Jesus attracts attention when he goes to the synagogue and is accused of not washing his hands in the correct fashion. He replies that true cleanliness comes from within.
Thomas, Saturday August 19
Went to the synagogue in Gennesaret again today. I think Jesus was hoping for a relatively quiet time but he didn’t stand a chance. The camp of followers at Magdala is now more than twice the size it was before the big meeting at Bethsaida, and every single one of them must have been in the crowd that awaited us as we set out. With two to three hundred people in tow we tended to attract attention, and over the few miles to our destination that number must have doubled again. The synagogue was already overflowing with people hoping Jesus would turn up, and news of our arrival soon spread around the town.
After a quick word with the elders, Jesus agreed not to enter the synagogue at all but to stay outside to speak to the crowds. Or at least the idea was to speak to them, but many were only interested in touching him in the hope of being healed of whatever afflicted them. The only option for Jesus was to stand there and let the process take its course. In the end there was no thoughtful debate or even any preaching of well-chosen words, but it was possibly the biggest mass healing we have ever had. And Jesus hardly had to lift a finger or say a thing. The faith of the milling crowds was doing all the work. When people finally managed to touch Jesus, they were fainting, glorifying God, jumping for joy, crying out with the voices of departing demons and generally making it clear that they had experienced something very real.
I felt a nudge to my shoulder. It was Lazarus.
“Incredible, isn’t it?” he said. “I’d like to see him try to cure my polio, but I wouldn’t want to embarrass a good mate. He’d blame my lack of faith anyway.”
“You’re worse than me,” I said, smiling. “You could show more gratitude for being raised from the dead though. You’ve become a major sensation.”
“Don’t I know it. I can’t go out without people staring at me or even wanting to touch me for good luck. But yes, of course I’m grateful he came and rescued me.”
Just then we were jostled by a lurching knot of people and became separated. When eventually things started to calm down after perhaps a couple of hours, along came the Scribes and Pharisees again, tut-tutting about healing on the Sabbath and not obeying the letter of the law on ritual washing of hands and their other usual gripes.
I’d have told them where to go but Jesus came out with a great line about the kind of cleanliness that really mattered being what came out from a person’s heart, not the way they washed their hands and food. He said an unclean heart led to adultery, stealing, jealousy and all kinds of bad things. I wish I’d written that.
At least their appearance killed off any remaining exuberance in the crowd, and with the sun low in the sky we took the opportunity to bring things to a close and send everyone home. Not that we were left alone, because two or three hundred people followed us back to the followers’ camp at Magdala.