26th July 1946.
The lake is just like a huge sardonyx within the setting of the hills, hardly visible in the starlight, as the moon has already set. Jesus is alone in the green bower with His head reclined on His forearms which are resting on the table near the lamp, which is about to go out. But He is not sleeping. Now and again He raises His head, He looks again at the sheets unrolled on the table, held thus by the lamp placed at the top of the sheet and by His forearms at the other end, and He reclines His head once again.
Silence is unbroken. Even the lake seems to be asleep in the dead sultry calm. And then suddenly and all at the same time, the wind rustles among the leaves, a solitary wave laps the shore, there is a change in nature, I would say that it is the creaking of awakening elements. The very dim light at the beginning of dawn, when day is about to break, is already light, although one's eyes do not yet perceive it when one looks round the deserted garden. It is the sheet of the lake which gives an indication of the first appearance of light, because its black, leaden sardonyx becomes clearer and reflecting the whitening sky, from leaden it slowly becomes slate-grey and then iron-grey, then opal and finally it reflects the sky and its waters become paradisiacal blue.
Jesus stands up, He picks up the sheets, takes the lamp which has gone out at the first whiff of breeze, and He goes towards the house. He meets a maid-servant who bows, then a gardener, who is going towards the flower-beds and He exchanges greetings with him. He enters the hall where other servants are accomplishing the first tasks of the day.
« Peace to you. Could you call My apostles? »
« They are already up, Lord. And the wagon for the women is ready. Johanna also is up. She is in the inner hall. »
Walking through the house Jesus goes to the hall which is on the street side. They are in fact all gathered there.
« Let us go. Mother, the Lord be with You, Mary, and with you, and may My peace accompany you. Goodbye, Simon. Take My peace to Salome and the children. »
Jonathan opens the heavy gate. A covered wagon is on the road. The road between the houses is still almost dark and it is completely deserted. The women get in the wagon with their relative and they set out.
« Let us leave at once as well. Andrew, run to the boats and tell the servants to meet us at Tarichea. »
« What? Are we going on foot? We shall be late... »
« It does not matter. You may go ahead while I take leave of Johanna. »
The apostles set out...
« I will follow You, Lord. Or rather: I will precede You because I am coming by boat. »
« You will have to wait for a long time... »
« It does not matter. Let me come. »
« As you wish. Is Chuza here? »
« He did not come home, Lord. »
« Give him My regards and tell him that I exhort him to be just. Caress the children on My behalf. And... since you have understood your Master, convince Chuza that he and all those who want to make a temporal king of the Christ, are in error. »
Jesus also goes out and He soon joins the apostles. « Let us go along the Emmaus road. Many unhappy people go to the springs, some to be cured, some to receive assistance. »
« But we do not have a farthing... » objects James of Zebedee. Jesus does not reply.
The roads are soon crowded with two very different classes of people, that is, with market-gardeners, vendors, servants, slaves, common people hurrying to the market, and with rich pleasure-seekers who in litters or on horseback are also going towards the springs, which I suppose are hot ones, if they are curative.
Tiberias must be really a rather cosmopolitan city because people of various nations can be seen amongs its inhabitants. Romans who have become corpulent through an idle vicious life, smartly dressed Greeks as dissolute as the Romans, but with masks of vice which differ in expression from those of the Latins, people from the Phoenician coast, Hebrews, mainly elder ones, people speaking different languages with different accents, and wearing different clothes, pale faces of sick men and women, or the tired faces of noble women... or the faces of hedonists of both sexes proceeding in groups on horseback near litters or in litters, joking, talking of frivolous subjects, making wagers...
The street is a beautiful one. A shady avenue from which, through the gaps between the trees it is possible to see the lake on one side and the country on the other. The sun which has now risen brightens up the hues of the waters and greenery.
Many people turn round to look at Jesus Who is followed by whispers: admiring words of women, satires of men, at times sneering words or grumbling ones, a few entreaties of suffering people, the only ones, among the many, to whom Jesus listens and whom He satisfies.
