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Noon

III.

NOON.

TOWARDS noon, Simon and Andrew, after the half day's work was ended, returned from the lake. "What does all this mean?" said Andrew, when he saw the remains of the flowers before the house. "Hast thou not read," replied Simon, "what Zecharias says, 'Behold the man whose name is Branch, and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord'?" "Why, the flowers here are in such abundance," continued Andrew, "as if the marriage - altar of a prince were to be erected." "Well," said Simon, "is it not a king whom we are entertaining in our house? If our wise men say, these rabbis are kings, should not he much rather be a king whose words and actions are as far above theirs as heaven is above earth?" "Yes," replied Andrew, "his soul could only have proceeded from the throne of glory. Is it not just with you as with me? When I only present him before my mind, then I cannot restrain myself for love of him, and in fancy I fall upon his neck and kiss him; but when I see him really and in person before me, I shrink back from him as from the sacred Ark in the Holy of Holies, and when he takes my hand in his, my whole body trembles, the floor vanishes from under my feet, and I float between heaven and earth."

These two men had been engaged on the lake since early in the morning. They found the noonday meal ready. Jesus was called and spoke the beracha (blessing). He did not seem to be a guest in the family, but master of the house. The company was silent and waited until he should begin the conversation. "Now then, ye brothers," he said, "give spice to this meal, and tell us what has happened to-day." "Lord," said Peter, laughingly, " the fish were more willing to come into our nets than the buyers were to take them away. Our assortment was the most beautiful and yet not the dearest and rarest. We offered carps * and soles in great abundance at very reasonable prices, but we read in the countenances of the people who crowded around us the expression of the proverb, 'A fat bite, but there is a thorn in it.' f They seemed to shrink from these innocent fish as heretical and bewitched." "Have you not read," said Jesus, "what is said in the Psalms, 'All creatures are thy servants '? The fishes

* Ritter, Erdkunde, XV. i, 307. Lynch, Report, 97. By carp, Peter means the fish which in Hebrew is binotha; in Arabic, bunni; the Cyprinus bynni of Forskal, and which is the most esteemed fish of the Nile. By soles, he means potitha in Hebrew ; psetta in Greek. It was forbidden to the Jews and was bought only by the heathen.

fThe proverb is, literally, "A fat tail (i. e. of the Ovis laticaudatd), and a thorn in it."

are better servants than men." "Yes," said Andrew, "we would have made better sales if the market-master and several scribes had not stood by, who watched with lowering looks all those who felt inclined to buy." "But you still sold some?" asked Jesus. "Yes, Lord," answered both the brothers at once. But Andrew said no more, and let Peter alone relate how that royal personage, who thanked Jesus for the deliverance of his son, helped them out of their difficulty as frequently before, and spared them the necessity of waiting too long.

"But," continued Jesus, "you were after all not detained too long in the market. What else had you to do?" "We went," continued Peter, "to carry in our boat to Bethsaida a load of Chorazin wheat that was sold to that place. There we met five men who were inquiring for us a long time on the banks of the lake. One of them cried out to us, 'It is well that we have found you. I am your debtor. I am indebted to your great guest for the restoration of my health, though it was at the expense of the roof of your house.' As he was explaining the matter to me, he pressed a gold denarius into my hand, but I refused to take anything until I ascertained what the reparation of the house would cost. Then his face changed color, and he asked in a low tone, 'Will you not row us over, that we may go to Bethsaida-Julias by the shortest route?' 'Certainly,' said I, 'if you hurry, and we will even take the usual fare.' Then they walked back some distance, and returning with their luggage, entered our boat. They had a litter, and a rose-bush full of healthy buds, which had been dug up by the roots, of which the man healed of paralysis said, 'I will plant this in a well-prepared bed of ground before my house, and the roses which it bears shall be called the Miracle Roses of Capernaum.' The wind came from the west, and our boat sailed swiftly along almost without using the rudder. It was a very pleasant passage, for the five men did not grow weary of hearing thee spoken of, O Lord; it was well that there were two of us that we might by turns answer

their questions."

