Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

NO VIMU

that meaneth; for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

This is the first blow he directs against his enemies, the first delivered in all men's sight. He glares at the strangers, who depart in silence. The struggle has begun.

How are they to get the better of him? One day he sits at meat with sinners-and the next, in the house of God, the congregation clamours for a sermon from him. They can do nothing against such popularity. The most dangerous innovators have always been fellows of his sort, men who begin to preach in the outlying districts, and do not belong to any brotherhood which can call them to account; men who go into the villages and talk to the common people. Has he not railed against the wealthy, as if to have riches were a sin? John the Baptist began his mission like that; and John might by now have become a dangerous force had not Herod put him under lock and key. Well, well, they must keep a wary eye on Jesus, but let him go his own way for the nonce. The more rope he has, the more his tongue has free play, the more speedily and more surely will come the day when he will run his head against the civil law-and then we shall have him at a disadvantage.

One Sabbath day, Jesus and his disciples go for a walk through the cornfields. May has come, the grain is ripe, the young men are hungry. They pluck the ears of corn, and eat. Two Pharisees, spies who watch the doings of this godless band, encounter them as if

by chance, and ask them why they are doing that which it is not lawful to do on the Sabbath. For to the Jews the Sabbath is specially sacred among sacred things. Their superstition would even, if it could, bind nature in chains; and they speak of intermittent springs as "sabbatical." Jesus, whose way it is to talk to the folk in the vernacular, but to answer the scribes and Pharisees in the words of Holy Writ, says: "Have ye never read what David did, when he had need and was an hungered, he and they that were with him? How he went into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and gave also to them that were with him? . . . The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath: therefore the Son of Man is Lord also of the Sabbath." The two spies look at one another with horror. He has desecrated the Sabbath!

A little while after this, persons come to him, four of them, carrying a man sick of the palsy. Since there is such a press of people that they cannot get near to the master, from the slope against which the house where he is staying is built, they climb on to the low, flat roof, and let down the stretcher into the inner court. Jesus, to whom illness is sin, says to the sick man: “Man, thy sins are forgiven thee." Certain of the scribes are present, and their thoughts run: "What blasphemy! Who but God can forgive men's sins?" Jesus divines their hostility, for even in a crowd he is prompt to recognize his foes, and he wrathfully answers the unspoken words: "What reason ye in your hearts? Is

it easier to say, "Thy sins are forgiven thee,' or to say, 'Rise up and walk'?" Under stress of the speaker's magnetic power, the sick man thereupon rises to his feet, picks up the pallet on which he has been lying, and walks away.

The onlookers are more than a little frightened; they dare not acclaim the master for what he has done; it is they who are now as if palsied. They glorify God, and say one to another: "We have seen strange things to-day!" But the Pharisees, when they get home and are behind closed doors, raise hands in reprobation. He has blasphemed God! He has forgiven sins! He is worthy of death!

But they do not dare to say such words aloud, for the common folk love Jesus; and here in restless Galilee, far from the great capital, it is a risky matter to lay hold of a leader of the people. They go to and fro, therefore, saying that the new rabbi lures women away from domestic duties. But Jesus, stirred and enheartened, begins, for his part, to utter his thoughts without reserve. He relates in a parable how two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus within himself: "God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. "And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying: "God, be merciful to me a sinner." Jesus' auditors are wonder

ing how he will end his parable. Will he venture to speak well of the sinner? Yes, he does so! "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."

All Galilee knew, ere long, that Jesus of Nazareth was an enemy of the scribes and the Pharisees. Soon the Sanhedrin, the Great Council in Jerusalem, knew it too; for its members, through their agents, kept careful watch upon the sayings and doings of innovators in God's State. "Follow him up! Put temptation in his way!" came the word from Jerusalem. Again, therefore, one of the Pharisees invited him to dinner; and he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat. While they were at table, the door opened and a woman, young and pretty, whom every one knew to be a harlot, came in. She had heard of the kindly rabbi, who loved sinners. How could she get near him? If she tried to reach him when he was amid the multitude, they laughed at her, and would not let her pass. She had been waiting for the chance of finding him in a house where few people were; and, debating within herself what she could bring to please him, she could think of nothing but the fragrant oil with which it was her wont to anoint her body that it might be more pleasing to those who purchased her love.

Now she sees him at the board. The gentleness of his countenance, contrasting so strongly with the harsh faces of the others, is too much for her composure, and she falls at his feet weeping. She washes his feet

« IndietroContinua »