The Parable of the Unjust Steward
Even as a child, I saw this and the other parables passing like living scenes before my eyes, and I used to think that, here and there, I recognized occasional figures from them in the life around me. And so it happened also with this steward whom I have always seen as a hunchback with a reddish beard, a receiver of revenues. I used to see him running very briskly and rapidly among the under-tenants, making them sign their contracts with a pen. I saw the unjust steward living in a tent castle, in the desert of Arabia, not far from the place where the Children of Israel murmured. His lord, who dwelt far away across Mount Libanus, owned here on the frontiers of Palestine a corn and olive plantation. On either side of the field lived two peasants to whom it was rented. The steward was a diminutive, humpbacked fellow, very cunning and full of expedients. He thought: “The lord will not come yet awhile,” and so he feasted freely and let things go as they would. The two peasants were pretty much of the same stamp, and spent their time in carousing. All on a sudden, I saw the lord coming. Far over a high mountain range, I saw a magnificent city and palace from which a most beautiful road led straight to the plantation. Then I saw the king and his whole court coming down with a great caravan of camels and little, low chariots drawn by asses. I saw all this very much as I see paths coming down from the heavenly Jerusalem. The king was a heavenly king who owned a wheat and olive field on this earth. But he came in the manner of the patriarchal kings, attended by a great retinue. I saw him coming down from on high, for that little fellow, the steward, had been accused to him of dissipating his revenues.
The lord’s debtors were two persons in long coats buttoned all the way down. The steward wore a little cap. The castle of the latter was nearer the desert than the wheat and olive plantation, on either side of which the peasants lived. That was more toward the land of Canaan, and formed a triangle with the castle. And now came the lord down over the cornfield. The two debtors had squandered the fruits of the field with the steward, although toward their dependents they were hard and exacting. They were two bad parish priests, and the steward a bishop far from good; or again, it was like a worldling putting his affairs in order. The steward, having espied the coming of his lord while yet he was a long way off, fell into the greatest anxiety. He prepared a grand feast, and became very active and servile. When the lord arrived, he thus addressed the steward: “Why, what is this that I hear of thee, that thou dost squander my property! Render an account, for thou shalt no longer be my steward!” Then I saw the steward hurriedly summoning the two peasants. They presented themselves carrying rolls, which they opened. He questioned them as to the amount of their indebtedness, for of that he was utterly ignorant, and they showed it to him. With the crooked reed that he held in his hand, he made them quickly change the sum to a lesser amount, for he thought: “When I shall be discharged, I shall find shelter with them and have whereon to live, for I cannot work.”
I saw now the peasants sending their servants to the lord with camels and asses laden with sacks of corn and baskets of olives. They that had charge of the olives carried money also, little metal bars done up in packages, larger or smaller according to their sum, and fastened together with rings. But the lord, glancing at the packages, saw by what he had before received that these were far too small, and from the false account rendered, he understood the design of the steward. Turning to his courtiers, he said with a laugh: “See, the man is shrewd and cunning. He intends to make friends of those under him. The children of the world are wiser in their doings than the children of light, who rarely do for good what the former do for evil, who rarely take as much trouble for a reward as this man has done for punishment.” Then I saw that the hunchbacked knave was discharged from his office and banished into the desert. The soil there was metallic (yellow, hard, unfruitful ferruginous sand, ocher), its only vegetation the alder tree. He was at first quite confounded and troubled, but I saw that he afterward set to work to chop wood and to build. The two peasants also were sent away, though to them somewhat better places amidst the sand of the desert were allotted. But the poor under servants, formerly the victims of cruel extortion, were now entrusted with the care of the field.
Jesus and the Disciples Invited to Teach and Baptize in Seleucia
Jesus and the disciples separated and went in different directions throughout the whole city of Adama. Jesus took the central portions for Himself, while the disciples went to the most distant quarters even as far as the homes of the heathens. They stopped at almost every house inviting the people, who were already prepared, to go on the following day to the Baptism, and on the day after to the great instruction that Jesus was to deliver in a larger grassy enclosure, on the other side of the lake near Seleucia. The invitations were accompanied by words of instruction. The disciples were thus occupied until dusk, when they left the city and proceeded along the western side of the lake to where some fishing vessels were lying. They went on board, and instructed the fishermen who were fishing by torchlight on the broad side of the lake below the spot where the Jordan flowed into it. The glare of the torches allured the fish, which were then taken with hooks and darts. The disciples told the fishermen to bring their fish over to the green square near Seleucia, where the instruction was to be held, and they should be well rewarded. The green square, of which they made mention, was a kind of zoological garden surrounded by a wall and a hedge. Wild animals taken alive were confined there, consequently it was provided with all kinds of dens and cages for that purpose. The place belonged to Adama and was about one hour and a half from Seleucia.
When morning dawned, Jesus joined the disciples, and they went back to the city together by a roundabout way on which were several huts. Invitations and instructions were given at these huts as at the other houses. Arrived at the city, Jesus and the disciples went to the residence of the Governor, which stood in an open square, and there took some refreshment. The repast consisted of little rolls joined in pairs, and small fish with upright heads. These last were served in a many-colored, shining glass dish formed like a ship. Jesus laid one of the fishes on a roll before each of the disciples. All around the edge of the table were cavities hollowed out like plates, and into them the portions were put.
After the repast, Jesus gave an instruction in the hall opening on the court in presence of the Governor and his household, all of whom were to be baptized. After that He went to the place of instruction outside the city where He found many already waiting for Him, and there, too, He taught in preparation for Baptism. The people in bands came and went by turns, proceeding from this place to the synagogue where they prayed, sprinkled their head with ashes, and did penance. They repaired afterward to the bathing garden near the “Place of Grace,” where two by two they performed their ablutions in a bathhouse separated from each other by a curtain.