This table - conversation was interrupted by an unexpected occurrence. Mary, the mother of Jesus, had been once before in Capernaum {John ii. 12), but since that her longing to see him grew with every month of the separation. She was always with him in spirit, without receiving from him the desired response to the sympathies of her heart since his entrance upon his public ministry. The feelings even of those more immediately associated with her did not entirely correspond with her own. But the more diligently for this very reason did she devote every hour she could spare from the oversight of her family to labor on his account. She prepared linen garments for him, and rejoiced in anticipation of some opportunity personally to deliver to him this work of her own hands. Such an opportunity now occurred just at the proper time. A wealthy friend of her family, who was one of the few who recognized Jesus as the ambassador of God, had purchases to make in Tiberias, which at that time had risen to eminence as a commercial emporium. His intention was also to visit Capernaum for the purpose of again hearing the word of life from the lips of the great Nazarene. He informed Joseph of his design, and added that it would not only afford him much pleasure, but he would regard it a distinguished honor, if he would be allowed to take Mary with him. As for himself, he would prefer travelling that distance of six hours on foot in this pleasant season of the year, but he would provide a beast of burden for the use of Mary, and take proper measures for her safe return home. Mary heard the proposition with joyful emotion, and an imploring look upon her husband was sufficient to secure his consent. As she desired to arrive at Capernaum about noon, her travelling companion was ready to start the next morning long before sunrise. He walked on vigorously, and the beast appeared to be more elevated than oppressed under the light burden which it bore. As they proceeded through the wheat - fields and flowery meadows of Kefar Kenna,*

* Margoliouth, in his Pilgrimage to the Land of my-Fathers, 2, 270, speaks in glowing terms of the floral beauties of this region.

the village still lay above them in profound repose. The road now wound between naked walls of rock and through narrow passages. At sunrise they saw before them an elevated place planted with fig- and olive-trees, which was the birthplace of the apostle Judas Thaddeus, which is now called Subije. And when, after a brief repose, they arrived at two fountains on the comb of the road ascending the hill, they had the first view of the dark sea sparkling far down below in the rays of the rising sun. As they descended the precipitous declivity of the southern rim of the hill, they met people from Hattin, who told them that Jesus was in Capernaum, and had that morning

already performed many miracles. It so happened that just at that time there was a boat from Capernaum which was ready to sail for that place, on which Mary could take passage. The boatmen were at first harsh, but after they had exchanged several words with the woman, they became subdued and polite.

It was the wife of Simon who first heard the light knocking at the door below. She rose, and opening the wooden grated window a little, that she might look down, she bounded back, and with a face all radiant with joy, exclaimed, "Mary of Nazareth!" She had scarcely uttered these words when Peter had already hastened down the steps. He opened the front door, and grasping her by the hand, gave her a most hearty welcome, saying, "Blessed be she who now cometh!" at the same time with his left hand seizing the bundle lying in the folds of her dress. Returning the salutation, she inquired, in a tone that betrayed an apprehension of a negative reply, "Shall I find Jesus?" "Certainly, mother of my Lord," exclaimed Peter, and in the same moment Jesus descended, followed by the others who, to allow him the precedence, remained behind standing on the stairs. For a long time Mary held him encircled in both her arms, without any opposition on his part, and bedewed his breast with her tears in which joy and pain equally flowed forth. "Peace, abundant peace be with you, my dear mother," said Jesus, whilst he pressed his lips upon her fair forehead. Then leaning upon his arm, he led her up to the room, where for the first time the women saluted her with overjoyous welcome; and then also Andrew, with emotion unutterably full, advanced, whose hand she shook most tenderly. But as the women were desirous of hearing how Mary could have come to Capernaum at that time of day, Peter interrupted them by saying, "Why do you let our friend stand so long? she must be weary of her long journey. Sit down, lady, by the side of the master of our house and break bread with him, that you may be refreshed and honor us. We would like to offer you something better than this salt fish;* but you, Hannah," * Lewysohn, Zoologie des Talmud, p. 256.

