Jesus Leaves Aruma and Goes to Thanath-Silo and Aser-Machmethat
After Jesus had once more earnestly addressed the Pharisees, telling them that they had lost the spirit of their religion, that they now held only to empty forms and customs which, however, the devil had managed to fill with himself, as they might see if they looked around on the pagans, He left Aruma and went to the city Thanath-Silo, outside of which stood one of the inns established by Lazarus. He instructed the men and women whom He found at work on the immense corn ricks in the field. He introduced into His discourse parables relating to agriculture and the various kinds of land. These people were slaves and followers of the Samaritan creed. That evening Jesus taught in the synagogue. It was the feast of the new moon, consequently the synagogue and other public buildings were hung with wreaths of fruit.
A great many sick had assembled in front of the synagogue. They were mostly afflicted with paralysis, gout, or issue of blood, and some were possessed. Jesus blessed numbers of children, both sick and well. Many of those that were paralyzed in their hands and on one side owed their sickness in most cases to their labors in the field and to lying on the damp earth at night or in the daytime when in a profuse perspiration. I saw such cases in the fields outside of Gennabris, in Galilee.
Jesus went next day into the harvest field and cured many whom He found there. Some people brought out from the city baskets of provisions, and a great entertainment was spread in one of the tabernacles that still remained standing. Jesus afterward delivered a long discourse, in which He spoke against unnecessary and extravagant care for the preservation of life. He brought forward the example of the lilies. They do not spin, and yet they are clothed more beautifully than Solomon in all his glory. Jesus said many beautiful things to the same effect of the different animals and objects around. He also taught that they should not profane the Sabbath and feasts by working for gain. Works of mercy, such as delivering a man or a beast from danger, were allowable; but as for the harvest, they should commit the care of its fruits to God’s providence and not on account of threatening weather gather them in on the Sabbath. Jesus’ words on this subject were very beautiful and detailed. It was almost the same kind of a sermon as that on the Mount, for He often repeated the words: “Blessed are these! Blessed are those!”
Such instructions were much needed by the people of this place, for they were extraordinarily covetous and greedy for gain in trade and agriculture. They were wholly engrossed in their calling, and their servants were overburdened. They were charged with the collection of the tithes from the surrounding country. The sums thus coming into their possession they used to hold back for a considerable time, in order to put them out at usury. The products of their fields they sold. The old people worked in wood, for which they often betook themselves to the neighboring forest. I saw them cutting in large numbers the wooden heels worn under the sandals. There were many fig orchards around the city. There were no Pharisees here. The people were rather coarse, but very proud of their descent from Abraham. The sons of Abraham, however, whom the Patriarch had settled here, had soon degenerated. They intermarried with the Sichemites, and when Jacob returned to that region the law of circumcision was already forgotten. Jacob had intended to fix his residence there, but was deterred from doing so by Dina’s seduction. He knew the children of Abraham who dwelt in those parts, and sent them presents. Dina had gone to take a walk by the well of Salem. Some of the people in the fields, those to whom her father had sent presents, invited her to visit them. She was accompanied by her maids, but leaving them, she ventured alone into the fields, desirous of gratifying her curiosity. It was then that the Sichemite saw and ensnared her.
Wherever Jesus went, the sick were collected in crowds. We shall not be surprised at this when we remember that, as soon as His presence became known in any place, they were hurried thither from the huts and villages around the whole country.
Here in Thanath the Jews and Samaritans lived separate, the former being the more numerous. Jesus preached to the Samaritans also, though remaining the while on Jewish territory. His hearers were gathered on the boundary of their own quarter at the head of one of the streets. He also cured their sick. The Jews of Thanath were not so hostile toward them as were those of other places, since here they held not so rigorously to the Law, and especially to the observance of the Sabbath.
Jesus cured here in diverse ways. Some cures were effected at a distance by a glance and a word, some by a mere touch, some by imposition of hands; over some of the sick He breathed, others He blessed, and the eyes of some He moistened with saliva. Many of the sick happening to touch Him were cured, and others at a distance were cured without His even turning to them. Toward the close of His career, He seemed to be more rapid in His movements than in the beginning. I thought that He made use of these different forms of healing to show that He was bound to no single one, but could produce a similar effect by the use of varied means. But He once said Him-self in the Gospel that one kind of devil was to be expelled in one way, another in a different way. He cured each in a manner analogous to his malady, his faith, and his natural temperament, as in our own time we behold Him chastising some sinners and converting others. He did not interrupt the order of nature, He merely loosened the bonds that bound the sufferer. He cut no knots, He untied them, and He did everything so easily for He possessed the key to all. Inasmuch as He had become the God-Man, He treated those that He cured in a human manner. I had already been told that Jesus had healed in these different forms in order to instruct the disciples how to act in similar cases. The various forms of blessings, consecrations, and Sacraments made use of by the Church, find their models in those then observed by Jesus.
