Jesus in Abelmahula
Next morning Jesus left the shed under which He had passed the night, and journeyed with His disciples about five hours to the south. It was almost two o’clock when they reached the little city Abelmahula, where the Prophet Eliseus was born. It lay on one of the heights of Mount Hermon, its towers rising to the summit of the mountain ridge. It was only a couple of hours from Scythopolis, and to the west ran the valley of Jezrael. With the city of Jezrael itself, Abelmahula lay in a straight line. Not far from Abelmahula, and nearer the Jordan, was the town of Bezech. Samaria was several hours to the southwest. Abelmahula was in or upon the confines of Samaria, but inhabited by Jews.
Jesus and His disciples sat down on the resting place outside the city, as travelers in Palestine were accustomed to do. Hospitable people from the city used then to take them to their houses for entertainment. And thus it happened now. Some people going by recognized Jesus. They had seen Him once before when He was journeying through these parts at the feast of Tabernacles. They hurried into the city and spread the news. Soon out came a well-to-do peasant with his servants, bringing to Jesus and the disciples bread and honey and something to drink. He invited them into his house, and they followed him. They having arrived there, he washed their feet and provided them with fresh garments while their own were being shaken and brushed. Then he ordered a repast straightaway to be prepared, and to it he invited several Pharisees with whom he was on good terms. They soon made their appearance. The host showed himself hospitable and friendly to a degree, though he was a rascal in disguise. He wanted to be able to boast before the people of the city that he had entertained the Prophet in his house, and to offer to the Pharisees an opportunity to sound Jesus. They thought they could do that better when alone with Him at table than in the synagogue before the people.
But hardly was the table set when all the sick of the place, all that were able to be moved, appeared before the house and gathered together in the courtyard—to the great displeasure of the owner, as well as of the Pharisees. The former hurried out to drive them away, but Jesus, turning from the table with the words: “I have other food after which My soul hungers,” followed, His disciples after Him, and began curing the sick. There were among them several possessed who set up a shout after Jesus. He cured them with a glance and a word of command. Many others were lame in one or both hands. Jesus passed His hand down their arms and raised them up and down. On the head and breast of the dropsical He laid His hand. Others were consumptive, others were covered with small, though not infectious sores. Some He ordered to bathe. To others He commanded certain works, and told them that they would be perfectly well in a few days. Far in the background, and leaning against the wall for support, stood several women afflicted with an issue of blood. They were veiled and, in their shame, ventured only now and then to cast a sidelong glance toward Jesus. When they raised a fold of their veil for this purpose, the countenance disclosed bore signs of suffering. At last Jesus approached them, touched and cured them, and they cast themselves at His feet.
The whole crowd set up shouts of joy and intoned hymns of thanksgiving. The Pharisees inside had closed all the doors and windows of the house. They sat down to table vexed and disappointed, but jumped up from time to time to peep through the lattice. The work of healing went on for so long that, when they wanted to go home, they were forced to pass through the courtyard filled with the sick, the cured, and the exulting crowd. The sight stabbed them to the very heart. The crowd became at last so great that Jesus had to take refuge in the house until they had dispersed.
It was already dusk when five Levites presented themselves to invite Jesus and the disciples to pass the night in the schoolhouse over which they presided. The guests of the pharisaical peasant took leave of him with thanks for his hospitality. Jesus gave him a short exhortation before leaving, and made use of an expression similar to those He had used among the Herodians, something about foxes. But the man preserved his friendly exterior. Jesus and the disciples partook of a little luncheon in the schoolhouse. They slept in a long corridor on which carpets had been spread, their couches separated from one another by movable screens. There was a boys’ school in one part of the building, and in another, young pagan girls desirous of embracing Judaism received thorough instruction. This school was in existence even in Jacob’s time. When Jacob was persecuted in diverse ways by Esau, Rebecca sent him secretly to Abelmahula where he owned herds and servant, and dwelt in tents. Rebecca established there a school for the young Canaanite girls and other Gentile maidens. Like Esau, his children, his servants, and others of Isaac’s family intermarried with these Gentiles. Rebecca, who held such alliances in abhorrence, had the young girls that desired it instructed in this school in the customs and religion of Abraham. The ground on which the school was built belonged to her.
Jacob long remained hidden at Abelmahula. When Rebecca was questioned as to his whereabouts, she used to answer that he was far away herding flocks for strangers. At times he returned secretly to see her, but on Esau’s account she had to keep him hidden. Jacob dug a well near Abelmahula, the same by which Jesus had been seated before entering the city. The people held it in great reverence and always kept it covered. He had also made a cistern in the neighborhood. It was long, four-cornered, and had a flight of steps leading down into it. Later on, Jacob’s abode became known. Rebecca noticed that, like Esau, her younger son was likely to espouse a Canaanite wife, so she and Isaac sent him to her native place to his Uncle Laban, where he served for Rachel and Lia.
