They were so long in the bridal chamber, by the time they awoke and dressed, most of the guests had gone home for there was a curfew. They tiptoed out from the bedroom, content and happy. They climbed the stairs and tried the door to the room where they had planned on joining the others in the Korban. Yeshua put his ear to the door, and Miri followed suit. There were muffled voices within. The door to the upper room was locked. Yeshua knocked thrice, and the buzz of the voices behind it stopped instantly. Yeshua put his ear to the door and knocked three times again.
“Who is it?” a voice asked.
“Shimeon, it is Yeshua,” whispered Yeshua.
The latch slid and the wooden bar lifted and Shimeon pulled open the heavy door and smiled at Yeshua. Conversation resumed in the room behind him.
Shimeon’s smile turned to a smoldering scowl when he saw Miri standing behind Yeshua.
“This is no place for a woman!” he said, for they had been planning their next step in returning Yeshua to his place on the seat of Israel.
Miri pushed past Yeshua and Shimeon. “Indeed!” she declared. She waved her arm over the meal in the room, prepared and laid out on the triclinium. “And you cooked this meal yourself, Shimeon Kefar?”
“Miriam, this meeting is not the place for women. You should leave us! Women are not worthy of the Life!”
The conversation came to a stop and everyone’s attention focused on Miri and Shimeon.
“Women are unworthy?” asked Yeshua. “Martha, Yohanna, Salome? Susanna? They are all unworthy, Shimeon? Even your own wife? Have you learned nothing from me?”
Yeshua put his arm around Shimeon, and lead him forward. “Then for you, Kefar, I shall make Miri a man that she may become a living spirit, as we all are, men and women alike. From now on, Shimeon, every woman shall be a man, and every woman made manly, every man and woman of the Way shall reach Heaven!”
Yeshua knew Shimeon was unconvinced, but he also knew Shimeon was not one to go against the will of his Messiah. Shimeon was the shepherd’s dog, stubborn, faithful and unquestioning.
Yeshua took his place at the table with the others. Martha fussed over several other women hovering against the back wall, moving in and out of the throng at the triclinium, adjusting plates, bowls and napkins.
He raised his arms for silence and said to them, “Friends, brothers and sisters, I have wanted so much to eat this Passover meal with you!”
“Well, you missed the meat and the bitter herbs!” sniffed Martha.
“He’s had meat enough!” said Adam, referring to the nuptials, and a few laughed.
“I have!” replied Yeshua. He looked about and called upon the women buzzing and bussing about the table to be still, and sit.
Most of the women were still uncomfortable eating with men, but they overcame their shyness, enough to sit with them, but they still had a tendency to act as servers and some still waited to eat after the men were finished.
Their subserviency irritated Miri to no end, but tonight, she held her tongue. It was a time for remembrance and celebration. She sat beside Yeshua, and Shimeon grudgingly made room for her.
Yeshua rose from the table and took off his robe. Beneath the robe, he wore his new kittel. This he removed and carefully folded it. He tied a towel around his waist and he poured water into a basin. He carried the bowl and knelt with the bowl in front of Shimeon, who asked him, “You are going to wash my feet, Rabbi?”
“You don’t know what I am doing?” Yeshua asked.
“Never at any time will you wash my feet!” Shimeon declared.
“If I do not wash your feet,” Yeshua answered, “You can no longer be my disciple.”
“Lord, do not wash only my feet then!” Shimeon answered, “Wash my head and hands too!”
Jesus laughed, “You have already had a bath, Shimeon! You are completely clean and don’t have to wash yourself again, except for your huge feet!” A ripple of laughter washed through the comrades and Yeshua bent to wash Shimeon’s feet.
“Do you understand what I have just done to you?” he asked as he dried off Shimeon’s feet. Shimeon gazed blankly at Yeshua, his mouth open.