When He restores agility to the limbs stiffened by arthritis of a man from Tyre, the ironical indifference of many Gentiles is roused.
« Eh! » exclaims an old Roman with the debauched face of a reveller. « Eh! It is lovely to be cured like that. I will call Him. »
« It is not for you, old Silenus. What would you do in the event that you were cured? »
« I would begin to enjoy myself all over again! »
« In that case there is no sense in going to the sad Nazarene. »
« I will go and I bet everything I have that... »
« Don't bet. You'll lose. »
« Let him wager. He is still drunk. We will have a good time with his money. »
The old man staggers out of his litter and reaches Jesus, Who is listening to a Jewish mother speaking to Him of her daughter, a deadly pale girl whom she is leading by the hand.
« Be not afraid, woman. Your daughter will not die. Go back home. Do not take her to the springs. She would not recover the health of her body there, but she would lose the purity of her soul. It is a place of degrading licentiousness » and He says so in a very loud voice, so that everybody may hear.
« I have faith, Rabbi. I am going back home. Bless Your servants, Master. »
Jesus blesses them and is about to set out.
The Roman plucks His sleeve: « Cure me » he orders.
Jesus looks at him and asks: « Where? »
The Romans, with some Greeks and Phoenicians, have gathered together and are sneering and betting. Some Israelites, who have moved aside grumbling: « Desecration! Anathema! » and other similar words, stop, however, inquisitively...
« Where? » asks Jesus.
« Everywhere. I am unwell... oh! oh! oh! » I do not know whether he is laughing or weeping, so strange is the sound passing his lips. It sounds as if the flaccid fat, accumulated in years of vicious living, affects even his vocal chords. The man enumerates his troubles and expresses his fear of dying.
Jesus looks at.him severely and replies: « You must in fact fear death because you have killed yourself » and turns His back on him. The Roman tries to pull Him once again by His clothes, while the people present laugh scornfully. But Jesus frees Himself from the man's grasp and goes away.
« Thumbs down, Appius Fabius! Thumbs down! The so called king of the Jews has not granted you the grace. Give us your purse. You lost the bet. » The Greeks and Romans make a terrible din surrounding the disappointed man who pushes them aside and begins to run, as best he can, being so obese, pulling up his clothes and lurching with all his tallowish mass. But he stumbles and falls in the dust amid the guffaws of his friends who drag him towards a tree, against the trunk of which the drunk man presses weeping the silly tears of drunkards.
The springs must be close at hand now because the crowd is becoming larger and larger as people flow from many streets towards the same spot. The smell of sulphurous water stagnates in the air.
« Shall we go down towards the shore to avoid these unclean people? » asks Peter.
« They are not all unclean, Simon. There are many people from Israel as well among them » says Jesus.
They arrive at the thermal baths. A series of white marble buildings, separated by avenues, facing the lake from which they are separated by a kind of large square planted with trees, under which people are taking a walk awaiting a bath or relaxing during its reaction after it. Bronze heads of Medusa, protruding from the wall of a building, pour steaming water into a marble basin, which is white outside and reddish inside, as if it were covered with rusty iron. Many Jews go to the fountains and drink the mineral water out of chalices. I can see Jews only do that in this pavilion. I believe that I am right in guessing that observant Israelites have demanded a place of their own to avoid contact with Gentiles.
Many sick people are on litters awaiting treatment and seeing Jesus many of them shout: « Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me. »
Jesus turns His steps towards them: people suffering from paralysis, arthritis, ankylosis; with fractured bones which will not knit, or suffering from anaemia, glands, women withered before time, children prematurely adults. And under the trees beggars who moan asking for alms.
Jesus stops near the sick people. The rumor spreads that the Rabbi will speak and cure. People, also those belonging to other races, come close to see.