When the last band had left the place of instruction, Jesus and His disciples followed. The baptismal well was that into which the water from the arm of the Jordan flowed. The basin here, as in other places, was surrounded by a canal so broad as to afford a passage for two, and from it five conduits connected with the basin. These conduits could be opened or closed at pleasure, and at the side of each ran a path over the little canal. In the center of the basin rose a stake which, by a crosspiece that reached to the bank, could be made to open and close the basin.
This reservoir with its five canals had not been especially constructed for the Baptism. The number five was a frequent recurrence in Palestine, and the five aqueducts leading to the Pool of Bethsaida, to John’s fountain in the desert, to the baptismal well of Jesus, bore reference no doubt to the five Sacred Wounds, or to some other mystery of religion.
Jesus here gave instructions as an immediate preparation for Baptism. The neophytes were clothed in long mantles which they laid aside at the moment of stepping into the canal, retaining only the covering for the loins and the little scapular on the breast. Water from the basin had been let into the canal. On the pathways over it stood the baptizers and the sponsors. The water was thrice poured from a shallow dish over the head in the name of Jehovah and Him whom He had sent. Four disciples baptized at the same time, two others imposing hands as sponsors. This ceremony, with the instructions of Jesus in preparation for it, lasted until evening. Many of the aspirants to Baptism were not admitted to its reception.
At daybreak next morning, the disciples embarked for Seleucia and the appointed place nearby. The lake at some distance from Adama took the figure of a violin, narrowing off to about fifteen minutes in breadth. Seleucia, a city of only moderate importance, was, however, a well-fortified place, being surrounded by two walls and an intervening rampart. On the northern side, especially, it was so steep as to be wholly inaccessible; in that quarter the pagan soldiers dwelt. The women lived to themselves in a separate part of the city in long rows of buildings, each occupying a private apartment. The few Jews here residing were very greatly oppressed. They lived in miserable holes in the walls, and had to perform the lowest and most painful labors on the canals and marshes.
I saw no synagogue here but only a round temple, which stood on a circle of pillars upon which were enormous figures in the attitude of supporting the building. In the center was an immense column, in which were the steps that led up into the edifice. Underneath were subterranean vaults, wherein the urns containing the ashes of the dead were deposited. Nearby was a somber-looking place in which they were accustomed to consume the bodies of their dead. In the temple were idols of serpents with human faces, human figures surmounted by dogs’ heads, and one holding the moon and a fish.
The soil around these parts was not very productive, though the inhabitants were remarkably industrious. They made all kinds of cordage for the harness of horses as well as various kinds of armor, everything necessary for military equipments.
The disciples went around in Seleucia inviting the people to the instruction and to partake of the repast prepared at the appointed place. Meanwhile, Jesus went for the same purpose through the pagan quarters at Adama. Then the disciples repaired to the grassy enclosure of the zoological garden, which was beautifully sodded and filled with flowers and bushes, and there, with the fishermen who kept their fish in a cistern, prepared the meal. The tables were broad beams about two feet wide, that had been drawn up out of the lake. Back of the garden were furnaces in which the fish were roasted. It appeared as if meals were often prepared here, for in the caves around were kept a number of flat stone plates, which looked as if formed by nature, and upon which the viands were served up. There were at this repast bread, fish, herbs, and fruit.
When all had been prepared and about a hundred of the pagan men were assembled, Jesus came over the lake. He was followed by about twelve Jews, the Governor, and several heathens from Adama. He taught on a hill. The Governor and the other Jews took part in the management of the repast, and served at table with the disciples. Jesus taught of man’s twofold composition, body and soul, and of the nourishment of both the one and the other. The people were free either to listen to His instruction or to partake of the meal. Jesus granted that permission to try them. Some went straight to the table and others soon followed, so that about a third only remained to hear. Jesus taught of the vocation of the heathens and told about the Three Kings, whose history was not unknown to these people.
When the meal and instruction were over, Jesus went toward evening with the disciples and Jews to Seleucia, an hour and a half to the south and at some distance from the lake. The people had already returned thither. Here Jesus and His party were received by the most distinguished men of the city, and a luncheon was served for their refreshment. After that they were conducted into the city and Jesus saluted and instructed the heathen women, who had assembled in a square not far from the gate in order to see Him. They were clothed as Jewesses, though not so modestly veiled. Like most of the people of this region, they were not tall, but stout and robust.
Jesus entered a large public hall wherein a banquet had been prepared in His honor. There was a great deal of feasting going on in these parts. Jesus, the disciples, and the Jews sat by themselves at one of the tables. At first, the Jews were unwilling to partake of the entertainment. But Jesus told them that what entered the mouth did not sully the man, and added that they who would not eat with Him, would not follow His doctrine. He taught unweariedly during the whole of the entertainment.
The heathens used tables higher than those of the Jews and also small single ones. They sat cross-legged on cushions, like the people in the land of the Three Kings. The viands consisted of fish, herbs, honey, fruit, also flesh meat roasted brown.
Jesus so impressed them by His teaching that they were very much grieved when He had to leave. They begged Him so earnestly to remain with them that He allowed Andrew and Nathanael to do so. The heathens were very curious when there was question of novelty. It was already dusk when He left them.
The houses in which the women dwelt faced on a broad street, though their rear was built in the wall or the rampart of the fortification. Some of them were very beautiful, separated at intervals by gardens and squares in which the women carried on their domestic affairs and did their washing. Jesus addressed them in their usual meeting place.
In Seleucia, also, Jesus spoke of the Baptism as of a purification; and when they wished to detain Him longer, He told them that they were at present incapable of understanding more.
