Jesus Loves

By David C. Cook III


Copyright 2000 Bruce L. Cook

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"And all they in the synagogue when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down head long.  But, He passing through the midst of them went his way."  --Saint Luke




The power of Christian love is portrayed in this imaginary pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  (The magical power of Christian love set to an imaginary story.)  An imaginary story about the magical power of Christian love.


          Here we sit around the village well, the four of us - the short dark man of quiet dignity is a visiting Rabbi named Josephus.  The taller man,to his right, is a local merchant named Abishai.  The strong rugged youth near me is a farmer named David - and here am I, a pilgrim, in search of spiritual recovery.  We are in the village of Nazareth - the home town of Jesus.

          Among the four of us, the merchant, Abishari, is dressed, by far, in the most colorful fashion.  He wears a bright cloak of azure blue overslung by a long scarf of crimson red that covers his head and shoulders.  The Rabbi from the village of Sepphoris is attired modestly with a dull brown robe and tunic and a  plain round cap on his head. 

          David, the farm boy, wears a blue working shirt with short sleeves.  He is on note particularly because his knows Jesus.

          We sit in a semi-circle around the well on hard ground which is sandy and caked hard.  The well is made of hand-hewn stones that show the strain of age and wear.  A small spring of green moss sprouts from the sand that has blown into the crevices.  Astride the well is a vertical spoked wheel, looped by a rope of hemp.  Perhaps Jesus, or a member of his family, has constructed this very wheel to handle the stress of constant use.   An earthen pot with handles on each side lies next to the well.

          Now, comes the procession - five Jewish maidens with tall jars perched on their heads.  The massive clay jars are molded with precision.  The young women are graceful.  They walk tall; tall and straight.  Step after step is taken with an even gliding motion.  They never falter.  They walk so evenly with perfect balance and rhythm that the jars ride atop their heads without arms or hands touching them for support.  There is no hurry in their steps, nor is there faltering.  How magnificent!

          They are dressed in colorful garments of green, pink and yellow.  Long scarfs adorn their heads sweeping across their shoulders almost to their waists.  Their sleeves are wide and their robes are flowing.  I have never seen such stateliness before - and such majesty and pageantry.  The maidens step forward with fleeting expressions on their faces - - sometimes serious, sometimes demure, sometimes saintly. 

          Each girl possesses a unique facail expression and each is garbed in different colors and accessories.  Yet, the fashion of their dress, the graceful walk, the purpose of their mission, are all the same.

          Now, they approach the well in progression.  The first maid lifts her hands to the jar on her head without stooping.  She lowers it to the ground and sets it by the well.  The other maidens stand by quietly; almost motionless.  They can hold the jars on their heads even while they are standing still, without the aid of gravity in motion to balance their burdens.  Though they are standing directly in front of us, they do not speak to us.  In fact, they pay no attention to us.  It seems as if they are almost unaware of our presence.  Among themselves, they talk occasionally, but in whispers so faint we cannot hear.  One by one, the maidens fill their jars with water.

          My friends are silent; like the maidens.  They do not talk with the young women.  But, they surely know, that they are there!  They watch every feminine movement  covertly. My friends furtively scan each figure that approaches us even though the garments are flowing,  and even if the robes reach almost to the ground.  (Their vision of these women is clean-cut, even though they are clothed from head to toe.)

          We are girl-watching!  The Jewish maidens draw water for their jars with poise and confidence.  Now, the first procession of maidens leaves the scene.

          Abishai, the merchant, starts talking.  But, he makes no mention of the colorful parade we have just observed.  He addresses Rabbi Josephus, as be bows slightly, "We are honored by your spresence."

          Josephus replies (replied), "Thank you. Your own Rabbi extended the invitation.  Perhaps he was talking in jest.  He invited me to meet the chid prodigy, now grown into manhood, from your village.  He calls him the 'great pretender'."  Then, quickly changing the subject, "We are living in  desperate circumstances."

          This is a startling statement following so closely after the calm procession of delightful maidens.  Rabbi Joesphus goes on to declare, "Look at us.  A subject nation - groveling beneath the burdens heaped upon us by heathen foe.  Who is it that dominates our country, steals our riches, persecutes our people, insults our religious practices?  It is Rome, led by the emperor Tiberius.

