12th August 1946.
« I am not at all happy to stay here with this man who has joined us... » grumbles Peter who is with Jesus in a thick orchard.
It must be the afternoon of the Sabbath, because the sun is still high, whereas it was already twilight when they arrived at the village.
« We shall depart after the prayers. It is Sabbath. We were not allowed to walk and this rest has done us good. We shall not stop any more until the next Sabbath. »
« But You have not rested very much. All those sick people!... »
« So many are now praising the Lord. To spare you so much road, I would have stopped here for two days to give the people whom I cured time to take the news beyond the borders, but you did not agree. »
« No! I would like to be already far away. And... do not trust people too much, Master. You talk and talk! But do You know that every word of Yours becomes poison against You on certain lips? Why did they send him to us? »
« You know why. »
« Yes, but why did he stay? »
« He is not the first one to remain with us after approaching Me. »
Peter shakes his head, he is not convinced. And he grumbles: « A spy!... A spy!... »
« Do not judge, Simon. You might repent of your present judgement one day... »
« I am not judging. I am afraid. For You. And that is love. And the Most High cannot punish me because I love You. »
« I am not saying that you would repent of that, but of having a bad opinion of a brother of yours. »
« He is the brother of those who hate You. So he is not my brother. »
From a human point of view his logic is correct, but Jesus remarks: « He is a disciple of Gamaliel and Gamaliel is not against Me. »
« But he is not with You either. »
« He who is not against Me is with Me, even if he does not appear to be so. You cannot expect Gamaliel, the greatest doctor at present in Israel, a well of rabbinical knowledge, a real mine in which is all the... essence of rabbinical science, to disown everything at once to accept... Me. Simon, it is difficult even for all of you to accept Me, forsaking all your past... »
« But we have accepted You! »
« No. Do you know what it means to accept Me? It means not only to love Me and follow Me. That is very much the merit of the Man I am and Who is an attraction for you. To accept Me is to accept My doctrine, which is identical to the ancient one in the divine Law, but which is completely different from that law, from that heap of human laws which have been piling up in the course of ages forming a code and a formulary which has nothing divine. You, all the humble people in Israel and also some important very just people, complain of and criticise the formalistic subtleties of scribes and Pharisees, their intolerance and hardness... but you are not immune yourselves. It is not your fault. In the course of ages, you Hebrews have slowly absorbed the... the human exhalations of those who have adulterated the pure superhuman Law of God. You know. When a man continues to live for years in a way which is different from that of his native country, because he is in a foreign country and his children and the children of his children live there, it happens that his offspring end up by becoming like the people of the place where they are. They become so acclimatised that they lose even their national physical appearance, in addition to moral habits, and unfortunately, also the religion of their ancestors...
But here are the others. Let us go to the synagogue. »
« Are You going to speak? »
« No. I am a simple believer. I spoke this morning through miracles... »
« Provided that it is not going to be detrimental... » Peter is really dissatisfied and worried, but he follows the Master Who has joined the other apostles and meets on the road with the man from Giscala and other people, probably from the village.
In the synagogue the minister, out of deference to Jesus, addresses Him asking: « Will You explain the Law, Rabbi? »
But Jesus refuses and like a simple believer follows all the ceremonies, kissing like the others the parchment presented to Him by the assistant (I call him thus because I do not know what name to give the assistant of the synagogue minister) and listening to the explanation of the passage chosen by the minister. However, although He does not speak, His aspect is already a sermon owing to the way He prays... Many look at Him. Gamaliel's disciple does not lose sight of Him for one moment. And the apostles keep good watch on the disciple, suspicious as they are.
Jesus does not even turn round when some people speak in low voices at the entrance of the synagogue distracting many believers. But the rite comes to an end and the people go out into the square of the synagogue. Although Jesus was closer to the back than to the front of the synagogue, He is one of the last to come out and He goes towards the house to get His sack and depart. Many people of the town follow Him and among them is Gamaliel's disciple, who at a certain moment is called by three men leaning against the wall of a house. He speaks to them and then elbows his way with them towards Jesus.