From Seleucia Jesus returned to Adama. In the synagogue a feast of thanksgiving was celebrated by the newly baptized who occupied the places of honor and chanted canticles of praise. Numbers of others were baptized when Andrew and Nathanael returned from Seleucia. The converted Jew exhibited naught but humility and a desire to render assistance to Jesus, delighted to act as servant and messenger on all occasions.
A great number of sick had been unable to attend Jesus’ instructions and the Baptism; consequently, with Saturnin and the disciple who was related to Him, He went to hunt them up in their homes. The other disciples started for the cities Azor, Cades, Berotha, and Thisbe, all from two to three hours north of Adama, in order to invite the inhabitants to the instruction which Jesus was going to deliver on a gently rising mountain on the road from Cades to Berotha. On the top of that mountain, which was covered with vegetation, and in an open space surrounded by a wall stood a chair used from remote times for teaching. In some places the disciples went to the chief magistrates and called upon them to invite the people to the instruction that the Prophet from Galilee would deliver on the mountain the day after the Sabbath, while in others, they themselves went to the houses and invited the occupants to the instruction.
Meanwhile, Jesus was going around in Adama among the rich and the poor, Jews and heathens, healing the dropsical, the lame, the blind, and those afflicted with a bloody flux. I was especially surprised at the sight of ten possessed men and women, all of them pure Jews. I never saw so many possessed among the heathens. Some of these ten were of distinguished families. They were confined in grated chambers in their own houses, either in the house or the forecourt. As Jesus was coming toward them, they began crying and raging in a frightful manner, but on a nearer approach, they became quiet and stared at Him perplexedly. I saw Him, by His glance alone, driving all the devils from them. They left them under a visible form, a vapor which after-ward assumed the shadow of an abominable human figure, and then disappeared. The bystanders were amazed at the sight; the former possessed turned pale and sank down unconscious. Jesus addressed some words to them, took them by the hand, and commanded them to rise. Then, as if coming out of a dream, they sank on their knees giving thanks, and rose up changed men. Jesus then exhorted them and mentioned the faults they should correct.
When the disciples returned to Adama, they took a meal with Jesus at the chief magistrate’s. They had purchased fish and bread at the places they had visited, and ordered them to be delivered at the mount of instruction. The food was intended for the audience. Jesus received presents from many people and various places. I saw little bars of gold that looked like twigs. These gifts were devoted to the purchase of food for the multitude. Jesus had not broken His fast since the last meal taken at Seleucia.
On the Sabbath He taught in the synagogue of Adama. There was here also a party formed against Jesus. They sent two Pharisees to where John was teaching in order to hear what he had to say about Jesus, and thence to Bethabara and Capharnaum to inform some of their friends that He was now going around among them baptizing and making disciples. When these messengers returned, they spoke against Jesus and spread the calumnies they had heard, but their efforts gained no adherents to their own party.
Once the magistrates of Adama interrogated Jesus as to what He thought of the Essenians. They wanted to tempt Him, because they pretended to have remarked in His sentiments some similarity to those of that sect, and also because James the Less, His relative and who was then with Him, was an Essenian. They brought all kinds of accusations against them, condemning chiefly their retired life and their celibacy. Jesus answered in very general terms: One could, He said, find nothing to reproach in those people; if they were called to such a life, they deserved great praise. Everyone has his own vocation; were a cripple to aim at walking upright, he would hardly succeed. When the magistrate objected that so few families were raised up by them, Jesus enumerated a great many Essenian families and spoke of their well-bred children. He alluded to the married state, first of the good, then of the bad. He neither took part with the Essenians, nor did He accuse them. The people did not comprehend Him, though they saw that He had family connections among the Essenians and kept up intercourse with them.
Jesus Preaching on the Mountain Near Berotha
Before daybreak of the night between the Sabbath and Sunday, Jesus left Adama. He had taken leave of the people after the exercises of the Sabbath, though without saying that He was not to return, and He now went with His disciples and several of the Jews to the mountain appointed for the instruction. He left Adama by the gate through which He had entered, and that was over a bridge. Had they gone by another, they would have had to ferry over the river that ran from Azor to Cades, and which near Adama flowed into the Jordan. They left Cades to the right, and proceeded westward over gently rising mountain terraces. This region had high mountain ridges that formed great plateaus. There were fewer ravines and isolated peaks than in southern Palestine. Thisbe was to the left of the little troop on very high ground. Tobias once lived in Thisbe and had there given in marriage his wife’s brother, or brother-in-law. He had also been in Amichores, the water city. He might have taken up his abode there permanently, were it not that he preferred to go into captivity, in order to be useful to his people. Elias, too, had been in Thisbe, and Jesus had once before journeyed through it.
The multitude was already gathered upon the mountain. On the preceding evening, people had gone thither after the Sabbath and put the place in order. On the summit was an enclosed space in which stood a teacher’s chair. The people living on the sides of the mountain had been busied preparing for the tents, and already the stakes and cords were at hand. They had carried them up and stretched the awnings over the teacher’s chair and other available spots around. The place was one of historic interest, for Joshua had here celebrated a feast of thanksgiving after his successful siege of the Canaanites. Water had been transported hither in leathern bottles, and bread and fish in baskets. These baskets were like our beehives; they could be placed one above another, and in the several compartments various things could be put without danger of mixing.
As Jesus was going up through the crowd to the summit of the mountain, shouts greeted Him on every side: “Thou art the true Prophet! The Helper!” etc., and as He passed along, they bowed low before Him. It may have been nine o’clock when He reached the summit, for it was six to seven hours from Adama to this place.
Many possessed had been led up the mountain. They were raging and shouting. When Jesus saw them, He commanded them silence, and by His command and the glance of His eye, they became calm and were freed from the evil one.
