THE TONY CROSS COLUMN
Article No. 120
Wandering around Galilee
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At times I am very unsure. I find myself wondering about Jesus. At other times I am completely sure that he is right and I just want to follow him and be with him. But so often he seems to ignore or override the commandments which we have been taught to follow.
Earlier this week we were in Galilee, wandering around the villages as usual, and he said that really only two of the commandments really mattered. Well, of course, he is right - anyone who wants the truth can see that - but it sounded so bald to just dismiss the other commandments, especially when the priests are so insistent on them.
I find myself growing in my faith every day - just being in his presence somehow lights up the day. Perhaps we have come under his spell and can’t see things the way the Priests and Scribes do any more.
Then there was that healing session the other week. There must have been hundreds of sick all around. Some couldn’t walk properly, some couldn’t see properly. Some were on pallets, carried by their family or friends. It was an incredible sight - it looked more like the Pool of Siloam, with all it’s sick people just waiting. The noise was interesting too - the absence of it, I mean! It was as if everyone was holding their breath in the expectation of a miracle, And as Jesus, picked his way among them the way opened up in front of him, so that it looked like a royal procession.
And all the time he kept looking intently first at one, and then at another, and then the next. Sometimes he touched them lightly. Occasionally you would hear his voice, suddenly stern and commanding - ‘come out of him!’ he would say, and sometimes the man (woman or child) would fall on the floor writhing around as he lost his demons.
It all went on and on, no pause for lunch, or a break! He just kept moving from one to another. It was an astonishing sight. I felt tears in my eyes. So many lives, blighted by illness, brought alive again. So many families transformed when sick men become well again.
As far as I could see, he healed all of those he talked to. Some started crying with joy; others were so overcome that they just stood there, silent, trying to take in what this healing meant for them.
There were one or two quite well dressed people in the crowd - we often get that. Sometimes we even have a Roman Soldier or two who are off duty and want to hear what this Jesus, of whom they have heard, has to say for himself. Sometimes they come with questions that are puzzling them - as happened last week, when someone asked him about which is the greatest law.
I am afraid on occasions like these - mostly because I fear that the Priests are trying to stir up trouble of one sort or another. They are always plotting to block and accuse him. I am afraid because they send spies to ask questions and to trap him. Perhaps into saying something they can use against him. I am also on tenterhooks a lot of the time because he sails so close to the wind. And sometimes he really lets rip! About how corrupt and useless so many of the Priests are.
So far he has never been arrested or even been accused officially by the Priests, but eventually they are going to have to decide what to do about him because they are not going to change, and he is not going to change and the situation cannot go on forever as it is!
Peter spoke for us all the other evening when he said he would stand by Jesus whatever happened. But we are all a bit fearful of the future because it is so uncertain.
It sometimes seems that Jesus wants the crowds to become his followers - to join his march into the New Kingdom. But then, when they want to make him their King in the New Kingdom he runs a mile from them and hides!
It is almost as if he is a dual personality - wanting general popular support but shunning the consequences of it!
Of course what really keeps him going is not the crowd’s adulation but the times when he goes off by himself before anyone is up, and talks with his ‘Father‘ - with God, I suppose we must learn to say. It all seems so natural, yet it is so different from what we have heard from the priests over the years. Maybe he talks with the prophets of old - with Moses and Abraham and people like that. I don’t know! - all I know is that he comes back from those times full of peace and calm purpose. Of course being quiet like that helps anyone - well, at least it helps those who are that way disposed. I’ve even found it myself ! I remember when we have hauled in a big catch - and we have rested quietly for five minutes before we started for home. Or perhaps in the silence of the night when the others were sleeping. I think we all know moments like that, when our spirits seem to draw strength in the silence. Just the lapping of the water on the side of the boat.
Whatever - the fact is that he comes back refreshed and ready for breakfast. I think it is those times when he received strength enough to carry him through the days - heaven knows they are hectic enough at times! We disciples are really grateful when he has a day of teaching and we are able to sit on the green grass and listen alongside the rest.
Today the crowds are quiet - they vary a lot from day to day. Sometimes it gets really noisy! Today they are expectant- you can feel it in the air. So we won’t have any trouble today I don’t think. Not like a month ago when we were near Gadera and that madman suddenly rushed out to attack us. He came straight for Jesus! We didn’t know what to do, it all happened so quickly! It was the first time anyone had seemed intent on serious injury to the Master. We rushed in to protect him but he was already dealing with the situation - already talking to the wild man - clearly in complete control of the situation! But it gave us a nasty turn as we thought of how it might have ended. Afterwards when the Master was elsewhere, Peter spoke quietly to a few of us. And suggested we form a kind of unofficial protection team. No use saying anything to Him because personal safety is the last thing he would ever think of! Or care about! So there are now four of us who make sure we are always on the lookout for his safety. We stick close wherever he is, just to be on the safe side for future trouble. I think he knows we are doing it but he hasn’t said anything.
I sometimes wonder where it will all end. Shall we go on doing this until we are old men - till we are perhaps forty or even older? And what is the point of it all if we are not going to see things change? I’m all for working myself into a responsible position so that I can actually influence events. I would like to see a few of us get into positions of real responsibility so that we can perhaps help avoid an uprising - its so near the surface so much of the time. And the Romans are so arrogant that their attitude fosters revolt. They don’t give a fig for our values. The educated Romans say they do, but they don’t really. All they care about is their precious Rome and their all important Caesar. Of course they are anxious that the Province remains peaceful - that’s what they really care about - they will do anything to suppress trouble.
Staying with a wandering teacher is not what I set out to do. But when he invited me to join him I felt I could not refuse. There is something so compelling about him. I suppose he is the calmest, wisest, and most ‘together’ man I have ever known. But where he will finish up I really don’t know! Perhaps he will be disposed of by the Romans, although how they could ever get him successfully convicted in accordance with their precious law I don’t know!
When I started to try to live along the lines he preaches my life seemed to sort itself out. I don’t mean that I don’t have problems and troubles - I do, just like the next man. But somehow I seem to have found a way through the bad places. I have found a great release through looking away from following the law with all its regulations, and concentrating, instead, on love. It was like stepping out of one world and into another! I want to go on being with Jesus, though where it will all finish I really don’t know! I wonder sometimes whether his message will survive. It deserves to! Month by month I grow more into his way of seeing and doing things. In fact I am beginning to see the world through his eyes. And that has changed everything for me! If only everyone could hear him as I have heard him!