THE GRAIL’S STORY, PART XIII: JESUS RUNS AFOUL OF THE PHARISEES
If Jesus and company were bleary-eyed, a little hung over, and ill-prepared for the next day, the same cannot be said for the Pharisees—they obviously hadn’t wasted the intervening hours having fun. As Jesus and The Grail worked their way through the already teeming throngs toward the temple wall the next morning, they discovered dozens of priests positioned throughout the squares, each accompanied by a burly guard armed with a scowling visage and a thick cudgel (only the Romans were allowed to carry real weapons). Other minor functionaries were conspicuously scattered among the crowd, not very well disguised as ordinary workers.
Hardly had Jesus begun preaching before the Pharisees began to badger and heckle him from the crowd. Their first line of attack was to question, quite innocently of course, his authority to speak of the ways and will of Yahweh. He answered that he was about his father’s work. They countered that his father was Joseph, an itinerant carpenter from Nazareth, and they had sworn statements to prove it; they’d clearly been doing their homework while the disciples had been partying.
Jesus replied, rather testily, that they neither knew him nor his father; that it was written in the law that the testimony of two men is true, and he was bearing witness to himself and the Father that sent him to beareth witness as well, and that was enough (recorded in John 8:15-18 but strangely enough not in Luke). That rather weak protest drew loud laughter from the crowd—I can make words sound righteous, but can’t do much when there’s such flawed logic behind them.
He then told them that if they believed in him, they would know the truth, and the truth would make them free. “Ah,” went the crowd; this was getting good. The Pharisees petulantly replied that as offspring of Abraham they were already free, ignoring the fact that the Romans controlled their city and Yahweh owned their souls. “Ooo,” went the combined voice of the mob. But Jesus told them that they weren’t truly free because they were the slaves and servants of sin. “Ah,” again. Then some wit yelled out, “Sin must make a pretty good servant herself, considering how freely she was pouring the wine last night on the Mount of Olives,” causing the crowd to erupt with laughter .
It pretty much went downhill from there. Jesus never got any momentum going, and The Grail couldn’t get his attention long enough to suggest that he use her powers to command attention or respect. Donations were very slim, and Judas-I had to dig into savings to pay for room and board, making him grouchy in the way of bankers and accountants throughout all lands and times.
So they returned to the Mount of Olives and for a change spent the night planning their strategy. Phillip hadn’t been idle while all the drama was taking place and had compiled a pretty comprehensive list of demoniacs and psychosomatics. Nothing like a miracle or two to sway the crowds. The wine flagons stayed stoppered.
The next day, Tuesday, was all ours again. Jesus was out early, striding through the crowds with a beatific smile firmly pasted on his face. This time, he didn’t even start preaching except for a platitude or two. Whenever the taunting started, he reached under his robe to touch me and spoke out, “Please, no questions this morning,” silencing them immediately.
Then he went into a healing frenzy. Walking among the throngs which parted respectfully to give him passage, here he touched a madman who would stop raving and begin to praise his name, there a woman with palsy who immediately stopped shaking. There were well over a hundred sick there, and it didn’t seem to matter to anyone—with the possible exception of those that he didn’t heal—that he chose randomly among them and left the others in their misery. Soon the crowd echoed the shouts of the newly healed. Bartholomew began an early version of ‘Amazing Grace’ and the people went nuts, singing and swaying and holding their hands above their heads. The circulating disciples could have just dipped into all those unprotected pockets and purses and helped themselves, but instead they held their sacks out and the happy people filled them up. Jesus had them give every mite to the poor, to the delight of everybody except Judas-I. And if we celebrated a little that night, at least we had learned our lesson about overdoing it.
Wednesday started off great as well. The plan was to dangle the Kingdom of Heaven in front of them, then snatch it away with a little fire and brimstone, followed by some gospel music, a miracle or two, and then maybe convince a rich merchant to spring for lunch for a couple of thousand people.
We made it through steps one and two. Jesus told the people of Jerusalem that Yahweh was so enraged by their sinfulness and faithlessness that he was going to destroy Jerusalem right before their eyes. “And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh,” he revealed to them. “For there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations; and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles.” There was open weeping in the street. Even silver-tongued Isaiah would have been proud.
But the day got derailed by a new tactic. A group of disguised Pharisees would interrupt with their harmless-sounding questions, and when we concentrated on silencing them, another group from the other side would take up the attack. Somehow they had figured out that Jesus had the power to command their silence, and were probing the limits of that power. And succeeding admirably. Again Jesus lost his temper, delivering one of the best diatribes of all time, if I say so myself.
“Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” he screamed at them, his magically-enhanced anger managing to hush the entire lot at once. “Jesus Christ! Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous bloodshed upon the earth.”
He stormed off to spend the rest of the day sulking by himself down by the Pool of Siloam.
THE GRAIL’S STORY, PART XIII: OUTTAKES
Again Jesus lost his temper, delivering what could have been one of the best diatribes of all time, if I say so myself.
“Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” he screamed at them, his magically-enhanced anger managing to hush the entire lot at once.” Jesus Christ! Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous bloodshed upon the earth.”
Unfortunately, just as Jesus uttered those words, a wine merchant standing in the second row swooned. His eyes rolled up in the back of his head and the huge jug of wine he was carrying fell and shattered on the stones. I looked up in a moment of distraction, allowing Jesus to finish up with, “And then, you bet’cha there’ll be some big-time wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
“I guess Lucas got distracted too, because he didn’t record that last part.”
Jesus was always a bit lucky. Right up until the end.
* * *
“So what were you doing all the time that first day when the Pharisees were badgering Jesus?”
Pretty much what I’d done for the last couple of years: offering advice when asked, keeping my thoughts to myself when I wasn’t. We were pretty close, but Jesus didn’t like to be told what to do, even by me. After all, he was the boss.
“Sounds maybe like he ought to have paid more attention to your sage counsel. If you ever catch me in that position, would you kindly remind me to shut up and listen?”
You got it, boy. You’re already wiser than Jesus ever was.
Wow. How about that to put on your tombstone? “Here lies Bradley Schuster. Never accomplished much, but he was wiser than Jesus ever was.”