30th July 1946.
On the other shore, at the end of the bridge, a covered wagon is already waiting.
« Get in, Master. You will not get tired although the journey is a long one, because I gave instructions to have yokes of oxen here all the time in order not to give offence to guests more observant of the Law... They are to be pitied... »
« But where are they? »
« They have preceded us in other wagons. Tobit! »
« Master? » says the driver who is yoking the oxen.
« Where are the other guests? »
« Oh! Far ahead. They must almost be at the house. »
« Do You hear that, Master? »
« And if I had not come? »
« Oh! We were certain that You would come. Why should You not have come? »
« Because!! Chuza, I have come to prove to you that I am not a coward. Only wicked people are cowardly, those who are at fault and consequently are afraid of justice... Of the justice of men, unfortunately, whereas they ought to be afraid first of all of the only one, of God's justice. But I am not in the wrong and I am not afraid of men. »
« But Lord! All those who are with me revere You! As I do. And there is no reason whatsoever why we should frighten You! We want to honour You, not to insult You! » Chuza is grieved and almost angry.
Jesus, Who is sitting in front of him, while the wagon proceeds slowly creaking amidst the green countryside, replies: « Rather than the open war of enemies I must fear the underhand one of false friends, or the unjust zeal of true friends who have not yet understood Me. And you are one of them. Do you not remember what I said at Bether? »
« I have understood You, Lord » whispers Chuza, but he is not very sure of himself and does not answer the question directly.
« Yes. You have understood Me. During the wave of sorrow and joy your heart had become as clear as the sky with a rainbow after a storm. And you saw things in a just manner. Then... Turn round, Chuza, and look at our Sea of Galilee. It looked so limpid at dawn! During the night the dew had cleansed the atmosphere and the cold air had mitigated the evaporation of the waters. Sky and lake were two sheets of clear sapphire reflecting their respective beauties, and the hills, all around, were fresh and clean as if God had created them during the night. Look now. The dust of the coastal roads, trodden by people and animals, the heat of the sun, which makes woods and gardens steam like boilers on a hearth and inflames the lake making its water evaporate, look how they have disturbed the view. The shores previously looked close at hand, so neat they were in the very clear air; but look now... They look dimmed, blurred and seem to be trembling, like objects seen through a veil of impure water. The same has happened to you. Dust: humanity. Sun: pride. Chuza, do not upset yourself... »
Chuza lowers his head, toying mechanically with the ornaments of his robe and with the buckle of his rich sword-belt. Jesus is silent, with His eyes almost closed as if He were sleepy. Chuza respects His sleep or what he thinks is such.
The wagon proceeds slowly south-eastwards, towards the light undulations which form, at least I think so, the first terraces of the tableland that circumscribes the Jordan valley on this eastern side. The country is fertile and beautiful owing to the abundance of underground waters or to some stream; grapes and fruit are hanging on every tree.
The wagon leaves the main road and takes a private one, entering an avenue thick with trees, under which is shade and cool air, at least relatively cool, as compared with the sunny main road which is like a furnace. A low white magnificent looking house is at the end of the avenue. More modest houses are scattered here and there in the fields and vineyards. The wagon crosses a little bridge and a borderline, beyond which the orchard changes into a garden with an avenue strewn with pebbles. Jesus opens His eyes at the different noise of the wheels on the pebbles.
« We have arrived, Master. Here are the guests, who have heard us and are now coming » says Chuza.
And in fact many men, all well off, crowd at the beginning of the avenue and with ostentatious bows greet the Master Who is arriving. I see and recognise Manaen, Timoneus, Eleazar and I think I can see other people, who are not new to me, but whose names I do not know. And there are many more whom I have never seen or at least I have never noticed them particularly. Many are wearing swords, others in the place of swords display the plentiful Pharisaic and priestly or rabbinical furbelows.
The wagon stops and Jesus is the first to get off bowing in a collective greeting. The disciples Manaen and Timoneus move forward and exchange personal greetings with the Master. Then Eleazar, (the good Pharisee at the banquet in Ishmael's house) comes forward with two scribes who push through the crowd to make themselves known. One is the man whose son was cured at Tarichea on the day of the first multiplication of loaves, and the other offered food to everybody at the foot of the mountain of beatitudes. And another man pushes his way through: the Pharisee, who in Joseph's house, at harvest time, was instructed by Jesus on the real reason for his unjust jealousy.
Chuza proceeds with introductions which I will omit for the benefit of everybody. Because one would lose one's head with all the Simons, Johns, Levis, Eleazars, Nathanaels, Josephs, Philips and so forth; Sadducees, scribes, priests, Herodians mostly, nay I would say that the Herodians are the most numerous, a few proselytes and Pharisees, two members of the Sanhedrin and four heads of synagogues and one Essene, who got in here I know not how.
Jesus bows at each name, casting a sharp glance at each face, and at times smiling gently when someone, to be more clearly identified, mentions the circumstances of a previous contact with Jesus.