          The Romans have murdered Jewish people, have put them to the sword, have hung  multitudes on shameful crosses.  Rome is our enemy.  Even Maccabees could not prevail against the Roman Empire.

          This angry statement kindles immediate fire within each of my companions.  It is almost as if someone had placed a torch to their smoldering emotions.  The merchant rises from his slouched position, sitting up in anger.

          "They tax everything around us.  Rob us of more money than is due.  Roman soldiers support their thievery.  So, I attend the Passover in Jerusalem.  What happens?  Taxes everywhere!  Before entering the city walls.  After I arrive, Annual tribute to the Temple.  And the money-changers!  They cheat me as I buy doves to sacrifice in the Temple!"

          This last tirade, about the Passover pilgrimage to the Temple, seems to be directed at the Rabbi, who prefers to ignore it.

          David, the farm hand on my left, is also disturbed, but he phrases his comment as a question, rather than an accusation.  Apparently, he also is addressing the Rabbi. 

          "What can we possibly do?", he asks.  "Do we sit idly by?  Do we wait for our country to be crushed?".

          At this point there is a long pause in the conversation.  The silence is almost embarrassing.  But, then, a lone Jewish maiden appears in sight.  She is walking toward the well.  She is statuesque!  All eyes are upon her….we all watch her approach.

          We observe her comely ways as she fills her jar with water.  We continue watching as she leaves us sitting around the well.

          Then, Rabbi Josephus picks up  the conversation just where it had ended, and, almost as if there had been no silent moments in between. 

          "No," he declares.  "We do not  have to sit idly by while we are consumed by subjection!  We must recall our Jewish covenant.  We are "chosen people"!  We live in the land of Promise.   The Red Sea has a way of opening just when one arrives at the water's edge!".                  

          "Our ancestors were Prophets and Kings.  The prophets have repeatedly promised that a Messiah will come to us!  He will deliver us from all evil; from the clutches of our enemies.  He will sit over the House of Israel; and rule it!  He is the King over Heaven and Earth!"

          David comes back with another question, a question which reveals insight. . . . "Rabbi, Rabbi! . . You have already said that he will come in the future;  but, now you say he lives among us; he lives right here and now.

          At first, it seems the farmer boy has caught the Rabbi in a contradiction of terms.  But, as usual, the Rabbi continues with his usual cool articulate manner of speaking;

    "Both statements are true," the Rabbi answers. "The King surely will come to us, just as surely as He already lives."

    Here is a man of diplomacy and wisdom, I observe, and a mystic as well.

    Then, the rabbi goes on to declare, "When the Messaih comes, He will break all of our enemies into pieces.  He wHe will subdue the earth and cast the Gentiles into Gehenna.  He will set up a Kingdom of righteousness; judging every man in blood and splendor of fire." 

          My appraisal of the Rabbi is rapidly revised by this final description of the works of the Messiah.  How close closely this man approaches the messianic hope!  Yet, how far away!  How learned  is this Rabbi.  Yet, how unlearned are some of his proclamations!

          Feeling my enthusiasm dashed by the pressure of defeat, I continue the questioning: " But how do you think the people will recognize the Messiah when He comes?" 

          Josephus is ready with his answer; the answer that has been passed down to him through the ages; "He will come down to us out of Heaven in a blaze of glory, accompanied by a legion of angles.  The sound of golden trumpets will be heard throughout the land, and the country of Israel will be lifted up in all her majesty.  There will be no mistaking Him.  He will appear in all His perfection, the perfect King of Kings."

David speaks in such a low voice that it is almost a whisper, "Perhaps He will appear in the form of Perfect Love!"

Another long silence follows this suggestion.  "There's  my boy," I say to myself.  "The Rabbi may have approached the semblance of truth, but the humble farmer lad has come up with the answer."

The Rabbi and the merchant only stare at David with looks of disgust and disagreement.  Josephus opens his mouth as if to rebuke the young man.  But, for the first time during our visit, he seems to have nothing to say.  Where has his capacity for articulation gone?  There is another awkward period of silence.  This time no Jewish maidens appear to cover the embarrassment.  It  almost seems as if the Rabbi is pondering over the statement of the farm boy rather than delivering the rebuke I expected.