When Jesus had reached the tribune and the crowd had been brought to order and silence by the disciples, He first invoked His Heavenly Father, from whom come all good gifts, the people likewise praying. Then He began His instruction. He made allusion to what had there occurred, spoke of the children of Israel, of Joshua’s once appearing in these parts and freeing them from the Canaanites and from paganism, and of the destruction of Azor. Of all these events Jesus explained the spiritual meaning. Thus came truth and light to them anew, with grace and mildness to free them from the power of sin. He exhorted them not to resist as did the Canaanites, that God’s punishment might not come upon them as it had done upon Azor. He also related a parable of which He again made use on a later occasion. It is in the book of the Gospels, I think, something about wheat and husbandry. He taught also of penance and the coming of the Kingdom, speaking significantly of Himself and the Heavenly Father as He had done in the neighboring towns.
The sons of Johanna Chusa and Veronica came here to Jesus. They had been sent by Lazarus, to warn Him against the two spies whom the Pharisees had dispatched from Jerusalem to Adama. The disciples brought them to Jesus during a pause in the instruction. He told them not to be at all disquieted on His account, that He would fulfill His mission, and He thanked them for their devotedness, etc. The spies sent by the Pharisees were also on the mountain with the disaffected Jews from Adama. Jesus did not address them, but He said aloud in the course of His instruction that enemies would lie in wait for Him and persecute Him, still they would not succeed in hindering Him from accomplishing what the Father in Heaven had entrusted to Him. He would soon appear among them again to announce the Kingdom of God and the truth.
Many mothers were present with their children, demanding Jesus’ blessing. But the disciples were disquieted and thought, on account of the presence of the spies, that He should not give it. Jesus, however, reproved them for their anxiety, saying that He regarded the intention of the mothers as good, and that the children would thereby derive benefit, and so He went down through the rows that they formed and gave them His benediction.
The instruction lasted from ten in the morning till near evening, when the people were ranged in order to take some food. On one side of the mountain there were grated fires whereon the fish were roasted. The order observed was beautiful. Not only the inhabitants of each separate city encamped together, but even the residents of the same streets were divided into families with their neighbors. To the guests of each street, one man was appointed to bring and divide the food. Each person or one person in each group, had a leather cover which, being spread out, served for plates. They had with them also such things as are used at table: bone knives and spoons with jointed handles. Some had brought gourds, others cups of bark, in which they received water from the leathern bottles, while others, there and then, quickly formed for themselves such cups if they had not done so on the way. The superintendents received the food from the disciples, and divided each portion among the four or five sitting together, laying the fish and bread on the leathern cover before them. Jesus had blessed the food before it was divided, and by virtue of that blessing it was multiplied, otherwise it would have been far from sufficient for the two thousand for whom it was intended. Each group received a small portion only, but all were satisfied after eating, and much remained over to be collected into baskets and carried off by the poor.
There were some Roman soldiers going around among instructions from him, for he had soldiers under his command. Perhaps they had been charged to bring him information of Jesus, for they went to the disciples and begged some of the blessed bread, to take with them to Lentulus. On receiving it, they stowed it away in the knapsacks that hung from their shoulders.
It was already dark and torches lighted when the meal was over, Jesus blessed the multitude and left the mountain with the disciples, from whom, however, He soon separated. They took a shorter route back to Bethsaida and Capharnaum, while He with Saturnin and that disciple, His relative, went southward to a city lying off from Berotha, called Zedad, and spent the night at an inn outside the city.
Jesus Passes Through Gathepher To Capharnaum
On the night between Monday and Tuesday, I saw Jesus in the mountains with Saturnin and that other disciple. As He walked alone in prayer and they questioned Him about it, He spoke to them of prayer in private, illustrating by the example of the serpent and scorpion: “Were a child to ask for a fish, the father would not give him a scorpion,” etc. During these days, I saw Him again in various little places among the shepherds healing and exhorting, also in Gathepher, Jonas’ birthplace, and where some of His own relatives lived. He wrought cures in this latter place also, and then toward evening went as far as Capharnaum.
How indefatigable was Jesus! With what ardor He inspired the disciples and Apostles! At first they were often overcome by fatigue; but now what a difference! The disciples while travelling along the highways went forward to meet some and to hunt up the others, to instruct them themselves or invite them to attend Jesus’ instructions.
Lazarus, Obed, Joseph of Arimathea’s nephews, the bridegroom of Cana, and some other disciples, had arrived at Mary’s house near Capharnaum. There were present also about seven women, relatives and friends, awaiting the return of Jesus. They went in and out the house and gazed along the road, to catch the first sight of Him. And now came some of John’s disciples with the news of their master’s imprisonment, which filled the hearts of the little company with anxiety. The disciples then went on to meet Jesus with whom they came up not far from Capharnaum, and made known to Him their errand. He consoled them, and continued His way to His Mother’s alone. He had sent His disciples on in advance. Lazarus came out to meet Him, and washed His feet in the vestibule.
When Jesus entered the apartment, the men bowed low before Him. He greeted them, and went up to His Mother, to whom He stretched out His hands. She, too, most lovingly and humbly inclined to Him. There was no rushing into each other’s arms; their meeting was full of tender and ingenuous reserve, which touched all present and made upon them the holiest impression. Then Jesus turned toward the other women, who lowered their veils and sank on their knees before Him. He was accustomed to give His blessing at such meetings and leave-takings.
