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 7: Chapters 61 thru 70
A COBBLER IN JERUSALEM: A NEUTRAL
I LOVED HIM not, yet I did not hate Him. I listened to Him not to hear His words but rather he sound of His voice; for His voice pleased me. All that He said was vague to my mind, but the music thereof was clear to my ear. Indeed were it not for what others have said to me of His teaching, I should not have known even so much as whether He was with Judea or against it.
SUZANNAH OF NAZARETH, A NEIGHBOR OF MARY: OF THE YOUTH AND MANHOOD OF JESUS
I KNEW MARY the mother of Jesus, before she became the wife of Joseph the carpenter, when we were both still unwedded. In those days Mary would behold visions and hear voices, and she would speak of heavenly ministers who visited her dreams. And the people of Nazareth were mindful of her, and they observed her going and her coming. And they gazed upon her brows and spaces in her steps. But some said she was possessed. They said this because she would go only upon her own errands. I deemed her old while she was young, for there was a harvest in her blossoming and ripe fruit in her spring. She was born and reared amongst us yet she was like an alien from the North Country. In her eyes there was always the astonishment of one not yet familiar with our faces. And she was as haughty as Miriam of old who marched with her brothers form the Nile to the wilderness. Then Mary was betrothed to Joseph the carpenter.
When Mary was big with Jesus she would walk among the hills and return at eventide with loveliness and pain in her eyes. And when Jesus was born I was told that Mary said to her mother, "I am but a tree unpruned. See you to this fruit." Martha the midwife heard her. After three days I visited her. And there was wonder in her eyes, and her breasts heaved, and her arm was around her first-born like the shell that holds the pearl. We all loved Mary's babe and we watched Him, for there was warmth in His being and He throbbed with the pace of His life. The seasons passed, and He became a boy full of laughter and little wanderings. None of us knew what He would do for He seemed always outside of our race. But He was never rebuked though He was venturous and over-daring. He played with the other children rather than they with Him. When He was twelve years old, one day He led a blind man across the brook to the safety of the open road. And in gratitude the blind man asked Him, "Little boy, who are you?" And He answered, "I am not a little boy. I am Jesus." And the blind man said, "Who is your father?" And He answered, "God is my father." And the blind man laughed and replied, "Well said, my little boy. But who is your mother?" And Jesus answered, "I am not your little boy. And my mother is the earth." And the blind man said, "Then behold, I was led by the Son of God and the earth across the stream." And Jesus answered, "I will lead you wherever you would go, and my eyes will accompany your feet." And He grew like a precious palm tree in our gardens. When He was nineteen He was as comely as a hart, and His eyes were like honey and full of the surprise of day. And upon His mouth there was the thirst of the desert flock for the lake. He would walk the fields alone and our eyes would follow Him, and the eyes of all the maidens of Nazareth. But we were shy of Him. Love is forever shy of beauty, yet beauty shall forever be pursued by love.
Then the years bade Him speak in the temple and in the gardens of Galilee. And at times Mary followed Him to listen to His words and to hear the sound of her own heart. But when He and those who loved Him went down to Jerusalem she would not go. For we at the North Country are often mocked in the streets of Jerusalem, even when we go carrying our offerings to the temple. And Mary was too proud to yield to the South Country.
And Jesus visited other lands in the east and in the west. We knew not what lands He visited, yet our hearts followed Him. But Mary awaited Him upon her threshold and every eventide her eyes sought the road for His home-coming. Yet upon His return she would say to us, "He is too vast to be my Son, too eloquent for my silent heart. How shall I claim Him?" It seemed to us that Mary could not believe that the plain had given birth to the mountain; in the whiteness of her heart she did not see that the ridge is a pathway to the summit. She knew the man, but because He was her Son she dared not know Him. And on a day when Jesus went to the lake to be with the fishermen she said to me, "What is man but this restless being that would rise from the earth, and who is man but a longing that desires the stars? "My son is a longing. He is all of us longing for the stars. "Did I say my son? May God forgive me. Yet in my heart I would be His mother."