The long silence is broken by the sound of churning footsteps--sounds of deep panting.  I look up to see a young man lunging toward us.  One by one he lifts his legs in a forced finish.  His body and shirt are caked with the dust of the roads, sweat, and blood.  His right arm is bleeding.  Although he is utterly fatigued, he forges onward toward our group.

Rabbi Josephus looks up in a startled amazement.  The boy trips and falls at his feet, panting so hard that he can hardly speak.  "Rabbi!  Rabbi!" are the only works he can exclaim. 

"Yes!  Yes!" the Rabbi answers, "What is it lad?  What is it?  What is wrong?"  The young man gasps for breath, "Your son, Rabbi!  Your son!"

"What about my son, boy?" Josephus relpies with anxiety.  "What is wrong with my child?  Come, speak up!  Speak up!"

Finally, the young man finds enough breath to express himself.  "It is your eldest son, Joshua.  He is very ill, Rabbi!  He keeps calling your name."

Rabbi Joesphus loses his composure.  His body sags.  His face turns ashen.  His lips tremble.  He blames himself, "I knew I should not come!  I knew I should not come!  I was invited to Nazareth as a jest!  As a farce!  As a pretension!  Nazareth is the city of the damned!  Ever since Rabbi Ezra invited me here, I knew it was wrong.  Wrong!  Wrong!  Wrong!"

David places his strong arms beneath the shoulders of Josephus and lifts him up to a standing position.  "Rabbi," he says gently, "you must go home."

Jospehus is obviously dazed.  It looks as if he has been stricken.  His eyes may be open, and he is conscious, but he is limp.  He has lost control of himself.  I rush to the side of the Rabbi and place his left arm over my shoulder.  David shoulders his other arm and together we trudge down the road.  Now, the Rabbi merely lets his legs simulate walking while the two of us bear the burden of his heavy weight.  I do not know  where we are going, but since there is only one road in and out of Nazareth, I assume we must be going the right way.  But, I wonder, how far can the two of us carry the burden of this heavy man by ourselves?

Abishari, the merchant, has left our group to tend his business in the city of Nazareth.  The young man who brought the sad news from Sepphoris comes trudging along.  But, he is not much help.  He is so tired from running he can scarcely keep up with us.

As we walk along, Josephus grasps our shoulders tightly.  This alleviates the burden of carrying an almost lifeless body.  He seems to be speaking but it is difficult to hear the words he is saying.  Finally, we realize that he is muttering his son's name, "Joshua, Joshua, Joshua."  He mumbles the name of his ailing son over and over again in tones of abject grief.  After a few moments of silence, his words come out more distinctly.  "I hate myself!  I hate myself!  I hate myself!"

In deep despair,  he bends his head down toward the ground.  Then, after long moments of personal anguish, he lifts his head and speaks more distinctly, "I should never have left my son at home for such a long time,"  he wails.  In addition to carrying the Rabbi, I want to console him, but the words do not come.  Again, David is the one who has the presence of mind to talk.  "God loves you, Rabbi - loves you so much - loves your son, Joshua," David says gently.  "He loves you more than you could ever know."

"Hate!  Hate!  Hate!" Josephus shouts out like a wild man.  "There is no love in hate."

David picks up the meaning of the Rabbi's wild raving.  "There is love in God.  And, He loves you even when you hate yourself." 

David says what I want to say even before I know how to express myself.  He is a comforting companion.  But, we have a heavy burden to carry.  Apparently, David is aware of this, too, because we exchange knowing glances.  Then, he has an idea!

"Wait here!"  he commands us as he runs down a side road.  This young farmer, who was the humble member of our group around the well, has now taken command of the entire situation.  The lad from Sepphoris is able to replace David at the Rabbi's shoulder.  He introduces himself while we steady Josephus and wait for David.

The lad's name is "Alphaeus".  He is a close friend of Joshua, the Rabbi's son.  He has run - yes, run, all the way - from Sepphoris to Nazareth to bring the sad news.  At times he had been so weak that he tyipped over the stones along the roadside.  Closer examination shows that he has bruises on his cheek, his arms and  his legs.  His face is flushed, and his shirt is soaked with perspiration.