Thus a Joachim from Bozrah says: « My wife Mary was cured by You of leprosy. May You be blessed. »
And the Essene says: « I heard You when You spoke near Jericho and one of our brothers left the shores of the Salt Sea to follow You. And I also heard of You with regard to the miracle for Elisha of Engedi. We also live in that part of the country, awaiting... »
What they are awaiting I do not know. But I know that while saying so the Essene looks with a rather elated superior air at the others who certainly do not pose as mystics, as most of them seem to enjoy merrily the wealth which their positions afford them.
Chuza takes his Guest away from the ceremonial greetings and leads Him to a comfortable bathroom where He leaves Him to the customary ablutions, certainly pleasing in so much heat, and he goes back to his guests, with whom he talks animatedly, in fact they almost come to an altercation, because of their different opinions. Some want to start the conversation at once. Which? Some instead suggest that the Master should not be assailed immediately but that He should be persuaded beforehand of their deep respect. The latter suggestion prevails as it is supported by the majority and Chuza, the landlord, calls some servants to order a banquet for the evening, leaving time to Jesus, « Who is tired, as everybody can see, to rest. » This decision is accepted by everybody, and in fact when Jesus appears, all the guests take their leave bowing low, leaving Him with Chuza, who takes Him to a shady room where there is a low couch covered with rich rugs.
But Jesus, Who has been left all alone after He handed a servant His sandals and tunic so that they might be brushed and tidied after the journey of the previous day, does not sleep. Sitting on the edge of the couch, His bare feet on the floor-mat, a short tunic or vest covering His body as far as His elbows and knees, He is engrossed in thought. And if His scanty attire makes Him look younger in the splendid perfect harmony of His virile body, the intensity of His thoughts, which are certainly not joyful, wrinkle and contract His face in a painful expression of tiredness, which makes Him look older.
There is no noise in the house, and there is nobody in the country, where the grapes are ripening in the oppressive heat. The dark curtains hanging at doors and windows are motionless.
Hours pass thus... Twilight increases as the sun sets. But the heat persists. And Jesus' meditation persists as well.
At last the house appears to be awaking. One can hear voices, shuffling of feet, orders.
Chuza slowly moves the curtain aside to see without disturbing. « Come in! I am not sleeping » says Jesus.
Chuza goes in: he is already wearing a trimmed robe for the banquet. He looks and realises that the couch shows no sign that anyone has lain on it. « Have You not slept? Why? You are tired... »
« I have rested in the silence and the shade. It is enough for Me. »
« I will have a tunic brought to You... »
« No. Mine is certainly dry. I prefer it. I intend to leave as soon as the banquet is over. I beg you to have a wagon and boat ready for Me. »
« As You wish, Lord... I would have liked to keep You here until dawn tomorrow... »
« I cannot. I must go... »
Chuza goes out bowing... I can hear many people talk in low voices...
More time passes. The servant comes back with the linen garment, which has just been washed, sweet-smelling of sunshine, and with the sandals, which have been brushed and softened with oil or fat, and are thus shiny and flexible. Another servant follows him with a basin, an amphora and some towels and he leaves everything on a low table. They go out...
... Jesus joins the guests in the hall that divides the house from north to south, forming a pleasantly ventilated room, provided with seats and adorned with light variegated curtains, which modify the light without interfering with the air. As they are now drawn, one can see the green border surrounding the house.
Jesus is imposing. Although He has not slept, He seems to be full of energy and His gait is as majestic as a king's. The linen garment, which He has just put on, is snow-white and His hair, bright after the bath in the morning, shines gently framing His face with its golden hue.
« Come, Master. We were waiting for You only » says Chuza and leads Him before everybody into the room where the tables are laid.
They sit down after the thanksgiving prayer and a supplementary ablution of hands, and dinner begins, as pompous as usual, in silence at first. Then the ice is broken.
Jesus is near Chuza and Manaen is on the other side with Timoneus as companion. The others have been placed by Chuza, with the experience of a courtier, on the sides of the U-shaped table. The Essene only has obstinately refused to take part in the banquet and sit at the table with the others, and only when a servant, on instructions from Chuza, offers him a precious basket full of fruit, he agrees to sit at a low table, after I do not know how many ablutions, and after rolling up the wide sleeves of his white tunic lest he should stain them, or for some rite, I do not know.
It is a strange banquet as they communicate with one another by means of glances rather than by words. They only exchange few words of courtesy and scrutinise one another, that is, Jesus studies His fellow-guests and is studied by them.
At the end Chuza beckons to the servants to withdraw after laying on the table large trays of fruit, which is fresh and cool having probably been kept in a well, and is really beautiful, I would say that it is almost frozen as it is covered with that kind of hoar-frost that is typical of fruit kept in ice-boxes. The servants go out after lighting also the lamps, which are at present not required as it is still clear in the long summer sunset.