Toward noon Jesus left the city accompanied by several persons. He proceeded along a tolerably broad highway toward the northeast. It led to Scythopolis with Doch upon the right and Thebez on the left at the eastern extremity of the mountain upon which Samaria was built. He descended toward the Jordan and into a valley through which a stream flowed to the river. Here He encountered a crowd of people, most of them Samaritan laborers who, eager to receive instruction, had hurried thither in advance of Him. He found them waiting for Him, and He stopped to address them. To the left of the valley and upon a height stood a little place consisting of one long row of houses. It was called Aser-Machmethat, and into it Jesus entered toward evening. Abelmahula may have been seven hours distant. Mary and the holy women passed by Aser on their journeys to Judea when they did not take the mountainous road past Samaria. The Blessed Virgin and Joseph took this route on their flight into Egypt. That same evening Jesus went to the well of Abraham and to the pleasure gardens outside of Aser-Machmethat, and there cured many sick. Among them were two Samaritans who had been brought thither. Jesus was very affectionately received by the people of this place. They were very good and each one coveted the honor of showing Him hospitality. But He put up outside the place with a family whose mode of life was patriarchal in its simplicity. The father was named Obed. Jesus and all the disciples were very lovingly entertained by him. The road through the country from Thanath-Silo to this place was far wider and better than that through Akrabis to Jericho. The latter was so very narrow, so uneven and rocky that beasts of burden could with difficulty traverse it with their loads of merchandise.
It was under the tree near Abraham’s Well that, in the time of the Judges, the false prophetess carried on her sorcery and gave advice that always turned out disastrously. She used to perform all kinds of ceremonies there at night by the light of torches, calling up by her incantations singular figures of animals, etc. She was nailed to a board by the Madianites at Azo. This took place under the same tree beneath which Jacob buried the idols plundered from the Sichemites.
Joseph with the Blessed Virgin and Jesus had lain concealed a day and a night near that tree on their flight into Egypt, for Herod’s persecution had been proclaimed and it was very unsafe to travel in these parts. I think too that, on the journey to Bethlehem when Mary was so chilled by the cold, it was near this tree she suddenly became warm.
Aser-Machmethat lay across a mountain ridge that descends toward the valley of the Jordan. The southern side of the mountain belonged to Ephraim; the northern, to Manasses. On the former stood Machmethat, on the latter Aser, the two forming but one city called Aser-Machmethat. The boundary ran between them. The synagogue was in Aser. The inhabitants of the two quarters were dissimilar in their customs, and had little communication. Machmethat, the quarter belonging to the tribe of Ephraim, extended up the mountain in one long line of houses; below in the valley was the little stream by which Jesus had instructed the Samaritans who had preceded Him thither. A little beyond this point and nearer to the entrance of the city was the beautiful well surrounded by baths and pleasure gardens. The well, access to which was by a flight of steps, consisted of a solid basin in whose terraced center rose the tree to which I have more than once alluded. From this reservoir the surrounding bathing cisterns were fed. It was here that Jesus cured the two Samaritan women.
Obed’s house was on his large estate outside of Machmethat. He was a kind of chief, or head magistrate of the place. The inhabitants of this quarter were for the most part related to one another, and several of the families were either those of Obed’s own children or those of his other relatives. In
his character of eldest and chief, Obed managed their business, directed their agricultural and pastoral affairs. His wife, with her housekeeping and the female portion of the family, occupied a separate part of the house. She was still quite a vigorous old Jewess. She had a kind of school, and taught the young girls of the other families all sorts of handiwork, Charity, wise counsels, and industry reigned throughout the whole house. Obed had eighteen children, some of whom were still unmarried. Two of his daughters had wedded husbands from Aser, the quarter belonging to Manasses. This was a cause of regret to Obed, as I learned from his conversation with Jesus, for the people of Aser were not the best in the world and their customs were very different from those of their sister city.
Next morning Jesus preached near the well to an audience of about four hundred people, all ranged around on the grass of the terraced declivity. He spoke in significant terms of the approach of the Kingdom, of His own mission, of penance, and of Baptism. He also prepared some for the last-named ceremony, among whom were Obed’s children. After that, accompanied by Obed, He went to some dwellings in the fields where He consoled and instructed the servants and aged persons who had had to remain at home while the others repaired to His sermon. Obed conversed long with Jesus of Abraham and Jacob, who had once sojourned in this region, and of Dina’s misfortune. The inhabitants of Machmethat looked upon themselves as descendants from Judah. Holofernes, the Median adventurer, had at his invasion quite ruined this place, and after that the ancestors of these people settled here with the firm determination to live together according to their ancient, pious customs. This they had done down to the present. Obed followed the ancient usages of the pious Hebrews, and reverenced Job in an especial manner. He amply provided for his sons and daughters on their settlement in life, and at every marriage in his family he gave large offerings to the poor and to the Temple.
