from Chapter 4
Judas was taken aback by the implications of Simon’s words and attitude. This needed further questioning.
“What do you mean? Are you speaking of this rabbi of Nazareth? Do you really take him for the Messiah, the Messenger of God? Is he one of us?”
“There is no doubt about it,” Simon replied. “Only yesterday I heard him say this to the crowd: ‘Do not believe that I have come to bring peace on Earth. I bring not peace, but the sword. I have come to set son against father, daughter against mother, and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law. A person’s own family shall be his enemies.’”
These words struck a deep chord in Judas, and reassured him. “Does he carry the dagger?”
“No. But his words cut deeper than the sharpest dagger! He has confronted the most eminent authorities, calling them ‘whitewashed tombs’ and ‘ravaging wolves.’ He has learned well the teaching of his cousin Yohanan, yet he is much clearer. ‘Whoever is not with me is against me,’ he says. And he also says, ‘Whoever loves his father or his mother more than me is not worthy to be my disciple.’ ”
“So he really claims to be the Messiah!”
“Well, at any rate, he has the authority of the Messiah. No one has ever spoken like this man.”
“But he seems to have no respect for the family. For most of us Jews, family is sacred.”
“He speaks of another family. The other day, his brothers, his sisters, and his mother came to Nazareth, where he was preaching, and asked to speak to him privately. When he was informed of this, he exclaimed: ‘Who are my mother, my sister, and my brother? My brothers and sisters are right here before me: those who live the Word of God. They are my true family.’”
Now Judas was thrilled. Finally, here was a teacher who did not exalt the family or domestic bliss or even happiness as the supreme goal of human life! Only one consideration troubled him about this man: Was he married? According to Jewish law, he would have to be if he was a real rabbi who teaches in the synagogue. An unmarried man is considered incomplete and is not allowed to teach there.
When Judas alluded to this, Simon gave a coarse laugh. “Incomplete? I don’t see how he could be, surrounded by all those beautiful women the way he is! But because we’re on the subject, I must admit this is one of the few considerations about him that makes me uncomfortable. It’s not fitting for a warrior to be surrounded by women like that. It can only sap his vital force, given that women are not allowed to study scripture. But he says that women are like us, that God created us equal, to be side by side. Women are also waiting for the Messiah.
“But I haven’t really answered your question because I’m not sure. He may or may not have a special woman companion, but it’s clear that he has preferences: That beauty called Miriam of Magdala seems especially intimate with him. She’s also very intelligent--but she doesn’t seem to use this intimacy to stand out from the other women. And Yeshua himself has said that he does not love Miriam more than Martha, Joanna, or Susanna. He clearly prefers her company, but he loves them all equally.”
Judas was shocked by this kind of freedom. “But how does he deal with legitimate jealousy? Isn’t he taking liberties with the Law? Isn’t this just another case of choosing the scriptures we like and throwing out the rest?”
“Absolutely not,” Simon replied. And he recounted Yeshua’s words:
Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets;
I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them.
For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away,
not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.
Whoever then violates even the least of these commandments and
teaches men to do so shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven;
but he who practices them and teaches them shall be called
great in the kingdom of heaven.
Judas was reassured by these words. After a pause, Simon added: “Fundamentally, Yeshua follows the Law, but in a different way. There seems to be more lightness in his way. For example, in his view, living with a woman is not an obligation or a duty, but a choice we make--out of happiness, perhaps . . .”
“Happiness?” Judas exclaimed. “What happiness can we expect from a woman? Pleasure, yes--but for how long? We are not mere animals! The burden of the Law must be heavy for us. How can he claim to make it light?”
“By infusing it with love and consciousness,” Simon answered gently.
“Love? What do you mean by that?” For Judas, this word had little meaning or significance.
“Is not our very first commandment that of love? ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, and your might . . .’ ”
“Yes,” Judas replied, “but isn’t this commandment speaking of a difficult love, one that is a duty? I don’t see anything light about it. If we do not love God, we shall be punished.”
“Rabbi Yeshua says that love of God is not a duty, but an expression of our freedom, of our refusal to lose ourselves in the illusory realities of this ephemeral world. He says that the words ‘You shall love’ mean a process of becoming--not an obligation to be obeyed, but a hope.”
“Hah! Now I begin to understand. Your Messiah is an artful musician! He has kept the words of the Torah, but changed the melody. Simon, I confess I am at a loss. Your teacher both fascinates and repulses me. Tell me how I can meet him. I want to hear his music for myself and see whether it sounds false to my ears. I think already that it will, for great rigor and great lightness cannot go together. It seems to me that your Messiah has yet to make his choice between following happiness or following the Law. If so, he is only adding more trouble to our troubles. How many Roman soldiers has he rid us of and sent to the Valley of Gehenna? In spite of his righteous anger, this enchanting preacher of yours seems a little soft to me. How can I be sure he’s not just another name to be added to the list of all those wretched pretender Messiahs?”
“Come and see for yourself,” Simon replied.