Tag Archives: Magdala

Jesus brushes up his healing skills

Wednesday November 22, 29 CE

While we’re hanging around in Magdala getting ready to leave for Judea, and while Cyrus is here, I decided to ask him to go over some of the basic skills of healing and exorcism again.  I seem to have lost my confidence lately and I’m not sure I could still heal a crowd of people like I used to.

Cyrus laughed when he had to remind me that it’s not me doing the healing but God, and that the important thing was for me to have faith.  And faith increases success and success increases faith.  And lack of either diminishes the other, and the important thing is to have confidence, which was my problem in the first place.

In order to boost my confidence again, he went back over what he called the tricks of the trade, using oils, herbs, amulets and wobbly cups of water.  These can help the faith of the person being cured and can actually do some good on their own, and this can help to create a virtuous circle and get me back on the way to performing mass healings like I used to only a few weeks ago.  I was very grateful for his guidance, and even more pleased when he turned out to have extensive supplies of oils, amulets and so on with him, which he could let me have at a very reasonable price.  He said he would see Mary about the money side of things.


Jesus, Thursday November 16, AD 29

One of Mary’s farm hands died today.  He had suffered a deep gash in his leg while working in the fields a couple of weeks ago and the wound had gradually grown worse.  He was one of the unlucky ones whose wounds get invaded by a bad spirit.  Sometimes you can wash them away if you’re quick, or you can burn the flesh to force them out, but it often seems to make little difference.  Then he was even more unfortunate in that the spirit moved beyond the wound and entered his whole body, giving him a fever and spreading sores everywhere.  He was a good man, so I can’t believe his death was a punishment, unless it was for something one of his ancestors did.

I think it was simply God’s will that he should die now.   I prayed with him and laid hands on him but it was no good.  Maybe I have been too absorbed in myself recently and have not dedicated myself sufficiently to God for him to respond to my prayers, or maybe the man lacked faith.  I don’t know what will happen to his poor wife and children.  Mary can’t afford to keep them on, so if the wife can’t remarry they will probably have to beg.

I was disappointed that Tom didn’t stay.  I really thought he would, but once he saw my bad spirits had been driven away he seemed to lose interest again.  He stayed around all day to check I had really recovered and to make sure everyone was back on message, as he put it, but when I went to find him for a chat yesterday morning he had already gone.

The Disciples are Despondent

Thomas, Monday November 13, AD29

I rose early this morning and went to find the five fishermen by the shore.  They had gone back to work but were frustrated by the uncertainty about their future.  Their baskets were only half full, as though even the straightforward task of catching fish had been affected by the pervading mood.

Thaddeus and Jamie had taken to working full time on Mary’s farm and seemed OK when I met them but a bit subdued.  Matthew, Bart and Judas were more of a problem because they didn’t know what to do with themselves and had run out of money to pay for their keep.  I said it was obvious they would have to work on the land too if they wanted to stay, and while they were surprised at my sudden bossiness they agreed it was only fair.

I bought half a goat in Magdala and helped Mary prepare it for dinner.  It was nice to be able to return a favour for once.  I took some to Jesus, who managed to say ‘thanks’ and almost smiled at the delicious smell.  I stayed and had a one-sided conversation with him as he ate, telling him in my own way what he needed to do.  I say one-sided, but I was encouraged by the fact that he grunted in all the right places.

Thomas decides to see Jesus again

Sunday November 12, AD 29

Cyrus dropped some work off on Friday.  He didn’t mention Jesus but while we talked I asked him what he had been up to, and he said he’d been to Magdala again.  I know he’s getting really involved with expanding the farm, and he likes to see Mary, but twice in one week seemed a lot.  I didn’t ask the question he could see I was dying to ask, and he wouldn’t prompt me.  It was his turn to raise an eyebrow, pursing his lips as he did so, but nothing more was said.

Hannah commented yesterday that I was unusually quiet; I said I was enjoying a quiet Sabbath after a hard week.  Then later in the day she looked at me and told me I should stop brooding and pay a visit to my old friend Jesus.  She’s far more perceptive than I will ever be.  At daybreak today I took the bag of bread, water and papyrus she had already prepared for me, kissed her and set off on foot, leaving the donkey in case she needed it.

Mary gave me the biggest hug ever when I arrived.  I went in to see Jesus and sat with him for about an hour.  He said ‘Hi’ but nothing more.  Mary said that was the first word he had uttered in three days.

Jesus, Saturday October 28, AD 29 #chorazin #sonofman

Yesterday started well.  I walked along the shore with Thaddeus, Jamie, Matthew, Bart and Judas to meet the five fishermen, who had nearly finished sorting their catches.  They kept some fish to eat later, gave the rest to the crew of the bigger boat, then lit a fire to cook breakfast.  There are few meals as satisfying as freshly caught fish in the morning, and we said little till we had eaten our fill.  Then I told them my plan, which so far only Mary had heard in any detail.