Jesus blessed numbers of children everywhere presented to Him by their mothers.
That afternoon there was a grand entertainment given in the open space around Obed’s house and in the courtyard under the tabernacles which were still standing everywhere. Almost all the inhabitants of Machmethat took part in it, especially the poor of the whole region. Jesus went around to all the tables, blessing and teaching and lovingly helping to the various dishes. He related many parables. The women were seated in a separate tabernacle. Afterward Jesus visited and cured some sick in their homes, and again blessed many little ones presented to Him by their mothers, who stood ranged in a row. There were a great many children present, especially around Obed’s wife, for she had many pupils. Obed had a little son of about seven years, and with him Jesus exchanged many words. The boy lived in the field at the house of one of his elder brothers. He was an exceedingly pious child, and often knelt out in the field at night to pray. This did not please the elder brother, and Obed himself felt a little anxiety about the boy. But Jesus’ words restored peace to their anxious hearts. After His death, the boy joined the disciples.
In the war of the Machabees, Machmethat remained true and rendered much help to the Jews. Judas Maccabeus himself sojourned here at different times. Obed took Job for his model in all things, and led in the bosom of his large family a life altogether patriarchal.
When Jesus went into the other part of the city, the quarter belonging to the tribe of Manasses, He found near the synagogue some Pharisees (not the best disposed toward Himself) and many arrogant citizens. They were friends and supporters of those that collected the taxes and imposts for the Romans, which they afterward put out at usury. Jesus taught, and then cured the sick. The Pharisees and proud citizens treated Jesus with coldness and indifference. They were displeased at His having visited the simple, rustic people of Machmethat before honoring their own city with His presence.
They had no love for Him. And yet, they were ambitious for His first visit as a learned Doctor to be to themselves, rather than to their unsophisticated neighbors, upon whom they looked down.
Jesus, accompanied by a crowd of people, went back to the well outside Machmethat and began preparations for the ceremony of Baptism. Many confessed their sins in general terms, while many others, going in private to Jesus, made them known in detail, and asked for penance and pardon. Saturnin and Judas Barsabas performed the ceremony of Baptism, the other disciples acting as sponsors. It took place in an immense bathing cistern. After the Baptism, Jesus returned to Aser for the Sabbath. He preached from 18:23, , of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrha, and then taking up the miracles recorded of Eliseus, He spoke in strong language on the necessity of penance. His words were not pleasing to the Pharisees, for He reproached them with their contempt for the publicans while they themselves were secretly practicing usury, though hiding the fact under their sanctimonious exterior.
After He had again taught in the synagogue at Aser, His subjects being Abraham and Eliseus, He cured many sick, some of them demoniacs and others possessed by the spirit of melancholy. That afternoon a dinner was given in the public house. The Pharisees had issued invitations; but ignoring that fact, Jesus invited many poor people, as also the inhabitants of Machmethat, and ordered the disciples to defray all expenses. While at table He had a warm discussion with the Pharisees, whereupon He related the parable of the unjust debtor who desired the remission of his own debts, though oppressing others on account of theirs. Jesus applied the parable to themselves. They extorted taxes from the poor and at the same time deceived the Romans by pocketing the proceeds and declaring the people unable to pay; or again, by levying high taxes, only a third part of which was delivered over to the Romans. The Pharisees tried to justify themselves, but Jesus silenced them with the words: “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God that which is God’s.” In their fury they exclaimed: “What’s that to Him?”
A fast day commemorative of the putting out of Sedecias’ eyes by Nabuchodonosor having begun, Jesus preached in the fields among the shepherds, also at Abraham’s Well. He spoke of the Kingdom of God, declaring that it would pass from the Jews to the Gentiles, the latter of whom would even attain preeminence over the former. Obed afterward remarked to Jesus that if He preached to the Gentiles in that strain, they might possibly become proud. Jesus replied very graciously, and explained that it was just on account of their humility that they should reach the first place. He warned Obed and his people against the feeling of conscious rectitude and self-complacency to which they were predisposed. They in a measure distinguished themselves from their neighbors, and on account of their well regulated life, their temperance, and the fruits of salvation amassed thereby, they esteemed themselves good and pleasing in the sight of God. Such sentiments might very easily end in pride. To guard against such a consequence, Jesus related the parable of the day laborers. He instructed the women also in their own separate pleasure garden, in which was a beautiful bower. To them He related the parable of the wise and the foolish virgins. While so engaged, Jesus stood, and they sat around Him in a terraced circle, one above another. They sat on the ground with one knee slightly raised, and on it resting their hands. All the women on such occasions wore long mantles or veils that covered them completely; the rich had fine, transparent ones, while those of the poor were of coarse, thick stuff. At first these veils were worn closed, but during the sermon they were opened for the sake of comfort.
About thirty men were here baptized. Most of them were servants and people from a distance who had come hither after John’s imprisonment.
