26th September 1946.
« Get up and let us go. Let us go back to the river and look for a boat. Peter, go with James and get a boat that will take us near Bethabara. We shall stay for a day at Solomon's and then... »
« But were we not to go to Nazareth? »
« No. I made up My mind during the night. I am sorry for you. But I must go back. »
« I am happy! » exclaims Marjiam. « I shall be staying longer with You! »
« Yes, although, My poor child, you see very sad days with Me! »
« So it is a good thing that I love to be with You. To love You. That is all I want. I do not ask for anything else. »
Jesus kisses his forehead.
« And are we passing through Bethabara again? » asks Matthew.
« No. We shall cross the river in the boat of some fisherman. »
Peter comes back with James. « No boats, Master, until this evening... And... must I tell You? »
« Tell Me. »
« Some people must have passed through here... And they must have paid well or uttered strong threats... I don't think that even this evening You will find a boat... They are merciless... » says Peter with a sigh.
« It does not matter. Let us set forth... and the Lord will help us. »
The weather is bad, it is raining. The road is muddy, along the embankment the dew of the night, plentiful near the river, increases the dampness of the rain. But they proceed just the same on the rise in the ground skirting the road, as it is not so muddy and is less exposed to the droplets of the very fine but persisting rain, being somewhat protected by a row of poplars, except when a breath of wind causes all the drops of water retained by the branches to fall suddenly.
« Eh! The rainy season has come! » says Thomas philosophically lifting the hem of his garment.
« It has indeed! » confirms Bartholomew with a sigh.
« We shall dry ourselves somewhere. They will not be all... excited against us » says Peter.
« We may still find a boat... You never know! » adds James of Alphaeus.
« If we had much money we could find anything. But He did not want me to go to Jericho to sell... » says Judas of Kerioth.
« Keep quiet, please! The Master is so depressed! Be silent! » implores John.
« I will keep quiet. Nay, I can but rejoice at His order. So no one can say that those Sadducees from near Jericho were sent by me » and he looks at Peter. But Peter is engrossed in thought and he neither sees nor replies.
They go on, walking in the drizzle, which is as thin as fog, in the dull day. Now and again they speak to one another. But they seem to be speaking to themselves, so much their words sound like conclusions of dialogues with invisible interlocutors.
« We shall have to end up by stopping somewhere. »
« All places are alike, because they come to all of them. »
« If we are to be persecuted, we may as well stay in town. At least we shall not get wet. »
« But what are they aiming at? »
« Poor Mary! If She knew! »
« Most High God, protect Your servants! » and so forth... They then join together and talk in low voices.
Jesus is in the front, alone... all alone until Marjiam joins Him with the Zealot.
« The others have gone down to the exposed river-bed, to see if there is a boat... It would be quicker. Can we stay with You? »
« Come. What were you speaking of previously? »
« Of Your suffering. »
« And of the hatred of men. What can we do to comfort You and repress their hatred? » asks the Zealot.