I saw now a repast made ready, and the men reclining around the table, the women at one end sitting cross-legged. They spoke indignantly of John’s imprisonment, but Jesus rebuked them. He said that they should not be angry and pass sentence upon it, for that it had to be. Were John not removed from the scene, He Himself would not be able to begin His work and go to Bethania. Then He told them of the people among whom He had been. Of Jesus’ coming, none knew excepting those present and the confidential disciples. Jesus slept with the other guests in a side building. He appointed the disciples to meet Him after the next Sabbath at a house, high and solitary, in the neighborhood of Bethoron.
I saw Him conversing with Mary alone. She was weeping at the thought of His exposing Himself to danger by going to Jerusalem. He comforted her, telling her that she must not be anxious, that He would accomplish His mission, and that the sorrowful days had not yet come. He encouraged her to persevere in prayer, and exhorted the others to refrain from all comments and judgments upon John’s imprisonment and the action of the Pharisees against Himself, for such proceedings on their part would only increase the danger, that the Pharisees’ manner of acting was permitted by Divine Providence, though thereby they were working out their own destruction.
Some mention was made of Magdalen also. Jesus again told them to pray for her and think of her kindly, for she would soon be converted and become so good as to be an example for many.
Early next morning, Jesus went to Bethania with Lazarus and about five of the disciples belonging to Jerusalem. It was the beginning of the Feast of the New Moon, and I saw floating from the synagogues of Capharnaum and other places, long streamers of knotted drapery and festoons of fruit on the principal houses.
John the Baptist Arrested by Herod and Imprisoned at Machaerus
Herod had once before caused the Baptist to be arrested at the place of baptism and brought to him where he kept him in custody some weeks in the hope of intimidating him and leading him to a change of sentiment. But through fear of the immense crowds that were hurrying to hear John, he had released him. John then retired to the place where he had formerly baptized near Ainon and opposite Salem. It was one hour and a half east of the Jordan and about two hours south of Socoth. The baptismal well was in the region of a lake, about a quarter of an hour long, from which two streams, after bathing the foot of a hill, flowed into the Jordan. On this hill were the remains of an old castle, whose towers were still habitable, and scattered around were gardens and walks and other dwellings. Between the lake and the hill was John’s baptismal well. In the center of the spacious, caldron-shaped summit of the hill, John’s disciples had raised an awning over a terraced elevation formed of stone, and it was there that he taught. This region was under Philip’s jurisdiction. But it ran like a point into Herod’s country, who on that account was somewhat reserved in executing his designs against John.
An uncommonly great concourse of people had assembled to hear John: whole caravans from Arabia on camels and asses, and hundreds of people from Jerusalem and all Judea, both men and women. The crowds came and went by turns, covered the caldron-shaped plateau, encamped at the base of the hill, and stood on the heights around. The most beautiful order was established and maintained by John’s disciples. Those nearest the preacher reclined on the ground, those behind them sat on their heels, while the outer rows stood; in this way all could see. The heathens were separated from the Jews, and the men from the women, who always stood back in the last row. On the slope of the hill were other groups squatting, head and arms resting on their knees, or again, clasping one knee and lying or sitting on the other hip.
Since his return from Herod, John was as if penetrated by a new spirit. His voice sounded usually sweet, and yet was so powerful and far-reaching that every word was understood. He again wore his mantle of skins, and was more roughly clothed than at On where he had sometimes appeared in a flowing robe. His teaching was of Jesus and His persecution in Jerusalem. Pointing toward Upper Galilee where Jesus was at that instant going about working miraculous cures, John said: “But He will soon reappear in those parts. His persecutors will gain nothing over Him until His mission shall have been fulfilled.”
Herod also and his wife came with a guard of soldiers to John’s place of instruction. He had travelled from his castle of Livias twelve hours, passing near Dibon where he had to cross two branches of a little river. As far as Dibon the road was good, but after that it became very rough and difficult, properly speaking fit only for foot-passengers and beasts of burden. Herod rode upon a long, narrow chariot on which one could recline or sit sideways. There were several with him. The wheels proper were heavy, low, round disks without spokes, though there were other larger ones and rollers at the back. The road was so uneven that on one side the chariot rested on the high wheels, and on the other upon low ones. The journey was a painful one. Herod’s wife, along with her ladies in waiting, rode upon a similar chariot. They were drawn by asses preceded and followed by soldiers and courtiers.
Herod had undertaken this journey because John was now preaching again, and that more boldly and zealously than before. He was anxious to hear him and learn whether he said anything personally against himself. His wife was only waiting for an opportunity to excite him to extreme measures against John; she hid her crafty designs, however, under a fair appearance. Herod had still another motive in making this journey. He knew that the Arabian king Aretas, father of his repudiated first wife, had come hither to John and, to escape observation, had mingled with the disciples. He wanted to see whether Aretas had any design to stir up the people against himself. His first wife, a good and very beautiful lady, had returned to her father who, having heard of John’s teaching and of his opposition to Herod’s unlawful desires, had come to satisfy himself of the truth of what had been told him. But anxious to attract no attention, he was dressed simply, like John’s disciples with whom he identified himself.
Herod alighted at the old castle on the hill and sat during John’s instruction upon the graded terrace in front. His wife, surrounded by her guards and attendants, sat on cushions under an awning. John was preaching in a loud voice and at that moment crying out to the people that they should not be scandalized at Herod’s second union, that they should honor him without imitating him. These words pleased Herod at first, though on second thought they irritated him. The force with which John spoke was indescribable. His voice was like thunder, and yet sweet and intelligible. He seemed to be exerting himself for the last time. He had already warned his disciples that his days were drawing to a close, but that they should not abandon him, they should visit him when in prison. For three days he had neither eaten nor drunk. The whole time had been spent in teaching, proclaiming aloud his testimony to Jesus, and in rebuking Herod for his adultery. The disciples implored him to discontinue and take a little nourishment, but he listened not; he was wholly under the spirit of inspiration.
