Jesus the Son of Man
Jesus the Son of Man is a life of Jesus as told in the words of seventy-seven of his closest contemporaries, both friends and enemies: Syrians, Romans, Greeks and Jews; Persians, Priests, Publicans and Poets.
Part 5: Chapters 41 thru 50
MARY MAGDALEN: HIS MOUTH WAS LIKE THE HEART OF A POMEGRANATE
HIS MOUTH WAS like the heart of a pomegranate, and the shadows in His eyes were deep. And He was gentle, like a man mindful of his own strength. In my dreams I beheld the kings of the earth standing in awe in His presence. I would speak of His face, but how shall I? It was like night without darkness, and like day without the noise of day. It was a sad face, and it was a joyous face. And well I remember how once He raised His hand towards the sky, and His parted fingers were like the branches of an elm. And I remember Him pacing the evening. He was not walking. He Himself was a road above the road; even as a cloud above the earth that would descend to refresh the earth. But when I stood before Him and spoke to him, He was a man, and His face was powerful to behold. And He said to me, "What would you, Miriam?" I would not answer Him, but my wings enfolded my secret, and I was made warm. And because I could bear His light no more, I turned and walked away, but not in shame. I was only shy, and I would be alone, with His fingers upon the strings of my heart.
JOTHAM OF NAZARETH TO A ROMAN: ON LIVING AND BEING
MY FRIEND, YOU like all other Romans would conceive life rather than live it. You would rule lands rather than be ruled by the spirit. You would conquer races and be cursed by them rather than stay in Rome and be blest and happy. You think but of armies marching and of ships launched into the sea. How shall you then understand Jesus of Nazareth, a man simple and alone, who came without armies or ships, to establish a kingdom in the heart and an empire in the free spaces of the soul? How shall you understand the man who was not a warrior, but who came with the power of the mighty ether? He was not a god, He was a man like unto ourselves; but in Him the myrrh of the earth rose to meet the frankincense of the sky; and in His words our lisping embraced the whispering of the unseen; and in His voice we heard a song unfathomable. Aye, Jesus was a man and not a god, and therein lies our wonder and our surprise. But you Romans wonder not save at the gods, and no man shall surprise you. Therefore you understand not the Nazarene. He belonged to the youth of the mind and you belong to its old age. You govern us today; but let us wait another day. Who knows that this man with neither armies nor ships shall govern tomorrow? We who follow the spirit shall sweat blood while journeying after Him. But Rome shall lie a white skeleton in the sun. We shall suffer much, yet we shall endure and we shall live. But Rome must needs fall into the dust. Yet if Rome, when humbled and made low, shall pronounce His name, He will heed her voice. And He will breathe new life into her bones that she may rise again, a city among the cities of the earth. But this He shall do without legions, nor with slaves to oar His galleys. He will be alone.
EPHRAIM OF JERICHO: THE OTHER WEDDING-FEAST
WHEN HE CAME again to Jericho I sought Him out and said to Him, "Master, on the morrow my son will take a wife. I beg you come to the wedding-feast and do us honor, even as you honored the wedding at Cana of Galilee." And He answered, "It is true that I was once a guest at a wedding-feast, but I shall not be a guest again. I am myself now the Bridegroom." And I said, "I entreat you, Master, come to the wedding-feast of my son." And He smiled as though He would rebuke me, and said, "Why do you entreat me? Have you not wine enough?" And I said, "My jugs are full, Master; yet I beseech you, come to my son's wedding-feast." Then He said, "Who knows? I may come, I may surely come, if your heart is an altar in your temple." Upon the morrow my son was married, but Jesus came not to the wedding-feast. And though we had many guests, I felt that no one had come. In very truth, I myself who welcomed the guests, was not there. Perhaps my heart had not been an altar when I invited Him. Perhaps I desired another miracle.