Rebecca had established the school so far from her own home in the land of Heth because Isaac had so many quarrels with the Philistines, who did all in their power to ruin him. She had confided the direction of the school to a man from her own country, Mesopotamia, and to her nurse who, I think, was his wife. The young girls dwelt in tents and were instructed in all that a wife in a migratory household of the pastoral times ought to know. They learned the religion of Abraham and the special duties of wives of his race. They had gardens in which they planted all kinds of running vines, such as gourds, melons, cucumbers, and a kind of grain. They had very large sheep whose milk was used for food. They were taught also to read, but this as well as writing came very hard to them. The writing of those days was done in a very strange way on thick brown tablets, not on rolls of skin as in later times, but upon the bark of trees. I saw them peeling it off, and burning the letters into it. They had a little box full of zigzag compartments, which I saw shining on the surface, and filled with all kinds of metal signs. These the writer heated in a flame and burnt one after another into the bark tablet. I saw the fire in which they heated the metal. It was the same as that used for boiling, roasting, and baking, also for giving light. Upon seeing it used in this last way, I thought: “They do indeed place their light here under a bushel.” In a vessel, whose form reminded me of the headdress that many of the pagan idols wore, there burned a black mass. A hole was bored in the middle of it, for the passage of air, perhaps. The little round towers encircling the vessel were hollow, and into them some part of the cooking could be placed. Over the pan of coals, something like a cover was turned
upside down. It was tapering toward the top and pierced by a number of holes. On this, too, was a circle of little towers in which things could be warmed. All around this bushel-like cover were openings with sliding screens. When they wanted light, all they had to do was to open one of these little windows and the glare from the flame shone forth. They always opened them toward the quarter from which no draught came, a precaution very necessary in tents. Below the coal pan, was a little place for ashes in which they could bake flat cakes, and on top of the whole arrangement water could be boiled in shallow vessels. This they drew off for bathing, washing, and cooking. They could also broil and roast on these stoves. They were thin and light, could be carried on journeys, and easily moved from place to place. It was over such stoves that the metal letters were heated before being burnt into the tablets of bark.
The people of Canaan had black hair and were darker than Abraham and his countrymen, who were of a ruddy, olive complexion. The costume of the Canaanite women was different from that of the daughters of Israel. They wore a wide tunic of yellow wool down to the knee. It consisted of four pieces which could be drawn together by a running string below the knee, thus forming a kind of wide pantalet. It was not bound around the upper part of the limbs like that of the Jewish women, but its wide folds fell front and back from the waist to the knee. The upper part of the body was covered with a similarly doubled lappet that fell over the breast and back. The pieces were bound together on the shoulders, forming a sort of wide scapular, likewise open on both sides and fastened around the waist with a belt, above which it hung loose like a sack. The whole costume from shoulder to knee looked like a wide sack bound at the waist and ending abruptly below the latter. The feet were sandaled and the lower limbs wound crosswise with straps, through the openings of which the skin could be seen. The arms were covered with pieces of fine, transparent stuff which, by several shining metal rings, were formed into a sleeve. They wore on the head a pointed cap of little feathers, from the top of which hung something like the crest of a helmet ending in a large tuft. These people were beautiful and well-made, but much more ignorant than the Children of Israel. Some of them had long mantles also, narrow above and wide below. The women of Israel wore over a kind of bandage wrapped around the body a long tunic, and lastly a long gown fastened in front with buttons. They wound their heads in a veil or with several rows of ruffs, such as are worn nowadays around the neck.
I saw that they studied in Rebecca’s time the religion of Abraham: the creation of the world, about Adam and Eve and their entrance into Paradise, Eve’s seduction by Satan, and the Fall of the first man and woman by their violation of the abstinence commanded them by God. By the eating of the forbidden fruit arose sinful appetites in man. The young girls were taught also that Satan had promised our first parents a divine illumination and knowledge, but that after sin they were blinded. A film was drawn over their eyes; they lost the gift of vision they had possessed. Now they had to labor in the sweat of their brow, bring forth children in pain, and with difficulty acquire the knowledge of which they had need. They learned, too, that to the woman a son was promised who should crush the serpent’s head. They were taught about Abel and Cain and the latter’s descendants, who became degenerate and wicked. The sons of God, seduced by the beauty of the daughters of men, formed unions with them from which sprang a mighty, godless race of giants, powerful in enchantment and the art of magic, a race that discovered and taught to others all kinds of pleasure and false wisdom, all that buried the soul in sin and tore it away from God, a race that had so seduced and corrupted men that God resolved to destroy them all with the exception of Noe and his family. This people had fixed their principal abode on a high mountain range up which they ever pressed higher and higher. But in the Deluge that mountain was submerged, and a sea now covers its site.
They (the scholars of Rebecca’s school) learned also all about the Deluge, about Noe’s escape in the ark, about Sem, Cham, and Japhet, about Cham’s sin, and the reiterated wickedness of men at the Tower of Babel. They were told of the building of that Tower, of its destruction, of the confusion of tongues, and of the dispersion of men now become enemies to one another. All this recalled to the youthful minds of the scholars the impiety of the giants on that high mountain, those wicked, powerful men, those dealers in witchcraft, and they saw the fatal consequences of unions forbidden by the Law of God. Necromancy and idolatry were practiced likewise at the Tower of Babel.
