Y'shua walked along the road descending to the western shore of the great lake to the new city of Tiberias.Many of the fishermen of K'far Nahum brought their catches here to sell. Tiberias was a resort town where good prices were paid by the owners of the palatial Roman resorts to feed vacationing aristocrats and furloughed soldiers of high rank. K'far Nahum was but an hour's sail to the north shore, less if there was a stiff wind. Y'shua was confident he could sail with one of the fishermen. Tomorrow was Shabat and he wanted to be in the synagogue that was so familiar to him. Y'shua sat in the bow of the boat as it pulled up to the moorings at K'far Nahum and slipped over in the shallow water. Carrying his sandals, he waded ashore. A steep path took him up the hill from the black rock beach to the main road into the village. All of the houses and even the streets and pavings were made from the black rocks. Only the synagogue, with its facade of imported granite and marble reflecting the sun, contrasted with the black-gray of the town. The people of K'far Nahum were glad to see Y'shua at the synagogue. They all looked on him as a member of the community, given the few years he lived here, and were proud to have such a famous Rabbi as one of their own. Most of the villagers had been touched in one way or another by his teachings and healings. Many of his followers were also followers of Yohanon, the baptizer, for their messages were much the same. "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand" was the central message of both men. The Baptizer continued to preach that Y'shua was the key to the coming kingdom. Y'shua loved to walk along the beach in the mornings, stepping between the black cobbles, gazing across the lake at the misty shape of the Gergesene Heights, lost in prayer and contemplation. This morning, he came upon Yonah's two sons Simon and Andrew casting nets into the reeds to catch the shrimp they used for luring fish into their nets. Simon and Andrew worked in the fishing business owned by their father Yonah and his own uncle Zebedee so they were not strangers to him. In fact, he had often gone fishing with them when his family visited Aunt Salome during the fishing season. Simon and Andrew looked on Y'shua differently now. He was no longer just the young friend from Nazareth, he was obviously a prophet with some great purpose. "Shalom, Simon, Andrew!" Y'shua knew the time had come. "I want you to come and follow me. I will make you fishers of men." Simon and Andrew looked at each other for a moment as if trying to make a decision, but each knew that they had no choice. They were pious young men who fervently believed in the messianic destiny of Israel and they both had seen some of the mysterious things that their friend had done. They knew, unhesitatingly, that they had to go. They moored their boat, laid down the bait nets and followed their friend as he continued back toward the main moorings under the village. There in one of the larger boats they came upon Uncle Zebedee and Big Yaqub and Yohanon. They had their main drag net draped over the side of the boat reweaving various tears and breaks. Y'shua looked up and caught the eyes of his cousins. "Yaqub! Yohanon! It's time! Come!" Zebedee did not object. He knew this time would come and that Y'shua's closest friends and relatives should be with him. He had already hired some apprentices to take his boys place. Y'shua, Simon, Andrew, big Yaqub and Yohanon went to the Synagogue where Y'shua taught for most of the morning and the people of K'far Nahum were astonished at the power and authority that still seemed to be growing ever and ever stronger in the voice and words of this young Rabbi.
Suddenly, as Y'shua spoke, one of the men in the chamber rose up and shouted "Get out of here! Leave us Alone! What have we got do to with you, Y'shua ha Notzri? Haven't you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God!"
Y'shua looked at the man and could tell that he was possessed by some dark obsession. His eyes were wild and glaring. Spittle dripped from his mouth in such abundance that the breast of his tunic was soaked. Y'shua reached out to him and shouted, "Hold your peace and come out!" The man shuddered and cried out as if in some great pain. His eyes rolled back and he fell to the floor. After a few moments, the man rose up with a confused expression, not remembering any of the previous events. everybody was taken aback, the hum of the whispers filled the room. "What kind of teacher is this? How can he have command over unclean spirits?"
Y'shua and his four followers left the synagogue and headed for Simon's house just across the street where they would take breakfast. Deborah, Simon's wife, came running across the street.