Frustrating questions keep rising in my mind.  How are we going to care for the bereaved man?  How can we possibly carry him to his home?  How far away is his home, in Sepphoriis?

David reappears with the answer to most of my questions.  His is leading an ass.   The three of us are able to lift Josephus onto the donkey, which is to carry him home.  Josephus slumps forward and grasps the rope in his hands.

It is Alphaeus and I who go on with Rabbi Josephus to his home in Sepphoris, for David had done his share and must return to his chores at home.  The journey to Sepphoris is far from a joyous occasion.  The farmer boy, David, who, I had learned to love, is no longer with us.  And, my companion, Josephus and Alphaeus, are filled with dark despair.  Most of the time we trudge on in silence.  The warm rays of the simmering  sun slow our progress, making our journey even more difficult.

Occasionally, the Rabbi mutters words that are difficult for me to follow.  Only once saying,  in particular, "Messiah,  Messiah, Messiah."    This expression seems to be uttered in terms of" pleading, and longing," rather than in terms of "worship or adoration".

I know that I belong here.  My help is needed to accompany the Rabbi to his home.  What if he should faint and fall off the donkey that is carrying him?  But, my heart remains in Nazareth.  It has been rumored that Jesus will be returning to His home-town today.  Surely, He will be present in His home synagogue tomorrow on the Sabbath.  Why am I being led away from the opporutunity to see the Master at this significant time?

There is no ready answer to the circumstances confronting me.  I am needed here on the road that leads (me) away from Nazareth.   So, I continue on the road to sadness.  I cannot desert my companions in their time of need.  Our sad trio finally arrives at he home of the Rabbi.  Ours appears to be the last fragment of a hopeless procession that is funereal in appearance.

"Rabbi! Rabbi! Rabbi!"   Shouts of recognition and distress reach our ears.  Suddenly, within the fraction of an instant, the slumped figure of the Rabbi becomes alert.  I have never seen such an abrupt change in a man before!  He snaps from his slouched position and jumps from his donkey.  Planting his feet firmly upon the road, he has regained control of himself.

We rush after Josephus into his home.  The sight we behold is one of strangulation and horror.  "Joshua!", the Rabbi cries.  A young man is writhing on the floor, his arms and legs twitching.  His legs tangle crosswise, appearing to be out-of-socket.  Under his head is a heavy, hastily folded robe.  His head jerks back and forth from side to side.  His dark eyes stare blankly, and his moans are rasping from the prolonged strain even as spittle gurgles in his tired throat. 

A young woman cries out in despair.  "All day.  All day he's been like this." 

    The Rabbi appraises the situation quickly.  He does not hesitate.  Rabbi Josephus throws his entire body upon the shaking body of the young man.  His heavy form envelopes the body of his son.  He places all his weight upon him.  Still, the shaking and the trembling continues.  Josephus tries to space his mouth on his son's mouth.  But, the sick youth's head uncontrollably jerks so much that there is little chance of mouth-to-mouth contact.

                            Josephus tries to place his cheek next to Joshua's cheek.  But, his son's head still shakes back and forth.  Josephus is desperate.  But, he is giving all he has for his eldest son.

    "Joshua! Joshua!" he fairly shouts at his beloved boy.  But the writhing and twitching continue.

Suddenly,  the sound of melodious chanting pierces the atmoshhere.  "Josh oo ah. Josh oo ah. Josh oo ah."  The Rabbi is singing out his concern for his son.  He no longer calls the name of his son is dispair.  His modality of healing chnges from the secular to the spiritual.  It is almost as if the Rabbi is no longer in his home but , in his synagoge.  His call, his repetition of his son's name, no longer carries the sting of pain.  He is chanting with a resonant sound pleasing to the ears.  " Josh oo ah. Josh oo ah. Josh oo ah."

          The Rabbi sings in perfect chording  as he chants.  "Josh ua. I love you.  God loves you.  God loves yoou right now.  He comes to you in perfect love." 