Jesus took a walk with the people through the vineyards, the fruits of which were ripening for the second time that year.
Jesus left Machmethat with five disciples (the two disciples of John had gone back to Machaerus) and descended the road by which He had come. The little stream in the valley to the south of Aser-Machmethat had its source in the fountain at which Jesus had given Baptism by means of the disciples. He proceeded about three hours westward along the valley at the southern foot of the mountain upon which Thebez and Samaria lay. He gave instructions to the shepherds whom He met along the way, and toward noon reached the field that Jacob had destined for the special inheritance of Joseph. ( 48:22). It lay in a valley to the south of Samaria and extended from east to west, one hour long and a half broad. A brook flowed westward through that valley. From the vineyards on the heights around could be seen Sichem a couple of hours to the south. It had everything to make it desirable: vineyards, pasture lands, grain, orchards and water, besides the necessary buildings, all in good order. The landlord of this property was leaseholder, for it now belonged to Herod. It was the house at which the Blessed Virgin and the holy women awaited the coming of Jesus from Sichem, and in which He cured the boy. The people here were very good. They assembled in crowds to hear Jesus’ instructions, after which they tendered to Him a dinner in the open air which He graciously accepted. This special patrimony of Joseph was not the field near Sichem which Jacob had purchased from Hemor. It was another property upon which the Amorrhites had a footing along with the rightful occupants. They were dwelling on it at the time of purchase, and Jacob was obliged to drive them off. He did not relish their proximity, fearing lest his own people would intermarry among them. A kind of single combat or amicable contention took place between the two parties. It had been agreed upon that the one who broke his opponent’s sword, or shield, or struck it out of his hand, should take possession of the land, the other having to retire. They decided the question in another way also, namely, by shooting at a certain boundary with the bow and arrow. Jacob and the Amorrhite leader took their places opposite each other, each attended by a certain number of his own followers standing in the rear. The struggle began. Jacob conquered his adversary, and the latter had to remove. After the contest they made a treaty. All this took place soon after the purchase of the field. Jacob dwelt eleven years near Sichem.
From this place Jesus again ascended the mountain northwestwardly to Meroz, a city on the southern side of a mountain on whose northern side stood Ataroth. Meroz was built on a higher elevation than Samaria, as well as Thebez off to the north and Aser-Machmethat to the east.
Jesus Teaches in Meroz and Receives Judas Iscariot to the Number of His Disciples. Ancestry and Character of Judas Iscariot
Jesus had never before been in Meroz. It was surrounded by a dry moat, which at times received some water from the mountain streams. The place had a bad name in Israel on account of the perfidy of its inhabitants. It had been peopled by the descendants of Aser and Gad, sons of Jacob and the handmaiden Zelpha, some of whom had intermarried with the Gentiles of Sichem. The other tribes refused to acknowledge the offspring of these mixed marriages, and they were despised likewise on account of their faithlessness and perfidy. Meroz, in consequence, became an isolated place, and its inhabitants, being thus cut off from much good, were likewise shielded from much evil. They had fallen into oblivion, perished, as it were, from among men. Their chief occupations consisted in dressing skins, making leather, preparing furs and garments of the same, and manufacturing leather sandals, straps, girdles, shields, and military jerkins. They brought the skins from afar on asses and dressed them partly near Meroz, using for that purpose a cistern supplied with water from their fountain in the city. But because this itself was fed from an aqueduct and had not always a full supply, they tanned the skins near Iscariot, a marshy region, a couple of hours to the west of Meroz and northward from Aser-Machmethat. It was a desolate little place of only a few dwellings. Nearby was a ravine through which a little stream flowed to the valley of the Jordan. It was on its banks that the people of Meroz prepared their skins. Judas and his parents had for some time dwelt in this locality, hence the surname borne by the former.
Jesus was very joyfully received at some distance from their city by the poor citizens of Meroz. They knew of His approach and went out to meet Him, carrying sandals and garments for His use while they cleaned and brushed His own. Jesus thanked them and went with the disciples into the city, where they washed His feet and offered the customary refreshments. The Pharisees came to salute Him. Toward evening He taught in the synagogue before a large audience, taking for His subject the slothful servant and the buried talent. By this parable Jesus designated the inhabitants themselves. Born of the maid servant, they had received one talent only which they should have put out at interest; but instead of that they had buried it. The Master was coming and they should hasten to gain something. Jesus rebuked them also for their little love for their neighbor and their hatred of the Samaritans.
The Pharisees were not well pleased with Jesus, but the people so much the more, as they were very greatly oppressed by them. They rejoiced likewise at Jesus’ visit because their whole region seemed to lie forgotten by all the world, and no one ever came to help or instruct them in any way.
