A journey to the cross is a journey to repentance. It’s a journey to deep personal change. Will you take this journey with me?
In today’s reading, Marcus the centurion, disguised in his civilian clothes, is in a discussion about Jesus with Timaeus, a linen merchant from Damascus.
“As for this Jesus of Nazareth?” He shrugged. “I know only a little more than you. My brother here in Jerusalem knew nothing about him. Had never heard the name. But I heard of him once, about a year ago, in Damascus.”
“Yes. I’m in the linen trade.” He put his hand to an elaborately embroidered sleeve and stroked the pattern. “We supply market stalls in Galilee. One of our sellers there told me of this prophet. He had seen him in Galilee.”
“So what did he say about him?”
“Actually, he told me quite a lot, but I don’t know how much I can believe. He said this Jesus worked miracles.”
“Miracles? What do you mean, miracles?”
“He said Jesus drove out demons, healed the sick. He told me about this one time he went out to hear this prophet, if that’s what he is. Jesus was on this hillside. Thousands had come to hear him speak. Matthias—that’s the man’s name—he said he had never heard anyone speak like him. ‘It was like heaven was talking.’ He kept saying that. ‘It was like heaven was talking.’”
Timaeus spread his arms heavenward in mock imitation. “Poor Matthias!” He shook his head.
“So was that the miracle? The way he talked?”
“No, no. It’s not that, though Matthias kept going on about ‘the kingdom of God.’ Whatever that is. I suppose he got that from this Jesus. Anyway, after they had been there all day—he said there were more than five thousand people—this prophet told them all to sit down in groups of fifty or a hundred. Then he prayed and started breaking bread. He fed that whole crowd. Every last one of them.”
“What’s so miraculous about that?”
“Matthias said he only had five loaves and two fish when he started. He was watching him, and Jesus just kept on breaking bread until the whole crowd was fed. Five thousand people.”
“Five thousand people?”
“More than five thousand people.” He shrugged incredulously. “Look, I wasn’t there. I’m just repeating this fool’s story. Matthias kept saying, ‘It was like he was giving himself to us! Like it came from inside him!’”
Now I was incredulous. I paused in my walk and asked, “What did he mean by that?”
“I swear by the altar, I have no idea.”
“So what do you make of this Matthias and his story?”
“Matthias? He’s a nutcase. And he’s from a fine family in Capernaum.” He frowned, shaking his head. “I know them well. It’s hard to believe he’d get into something like this. He’s following this prophet around the country. It’s all he talks about. He was probably up some tree yesterday breaking off palm branches.” He spat out the words in utter disgust.
“And Jesus of Nazareth?” He raised a stout index finger and waved it in my face. “There’s the real nutcase! There’s no nut like a religious nut! And this kingdom of God talk. It’ll end in disaster.”
He glanced about to see if other ears were listening.
I continued in a more hushed voice. “How do you mean? Do you think the Romans will get involved?”
“Look, I’m no prophet, but by the throne I swear.” He looked me square in the eyes. “You don’t preach about a kingdom in this place and get away with it. Rome will see to that!”