Thomas, Thursday June 29
The break seems to have done everyone good. We’ve all been busy of course, and Jesus and I made good progress with our writing, but I haven’t even bothered with my diary since the start of the week.
It’s mid-afternoon and I’m sitting in the shade in a corner of Matthew’s courtyard, keeping out of the way of all the servants bustling around. I gather from Bart and Judas that Matthew has invited a few other guests to the meal tonight. I would have thought just feeding the thirteen of us was enough of a challenge and expense, but he’s obviously used to this kind of thing and has all the resources he needs.
Jesus and I and the other three set off from Magdala before sunrise this morning. It was pleasantly cool for the first few hours, but later it became as hot as anything I’ve known for years. Simon led the way early on, full of energy and, well, zeal, but wilted as the desert became a blacksmith’s forge and the dust burned our sore feet like hot ashes. Thaddeus and Jamie just kept plodding steadily along like a pair of donkeys, ignoring the abuse from Simon in the early stages, then uncomplainingly helping him along when his feet began to blister and his legs lost their spring. I don’t need to make up lines about how the meek shall be first; I just need to watch these guys in action. Jesus and I had done this journey quite a few times recently and it had become a bit of a chore, but we passed the time usefully by trying out ideas and discussing possible arrangements for the weeks ahead. In the end we agreed it was impossible to do much planning at all at this stage, as we had no idea how people were going to react on first hearing the message. We might end up doing extra days in some places we visit and leaving others early.
The five fishermen have arrived now and it’s getting quite noisy. Simon Peter had a good laugh at poor Simon the Zealot when he saw him with his feet in a bowl of water looking sorry for himself, but Jesus prevented further conflict by suggesting that Peter and his men put their obvious strength to good use in helping get things ready for this evening.
Jesus and I want to visit our families this afternoon, and I won’t be sorry to get away from here for a couple of hours. As soon as we arrived, Jesus got dragged into advising on a dispute involving Matthew’s head servant, and I’ve not seen him since. That’s the trouble: you set yourself up as a leader of the people and they expect you to solve all their problems. From what I’ve heard, it began when Matthew asked Judas to run his eye over the accounting records for the house, because something wasn’t quite right. Judas confirmed that money had gone missing, and Matthew confronted the servant. The servant said he had taken the money to pay other debts and begged for time to repay the money, but Matthew’s first thought had been to get rid of the problem and recover what money he could by selling the man and his family into slavery. Here they come now.
“You were right to forgive him,” Jesus is saying. “Give him the chance to earn the money and repay you when he can, and God will be pleased with you too.”
“This is a hard teaching, but I’ll give him one more chance,” says Matthew. “I don’t know how these ideas are going to go down with the people who come to hear you preach, though. They like a bit of retribution.”
Jesus seems confident his strange new message will catch on. It’s certainly different.