Now, it is hard to tell more of Mary and her Son, but though there shall be husks in my throat, and my words shall reach you like cripples on crutches, I must needs relate what I have seen and heard. It was in the youth of the year when the red anemones were upon the hills that Jesus called His disciples saying to them, "Come with me to Jerusalem and witness the slaying of the lamb for the passover." Upon the selfsame day Mary came to my door and said, "He is seeking the Holy City. Will you come and follow Him with me and the other women?" And we walked the long road behind Mary and her son till we reached Jerusalem. And there a company of men and women hailed us at the gate, for His coming had been heralded to those who loved Him. But upon that very night Jesus left the city with His men. We were told that He had gone to Bethany. And Mary stayed with us in the inn, awaiting His return. Upon the eve of the following Thursday He was caught without the walls, and was held prisoner. And when we heard He was a prisoner, Mary uttered not a word, but there appeared in her eyes the fulfilment of that promised pain and joy which we had beheld when she was but a bride in Nazareth. She did not weep. She only moved among us like the ghost of a mother who would not bewail the ghost of her son. We sat low upon the floor but she was erect, walking up and down the room. She would stand beside the window and gaze eastward, and then with the fingers of her two hands brush back her hair. At dawn she was still standing among us, like a lone banner in the wilderness wherein there are no hosts. We wept because we knew the morrow of her son; but she did not weep for she knew also what would befall Him. Her bones were of bronze and her sinews of the ancient elms, and her eyes were like the sky, wide and daring. Have you heard a thrush sing while its nest burns in the wind? Have you seen a woman whose sorrow is too much for tears, or a wounded heart that would rise beyond its own pain? You have not seen such a woman, for you have not stood in the presence of Mary; and you have not been enfolded by the Mother Invisible. In that still moment when the muffled hoofs of silence beat upon the breasts of the sleepless, John the young son of Zebedee, came and said: "Mary Mother, Jesus is going forth. Come, let us follow Him." And Mary laid her hand upon John's shoulder and they went out, and we followed them. When we came to the Tower of David we saw Jesus carrying His cross. And there was a great crowd about Him. And two other men were also carrying their crosses. And Mary's head was held high, and she walked with us after her son. And her step was firm. And behind her walked Zion and Rome, ay, the whole world, to revenge itself upon one free Man. When we reached the hill, He was raised high upon the cross. And I looked at Mary. And her face was not the face of a woman bereaved. It was the countenance of the fertile earth, forever giving birth, forever burying her children. Then to her eyes came the remembrance of His childhood, and she said aloud, "My son, who is not my son; man who once visited my womb, I glory in your power. I know that every drop of blood that runs down from your hands shall be the well-stream of a nation. "You die in this tempest even as my heart once died in the sunset, and I shall now sorrow." At that moment I desired to cover my face with my cloak and run away to the North Country. But of a sudden I heard Mary say, "My son, who is not my son, what have you said to the man at your right hand that has made him happy in his agony? The shadow of death is light upon his face, and he cannot turn his eyes from you. "Now you smile upon me, and because you smile I know you have conquered." And Jesus looked upon His mother and said, "Mary, from this hour be you the mother of John." And to John He said, "Be a loving son unto this woman. Go to her house and let your shadow cross the threshold where I once stood. Do this in remembrance of me." And Mary raised her right hand towards Him, and she was like a tree with one branch. And again she cried, "My son, who is not my son, if this be of God may God give us patience and the knowledge thereof. And if it be of man may God forgive him forevermore. "If it be of God, the snow of Lebanon shall be your shroud; and if it be only of the priests and soldiers, then I have this garment for your nakedness. "My son, who is not my son, that which God builds here shall not perish; and that which man would destroy shall remain builded, but not in his sight." And at that moment the heavens yielded Him to the earth, a cry and a breath. And Mary yielded Him also unto man, a wound and a balsam. And Mary said, "Now behold, He is gone. The battle is over. The star has shone forth. The ship has reached the harbor. He who once lay against my heart is throbbing in space." And we came close to her, and she said to us, "Even in death He smiles. He has conquered. I would indeed be the mother of a conqueror." And Mary returned to Jerusalem leaning upon John the young disciple. And she was a woman fulfilled. And when we reached the gate of the city, I gazed upon her face and I was astonished, for on that day the head of Jesus was the highest among men, and yet Mary's head was not less high. All this came to pass in the spring of the year. And now it is autumn. And Mary the mother of Jesus has come again to her dwelling-place, and she is alone. Two sabbaths ago my heart was as a stone in my breast, for my son had left me for a ship in Tyre. He would be a sailor. And he said he would return no more. And upon an evening I sought Mary. When I entered her house she was sitting at her loom, but she was not weaving. She was looking into the sky beyond Nazareth. And I said to her, "Hail, Mary." And she stretched out her arm to me, and said, "Come and sit beside me, and let us watch the sun pour its blood upon the hills." And I sat beside her on the bench and we gazed into the west through the window. And after a moment Mary said, "I wonder who is crucifying the sun this eventide." Then I said, "I came to you for comfort. My son has left me for the sea and I am alone in the house across the way." Then Mary said, "I would comfort you but how shall I?" And I said, "If you will only speak of your son I shall be comforted." And Mary smiled upon me, and she laid her hand about my shoulder and she said, "I will speak of Him. That which will console you will give me consolation." Then she spoke of Jesus, and she spoke long of all that was in the beginning. And it seemed to me that in her speech she would have no difference between her son and mine. For she said to me, "My son is also a seafarer. Why would you not trust your son to the waves even as I have trusted Him? "Woman shall be forever the womb and the cradle but never the tomb. We die that we may give life unto life even as our fingers spin the thread for the raiment that we shall never wear. "And we cast the net for the fish that we shall never taste. "And for this we sorrow, yet in all this is our joy." Thus spoke Mary to me. And I left her and came to my house, and though the light of the day was spent I sat at my loom to weave more of the cloth.