BARCA A MERCHANT OF TYRE: ON BUYING AND SELLING
I BELIEVE THAT neither the Romans nor the Jews understood Jesus of Nazareth, nor did His disciples who now preach His name. The Romans slew Him and that was a blunder. The Galileans would make a god of Him and that is a mistake. Jesus was the heart of man. I have sailed the Seven Seas with my ships, and bartered with kings and princes and with cheats and the wily in the market-places of distant cities; but never have I seen a man who understood merchants as He did. I heard Him once tell this parable: "A merchant left his country for a foreign land. He had two servants, and he gave each a handful of gold, saying: 'Even as I go abroad, you also shall go forth and seek profit. Make just exchange, and see that you serve in giving and taking.' "And after a year the merchant returned. "And he asked his two servants what they had done with his gold. "The first servant said, 'Behold, Master, I have bought and sold, and I have gained.' "And the merchant answered, 'The gain shall be yours, for you have done well, and have been faithful to me and to yourself.' "Then the other servant stood forth and said, 'Sir, I feared the loss of your money; and I did not buy nor sell. Behold, it is all here in this purse.' "And the merchant took the gold, and said, 'Little is your faith. To barter and lose is better than not to go forth. For even as the wind scatters her seed and waits for the fruit, so must all merchants. It were fitter for you henceforth to serve others.' " When Jesus spoke thus, though He was no merchant, He disclosed the secret of commerce. Moreover, His parables often brought to my mond lands more distant than my journeys, and yet nearer than my house and my goods. But the young Nazarene was not a god; and it is a pity His followers seek to make a god of such a sage.
PHUMIAH THE HIGH PRIESTESS OF SIDON TO THE OTHER PRIESTESSES: AN INVOCATION
TAKE YOUR HARPS and let me sing. Beat your strings, the silver and the gold; For I would sing the dauntless Man Who slew the dragon of the valley, Then gazed down with pity Upon the thing He had slain.
Take your harps and sing with me The lofty Oak upon the height, The sky-hearted and the ocean-handed Man, Who kissed the pallid lips of death, Yet quivers now upon the mouth of life.
Take your harps and let us sing The fearless Hunter on the hill, Who marked the beast, and shot His viewless arrow, And brought the horn and tusk Down to the earth.
Take your harps and sing with me The valiant Youth who conquered the mountain cities, And the cities of the plain that coiled like serpents in the sand. He fought not against pygmies but against gods Who hungered for our flesh and thirsted for our blood.
And like the first Golden Hawk He would rival only eagles; For His wings were vast and proud And would not outwing the less winged.
Take your harps and sing with me The joyous song of sea and cliff. The gods are dead, And they are lying still In the forgotten isle of a forgotten sea. And He who slew them sits upon His throne.
He was but a youth. Spring had not yet given Him full beard, And His summer was still young in His field.
Take your harps and sing with me The tempest in the forest That breaks the dry branch and the leafless twig, Yet sends the living root to nestle deeper at the breast of earth.
Take your harps and sing with me The deathless song of our Beloved. Nay, my maidens, stay your hands. Lay by your harps. We cannot sing Him now. The faint whisper of our song cannot reach His tempest, Nor pierce the majesty of His silence.
Lay by your harps and gather close around me, I would repeat His words to you, And I would tell you of His deeds, For the echo of His voice is deeper than our passion.
BENJAMIN THE SCRIBE: LET THE DEAD BURY THEIR DEAD
IT HAS BEEN said that Jesus was the enemy of Rome and Judea. But I say that Jesus was the enemy of no man and no race. I have heard Him say, "The birds of the air and the mountain tops are not mindful of the serpents in their dark holes. "Let the dead bury their dead. Be you yourself among the living, and soar high." I was not one of His disciples. I was but one of the many who went after Him to gaze upon His face. He looked upon Rome and upon us who are the slaves of Rome, as a father looks upon his children playing with toys and fighting among themselves for the larger toy. And He laughed from His height. He was greater than State and race; He was greater than revolution. He was single and alone, and He was an awakening. He wept all our unshed tears and smiled all our revolts. We knew it was in His power to be born with all who are not yet born, and to bid them see, not with their eyes but with His vision. Jesus was the beginning of a new kingdom upon the earth, and that kingdom shall remain. He was the son and the grandson of all the kings who builded the kingdom of the spirit. And only the kings of spirit have ruled our world.
