed in white said, "I care about you. I have come to save all the people on your island. You matter to Me. I will not only tell you the way. But I will show you the way because I am the Way. Follow Me."
The man's heart was moved. There was something compelling and attractive about the One in white. He wanted to follow. But he had made a promise to the other voice.
So, the man stayed loyal to the harsh voice that had threatened destruction if the man ever turned another way. And the man stayed twisted, lost, confused. Always striving but never arriving.
A few weeks passed. Then the One in white appeared again. This time by a quiet pool of refreshing water. "Come to Me," He said, "and you will never thirst."
The man wanted to follow. But he couldn't. What would the other voice say? The man kept wandering in desolate, dry places.
A third time the One in dazzling white appeared. This time He was closer. The invitation came again, "Follow Me. I can forgive you for all your wandering astray from the path. I will not only show you the straight way. But I will walk with you and we will be friends. I will feed you along the way. And one day, we will enjoy the fertile fields and the always-watered terraces forever. I will bring your family, too. I have been longing to be with you on your journey for a long, long time. Won't you come with Me?"
The man hesitated. But as he looked closer, he could see wounds in the body of this One dressed in white. He finally asked, "What are these wounds?"
The One in white said, "I once left paradise. I lived among the travelers on Pearl Island. I showed them the straight way. But they wanted to follow their own way. They rejected Me. They killed Me. But My death wasn't a mistake or a tragedy. No. You see, I died as a sacrifice for all who have walked on crooked, selfish, wrong paths. I paid the price of death they should have paid. Because I died, they don't have to. Now, I am alive to show the way and be the way for anyone who will follow Me."
What would the man do? He had grown accustomed to that first voice.
The first voice was familiar, but harsh and demanding. The first voice made promises, but never delivered.
The One in white seemed powerful and holy, but also kind and forgiving. The One in white offered companionship, friendship, fellowship.
Deep inside the man's heart he knew. The One in white was truth and life.
What would the man do?
He chose. This time he turned away from that first voice to follow the wounded One, the resurrected One in white, the One who knows the straight Way, goes the straight Way, and shows the straight Way for everyone on Pearl Island who would follow Him.
Today, the man lives among the fertile fields and always-watered terraces on the slopes of the mountain. His family is with him. They are full of food. They are free. They are full of joy. And they are forever friends with the One who showed them all the straight Way.
And the man says that the very best day of his life was the day he decided to follow the One with the wounds who is dressed in dazzling white