By such teachings were the converted Gentile maidens warned against alliances with idolaters, idle efforts after necromancy and the hidden arts, against the seductions of the world, sensual delights, vain adornments—in a word, against all that did not lead to God. They were taught to look upon such things as tending to those sins on whose account God had once destroyed mankind. They were, on the other hand, instructed in the fear of God, obedience, subjection, and in the faithful, simple exercise of all duties devolving upon the pastoral life. They were also taught the Commandments that God gave to Noe, for instance, abstinence from uncooked meat. They learned of God’s having made choice of the race of Abraham, to make of his descendants His chosen people from whom the Redeemer was to be born. For this purpose He had called Abraham from the land of Dr, and had set him apart from the infidel races. They were told of God’s sending to Abraham, that is, men who appeared white and luminous. These men had confided to Abraham the Mystery of God’s Blessing, owing to which his posterity was to be great above all the nations of the earth. The transmitting of that Mystery they referred to only in general terms, as of a Blessing from which Redemption should spring. They were told also about Melchisedech’s being a like those sent to Abraham, of his sacrifice of bread and wine, and of his blessing Abraham. The chastisement inflicted by God upon Sodom and Gomorrha formed a part of the instruction given.
When Jesus visited the school, the young girls were computing a chronological table upon the coming of the Messiah. All agreed in their reckoning, which brought the result down to their own time. Just at that moment, in stepped Jesus and His disciples, a circumstance that produced a very powerful impression upon the scholars. Jesus took up the subject then engrossing their attention, and explained to them with the utmost clearness that the Messiah was already come, though not yet recognized. He spoke of the unknown Messiah, and of the signs that were to herald His coming, and that had already been fulfilled. Of the words: “A virgin shall bring forth a son,” Jesus spoke only in veiled terms, since those children were too young to comprehend them. He exhorted them to rejoice that they lived in a time after which the Patriarchs and Prophets had so long sighed. He dwelt upon the persecutions and sufferings the Messiah was to endure, and explained some texts of Prophecy to that effect. He told them to be on the watch for what would take place in Jericho at the approaching feast of Tabernacles. He spoke of miracles, and particularly of the curing of the blind. He made for them also a chronology of the Messiah, spoke of John and of the baptism, asked whether they too wanted to be baptized, and, lastly, related to them the parable of the lost drachma.
The girls sat in school cross-legged, sometimes with one knee raised. Each was provided with a kind of table and bench combined. She leaned sideways against the one, and when writing, supported her roll on the other. They often stood while listening to the instruction given them.
In the house at which Jesus put up there was also a boys’ school. It was a kind of orphanage, an institution for the education of children abandoned by their parents. There were some of Jewish parentage who had been rescued from slavery, in which they had grown up without instruction in the religion of their forefathers. Both Pharisees and Sadducees taught in the school. Little girls also were received, the youngest of whom received instruction from the larger ones.
At the moment of Jesus’ entrance into this school, the boys were making some calculation connected with Job. As they could not readily do it, Jesus explained it and wrote it down for them in letters. He also explained to them something relating to measure, two hours of distance or time, I do not now know which. He explained much of the Book of Job. Some of the rabbis at this period attacked the truth of the history therein contained, since the Edomites, to which race Herod belonged, bantered and ridiculed the Jews for accepting as true the history of a man of the land of Edom, although in that land no such man was ever known to exist. They looked upon the whole story as a mere fable, gotten up to encourage the Israelites under their afflictions in the desert. Jesus related Job’s history to the boys as if it had really happened. He did so in the manner of a Prophet and Catechist, as if He saw all passing before Him, as if it were His own history, as if He heard and saw everything connected with it, or as if Job himself had told it to Him. His hearers knew not what to think. Who was this Man that now addressed them? Was He one of Job’s contemporaries? Or was He an angel of God? Or was He God Himself? But the boys did not wonder long about it, for they soon felt that Jesus was a Prophet, and they associated Him with Melchisedech, of whom they had heard and of whose origin man knows not. Jesus spoke likewise of the signification of salt. He made it clear by a parable, and related that of the Prodigal Son. The Pharisees arrived during Jesus’ instructions, and were highly displeased to find Him applying to Himself all the signs and Prophecies quoted by Him in reference to the Messiah.
That evening Jesus went with the Levites and the children to take a walk outside the city. The little girls followed last, in the charge of the larger ones. Jesus, letting the boys go on ahead, stood still from time to time until these little ones came up, and then instructed them in examples drawn from nature, from all the objects around them, the trees, fruits, flowers, bees, birds, sun, earth, water, flocks, and field labors. In indescribably beautiful words, He next taught the boys about Jacob and the well that he had dug in that locality. He told them that now the living water was about to be poured upon them, and how perfidious a thing it was to fill up, choke up the well, as the enemies of Abraham and Jacob had done. He applied it to those that wanted to sup-press the doctrine and miracles of the Prophets, namely, the Pharisees.
When on the following morning Jesus went to the synagogue, He found there all the Pharisees and Sadducees of the place, as also a great concourse of people. He opened the Scriptures and expounded the Prophets. Some of the Pharisees and Sadducees obstinately disputed with Him, but He put them all to shame. A man whose arms and hands were paralyzed had meantime been slowly making his way to the door of the synagogue. He had been so long trying, and had at last succeeded in getting a position by which Jesus must pass on going out. One of the Pharisees eyed the poor creature with displeasure, and ordered him away. As he refused to obey, they tried to push him out. But he supported himself as well as he could against the door and looked piteously at Jesus, who was on a high seat at a considerable distance from the entrance and separated from him by an immense crowd. Jesus turned toward him and said: “What do you desire of Me?” The man answered: “Master, I implore Thee to cure me. Thou canst do it, if Thou wilt!” Jesus replied: “Thy faith hath saved thee. Stretch forth thy hands above the people,” and in that moment the man was healed at a distance. He raised up his hands praising God. Then Jesus said: “Go home, and raise no excitement!” But the man replied: “Master, how can I be silent on so great a benefit?” and he went out and told it to all that he met. And now crowds of sick gathered before the synagogue, and Jesus cured them as He passed out. After that He dined with the Pharisees who, in spite of their inward displeasure, always treated Him courteously. This was part of their policy, that they might the more easily entrap Him. He performed more cures that evening.