JOSEPH SURNAMED JUSTUS: JESUS THE WAYFARER
THEY SAY HE was vulgar, the common offspring of common seed, a man uncouth and violent. They say that only the wind combed His hair, and only the rain brougth His clothes and His body together. They deem Him mad, and they attribute His words to demons. Yet behold, the Man despised sounded a challenge and the sound thereof shall never cease. He sang a song and none shall arrest that melody. It shall hover from generation to generation and it shall rise from sphere to sphere remembering the lips that gace it birth and the ears that cradled it. He was a stranger. Aye, He was a stranger, a wayfarer on His way to a shrine, a visitor who knocked at our door, a guest from a far country. And because He found not a gracious host, He has returned to His own place.
PHILIP: AND WHEN HE DIED ALL MANKIND DIED
WHEN OUR BELOVED died, all mankind died and all things for a space were still and gray. Then the east was darkened, and a tempest rushed out of it and swept the land. The eyes of the sky opened and shut, and the rain came down in torrents and carried away the blood that streamed from His hands and His feet. I too died. But in the depth of my oblivion I heard Him speak and say, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." And His voice sought my drowned spirit and I was brought back to the shore. And I opened my eyes and I saw His white body hanging against the cloud, and His words that I had heard took the shape within me and became a new man. And I sorrowed no more. Who would sorrow for a sea that is unveiling its face, or for a mountain that laughs in the sun? Was it ever in the heart of man, when that heart was pierced, to say such words? What other judge of men has released His judges? And did ever love challenge hate with power more certain of itself? Was ever such a trumpet heard 'twixt heaven and earth? Was it known before that the murdered had compassion on his murderers? Or that the meteor stayed his footsteps for the mole? The seasons shall tire and the years grow old, ere they exhaust these words: "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." And you and I, though born again and again, shall keep them. And now I would go into my house, and stand an exalted beggar, at His door.
BIRBARAH OF YAMMOUNI: ON JESUS THE IMPATIENT
JESUS WAS PATIENT with the dullard and the stupid, even as the winter awaits the spring. He was patient like a mountain in the wind. He answered with kindliness the harsh questionings of His foes. He could even be silent to cavil and dispute, for He was strong and the strong can be forbearing. But Jesus was also impatient. He spared not the hypocrite. He yielded not to men of cunning nor to the jugglers of words. And He would not be governed. He was impatient with those who believed not in light because they themselves dwelt in shadow; and with those who sought after signs in the sky rather than in their own hearts. He was impatient with those who weighed and measured the day and the night before they would trust their dreams to dawn or eventide. Jesus was patient. Yet He was the most impatient of men. He would have you weave the cloth though you spend years between the loom and the linen. But He would have none tear an inch off the woven fabric.
PILATE'S WIFE TO A ROMAN LADY
I WAS WALKING with my maidens in the groves outside of Jerusalem when I saw Him with a few men and women sitting about Him; and He was speaking to them in a language which I only half understood. But one needs not a language to perceive a pillar of light or a mountain of crystal. The heart knows what the tongue may never utter and the ears may never hear. He was speaking to His friends of love and srength. I know He spoke of love because there was melody in His voice; and I know He spoke of strength because there were armies in His gestures. And He was tender, though even my husband could not have spoken with such authority. When He saw me passing by He stopped speaking for a moment and looked kindly upon me. And I was humbled; and in my soul I knew I had passed by a god. After that day His image visited my privacy when I would not be visited by man or woman; and His eyes searched my soul when my own eyes were closed. And His voice governs the stillness of my nights. I am held fast forevermore; and there is peace in my pain, and freedom in my tears. Beloved friend, you have never seen that man, and you will never see Him. He is gone beyond our senses, but of all men He is now the nearest to me.
