We went to the Temple again today, and to my horror Jesus stood up to preach again. But even as he was breathing in to speak, another man burst in, barging through the crowds, flailing his arms and declaiming in a booming voice that any preacher would have envied:
“A voice from the East! A voice from the West! A voice from the Four Winds! A voice against Jerusalem and the Holy House! A voice against the Bridegrooms and the Brides! A voice against this whole People!”
The man’s clothes were filthy, torn and ragged. His hair and beard were worse. His face was wild. He stank. He didn’t even have anything else to say. But he was the centre of attention.
“A voice from the East! A voice from the West! A voice from the Four Winds…” he went on, repeating the same rant again and again. No one was exactly sure what he was on about, but any voice against Jerusalem or the Temple or the People was unwelcome and potentially dangerous at a time like this.
The crowds soon began to tire of him and shouted him down. He started to shuffle out, but then the spirit seemed to possess him again and his arms flailed, his eyes lit up, his lungs filled up and the same mysterious message boomed out again.
This time some of the people decided to use force to shut him up and there was a scuffle, but the man, who some identified as a local self-styled prophet called Jesus son of Ananias, broke free and continued shouting, only even louder than before.
The soldiers had no choice but to intervene. They looked desperate for some action anyway and didn’t need encouraging. The same four who had gone after my Jesus yesterday charged in to grab the man, the crowd scattering to let them through. They grabbed him roughly and dragged him off, beating him with relish at any hint of resistance. He would be flogged half to death, if he was lucky. The Romans have executed troublemakers for less than this.
After a while everything settled again and my thoughts turned back to finding Jesus, to let him know we were here and persuade him to get out before he became the soldiers’ next victim. When I finally saw him, his eyes had that distant gaze as if he was preparing himself to preach. Surely not, after what had just happened.
Unfortunately I was right. He launched into a denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees at full volume. The power of his voice and his ability to annoy the crowd were no match for the other Jesus, but his message was clear enough, and his attack on powerful groups who had no sense of humour or humility verged on the suicidal.
Many of the ordinary people in the crowd seemed to agree with Jesus, which just made the reaction of his targets worse. They were cursing and pushing through to get at him. The soldiers would be next.
We had by now managed to edge much closer. Cyrus made a grab for him, bundling him out of the way before anyone else could join in. Jesus struggled but then realised who it was and stopped fighting back. Some of the insults Cyrus was hissing were almost as bad as the things the Scribes and Pharisees were saying, but Jesus somehow took it from him.
We kept moving till we reached Bethany, where Mary was pleased to see Jesus again. He was ravenous and can hardly have eaten since he arrived in Jerusalem.