After the sermon, Jesus went with His disciples to an inn that stood outside the western gate of the city. Lazarus had erected it for their use on some ground that he owned in these parts. Bartholomew, Simon Zelotes, Jude Thaddeus, and Philip came here to see Jesus, by whom they were cordially received. They had already spoken with the disciples. They dined with Jesus and remained overnight. Jesus had often before seen Bartholomew, had given him an interior call to His service and had even spoken of him to the disciples, Simon and Thaddeus were his cousins. Philip also was related to him and, like Thaddeus, was already among the disciples. Jesus had called all these to follow Him when, upon His last visit to Capharnaum at Peter’s fishery on the lake, He had spoken of their soon being summoned to do so. It was then that Peter had expressed himself so desirous of being allowed to remain at home as unfit for such a calling. Then it was that Peter uttered the words that later on were recorded in the Gospel.
Judas Iscariot likewise had come with the above named disciples to Meroz. He did not, however, spend the evening with Jesus, but at a house in the city where he had often before stayed. Bartholomew and Simon spoke with Jesus of Judas. They said that they knew him to be an active, well-informed man, very willing to be of service, and very desirous of a place among the disciples. Jesus sighed as they spoke and appeared troubled. When they asked Him the cause of His sadness, He answered: “It is not yet time to speak, but only to think of it.” He taught during the whole meal, and all slept at the inn.
The newly arrived disciples had come from Capharnaum where they had met Peter and Andrew. They had messages from there and had also brought Jesus some money for the expenses of the journey, the charitable gift of the women. Judas, having met them at Naim, accompanied them to Meroz. Even at this early period, he was already known to all the disciples, and he had recently been in Cyprus. His manifold accounts of Jesus, of His miracles, of the various opinions formed of Him, namely, that some looked upon Him as the Son of David, others called Him the Christ, and the majority esteemed Him the greatest of the Prophets, had made the Jews and pagans of the island very inquisitive with regard to Him. They had heard, too, many wonderful things of His visit to Tyre and Sidon. The Cyprian pagan, the officer who visited Jesus in Ophra, had in consequence of all these marvelous accounts been sent thither by his master, who was very much impressed by them. Judas had accompanied the officer back to Cyprus. On his return journey he stopped at Ornithopolis where the parents of Saturnin, originally from Greece, then dwelt.
When Judas learned on the way that Jesus was going into the region of Meroz, where he himself was well-known, he went to seek Bartholomew in Debbaseth. He was already acquainted with him and he invited him to go with him to Meroz and present him to Jesus. Bartholomew expressed his willingness to do so. But he went first to Capharnaum with Jude Thaddeus to see the disciples there, thence with Thaddeus and Philip to Tiberias, where Simon Zelotes joined them, and then stopped at Naim for Judas who had journeyed thither to meet them. He begged them again to present him to Jesus as one desirous of becoming a disciple. They were well pleased to do so, for they took delight in his cleverness, his readiness to render service, and his courteous manner.
Judas Iscariot may have been at that time twenty-five years old. He was of middle height and by no means ugly. His hair was of a deep black, his beard somewhat reddish. In his attire he was perfectly neat and more elegant than the majority of Jews. He was affable in address, obliging, and fond of making himself important. He talked with an air of confidence of the great or of persons renowned for holiness, affecting familiarity with such when he found himself among those that did not know him. But if anyone who knew better convicted him of untruth, he retired confused. He was avaricious of honors, distinctions, and money. He was always in pursuit of good luck, always longing for fame, rank, a high position, wealth, though not seeing clearly how all this was to come to him. The appearance of Jesus in public greatly encouraged him to hope for a realization of his dreams. The disciples were provided for; the wealthy Lazarus took part with Jesus, of whom everyone thought that He was about to establish a kingdom; He was spoken of on all sides as a King, as the Messiah, as the Prophet of Nazareth. His miracles and wisdom were on every tongue. Judas consequently conceived a great desire to be numbered as His disciple and to share His greatness which, he thought, was to be that of this world. For a long time previously he had picked up, wherever he could, information of Jesus and had in turn carried around tidings of Him. He had sought the acquaintance of several of the disciples, and was now nearing the object of his desires. The chief motive that influenced him to follow Jesus was the fact that he had no settled occupation and only a half-education. He had embarked in trade and commerce, but without success, and had squandered the fortune left him by his natural father. Lately he had been executing all kinds of commissions, carrying on all kinds of business and brokerage for other people. In the discharge of such affairs, he showed himself both zealous and intelligent. A brother of his deceased father, named Simeon, was engaged in agriculture in Iscariot, the little place of about twenty houses that belonged to Meroz and from which it lay only a short distance toward the east. His parents had lived there a long time, and even after their death he had generally made it his home, hence his appellation of Iscariot. His parents at one time led a wandering life, for his mother was a public dancer and singer. She was of the race of Jephte, or rather that of his wife, and from the land of Tob. She was a poetess. She composed songs and anthems, which she sang with harp accompaniment. She taught young girls to dance, and carried with her from place to place all sorts of feminine finery and new fashions. Her husband, a Jew, was not with her; he lived at Pella. Judas was an illegitimate child whose father was an officer in the army near Damascus. He was born at Ascalon on one of his mother’s professional journeys, but she soon freed herself from the encumbrance by exposing the child. Shortly after his birth, he was abandoned on the water’s edge. But being found by some rich people with no children of their own, they cared for the child and bestowed upon him a liberal education. Later on, however, he turned out to be a bad boy and, through some kind of knavery, fell again to the care of his mother, who assumed the charge for pay. It is in my mind that the husband of his mother, becoming acquainted with the boy’s origin, had cursed him. Judas received some wealth from his illegitimate father. He was possessed of much wit. After the death of his parents, he lived mostly in Iscariot with his Uncle Simeon, the tanner, and helped him in his business. He was not as yet a villain, but loquacious, greedy for wealth and honor, and without stability. He was neither a profligate nor a man without religion, for he adhered strictly to all the prescriptions of the Jewish Law. He comes before me as a man that could be influenced as easily to the best things as to the worst. With all his cleverness, courteousness, and obligingness, there was a shade of darkness, of sadness, in the expression of his countenance, proceeding from his avarice, his ambition, his secret envy of even the virtues of others.
