Excerpt 1 – Prologue
“Now Roland,” she announced with an emotion I did not understand, “we do not know for certain whose grave cloths these are.”
I didn’t have to look at Grand directly; we had established this years earlier.
“What we do know is that these ancient dressings are the spoils of wars fought through the Middle Ages.”
The towering grandfather clock moved to 12:28 at that precise instant. I was exactly nine-and-a-half-years-old. In readying myself for what I would have to do over lunch—engage in dreadful conversation—I considered the obvious: I knew three-hundred-thirty-two facts about the Middle Ages, eighty on The Battle of Hastings itself.
“The burial linens I’m about to show you date back over two-thousand-years.” Slowly Grand’s memories traveled down the dining table that in her golden era could seat at least twenty, but now hosted only two.
Emotions meant nothing to me; they were unpredictable; but Grand’s silence made watch her for fourteen seconds.
She turned to me. “Roland?” Changing from one thought to another, her expression told me our first course would not be served until I spoke. “What would you like to say about these linens?”
She waited for more.
Grand knew her only heir was little more than a machine, a human computer. My lack of enthusiasm neither dissuaded nor dulled her interest. Her eyes swirled from their placid brown to an enveloping black as she peered into the box. I had seen them change only one other time, which was at my father’s funeral one year ago. A gauche yet well-intentioned employee offered in a receiving line what was untrue. He said Grand loved her son loved so very much.
She inched closer to the safe’s contents. “We do not know their precise origin, dear child. That alone keeps this so intriguing.”
The once religious New Englander measured her next words carefully, as if she’d inhaled incense from a dark, dank, depressed church whose stern pews sagged with a rudimentary theology that drove more parishioners to hell than to some so-called heaven. “How intricate the tension between fact and faith, especially to the disenfranchised.”
She wasn’t telling me anything I hadn’t already considered.
“Just the thought that these tattered, ancient wrappings could be the very articles left in Jesus’ tomb—fascinating.”
“The whereabouts of that tomb are unknown.”
I suddenly realized Grand was interested in what things were whereas I was interested in what things could do. Though the matriarch had made her own millions, I would quadruple my inheritance in the next thirty years by living out her overuse of the commoner’s saying, “Never say never.”
My attention returned to the box so that we could dine and I could return to my studies. “You don’t know that these were, in fact, Jesus’.”
“Roland, listen. These wisps of fabric are over two-thousand-years-old. The Gospel of John states Jesus was not buried in a single shroud, such as the one venerated in Turin, Italy. Whether or not these are Christ’s remains unknown. Regardless of who was buried with these linens, this is certain: these contents came from a stone tomb in Jerusalem at the time of Pontius Pilate.”
I stopped paying attention at that point because the Morse code she was sending through her shaky hands, though erratic, became my greater interest. Tomorrow. Blue Bonnets. Stop. Cocoa. Chocolate. Cocoa. Stop. Bonnets. Blue. Bonnets. Stop. Meaningless.
Seven-and-a-half years before fellow scientist Ian Wilmut and his famous cloned sheep Dolly launched headlines across the globe on July 5, 1996, I did succeed at the challenge indirectly instilled within me. I cloned the human who had been buried in these remains. Advancements unavailable to my grandmother at the time she presented her treasure did prove that these two-thousand-year-old remnants originated from a mountainside stone tomb in Jerusalem. What has yet to be determined is whether the clone has a divine nature, or a human one. Either way, I remain intrigued. Grand had ancient cloth; I have what could be a living Jesus.
Praise for Jesus Cloned
No doubt the science (cloning) piece to this breakthrough novel propels the plot through the first third of this novel (which is written in three parts "Father" "Son" and "Holy Spirit"), but the gentle, sometimes funny voice of the author is showing us more than a page-turner. Through a variety of characters including a darling girl who is four-years-old, this pastor/author brings us a new lens to see how Jesus interacted with people then, and how that same love is accessible to us now. Now I think that's genius. Theology over science is being sold here. I cried in places, and I'm no fountain of sentiment. I rooted for Joe and Betsy, Dunk and even Roland, and I'm no cheerleader.
A must read. This unique novel combines the possibilities of modern genetic science with the incarnation for a great story. The reader is left asking: 'Where and how is God in me?'
Will Hagenbuch has turned a potential science fiction plot—cloning Jesus (perhaps) from the DNA on ancient burial cloths—into a deeply moving and very serious story of loves, sins, and redemption of many kinds. The clone, Joe Messiah/O’Day, is a 19-year-old student at a Bible college who does not have a clue to his unusual identity. He has grown up with his adoptive father without knowing of his supposed ancestry, but has extra-strong gifts of spiritual strength and presence that he shows his beloved gay roommate, Mike, and the girl whom he instantly loves, Betsy. When he discovers his identity as a clone, and realizes how the scientist who cloned him is a genius control-freak, he crashes to alienation, alcohol, and addiction. His slow, unwanted, rehabilitation addresses the sins and redemption of those around him. This is the best treatment I know of how the divine and human might have been combined in Jesus, and in Joe. The book is a page turner, weaving strands of the basic human (and divine) emotions into a fast-paced story. I highly recommend it for non-Christians as well as Christians.
While much of this plot-driven novel is voiced in Christian language (the message of love, compassion, mystery and the need to endure), Hagenbuch enables our universal God to come through with an inclusive, solid, and much-needed message of love. JESUS CLONED allows people of other faiths to understand the impact religion and belief have on daily life of his followers. At the same time it transcends Christianity and reaches out to all. Speaking of love, I was moved to tears by the words Hagenbuch put into one particularly intimate scene between Joe and Betsy. In fact the whole story holds your interest and contains surprises until the very end.
