“I’m concerned about Him. It seems He has a death wish.”
The noise of the city had died down considerably as evening descended. There was a slight cool in the air as the two men sat discussing the events of the day.
“I’ve never heard Him say anything against Moses. He honors Abraham. He speaks well of our prophets. Someone did a good job of raising Him in the beliefs of our fathers.”
“Yes, but He has also said some things that seem to oppose those beliefs. I was listening to Him one day several months ago and He seemed to discount our law. He was teaching against the concept of an eye for an eye. It seems He was saying there is a better way to go about things.”
“But how can anything be better than what Moses has given us?”
“Well, sometimes it seems we have to honor aspects of our law that go against a better outcome. I mean, if a man loses an eye through the accident of another, through the actions of a man who had no intent to do such a thing, such a man must be forced to pay with an eye anyway. Shouldn’t he be allowed to plead his case?
“But that would violate the law, would it not?”
“And why should a man of God ride a donkey into the great city in the manner He did? What was that?”
“It was another one of those coincidences that point toward prophecy. You know the scripture.”
“Yes, I know, I know. But then right after that His actions were completely unfounded. What man can come into our holy temple area and do what He did? Where is the justification for all the mayhem He caused? People were shocked at His behavior, many of them the same people who had been praising His arrival just before that. And you know He will never get away with it. It’s been two days now, and I fear for His safety. The men, the men He is dealing with will never stand for such actions.”
“Do you know of something stirring?”
“I feel it stirring in my heart. This man Yehoshua has not only attacked our traditions, He has attacked a cabal of powerful people, men whom even I fear.”
“But we both know there is graft and usury, and these men have become rich in the process. Between you and me, in these moments of hidden conversation, can we not at least mention the violations before us? This prophet, or whatever He may be, He saw as we see. Yet we would never make any attempt to correct the wrongs as He did. He has displayed a power of character and a courage we do not have.”
“And unless He has left the area, I fear He will pay for His courage. This whole thing against our religious traditions has continued building over time. He seems like a man who is starting a war. I had kept hearing reports of him, and also heard with my own ears on occasion, that He is constantly opposing some aspect of our religion, and has even railed against our holy men.”
“Yes, He has. But no holy man of ours ever had a viable retort. His teachings keep trumping our traditions…”
“But some of the things He’s done make a mockery of justice. I heard that He refused to press charges against a lowlife woman who was clearly caught and exposed in the very act of adultery. She should have been stoned according to our law. Moses gave no exceptions.”
“But I remember His answer. Its profoundness and simplicity still amaze me. Very clear…”
“That only one who has no sin can apply the sentence? How many times have such sentences been carried out in our long history? Were those who threw the stones always without sin? This idea makes a mockery of justice. Who is without sin?”
“Those who make the proper sacrifices, that’s who. Those who live a pure and clean life. Those who keep the Torah. It is the burden of the righteous.”
“I don’t know about that anymore. I have always believed in those things and supported our way of life and laws, but He has showed me that our application and interpretation of the law is not so pure. He keeps showing us holes and inconsistencies and misapplications within our traditions. He is showing that while the law may be perfect, we often do not do a very good job in its application.”
“You think she should not have been stoned? Isn’t it clear the law says she should be?”
“Yes. It says that. But they all dropped their rocks and walked away. They decided they could not be the ones who carried out the sentence.”
“But how did that happen? They had all been so sure.”
“It’s the same reason I’m wondering about all these things just now…”
By then the night had fallen. The streets outside had grown quiet and a cool breeze touched their faces. It was one of those moments when one respected the silence and comfort of the evening, when work was done, and when one thought of things usually not possible during the busy day.
The two men sat motionless, somewhat deep in thought. They happened to be looking east out a large window from a second story room, toward the Mount of Olives. Occasionally, one of them would take sip of tea. As they pondered the subject before them, not wanting to disrespect what seemed to be a holy time and a moment of reflection, they beheld an astounding sight.
There before them, peeking up from the high eastern ridge, was a bright orange waxing moon, almost full. In a few seconds they were bathed in light. The darkness of the room and city streets vanished but their eyes remained fixed on the natural wonder before them. Brighter and bigger it became until it lifted off completely from the earth, as in a slow ascent toward heaven. In that moment their thoughts also shoved off into the air, and they saw things a little clearer.
They could not express it, though. Both of these men knew there was something different about the Man of their discussion. They did not understand, what with all the competing thoughts and different doctrines and contrary applications of the great law. But each of them knew on a deeper level that this former carpenter from Nazareth, of all places, had captured their hearts.
And in the deep darkness of ancient Jerusalem, on an early spring night long ago, the Light had come.
© 2012 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.
[Thanks to all for visiting. Stay tuned. The third part and conclusion of this series, The Hebrew Month of Nisan: Atonement and Resurrection, will be posted tomorrow.]