ZACCHAEUS: ON THE FATE OF JESUS
YOU BELIEVE IN what you hear said. Believe in the unsaid, for the silence of men is nearer the truth than their words. You ask if Jesus could have escaped His shameful death and saved His followers from persecution. I answer, He could indeed have escaped had He chosen, but He did not seek safety nor was He mindful of protecting His flock from wolves of the night. He knew His fate and the morrow of His consant lovers. He foretold and prophesied what should befall every one of us. He sought not His death; but He accepted death as a husband-man shrouding his corn with earth, accepts the winter, and then awaits the spring and harvest; and as a builder lays the largest stone in the foundation. We were men of Galilee and from the slopes of Lebanon. Our Master could have led us back to our country, to live with His youth in our gardens until old age should come and whisper us back into the years. Was anything barring His path back to the temples of our villages where others were reading the prophets and then disclosing their hearts? Could He not have said, "Now I go east with the west wind," and so saying dismiss us with a smile upon His lips? Aye, He could have said, "Go back to your kin. The world is not ready for me. I shall return a thousand years hence. Teach your children to await my return." He could have done this had He so chosen. But He knew that to build the temple invisible He must needs lay Himself the corner-stone, and lay us around as little pebbles cemented close to Himself. He knew that the sap of His sjy-tree must rise from its roots, and He poured His blood upon its roots; and to Him it was not sacrifice but rather gain. Death is the revealer. The death of Jesus revealed His life. Had He escaped you and His enemies, you would have been the conquerors of the world. Therefore He did not escape. Only He who desires all shall give all. Aye, Jesus could have escaped His enemies and lived to old age. But He knew the passing of the seasons, and He would sing His song. What man facing the armed world would not be conquered for the moment that he might overcomethe ages? And now you ask who, in very truth, slew Jesus, the Romans or the priests of Jerusalem? Neither the Romans slew Him, nor the priests. The whole world stood to honor Him upon that hill.
JONATHAN: AMONG THE WATER-LILIES
UPON A DAY my beloved and I were rowing upon the lake of sweet waters. And the hills of Lebanon were about us. We moved beside the weeping willows, and the reflections of the willows were deep around us. And while I steered the boat with an oar, my beloved took her lute and sang thus: What flower save the lotus knows the waters and the sun? What heart save the lotus heart shall know both earth and sky? Behold my love, the golden flower that floats 'twixt deep and high Even as you and I float betwixt a love that has for ever been And shall for ever be.
Dip your oar, my love, And let me touch my strings. Let us follow the willows, and let us leave not the water-lilies.
In Nazareth there lives a Poet, and His heart is like the lotus. He has visited the soul of woman, He knows her thirst is growing out of the waters, And her hunger for the sun, though all her lips are fed. They say He walks in Galilee. I say He is rowing with us. Can you not see His face, my love? Can you not see, where the willow bough and its reflection meet, He is moving as we move?
Beloved, it is good to know the youth of life. It is good to know its singing joy. Would that you might always have the oar, And I my stringed lute, Where the lotus laughs in the sun, And the willow is dipping to the waters, And His voice is upon my strings.
Dip your oar, my beloved, And let me touch my strings. There is a Poet in Nazareth Who knows and loves us both. Dip your oar, my lover, And let me touch my strings.