Excerpt 2 – Chapter One
The water wanted to laugh. The rushing cascades certainly appeared to be excited, and Mike reflected all of this in his smile. With open arms, he turned to help his best friend Betsy down to the angled boulder that jutted into the fast-paced creek. From here, the two could see his new Bible College roommate a short distance downstream. In front of this picturesque view, Mike was surprised to see Betsy holding storm clouds in her eyes while light danced within his. He looked out again. Joe dropped down to the clear water’s edge. His short, soft brown hair shined in the sun. He had just rolled up the long sleeves of his shirt and set his chest on a rounded rock so he could peer into the tiny waves that had slowed down in front of him. His expression held joy. When Mike glanced back to Betsy, it was clear she was looking in the same direction he was but took in something entirely different. Mike thought on this. What surprised him even more than the fact that she wasn’t seeing the same scene was that she wasn’t seeing the same person.
Betsy knew from Mike’s expression that he was going to ask her what was wrong. Before he could open his mouth, she said, “Oh nothing.”
‘Oh nothing’ always meant something. While Betsy knew Mike was in some happy place, she wondered how they wound up here because she had thought the day would include just the two of them. In fact, that was what they had agreed upon when they planned this outing weeks ago. She did not know she’d meet this new guy at the Bible College until she arrived at Mike’s dorm an hour ago.
“Oh,” Mike had said casually as the three stood near student parking where she had just left her car. “This is Joe. He’s coming with us, okay?”
It was not okay. For her, this day had been filled with unwelcomed surprises and sudden turns, both of which she did not like. This park was not her idea. Having this third wheel along was definitely not her idea.
Here, on this stupid, insanely big rock, she bit down on her lower molars and her bad mood because she’d been duped, tricked. It should have been obvious that her real-life Cupid would plot to get her out of her current relationship rut. Captain Mike was, after all, the self-proclaimed champion of her happiness.
Though clearly not dressed for an outdoor adventure, Betsy wanted to get back on the nearby trail, or, even better, get out of this mess altogether and return to her car which they had left near the park’s entrance a quarter mile back. This obvious set-up with the Water Boy Wonder was not the answer. The straight-A mechanical engineering major with a full social calendar, which included two dates with two different guys next weekend, was far from needing to be fixed up with anyone. And this truth would set her free: this river rock loving religious dork was well below her level. If Mike’s new Bible College buddy were a fish, and the imagery seemed appropriate given where they were, she’d toss this deep-thinking, non-materialistic, artist-type back into the water. Done. Move on. Next?
Mike, who only saw love and delight in the one he bunked with at the school they both cherished, caught on to her body language. The best buds didn’t always agree on everything, but it was rare when they didn’t align at all. “Tell me what is wrong.”
“You honestly don’t get this.”
“I honestly don’t get this.”
“Mr. Splish-Splash, your frog prince who has moved to be ankle deep in the silt? Yeah, he’s all yours. I’m good. Trust me, I can find my own dates.”
Sure, you can find guys to go out with, Mike wondered, but are any of them close to being right for you?
Betsy returned to their original idea, which was not a trip to a park with a guy she did not care to meet. The two were going to shop for her parents’ wedding anniversary gift and then have lunch at a high-end restaurant to celebrate her first summer internship. Mike loved her parents, was the shopper between the two of them, and he was deeply glad her long-lived dream of being a mechanical engineer was taking another step. When Joe laughed freely from the perch of a smaller rock further from them, she had had enough. “Mike, really. This is so stupid.”
“This is so stupid, or I’m so stupid?”
He has done this before. Playing the victim was not new. What annoyed her this time was that he was sounding soft and philosophical like his new roommate. Yes, Mike was taking on the airs of Joe who was too confident, too content. Stretched out in the back seat with the sun across his shoulders on their ride to the park, the inward guy, this complete stranger, didn’t seem bothered by anything or anyone. This unnerved her.
Mike tried again. “Is this stupid, or am I stupid?”
She did not like Joe, and she certainly did not like this. “Save your inner turmoil, Michael. Carrying around my therapist’s couch for you every day gets a little heavy.”
He could not believe what he had just heard. Suddenly shut down, Mike found himself staring at a fern growing across the narrow ravine. The level-headed girl he had been inseparable with since first grade has not been herself for more than a year. Yes, he knew her upcoming weekend included meeting two upperclassmen with great resumes and even greater social credibility, but he sensed this was all wrong.
Mike focused on the sound of the current and realized Joe was exploring the water like a nine-year-old so that the two could have needed space. Yes, Joe loved nature, particularly the water when it rushed past him, but he was choosing to remain apart from them so that they could come together.
Betsy shook her head. “Honestly? I just don’t get this.”
Mike hoped that Joe would see Betsy as a fellow adventurer who needed to explore her inner terrain on her own terms. He shrugged one of his mile-wide shoulders. If the Bible College actually had a football team, which it didn’t, he could be two linebackers, not one. “You mean, you don’t get him.”
She stepped up to his chest. “I know you see me and my dating life as an ongoing train wreck, but it’s my wreck.”
Betsy attended Indiana State University, about three hours northwest of where they were now. For months, she’d been pulling away from Mike, the boy next door to her parents’ stately All-American Colonial. She had casually dated guys she knew he wouldn’t approve of, especially now that they were at different schools. Her personal choices were hurting her—she herself would admit that—but she could not see why he ruined this day by including a fellow sophomore who was a little too esoteric, a little too easygoing.
She gathered her long, light-colored hair which had recently folded over her shoulder and returned it to her back. “And don’t give me sympathy. I don’t want those looks of yours.”
Mike sank his hands into the front pockets of his shorts. He glanced back to Joe, and then to his hiking shoes. Part one of his plan was failing. He may not get to part two of why he brought these two together today.
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