"My mother is very sick! Her fever is so high that we fear for her."
Y'shua and Simon sped toward the house followed by Deborah, Andrew, Yaqub and Yohanon. Y'shua went right to Naomi's bedside. He knew her from his days here after he returned from the covenanters. Naomi and his own mother were good friends and had enjoyed many evenings weaving blankets or just sewing and talking. Naomis face was ashen and her lips had no color. Her graying hair matted by dried perspiration. Y'shua took her hand, already cold, in his and reached his arm around her back, lifting her from the bed.
"Naomi! Wake up! I'm hungry."
Naomi stirred. Color returned to her face and her eyes, now bright, opened.
"Now just what am I doing in this bed?" she said. "I must be getting lazy or something. Yisu, you dear boy, tell Deborah to get in the kitchen and help me get a meal for you boys."
Naomi chattered on as she and the perplexed Deborah prepared the meal. "How's Miriam? Why doesn't she leave Nazareth now that your father's gone, and come here where we can all look after her?" All were amazed at the complete change in Naomi who, none knew, had really died a few minutes before Y'shua entered the room. All that evening, after the meal, Y'shua sat on the porch as the townspeople brought the sick. There was so much that he wanted to tell them. He wanted to let them know that the infirmities they brought him to cure were nothing when compared to the eternal infirmities he came to cure. The simple miracles they witnessed were jots compared to the miracle of eternal salvation. All evening, the sick were brought to Simon's house. He healed them all, lepers, those possessed of demons and evil spirits, fevers. He restored sight to people that had been blind since birth and gave paralytics the ability to walk. Now the country has always had "healers" roaming from town to town and claiming to be prophets but nothing like this. Blind men seeing again?
Often, Y'shua had to get off by himself. He was very uncomfortable with miracles. He wanted to save souls much more than cure bodies. Many of the people he cured of more severe infirmities such as paralysis, blindness, deafness or insanity he would instruct to tell no one. He didn't want it to get around. This tactic didn't work at all. As he and his followers went from town to town, word always preceded him and the diseased and infirm were waiting. Somehow he had to let the people know that there was much more to this than healing the sick. His opportunity came in his favorite town of K'far Nahum when Simon's house was so crowded with the sick and their relatives that a young man with cerebral palsy was lowered into the room from the roof. Y'shua was moved by the faith of the man and his brothers who lowered him with the sure confidence that he would be healed. Y'shua noticed that some of the Tseddikim were watching from the crowd and reasoned that this was a good time to make his point. He looked down at the palsied boy and said, "Son, your sins are forgiven." The room quieted. Even the moans of those in pain stopped.
"Why is this man speaking blasphemy?" thought one of the resplendently dressed elders, hesitating to say anything aloud in a crowd obviously sympathetic to the Rabbi. "Who can forgive sins but Ha Shem alone?"
Y'shua called to the startled Sadducee and asked, "Why do you think these things? Do you think it's any easier to say your sins are forgiven to someone with palsy as it is to say get up and walk? So you will know that the Son of Man has the power to forgive sins...." turning his attention to the boy on the litter, "....get up, take up your bed and go home!"
No sooner had the words left his mouth than the spastic limbs of the young man began to uncurl and straighten. One could see once atrophied muscles gaining girth and tone. The head, once permanently bowed and contorted to one side, straightened. The tongue which had protruded from a mouth ever agape receded into the mouth which closed straight and firm. The young man looked at his straight body, frightened as much as overjoyed. Cautiously, he got up testing the act of standing like a seaman who had been to sea for months. Once convinced he could not only stand but walk, he looked in Y'shua's eyes, sharing his tears of gratitude with his benefactor's tears of compassion. He knelt down, rolled up his bed, tucked it under his arm and walked away. After what seemed an eternity, the amazed and speechless crowd began to chant and sing praises to a God that heretofore had been a distant and mysterious image to the simple folk of the farms and seasides. Now God seemed closer and more involved in their welfare. All they knew was that somehow, Y'shua brought God into their homes, fields and synagogues where they could see and feel his presence.