HANNAH OF BETHSAIDA: SHE SPEAKS OF HER FATHER'S SISTER
THE SISTER OF my father had left us in her youth to dwell in a hut beside her father's ancient vineyard. She lived alone, and the people of the countryside sought her in their maladies, and she healed them with green herbs, and with roots and flowers dried in the sun. And they deemed her a seeress; but there were those also who called her witch and sorceress. One day my father said to me, "Take these loeaves of wheaten bread to my sister, and take this jug of wine and this basket of raisins." And it was all put upon the back of a colt, and I followed the road until I reached the vineyard, and the hut of my father's sister. And she was gladened. Now as we sat together in the cool of the day, a man came by upon the road, and He greeted the sister of my father, saying, "Good-even to you, and the blessing of the night be upon you." Then she rose up; and she stood as in awe before Him and said, "Good-even to you, master of all good spirits, and conqueror of all evil spirits." The man looked at her with tender eyes, and then He passed on by. But I laughed in my heart. Methought my father's sister was mad. But now I know that she was not mad. It was I who did not understand. She knew of my laughter, though it was hidden. And she spoke, but not in anger. She said, "Listen, my daughter, and hearken and keep my word in remembrance: the man who but now passed by, like the shadow of a bird flying between the sun and the earth, shall prevail against the Caesars and the empire of the Caesars. He shall wrestle with the crowned bull of Chaldea, and the man-headed lion of Egypt, and He shall overcome them; and He shall rule the world. "But this land that now He walks shall come to naught; and Jerusalem, which sits proudly upon the hill, shall drift away in smoke upon the wind of desolation." When she spoke thus, my laughter turned to stillness and I was quiet. Then I said, "Who is this man, and of what country and tribe does He come? And how shall He conquer the great kings and the empires of the great kings?" And she answered, "He is one born here in this land, but we have conceived Him in our longing from the beginning of years. He is of all tribes and yet of none. He shall conquer by the word of His mouth and by the flame of His spirit." Then suddenly she rose and stood up like a pinnacle of rock; and she said, "May the angel of the Lord forgive me for pronoucing this word also: He shall be slain, and His youth shall be shrouded, and He shall be laid in silence beside the tongueless heart of the earth. And the maidens of Judea shall weep for Him." Then she lifted her hand skyward and spoke again, and she said, "But He shall be slain only in the body. "In the spirit He shall rise and go forth leading His host from this land where the sun is born, to the land where the sun is slain at eventide. "And His name shall be first among men." She was an aged seeress when she said these things, and I was but a girl, a field unploughed, a stone not yet in a wall. But all that she beheld in the mirror of her mind has come to pass even in my day. Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead and led men and women unto the people of the sunset. The city that yielded Him to judgment was given unto destruction; and in the Judgment Hall where He was tried and sentenced, the owl hoots a dirge while the night weeps the dew of her heart upon the fallen marble. And I am an old woman, and the years bend me down. My people are no more and my race is vanished. I saw Him but once again after that day, and once again heard His voice. It was upon a hill-top when He was talking to His friends and followers. And now I am old and alone, yet still He visits my dreams. He comes like a white angel with pinions; and with His grace He hushes my dread of darkness. And He uplifts me to dreams yet more distant. I am still a field unploughed, a ripe fruit that would not fall. The most that I possess is the warmth of the sun, and the memory of that man. I know that among my people these shall not rise again king nor prophet nor priest, even as the sister of my father foretold. We shall pass with the flowing of the rivers, and we shall be nameless. But those who crossed Him in mid-stream shall be remembered for crossing Him in mid-stream.
MANASSEH, A LAWYER IN JERUSALEM: ON THE SPEECH AND GESTURE OF JESUS
YES, I USED to hear Him speak. There was always a ready word upon His lips. But I admired Him as a man rather than as a leader. He preached something beyond my liking, perhaps beyond my reason. And I would have no man preach to me. I was taken by His voice and His gestures, not by the substance of His speech. He charmed me but never convinced me; for He was too vague, too distant and obscure to reach my mind. I have known other men like Him. They are never constant nor are they consistent. It is with eloquence not with principles that they hold your ear and your passing thought, but never the core of your heart. What a pity that His enemies confronted Him and forced the issue. It was not necessary. I believe their hostility will add to His stature and turn His mildness to power. For is it not strange that in opposing a man you give Him courage? And in staying His feet you give Him wings? I know not His enemies, yet I am certain that in their fear of a harmless man they have lent Him strength and made Him dangerous.
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Jesus the Son of Man by Kahlil Gibran