Yeshua stared intently back into Shimeon’s eyes. “You call me Rabbi and Lord, and it is right for you do so, because that is what you think I am. I, your Lord and Rabbi, have just washed your feet. You, then, should wash another’s feet. I have set an example for you, so that you will do just what I have done for you. This is the truth: no slave is greater than his master, nor less, and no messenger is greater than the one who sends him. Master and servant no longer have meaning for you or I, or for any you will meet along the way. Now that you know this truth, can you be happy to put it into practice?”
“Give me the towel, and we shall see, Rabbi,” Shimeon replied. Yeshua slipped the towel from his waist and placed it in Shimeon’s outstretched hand. “Peace be with you, Shimeon Kefar.”
“And with you, Master.”
Shimeon knelt, and slid the basin from man to man, dutifully and carefully washing each of his comrades’ feet. Yeshua took another towel and a philtre of oil, anointing each of the feet Shimeon had cleansed, wiping them dry with a towel, just as Miri had done for him earlier in Bethany.
After he and Shimeon had finished, Yeshua put his outer garment back on and returned to his place at the table. He stood with his arms held out in supplication.
“May the Power Above bless thee and keep thee,” he said.
“Amen,” replied the followers in the room.
“May the Power Above turn his face toward thee and his grace shine upon thee”
“Amen” came the chorus.
“May the Power Above smile upon thee and bring thee peace.”
Yeshua sat down, closed his eyes and began to pray.
“We thank the Great Power, O Redeemer of Israel, Our Creator, for the joy and gladness of Pesach, this Festival of the Unleavened Bread, this time of our salvation. At this season we are grateful to thee, for thy Redemption brought freedom to our ancestors. You brought them forth from slavery to freedom, from darkness to light, from the strife of human bondage to the glory of divine service. As you were with our fathers, we pray, be with us for this and every generation.’
“O God and Redeemer, we beseech you on this Festival of Freedom bring hope unto all who are oppressed and renew their faith in your saving power. You who desire all men to be free, you did enjoin us to proclaim liberty for all inhabitants of the earth. May that day come soon, when all your children shall be liberated from bondage, and free men everywhere unite in rendering homage to thee!’
“No more shall we come to the Temple to worship you. The gift given upon command has no power of Redemption. Each one of us has come to this place to offer sacrifice in our own way. We share the Food of Life and the Water of Life in the old tradition of Man to God, Woman to God, child to God.’
“No more shall your first born be slaughtered for the atonement of our sins, human nor animal. We offer ourselves, body, mind and spirit to you, O Redeemer, in that We shall be born again within you. We share this meal with you, as you share with us.”
Then he took a piece of matzoh bread, gave thanks to the Power Above, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is the Staff of Life, which is given to you.” Then Yeshua took one of the four cups, gave thanks to Yahweh, and held out the goblet to Yehuda, “This drink is the Water of Life. Take this and share it amongst yourselves.”
Yehudi pushed the cup away from his lips. “This cup of God’s new covenant is sealed with your blood, Yeshua.”
“You talk of blood, Yehudi,” commented Yeshua. “The priests are also talking of the same thing. Who do you think I am, Yehudi?” asked Yeshua.
“The people of Galilee say you are John The Baptist,” Yehudi answered, “Others say Elijah, while others say Jeremiah, or some other such prophet.”
“You are the Messiah!” blurted out Shimeon.
“Do you believe that, Yehudi?” Yeshua asked.
“I do not know who you are,” muttered Yehudi.
Yeshua leaned over and whispered into Yehudi’s ear, resting his hand on Yehudi’s shoulder. Yehudi frowned and looked away, his jaw tightly clenched.
Yeshua sat up. “Who else believes I am the Messiah?” asked Yeshua. There was an uncomfortable silence at the table. Andrew hesitantly raised his hand. Then Matthais. Yehudi stared intently at his lap as, one by one, the hands came up around the table.
“Yehudi?” asked Yeshua quietly.
“You are what you are,” replied Yehudi, “You are as my brother, and I love you. If you are the Messiah, then I shall still love you, but you will no longer be my brother.”
