Christ's Journal Part 3
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Wearing dirty work clothes I was readily admitted into the prison at Machaerus, a citadel high above the countryside. Guards shrugged as I entered. A door clanged with a terrible crash: I was in John's cell.
Kissing me, hugging me, we embraced: as always I felt he was part of me.
"How are you, cousin? I thought we would never get to see each other again...in all those rags they didn't know you. You chose a good time; there has been an ugly quarrel going on...we have new guards.
Here, here, sit by me."
John has been imprisoned five months and is chained to the wall, a loop around one leg, letting him move a few feet. Rattling the chain, he nodded and grinned at me. I did not understand what he whispered.
When he was certain we were alone he grasped his chain and forced it open, first one link and then another. Though he had been a wrestler and farmer I was amazed. Free, he clasped me in his arms.
"It's a great trick...n.o.body knows...I can get up at night and walk around... maybe there's a way to get out of here."
How often we have been taken for brothers because of our red hair; we trim our beards the same way; our faces are much alike except that mine is leaner. We were brothers as we talked, sitting on the stone floor, the chain between us.
John urged me to leave Capernaum.
"You can't go on preaching there. Antipas has men on the lookout for you. He's as cruel as Herod, you know that! Go in hiding for a while, Jesus. There's no good in it if both of us end up in chains. Our ministry will fail."
I had concealed bread and fruit in my clothes but John would not eat while I was there. I gave him a comb and he combed his beard and head, grimacing, laughing. I asked him to change clothes with me: "You can put me in chains," I said.
An empty cell, stone walls, chains, the Dead Sea glistening dozens of feet below, a cold floor, a little food...what could I do?
"Are there other prisoners on this floor, John?"
"I never see them... I'm not allowed outside."
"You know that we are trying to free you."
"Don't run any risks."
"We aren't afraid."
"I have enough to eat...time to pray."
"We need you."
He bowed in prayer.
To be born anew...that is our hope for mankind.
I went away embittered. Think of it, I left a comb and some bread and fruit for a great man, a man of G.o.d. As I walked through the night I heard and re-heard those words:
"May the Lord bless thee and keep thee, the Lord make His face to s.h.i.+ne upon thee and be gracious unto thee; the Lord lift up His countenance and give thee peace."
Peace inside stone walls.
When shall John and I meet again?
I have preached in the synagogues at Cana and Capernaum during the last few days. I do not like preaching indoors. The sky is best and weeds and gra.s.s make the best floor. Old laws become new laws outdoors. I stress repentance and faith-the time is now at hand. I try to speak with authority and yet avoid rigid precepts.
Usually I walk alone. Being alone, from time to time, is essential: there is a peace in the company of one's own shadow. After every meeting I am again surrounded by questioners, most of them respectful, some are quite idle and oblivious of anything but themselves.
At Capernaum, as I spoke, swallows flew in and out, swooping low. I wondered, as I watched them, are we the interlopers, have we usurped their place? For me birds epitomize the highest form of beauty.
Near Capernaum I met an officer as I rested under trees along the road. His horse was lathered with sweat and the man was tired; he leaned forward in the saddle and eyed me critically, in silence. I asked him to dismount and rest.
Joining me he said he had heard of my miracle at the wedding and my cure of the street beggar. He brushed dust off his immaculate uniform. Wiping his face he scrutinized me, then pled with me to come and heal his son who was, according to his doctor, dying of fever. I shared fruit and he introduced himself; he admitted he had sought me as a last resort. I pitied the young father, fond of his only child, yet so skeptical. Rising nervously, catching his horse's bridle, he urged me to go to his home.
"I can't wait any longer... You don't seem to understand that my son is dying. Ride to Capernaum. Take my horse. Ride...help my boy.
Master, cure him...he has been ill with a terrible fever...for days... I must find help if you can't help..."
"Ride home," I said. "Your son will live; from this very hour he will improve. Ride home in peace...do not hurry... G.o.d has answered your plea, our prayers."
I felt my faith attend the boy as he lay in bed. For a little while he became my son-the son I would never have. I blessed him. My faith, G.o.d's grace, would renew the child. My power was adequate. I did not need to travel to Capernaum.
Never looking back, the officer rode off, dubious, angry. A breeze clattered dry leaves above me.
I knelt in prayer.
I am troubled because there are so many sick in the world.
Capernaum...Capernaum...the village might be all mankind.
Here I healed the mother of my host, a woman gravely ill of seizures.
I had hardly helped her and finished my dinner when people clamored at the door, the demented as well as the sick.
Still riding his bay, the officer found me and a.s.sured me his son was recovering-his ardent grat.i.tude was so bewildering, so nervous. As we talked in the courtyard of my host's home people jostled him. He tried to send them away, to establish a sense of intimacy with me.
Walking through the town at dusk I touched this one, spoke to another. A sense of anonymity troubled me: it was everywhere. The exultant friends, the overjoyed crowd, forced me to retreat. As I closed the door of the house I observed Roman soldiers. I asked to be left alone. I ate supper alone. Early in the morning, shortly after dawn, I slipped away to the hills.
Simeon came. We sat on stools and he thanked me, tears in his eyes.
Clean, wearing new clothes, a little shawl around him, he related how thrilling it was to be able to move about, to "really walk." He explained what it had been to be "a stone in the street, a stone to spit on." Eyes burning, he made me know what it was to be forsaken, abused, hungry.
He says he has told others of his cure. Only a few mockers doubt.
Friends and strangers visit his house, to touch him. He imitated poking hands. Simeon is a pathetically handsome man, still frail, his frailty accenting his features. "My cousin Ephriam has promised me a job," he said.
"I'm fifty-three but you've made me young. My memory is coming back.
Christ's Journal Part 3
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Christ's Journal Part 3 summary
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