I have become certain that this age will come to an end at the festival of the Passover in March, and that in order to convince the Son of Man we are really serious we must be in Jerusalem when it happens.  By coincidence that was exactly what Peter’s voices had been telling him lately, which really encouraged both of us.  Even Matthew said it made perfect sense in the light of the revelations he had received in his vision, which he hadn’t stopped talking about all week.

The other thing that I thought might have held us back before was that we hadn’t saved enough people from a wide enough area.  What we will do now is reaffirm the commitment and faith of all the people from the Galilee region who had been ready for the end at Yom Kippur, and get them to go out and spread the word to as many others as possible.  In the meantime the apostles and I will travel south to Judea and establish a completely new mission, spreading the word throughout the region and saving many more people, with five whole months in which to do it.

All ten apostles were really excited by the plan and couldn’t wait to get started.  We spent the rest of the day talking, walking and eating fish for every meal, then they all came back to Magdala for the night.

This morning we set out early for the synagogue in Capernaum, where I’d had some of my biggest successes and everybody had always been friendly and supportive.  This wouldn’t be like Nazareth, or even last week in Magdala.

It wasn’t.  It was worse.  Far, far worse.  Having people turn their backs on us would have felt like a compliment.  We were jeered, insulted, jostled and spat on.   The non-arrival of the Son of Man had clearly upset a few people, especially many who had given up everything to join us, some of whom I recognised in what soon became a crowd.  Word of my presence could still attract large numbers of people quickly, but now they weren’t there to receive my teaching and beg me to stay.  Just the opposite.

I did what I could to reason with them, especially those who had been with us at Yom Kippur, telling them we had come so close to salvation then and would soon finally achieve it, but they wouldn’t listen.  My biggest supporters had become my fiercest enemies.  It was almost as if Tom had visited them and preached against me.  It was horrible.

Eventually I decided we couldn’t overcome their rejection, at least not today, and we retreated.  It was still only mid-morning so there was time to go elsewhere.  Acting decisively, I led my loyal band to Chorazin, scene of other past successes.

It was even worse there and we didn’t even make it into the synagogue.  The whole town seemed to be against us.  I kept trying to reason with them as we were gradually forced to the edge of town, but it only made their reaction worse.  Eventually I gave up and lost my temper in a way I have never done before.

“A curse on you, Chorazin!” I bellowed at the top of my voice.  At last the clamour subsided a little, but I wasn’t about to go back to pleading with them.  I had been working on my ‘Jesus son of Ananias’ voice and put it to use now.  “If the miracles performed here had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, their inhabitants would long ago have put on sackcloth and ashes to show they had turned from their old ways.  God will show more mercy to them than you when he arrives to establish his new Kingdom!”

Then it was my turn to spit in their direction, and for good measure I removed my sandals and shook off the accursed dust of their town at them.

Then I stormed off to Capernaum.  They weren’t expecting me back and I made it into the centre of the town, where I stood in the main square and cursed them too, comparing them unfavourably with the people of Sodom, before leading the dumbstruck apostles out of town and back to Mary’s farm.  I had avoided going into Magdala itself in case I ended up cursing its population too, which wouldn’t be a good idea if we intended to continue living there.

I sat for a while in the middle of the courtyard with my head in my hands, the apostles wisely keeping their distance and uncertain what to do next.   I couldn’t send them home, partly because some of them had no home and partly because I had only just brought them back together again.  Eventually I asked if they would mind camping outside until the morning, when I would meet them to discuss our next steps.  Peter took over the arrangements from there.

Mary has been very kind, calm and reassuring.  I sometimes think she deserves better than me.

Jesus, Monday October 23, AD 29 #doubtingthomas #cognitivedissonance

Mary was already out on the land when I awoke.  I thought I might go out and work with her, and perhaps talk as we worked, but as I left the house I heard familiar voices.  I looked up to see Matthew, Bart and Judas approaching.  I had been wondering how I would track each of them down, and here they were all together.

They told me that after the non-arrival of the Son of Man they had felt lost and confused, not knowing what to do or where to go.  Bart and Judas hadn’t wanted to go back to the families they had deserted and decided there wasn’t much hope of getting clerical work in the fishing towns around Galilee.  Matthew had lost contact with his daughter  and couldn’t exactly go straight back to collecting taxes for the Romans, so all three were faced with having to find manual work to avoid starvation.  Judas had the treasury of followers’ donations but was far too correct to consider spending that, and had locked it away safely at Mary’s house.

First they had offered to clean up the camp in return for food, which Mary’s farm manager had grudgingly agreed to, and had done a good job in the three days he allotted them.  Then they had set off for Sepphoris, a large town quite near to Nazareth that I had never visited.  I don’t exactly know why, but I suppose I had just never felt comfortable about the thought of visiting what people said was a busy, modern and Godless place, preferring instead the traditional surroundings of Nazareth and the towns around Galilee.

