The first exorcism, or was it a trick?

 

Thomas, Tuesday May 30

If I ever had any doubts about the ability of Jesus to add healing to his portfolio of skills, the things I saw yesterday blew them away like a toy boat in one of Galilee’s squalls.

I went to Capernaum to watch Eleazar the Exorcist at work and pick up a few tips to pass on to Jesus that he might be able to use in his mission.  I even took Dad along in the hope that if his dementia really was caused by demons, Eleazar might be able to get rid of them.  After a long day of pretty convincing exorcism, Eleazar took on my dad’s case and appeared to be doing a really good job when he found himself up against a particularly persistent demon he just couldn’t budge.  Then, with perfect timing, Jesus emerged from the crowd, drove out the demon with a prayer and a command and stole the entire show.

It all got a bit complicated after that.  Eleazar turned out actually to be Cyrus, the Samaritan trader who had been training Jesus in the magical arts and the tricks of the trade of exorcism.  It seemed that not only had Jesus picked up all the skills in record time, but he had somehow taken things to a level that Eleazar, I mean Cyrus, couldn’t explain.

I spoke to Jesus on the trek back to Mary’s house in Magdala, where she had invited Cyrus, Dad and myself, and of course her charismatic husband, for a meal and a bed for the night.  Jesus accepted that much of what an exorcist does might look like trickery to a doubter like me, but he said the rituals help to convince possessed people that their demons can be removed, and when they believe that exorcism is possible, their own faith becomes the most important factor in curing them.  He said he saw it more as a process that helps to put people in the right frame of mind and strengthen their belief, increasing their chances of benefiting from the treatment.

I had already guessed that the cup of water that was supposed to be knocked over by departing demons was actually very unstable, allowing a skilled showman such as Eleazar to topple it with the draught from a wave of his cloak, or perhaps a well-aimed pebble kicked during a scuffle.  Jesus confirmed that the ring that made the demons swear and depart when it was put under the nose of the victim was actually filled with foul-smelling irritant herbs that would make anyone swear and sneeze.  And he confirmed that prayer could  be helpful if it increased the sufferer’s belief in a cure.

“But what about what you did with my father?” I asked.  “Was that just another trick?”

“Ah,” said Jesus.  “What do you mean by tricks?  Is prayer a trick?  Is the power of God a trick?  Is a good magician as good as a bad holy man?”

“You tell me,” I said, looking to him for an answer.

“Maybe only God knows,” he said.  “You have to believe what your spirit tells you to believe, and so do I.  I believe that God can do anything in this world, and I believe I can do his will, and I believe you are going to set your remaining doubts aside and be a really good campaign manager.”

I wasn’t quite sure what he was on about but it was difficult to argue with him in this mood.  He had certainly made huge progress and I was now completely convinced that he could lead a successful mission and gain a large following.  I told him I had been working on some launch ideas and we agreed to discuss things in more detail in the morning.

The good thing about having money and power is that when you come home with unexpected guests, you have food in the storeroom and servants to prepare the meal and help get the guests cleaned up.  Mary entertained us royally.  I’m thinking, not for the first time, that her moral and financial support could be very useful to the mission in the years ahead.

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