The view from the height upon which John taught was uncommonly beautiful. One could see off in the distance the Jordan, the cities lying around, fields, and orchards. There must have been here in days gone by a great building, for I could still see stone arches like those of bridges, overgrown with thick green moss. Two of the towers of the castle at which Herod stopped, had been lately restored and it was in them that he lodged. This region was rich in springs and the baths were kept in perfect order. The water that supplied them was brought through a skillfully constructed, vaulted canal from the hill upon whose summit John taught. The baptismal pool was oval in form and encircled by three beautiful green terraces through which five pathways were cut. This region was indeed much smaller, but richer in appearance than that of Bethsaida at Jerusalem, which is here and there rendered unsightly and impure by reeds and by the leaves that fall into it from the surrounding trees. The baptismal pool lay behind the hill, and about one hundred and fifty feet beyond was the great pond in which were numbers of fish. They seemed to be crowding to the side at which John was teaching, as if they wanted to hear. On the pond were little skiffs, trunks of trees hollowed out, large enough at most for two men only, with seats in the middle for fishing. John ate only a little poor honey. When he took food with his disciples, it was always in very small quantities. He prayed alone, and spent much of the night gazing up to Heaven.
John knew that the time of his arrest was near; therefore had he spoken as if under inspiration and as if taking leave of his auditors. He had announced Jesus more clearly than ever. He was now coming, he said; consequently he himself should retire and they should go to Jesus. He, John, was soon to be apprehended. They were, he continued addressing his audience, a hard and indocile people. They should recall how he had come at first and prepared the ways for the Lord. He had built bridges, made foot paths, cleared away stones, arranged baptismal pools, and conducted thither the water. He had a difficult task, struggling against stony earth, hard rocks, and knotty wood. And these labors he had had to continue toward a people stubborn, obdurate, and unpolished. But they whom he had stirred up should now go to the Lord, to the well-beloved Son of the Father. They whom He received would be truly received; they whom He rejected should indeed be rejected. He was coming now to teach, to baptize, to perfect what he himself had prepared. Then turning toward Herod, John earnestly reproached him several times before the people for his scandalous connection. Herod, who both reverenced and feared him, was inwardly furious, though preserving a cool exterior.
The instruction was ended and the crowd began to disperse on all sides, the people from Arabia and Aretas, Herod’s father-in-law going with them. Herod had not caught sight of him. Herod’s wife had already gone, and now he himself departed, concealing his rage and taking a friendly leave of John.
John sent several disciples to different quarters with messages, dismissed the others, and retired to his tent to give himself up to prayer. It was already dark and the disciples had departed, when about twenty soldiers, after placing guards on all sides, surrounded the tent and one entered. John told him that he would follow quietly, that he knew his time had come and that he must make way for Jesus, they needed not to fetter him, for he would willingly accompany them, and that, in order to avoid a tumult, they should lead him away with as little noise as possible. And so the twenty men hurried him off at a rapid pace. He had only his rough mantle of skins thrown about him, and his staff in his hand. Some of his disciples met him as he was being led away. He took leave of them with a glance, and bade them visit him in his imprisonment. But soon the disciples and people mobbed together and cried aloud: “They have arrested John!” and then arose weeping and lamentations. They wanted to follow, but they knew not what direction to take, for the soldiers had turned quickly out of the usual way and proceeded southward by an unknown route. Intense excitement, grief, and mourning prevailed. The disciples scattered and fled in all quarters just as they did later, at the time of Jesus’ arrest, and the news was soon spread throughout the whole country.
After marching with the soldiers the whole night, John was conducted first to a tower at Hesebon. Toward morning some soldiers of the place came to meet the prisoner, for it was already known there that John had been arrested, and the people were gathering together in groups. The soldiers who had charge of John seemed to be a kind of bodyguard to Herod. They wore helmets, their breasts and shoulders protected by armor formed of metal plates and rings, and they bore long lances in their hands.
The people of Hesebon gathered in crowds before John’s prison, and the guards had enough to do to drive them off. The upper part of the tower had several exterior openings. John stood in his prison crying in a voice loud enough to be heard without. His words were to this effect, that he had prepared the ways, had broken rocks, had directed streams, had dug fountains, had built bridges; he had had to cope with obstacles the most adverse and contradictory, and it was owing to the obstinacy of those whom he now addressed that he had been arrested. But they should turn to Him whom he had announced, to Him who would soon come by the paths he himself had made straight. When the Master approached, then should they who had prepared His way withdraw, and all should turn to Jesus, the latchets of whose shoes he himself was not worthy to loose. “Jesus,” he continued, “is the Light, the Truth, and the Son of the Father,” etc. He called upon his disciples to visit him in his confinement, for no one would yet venture to lay hands upon him, his hour was not yet come. John uttered the above in a voice as loud and distinct as if he were addressing the multitude from an orator’s stand. Again and again the guard dispersed the crowd, but the throng soon reassembled, and John’s instructions recommenced.
He was afterward led by the soldiers from Hesebon to the prison of Machaerus, the access to which was up a high and steep mountain. He rode with several in a low, narrow, covered chariot like a box, drawn by asses. Arrived at Machaerus, the soldiers conducted him up the steep mountain path to the fortress. But they did not enter by the principal gate, but through a postern in the wall nearby, which overhanging moss almost concealed. Traversing a passage somewhat inclined, they reached a brazen door which opened into another that ran under the gateway of the fortress, and thence led into a large underground vault. It was lighted from above and was clean, though destitute of every species of comfort.
From the place of baptism, Herod went to his castle of Herodium, which had been built by Herod the Elder, and where once, for mere sport, he had caused some persons to be drowned in a pond. Here, filled with dejection, Herod hid himself away and would see nobody, although many had already presented themselves to express to him their disapproval of John’s arrest. A prey to inquietude, he shut himself up in his own apartments.