Jesus Goes From Abelmahula To Bezech
Next morning found Jesus still at the school of Abelmahula. He was quite surrounded by the little girls who crowded close upon Him, holding on to His garments and clasping His hand. He was unspeakably kind to them, and exhorted them to obedience and the fear of God. The larger ones stood back. The disciples present were somewhat annoyed and uneasy. They were anxious for their Master to take His departure. According to their Jewish notions, such familiarity with children was not becoming in a Prophet, and they feared it would injure His reputation.
Jesus did not trouble Himself about their thoughts. After He had instructed all the children, addressed some exhortations to the larger ones, and encouraged their teachers in their good resolutions, He directed one of the disciples to give the little girls a present, and each in effect received two small coins fastened together. I think they were two drachmas. Then Jesus blessed them all in general and left the place with the disciples, starting eastward toward the Jordan.
During the journey Jesus taught in a field before some huts where a crowd of laborers and shepherds had gathered. About four o’clock that afternoon, they reached the neighborhood of Bezech about two hours east of Abelmahula and near the Jordan. It was like two distinct cities, lying as it did on both sides of a stream that flowed into the Jordan. The country around was hilly and rugged, the houses stood somewhat scattered. Bezech was less a city than two united villages. The inhabitants lived to themselves with very little intercourse with strangers. They were chiefly engaged in husbandry, and they leveled their rugged and hilly farmlands with great labor. They also manufactured agricultural implements for sale, and wove coarse carpets and canvas for tents.
About an hour and a half from this place, the Jordan made a bend toward the west, as if about to flow straight to Mount Olivet. It turned back, however, thus forming a kind of peninsula on its eastern bank, upon which stood a row of houses. In coming from Galilee to Abelmahula, Jesus had to cross a little river. Ennon was on the opposite side of the Jordan, about four hours, perhaps, from Bezech.
Jesus taught in an inn outside the city, the first of those erected for His and the disciples’ accommodation that He had met on this journey since leaving Bethania. It was in the charge of a pious, upright man, who went out to meet the travelers, washed their feet and gave them refreshments, after which Jesus entered the city. The superintendents of the school came out into the street to receive Him, and He visited several houses and cured the sick.
There were now thirty disciples with Jesus. Those from Jerusalem and its environs had arrived with Lazarus, and several of John’s disciples had come. Some of the latter were just from Machaerus with a message to Jesus from their master, a pressing request to reveal Himself more clearly and to say only that He was the Messiah. Among these messengers of John was the son of the widower Cleophas. I think he was Cleophas of Emmaus, a relative of Cleophas, the husband of Mary’s eldest sister. Another of these disciples was Judas Barsabas, related to Zachary of Hebron. His parents, though living now in Cana, had once dwelt in Nazareth. Among these disciples of John, I still recall others. The sons of Mary Heli, the eldest sister of the Blessed Virgin, were John’s disciples. They were born so long after their sister Mary Cleophas that they were scarcely older than her sons. They clung to the Baptist until he was beheaded, and then joined the disciples of Jesus.
The married couple who directed the inn at Bezech were good, devout people. They observed continence by virtue of a vow, although they were not Essenians. They were distant relatives of the Holy Family. During His stay here, Jesus had several private interviews with these good people.
All the friends and disciples ate and slept with Jesus in the newly erected inn. They found ready for them, thanks to the forethought of Lazarus and the holy women, table furniture, covers, carpets, beds, screens, and even sandals and other articles of clothing. Martha had near the desert of Jericho a house full of women whom she kept busy preparing all these things. She had gathered together many poor widows and penniless girls, who were striving to lead a good life. There they lived and worked together. All was carried on quietly and unknown to the public. It was no little thing to provide for so many inns and so many people and to superintend them constantly—above all, to send messengers around to them, or give them personal attention.
Next morning Jesus delivered a long and magnificent discourse on a hill in the middle of the city, where the inhabitants had erected for Him a teacher’s chair. The crowd was great, and among them were about ten Pharisees, who had come from the places around with the intention of catching Jesus in His words. His teaching here was mild and full of love, for the people, who were well disposed, had profited by John’s visit and instructions, and especially by the baptism which many of them had received. Jesus exhorted them to remain contented with their humble condition, to be industrious, and to show mercy to their neighbor. He spoke of the reign of grace, of the Kingdom, of the Messiah, and more significantly than ever of Himself. He alluded to John and his testimony, to his imprisonment and the persecution directed against him. He spoke likewise of the royal adulterer for the denunciation of whom John had been cast into prison, though in Jerusalem certain men guilty of the same crime, but who had carried on their evil doings less openly than Herod, had been condemned and executed. Jesus spoke significantly and to the point. He gave particular admonitions to each condition, age, and sex. A Pharisee having asked whether He was going to take John’s place, or whether He was the one of whom John had spoken, Jesus answered indirectly and reproached the questioner with his evil intention to entrap Him.