Bart and Judas had eventually found some temporary clerical work there and were able to earn enough to pay for food and somewhere to sleep at night.  Matthew had remained troubled by recent events and had wandered into the wilderness to be alone with his thoughts.  He seemed to have managed better than I did, finding streams to drink from and berries to eat, but he did have the advantage of making his trip in the autumn when the days were cooler and the bushes and trees had a little fruit left on them.

He admitted that he had slept little and eaten less, but said it was worth it to get his head together and await a response to his prayers.

“Then something happened that made me go to search out Bart and Judas and come back here,” he said.

“What, did Cyrus turn up and offer you food and a ride on his camel?” I asked.  He frowned.

“No, I had a vision,” he said.  He had obviously had a much more conventional wilderness experience than I had.  “I was ready to drop from exhaustion if hunger didn’t do the job first.  In fact all I had eaten for two days were a fig that had found its way under a stone and out of sight of birds, and a small mushroom.  I know I could have poisoned myself but I didn’t care by then.

“It started during the night.  The calls of the wild animals had disturbed me yet again and I was half awake, half dreaming.  I felt I was being transported up into the sky.  But it wasn’t dark.  I was surrounded by wonderful bright, swirling lights, and there were huge fountains of cool water wherever I looked, and the noises of the animals had become the voices of all the nations on earth.  I looked down and could see thousands, maybe millions of men, women and children, their heads and arms raised.  Then I became aware that I was in the presence of the Son of Man.”

“How did you know, and what did he look like?”

“I just did, and he looked like…he was…you.”

“Me?” I said.  “Why would he look like me?”

“I don’t know, but it all made sense, and I knew I had to find the others and come and find you.  Then the lights grew brighter and brighter, and I came round to find the sun blazing down on my face.”

“And I suppose you never managed to drink from the fountains.”

“No, they taunted my thirst but never slaked it, as happens in dreams.  But actually I think they may have represented spiritual water, and that was what I really thirsted for.”

I almost began to feel jealous again.  First there had been Peter with his ability to hear spiritual voices, and now even an ex tax collector was having visions of spiritual water and receiving revelations far better than I had ever experienced.  Still, I could use the water idea, and the idea of the Son of Man looking like me had a certain appeal.

“So how did you get back to Sepphoris and find the others then?”

“Well, you might not believe me, but after I had been wandering for a few hours in a confused state, Cyrus turned up on his camel and rescued me.  He said he was going in that direction in business anyway.  He gave me food and water, took me into town and, by talking to a few of what he called his contacts, managed to track these two down.  I owe him a huge favour, but it was hard even to get him to accept thanks.  They had to continue working till the end of the week, then yesterday we walked to Magdala and stayed in an inn overnight.  And here we are.”

By the time he had finished, with more elaborations, interruptions, wanderings and explanations than I have recorded here, it was late morning, and when the other two had told their more mundane story the sun was in decline.

We chatted in a general way about a relaunch and I invited them to stay a few days, so long as they would sleep outside and pay their way.  Then we helped prepare dinner for five instead of the two that had been planned.  Mary came in late and was tired, but she was really pleased to see the three guests and insisted they had a room in the house.  The time wasn’t right to discuss my plans.

Jesus, Thursday 19th October, AD 29

My head feels really clear now. Joseph’s death upset me, but it was going to happen soon. The mourning during the week that followed not only helped me to get over his death but also started to dislodge and then wash away all sorts of anxieties, uncertainties and tensions from my mind, my body, my heart and my soul.

The long reflective trudge from Nazareth to Magdala with the warm autumn sun on my back was the final part of the process, and I now know exactly what I am doing and where I am going. I made peace with Mother, by brothers and sisters and their families before I left, but I said I might never see them again.

I may have preached about having to hate your family in order to serve God and be saved to enter his new kingdom, but I don’t mean hate in the sense of hating, say, a man who has insulted or robbed or falsely accused you. It’s more the case that compared to the burning passion you feel towards God and all those you want to save for God’s kingdom, the glow of love and loyalty you normally experience for your family is very dim in comparison. In fact, the love we must feel for God and for others means that we cannot even hate those who insult or rob or make false accusations against us. It sounds a hard teaching, but to me it makes perfect sense.

I am more certain than ever that those who will be first and have riches in the new Kingdom are those who are downtrodden and poor now. And I am certain that the more people do now to free themselves from wealth and property and to give it to those who desperately need it, will benefit themselves as much as the recipients of their giving.
I know where I am going. I intend to take all the apostles with me, including Tom, though he hasn’t agreed to come back yet. I know when the present age is going to end. I need to speak to Mary about my plans and the funds we will need, but tonight is not the time for such discussions.