lenten reading series: Gathering the threads
As we were making our way down the Jordan Valley toward Jericho, Annas sat in his palace and mulled over reports, thinking through scenarios and gauging the tempo of Jerusalem.
I have been revisiting the reports on that Nazarene’s friends here in Jerusalem. Even those around the Lazarus family don’t show any activity that I view as suspicious. Given their political leanings and their proclivity for being outspoken critics of Temple administration, I can only view their silence as suspicious.
Another report I have from my agent embedded with the lay Essene* group here in Jerusalem has more promise. Their opposition to our administration has never wavered. However, I do see that they are incorporating some of that Nazarene’s teaching in their discussions. They are a small but dedicated community that I know he has strong connections with. They also know many of the players on the list of those who support Jesus. In fact, it was through Jesus’ work they became connected. That is significant.
Most disturbing is their view on sacrifices. They, of course, do not honor our sacrifices at the Temple, but I see here there is discussion about all sacrifice. Otherwise, nothing to be alarmed about. I see they are observing the monastic vows of having everything in common: they observe all the excessive purity requirements. Nothing in any of this that surprises me.
This note at the bottom, though, gives me pause. “There is a suppressed excitement about the imminent arrival of the Messiah. There is no discussion of who, how, or where this will happen.” Now that is enigmatic. Do they know something we don’t know? Why no speculation? It’s this damned silence again. Nobody is saying anything.
My latest report from my agent shadowing the Nazarene in Galilee isn’t much more forthcoming. He speaks of the crowds, the teaching about caring for each other, upholding the law, and fulfilling its intention rather than the letter. Nothing new there. I don’t like the healings. Lepers, blind people, and now epileptics.
Here is something. “His followers, who until now were overflowing with enthusiasm, are now beginning to question Jesus’ leadership and direction.” Now that is interesting. “Since the news of John the Baptizer’s death, Jesus has changed direction and even warns his disciples about his own death.” He doesn’t have to be a prophet to see that coming. I think we can help him there.
“He has stated that in the event of his death, he will return to complete his mission.” Yes, right, that I would like to see. I think our tougher stance with John is paying off. It has quite obviously unsettled those around him. He is clearly trying to buy them back. Do I see disintegration of his movement? Not yet but maybe that is the way this will play out. In which case, we allow things to take their course and let him become another wandering windbag, uttering his pronouncements and being enjoyed for his entertainment value. That I like.
Still, there is more to this than is obvious at first glance. I think it is wishful thinking to believe this will all blow away. He has something else up his sleeve, but I don’t see it. All along, his teaching has been within our accepted norms, but yet, I know—I just know—he is up to something. Why did he run away to Galilee after the Lazarus affair? Maybe he did not run away but went to raise support from among Galileans. Thousands have been turning out, if this report is correct. Those damned Galileans are always ready to revolt against us here.
I remember his words from early on, almost seven years ago now. “Tear down the Temple and I will rebuild it in three days.” I wonder what he meant by that. Whatever it was, I know he has not forgotten; he has it in for us. There is not much to do while he is in Galilee. Herod is likely to become one of his followers if I involve him.
His wife was useful in the case of John, but I don’t want to go to that well twice. I know a couple of siccarii who would quietly murder him while he is up there in Galilee. They come cheap, and with other jobs I have asked them to do they were discreet, so I will get in touch with them. The other thing is to send word to my agents to keep tabs on the other players here in Jerusalem. If there is an upsurge in activity, that will give me warning.
I would prefer all this to blow over, but that is not realistic. I just know he is a serious threat. I wish I knew what he was after. I just don’t get it. Then there are the dreams. Night after night he is there in the background. I know it is him, but I can’t quite see him. He appears closer each time. Even in my dreams he is both a threat and not a threat. I must not let him get under my skin. I must not become obsessed with him. I wish I could get someone else to look after him. Maybe the Romans will. That would be the answer. They could deal with him, and I could wring my hands at Pilate’s persecution of a good Jewish rabbi. Trouble is, he hasn’t done anything that Pilate is interested in.
One thing I might do is check with Pilate’s office. He hasn’t come up from Caesarea yet, so Silvanus might be more forthcoming and give us more details of their surveillance. I know for a fact they have shadowed his work in Galilee. After all, Herod is their surrogate. I will send young Jonathon over there tomorrow. It is too late today.
Since that Lazarus thing, I have not looked forward to sleep. I must admit that Nazarene disturbs me, and when I sleep, I am more vulnerable to his touch. Why did I say touch? Enough of this foolish thinking! I must get rid of him. There is no other way.
*Lay Essene group. There is no mention of the Essenes in the gospels, but there were certainly Essenes in Jerusalem. There was a quarter where they were thought to live and a gate referred to as the Essene gate. They would certainly have heard of Jesus and no doubt supported him in his opposition to the Temple. My future references to them are based on possibility not textual fact. Was he originally an Essene? Jesus used expressions only found in Essene documents, e.g. Children of light.