After that Jesus gave a very touching instruction to the boys and girls. He counseled the boys to bear with one another. If one should strike a companion or throw him down, the ill-treated party should bear it patiently and think not of retaliating. He should turn away in silence, forgiving his enemy, and his love should become twice as great as it was before, yes, for they should show affection even to enemies. They should not covet the goods of others. If a boy wanted the pen, the writing materials, the plaything, the fruit belonging to his neighbor, the latter should relinquish not only the object coveted, but give him still more if allowed to do so. They should fully satisfy their neighbor’s cupidity if permitted to give the things away, for only the patient, the loving, and the generous should have a seat in His Kingdom. This seat Jesus described to them in childlike terms as a beautiful throne.
He spoke of earthly goods which a man must give up in order to attain those of Heaven. Among other admonitions to the girls, He warned them not to seek to excel others, not to envy others for their fine clothes, but to be gentle and obedient, to love their parents and fear God.
At the close of the public instruction, Jesus turned to His disciples, consoled them with more than ordinary tenderness, and exhorted them to bear all things with Him and not to be preoccupied with the cares of this world. He promised that they should be richly rewarded by their Father in Heaven and, with Himself, should possess the Kingdom. He spoke to them of the persecutions that He and they would have to suffer, and said plainly: “If the Pharisees, the Sadducees, or the Herodians should love or praise ye, it would be a sign that ye had wandered from My teachings and were no longer My disciples.” He mentioned those sects with significant nicknames. Then He praised the people of the place, particularly for their charitable compassion, for they often took poor orphans from the school at Abelmahula into their service. He congratulated them on the new synagogue they had built by contribution, in which some of the devout souls of Capharnaum also had joined. Then He cured many of their sick, took a repast with all the disciples at the inn, and in the evening when the Sabbath began, went to the synagogue.
Jesus taught in the synagogue from 51:12, “I,I myself will comfort you.” He spoke against human respect, telling them that they should not fear the Pharisees and other oppressors, but remember that God had created them and preserved them till the present. He explained the words: “I have put My words in thy mouth,” to mean that God had sent the Messiah, that this Messiah was God’s Word in the mouth of His people, that this Messiah gave utterance to God’s Word, and that they themselves were God’s people. Jesus applied all this so clearly to Himself that the Pharisees whispered among themselves that He was palming Himself off for the Messiah. Then He said that Jerusalem should awaken from her intoxication, for the hour of wrath had passed and that of grace had dawned. The unfruitful synagogue had given birth to not one that could lead and raise up the poor people, but now should sinners, hypocrites, and oppressors be chastised and oppressed in their turn. Jerusalem should arise, Sion should awaken! Jesus applied all in a spiritual sense to the pious and holy, to the penitent, to those that through the Jordan—that is, through Baptism—should go into the Promised Land of Canaan, into the Kingdom of His Father. The uncircumcised, the impure, the licentious, the sinful should no longer corrupt the people. He taught of Redemption and of the Name of God, which should now be announced among them. Then from 16, 17, and 18, He spoke of judges and public officers, of prevarication and bribery, and inveighed vehemently against the Pharisees. After that He cured many sick outside the synagogue.
The next day Jesus again taught in the synagogue, taking His texts from 51 and 52, and from 16-21. He spoke of John and the Messiah. He gave signs by which the latter might be recognized, and they were different from those by which He usually designated Him. He said plainly that He Himself was the Messiah, for many of His hearers were already, through the teaching of John, well prepared for the announcement. Jesus based this part of His discourse upon 52:13-15. He said: “The Messiah will gather ye together. He will be full of wisdom, He will be exalted and glorified. Many of ye have shuddered at the thought of Jerusalem’s being laid waste and desolate under the rule of the Gentiles, and in like manner will your Redeemer be persecuted and despised by men. He will be a man without repute among other men. And yet He will baptize, will purify the Gentiles. He will teach kings, who will be silent before Him, and they to whom He has not been announced will both hear of Him and see Him.” Then Jesus recounted all that He had done, all the miracles He had wrought since His baptism, the persecution He had undergone at Jerusalem and Nazareth, the contempt He had endured, the spying and scornful laughter of the Pharisees. He alluded to the miracle at Cana, to the healing of the blind, the dumb, the deaf, the lame, and to the raising from the dead of the daughter of Jairus of Phasael. Pointing in the direction of Phasael, He said: “It is not very far from here. Go and ask whether I say the truth!” Then He continued: “Ye have seen and known John. He proclaimed himself the precursor of the Messiah, the preparer of His ways! Was John an effeminate man, one given to the softness and delicacy of high life? Was he not rather reared in the wilderness? Did he dwell in palaces? Did he eat of costly dishes? Did he wear fine clothing? Did he make use of flattering words? But he called himself the precursor—then did not the servant wear the livery of his Lord? Would a king, a rich, a glorious, a powerful king such as ye expect your Messiah to be, have such a precursor? And yet ye have the Redeemer in your midst, and ye will not recognize Him. He is not such as your pride would have Him, He is not such as ye are yourselves, therefore ye will not acknowledge Him!”
