Thomas, Friday June 30
I managed to get Jesus away from Matthew’s house before he was given any more disputes to resolve. We walked together to my house first. Hannah scarcely looked up when we arrived. Her smile and healthy glow had gone, replaced by a pinched expression on a pale face. She looked years older. There were piles of laundry everywhere.
“What do you want?”
“I thought I’d drop round and see my lovely wife and family,” I said, trying to sound cheerful. “What’s all this washing doing?”
“What do you think? You not only lose your job, a good job that you worked hard to get, but then you clear off with the boys on an apocalyptic preaching tour. Talk about self-indulgent. I have to earn some money somehow. If our positions were reversed I’d divorce you. Get off me!”
I quickly took my hand away from her waist.
“But we had our savings, and anyway I could be back soon. I’ll get another job, a better job in Sepphoris. I love you.”
“I used to love you too, and I know I said you could go off with Jesus, but it all seems to be getting so serious, and people are starting to turn away from me in the street. And the savings are for the kids’ education and Ruth’s dowry. I’m taking in washing so we can eat.”
I looked round at Jesus for support. He realised he was meant to say something.
“Don’t worry about money Hannah. It’s better to have riches in the new age than to be well off now. And don’t talk of divorce. Marriage is a gift from God and we can’t just throw it away.”
“Jesus, I used to think you were nice but harmless,” she sneered, “but now your dreams of the end of the world are getting in the way of common sense. Not every wife has the patience to put up with her husband wandering off like you do, or the luxury of an independent income. I need to feed my family, and I don’t appreciate being told what to do by the likes of you.”
She jerked her head away and went back to her piles of washing, her eyes about to overflow. I showed Jesus the door with a sideways movement of my head. He could visit his family on his own while I did my best to patch things up here. I never realised following a saviour could cause so much conflict, and we’ve hardly started.
I managed to patch things up a little bit and promised I would come home as soon as I could. Most preaching tours seem to last a few weeks or months and then break up, from what I can see, or the authorities start to feel threatened by them and arrest the leaders. I need to make sure it doesn’t get that far. Of course, this time the new kingdom is going to come on earth, as it is in heaven, so Jesus is right about not worrying about material things.
Jesus was just leaving his parents’ house as I walked past. I was going to drop in to say hello but he motioned to me to walk with him. They too were not happy. Word had spread from Capernaum about his performance in the synagogue last week and his feat of exorcism prior to that, but instead of being proud of him, the people of Nazareth had turned against him even more and had now started mocking his family too. This had resulted in his own family’s tolerance dwindling to zero, and now they were actually turning against him. They were saying he was mad and threatening to have him put away if he came back again.
As we walked, two men coming the other way recognised Jesus and began taunting him.
“Oh look, it’s Bastard Rain Man. Help me, I’ve been drinking and I’m possessed by an evil spirit.” “Here comes the Son of Man on a fiery chariot from heaven to make arrangements with Jesus for his stay on earth. Come on, do a miracle for us, if you can. No, thought so.”
Apparently this was tame stuff compared to some of the insults Jesus had suffered today. I suggested we didn’t stay for the planned Sabbath visit to the synagogue but he was determined to see it through. He wanted to ensure everyone in the town had a chance to be saved, even if he never returned.
The evening meal, actually a rather grand banquet, did a lot to revive our spirits. Matthew knew how to entertain and he had the money to do it. He had invited several of his tax collector friends, some of them accompanied by attractive women who I guessed weren’t their wives. I was uncomfortable with the idea of a man of God and his entourage keeping this kind of company, but Jesus seemed completely happy and chatted to them all as he tucked into the food and wine.
Come the morning it was all different. Most of us had sore heads, the abstaining alcoholic Peter and the abstemious Jamie excepted, and Thaddeus was trying to live down some unexpectedly rowdy behaviour. There was a loud knock at the door. The group of men standing outside it looked respectable and indignant, each quality reinforcing the other. I recognised at least two scribes among them, and also a Pharisee. Pharisees are so obsessive about interpreting the law that few people take them seriously, and I could see why Jesus had dropped out of the apprenticeship his mother had so lovingly lined up for him, but back to the point. Scribes have real power and are trouble, as I know to my own cost.
“We demand to see Jesus,” said the smallest of the men, standing at the front of the group, hands defiantly on hips, head high. I breathed a sigh of relief. A lynch mob would have forced their way in and grabbed him by now and would be debating the relative advantages of crucifixion and hanging. Hanging’s quicker, and it’s easier to re-use the rope, not that anyone was asking me. The point was, they only wanted to talk. Jesus obligingly pushed to the front of the group of servants and disciples gathered inside the door.
“Call yourself a man of God?”
“Yes, if you mean my aim is to prepare the people for the coming of the Kingdom.”
“And yet you associate with tax collectors and whores, and you gorge yourself on food and wine instead of fasting.”
“Ah.” This was a difficult one, but fortunately it was one I had persuaded Jesus to rehearse rather than leave it to fate, as it was an obvious challenge to expect.
Jesus calmly explained that if he was going to succeed he would have to save sinners as well as the righteous, so where better to start than tax collectors and prostitutes. This was a good start and enough to unsettle the spokesman, though not for long. He repeated the gibe about Jesus’ gluttonous behaviour, and Jesus somehow got away with a line I had given him about being the bridegroom and therefore entitled to feast with his friends. I waited for the man to ask who the bride was, but he was clearly too confused to pursue an argument he might have won if he’d tried.
“Well, just don’t lecture us about how wonderful it is to be poor and hungry,” yelled a woman’s voice from the back. It was Hannah. I hadn’t seen her there. “It’s easy to talk nonsense like that when your wife and rich friends are there to support you, and your rich father, whoever he might be!”
Jesus blushed deeply and he bowed his head, words deserting him like his family. I pulled him inside, glared at Hannah and pushed the door shut.
“And your wife’s a whore too!” shouted the short man, desperate to claim some sort of victory. The other men cheered their appreciation. Though it was a complete fabrication, I could see it being added to the lies and insults about Jesus circulating in the town.
I advised Jesus to stay in the house all day but again failed to persuade him to abandon tomorrow’s appearance at the synagogue. The weather has been scorching again and I was glad to remain in the shade overlooking the courtyard. The sun is about to set and has lost most of its power for today, but after a night to rest and refuel I expect it will be hotter than ever tomorrow.