“I am not talking about all of you,” said Yeshua quietly, “I know those have chosen to call me Messiah. If indeed, I am the Messiah, does not the scripture that must come true say, ‘The man who shared my food shall turn against me’? I ask you this now before it happens, so that when it does happen, you will believe that ‘I Am Who I Am’. But I am no Messiah!”
“One of you twelve, one who dips his bread in the dish with me now has already betrayed me. Who was it? Who amongst you has spread the news that I am the Messiah sent to save Israel?”
Almost to a man, Yeshua’s friends turned from his gaze, for they all believed Yeshua was the Messiah, and had said so at one time or another, yet none would admit their indiscretion in public. “Now do you wish the Son of Man die as the scriptures say he will? Look around you! The one who betrayed me must be at the table with us now! Because one of you does not have ears that listen to my words, the Son of Man may die as the Power Above has decided! But how terrible for that man who has betrayed me! It would have been better for that man if he had never been born!”
“Which one of you was it?” Yeshua's eyes darted from man to man. The disciples murmured among themselves which one of them it could be who would do such a thing. “Was it you, Nathaniel? Shimeon perhaps? Yakov? Adam!”
All adamantly denied they were capable of betrayal.
“So you say now, but you have already handed me over to the Kittim!” said Yeshua. He stood up. “I have asked you all repeatedly not to spread the gospel that I am The Messiah, yet every one and each of you has gone against my wishes! Do you not understand what you have done?”
Yeshua’s eyes darted from man to man, and each man averted his eyes in shame. Miri could contain herself no longer and she sat upright.
“Do you not see,” she demanded, “Every time one of you declares Yeshua the Messiah, you have added a nail to his cross?” She stood up. “Each claim of miracles you shout from the rooftops adds another footstep toward his crucifixion! Can none of you see that? You are all guilty of betraying him sevenfold and more!”
“None of us have betrayed him!” growled Shimeon Kefar, “It is you who have brought him to this place! It is you who have made us all outlaws!”
“I?” cried Miri, “I have not uttered a word other than my love for Yeshua! To me he is a man, and he is to me, anointed in marriage! You, in your praise of miracles, have nailed him to a cross with your words as surely as if you nailed him by your own hand! You do not have to sell him out to Herod and the Templars. Every time you shout his praises, the rooftops echo his name and the winds carry his message to the rich and powerful who control this city! Their knees are quaking in their fear of the message that Yeshua carries. They know they are wrong to reap seventyfold for little effort. They are stealing not just from the poor, but from the Power who created the world!”
Yeshua placed his hand on Miri’s shoulder.
“It is time for me to speak with the Pharisees within the Sanhedrin. They alone can sway the council! I will ask for a hearing and explain I am no Messiah!”
His comrades erupted in protest.
“You may just as well ask us to sell you for thirty pieces of silver!” shouted Yakov, “ Or cast you into a nest of vipers! For the effect is the same! They will betray you to the Kittim as a false Messiah!”
“But I have told you I am not the Messiah!” said Yeshua, “And I must speak to the Saducees and show that I am not such a man!”
“If you cannot convince your friends of your mortality, how can you expect the Sanhedrin not to cut you down?” demanded Yehudi, “For it will serve their purpose to call you Messiah, and then execute you to prove that you are not!”
“I must meet with them or flee Israel!” said Yeshua, “For the people are restless and will resort to arms! Have you learned nothing from me? The sword will not subdue the Roman Imperialists! Their armies are better equipped, better trained and convinced of their superiority! They count only their own citizens as worthy of consideration and all others a subservient to them! Do you think that Israel can stand against their might?”
“Are we to be slaves to the unbelievers in the West?” demanded Simon Zelotes, “Have we spilled so much Jewish blood for nothing? We are free men and must remain free men until Armageddon? You are the Messiah and must lead us to victory!”
“If you truly believe that I am The Son of Man, The Messiah, The Anointed One, then which one of you will volunteer to speak with the priests? We must unite all Jews, not just the poor and the underprivileged! The rich must renounce their enslavement to the Roman Denarii, cast off the strings of the puppet masters in the West! Without their support, the poor and downtrodden shall become the dead and downtrodden! I must speak with the Council!”