Jesus then turned to 18:18-19: “I will raise them up a prophet out of the midst of their brethren … ” “And he that will not hear his words, which he shall speak in my name, I will be the revenger,” and He delivered a powerful discourse upon these texts. No one dared oppose a word to His teaching. He said: “John lived solitary in the desert. He mingled not with men, and ye blamed the life he led. I go from place to place, I teach, I heal, and that too ye blame! What kind of a Messiah do ye want? Each one would like to have a Messiah according to his own ideas! Ye resemble children running in the streets. Each makes for himself the instrument he likes best. One brings forth low, bass notes from the horn he has twisted out of bark, and another screeches high on his flute of reeds.” Then Jesus named all kinds of playthings used by children, saying that His hearers were like the owners of those toys. Each wanted to sing upon his own note, each was pleased with his own toy alone.
Toward evening, when Jesus left the synagogue, He found a great crowd of sick waiting for Him outside. Some were lying on litters over which awnings had been stretched. Jesus, followed by His disciples, went from one to the other, curing them. Here and there appeared some poor possessed, raging and crying after Him. He delivered them as He passed, and commanded them to be silent. There were paralytics, consumptives, the deaf, the dumb, and the dropsical with tumors or scrofulous swellings on their neck. Jesus healed all, one after the other, by the imposition of hands, though His manner and touch were different in different cases. Some were entirely cured at once, a little weakness alone remaining; others were greatly relieved, the perfect cure following quickly according to the nature of the malady and the dispositions of the invalid. The cured moved away chanting a Psalm of David. But there were so many sick that Jesus could not go around among them all. The disciples lent their aid in raising, supporting, and disembarrassing them of their wrappings and covers. At last Jesus laid His hands on the head of Andrew, of John, and of Judas Barsabas, took their hands into His own, and commanded them to go and, in His name, do to some of the sick as He had done. They instantly obeyed and cured many.
After that, Jesus and the disciples returned to the inn, where they took a repast at which no stranger was present. Jesus blessed the food. A great part of it was left, and this He sent to the poor heathens encamped outside Bezech and to the other poor. The disciples had instructed the pagans belonging to the caravans.
Immense multitudes had assembled in Bezech from both shores of the Jordan. All that had heard John were now eager to hear Jesus. The heathen caravans, though on their way to Ennon, had come hither to hear Him. Bezech was about three-quarters of an hour from the Jordan, on a swiftly flowing stream which divided the city into two parts.
Jesus Leaves Bezech and Goes to Ennon. Mary of Suphan
Jesus still taught and cured in the country around the inn. The neophytes, the pagan caravan, and many others took their way to the Jordan with the intention of crossing. The ferry was an hour and a half to the south of Bezech, below a city called Zarthan, which was one hour’s distance from the first named, and lower down on the Jordan. On the opposite side of the river, between Bezech and Zarthan, was a place called Adam. It was near that city of Zarthan that the Jordan had ceased to flow while the children of Israel were crossing. Solomon once had some vases cast here. That industry was still carried on. West of the bend that the Jordan makes in this neighbor-hood was a mountain extending off to Samaria, and in it was a mine from which was obtained a metal something like that which we call brass. Jesus taught all along the route. When questioned as to whether He intended to teach in Zarthan, He answered: “There are other localities that need it more. John was often there, so ye may ask the people whether he feasted and lived on dainty fare.” The Jordan was here crossed by a great ferry, just below which began the detour of the river toward the west. After crossing, Jesus and His followers went on for about two hours eastward and along the northern bank of a little stream that flowed into the Jordan somewhere below the ferry. Then they crossed another stream near which lay Socoth to their left, looking as if they had just stepped over it. They rested under tents between Socoth and Ennon, which places may have been about four hours apart. If they had again crossed the river and gone up a little distance, they could have seen Salem, which was hidden from them by the hilly bank. It was opposite Ennon, and somewhat below the middle of another bend of the Jordan westward.
Crowds innumerable were collected at Ennon. The pagans were encamped between the hill upon which it was built, and the Jordan. There were ten Pharisees present, some from Ennon, some from other places, among them the son of Simeon of Bethania. Some of them were reasonable enough and animated by upright intentions.
The little city of Ennon lay on the north side of the hill, as if built up entirely of beautiful villas. On this side and beyond the city was the source of the basin destined for Baptism, which was on the east side of the hill. The stream was conducted through the hill in metal pipes, which could be closed and opened when needed. There was a springhouse over the source.
The Pharisees, among them the son of Simon the Leper, came out to this place to meet Jesus and the disciples. They welcomed them cordially and politely, led them into a tent, washed their feet, brushed their garments, and presented them refreshments of honey, bread, and wine. Jesus congratulated them on the good dispositions of many among them though, as He said, it grieved Him that they belonged to that sect. He accompanied them to the city where He soon came to a court in which a crowd of sick of all kinds, some natives of the city, some strangers, were awaiting His arrival. Some were lying under tents, others were in the halls that opened into the court. Many could walk, and Jesus helped them one after another with imposition of hands and words of admonition. The disciples assisted in bringing the sick forward, in raising them and freeing them from their covers, etc. The Pharisees and many others were present. Several women stood at a distance, pale and enveloped in their mantles. They were afflicted with an issue of blood. When Jesus had finished with the rest, He approached them, laid His hands upon them, and cured them. Among the sick were paralytics and dropsical; consumptives, some with abscesses on their necks and other parts of the body (though not such as to render them unclean); the deaf and the dumb; in a word, sufferers of all kinds.