          The erratic movements of the boy, Joshua, come to a sudden halt.  His head jerks one more time and comes to rest against his father's cheek.  Josephus pulls his heavy frame up off of the body of his son.  And, Joshua sits up, without a jerk or even a nervous twitch.  The strain of blood and the sweat of aggravated action still cover his body but tears are running down his face.  They are joined by tears of joy streaming from the face of Josephus.  I look around the room and see that everyone is crying, tears streaming down unashamed  faces;  Joshua's mother, his brothers and sisters.  Many other people I had not seen before in the Rabbi's home are all weeping, some wiping their eyes with their long, flowing sleeves.

          Then, Josephus starts to laugh… a good, hearty laugh!  Soon, the entire room is filled with a happy combination of laughter and tears.  The Rabbi looks at his wife, who is still crying. 

          She hesitates as she peers between her tears,and notices jubilation ever present throughout the room.  Is this the time for laughter? By now, everyone is watching this touching scene between husband and wife. 

          As her husband's mood breaks in upon her, she bursts into a wispy sound of laughter too!  Everyone laughs with her as the tears are still rolling down her cheeks.  Even, the ailing Joshua joins in the joy!   These are moments of sincere celebration.

          Alphaesus deserts me to lift his friend, Joshua, onto the couch.  I, rather , cherish this opportunity to be one of a crowd; not to be noticed or questioned, or not to be treated like a  stranger.  A heavily-built man, dressed in brown, beckons me to sit beside him on a pallet in one corner.

 "What is it my friend?" this fatherly man asks me.  Then, answering his own question, "You are the one who helped Josephus get home.  For this, we will be ever grateful.  We will be indebted to your for the rest of our days!

You are tired.  Miriam!  Miriam!  Bring this man food and drink….Prepare him a place for the night."

Just what I do not want…the Jewish people are too generous; overly lavish in the compliments they offer.  They embarrass me.  But, this man is also extremely sensitive….  He notices the dismay in my eyes and this time, to my bewilderment, he asks gently, "Do you have to leave us after all you have helped us?  - After all you have done?  You have an urgent matter of business?  Can't it wait?  Really?  Must you go?"

"I'm sorry."  I reply.  "I really should leave.  I must return to Nazareth.  I have to be there tomorrow morning."

          My custodian is kind; almost paternal, in his manner of speaking.  "That can readily be arranged,"  he answers, "If you are certain that your quick return is absolutely necessary.   The journey to Nazareth is not long.  You can ride to Nazareth tomorrow morning on the same ass that brother Josephus came on.  My son will accompany you.  But, for now, stay with us.  Celebrate the recovery of my brother's son with us.  We have ample lodging for a stranger who is not one of us."

By this time, food and drink has arrived, specially prepared, for the two of us.  There are  rounded cakes made of coarse, grained flower, carried in a pottery dish.  Suddenly, the welcome sight  of these cakes develops into a necessity.  I am hungry;  ravenously, hungry.   Until this moment, I had not realized how famished I really was.

My prospective friend perceives my needs, and sees my hunger and fatigue, even in the midst of this celebration.  While he nibbles one cake I consume the entire plateful.  I am chagrined; taken aback, by my own thoughtlessness.  But, he only laughs at me….

Introducing himself, he says:  "I am Rabbi Cleopas, brother of Josephus.  We were so frightened by Joshua's continued seizure that we feared for his very life.  Eat all that you desire.  We are most grateful to you; and cannot offer you enough.  Josephus seldom leaves town.  He stays in Sepphoris.  He never knows when an attack will strike.  Never!  And, he is the only person who is able to relieve his son of these seizures."

Staying that night with the family of Rabbi Josephus, I join in their celebration, sympathizing as they tell about Joshua's long illness.  Somewhat to my discomfort and embarrassment, Josephus embraces me with repeated hugs and kisses, thanking me for my part in his return home.

The next morning as I prepare to return to Nazareth, Rabbi Cleopas reminds me of his promise to send his son along,  "It is not work that my son, Aram, does by accompanying you on the Sabbath.  It is pleasure mixed with blessing." 

Aram is my companion's name.  He is quite young and extremely polite.  I am riding as he leads the ass along the trail.  As we travel, I tell him of my mission, of my plans to attend the Sabbath service at the synagogue in Nazareth.  He insists on accompanying me to my destination.  "I'll take you where you want to go.  I know the way.  I'll take you to the right synagogue."