“If, as you say, I am the Messiah, what harm can they do to me?” He glared at his friends, “Who has the courage of his convictions? If I am to die and be raised again as the scriptures say, then who will be the instrument of The Power’s will? Who amongst you has the greater faith?”
An argument broke out among the disciples as to which one of them should be thought of as the greatest. Yeshua shook his head, “The pagans have power over their people, and the rulers claim the title ‘Friends of the People’. But this is not the way it is with you; rather, the greatest one among you must be like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. Who is greater, the one who sits down to eat or the one who serves him? The one who sits down of course! But I am among you as one who serves!”
“My friends, you have stayed with me all through my trials; and just as you would have given me the right to rule as The Messiah, so would I not give you the same right? You wish to eat and drink at my table in a new realm and sit on thrones to rule over the twelve tribes of Israel. But which one of you shall be reviled above all others for the act of betrayal? For without this act, none of the prophecies can come to pass.”
After Yeshua had said this, he was deeply troubled, knowing he had hurt his disciples deeply, but they had to be told of the damage their gospels had done to his person.
“I am sorry,” he said softly, tears welling in his eyes, “I am telling you the truth. One of you must betray me.”
The disciples looked at one another, completely puzzled about what he meant. Miri was sitting next to Yeshua. Shimeon Kefar motioned to her and said, “Ask him who he is talking about.”
So Miri moved closer to Yeshua’s side and asked, “Shimeon wants to know who would do such a thing.”
Yeshua answered, “I will dip some bread in the sauce and give it to him; he is the man.”
Yeshua broke a piece of bread from a loaf and dipped it in a cup of wine and held it to Shimeon’s lips.
Shimeon pushed the sop away and turned his back to Yeshua.
“Shimeon! Listen! The Power Above shall put you all to the test as he tested Job, and before him Abraham, to separate the good from the bad, as a farmer separates the wheat from the chaff. But I shall pray for you, Shimeon, that your faith will not fail. And even when you turn your back to me, you must strengthen your brothers.”
Shimeon answered, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you and to die with you! But this is madness, do not ask me to betray you!”
“I tell you, Shimeon,” Yeshua said, “I am telling you the truth. Before the cock crows you will say three times that you do not know me!”
Then Yeshua asked his disciples, “When I sent you out that time without purse, bag or shoes, did you lack anything?”
“Not a thing,” they all answered.
“But now,” Yeshua said, “whoever has a purse or a bag holds on to it; and whoever has no sword sells his robe and buys one. For I tell you that the End of Times are upon us! You rail against the Priests, Princes, and Sadducees! You decry their excess! You condemn their greed and avarice! Yet you cannot see that with violent revolution you shall become that which you now despise!”
Yeshua pulled aside the coat of Shimeon, then Andrew, “Look!“ he shouted, “Here are two swords! Is that is enough?” he glared at the disciples. “Are we to banish the Kittim with swords? They are seventy to our seven! Only with the power of God can we defeat our enemies! If I am The Messiah, then I can return Israel to the Jews without swordplay, without the engines of war! Why do you doubt me now? You say I am The Messiah, yet you quiver in fear when I ask you to put me to the test.”
“I will sell you to the priests.”
All eyes in the room turned to Yehudi the Issacharite.
He smiled thinly through the dense silence. “I believe you are the Messiah, Yeshua. But for me, it is not a matter of faith. If you are the Messiah, then, as you say, you will triumph, no matter the odds. If not, then we have lost nothing, and must find another Messiah.”
So, Yeshua took a piece of bread, dipped it, and gave it to Yehudi, the son of Shimeon the Issacharite. As Yehudi took the bread, Yeshua said to him, “Take it and eat it,” he said, “Be quick about what you are doing!”
Yehudi swallowed the bread without a word and stood up at once to leave. Yakov stood up and barred Yehudi’s way.
“Enough of this nonsense!” he roared glaring at Yehudi. He turned his face to Yeshua. “What is this talk of parlay with the Herodians? Are you mad, Yeshua? The people are ready to follow you! Thousands would fight for the freedom of Israel!”
