Yosef Caiaphas looked out the window and across the Kidron valley and saw the commotion below. The luxurious house of the high priest was located strategically on Mt. Zion, southwest of the temple. The front window of the upper room gave him a good view, over the temple pinnacle, of the western slope of Har ha-Zetim (the Mount of Olives) and the olive groves. The path to the upper city led from the Gethsemane olive grove south along the base of the mountain and crossed the valley within a few chains of Caiphas' house. There it turned north along Mt. Moriah toward the Beautiful Gate. Caiphas could see Y'shua's oiled black hair glisten in the sun as the ass was led around the path toward the pinnacle of the temple. The jubilant chatter of the followers and the shouted Hosannas echoed through the valley but rung ominously to Caiphas' ears. He turned to Annas. "You see that? What you see could mean the beginning of the end. We have to stop this Y'shua. Keep the spies on him. Have them ask questions that could lure something seditious from him."
Annas glanced out the window. "It may take a while. We need to build a good case or the Sanhedrin won't approve sending him to Pilatus. There is another thing that gives me great concern about this Galilean, Yosef."
"What is that?" asked Caiaphas.
Annas stared out the window at the temple. "It is claimed that the Old Covenanter gave this Y'shua the secret of the hiding place of the Holy Ark."
"What?" shouted Caiaphas. The Ark was destroyed by the Chaldeans!"
"Perhaps not, Yosef. It was said that the secret was kept by the High Priests up to the time of the Romans. According to the rumor, the Ark was hidden by the Prophet Jeremiah and has been kept in secret all these years until the coming of the Messiah."
"I am the High Priest, as were you before me," said Caiaphas. "Why didn't we know of this?"
"Because we are not Levite priests!" answered Annas.
"If the Ark still exists and this Galilean obtains it, every man, woman and child in all the province would march against the Romans believing the Ark would protect them and give them victory. It would mean the end of everything. This Galilean MUST be put to death. If he alone knows where it is, it will remain hidden forever."
The hooves of the colt clopped on the marble stones that led along the city wall. As he rode the colt through the Beautiful Gate, followers dropped their coats, muffling the sound. Y'shua dismounted and climbed the stairs to Solomon's porch. Simon Kaifa and Andrew waited at the bottom of the stairs with the rest of the followers, all still shouting, "Blessed is the Meshiach who comes in the name of Adonai." Several of the Tseddikim were watching from the porch under Caiphas' orders. The oldest, a member of the Sanhedrin, turned to Y'shua. "Rabbi, how can your followers say that? Rebuke them!"
Y'shua kept his gaze on the Kodesh ha Kodeshim as he answered, "If they became silent at this moment, these very stones would speak instead." He turned to the left and looked out over the city, the sun setting below the towers of David, "If you only knew now what was needed for peace, but now you can't see it. The day is coming when your enemies will barricade you, coming in from every side. They will destroy you and the people in you and they will not leave one stone still upon another."
Yshua then walked along the colonnade of the Porch of Solomon where the money changers and hawkers of animals and incense had their tables. He knew that all of these people worked for Caiaphas. "Give me the rope from the asses bridle," he barked to Kaifa. Kaifa handed him the rope which he began to plait and tied a heavy knot at the end. Suddenly he ran along the colonnade overturning the tables and flailing the rope at the startled hawkers. Coins, both Judean and Roman clattered across the marble causeway and cages crashed down the stairs of the portico, opening to release its occupants. "It is written that my fathers house shall be a house of prayer!" he shouted. "You have made it a den of thieves!" Kaifa and the others looked at each other with startled faces. Yshuas anger was so profound and so obvious that no one would dare approach him but all knew the deadly import of what he had done.
The priests looked at each other, silent as Y'shua descended the stairs. The twelve were waiting, it was late and they decided to go over to Bethany and spend the night. Tomorrow would be a busy day. Bethany was a small village on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives. Alazar, a well-to-do nephew of Yosef ha-Ramathaim, and his two sisters Martha and Miriam lived in a spacious house on the outskirts. Alazar and Y'shua had been friends since they were children when Yosef often brought his nephew to Nazareth to visit. Alazar was a handsome man, about two years younger than Y'shua. he was shorter and of slender build. he had very dark brown hair that grew in wild curls and had a habit of shaking his fingers through the tangle when deep in thought or stressed. Their friendship had lasted all these years. There was always plenty of room for Y'shua and the twelve. The two friends sat on the portico reminiscing. Alazar put his hand on Y'shua's shoulder, "Yisu, my friend, you really have things stirred up. We talked about these things a long time ago and I know you have to do these things but I can't pretend I'm not worried." He gazed at the stars over Har ha-Zofim (Mt. Scopus), "Do you remember when we were young and my father wanted to arrange a marriage between you and my sister Miriam?" Y'shua nodded with a smile, amused at the memory. "You know she never married after that. She still has a crush on you."