« Master » begins Chuza « You must have wondered why we held this meeting and why we have been so silent. But what we have to tell You is very grave and is not to be heard by imprudent ears. We are now alone and we can speak. As You can see, all the people present have the greatest respect for You. You are among men who venerate You as Man and as Messiah. Your justice, Your wisdom, the gifts of which God has made You master, are known and admired by us. You are for us the Messiah of Israel. Messiah according to the spiritual idea and the political one. You are the Expected One who will put an end to the grief and dejection of a whole population. And not only of this people within the borders of Israel, or rather, of Palestine, but of the People of all Israel, of the countless colonies of the Diaspora, spread all over the Earth, which make the Name of Jehovah resound under every sky and make known the promises and hopes, which are now being fulfilled, of a Restorer Messiah, of a Revenger, of a Liberator and creator of true independance and of the Fatherland Israel, that is, of the greatest Fatherland in the world, the Fatherland, queen and ruler, which will cancel all remembrance of the past and every existing sign of servitude, Hebraism triumphing over everybody and everything, and forever, because that was said and that is being accomplished. Lord, You have here, before You, all Israel in the representatives of the several classes of this eternal people, punished but beloved by the Most High Who proclaims it “His”. You have the pulsating wholesome heart of Israel with the members of the Sanhedrin and the priests, You have power and holiness with Pharisees and Sadducees, You have wisdom with scribes and rabbis, You have politics and value with Herodians, You have wealth with rich people, the population with merchants and landowners, You have the Diaspora with proselytes, You have even those who are separated, as they are now inclined to become united since they see in You the Expected One: the Essenes, the unreachable Essenes. Look, o Lord, at this first wonder, at this great sign of Your mission, of the truth concerning You. Without violence, without means, without ministers, without troops, without swords, You are gathering together all Your people, as a reservoir collects the waters of countless springs. Almost without any word, without whatever imposition You have gathered us, a people divided by misfortunes, by hatred, by political and religious ideas, and You have reconciled us. O Prince of Peace, rejoice at having redeemed and restored even before assuming sceptre and crown. Your Kingdom, the expected Kingdom of Israel, has begun. Our wealth, our power, our swords are at Your feet. Speak! Order! The hour has come. »
Everybody approves of Chuza's speech. Jesus, His arms folded on His chest, is silent.
« Are You not speaking? Are You not replying, Lord? You are perhaps amazed at the situation... Perhaps You feel unprepared and You doubt above all whether Israel is prepared... But it is not so. Listen to our voices. I am speaking, and Manaen with me, with regard to the Court. It no longer deserves to exist. It is the rotten disgrace of Israel. It is shameful tyranny which oppresses the people and stoops servilely to flatter the usurper. Its hour has come. Rise, o Star of Jacob, and dispel the darkness of that chorus of crimes and shame. Here are present those who are called Herodians: they are the enemies of the profaners of the name of the Herods, which is sacred to them. My friends, it is for you to speak now. »
« Master. I am old and I remember the splendour of days gone by. To call the degenerate descendants of Herod after him, is like calling a stinking carrion after a hero, so much are they disgracing our people. It is time to repeat the gesture made several times by Israel when unworthy monarchs reigned over the suffering people. You alone are worthy of accomplishing such gesture. »
Jesus is silent.
« Master, do You think that we can possibly be doubtful? We have scrutinised the Scriptures. You are the promised one. You must reign » says a scribe.
« You must be King and Priest. A second Nehemiah, greater than the first one, You must come and purify. The altar is desecrated. May the zeal of the Most High urge You » says a priest.
« Many of us have fought against You. Those who are afraid of Your wise manner of reigning. But the people is with You and the best of us are with the people. We are in need of a wise man. »
« We need a pure man. »
« A true king. »
« A saint. »
« A Redeemer. We are more and more enslaved to everything and to everybody. Defend us, Lord! »
« We are trodden down in the world because although we are great in number and wealth, we are like sheep without a shepherd. Rally Your people with the old cry: “Return to your tents, Israel!”, and from every spot of the Diaspora Your subjects will spring up like a lever, overthrowing the tottering thrones of the mighty ones who are not loved by God. »
Jesus is still silent. He is the only one to be sitting calmly, as if the matter did not concern Him, in the middle of about forty hotheaded men, of whose arguments I can grasp only a tiny part as they are all speaking at the same time making a terrible din. He maintains His attitude and remains silent.
They all shout: « Say a word! Answer! »
Jesus stands up slowly, pushing His hands on the edge of the table. There is dead silence. While eighty eyes aflame with curiosity stare at Him, He opens His lips and the others do likewise, as if they wanted to inhale His reply. And the reply is short, but resolute: « No. »
« What? Why? Are You betraying us? You are betraying Your people! He is disowning His mission! He is repudiating God's order!... » What a hullabaloo! What an uproar! Many faces become crimson while eyes are inflamed and hands are agitated threateningly... Rather than loyal supporters they look like enemies. But such is life: when hearts are dominated by political ideas, also meek people become like wild animals against anyone opposing their ideas.