Yehudi pushed Yakov away and drew his sword, holding it out to keep his companions at bay. “You cannot stop me! If Yeshua is to be the Messiah, then I must do as he says! The scriptures must be fulfilled! It is the test, the ordeal that he must suffer to redeem us all! What better time to put him to the test than Pesach? If he is seized, and he is the Messiah, then God will save him!”
Miri moved swiftly between the two men.
Yehudi backed to the door and unbolted it with his free hand, then turned and disappeared into the night. Miri bit her fingers in anguish, wanting stop him, but knew that she couldn’t. What was done was done.
Yeshua walked quietly to the door and closed it. He slid the latch closed and turned back to his comrades. “Should the time come, we must slither like snakes upon our bellies. It is not by our swords that we can beat the infidel Kittim! I must convince them that I am not the Messiah, but that I come as the Prince of Peace! This will be my advice to all. Love one another. If you have love for one and all you shall be true Sons of Light. And by your light, all will know you are Right.”
“When are you going, Rabbi?” Shimeon asked him, “I wish to accompany you to the meeting!”
“You cannot follow me now where I am going,” answered Yeshua; “It would not do for me to speak with the Council backed by men of arms. But later I shall send for you.”
“Rabbi, why can’t I follow you now?” asked Peter, “I am ready to die for you!”
“That is the problem,” Yeshua answered, “You are too ready to die for me. I would rather have you live for me Shimeon Kefar! You react without thought!”
Shimeon did not take kindly to Yeshua’s words.
“Do not be worried or upset, dear Kefar” said Yeshua. “I love you more than a brother. Believe in The Power and believe also in me. Give me a chance to prepare the way, and there will be no need to fight. There are many rooms in the house I am going to prepare for you. I would not tell you this were it not so. And after I prepare a place for you, I shall return and take you there myself, so that you will be with me. Soon, you will know the way to the place where I am going.”
Kefar said to him, “Lord, if we do not know where we are going, how shall we get there?”
Yeshua answered him, "Your Words and Deeds shall show you the Way. Think of me, Kefar, and before acting, ask yourself, ‘What would Yeshua do?’ You have known me,” he said softly, “Most importantly, you know that deeds performed through the heart are the way to union with God.”
Phillip the Mason said to him, “Lord, show us the Gates of Heaven if that is all we need.”
Yeshua shook his head, “Phillip, have you not listened to my words? I tell you this. There is no gate. It is not a secret place to those who can see. The Power Above is everywhere. It is only in the human heart that the way is barred. It is up to each one of us, Phillip, you and I, to unlock the door to the heart that we have closed, and bars the way. Just as I cannot enter a house unless the owner of the house opens the door and stands in welcome on the threshhold. Our bodies are the Temple of the Lord. This we know. But know this truly, the Holy of Holies is in your very own heart. None can enter there except with permission of the owner of the House. You are that owner.
Listen, if you have ears to hear: the Power of God, the Holy Spirit is everywhere. He fills every nook and cranny of the world. If you look with more than your eyes and listen with more than your ears, you will find God. Even here…”
Yeshua lifted the next cup.
“When the wine turns to vinegar, it becomes sour, but by adding cumin and spices, it takes on a different character and adds to the taste of the meat. So also, what at first seems a cup of sorrow is found in the end to be immortal wine. The darkness defines the light. Life is held in balance by the sweet and the sour. When the pleasure is pure, it is the joy which arises from a clear vision of the Spirit.
But pleasure which rises from the craving of the senses with objects of desire, at first a drink of sweetness, is found in the end a cup of poison, and the pleasure of possession, impure. Such pleasure in the beginning and in the end is only a delusion of the mind, a pleasure of darkness.”
Yeshua passed the cup to his left.