The next morning, Y'shua was walking along the road when a number of the townspeople caught up to him. He continued to teach them as he walked and it wasn't long before they came to the district border. One of the ways the Romans gathered taxes was to collect duty on goods purchased in one district and carried into another. Most main roads had tax stations where customs agents assessed and collected tariffs from travelers. Locals were always employed as "publicans" as they were called, since they knew the language, customs and habits of the populace and were more qualified to assess the value of local goods. The tax agents had to have a working knowledge of Latin, the administrative language; Greek, the language of commerce; and the language of the region. These "publicans" were held in contempt by the general population and particularly by Galileans who, more independent and nationalistic than Judaeans, saw them as enemy collaborators. The group came to the tax station where Y'shua recognized his cousin Levi ben Alphai, Uncle Clopas' oldest boy.
"Follow me Mattathiah!" Y'shua called, using his cousin's more familiar name. Mattathiah got up, leaving the ledgers and money and joined the group. Mattathiah invited Y'shua and the group to take the evening meal at his house. He had already planned to have numerous guests and the meal was being prepared. Y'shua, Simon and Andrew, Yaqub and Yohanon went into Mattathiah's house and sat at the table. Most of the followers stayed outside because they thought it a defilement to enter the house of a "publican." The friends of Mattathiah were not exactly what would be called the social cream of Galilean society, most of whom would have nothing to do with him. They were other publicans, tax collectors, even a smuggler or two. The Tseddikim were again surprised at Y'shua's actions and asked his followers how it was that he could sit and eat with tax collectors and sinners. Y'shua heard their comments and answered, "A physician heals the sick, not the healthy. I came here to call the sinners to repentance, not the righteous."
Y'shua stayed and preached in K'far Nahum for a few more days, all the while the Tseddikim grew more and more hostile. He also used the time to choose the rest of his disciples. He needed twelve "inner circle" disciples for tradition's sake and chose each one for certain qualities that he knew they had. Like the twelve tribes, each would have his own personality and purpose. Y'shua knew each disciple from having spent such a large part of his early manhood in the area. They were either relatives or acquaintances. He had chosen Simon bar Yonah for his strength of will. Simon was a strong man, stocky with thick strong arms. He had red hair which was beginning to thin. His manner was usually crude and he had a tendency to be impulsive. There was something very special about Simon, something much more important than his weaknesses. Simon's brother Andrew was chosen for his devotion and gentleness. He had been a disciple of Yohanon the Baptizer and was there that day Y'shua was baptized. It was Yohanon that first told Andrew to follow Y'shua. Y'shua's two cousins Yaqub and Yohanon were very different for brothers. Yaqub was an imposing man with an aggressive personality, much like his father Zebedee. Yohanon had more of Y'shua's aunt Salome's personality, subtle and gentle. Cousins, in the Galilee, were often as close as brothers and Y'shua considered young Yohanon as a younger brother. He loved him more than any other relative. Mattathiah was also a cousin and the oldest of Uncle Clopas' sons. His sense of independence and ability to read and write several languages would be useful. Y'shua also chose his Uncle Clopas' youngest son, Yaqub (like Y'shua's brother and the oldest Zebedee, named after Y'shua's grandfather). Yaqub ben Alphai was called Yaqub "the least" while Yaqub bar Zebedee was called "the greater." This seemed to prevent confusion. The next two disciples chosen were also fishermen, two cousins with whom Y'shua played when he was young and the family visited the Lake. Philip and Nathanael bar Tolmai were closer than brothers and very devout. They both had an adventurous bent that sometimes got them in trouble. Thaddei bar Yaqub was the son of Yaqub the "Greater" and the grandson of Zebedee. He and Simon Qannai were two very serious young men who had been disciples of Yohanon. They were militantly anti-Roman. Their fathers had fought with Yehuda of Galilee who founded the Zealot party twenty years ago. They hoped for a Messiah who would wield a sword against the oppressors of Israel. This Messiah was one of two that was taught by the covenanters. Then there was Yehudah ish-Kirioth. Yehudah was also a zealot. He was certain that when Y'shua chose him from among Yohanon's followers that the prophecies concerning the "warrior Messiah" were coming true. Yehudah also subscribed to the idea of the Tsenaim (Essenes) that there were two messiahs. He considered the Baptizer to be the priestly "Messiah of Aaron" and Y'shua to be the royal warrior "Messiah of David." Finally, Y'shua chose Yehudah the twin (Tomas).