After some time John’s disciples, provided they came in small numbers, were allowed to approach the prison, converse with him, and pass things to him through the grating. But if many came together, they were turned away by guards. John ordered the disciples to go on baptizing at Ainon, until Jesus came to establish Himself there for the same purpose. The prison was large and well-lighted, but its only resting place was a stone bench. John was very serious. His countenance always wore an expression of thoughtfulness and sadness. He looked like one that loved and heralded the Lamb of God, but who knew the bitter death in store for Him.
Jesus in Bethania. Inns Established for the Accommodation of Jesus and the Disciples on Their Journeys. The Pearl Lost and Found
With Lazarus and the five disciples belonging to Jerusalem, Jesus traversed the road from Capharnaum to Bethania through the region of Bethulia. But to Bethulia itself, which lay high in the distance, they did not go. Their way ran around it toward Jezrael, outside of which Lazarus owned a kind of accommodation inn with a garden.
The disciples had gone on ahead and prepared a luncheon. One of the trusty servants of Lazarus had charge of the place. It was early in the morning when they washed their feet here, shook the dust from their clothes, ate something, and took a little rest. From Jezrael they went over a little river, leaving Scythopolis and afterward Salem to the left, crossed a mountain spur, and approached the Jordan. Continuing their course southward, they crossed the river below Samaria and, because it was already night, rested some hours on an eminence of the river’s bank where some faithful shepherds dwelt. Before daybreak next morning they started again and directed their steps between Hai and Gilgal through the desert of Jericho. Jesus and Lazarus journeyed together, while the disciples went ahead by another route. Jesus and Lazarus walked the whole day by unfrequented paths without touching at any place, not even at the inn that Lazarus owned on this side of the desert. When within a few hours of Bethania, Lazarus went on ahead and Jesus continued His journey alone.
There were assembled at Bethania with Lazarus and the five disciples from Jerusalem, about fifteen disciples and followers of Jesus and seven women: Saturnin, Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, his nephews, Simeon’s sons, and those of Johanna Chusa, Veronica, and Obed respectively. Among the women were Veronica, Johanna Chusa, Susanna, Mary Marcus the widow of Obed, Martha, and the discreet old servant of the last named, who afterward joined the holy women who cared for the wants of the Lord and His disciples. All were gathered in a large, subterranean vault of Lazarus’ castle, quietly and, it seemed, secretly awaiting the coming of Jesus.
Toward evening He arrived and entered the garden by a back gate. Lazarus went out to meet Him in a reception hall, where he washed His feet. There was here a deep basin connected with the house by pipes, through which Martha poured tepid water for the use of their Guest. Jesus, sitting on the rim of the basin, immersed His feet, which Lazarus washed and dried. After that he shook out Jesus’ garments, put on His feet fresh sandals, and handed Him a little food and drink.
Then Jesus accompanied Lazarus through a long, shady walk up to the house and down into the vaulted chamber. The women drew their veils and bowed low on their knees before Him, while the men inclined profoundly. Jesus greeted all and blessed them, after which they took their place at table. The women sat on cushions at one side of the table, their feet crossed under them.
Nicodemus was remarkably impressed and very desirous of hearing every word of Jesus. The men spoke indignantly of John’s imprisonment. But Jesus said that it had to be, it was the will of God, and that they should not speak of such things in order not to attract attention and thereby give rise to danger. If John had not been removed from the scene of action, He Himself would not yet have been able to labor here. The blossoms must fall, if the fruit is to appear.
Then they spoke angrily of the spying and persecution set on foot by the Pharisees, whereupon Jesus again commanded them to be at peace. He deplored the action of the Pharisees and related the parable of the unjust steward. The Pharisees, too, were unjust stewards, though not so prudent as the subject of the parable, therefore would they have no resource on the day of reckoning.
After the meal, they retired to another apartment where lamps were lighted. Jesus prayed aloud, and they began the exercises of the Sabbath. After that Jesus conversed awhile with the men, and all retired to rest.
When silence reigned in the house and the inmates were sunk in slumber, Jesus arose from His couch and went out unperceived to the cave on Mount Olivet in which, on the day before His bitter Passion, He would wrestle in prayer. He prayed several hours to His Heavenly Father for strength to accomplish His work, and before daybreak returned unnoticed to Bethania.
The sons of Obed, who were servers in the Temple, now returned with some others to Jerusalem, but the rest of the guests remained quietly in the house, and none but themselves knew of Jesus’ presence.
During the meal today, Jesus told them of His stay among the people of Upper Galilee, at Amead, Adama, and Seleucia. And as the men in their zeal vehemently inveighed against the sects, He reproved them for their bitterness, and related to them a parable. He told them of a man who on the way to Jericho had fallen among robbers, and who had received more pity from a Samaritan than from a Levite. I have always heard this parable related in the same way, though with different applications. He spoke also of the calamities about to befall Jerusalem.
At night when all were asleep, Jesus went again to pray in the cave on the Mount of Olives. He shed many tears and endured intense fear and anguish. He was like a son going forth to great labors, and who first threw himself on the bosom of his father to receive strength and comfort. My guide told me that whenever Jesus was in Bethania and had an hour to spare, He used to go to that cave to pray. This was a preparation for His last agony on Mount Olivet. It was also shown to me that Jesus chiefly on Mount Olivet prayed and sorrowed, because Adam and Eve when driven from Paradise had here first trodden the inhospitable earth. I saw them in that cave sorrowing and praying, and it was on this mountain, which Cain was cultivating for the first time, that he became so enraged as to resolve to kill Abel. I thought of Judas, I saw Cain murdering his brother in the vicinity of Mount Calvary, and on Mount Olivet called by God to account for the same. Daybreak found Jesus back again in Bethania.