A strange silence follows the uproar. It looks as if, having exhausted their strength, they all feel worn out and overwhelmed. They look at one another inquisitively, desolately... some are upset...
Jesus looks around and says: « I knew that this was the reason why you wanted Me. And I knew that your attempt was useless. Chuza can confirm that I told him at Tarichea. I came to prove to you that I am not afraid of any deceit, because My hour has not come yet. Neither will I be afraid when the ambush against Me takes place, because I came just for that. And I came to convince you. Not everybody, but many of you are in good faith. But I must correct the error into which you have fallen in good faith. See? I do not reproach you. I do not reproach anybody, not even those, who being My faithful disciples, ought to act with justice and control their passions with justice. I do not reproach you, My just Timoneus; but I tell you that at the bottom of your love that is anxious to honour Me there is still your ego that is excited and dreams of better days, when you may see those struck who struck you. I do not reproach you, Manaen, although you appear to have forgotten the wisdom and the completely spiritual examples you had from Me and from the Baptist before Me; but I say that in you as well there is a root of humanity which flourishes again after the ardour of My love. I do not reproach you, Eleazar, so just because of the old woman left to you, always just, but not now; neither do I reproach you, Chuza, although I ought to, because in you, more than in all those who want Me to be king in good faith, is your ego alive. Yes, you want Me to be king. There is no deceit in what you say. You have not come to catch Me out, to denounce Me to the Sanhedrin, to the King, to Rome. But rather than out of love - you think that everything is love but it is not so - rather than out of love you are acting to avenge yourself for the offences given to you by the court. I am your guest. I should not mention the truth concerning your feelings, but I am the Truth in everything, and I am speaking for your own good. And the same applies to you, Joachim of Bozrah, and to you, scribe John, and to you, to you, to you. » And He points at this one and that one, without resentment, but with sadness... and He continues: « I do not reproach you, because I know that you do not want this, spontaneously. It is Deceit, it is the Enemy who is working in you, and you are, without being aware of it, entirely dominated by him. Also of your love, o Timoneus, o Manaen, o Joachim, and you all who really love Me, also of your veneration, you who feel that I am the perfect Rabbi, also of all that, he, the Cursed One, makes use to harm people and to harm Me. But I say to you, and to those who do not share your feelings and, with aims which sink lower and lower, to the extent of becoming treason and crime, would like Me to agree to become king, I say: No. My Kingdom is not of this world. Come to Me, that I may establish My Kingdom in you, and nothing else. And now let Me go. »
« No, Lord. We are quite determined. We have already made our wealth available, we have prepared plans and decided to get out of this uncertainty, which is upsetting Israel, and of which other people are taking advantage to harm Israel. Snares are being laid for You, that is true. You have enemies in the very Temple. I, an Elder, do not deny it. But there is means to put an end to that: Your unction. And we are willing to do that. It is not the first time that in Israel a man is proclaimed king thus, to put an end to national calamities and contentions. There is here who can do that in the name of God. Let us do so » says one of the priests.
« No. It is not lawful. You do not have such authority. »
« The High Priest is the first to want that, contrary to appearances. He can no longer allow the present situation of Roman rule and royal scandal. »
« Do not lie, priest. Blasphemy is twice impure on your lips. Perhaps you do not know and you are deceived. But in the Temple they do not want that. »
« Do You consider our assertion to be a false one? »
« Yes, I do. If not of all of you, of many among you. Do not, lie. I am the Light and I enlighten hearts... »
« You can believe us » shout the Herodians. « We do not like Herod Antipas or anybody else. »
« No. You love no one but yourselves. That is true. And you cannot love Me. I would be used as a lever to overthrow the throne and thus open for you the way to greater power and to let you oppress the people more sorely. A deceit for Me, for the people and for yourselves. Rome would crush everybody after your crushing. »
« Lord, among the colonies of the Diaspora there are many ready to rise... our wealth will support them » say the proselytes.
« And mine and the full support of Hauran and Trachonitis » shouts the man from Bozrah. « I know what I am saying. Our mountains can keep an army free from snares, and then launch it like a flock of eagles at Your service. »
« Perea as well. »
« And Gaulanitis. »
« The valley of Gaash is with You! »
« And with You are the shores of the Salt Sea with the nomads who believe that we are gods, if You agree to join us » shouts the Essene and he continues with a long-winded harangue typical of hot-headed people, but his words are lost in the uproar.
« The mountaineers of Judaea belong to the race of strong kings. »
« And those of High Galilee are heroes of the same temperament as Deborah. Also women, even children are heroes! »
« Do You think we are too few? We form numerous troops. All the population is with You. You are the king of the stock of David, the Messiah! This is the cry on the lips of wise and of ignorant people, because it is the cry of their hearts. Your miracles... and Your words... The signs... » The confusion is such that I cannot follow what they say.