« For My grief there is your love... For hatred... one can only put up with it... It is a thing that will come to an end with the life of the Earth... and this thought gives one patience and strength to bear it. Marjiam! My child! Why are you upset? »
« Because this reminds me of Doras... »
« You are right. It is time for Me to send you home... »
« No! Jesus! No! Why do You want to punish me if I have not done anything wrong? »
« I am not punishing you, I am preserving you... I do not want you to remember Doras. To which feelings does that remembrance give rise in your heart? Tell Me... »
Marjiam weeps with lowered head, he then looks up and says: « You are right. My spirit is not capable of seeing and forgiving, it is not yet capable. But why are You sending me away? If You are suffering, it is all the more reasonable that I should be near You. You have always comforted me! I am no longer the foolish boy who last year used to say to You: “Don't let me see Your sorrow.” I am a man, now. Let me stay! Lord! Oh! will you tell Him, Simon! »
« The Master knows what is good for us. And perhaps... He wants to entrust you with a task... I don't know... It's only a thought of mine... »
« You are right. I would have let him stay and with so much joy until after the feast of the Dedication. But... But My Mother is lonely up there. The noise of hatred is so loud. She might be afraid more than is necessary. My Mother is all alone. And She certainly weeps. You will go to Her and tell Her that I send Her My love and I am waiting for Her now. After the Dedication. And you shall not say anything else, Marjiam. »
« And if She asks me? »
« Oh! You can avoid telling a lie saying... that the life of Her Jesus is like this sky in Ethanim: clouds and rain, at times a storm. But there are also sunny days. As yesterday, as tomorrow, perhaps. To be silent is not to lie. You will tell Her of the miracles that you have seen. That Eliza is with Me. That Ananias welcomes Me in his house as if he were My father. That at Nob I am in the house of a good Israelite. The rest... Be silent about the rest. And then you will go to Porphirea. And you will stay there until I send for you. »
Marjiam is weeping louder.
« Why are you weeping thus? Are you not happy to go to Mary's? Yesterday you were... » says Simon.
« Yes, yesterday I was, because we were all going. And I am weeping because I am afraid I shall not see You any more... Oh! Lord! Lord! Never again shall I be as happy as I have been these past days! »
« We shall meet again, Marjiam. I promise you. »
« When? Not before Passover. It's a long time! »
Jesus is silent.
« Do You really not want me before Passover? »
Jesus throws an arm round his still slender shoulders and draws him to Himself. « Why do you wish to know the future? We are today. Tomorrow we no longer are. Man, even the richest and mightiest one, cannot add one day to his life. It is, as well as all the future, in the hands of God... »
« But for Passover I have to come to the Temple. I am an Israelite. You cannot make me commit sin! »
« You will not sin. And the first sin which you must promise Me not to commit is that of disobedience. You shall obey. Always. Me, now, and who will speak to you in My Name later. Do you promise that? Remember that I, your Master and God, obeyed My Father and I will obey Him until the... end of My day. » Jesus is solemn in speaking these last words.
Marjiam, almost fascinated, says: « I will obey. I swear it. Before You and before eternal God. »
There is silence. Then the Zealot asks: « Will he go by himself? »
« Certainly not. With some of the disciples. We shall find more besides Isaac. »
« Are You sending Isaac also to Galilee? »
« Yes, and he will come back with My Mother. »
They are being called from the river. The three move, cross the road and go towards the river. « Look, Master. We have found one and they do not want anything. They are the relatives of a man healed miraculously. But they are carrying sand to that village. We have to go over there on foot, and then they will take us. »
« May God reward them. We shall be at Ananias' this evening. »
Peter is happy and he goes back up to the road and sees that Marjiam is upset. « What is the matter with you? What have you done? »
« Nothing wrong, Simon. I told him that when we arrive at the first place where there are disciples, I will send him home. And he has become sad. »
« Home... Of course!... That's right... The weather... » Peter is pensive. Then he looks at Jesus, he plucks His sleeve making Him lower His head towards his mouth. He says in His ear: « Master, why are You sending him without waiting... »
« Because of the season, as you said. »
« Then? »
« Simon, I will tell you the truth. It is better for Marjiam not to poison his heart... »
« You are right, Master. To embitter one's heart... That is just what happens in the end. » He raises his voice: « The Master is quite right. You will go and... we will meet again at Passover. After all... it will not be long... Once Chislev is over... Oh! beautiful Nisan will soon be here. Of course! He is right... » Peter's voice is no longer so steady. He repeats slowly and sadly: « He is right... » and speaking to himself: « What will happen from now until Nisan? » He strikes his forehead with his hand disconsolately.
And they proceed in the damp day. It does not rain until, in mud up to their knees, they get in five small damp boats, overspread with sand, going downstream again. It begins to rain again, and the raindrops, hitting the calm water of the river, which reflects the sky grey with clouds, draw many circles that appear and dissolve continuously with a play of pearly facets.