A MAN OUTSIDE OF JERUSALEM: OF JUDAS
JUDAS CAME TO my house that Friday, upon the eve of the passover; and he knocked at my door with force. When he entered I looked at him, and his face was ashen. His hands trembled like dry twigs in the wind, and his clothes were as wet as if he had stepped out from a river; for on that evening there were great tempests. He looked at me, and the sockets of his eyes were like dark caves and his eyes were blood-sodden. And he said, "I have delivered Jesus of Nazareth to His enemies and to my enemies." Then Judas wrung his hands and he said, "Jesus declared that He would overcome all His foes and the foes of our people. And I believed and I followed Him. "When first He called us to Him He promised us a kingdom mighty and vast, and in our faith we sought His favor that we might have honorable stations in His court. "We beheld ourselves princes dealing with these Romans as they have dealt with us. And Jesus said much about His kingdom, and I thought He had chosen me a captain of His chariots, and a chief man of his warriors. And I followed His footsteps willingly. "But I found it was not a kingdom that Jesus sought, nor was it from the Romans He would have had us free. His kingdom was but the kingdom of the heart. I heard Him talk of love and charity and forgiveness, and the wayside women listened gladly, but my heart grew bitter and I was hardened. "My promised king of Judea seemed suddenly to have turned flute-player, to soothe the mind of wanderers and vagabonds. "I had loved Him as others of my tribe had loved Him. I had beheld Him a hope and a deliverance from the yoke of the aliens. But when He would not utter a word or move a hand to free us from that yoke, and when He would even have rendered unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, then despair filled me and my hopes died. And I said, 'He who murders my hopes shall be murdered, for my hopes and expectations are more precious than the life of any man'." Then Judas gnashed his teeth; and he bent down his head. And when he spoke again, he said, "I have delivered Him up. And He was crucified this day. . . . Yet when He died upon the cross, He died a king. He died in the tempest as deliverers die, like vast men who live beyond the shroud and the stone. "And all the while He was dying, He was gracious, and He was kindly; and His heart was full of pity. He felt pity even for me who had delivered Him up." And I said, "Judas, you have committed a grave wrong." And Judas answered, "But He died a king. Why did He not live a king?" And I said again, "You have committed a grave crime." And he sat down there, upon that bench, and he was as still as a stone. But I walked to and fro in the room, and once more I said, "You have committed a great sin." But Judas said not a word. He remained as silent as the earth. And after a while he stood up and faced me and he seemed taller, and when he spoke his voice was like the sound of a cracked vessel; and he said, "Sin was not in my heart. This very night I shall seek His kingdom, and I shall stand in His presence and beg His forgiveness. "He died a king, and I shall die a felon. But in my heart I know He will forgive me." After saying these words he folded his wet cloak around him and he said, "It was good that I came to you this night even though I have brought you trouble. Will you also forgive me? "Say to your sons and to your sons' sons: 'Judas Iscariot delivered Jesus of Nazareth to His enemies because he believed Jesus was an enemy to His own race.' "And say also that Judas upon the selfsame day of his great error followed the King to the steps of His throne to deliver up his own soul and to be judged. "I shall tell Him that my blood also was impatient for the sod, and my crippled spirit would be free." Then Judas leaned his head back against the wall and he cried out, "O God whose dreaded name no man shall utter ere his lips are touched by the fingers of death, why did you burn me with a fire that had no light? "Why did you give the Galilean a passion for a land unknown and burden me with desire that would not escape kin or hearth? And who is this man Judas, whose hands are dipped in blood? "Lend me a hand to cast him off, an old garment and a tattered harness. "Help me to do this tonight. "And let me stand again outside of these walls. "I am weary of this wingless liberty. I would a larger dungeon. "I would flow a stream of tears to the bitter sea. I would be a man of your mercy rather than one knocking at the gate of his own heart." Thus Judas spoke, and thereupon he opened the door and went out again into the tempest. Three days afterwards I visited Jerusalem and heard of all that had come to pass. And I also heard that Judas had flung himself from the summit of the High Rock. I have pondered long since that day, and I understand Judas. He fulfilled his little life, which hovered like a mist on this land and enslaved by the Romans, while the great prophet was ascending the heights. One man longed for a kingdom in which he was to be a prince. Another man desired a kingdom in which all men shall be princes.