He was not, however, exactly ugly. There was something bland and affable in his countenance, though at the same time, something abject and repulsive. His father had something good in him, and thence came that possessed by Judas. When as a boy he was returned to his mother, and she on his account was embroiled in a quarrel with her husband, she cursed him. Both she and her husband were jugglers. They practiced all kinds of tricks; they were sometimes in plenty and as often in want.
The disciples in the beginning were favorably inclined toward Judas on account of his obliging ways, for he was ready even to clean their shoes. As he was an excellent walker, he made at first long journeys in the service of the little Community. I never saw him work a miracle. He was always full of envy and jealousy and, toward the close of Jesus’ career, he had become weary of obedience, of the wandering life of the disciples, and of the—to him—inexplicable mystery that surrounded the Divine Master.
In the center of Meroz was a beautifully constructed fountain, the water of which was conducted through pipes from the neighboring mountain, at a little distance to the north of the city. There were five galleries around the well, each of which contained a reservoir. Into these reservoirs the water of the well could be pumped. In the outer gallery of all were little bathing houses, and the whole place could be closed. Here to these galleries around the well had numbers of very sick persons belonging to the city, some of them considered incurable, been brought on beds. The worst were placed in the little bathing houses in the outside circle. Meroz, abandoned, despised, and helpless, possessed an astonishing number of sick, dropsical old people, paralytics, and sufferers of all kinds. Jesus, accompanied by the disciples, Judas excepted (he had not yet been presented to Jesus), went into the city. The Pharisees of the place and some strangers who had come from a distance were present. They took their stand at the center of the fountain where they could see all that went on. They appeared astonished and even somewhat scandalized at the miracles of Jesus. They were old people grounded in their own opinion, who had listened to previous accounts of such wonders with wise shakes of the head, smiles, and shrugs, giving credence to none of it. But now they beheld with surprise and vexation those seriously affected, those incurables of their own city, by whose deep-seated maladies they hoped to see Jesus’ healing power set at naught, taking up their beds and going off to their homes with songs of praise for their perfect cure. Jesus preached, instructed and consoled the sick, and gave Himself no trouble about the Pharisees. The whole city resounded with joy and thanksgiving. This lasted from early morn till nearly noon.
Jesus and the disciples now returned to their inn by the western gate of the city. On their way through the streets, some furious possessed, that had been allowed to leave their place of confinement, cried after Jesus. He commanded them to be silent. They instantly ceased their cries and threw themselves humbly at His feet. Jesus cured them and admonished them to purify themselves. From the inn He went to the hospital of the lepers a short distance from the city, entered, called the lepers before Him, touched them, healed them, and commanded them to present themselves before the priests for the customary purifications. Jesus did not allow the disciples to follow Him into the leprous hospital. He sent them up to the mountain where, after healing the lepers, He was to deliver an instruction.
On the way the disciples were met by Judas Iscariot, and when Jesus again joined them, Bartholomew and Simon Zelotes presented him to Jesus with the words: “Master, here is Judas of whom we have spoken to Thee,” Jesus looked at him graciously, but with indescribable sorrow. Judas, bowing, said: “Master, I pray Thee allow me to share Thy instructions.” Jesus replied sweetly and in words full of prophetic meaning: “Thou mayst have a place among My disciples, unless thou dost prefer to leave it to another.” These were His words or at least their purport. I felt that Jesus was prophesying of Matthias, who was to fill Judas’ place among The Twelve, and alluding also to His own betrayal. The expression was more comprehensive, but I felt that such was the allusion.