At the extremity of this court was a large portico opening into the city. I saw in it many spectators, Pharisees and women. To the Pharisees of Ennon, since there were upright souls among them and also because they had received Him frankly and respectfully, Jesus showed a certain indulgence that He had not exhibited in other places. He wished thereby to make void the reproach that He associated only with publicans, sinners, and vagrants. He wanted to show them that He would pay them due honor if they demeaned themselves properly and with upright intentions. They showed great activity in preserving order among the people on this occasion, and Jesus allowed them to do it.
While Jesus was busy curing the sick, a beautiful woman of middle age and in the garb of a stranger entered the large portico by the gate leading from the city. Her head and hair were wound in a thin veil woven with pearls. She wore a bodice in shape somewhat like a heart, and open at the sides, something like a scapular thrown over the head and fastened together around the body by straps reaching from the back. Around the neck and breast it was ornamented with cords and pearls. From it fell, in folds to the ankle, two deep skirts, one shorter than the other. Both were of fine white wool embroidered with large, colored flowers. The sleeves were wide and fastened with armlets. To the shoulder straps that connected the front and back of the bodice was attached the upper part of a short mantle that fell over the arms. Over this flowed a long veil, of the whiteness of wool.
The woman, ashamed and anxious, entered slowly and timidly, her pale countenance bespeaking confusion and her eyes red from weeping. She wanted to approach Jesus, but the crowd was so great that she could not get near Him. The Pharisees keeping order went to her, and she at once addressed them: “Lead me to the Prophet, that He may forgive my sins and cure me!” The Pharisees stopped her with the words: “Woman, go home! What do you want here? The Prophet will not speak to you. How can He forgive you your sins? He will not busy Himself with you, for you are an adulteress.” When the woman heard these words, she grew pale, her countenance assumed a frightful expression, she threw herself on the ground, rent her mantle from top to bottom, snatched her veil from her head and cried: “Ah, then I am lost! Now they lay hold of me! They are tearing me to pieces! See, there they are!” and she named five devils who were raging against her, one of her husband, the other four of her paramours. It was a fearful spectacle. Some of the women standing around raised her from the ground, and bore her wailing to her home. Jesus knew well what was going on, but He would not put the Pharisees of this place to shame. He did not interfere, but quietly continued His work of healing, for her hour had not yet come.
Soon after, accompanied by the disciples and Pharisees, and followed by the people, Jesus went through the city to the hill upon which John had formerly taught. It was in the center of moss-covered ramparts and there were some buildings around. On the side by which they approached was a half-ruined castle, in one of whose towers Herod took up his abode during John’s teaching. The whole hill was already covered with the expectant crowd. Jesus mounted to the place where John had taught. It was covered with a large awning open on all sides. Here He delivered a long discourse in which He spoke of the mercy of God to men, particularly to His own people. He ran through the entire Scriptures, showed God’s guidance of His chosen nation, His promises to them, and proved that they were all being realized in the present. Jesus did not, however, say so openly at Ennon as He had done at Bezech that He was Himself the Messiah. He spoke also of John, his imprisonment and his mission. One crowd of listeners was at intervals supplanted by another, that all might hear His words. Jesus questioned some of them as to why they wanted to receive Baptism, why they had put it off till the present, and what they thought the ceremony to be. He divided them into classes, some of which were to be baptized at once, and others only after further instruction. I remember the answer of one group of neophytes to the question why they had delayed till now. One of the number said: “Because John constantly taught that a Man was to come who would be greater than himself. We waited consequently in order to receive still greater grace.” At these words, all that approved the response raised their hands. They formed a special class to receive more particular instructions as preparation for Baptism.
The discourse ended at about three o’clock in the afternoon. Then Jesus and the disciples went with the Pharisees down the hill and into the city, where a great entertainment had been prepared for Him in one of the public halls. But when He drew near the hall, He stopped short, saying: “I have another kind of hunger,” and He asked (though He already knew) where that woman lived whom they had sent away from Him in the morning. They pointed out the house. It was near the hall of entertainment. Jesus left His companions standing where they were, while He went forward and entered the house through the courtyard.
As Jesus approached, I saw the fearful torture and affliction of the woman inside. The devil, who had possession of her, drove her from one corner to another. She was like a timorous animal that would hide itself. As Jesus was traversing the court and drawing near to where she was, she fled through a corridor and into a cellar in the side of the hill upon which her house was built. In it was a vessel like a great cask, narrow above and wide below. She wanted to hide herself in it, but when she tried to do so, it burst with a loud crash. It was an immense earthen vessel. Jesus meantime halted and cried: “Mary of Suphan, wife of … ” (here He pronounced her husband’s name, which I have forgotten) “I command thee in the Name of God to come to Me!” Then the woman, enveloped from head to foot, as if the demon forced her still to hide in her mantle, came creeping to Jesus’ feet on all fours, like a dog awaiting the whip. But Jesus said to her: “Stand up!” She obeyed, but drew her veil tightly over her face and around her neck as if she wanted to strangle herself. Then said the Lord to her: “Uncover thy face!” and she unwound her veil, but lowering her eyes and averting them from Jesus as if forced to do so by an interior power. Jesus, approaching His head to hers, said: “Look at Me!” and she obeyed. He breathed upon her, a black vapor went out of her on all sides, and she fell unconscious before Him. Her servant maids, alarmed by the loud bursting of the cask, had hurried thither and were standing nearby. Jesus directed them to take their mistress upstairs and lay her on a bed. He soon followed with two of the disciples that had accompanied Him, and found her weeping bitter tears. He went to her, laid His hand on her head, and said: “Thy sins are forgiven thee!” She wept vehemently and sat up. And now her three children entered the room, a boy about twelve years old, and two little girls of about nine and seven. The girls wore little short-sleeved tunics embroidered in yellow. Jesus stepped forward to meet the children, spoke to them kindly, asked them some questions, and gave them some instruction. Their mother said: “Thank the Prophet! He has cured me!” whereupon the little ones fell on the ground at Jesus’ feet. He blessed them, led them one by one to their mother, in order of age, and put their little hands into hers. It seemed to me that, by this action, Jesus removed from the children the disgrace, and thus legitimatized them, for they were the fruits of adulterous unions. Jesus still consoled the woman, telling her that she would be reconciled with her husband, and counseling her thenceforth to live righteously in contrition and penance. After that He went with the disciples to the entertainment of the Pharisees.