This comes as a surprise.  "I thought there was only one synagogue in Nazareth, " I reply, in surprise.

"Several synagogues," he answers, "and, we're going to the largest one where my uncle had planned to meet Jesus.  We will worship together."

As we enter the city of Nazareth, not a single person is in sight. This is a far cry from the crowds of people that had walked the streets only yesterday.  Where is the procession of maidens going to the well? - all gone away.

"Too late, " Aram tells me.

Now I begin to understand.  "You mean we missed the beginning of the service?"  I ask him.  "The people have already gone in to worship?"

Aram does not answer.  He merely trudges along, leading the ass at the same pace as before.  As we continue on, I notice the same small houses I saw yesterday.  The houses are constructed of mud-brick, and built closely together, along the street.  Steps lead to the rooftops, which disappear into the earth behind as they nestle into the bank of a steep hill.

Aram leads us around a sharp corner.  Standing on high-ground before us, resplendent in its awe-inspiring majesty, is the synagogue!  It is built of hand-hewn stone, and the entrance is colonnaded by four marble pillars, spiraling to the rooftop.  The floor of the entrance creates an atmosphere of eerie silence.  A breath of hot wind flutters through the tree tops and stirs the dust into circles which swirl up from the sandy street below.

Suddenly, we hear the clang of a door thrust open hastily, followed by the outrush of an angry crowd of people.  Before them, a hapless victim is propelled down the narrow street toward the tallest hill.

A coarse, angry voice shouts, "Slay the blasphemer!"  Another yells, "Away with the false messiah.  Anoint him with ashes and dust."  An elder cries, "Slay the hypocrite!  Never let him go.  Never!  Never!" 

Aram warns me.  "This is no place for you.  The Nazarenes can be violent!  There's no telling what they'll do.  These people will call you a heathen, no matter what you say.  Believe me!  We must get away from here.  My family wouldn't want you to get hurt."

"I want to see what is going on."  is my only reply.

"No!  No!  No!  You cannot go!  Stay with me!  Think about me!   My father will never forgive me.  He has placed you in my care.  Don't you see?  Both our lives are at stake - they'll know.  You are an outsider.  They'll havve no mercy."

I am torn by Aram's protestations.  Who knows whether his fright comes from the violent atmosphere of the mob or by his personal knowledge of the Nazarenes?  I only know that my place is with the crowd so that I might observe this event and, its conclusion. 

"I'll go by myself.  You stay behind," is my only reply.

"Never! Never! Never!"  Aram shouts.  I am chained to you.  Come on!  I'll take you to another synagogue." 

There is no reasoning with my companion - nor, he with me.  I jump off my donkey hastily, and rush to catch up with the  raging throng.  It is a long climb, and the people have a head start up the slope.  As I gather momentum, I can see that the anger of the mob increases as it ascends the hillside.

Aram follows me, acting as if he were my enemy instead of my friend.  He tears at my arms and clothing; clawing me, like a cat clinging to his prey.  Time after time I shake him off.  Regardless of his interference, we finally reach the winding trail-way that leads us to the indignant crowd.  Belligerent faces are distorted by scowls of resentment.  Clenched fists are waving at the helpless victim. 

    The ruffians are cursing in the lowest Galilean dialect.  A pack of dogs, aroused by the excitement of the occasion, are growling and barking vicious protect!  Shouts of violence, revenge, and murder pierce the atmosphere.  In the center of the group is a cluster of bullies, marching their prisoner mercilessly up the hill.

          The leader of the mod rushes forward in front of the rebellious crowd.  He lists up his brawny arms and shouts for attention.  He picks up a handful of dust in his fist and bellows above the turmoil, "Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust!"  he lets the dust stream through his fingers as he thunders, "Over the cliff, and to the dust!"  A unison chant arises from the crowd in ever increasing waves, creating a rhythmic roaring crescendo.  "ASHES TO ASHES AND DUST TO DUST.  OVER THE CLIFF AND TO THE DUST.  ASHES TO ASHES AND DUST TO DUST...!"  The leader twists his pursed lips upward in an acrimonious sneer.