They now continued the ascent of the mountain, Jesus teaching all the while. On the summit was gathered a great crowd from Meroz, from Ataroth off to the north, and from the whole region around. There were also many Pharisees from these places, Jesus had some days previously announced the sermon by means of the disciples. He preached in vigorous terms of the Kingdom, of penance, of the abandonment in which the people of Meroz lived, and He earnestly exhorted them to arise from their sluggishness. There was no teacher’s chair up here. The preacher took his stand on an eminence, surrounded by a trench and a low wall, upon which the listeners leaned or stood.
The view from this point was very beautiful and extended. One could see over Samaria, Meroz, Thebez, Machmethat, and away over the whole country around. Mount Garizim, however, was not in view, though the towers of its ancient temple were visible. Toward the southeast, the horizon stretched off to the Dead Sea and eastward over the Jordan to Gilead. To the north in an oblique direction rose the heights of Thabor, the view further extending in the direction of Capharnaum.
When evening closed, Jesus informed His hearers that He would teach there again in the morning. A great many of the people slept on the mountain under tents as they were at so great a distance from home. Jesus and the disciples went back to the inn near Meroz. All along the way Jesus taught of the good employment of time, of salvation so long looked for and now so near, of abandoning their relatives in order to follow Him, and of helping the needy. Arrived at the inn, He dined with the disciples. While on the mountain, He had caused to be distributed to the poor the money that the disciples had brought with them from Capharnaum. Judas regarded that distribution with a covetous eye. During the meal at the inn, Jesus continued His instructions, and indeed after it far into the night. Today, for the first time, Judas sat at table with the Saviour and spent the night under the same roof with Him.
Sermon on the Mountain Near Meroz. The Daughters of Lais
Next morning Jesus went again to the mountain and there during the whole forenoon delivered a grand discourse similar to that known as the Sermon on the Mount. The multitude present was great, and food was distributed: bread and honey, along with fish taken from the ponds fed by the little brooks that watered the region. Jesus had by means of the disciples procured provisions for the poor. Toward the end of the discourse, He alluded again to the one talent that, as children of the handmaid, they had received and buried, and He inveighed severely against the Pharisees for their hatred toward them, asking why they had not long ago led these people back to the truth. His words vexed the Pharisees, and they began to retort. They reproached Jesus for allowing His disciples so much liberty, especially on the score of fasting, washing, purifications, the Sabbath, the shunning of publicans and the different sects. It was not in this way, they said, the children of the Prophets and the Scribes used to live.
Jesus replied in the words of the Commandment of fraternal love: “Love God above all things and thy neighbor as thyself. That is the first Commandment!” and He told the disciples that they should learn to practice it, instead of covering up its abuse by means of exterior practices. Jesus spoke somewhat figuratively; consequently, Philip and Thaddeus said to Him: “Master, they have not understood Thee.” Then Jesus explained Himself quite significantly. He commiserated the poor, ignorant, sinful people whom they, the Pharisees, with all their outward observance of the Law, had allowed to go to destruction, and He ended by boldly declaring that they who acted so should have no part in His Kingdom. He then went down the mountain to His inn, which was one-half hour from the scene of the sermon and another from the city. He met all along the way, on litters under tents, a great number of sick of all kinds patiently awaiting His coming. Many of them had come too late for the first cures. They belonged to the country far around. Jesus cured them, addressing to them at the same time words of consolation and exhortation to a change of life.
A pagan widow of Naim, called Lais, was also here waiting for Jesus. She had come to implore His aid in behalf of her two daughters, Sabia and Athalia. They were in a fearful manner possessed by the devil, and were at home in Naim confined to their respective apartments. They were perfectly furious. They dashed themselves here and there, they bit their own flesh, and struck wildly around them; no one ventured to approach them. At other times their members were contracted by cramps, and they fell to the ground pale and unconscious. Their mother, ac-companied by handmaids and menservants, had come to Jesus for help. She was waiting at a distance eagerly desirous of His approach, but to her disappointment, she saw Him always turning to others. The poor mother could not restrain her eagerness, but cried out from time to time as He drew near: “Ah, Lord, have mercy on me!” but Jesus appeared not to hear her. The women near her suggested that she should say: “Have mercy on my daughters!” since she herself was not a sufferer. She replied: “They are my own flesh. In having mercy on me, He will have mercy on them also!” and again she uttered the same cry. At last Jesus turned and addressed her: “It is proper that I should break bread to the children of My own household before attending to strangers.” The mother replied: “Lord, Thou art right. I will wait or even come again, if Thou canst not help me today, for I am not worthy of Thy assistance!” Jesus had, however, finished His work of healing, and the cured, singing canticles of praise, were going off with their beds. Jesus had turned away from the disconsolate mother and appeared about to retire. Seeing this, the poor woman grew desperate. “Ah!” she thought, “He is not going to help me!” But as the words flashed through her mind, Jesus