« Master, these men wish to speak to You » he says attracting the attention of Jesus Who was speaking to Peter and His cousin Judas.
« Scribes! I told You! » exclaims Peter already upset.
Jesus bows to the three men who greet Him and He asks: « What do you want? »
The oldest man says: « As You did not come, we came. And that no one may think that we have infringed the Sabbath, we inform everybody that we covered the road in three different periods of time. The first until the last light of sunset lasted. The second, of six stadia, while moonlight illuminated the paths. The third ended just now and it did not exceed the legal measure. We say that for your souls and ours, but for our minds we apply to Your wisdom. Are You aware of what happened in the town of Giscala? »
« I came from Capernaum. I do not know anything. »
« Listen. A man who had been away from home for a long time on business, learned, when he came back, that during his absence his wife had been unfaithful to him, to the extent of giving birth to a child, who could not be of her husband, as he had been away for fourteen months. The man killed his wife secretly. But he was denounced by a man who had been informed by the maid-servant and was killed, according to the law of Israel. The lover, who according to the Law should be stoned, has taken shelter at Kedesh and he will certainly try to go to other places. The illegitimate child, whom the husband wanted to kill as well, was not handed to him by the woman who suckled him and she went to Kedesh to excite the pity of the true father and convince him to take care of his son, because her husband is opposed to keeping the illegitimate child in his house. But the man rejected her and his son stating that the latter would be a hindrance to him in his flights. What is Your opinion on the matter? »
« I do not think that it can be judged any more. All judgement, whether right or wrong, has already been given. »
« Which judgement, according to You, is just and which is unjust. There is disagreement among us concerning the punishment of the murderer. »
Jesus stares at them, one after the other. He then says: « I will speak. But first answer My questions, whatever their weight may be. And be sincere. Did the man who murdered his wife belong to this town? »
« No. He settled here when he married the woman who is from here. »
« Did the adulterer come from here? »
« Yes, he did. »
« How did the man find out that his wife had been unfaithful to him? Was their sin known in public? »
« Not really, and we do not know how the man was able to find out. The woman had been away for months saying that, as she did not want to be all alone, she was going to Ptolemais to stay with some relatives, and she came back saying that she had brought with her the little son of a relative of hers who had died. »
« When she was in Giscala was her behaviour impudent? »
« No. In fact we were all surprised to hear that Marcus had an affair with her. »
« My relative is not a sinner. He is accused but he is innocent » says one of the three men who had never spoken so far.
« Was he a relative of yours? Who are you? » asks Jesus.
« The first of the Elders of Giscala. That is why I wanted the life of the murderer, because he not only killed, but he killed an innocent » and he looks sullenly at the third man, who is about forty years old and who replies: « The Law says that the murderer is to be killed. »
« You wanted the lives of the woman and of the adulterer. »
« That is the Law. »
« Had there been no other reason, no one would have spoken. »
The dispute becomes animated and the two antagonists almost forget about Jesus. But the one who was the first to speak, the oldest man, imposes silence saying impartially: « It is not possible to deny that a homicide has been committed, neither can one deny that there has been a fault. The woman confessed it to her husband. But let the Master speak. »
« I say: how did the husband find out? You have not answered My question. » The man defending the woman says: « Because someone spoke as soon as the husband came back. »
« In that case I say that his soul was not pure » says Jesus lowering His eyelids to veil His eyes so that they may not accuse.
But the forty year old man who wanted the death of the woman and of the adulterer exclaims: « I did not hunger for her. »
« Ah! it is clear now! It was you who spoke! I suspected that, but now you have betrayed yourself! Assassin! »
« And you are an accomplice of the adulterer. If you had not warned him, he would not have escaped us. But he is your relative! That is how justice is done in Israel! That is why you are defending also the memory of the woman: to defend your relative. If she were the only one involved, you would not worry about her. »
« And what about you, who hurled the man against the woman to take vengeance for her refusals? »
« And what about you, the only witness against the man, and you paid a maid-servant in that house to be helped by her? One witness only is not a valid one. That's the Law. » A terrible uproar!
