January 22nd 2003
Received by H.
Hello, my dear friend.
Let us talk about a different subject:
Imagine the following setting:
Time: 26 AD, in the month of Tishri (that
is to say, in September)
Once again, the city bubbles over with pilgrims. Of course, on
that occasion people did not celebrate the Passover feast [it being
autumn!], but the feast of Thanksgiving for the good harvest.
On entering the city people went past vast lines of tents that
skirted all the access roads, an enormous camp that surrounded the
city walls, a city of tents whose population actually surpassed
that of the city itself. Jerusalem then had between 20 and 40 thousand
inhabitants - but that depended on what you included as the city
area. Many villages, such as Bethphage and Bethany, lay so close
that they could easily be considered rural suburbs of the city.
Dense swarms of men moved toward the city gates or were on their
way back, and inside the walls it was almost impossible to walk
freely without being pushed and suffering one or other bump. And
to make things worse, the hollers and shouts of traveling salesmen,
of greengrocers and market people was quite deafening.
Right in the middle of such a bustle, Jesus was discussing, teaching
and preaching in a market.
As I explained to you on previous occasions, Jesus had gained some
fame in the capital of the Jews. He had found open ears amongst
the populace, but even amongst the "true" Pharisees he
had managed to recruit one or other follower, and a considerable
group of people watched his deeds with approval. Just think of the
example of Buni Nicodemus. Ah, yes, I said "true" Pharisees,
because there is the idea nowadays that the Pharisees constituted
the majority of the population, and that is quite simply wrong.
The "true" Pharisees, as I call them, formed a small elite
group, a few thousand perhaps in the whole country. But it is true
that their teachings exercised great influence over the people,
and that a large part of the middle and lower classes, such as the
artisans, felt attracted to the theology of the Pharisees.
As usual during major festivities of the Jews, the presence of
Roman soldiers was significant. But what attracted even more surprised
glances of the pilgrims was the splendor of the decorations that
transformed the entire city into an outright jewel of dazzling colors.
Flower bouquets, palm leaves and wonderful artistic floral arrangements
gave the impression that the city had dressed for its wedding with
God. Jesus had already spent one week or somewhat more in the city
- with us [the apostles], of course. In the first weeks of Tishri,
a series of festivities provided more than enough reason for staying
Well, now, having set the scene, let's get to
the heart and soul of our short story.
While Jesus had gained fame as a skilled preacher, a master of
Scriptures, and a magnificent speaker, not all Pharisees approved
of him. Lastly, Jesus was a stranger, a northern peasant from a
country where the Law of God was obeyed halfheartedly, and to make
things worse, he had declared himself openly to be the Messiah...
Well, this was not prohibited; many a preacher did that. God would
take care of them and punish the impostors, people thought. But
in the case of the other supposed and self-declared Messiahs, the
populace favored one of them today, another one tomorrow, and so
on. Jesus, however, had made his way right into the hearts of some
of the pillars of the Pharisees, and that was dangerous.
So you should not be too surprised that several Pharisee leaders
met to devise a plan with the objective of cutting off, once and
for all, the annoying career of the northern "Messiah."
And their plan was ingenious. They would confront the supposed Messiah
with a question, which would leave him silent and make him blush
with shame, an inquiry that would crumble his house of cards built
on lies. Then they would open up a wound and poke unceasingly in
it, until the impostor would get out of the city limits in order
to try his luck deceiving those silly peasants who would not ask
him too many questions, exactly as the other pseudo-messiahs did.
Then, time would take care of his teachings, burying them under
a thick layer of oblivion.
That day, then, which I was describing to you, a small delegation
of Pharisees stood before Jesus in the market. Their appearance
attracted a great number of curious people. Don't forget that in
that time there was no television or radio; people knew almost nothing
about distant countries, but they were very well informed of the
local gossip. And the confrontation between a foreign preacher and
a group of local Pharisees promised to be an amusing display that
would fuel discussions and laughter for many days to come.
The Pharisee dignitaries planted themselves in front of the Master
with an air of arrogance, saying:
"Listen, Galilean, we have been told that you claim
to be the Messiah of God, and that you believe that this gives
you the right to travel all over the country as a preacher,
ignorant as you are and lacking fitting preparation. Don't
you know that the Messiah is the descendant of David? How,
then, can you possibly be the Messiah?"
Jesus raised his eyes to the spokesman in surprise. He had been
immersed in a discussion with one of his listeners and had not noticed
the coming of the Pharisee challengers. The abrupt and rude tone
of their words hurt us, but the Master glanced at us, asking us
silently to keep out of the events. He would take care of the situation.