Jesus, like a solid rock in a windstorm, does not move, He does not even react. He is impassive. And the confusion of prayers, impositions, reasons, goes on.
« You are disappointing us! Why do You want our ruin? Do You want to do it by Yourself? You cannot. Mattathias Maccabee did not refuse the help of the Hasidaeans and Judas freed Israel with their assistance... Accept!!!' » Now and again they all shout this word together.
Jesus does not yield.
One of the Elders, a very old man, talks in a low voice to a priest and a scribe, both older than he is. They come forward and impose silence. The old scribe, who has called near him also Eleazar and the two scribes named John, begins to speak: « Lord, why will You not put on the crown of Israel? »
« Because it is not Mine. I am not the son of a Hebrew prince. »
« Lord, perhaps You do not know. One day I was summoned with these two because three Wise Men had come asking where was He Who was born king of the Jews. See? “Born king”. We, the chief priests and scribes of the people, were summoned by Herod the Great, to give the reply. And Hillel the Just was with us. Our answer was: “at Bethlehem in Judah”. We are told that You were born there and great signs occurred at Your birth. Among Your disciples are some witnesses of them. Can You deny that You were worshipped as King by the three Wise Men? »
« I do not deny it. »
« Can You deny that miracles precede You, accompany You and follow You as a sign from Heaven? »
« I do not deny it. »
« Can You deny that You are the promised Messiah? »
« I do not deny it. »
« Well then, in the name of the living God, why do You want to deceive the hopes of the people? »
« I have come to accomplish the hopes of God. »
« Which? »
« The redemption of the world, the formation of the Kingdom of God. My Kingdom is not of this world. Lay aside your wealth and your weapons. Open your eyes and spirits to read the Scriptures and Prophets and to receive My Truth and you will have the Kingdom of God within you. »
« No. The Scriptures mention a King liberator. »
« From satanic slavery, from sin, from error, from the flesh, from Gentilism, from idolatry. Oh! what did Satan do to you, o Hebrews, wise people, to make you fall into error concerning the prophetic truths? What is he doing to you, o Hebrews, My brothers, to make you so blind? What is he doing to you, My disciples, that you, as well, no longer understand? The greatest misfortune of a people and of a believer is to fall into false interpretation of signs. And such misfortune is taking place now. Personal interests, prejudice, craziness, false love of the fatherland, everything helps to create the abyss... the abyss of error in which a people will perish failing to recognise its King. ».
« You are failing to recognise Yourself. »
« You are failing to recognise yourselves and Me. I am not a human king. And you... Three quarters of you who are gathered here, want to harm Me, not to help Me, and you are aware of that. You are acting out of hatred, not out of love. But I forgive you. I say to honest-hearted people: “Come to your senses, do not be the unconscious servants of evil.” Let Me go. There is nothing further to be said. »
They all become silent, greatly surprised...
Eleazar says: « I am not hostile to You. I thought I was doing the right thing. And I am not the only one... Some good friends think as I do. »
« I know. But tell Me, and be sincere: what does Gamaliel say? »
« The rabbi?... He says... Yes, he says: “The Most High will give the sign if He is His Christ.” »
« He is right. And what does Joseph the Elder say? »
« That You are the Son of God and will reign as God. »
« Joseph is a just man. And Lazarus of Bethany? »
« He suffers... He does not say much... But he says... that You will reign only when our spirits receive You. »
« Lazarus is wise. When your spirits receive Me. For the time being you, as well as those whom I considered to be well disposed spirits, are not accepting the King and the Kingdom, and that is what grieves Me. »
« In brief, are You going to refuse? » shout many.
« You have said it. »
« You have made us compromise ourselves, You are harming us, You... » shout others: Herodians, scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, priests...
Jesus leaves the table and goes towards the group darting glances at them. What flashing eyes! They unintentionally become silent and press against the wall... Jesus goes really face to face with them and in a low voice, but with incisiveness cutting like a slash, He says: « It is written: “A curse on him who strikes down his neighbour in secret and accepts a bribe to take an innocent life.” I say to you: I forgive you. But your sin is known to the Son of man. If I did not forgive you... Many people in Israel were incinerated by Jehovah for much less. » But He is so terrible in saying so, that no one dare move, and Jesus moves aside the double heavy curtain and goes out into the hall without anyone daring to make a gesture.
Only when the curtain stops waving, that is, after a few minutes, they rouse.
« We must reach Him... We must hold Him... » say the most enraged ones.
« We must get Him to forgive us » say with a sigh the better ones, that is, Manaen, Timoneus, some proselytes, the man from Bozrah, in brief, the honest-hearted ones.