“We are the vine, and the Power is the garden. I am the vine and The Power is the gardener, He breaks off every branch within me that does not bear grapes, and he prunes every branch that carries the fruit, so that it is cleansed and will bear even more fruit. You have been made clean already by the teaching I have brought you through the vine. Remain united with the vine, and the Power will remain united to you. A branch cannot bear fruit all by itself; it can only do so if it remains united to the vine. In the same way, you cannot bear fruit unless you are united in the Power.’
“But how can we be united with the Power?” asked Nathaniel.
“Nathan, it is only through sacrifice of your very soul that you can be One with the Lord. The secret is this: You must make yourself as nothing. Every desire, every whim must be swept from your heart. All that you hold dear to your heart must be removed. There can be no clutter in the heart, in the Holy of Holies! Only then, after the dust of lust and greed has been swept clean from within you, can you open the doors to the Lord. Then he will enter.’
“Then he will provide you with a table upon which to set your food. Then he will provide you with a pallet upon which to rest. Then all that you need will come to you.”
“Then why do holy men suffer? Why do those who obey the Word hang upon the crosses along the wayside?” asked Shimeon.
“Over our lives, passageway by passageway, we have built walls around our souls, so that none may enter and harm us. Each heartache adds another wall. Every blow from the oppressors adds another wall. We build a labyrinth around our true selves that would confound even the Minotaur of Crete, so that none may enter. But the way that bars sorrow also bars happiness. The wall which blocks off despair also blocks off joy. Before you can ask the Lord to enter your heart, you must first tear down the walls. But to do so, you must be prepared to greet pain and sorrow with the same acceptance as pleasure and joy! All things are One to the one who knows! Do not be afraid of pain, for you will block off the way to pleasure!
You cannot change life, nor the evil in men’s hearts by running away from oppression. It is your duty to stand and deny the lies of the greedy and the corrupt! If you fear for your Life, then you will no longer be worthy of the Path Supreme!
If thou wilt not fight the battle of Life because in selfishness you are afraid of battle, your resolution is in vain. Your nature will compel you. Do not run from that which the Power Above asks you to do!
But beware, for your own desires will not be banished easily. You must look deeply into your own heart to ensure that the deeds that you feel compelled to do are the will of the Lord, or merely the lust of desire. If you have to lie to others, then you are not on the Path. If you feel you must hide who you really are from others, then you have lost your way. Truth is the measure of your Life. It is the cornerstone upon which All is built.
Do not hide yourselves in the food store, but go out and shout from the rooftops! Follow the example of Yahja! It is not enough to meditate on a lonely mountaintop and contemplate God! This is the Path of Fools, of dogs in the manger. This is the easy way. There is no danger in being a hermit! You can only test your belief and see the Lord in the multitudes who have barred their hearts to God! This is where you belong! Do not fear the cross! Do not back down from those who might stone you! Once you have discovered truth do not recover it, but expose it and share it like a treasure with all around you!
Enough of politics and philosophy!” the brilliant light of inspiration faded, reduced to a lively twinkle and Yeshua grinned. “I talk too much! We are here to eat!”
They ate, sang hymns of thanks and went out to catch a breath of air on the Mount of Olives.
The women stayed behind to clean up the remnants of the supper. Martha busied herself with the cleaning, but sidled up to Miri, and as she did, Sister Miriam moved swiftly behind her.
“What was that all about?” whispered Martha.
Troubled, Miriam looked at her niece, “Yeshua has a plan, but it is too dangerous! I asked him to flee to Egypt with me before it is too late, but he refused! He believes he can convince the Temple politicians that he is not the Messiah, and they will see that he is not a threat to them! He says he cannot leave as a fugitive!”
“He will be killed as a heretic even if he is not declared the Messiah!” said Sister Miriam, “Herod will not allow such talk to circulate in his kingdom. Yeshua sows the seeds of revolution, whether he sees his Word as dangerous or not! The powerful will never allow such thoughts to be accepted! Their rule would come to an end!”
“Yes!” answered Miri. “Martha, I must try to stop Yehudi before he reaches the palace of Caiaphas!” Miri slipped her a scarf over her head, “Tell Yohanna, but no one else, I have gone to head off Yehudi! Yeshua’s life depends on it!”