          Now Aram's anger overcomes his fear, "That rabble-rouser is evil, positively evil!"  Aram  shouts, "That man is evil!"

          Immediately, the attention of the mob turns toward us.  One of the pursuers, wearing a cloak of green, pushes his way to my side.  He grabs the neck of my undergarment shouting,  "And, who are you, my sneering fool?"

          This turn of events is frightening.  "Me?  I'm merely an observer,"  is my answer. 

          "An observer?"  the bully replies.  "So you use this snitch of a boy as the mouthpiece for your protest?"

          Both Aram and I are petrified into silence.

          "Heathen gentile!"  he shouts at me.  "Just take one step to defend this madman and I will take your life, I promise you."  With this retort, he unleashes a flashing knife from his girdle and presses it beneath my chin.  Then, with a snort of disgust, he returns to the center of the crowd as it moves upward.  Aram only looks at me with flashing dark eyes, as if to say, "What did I tell you!"  But, he makes no reply.

          We rush to catch up with the unruly mob again.  The procession stops on the crest of the ridge.  A burly antagonist roars, "Down with the self-appointed messiah."

          I rush to the very top to see how deep the canyon is.  All my latent fears of high places come to the fore.  The actual height may not be so extreme, but I feel an inner compulsion to jump into the labyrinth beneath me.  Only the tops of the trees and a narrow stream are visible below.

          I'm not the only one on top of the hill.   Several scoundrels are angrily throwing handfuls of dust over the cliff.  The horrible chant thunders louder and louder.  "ASHES TO ASHES AND DUST TO DUST!  OVER THE CLUFF AND TO THE DUST...!"

          For the first time I have a glimpse of the helpless victim's face.  I gasp. - I feel a crushing force engulf me.  Choking back a terror-stricken scream, I exclaim, "It is my Master!"

          But, now, a strange scene is enacted before our eyes.  For Jesus is not seething with anger, nor is He quivering with fright.  Jesus is standing upright in the center of the group with poise and dignity.  He looks at the raving leader with a gaze of longing and deep kindness.  He beams a look of adoration toward another bully.  The man lowers his arms.  His fists go limp.  Jesus shifts His gaze toward me in recognition.

          Have I been a coward?  Throughout the entire climb, I suspected that Jesus was the victim.  And, all I said was, "I am an observer?"  Why didn't I come right out and admit that I was a follower of the Messiah?  Even my servant, Aram, spoke his mind without flinching.  The words of the threatening bully come back to my ears again in horror.  He accused me, "So, you use this snitch of a boy as the mouthpiece for your protest?"  What was wrong with me?  Couldn't I stand up for my own Messiah?  Have I denied Christ ? ? ?

          Jesus is still looking at me throughout all my personal torment.  He does not have to speak.  He looks at me with the eyes of love and forgiveness - the eyes of compassion.  Jesus understands.

          I am not sure whether I am guilty or innocent.  But, I do know that Jesus knows it all, and that He understands.  I know with certainty that I am completely forgiven.  As the master sees me relax, He changes his gaze toward one of the belligerents - taking his in as He did me - allowing him to gather together his distraught thoughts of frustration and confusion.  What a change comes over this malicious fellow!

          Like the ever changing chameleon, he also lapses into peacefulness. 

          Aram explodes again with another of his keen observations, "He is loving them."  Aram shouts, so everyone can hear.  But, now, no one appears to take exception to Aram's pointed remarks.  He lowers his voice and says directly to me,   "He is winning over His enemies, one at a time!"

          We observe this startling transformation of events in amazement.  One by one, Jesus adores each member of the mob.   He looks at them tenderly -- knowing they are His own.  Some of them withdraw in wonder.  Others shift their eyes only to discover that He is still looking and loving when they raise their sights again.

          Now  the crowd stands motionless, some with cowed faces, some with bowed heads, in a spirit of awe and wonder.  Jesus blesses them with eyes of consecration!

          "Then, He passes firmly and resolutely through the midst of them, and goes His way."

Go to Meditation 1 - Following Jesus

Go to Meditation 2 - Praying with Jesus

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