They rush out of the room. They look for Him, they ask the servants: The Master, where is He? »
The Master? No one has seen Him, not even those who were at the two doors in the hall. He is nowhere... With torches and lamps they search for Him in the shadows of the garden, in the room where He had rested. He is not there, neither can they find the mantle He had left on the bed, or the bag which had been left in the hall...
«He has escaped from us! He is a Satan! No. He is God. He does what He likes. He will betray us! No. He will know us for what we are. » The clamour of different opinions and reciprocal insults. The good ones shout: « You have led us astray. Traitors! We should have imagined all this! » The wicked ones, that is, the majority, reply threateningly, and having lost the scapegoat and thus being unable to assail it, the two groups fight against each other...
And where is Jesus? I see Him, of His own accord, when He is very far away, near the bridge across the inlet of the Jordan. He is walking fast, as if He were carried by the wind. His hair is waving round His pale face and His mantle is flapping like a sail as He walks with vigorous strides. Then, when He is sure that He is at a good distance, He plunges into the bog grass near the shore and takes the eastern bank and as soon as He finds the first rocks of the high cliff, He begins to climb up, heedless of the danger in climbing the cliffy coast in faint light. He climbs up as far as a rock jutting out over the lake and watched over by an age-old oak-tree. He sits down there, He rests an elbow on one of His knees and His chin in the palm of His hand, and staring with His eyes at the darkening vast expanse, just visible mainly because of His white garments and the pallor of His face, He keeps still...
But someone has followed Him: John. John is half-naked, that is, he is wearing the short tunic of fishermen, his hair is stiff and smooth as is typical of people who have been in water, he is panting and nevertheless wan. He approaches his Jesus slowly: he seems a shadow sliding on the rugged cliff. He stops not very far away. He watches Jesus... He does not move. He looks like a rock fixed to the rock. His dark tunic makes him even more inconspicuous: only his face and bare legs and arms can just be seen in the darkness of the night.
But when he hears, rather than sees Jesus weep, he can resist no longer and he approaches Him and then calls Him: « Master! »
Jesus hears the whisper and looks up: He gathers His clothes ready to flee.
But John shouts: « What have they done to You, Master, that You no longer recognise John? »
And Jesus recognises His Beloved. He stretches out His arms and John throws himself into them and they both weep over two different sorrows and one only love.
When their weeping subsides Jesus is the first to see things clearly. He feels and sees John half-naked, with a damp tunic, frozen and barefooted. « How come you are here in this state? Why are you not with the others? »
« Oh! Don't scold me, Master. I could not stay... I could not let You go... I took my clothes off, everything except this, I dived into the lake and I swam back to Tarichea, and from there I ran along the shore to the bridge and then I followed You. I remained in the ditch near the house, ready to come to help You, or at least to know whether they abducted or harmed You. And I heard many voices quarrelling, then I saw You run past me. You looked like an angel. To follow You without losing sight of You I fell into ditches and bogs and I am all covered in mud. I must have soiled Your mantle... I have been watching You since You came here... Were You weeping?... What have they done to You, my Lord? Did they insult You? Did they strike You? »
« No. They wanted to make Me king. A poor king, John! And many were in good faith, they were acting out of love, for a good purpose... Most of them... to be able to denounce Me and get rid of Me... »
« Who are they? »
« Do not ask. »
« And the others? »
« Do not ask their names either. You must not hate or criticise... I forgive... »
« Master... were there any disciples?... Tell me just that. »
« Yes, there were. »
« And apostles? »
« No, John. No apostle. »
« Really, Lord? »
« Really, John. »
« Ah! May the Lord be praised for that... But why are You still weeping, Lord? I am with You. I love You on behalf of everybody. And also Peter, Andrew and the others... When they saw me dive into the lake they said that I was mad and Peter was furious, and my brother said that I wanted to get drowned in the whirlpools. But later they understood and they shouted to me: “May God be with you. Go. Go...” We love You. But no one loves You as much as I do, although I am only a poor boy. »
« Yes. No one like you. You are cold, John! Come here, under My mantle... »
« No, at Your feet, thus... My Master! Why does everybody not love You as much as the poor boy who is I? »
Jesus draws him upon His heart, sitting beside him. « Because they do not have your heart of a child... »
« They wanted to make You king? But have they not understood yet that Your Kingdom is not of this Earth? »
« They have not understood! »
« Without mentioning any names, tell me all about it, Lord... »
« But will you not tell what I tell you? »
« If You do not want, Lord, I will not mention it... »
« You will make no mention of it, except when men want to present me as a common popular leader. That will happen one day. You will be there and you shall say: “He was not a king of the Earth because He did not want to be one. Because His Kingdom was not of this world. He was the Son of God, the Incarnate Word, and He could not accept what belongs to the earth. He wanted to come into the world and take a body to redeem bodies and souls and the world, but He was not subjected to the pomp of the world or to the incentives of sin, and there was nothing sensual and worldly in Him. The Light was not enveloped in Darkness, the Infinite did not accept finite things. But of creatures limited by flesh and sin, He made creatures more like Himself by elevating those who believed in Him to true royalty, and founding His Kingdom in the hearts of men, before founding it in Heaven, where it will be complete and eternal with all those who have been saved.” You shall say that, John, to all those who consider Me entirely a human being and to those who maintain that I am entirely spiritual, to those who deny that I was subject to temptation... and to grief... You shall tell men that the Redeemer wept... and that they, men, were redeemed also by My tears... »
« Yes, Lord. How much You are suffering, Jesus!... »
« How much I redeem! But you console Me in My suffering. We shall depart from here at dawn. We shall find a boat. If I say to you that we shall be able to proceed without oars, will you believe Me? »
« I would believe You even if You said that we can go without a boat... »
They remain embraced, enveloped only in Jesus' mantle, and John, tired as he is, ends up by falling asleep in the warmth, like a child in its mother's arms.
