THE GRAIL’S STORY, PART X: THE SERMON ON THE MOUND
When Barnaby picked me up on his way downstairs to breakfast the next morning, I could tell immediately that he was a changed man. Gone was the irrational jumble of thoughts. In its place shone a clarity that, coupled with his intensity, was frightening until I got used to it. An occasional monster still wandered by, but they were a lot smaller and less scary than before. I guess from this point on it is only fair to refer to him as Jesus, since he was clearly no longer Barnaby.
When he and Mary Magdalene sat down at one of the tables in the inn, Simon Peter immediately brought his plate over and joined them.”Here’s what I think the plan for the day ought . . .” he began before stopping abruptly when he looked at Jesus more closely. “Jesus Christ, what the hell happened to you?”
Jesus stared at him with a passion that might have stopped the heart of a weaker man. “God is love,” he proclaimed.
“God is love? What the hell does that mean, God is love? What god are you talking about? And what’s love got to do with it?”
“Somehow we’ve gone astray. God is not a cruel and jealous god who visits his wrath upon his chosen. God loves us.” By now the other disciples and various hangers-on were making their way over. Jesus pushed away from the table, gave Mary Magdalene’s hand a squeeze, picked me up, and started out the door. “Come. We must tell them.”
Totally nonplussed but not willing to buck the boss, the disciples followed along.
It was mid-morning, and the town outside was already going about its business. Over in front of a group of booths there were several women shopping. Jesus hurried over to them and announced, “Behold, I have good news. God is love.”
The women looked at him like he was demented and scurried away. That pissed the shopkeepers off and they started yelling at him.
“Stop your yelling and listen,” he remonstrated, and with my help they did indeed quiet down. “God is love. He wants only good for you.”
“What god are you talking about?” one of the shopkeepers asked, echoing Simon Peter’s reaction. Another quipped, “If He only wanted good for us, He wouldn’t have let those women get away.”
Jesus was astonished. Here he’d finally received a revelation, and nobody was willing to listen.
“Listen,” he told James and John. “Go back to the inn and collect a couple of metal vessels and two big spoons. And if anyone should ask you, ‘What the hell are you doing,’ merely answer, ‘The Lord has need of it. Oh, and bring a full wineskin.’”
So a few minutes later we were parading down Main Street, with James and John banging on pots and the rest of the crew close behind. Including Mary Magdalene, acting just like one of the gang, but nobody was brave enough to say anything that I overheard. Jesus had me fully charged up and was exhorting the people to follow him, saying that God had commanded that he share a great truth. People flowed out into the street to see what all the commotion was about, heard the words, and joined the procession.
On the other end of town there was a large earthen mound. Jesus climbed up and faced what had become quite a throng. Multitudes, you might even say.
“This is it, old friend,” Jesus thought to me. “The moment I’ve been waiting for. You ready for this?”
Who the hell was he kidding? I’d been ready for centuries.
Then holding me aloft—he wasn’t pulling any punches this time—Jesus spoke words that have been debated by theological scholars ever since.
“Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.”
That was radical enough. But he went even further. He told them to take care of the sick, feed the poor, and pay their taxes without complaining. And above all else to do good, because God was good and they should be good, too.
Meanwhile, I was doing my best to make it all eloquent, coherent, and believable. Even so, I’d venture to say most of them understood little of what he said. But hey, it was a start. They listened respectfully, and at the end they contributed what they could. Most went into the hats the disciples were passing, but shockingly, a handful of people gave coins to the poor in the crowd. Not a lot, but some.
At the end, Jesus dropped the biggest bomb of all, one that his followers have been struggling with ever since. “I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you.”
Jesus was finally on his way.
* * *
Looking at the events that followed the ‘Sermon on the Mound’ in light of the next couple of years, it is plain that the same morning Jesus launched his successful if short run as the Messiah, he also sowed the seeds of his own destruction. A group of Pharisees and Sadducees—The Grail didn’t really understand the difference, and despite my subsequent study into the topic I’m not sure I do either—had gathered to see what all the excitement was about. They were understandably concerned about his message, even more so about the crowd’s response. So they started asking innocent-sounding questions, trying to trick Jesus into saying something radical enough that they could run to the real priests and report a stoning offense. But they didn’t get what they were hoping for.
“We heard you were consorting with prostitutes and sinners.”
“Jesus Christ!” Despite The Grail’s best efforts, one occasionally slipped out. “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he finds it?”
“And you don’t even wash your hands correctly before you eat. What do you have to say about that?”
“Hear and understand: not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.”
I discovered that those two passages were faithfully recorded and passed down, in Luke 15:4 and Matthew 15:11.
Finally they gave up in disgust and left. But it was too late. Jesus was already hooked on baiting and taunting the Pharisees and their ilk. He never passed up an opportunity to engage in fierce repartee, and he seldom lost a battle, even if he ultimately lost the war.
THE GRAIL’S STORY, PART X: OUTTAKES
“So basically you’re claiming that all Jesus really needed to change into the teacher or prophet or whatever that so many people follow today was a good woman?”
That’s all most men need, dear.
“Come on, now. Razuni found a good woman and died for it. David found a good woman and died for it. I predict the same fate for Jesus.”
Don’t split hairs. They would have all died anyway. Think how much more interesting their lives were before they died.
How do you argue with logic like that?