"Miriam has always been very special to me `Lazar," Y'shua, like all Galileans, dropped the first aleph of a word or name. This accent always made Galileans known in Judaea. "That was the time it was necessary to tell you and your family of my purpose so as not to hurt Miriam's feelings and offend your father."
"I remember, Yisu. You gave me a scroll with the 22nd Psalm and asked me to read it. I still remember some of it. `My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.' I think the part that stands out most in my mind is `They pierced my hands and feet. I can count all my bones. They look, they stare at me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.' You told me that the prophecy was of you and I thought you had gotten into some of old Zebedee's new wine."
Y'shua smiled, "After the shock wore off, you took me at my word, and so did your father. You accepted at a time when my brothers and sisters, cousins and friends thought me either possessed or blasphemous. That time has come. I've spent the last year and a half giving the news to the Am-ha-aretz that the prophecies have been fulfilled. Now it's time for Psalm 22." Alazar looked into Y'shua's face and could feel the tears filling the corners of his eyes. "When?" He half whispered.
"Not for a while yet. I have work to do here first."
The next morning Y'shua, his two cousins and disciples, Yaqub and Yohanon, and Simon-Kaifa began a tour of a number of towns they had chosen around Jerusalem. Everywhere he went, people knew who he was. Word had spread that Caiaphas and some of the temple elders wanted to kill him. This intrigued the people all the more who suspected he must have something important to say. "He must really be the Messiah," many were saying. Temple guards could be spotted in every crowd waiting for him to say something for which they could arrest him. Caiaphas' orders were clear. Wait for him to say something clearly seditious.
"I am the light of the world," he said to a crowd gathered near the offering font of the temple. "whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life." One of the young sadducees yelled out, "Your talking on your own, that doesn't prove anything.
Y'shua knew what they were trying to do, "Even if I say so myself, what I say is true because I know where I came from and where I am going. You judge others as men. I judge no one, but if I did my judgement would be true because the judgement would be made by me and the father who sent me."
He knew that the law required two witnesses to make a judgement and that the young sadducee was trying to trap him.
"Where is your father?" asked the arrogant young Sadducee.
"You don't know me or my father. If you knew me you would know my father."
The young sadducee and the temple guards looked at each other, the guards looking for a cue to arrest him. The lawyer shook his head no. Y'shua continued to speak, all the time playing a scriptural and legal cat and mouse game with the waiting sadducees. After he had finished he walked down the stairs near the arch at the southwest corner of the temple and went out the dung gate with his disciples and followers still trailing along. The sadducee joined them still hoping to catch an incriminating statement. Y'shua led the group up the path of Mt. Ophel along the old city. They came upon a blind man named Sidon who had a begging spot near the fruit stall at the top of the hill. Sison had begged at this spot for years and no other beggar would think to take it unless he died or moved to another place. It was sort of a code among beggars. Simon Qannai walked over and dropped a denarius into the man's begging bowl. He looked to Y'shua, "Rabbi, who's sin caused this man to be born blind? His or his parents?" The blind man looked puzzled at the question as Y'shua knelt next to him.
"It was neither his sin or his parent's sin. He is blind so that God's power might be seen. We must do the work of God as long as it is day because the night is coming. While I am here I am the light." He spat in the dirt next to the road and formed some mud on his fingers and rubbed it on the eyes of the beggar. "Go wash your face in the pool of Siloam." Sidon knew his way along the Ophel path having traveled it all his life. The Siloam pool was further down the path to the south of the hill as it turned to the left. It took the blind man no time at all to reach the pool with several of the disciples running ahead to clear the way. The rest stayed at the top of the hill. Y'shua looked over his shoulder to the east where he could see the house of Caiphas. He smiled. At the bottom of the hill, the man reached down into the pool and raised a handful of the cool water to his face. The mud that Y'shua had put on his eyes formed streaks down his cheeks. Suddenly there was an image and light burst into his head almost painfully. He looked again and could see faces. He knew they were faces because he had felt faces with his hands all his life. Having been born blind he learned to make things out with his hands. The eyes were where they should be and the noses and mouths...but they were waving about and shimmering and changing shape. He was puzzled at this first perception of the world through eyes that had never seen. Suddenly, he realized that he was looking in the water of the pool and it was the reflections of the astonished faces of the people who had followed him. Unable to speak, he closed his eyes again and lifted himself from the mosaic tile poolside. He turned around, slowly and cautiously, his legs trembling with fear and anticipation. He opened his eyes again and saw a dazzling display of gold and silver flashing from the temple mount. His heart pounded as his eyes passed from one thing to another. He started to run back up the path where Y'shua waited and nearly fell several times. The path that he traversed so easily blind required a different adjustment now that he could see. When he got to the top of the hill, Y'shua was gone but the astonished crowd, including the young sadducee, remained. The crowd gathered around. Everyone was talking at once. Some were saying that it wasn't the same man who had begged on the hill for years. Others testified that it was and that they had known Sidon for years. The crowd grew as others coming along the path asked what the excitement was all about. For the first time, the young sadducee was speechless.