31st July 1946.
« It is for upright-hearted people that this evangelical page, unknown and so explanatory, is given. John, when writing his Gospel after many years, alludes briefly to the fact. He reveals to men this detail, of which they were unaware, and he thus obeys the wish of his Master, Whose divine nature he illustrates more clearly than any other evangelist, and he reveals it with the virginal demureness which enveloped all his actions and words with discreet humble modesty.
John, to whom I confided the gravest events of My life, never made any pretentious displays of My favours. On the contrary, if you read him properly, you will see that he seems to suffer in revealing them and to say: “I must say this because it is true and it exalts my Lord, but please forgive me if I have to appear as being the only one aware of it” and he concisely mentions the detail known to him alone.
Read the first chapter of his Gospel, in which he tells of his meeting with Me: “John the Baptist was once again with two of his disciples... Hearing this, the two disciples... Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who had heard the words of John and had followed Jesus. The first to be met by Andrew...” He makes no mention of himself, on the contrary he hides behind Andrew, whom he brings into prominence.
He was with Me at Cana, and he says: “Jesus was with His disciples... and His disciples believed in Him.” It was the others who were in need to believe. He already believed. But he puts himself with the others, as if he needed to see miracles in order to believe.
Although he was a witness to the first expulsion of dealers from the Temple, to the discourse with Nicodemus, to the episode of the Samaritan woman, he never says: “I was there”, but he maintains the policy he had adopted at Cana and says: “His disciples” also when he was alone or with another companion. And he continues thus, never mentioning his name, always putting his companions forward, as if he had not been the most faithful, the always faithful and perfectly faithful disciple.
Remember how delicately he refers to the episode of the Last Supper, as it shows that he was the favourite and was recognised as such also by the others who apply to him when they want to be informed of the secrets of the Master: “So the disciples began to look at one another wondering which He meant. One of the disciples, the one Jesus loved, was leaning on His breast. Simon Peter signed to him and asked: 'To whom is He referring?' And he, leaning as he was on Jesus' breast, asked Him: 'Who is it, Lord?'.”
Neither does he mention his name as being called into Gethsemane with Peter and James. He does not even say: “I followed the Lord.” He says: “Simon Peter and another disciple followed Him, and as this disciple was known to the high Priest, he went with Jesus into the high Priest's palace.” Without John I would not have had the comfort of seeing him and Peter during the first hours after I had been captured. But John does not boast about it.
One of the main personages during the hours of My Passion, the only apostle to be lovingly, pitifully, heroically present near the Christ, near His Mother, in front of the unchecked fury of Jerusalem, he leaves out his name also in the outstanding episode of the Crucifixion and of the words of the Dying Christ: “Woman, this is Your son.”, “This is your mother.” He is the “disciple”, the nameless one, with no other name but the one which is his glory after being his vocation: “the disciple”.
Even after the honour of becoming the “son” of the Mother of God he does not become elated and describing the Resurrection he says once again: “Peter and the other apostle (who had been informed by Mary of Lazarus of the empty tomb) came out and went... They ran... but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived first, and he bent down and saw... but did not go in...” A gesture of gentle humility! He, the favourite, the faithful disciple, lets Peter, the chief, although a cowardly sinner, enter first. He does not judge him. He is his Pontiff. Nay, he supports him with his holiness, because also “chiefs” may need, they do actually need subjects to support them.
How many subjects are better than their “chiefs”! O holy subjects, never refuse to be pitiful towards your “chiefs”, who bend under the weight which they cannot bear, or who are made blind or inebriated by the vanity of honours. O holy subjects, be the Simons of Cyrene for your Superiors, and you, too, My little John, because I am speaking to you on behalf of everybody, of all the “Johns” who run ahead and lead the “Peters”, and then stop letting them go in, out of respect for their office, and who - oh! what a masterpiece of humility! - in order not to mortify the “Peters” who are not capable of understanding and believing, go as far as to appear and make people believe that they also are as dull and incredulous as the “Peters”.