Jesus looks around. He smiles seeing the Greek sent by Syntyche coming out of the baths with his hair still wet after a shower. He raises His voice at once to make Himself heard: « Mercy opens the door to grace. Be merciful in order to receive mercy. Every man is poor in something: some in money, some in affection, some in freedom, some in health. And all men are in need of help from God, Who created the universe and Who, being the only Father, can assist His children. »
He stops, as if He wanted to give people time to make up their minds whether they should come to listen to Him or go to the baths. Most of them forget about the baths. Israelites or Gentiles crowd to listen and some sceptical Romans conceal their curiosity saying jokingly: « We have a rhetor today to make this place resemble Roman thermal baths. »
Zeno, the Greek, elbows his way through the crowd shouting: « By Jove! I was about to go to Tarichea and I find You here! »
Jesus continues: « Yesterday they said to Me: “It is difficult to accomplish what You do.” No, it is not difficult. My doctrine is based on love, and love is never difficult to be accomplished. What does My doctrine preach? The cult of a true God, love for our neighbour. Man, the eternal child, is afraid of shadows and follows chimeras because he does not know love. Love is wisdom and light. It is wisdom because it descends to teach. It is light because it comes to enlighten. Where there is light shadows disappear, and where there is wisdom chimeras die. There are Gentiles among those who are listening to Me. They are saying: “Where is God?” They are asking: “Who can assure us that Your God is the true one?” Or: “How can You assure us that You are speaking the truth?” And the Gentiles are not the only ones to say so. Other people ask Me: “With what power do You do these things?” With the power that comes to Me from the Father, from that Father Who has placed everything at the service of man, His favourite creature and Who sends Me to teach men, My brothers. Can the Father, Who gave power to the bowels of the Earth to make spring water medicinal, can He have limited the power of His Christ? And who, which God, but the true God, can grant the Son of man to work miracles which re-create destroyed limbs? In which temple of idols do you ever see blind people recover their sight and paralytics motion, in which temple do dying people, at the command: “I want” of a man, rise healthier than healthy people? Well, I, in order to praise the true God and have Him known and praised by you, I say to all those who are gathered here, whichever their religion and race may be, that they will recover the health which they expected from water, and they will receive it from Me, the living Water, as I give the life of the body and of the spirit to those who believe in Me and I work deeds of mercy with righteous hearts. I do not ask for difficult things. I ask for a motion of faith and one of love. Open your hearts to faith. Open your hearts to love. Give in order to receive. Give poor coins to have help from God. Begin to love your brothers. Learn how to be merciful. Two thirds of you are sick because they are selfish and lustful. Demolish selfishness, repress lust. You will gain physical health and wisdom. Crush pride. And you will receive help from the true God. I ask you to give Me alms for the poor and then I will give you the gift of good health. »
And Jesus raises the hem of His mantle and holds it out to receive the money: the large number of coins which heathens and Israelites hasten to throw into it. And not only coins, but also rings and other jewels are thrown freely by Roman women who look at Jesus when they approach Him and some of them whisper a few words to which Jesus nods assent or replies briefly.
The offering is over. Jesus calls the apostles and tells them to bring the beggars to Him and the whole amount disappears as quickly as it was put together. Some jewels remain and Jesus hands them back to the donors because there is no one who can buy them and thus change them into money. And to comfort the women who offered them He says: « Your desires are as good as accomplished actions. The offerings you made are as precious as if they had been distributed, because God sees the thoughts of men. »
He then stands up and shouts: « From whom does My power come? From the true God. Father, let Your power shine brightly in Your Son. In Your name I give this order to diseases: Go away! »
And there is the usual sight which has been seen so often: crippled people stand up straight, paralytics move, faces become healthily coloured, eyes begin to shine, shouting of hosannas, reciprocal congratulations of Romans, among whom two women and a man have been cured and they want to imitate the cured people of Israel; but as they are not yet prepared to humble themselves like the Hebrews by kissing Jesus' feet, they stoop, take the hem of His mantle and kiss it.
Jesus then sets out eluding the crowds. But He cannot evade them because, with the exception of a few stubborn Gentiles and some Hebrews even more guiltily obstinate, they all follow Him along the road to Tarichea.