turned toward her and said: “Woman, what askest thou of Me?” She cast herself veiled at His feet and answered: “Lord, help me! My two daughters at Naim are tormented by the devil. I know that Thou canst help them if Thou wilt, for all things are possible to Thee.” Jesus responded: “Return to thy home! Thy daughters are coming to meet thee. But purify thyself! The sins of the parents are upon these children.” These last words Jesus spoke to her privately. She replied: “Lord, I have already long wept my sin. What shall I do?” Then Jesus told her that she should get rid of her unjustly acquired goods, mortify her body, pray, fast, give alms, and comfort the sick. She promised with many tears to do all that He suggested, and then went away full of joy. Her two daughters were the fruit of an illicit connection. She had three sons born in lawful wedlock, but they lived apart from their mother, who still retained property belonging to them. She was very rich and, notwithstanding her repentance, lived, like most people of her class, a life of luxury. The daughters were confined in separate chambers. While Jesus was speaking with their mother, they fell unconscious, and Satan went out of them in the form of a black vapor. Weeping vehemently and quite changed, they called their female attendants, and informed them that they were cured. When they learned that their mother had gone to the Prophet of Nazareth, they set out to meet her, accompanied by many of their acquaintances. They met her at about an hour’s distance from Naim and related all that had happened to them. The mother then went on to the city, but the daughters with their maids and servants proceeded straight forward to Meroz. They wished to present themselves to Jesus who, they had heard, was going to teach there again the next morning. During the healing of the sick, Manahem, the blind disciple of Korea, who had been restored to sight and whom Jesus had sent on a message to Lazarus, returned from Bethania with the two nephews of Joseph of Arimathea. Jesus gave them an interview. The holy women had sent by them money and gifts of various kinds to Jesus. Dina the Samaritan had visited the holy women at Capharnaum, bringing with her a rich contribution. Veronica and Johanna Chusa had also visited Mary. On their return journey they called to see Magdalen, whom they found very much changed. She was depressed in spirits, her folly apparently undergoing a struggle with her good inclinations. The holy women took Dina with them to Bethania. There was at this epoch a rich, aged widow who joined Martha’s little band and gave all she possessed for the benefit of the young community.
When the Pharisees invited Jesus to a dinner, they asked Him whether His disciples, young, inexperienced men, some of them quite rustic and unaccustomed to the society of the learned, should also be invited. Jesus answered: “Yes! For whoever invites Me, invites the members of My household also; and he that rejects them likewise rejects Me.” At these words, they bade Him bring the disciples with Him. All repaired to the public house in the city, where Jesus still taught and explained parables.
The property upon which Lazarus had established the inn near Meroz, consisted of a beautiful field and numerous orchards interspersed with charming groves. Some of his servants lived there to attend to the fruit and provide for its sale. At this time they had charge also of the inn. At the last meeting of Jesus with Lazarus at Ennon, it had been agreed that Jesus should tarry for some time in these parts. The holy women had, in consequence, come thither to get the inn in order, and the people around the country had been notified to expect Jesus.
On the following morning, before going again to the mountain, Jesus taught at the fountain in Meroz, and again reproached the Pharisees for the little care they took of the people. After that He ascended the mountain and delivered an instruction similar to that known as the Sermon on the Mount. Before taking leave of the people, He once more gave an explanation of the buried talent. Some of His hearers had already been three days encamped on the mountain. Those in need had been placed apart from the rest and were provided with food and other necessaries by the disciples. Judas’ uncle, Simeon of Iscariot, a devout, old man, dark complexioned and vigorous, entreated Jesus to go to Iscariot, and Jesus promised to do so. When He went down the mountain, He found some sick awaiting Him. They were still able to walk. Jesus cured them. This took place on the road between the inn and Lazarus’ property, at a little distance below the place where the disciples had distributed food to the people.
On the same spot upon which the pagan woman Lais of Naim had knelt yesterday at Jesus’ feet praying for her sick daughters, were today those daughters, now both cured, awaiting the coming of Jesus. They were named Athalia and Sabia, and were accompanied by their maids and men servants. With all their attendants, they cast themselves down before Jesus, saying: “Lord, we esteemed ourselves unworthy to listen to Thy instructions, therefore we waited here to thank Thee for freeing us from the power of the evil one.” Jesus commanded them to rise. He com-mended their mother’s patience, humility, and faith, for as a stranger she had waited until He had broken bread to His own household. But now, He continued, she too belonged to His household, for she had recognized the God of Israel in His mercy. The Heavenly Father had sent Him to break bread to all that believed in His mission and brought forth fruits of penance. Then He ordered the disciples to bring food, which He gave to the maidens and all their attendants—to each a piece of bread and a piece of fish—delivering to them at the same time an instruction thereon full of deep significance. After that He went on with the disciples to the inn. One of the maidens was twenty, the other five and twenty years old. Their sickness and the confinement in which they lived had made them pale and wan.