The eyes of the bystanders sparked with excited expectation. This
was exactly the situation they loved: Two competitors, circling
around each other, throwing sharp words, like the kicks of fighting
cocks that opened up deep wounds with their spurs, until one of
the fighters escaped horrified and defeated, and the other one crowed
his victory with swollen breast.
Jesus quickly recovered from his bewilderment.
He looked at them with a smile on his lips.
"I am honored by the visit of masters of the Scriptures
of your stature," he told them with an inviting gesture
and words dripping with honey. "And enjoying the honor
of your visit, I would like to ask you to explain to me the
Jesus had taken up the gauntlet cast by the Pharisees.
"According to your words, I understand that the Messiah
is David's son."
"According to our words?" the Pharisees repeated
mockingly. "'According to the Scriptures' would be better
for you to say."
Jesus smiled and finished them off sweetly:
"How then, can you explain to me that David when inspired
by the Spirit calls him Lord? He says: The
Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Till
I put thine enemies underneath thy feet? If David then calls
him Lord, how can he be his son? Do you really believe that
a father would call his son 'Lord?'"
The dumbfounded Pharisees swallowed saliva and babbled in search
of an answer. They were caught in a great dilemma. They could either
admit that the Messiah would not be simply a descendant of David,
or that David had not written this Psalm. Then the author of the
Psalm, a servant of David, would have written: The Lord (God) said
unto my Lord (David). Otherwise, if David was the author of the
Psalm, the meaning would be that the Lord (God) said unto my Lord
(the Messiah). This last version was, however, exactly what the
Pharisees used to teach.
At last, one of them opened his mouth and returned:
"There is one explanation. It could be that this Psalm
in particular was not written by David..."
"How, then, do you manage things?" retorted Jesus
with a reproachful look in his eyes. "Do you base your
teachings on the Scriptures, or must the Scriptures cede and
adjust, when your teachings are in trouble?"
"We had better go!" said one of the quarrelers, and they
all left with their heads down, and the laughter of the bystanders
We could not contain our laughter either. But
I admit that I was confused.
"Master," I enquired, "why didn't you simply
tell them that you are a son of David, born in Bethlehem?"
"Judas," Jesus answered, "they read words,
but they don't eat them. Do you understand me?"
I didn't understand. He looked at me with sad eyes, and laying
his hands on my shoulders he said to me: "Judas, my friend!"
Now I understand him. What Jesus meant was that these Pharisees
studied the Scriptures, but they gave them their interpretation
according to convenience. Words, of themselves, are like empty bags.
There comes a strong wind, and they wave with it. There comes a
different wind, and they turn around and wave happily in a different
direction. Exactly as the Pharisees in our example: They used to
teach Psalm 110 as the
carrier of a messianic message; however, they quickly changed their
opinion when the situation required it.
What are words anyway in comparison with the Messiah's very presence?
But people who focus only on the scrutiny of words and the interpretation
of the Scriptures have no eyes for the teachings and deeds of the
Messiah, when they actually chance to meet him. This was so then.
This is so now. They are the eyes that are open and see nothing;
the ears that are open and hear nothing.
"Judas, my friend!" he said to me. There are people
who claim that I was the only apostle whom Jesus called his friend.
So it appears in the Bible. Of course, this is not true. The Master
had many friends, and I am proud to say that I belonged to this
group. And I am even prouder that I have the honor of stating that
I am closer to him now than ever.
But now I would like to direct your attention to another fact.
The incident that I have just narrated is also described in the
Bible. But there, it is related a little differently. There, Jesus
starts the discussion and leaves the Pharisees without answers.
This fact has led many Bible critics to assume that Jesus was attacked
with the imputation that he was not a descendant of David, and that
he had not found another defense than the one described in the incident;
a very skillful defense, by the way. However, it let see the truthfulness
of the imputation: That he was not an offspring of David, and therefore,
the story of his birth in Bethlehem and all the accompanying circumstances
were later inventions to strip opponents, that is to say, the Jews,
This conclusion is not true, and I hope I have contributed with
my message to clarify the true facts that led to the formulation
of the story, as it now appears in the Bible - in its true context,
in its true time.
This story, and several more which are similar, would lead to
some consequences that I will describe in my next message. For now,
this message is already long enough. You have written much.
I thank you for your time and interest, and I hope you may give
me soon another opportunity for telling Jesus' story from my angle
With much love,