It looks like a deserted landscape. On the embankments, in the river villages, there is not a soul to be seen. Because of the rain houses are closed and roads desert. So that when at twilight they land where Solomon's village is, they find the road silent and empty, and they arrive at the house without being seen by anybody. They knock. They call. No reply. Only the cooing of doves, the bleating of sheep and the noise of rain.
« There is nobody inside. What shall we do? »
« Go to the houses in the village. To little Michael's first » orders Jesus.
And while the younger apostles go away quickly, Jesus with the elder ones remains near the house watching and making comments.
« Everything is closed... Also the gate is well tied and secured. Look! There is even a big nail. And the windows are closed as at night time. How sad! And that lamentation of sheep and doves? Will he be ill? What do You think, Master? »
Jesus shakes His head. He is tired and sad...
The apostles come back running. Andrew is the first to arrive and while he is still a few metres away he shouts: « He is dead... Ananias is dead... We cannot go into the house because it has not yet been purified... He was buried a few hours ago. If we could have come yesterday... The woman, Michael's mother, is coming now. »
« What is persecuting us?! » exclaims Bartholomew.
« Poor old man! He was so happy! And so well! What happened? When was he taken ill? » They are all speaking at the same time.
The woman arrives and remaining at a distance from everybody she says: « Lord, peace be with You. My house is open to You... I do not know whether... I prepared the dead man. That is why I am staying away from you. But I can show You the houses that will welcome You. »
« Yes, woman. May God reward you, and those who take pity on wayfarers. But how did he die? »
« Oh! I don't know. He was not ill. The day before yesterday he was all right. Yes, he was certainly well. Michael came in the morning to take his two sheep and join them to ours. That was the arrangement. And at the sixth hour I took back to him some clothes that I had washed for him. He was sitting at the table eating, perfectly sound. In the evening Michael took the sheep back to him and fetched two pitchers of water for him, and Ananias gave him two buns he had baked. Yesterday morning my son came for the sheep. Everything was closed as it is now and no one replied to the cries of the boy. He pushed the gate but he could not open it. It was locked. Michael then became frightened and he ran back to me. My husband and I with other people ran here. We opened the gate and knocked at the kitchen door... we forced the door... He was sitting near the fireplace with his head reclined on the table, the lamp was still near him, but it was out, there was a little knife at his feet with a wooden bowl half carved... That's how he died... A smile hovered on his lips... He was in peace... Oh! how his countenance had become that of a just man! He even looked more handsome... I... I had taken care of him only for a short time. But I had become fond of him... and I weep... »
« He is in peace. You said that yourself. Do not weep! Where have you put him? »
« We knew that You loved him so much, so we put him in the sepulchre that Levi built for himself recently. The only one, because Levi is a wealthy man. We are not. Down there, beyond the road. Now, if You wish so, we will purify everything and... »
« Yes. You will take the sheep and the doves, and keep the rest for My disciples and Me. So that I may stay here occasionally. May God bless you, woman. Let us go to the sepulchre. »
« Do You want to raise him from the dead? » asks Thomas quite astonished.
« No. It would not be a joy for him. He is happier where he is. In any case that is what he wished... »
Jesus is very depressed. Everything seems to combine to increase His sadness. At the doors of their houses, some women look and greet Him making comments.
The sepulchre is soon reached: a small cube built recently. Jesus prays near it. He then turns round, with tears welling in His eyes and says: « Let us go... to the houses in the village. In our little house there is no longer anyone waiting for us to bless us... O My Father! Solitude envelops Your Son, void is becoming deeper and deeper and gloomier and gloomier. Those who love Me, die, and those who hate Me, remain... O My Father! May Your will always be done and blessed!... »
They go to the village and two here, three there, they enter the houses of those who have not touched the corpse, to have shelter and refreshment.