This woman was from Suphan in the land of Moab. She was a descendant of Orpha, the widow of Chelion, and daughter-in-law of Noemi, who upon the latter’s advice did not go with her to Bethlehem, though Ruth, the widow of Orpha’s other son Mahalon, accompanied Noemi thither. Orpha, the widow of Chelion, who was the son of Elimelech of Bethlehem, married again in Moab, and from that union sprang the family of Mary the Suphanite. She was a Jewess and rich, but an adulteress. The three children that she had with her at the time of her conversion were illegitimate. Her legitimate children had been retained by their father when he repudiated his unfaithful wife, their mother. She was living at this time in a house of her own at Ennon. For a long time she had conceived sentiments of sorrow for her disorders and had done penance, her conduct being so reserved and proper that she had won the esteem of even the most respectable women of Ennon. The Baptist’s preaching against Herod’s unlawful connection had strongly affected her. She was often possessed by five devils. They had again seized upon her when, as a last resource, she had gone to the court where Jesus was curing the sick. The rebuff of the Pharisees and their words, which in her deep dejection she had taken as true, had driven her to the brink of despair. Through her descent from Orpha, Ruth’s sister-in-law, she was connected with the House of David, the ancestral line of Jesus. It was shown me how this stream, deviating in her from its course and troubled by her abominable sins, was purified anew in her by the grace of Jesus and flowed once more in its direct course toward the Church.
Jesus went into the entertainment hall in which were the Pharisees and the rest of the disciples, and took His place with them at table. The Pharisees were somewhat displeased that Jesus had left them and gone to seek the woman whom they had so harshly repulsed that morning before so many people. But they said nothing, fearing to receive a reproof themselves. Jesus treated them with much consideration during the meal, and taught in numerous similitudes and parables. Toward the middle of the entertainment, the three children of the Suphanite entered in their holiday dresses. One of the little girls bore an urn full of odoriferous water, the other had a similar one of nard, and the boy carried a vessel. They entered the hall by the door opposite the unoccupied side of the table, cast themselves down before Jesus, and set their presents on the table in front of Him. Mary herself followed with her maids, but she dared not approach. She was veiled, and carried a shining crystal vase with colored veins like marble in which, surrounded by upright sprays of delicate green foliage, were various kinds of costly aromatics. Her children had offered similar vases, but smaller. The Pharisees cast forbidding glances upon the mother and children. But Jesus said: “Draw near, Mary!” and she stepped humbly behind Him, while her children, to whom she had handed it, deposited her offering beside the others on the table. Jesus thanked her. The Pharisees murmured as later on they did at Magdalen’s present to Jesus. They thought it a great waste, quite opposed to economy and compassion for the needy; however, they only wanted something to bring against the poor woman. Jesus spoke to her very kindly, as also to the children, to whom He presented some fruit which they took away with them. The Suphanite remained veiled and standing humbly behind Jesus. He said to the Pharisees: “All gifts come from God. For precious gifts, gratitude gives in return what it has the most precious, and that is no waste. The people that gather and prepare these spices must live.” Then He directed one of the disciples to give the value of them to the poor, spoke some words upon the woman’s conversion and repentance, restored her to the good opinion of all, and called upon the inhabitants of the city to treat her affectionately. Mary spoke not a word, but wept quietly under her veil the whole time. At last she cast herself in silence at Jesus’ feet, rose, and left the dining hall.
Jesus took this occasion to give some instruction against adultery. Which among them, He asked, felt himself free from spiritual adultery. He remarked that John had not been able to convert Herod, but that this poor woman had of her own accord turned away from her evil life, and then He related the parable of the sheep lost and found. He had already consoled the woman in her own house, assuring her that her children would turn out well, and holding out to her the hope that she should one day join the women under Martha’s supervision and work for the benefit of the inns. I saw the disciples after the entertainment giving abundantly of what was left to the poor. Jesus then went down to the west side of the hill of Ennon where the camp of the heathens lay at some distance. There was also, I think, a tent inn on this side. There Jesus instructed the heathens. Ennon was in the dominion of Herod, but it belonged, like a property across the boundary, to the Tetrarch Philip. Many soldiers of Herod were again there trying to find out news for their master.