Y'shua and the disciples retreated to the Garden of Gethemane after this because of the commotion around the Siloam pool. They were discussing what was to take place now and what the disciple would be doing to obey Y'shua's instructions that they would venture out into the world and preach. Bar Toma approached Y'shua with a letter than had been delivered by a messenger named Ananias who had traveled all the way from Edessa in Asia. The letter, written in Aramaic, was from none other than Abgar, the King of all Mesopotamia. Ananias read the letter to Y'shua as all gathered.
"Abgar Uchama the Toparch to Y'shua, who has appeared as a gracious saviour in the region of Jerusalem - greeting.
I have heard about you and the cures you perform without drugs or herbs. If report is true, you make the blind see again and the lame walk about; you cleanse lepers, expel unclean spirits and demons, cure those suffering from chronic and painful diseases, and raise the dead. When I heard all this about you, I concluded that one of two things must be true - either you are God and came down from Heaven to do these things, or you are God's son doing them. Accordingly, I am writing to beg you to come to me, whatever the inconvenience, and cure the disorder from which I suffer. I may add that I understand the authorities there are treating you with contempt and desire to injure you. My city is very samll, but highly esteemed, adequate for both of us."
Y'shua was silent for a while as he thought about the letter. "Levi! Take a parchment
and and give it to this messenger to write this to King Abgar."
Levi ben Alfai reached into his pack for a fresh parchment. Still in the pack was his long scroll of the "sayings" that he had been writing from Y'shua's words. As soon as Ananias was ready, Y'shua dictated.
"Fortunate and blessed are you who believed in me without having seen me! For it is written of me that those who have seen me will not believe in me, and those who have not seen will believe and live. As to your request that I should come to you, I must complete all that I was sent to do here, and on completing it must at once be taken up to the One who sent me. When I have been taken up I will send you one of my disciples to cure your disorders and bring life to you and those with you."
Kislev 25, 3789..........December 1, 28
Two months had passed since the healing of the blind man on that sabbath after the Feast of Tabernacles. Y'shua arrive at the temple after preaching throughout Judea. He walked up the stairs to Solomon's Porch, crowded for the Feast of Dedication and was approached by the same young sadducee that had followed him around a couple of months ago. "Are you, or are you not, the Messiah?" asked the frustrated legal, still hoping to trap him into an incriminating statement.
Y'shua turned to the young man, "I already told you once and you wouldn't believe me. The things that I do in my Father's name speak for me. You don't believe me because you are not one of my sheep. My sheep listen to me and follow me. I will let them live forever and no one can take them from me. What my Father has given me is even greater." A number of elders and temple guards joined the younger sadducee in listening to Y'shua. He glanced at them gathered around in their rich finery and colorful robes, looking so smug and sure of themselves and decided he would give them something to think about. "AYna w'ABi hahd heNAN......I and the Father are ONE!" His thunderous Aramaic had a metallic ring to it. You could hear the gasps all over the porch. "Stone him!" shouted some of the temple officials.
"For which of the good works that I have done will you stone me"
"We're not going to stone you for doing good things but for blaspheming against God. You are only a man and you claim to be God."
Y'shua shouted back, "How can you say I blaspheme by saying I'm the son of God. Haven't you seen the works that I have done in his name? If you don't believe me, believe the works."
The elders still wanted to stone him but there were no loose stones on the surface of Solomon's porch which, as part of the temple area, was well kept. The young sadducee thought he finally had the evidence he needed. Others in the crowd who were his followers bustled about and blocked the way to Y'shua who had already started down the steps. The other followers gathered around him and led him north along the Jericho road, back along the Jordan to Galilee. Y'shua taught for a month at the same place where Yohanon the baptizer first introduced him as the "Imreh d'Elaha," The Lamb of God. He had just finished talking to a large crowd when Yehudah Toma and Nathanael bar Tolmai brought him a message that had been delivered by runner from Bethany. Bar Tolmai unrolled the small piece of parchment and read the note from Miriam and Martha, "Lord, your dear friend is sick." The disciples were surprised to see their master smile.
"This sickness will not mean `Lazar's death but will instead glorify God and the Son of God." He taught at the Jordan river for two more days before telling the disciples that they would be going back to Bethany in Judaea. "But they still want to kill you there," warned Kaifa. "Why go back?"
"Because my friend `Lazar has fallen asleep and I have to wake him up." Kaifa and Andrew gave each other that "uh-oh! something's up again" look that brothers understand. Yehudah Toma felt that sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach that came more often since the last trip to the Holy City.