Y'shua and the twelve were preparing to begin a teaching throughout all of the Galilee and the people from K'far Nahum and Migdal and Tiberias and many of the towns and villages of the area of Lake Gennesaret gathered to hear him speak. He ascended a hill that overlooked the sea across a field just south of K'far Nahum. The entire slope of the hill and field seemed to be a sea of people, all anxious to hear what this famous new preacher had to say. He looked out over the crowd in front of him and could see the great lake in the distance. He wanted to make this preaching the summary of his whole ministry. He wanted these words to be remembered. Mattathiah still had a considerable store of parchments that he had used for tax reports and had already begun to record some of Y'shua's statements in their native Aramaic. Mattathiah thought about using Greek to record Y'shua's sermon but there were things expressed in Aramaic that were rooted in centuries of Jewish suffering and expectation. Greek is an eloquent language where single words can have many meanings. Aramaic is a musical language that sings the songs of the earth and those songs lose their music when translated into Greek. Mattathiah could write faster in Greek but he had invented a type of Aramaic shorthand that had been handy during the census when he had to write quickly. The crowd was so quiet, even the children, that one could still hear the noises of the lakeside only less than half a Sabbath Day walk to the east. Y'shua stretched out his arms as if to embrace the entire audience,
"Tubehon misknaYA, dedilehon malkuta dissemmaYA,"
"Blessed are the poor-spirited, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven."
He used an oratorical style which was popular, rhyming the words in a two and four-beat meter so that each statement became a song. It also made it easier for people to remember and pass on.
"Tubehon demitABBE-lin deHIN-nun mit-NAHHA-min"
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."
The sermon was the longest he had ever given. He spoke of many things. He told the people how to pray:
"Awoon deWESHmaya, NITkodesh sheMACH;.......
Our Father in Heaven, Holy is your name
TAtho malKOOthek, NIho tsebYANek;......
Your Kingdom come, Your will be done
ayHENO deWESHmaya op b'aRA;.....
The same in Heaven as on earth
HEB lan lachMA desoonKANen yomaNA;.....
Give to us our daily bread
voshVOK lan hoBIN ayHENo dop heNON shevKON l'hoBIN
Forgive our sins the same as we forgive those who sin against us
v'LO thoLON leNISyoNAH
And do not let us enter into bad thinking
AYla fetSON min baySHAH
But free us from the Evil One
Y'shua spoke about good and evil, repentance and forgiveness, the danger of judging others:
"BimekhileTA deatTUN mekhilin bah jekhiLUN lekhON"
"With the judgement you judge, You will be judged."
He knew that evil feeds on itself and if only good would be given for evil, eventually evil would vanish. He also offered hope,
"Sha-aLUN wejahaBAN lekHON Pash-peSHUN weatTUN mash-keHIN arteKUN upHATehin lekHON"
"Ask, and it will be given to you; Seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you."
Even when he had finished and began to come back down off the hill, most of the crowd remained, astonished at the "good for evil" doctrine and impressed by the authority with which he spoke. Mattathiah rolled up several lengths of parchment on which he had written these "oracles" and placed them safely in his rucksack. He wondered if they would ever be useful.