Read the last episode on the lake of Tiberias. Once again it is John who, repeating the gesture made several times, recognises the Lord in the Man standing on the shore, and after sharing the food together, in Peter's question: “And what about him?”, he is still “the disciple”, nothing else.
He humbles himself in everything concerning him. But when there is something to be said which may make the Incarnate Word of God shine with a brighter and brighter divine light, then John lifts the veils and reveals a secret.
In the sixth chapter of his Gospel he says: “When He realised that they wanted to abduct Him to make Him king, He escaped back to the hill by Himself.” And that hour in the life of the Christ is made known to believers so that they may know that the Christ was subjected to manifold and complex temptations and struggles in His several distinctive features of Man, Master, Messiah, Redeemer, King and that men and Satan - the eternal instigator of men - spared the Christ no deceit to diminish, demolish and destroy Him. Satanic and human wickedness assailed the Man, the Eternal Priest, the Master as well as the Lord, disguised with pretexts most acceptable as good ones and they teased and tempted all the passions of the citizen, of the patriot, of the son, of the man, to find a weak spot upon which they might act.
Oh! My children, who ponder only on the initial temptation and the last one, and consider only the last part of My work of Redeemer to be “fatigue”, and only My last hours to be grievous, and My last experience bitter and disappointing, take My place for an hour, and imagine that it is to you that they propose peace with compatriots, their help, the possibility of accomplishing the necessary purifications to impart sanctity to your beloved Country, the possibility of restoring and gathering together the scattered limbs of Israel, to put an end to sorrow, serfdom and sacrilege. And I do not mean: replace Me, thinking that you have been offered a crown. I only ask you to have My Heart of Man for one hour and tell Me: how would you feel after the alluring proposal? Triumphers faithful to the divine Idea, or rather defeated? And would you come out of it more holy and spiritual than ever, or would you destroy yourselves by assenting to temptation or yielding to threats? And with what heart would you come out of it, after verifying to what extent Satan urged his armies to wound Me in My mission and in My affections, leading astray, on the wrong way, My good disciples and compelling Me to openly fight My enemies, by now unmasked and made furious by the fact that their plots had been found out?
Do not stand with compasses and small measuring vessels, with microscope and human science, with pedantic reasoning of scribes trying to measure, compare and discuss whether John has spoken the truth and to what extent this or that is true. Do not superimpose John's sentence on the episode shown yesterday to ascertain whether the outlines fit properly. John did not make a mistake out of senile weakness, neither did little John make a mistake out of weakness in illness. The latter related what she saw. Great John, many years after the event told what he knew and subtly linking together places and events he revealed the secret, of which he alone was aware, of the attempt perpetrated maliciously at the incoronation of the Christ.
At Tarichea, after the first miracle of the loaves, the people began to think of making the Rabbi from Nazareth king of Israel. Manaen, the scribe and many more people were present and as they were still spiritually imperfect but honest-hearted, they picked up the idea and supported it to honour the Master, to put an end to the unfair fight against Him, owing to an error in interpreting the Scriptures, an error spread all over Israel blinded with dreams of human regality. They also hoped to sanctify the Fatherland contaminated by many things.
And many, as was natural, welcomed the idea in a simple manner. And many pretended underhand to welcome it in order to harm Me. Hatred against Me joined the latter together, making them forget their hatred of castes which had always divided them, and they entered into an alliance to tempt Me in order to give a legal appearance to the crime already settled in their hearts. They were hoping in My weakness and in My pride. And My pride and weakness, and My consequent acceptance of the crown they offered Me, would justify the charges they wanted to bring against Me. And later... And later they would serve to give peace to their sly spirits feeling remorse, because they would say to themselves, hoping to be able to believe it: “It was Rome, not us, who punished the Nazarene agitator.” The legal elimination of their Enemy, such was the Saviour to them...
Those are the reasons for the attempted proclamation. That is the explanation of their subsequent more bitter hatred. And that, finally, is the sublime lesson of the Christ. Do you understand it? It is a lesson of humility, of justice, of obedience, of strength, of prudence, of loyalty, of forgiveness, of patience, of vigilance, of endurance, towards God, towards one's mission, towards friends, towards day-dreamers, towards enemies, towards Satan, towards those men who are his instruments of temptation, towards things, towards ideas. Everything is to be contemplated, accepted, rejected, loved or not loved, looking at the holy aim of man: Heaven, the Will of God.
Little John. This has been one of Satan's hours for Me. As the Christ had them, so will the little Christs have them. One must suffer them and overcome them with humility and confidence. They are not without a purpose. And a good purpose. But be not afraid. During such hours God does not forsake, but He supports those who are faithful. Then Love descends to make the faithful ones kings. And even more, when the hour of the Earth is over, the faithful ones ascend to the Kingdom, in peace forever, victorious forever...
My peace, little John, crowned with thorns... My peace... »