Martha was busy bustling from room to room in the spacious house, carrying drink and refreshments for the guests. Miriam was seated in the main room accepting the condolences from a stream of family and friends. Haman, the olive presser, rushed in the front door and called to Martha.
"Your Rabbi is coming! One of my oil customers saw him and his followers on the road at Bethpage. He already told him that Alazar died four days ago. He should be getting here any minute." Martha handed her tray to a servant and rushed out the door, sprinting north on the Jericho road which passed their house. She had just passed the town marker when she spotted the group of men on the road ahead. As she neared, she could make out Y'shua by the long loping strides which always made it difficult for some of the disciples to keep up. The men stopped when they saw her approaching. Breathlessly, she called to Y'shua as she reached the group, "Lord, if you would have been here, my brother wouldn't have died, but I know that, even now, God will give you whatever you ask."
"Your brother will rise," Y'shua said, pleased with Martha's faith.
Martha looked at his face, daring to hope, "I know that he will rise again on the last day," she probed.
Y'shua smiled, "I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me will live, even though he dies, do you believe this Martha?"
Martha held the sleeve of his coat tightly, I believe that you are the Meshiach, the Son of God who has come to the world."
"Go tell Miriam," Y'shua asked. "Tell her to come see me and I'll wait." It was very important to Y'shua that Miriam, who was so special to him, also believed. Martha went back to the house and went over to Miriam. "Our teacher is here and wants to see you," she whispered. Miriam started and hurried out the door. Many of the guests thought she was going to the tomb to mourn and followed. When Miriam got to Y'shua and the disciples, she fell at his feet crying, "If you had been here, my brother would not have died." This was the confirmation of faith that Y'shua needed to hear. Tears streamed down his face as the crowd of mourners gathered.
"Where have you buried him?"
"Come, we'll show you." The cemetery was just outside of town. Alazar's tomb, as befitting his station, was a hewn cave in the rocky hillside and sealed by a large stone disk. The crowd followed Y'shua as Martha led the way. "He must have really loved Alazar to want to mourn at the grave," said one of the cousins.
"Take away the stone!" He ordered. Everyone looked at each other, shocked at the request, "But he's been buried for four days, there's going to be a bad odor," Martha said, still not daring to entertain the thought that haunted the back of her mind. Y'shua was hurt by her seeming loss of faith, "Didn't I tell you that you would see God's glory if you believed?" Everyone gathered around the tomb and watched as several of the burliest rolled the stone in its track. As the circular stone rolled away from the tomb, the fetid odor of putrefaction could be detected by those nearest. Everyone, wondering what was happening, stepped back except Y'shua. It was apparent to all that Y'shua was praying but no one could hear him. Suddenly, he called out,
"`LAzar, tha l'VER...Alazar, come out!"
The expressions and reactions of the crowd were a mixture of shock and disbelief rapidly replaced by fear as the stumbling shrouded figure appeared in the entranceway. The wrappings were stained with the early stages of putrefaction and were still quite odorous as several of Alazar's friends unwrapped him. As the linen wrapping, stained from putrefaction, was removed from Alazar's head, the "dead" man blinked his eyes at the glare of daylight. He had a confused look on his face as if suddenly awakened from a deep sleep. As his senses returned, he looked into Y'shua's eyes and smiled. A number of the onlookers ran toward Mt. Olives and Jerusalem to report what they had seen.
Yosef Caiphas paced back and forth, his robes wafting with every nervous turn. The meeting room of the Sanhedrin seemed to swallow up the Sadducees waiting for the high priest's decision. Caiphas stopped pacing and turned to Annas and Eleazar, "Do you realize that hundreds of people think this man brought someone back from the dead? I don't know what type of trickery or sorcery he used. It was bad enough healing diseases and claiming to forgive people's sins but this raising the dead business is going to cause a lot of people to follow him. The Romans will surely step in like they did with Yehudah the Galilean. Thousands could be crucified and they might even destroy the temple. I, for one, don't intend to see this happen again. It's better for one man to die than thousands." Everyone in the room knew that Caiaphas was more concerned about his lucrative business with Pilatus and Sejanus than any concern over mass crucifixions. Annas rose from his seat, "I agree, it's time this Y'shua ha-Nozri was silenced. We'll let the Temple guards arrest him, but for sedition and not for blasphemy. That way we'll get Pilatus to condemn him. We'll wait for the first opportunity." Yehudah Toma knew the raising of Alazar would be the last straw for the Temple elders and persuaded Y'shua and the others to go to Ephraim, near the desert, until the excitement cooled down. He spent several days teaching in the small towns until he wound up back in Bethany. There he stayed at the home of Simon, a leper he cured last winter. It would have been too much of a risk to go back to Alazar's and put his friend and his sisters in jeopardy.