Jesus and the old man try to calm the two men who represent two opposed interests and trends and who reveal an incurable hatred of two families. They succeed with some difficulty and Jesus now speaks calmly and solemnly, after defending Himself from the accusation of one of the two opponents, who said: « You Who protect prostitutes... »
« I not only say that consummated adultery is a crime against God and one's neighbour, but I say: also he who craves lustfully for the wife of another man commits adultery in his heart and commits a sin. It would be dreadful if every man who has craved for the wife of another man should be put to death! Lapidators would need to have stones in their hands all the time. But if the sin often remains unpunished on the Earth, it will be expiated in the next life, because the Most High said: “You shall not commit adultery and you shall not covet your neighbour's wife.”, and God's word is to be obeyed. But I also say: “Woe betide him who is the cause of scandal and him who informs against his neighbour.” In this case everybody is guilty. The husband: was it really necessary for him to leave his wife for such a long time? Did he always treat her with the love that conquers the heart of a companion? Did he examine himself to ascertain whether the woman had not been offended by him before he was offended by her? The law of retaliation says: “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” But if it says so to exact amends, are these to be given by one only? I am not defending the adulteress. But I say: “How many times could she have accused her husband of that sin?” »
The people whisper: « It is true! It is true! » and also the old man from Giscala and Gamaliel's disciple agree.
Jesus goes on: « ... I say: why did he, who caused such a tragedy out of revenge, not fear God? Would he have liked all that to happen in his family? I say: the man who ran away and who after enjoying himself and causing ruin now disowns also the innocent child, does he think that by fleeing he will escape the eternal Avenger? That is what I say. I also say: the Law exacted the lapidation of adulterers and the killing of murderers. But the day will come when the Law, necessary to control the violence and lust of men not fortified by the Grace of the Lord, will be modified, and if the commandments: “You shall not kill and you shall not commit adultery” remain, the sanctions against such sins will be referred to a higher justice than that of hatred and blood. A justice, compared with which, the surviving ever false undeserving justice of human judges, all of whom are adulterers, and perhaps several times adulterers, if not even killers, will be less than nothing. I am speaking of the justice of God Who will ask men also the reason for lustful desires which are the causes of revenge, delations, murders, and above all will ask them why they deny guilty people time to redeem themselves and why they compel innocent people to bear the burden of other people's faults. They are all guilty in this case. Everybody. Also the judges urged by opposing reasons of personal revenge. One only is innocent. And My pity is for him. I cannot go back. But which of you will be charitable to the baby and to Me Who am suffering for him? » Jesus looks at the crowd with eyes expressing sad prayer.
Many say: « What do You want? Remember: he is illegitimate. »
« There is a woman in Capernaum whose name is Sarah. She comes from Aphek. She is one of My disciples. Take the child to her and say: “Jesus of Nazareth entrusts him to you.” When the Messiah, Whom you are expecting, establishes His Kingdom and issues His laws, which do not cancel the Word of Sinai but they complete it through charity, illegitimate children will no longer be motherless, because I shall be the Father of those who have no father and I will say to My believers: “Love them for My sake.” And other things will be changed, because violence will be replaced by love.
Perhaps you were expecting Me to deny the Law when you questioned Me. And that is why you were looking for Me. Say to yourselves and to those who sent you that I came to perfect the Law, not to deny it. Say to yourselves and to the others that He Who preaches the Kingdom of God cannot certainly teach what in the Kingdom of God would be horror and consequently could not be accepted there. Say to yourselves and to the others that you must remember Deuteronomy: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet from your country, from your brothers. Listen to him. This is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb and you said: 'Do not let me hear again the voice of the Lord my God, nor look any longer on this great fire and I may not die'. And the Lord said to me: 'They have spoken well and I will raise up a prophet like yourself for them from their own brothers and I will put My words into his mouth and he shall tell them all I command him. And if anyone does not listen to the words that he speaks in My name, I will avenge Myself on him'.”