SARKIS, AN OLD GREEK SHEPHERD CALLED THE MADMAN: JESUS AND PAN
IN A DREAM I saw Jesus and My God Pan sitting together in the heart of the forest. They laughed at each other's speech, with the brook that ran near them, and the laughter of Jesus was the merrier. And they conversed long. Pan spoke of earth and her secrets, and of his hoofed brothers and his horned sisters; and of dreams. And he spoke of roots and their nestlings, and of the sap that wakes and rises and sings to summer. And Jesus told of the young shoots in the forest, and of flowers and fruit, and the seed that they shall bear in a season not yet come. He spoke of birds in space and their singing in the upper world. And He told of white harts in the desert wherein God shepherds them. And Pan was pleased with the speech of the new God, and his nostrils quivered. And in the same dream I beheld Pan and Jesus grow quiet and still in the stillness of the green shadows. And then Pan took his reeds and played to Jesus. The trees were shaken and the ferns trembled, and there was a fear upon me. And Jesus said, "Good brother, you have the glade and the rocky height in your reeds." Then Pan gave the reeds to Jesys and said, "You play now. It is your turn." And Jesus said, "These reeds are too many for my mouth. I have this flute." And He took His flute and He played. And I heard the sound of rain in the leaves, and the singing of streams among the hills, and the falling of snow on the mountain-top. The pulse of my heart, that had once beaten with the wind, was restored again to the wind, and all the waves of my yesterdays were upon my shore, and I was again Sarkis the shepherd, and the flute of Jesus became the pipes of countless shepherds calling to countless flocks. Then Pan said to Jesus, "Your youth is more kin to the reed than my years. And long ere this in my stillness I have heard your song and the murmur of your name. "Your name has a goodly sound; well shall it rise with the sap to the branches, and well shall it run with the hoofs among the hills. And it is not strange to me, though my father called me not by that name. It was your flute that brought it back to my memory. "And now let us play our reeds together." And they played together. And their music smote heaven and earth, and a terror struck all living things. I heard the bellow of beasts and the hunger of the forest. And I heard the cry of lonely men, and the plaint of those who long for what they know not. I heard the sighing of the maiden for her lover, and the panting of the luckless hunter for his prey. And then there came peace into their music, and the heavens and the earth sang together. All this I saw in my dream, and all this I heard.
ANNAS THE HIGH PRIEST: ON JESUS THE RABBLE
HE WAS OF the rabble, a brigand, a mountebank and a self-trumpeter. He appealed only to the unclean and the disinherited, and for this He had to go the way of all the tainted and the defiled. He made sport of us and of our laws; He mocked at our honor and jeered at our dignity. He even said He would destroy the temple and desecrate the holy places. He was shameless, and for this He had to die a shameful death. He was a man from Galilee of the Gentiles, an alien, from the North Country where Adonis and Ashtarte still claim power against Israel and the God of Israel. He whose tongue halted when He spoke the speech of our prophets was loud and ear-splitting when he spoke the bastard language of the low-born and the vulgar. What else was there for me but to decree His death? Am I not a guardian of the temple? Am I not a keeper of the law? Could I have turned my back on Him, saying in all tranquility: "He is a madman among madmen. Let Him alone to exhaust Himself raving; for the mad and the crazed and those possessed with devils shall be naught in the path of Israel" ? Could I have been deaf unto Him when he called us liars. hypocrites, wolves, vipers, and the sons of vipers? Nay I could not be deaf to Him, for He was not a madman. He was self-possessed; and in His big-sounding sanity He denounced and challenged us all. For this I had Him crucified, and His crucifixion was a signal and warning unto the others who are stamped with the same damned seal. I know well I have been blamed for this, even by some of the elders in the Sanhedrim. But I was mindful then as I am mindful now, that one man should die for the people rather than the people be led astray by one man. Jesus was conquered by an enemy from without. I shall see that Judea is not conquered again, by an enemy from within. No man from the cursed North shall reach our Holy of Holies nor lay His shadow across the Ark of the Covenant.
A WOMAN, ONE OF MARY'S NEIGHBORS: A LAMENTATION
ON THE FORTIETH day after His death, all the women neighbors came to the house of Mary to console her and to sing threnodies. And one of them sang:
Whereto my Spring, whereto? And to what other space your perfume ascending? In what other fields shall you walk? And to what sky shall you lift up your head to speak your heart?
These valleys shall be barren, And we shall have naught but dried fields and arid. All green things will parch in the sun, And our orchards will bring forth sour apples, And our vineyards bitter grapes. We shall thirst for your wine, And our nostrils will long for your fragrance.
Whereto Flower of our first spring., whereto? And will you return no more? Will not your jasmine visit us again, And your cyclamen stand by our wayside To tell us that we too have our roots deep in earth, And that our ceaseless breath would forever climb the sky?
Whereto Jesus, whereto, Son of my neighbor Mary, And comrade to my son? Whither, our first Spring, and to what other fields? Will you return to us again? Will you in your love-tide visit the barren shores of our dreams?
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Jesus the Son of Man by Kahlil Gibran