The Sabbath over, that took place on account of which principally Jesus had come to Bethania. The holy women had heard with sorrow what hardships Jesus and His followers had had to endure upon their journeys, and that Jesus especially, on His last hurried journey to Tyre, had suffered such want; they had heard of His having to soften the hard crusts, which Saturnin had begged on the way, in order to be able to eat them. They had therefore offered to establish inns and furnish them with all that was necessary. Jesus accepted their offer, and came hither to make with them the necessary arrangements. As He now declared that He would henceforth publicly teach everywhere, Lazarus and the women again offered to establish inns, especially since the Jews in the cities around Jerusalem, instigated by the Pharisees, would furnish nothing to Him and His disciples. They also begged the Lord to signify to them the principal stopping places on His journeys and the number of His disciples, that they might know how many inns would be needed and what quantity of provisions to supply.
Jesus replied by giving them the route of His future journeys, also the stopping places, and the probable number of disciples. It was decided that about fifteen inns should be made ready and entrusted to the care of confidential persons, some of them relatives either of Lazarus or of the Holy Family. They were scattered throughout the whole country, with the exception of the district of Cabul toward Tyre and Sidon.
The holy women then consulted together as to what district each should see to and what share each should take in the new establishments, to supply furniture, covers, clothes, sandals, etc., to provide for washing and repairing, and to attend to the furnishing of bread and other necessaries. All this took place before and during the meal. Martha was in her element.
After the meal Jesus, Lazarus, the other friends, and the holy women assembled secretly in another of the subterranean halls. Jesus sat on a raised seat at one side of the hall, the men standing and sitting around Him; the women were on the opposite side on steps covered with carpets and cushions. Jesus spoke of the mercy of God to His people. He had sent them Prophets one after another whom they had disowned and ill-treated; now they would reject the Supreme Grace, and He predicted what would betide them. After He had dwelt upon this at length, some of His hearers said to Him: “Lord, relate this to us in a beautiful parable,” and Jesus told them the parable of a king who after all his servants had been killed by the unfaithful vinedressers, sent his son into the vineyard where he too was murdered.
Some of the men withdrew at the close of this instruction and Jesus went with others into the hall and walked up and down. Martha, who was passing to and fro, approached Him and had a long talk about her sister Magdalen. She related what she had heard of her from Veronica, and her own consequent anxiety.
While Jesus was walking up and down the hall with the men, the women sat playing a kind of lottery for the benefit of their new undertaking. On the elevated platform was a table on rollers around which they sat. The plane of the table, which projected into five angles like the rays of a star, covered a box about two inches in depth. From the five points to the center of this partitioned box, ran deep furrows on the surface, and between them were slits connecting the interior. Each of the women had some long strings of pearls and many other little precious stones. Each in turn placed some of them in one of the furrows on the table. Then resting a delicate little bow on the outer end of the furrow, she shot a tiny arrow at the nearest pearl or stone. The shock received by this one communicated itself to the rest, which rolled into the other furrows or dropped through the holes into the compartments in the interior of the box. When all the pearls and stones had been shot from the surface, the table, which was upon rollers, was agitated to and fro, by which movement the contents fell into other little compartments which could be drawn out at the edge. Each of these little drawers had previously been assigned to one of the players, so that when the holy women drew them out, they saw at once what they had won for their new undertaking or which jewel they had lost. Obed had died not long before and his widow was still mourning for him. Before the baptism, he had been at Lazarus’ with Jesus.
During the game the holy women lost a very precious pearl that had fallen down among them. All moved back and looked for it most carefully. When at last they found it and were expressing their joy, Jesus came over to them and related the parable of the lost drachma and the joy of the owner upon finding it again. From their pearl, lost, carefully sought, and joyfully found, He drew a new similitude to Magdalen. He called her a pearl more precious than many others that, from the lottery table of holy love, had fallen and were going to destruction. “With what joy,” He exclaimed, “will ye find again the precious pearl!” Then the women, deeply moved, asked: “Ah, Lord! Will that pearl be found again?” and Jesus answered: “Seek ye more earnestly than the woman in the parable sought the lost drachma, or the shepherd his stray sheep.” Profoundly touched at this answer, all promised to seek after Magdalen more diligently than after their lost pearl, and assured Him that their joy upon finding her would far exceed what they now felt. Some of the women begged the Lord to receive among His disciples the young man of Samaria who, after the Pasch, had besought this favor of Him on the road to that city. They praised his great wisdom and virtue. I think he was related to one of them. But Jesus replied that He could not count upon him as he was blinded by love of riches.
That evening several of the men and women began their preparations to go to Bethoron, where Jesus was to preach next day. That night Jesus again retired secretly to the Mount of Olives and prayed with His whole heart and soul, after which He went with Lazarus and Saturnin to Bethoron, about six hours off. It was then one hour past midnight. They cut through the desert on their way. When about two hours distant from Bethoron, they were met by the disciples whom Jesus had appointed to join Him there, and who had arrived at the inn near Bethoron the day before. They were Peter, Andrew, and their half-brother Jonathan, James the Greater, John, James the Less, and Judas Thaddeus, who was with them now for the first time, Philip, Nathanael Chased, also the bridegroom of Cana, and one or two of the widow’s sons. Jesus rested with them under a tree in the desert for a long time, and gave them an instruction. He spoke again on the parable of the lord of the vineyard who had sent his son to the vinedressers. At the conclusion of the discourse, they proceeded to the inn and took something to eat. Saturnin had received from the women a purse of money with which to procure provisions for the little party.