God sent His Word to you that He might speak without killing you with His voice. God had already said so much to man and it was more than man deserved to hear from God. So much was said by means of the Law of Sinai and through the Prophets. But so much was still to be said and God kept it for His prophet of the time of Grace, for the One Promised to His people, in Him is the Word of God and through Him forgiveness will be accomplished. Founder of the Kingdom of God, He will codify the Law with new precepts of love, because the time of love has come. And He will not ask the Most High for vengeance on those who do not listen, but He will only beg that the fire of God may melt the hearts of stone and the Word of God may penetrate them and found in them the Kingdom which is the Kingdom of the spirit, just as its King is a spiritual King. To whoever loves the Son of man, the Son of man will give the Way, Truth, Life to go to God, to know Him and to live the eternal Life. Sources of light will be opened in whoever accepts My word, so that they may know the concealed meaning of the words of the Law and they may see that prohibitions are not threats but invitations of God, Who wants men to be happy, not damned, to be blessed, not cursed.
Once again you have made use of a question already resolved, but not as holiness would have resolved it, but as an inquisitive instrument to catch Me in sin. But I know that I am not sinning. And I am not afraid to speak My mind, which is: for making profit the aim of his life, the murderer has paid first with disgrace and then with death. The woman has paid for her sin with her death and this will surprise you but it is the truth - her confession to convince her husband to have pity for the innocent child, has diminished in the eyes of God the weight of her sin. The others: you and you, and he who fled with no pity even for his own child, are more guilty than the first two. Are you grumbling? You have not paid with your lives, neither have you the extenuating circumstances of the husband of the adulteress or those of the woman for being neglected and for her confession.
You have all committed a sin, all of you with the exception of the wet-nurse of the innocent child: the sin of rejecting the innocent like a shameful evil. You were able to kill the homicide. You would have been able to kill also the adulterers. You have been able to do and would have been able to do what is severe justice. But not one has been or is able to stretch out his arms and have pity for the innocent child. But you are not fully responsible. You do not know... You never know exactly what you do and what ought to be done. And that is your excuse. When this disciple of Gamaliel came to Me, he said: “Come. They want to consult You with regard to a fact the consequences of which are still lasting.” The consequences are the innocent child. Well, now that you are aware of My opinion, are you going to change your judgement where it is still changeable?
I said to this man: “I do not judge. I forgive.” Gamaliel said: “Only Jesus of Nazareth would judge with justice in this case.” I, as I told this man, would have advised everybody, I say everybody, not to strike until the matter had been carefully examined and passions had subsided. Many things could have been changed without infringing the Law. The matter is over now. And may God forgive those who repented or will repent. I have nothing else to say. Or rather, I have still one thing: may God forgive you once again for tempting the Son of man. »
« Not I, Master! Not I! I... I love Gamaliel as a disciple should love his master: more than a father. More, because a rabbi perfects the intellect, which is greater than the body. And... I cannot leave my rabbi to follow You. But to greet You, I can find no other words but those of Judith's canticle. They rise from the depth of my heart because I found justice and wisdom in all Your words. “Adonai, Lord, You are great and magnificent in Your power. No one can conquer You. No one can resist Your voice. Those who fear You will be great in Your eyes in everything!” I will go to Capernaum to see the woman You mentioned... Pray for me that my stone may melt and may be pierced by the Word which establishes the Kingdom of God in us... Now I have understood. We are mistaken. And we disciples are the less guilty... »
« What are you saying, you fool? » interrupts violently the Elder of Giscala addressing Gamaliel's disciple.
« What am I saying? I am saying that my master is right. And that he who tempts Him to establish a temporal kingdom is a demon, because He is a true Prophet of the Most High and Wisdom speaks through His lips. Tell me, Master, what must I do? »
« Meditate. »
« But... »
« Meditate. You are an unripe fruit. And you need to be engrafted, too. I will pray for you. » He then tells the apostles to follow Him and when they have picked up their bags, He sets out with them leaving all comments behind.