he said to his wife, "go and bring grapes and figs, such as they have not in Nazareth, so that our guest may taste of the blessings of the land of Genesaret.*

Whilst they were seated at the table, Jesus himself inquired under whose protection and by what way she had come, and as she had forgotten to eat amid the enjoyment which the gratification of her long-cherished desire had afforded, he pressed her to partake of the food before them. But as he added that afterward she should go with him to his chamber, she gave him a look of profound gratitude, and the others, who until then had kept a respectful silence, now felt themselves emboldened to speak. "How happy you are," re

*Josephus, Wars, III. 10, 8,

marked Mary, "that you always have in sight this large and beautiful and animated lake, whose waves brought me here so gently and yet quickly after my long ride upon the beast of burden; and what a lovely position this town has, whose houses, seen from a distance, seem to float upon the water." "Yes, Capernaum is beautiful," said Simon, "and never was it more beautiful than now, when it has become, as its name imports, the city of the Comforter and of consolation,* but to most of its inhabitants nothing is comparable to a fat chicken with old wine." "But Nazareth also," interrupted Andrew, "is not

* Menachem (Comforter) is, according to Jer. Berachoth, 50 b, Sanhedrim, 98^, etc., one of the names of the Messiah,

to be despised; we see the lake, and if you ascend the hill, you have a view of the sea. I shall never forget the evening when from that place I saw the sun sink down into the sea between Carmel and the bay of Acco." "You are right, Andrew," said Jesus; "that hill also shall I never forget. It was to me what Sinai was to Moses." "While you were yet a small boy," continued Mary, " that hill was your favorite place, and when I missed you, and Joseph went after you, he seldom sought for you there in vain."

After they had conversed on these subjects, then came inquiries after the individuals of Mary's family. "How is Joseph," asked Peter, "he who so faithfully nursed that tender scion* which * Is. xi. i.

has now grown up to be the tree of life?" Then inquiries were made concerning the brothers and sisters* of Jesus, for the women now believed that they also were allowed to take part in the conversation. They inquired about their external affairs, but also of the internal position they maintained towards Jesus. Mary, well aware that she now found herself within the circle of the strictest confidence, expressed herself freely, whilst her countenance was by turns lighted up with joy and saddened by regret. As soon as she began to speak they were all silent, and followed with the closest attention her rather slow but well-weighed and well-chosen words. It was pleasing to her to ob* Matt. xiii. 55; John xii. 5.

serve how the light and shadow that passed by turns over her own spirit, awakened similar emotions in the minds of those around her. But Jesus was content to be only a hearer. He left his mother to his friends, who entertained her and rejoiced at seeing her received with such unaffected kindness.

When the meal was finished, which on this occasion had extended far beyond the usual time, Jesus rose, and with covered head returned thanks. After God had been thanked, Mary also thanked all these dear friends. Then she followed a sign from Jesus and went up to his chamber, where Peter had already conveyed, as she heard, what she had brought with her. As she

now had him alone before her, and had attained the object of her longing desires, she then embraced him, but instead of kissing him, as she had done a thousand times in private at home, she hid her face upon his shoulder as he inclined towards her, and amid violent trembling of her body, a stream of tears burst from her eyes. She wept without speaking, and clung to him with energy. After some time, Jesus said, "Mother, be composed and sit down by me and tell me why you thus weep?" And whilst they were seated, she began, with her hand lying in his, to regain her composure, and then he, fixing his eye steadily on her, thus spoke, "I rejoice that I have you again with me, and yet regret that soon I shall not have you any more. Do you know,"

asked Jesus, "how soon or late I shall leave this world?" "Oh, my child," she replied, "the deathly paleness of your countenance and the leanness of your hands tell me that you are exerting yourself beyond endurance, and even if you were not doing that — true, I am but a woman and confined to the four walls of my house — but how can I help observing that the hatred of your enemies is increasing from day to day, and that they have long combined to put you to death!" "Well and good," said Jesus, interrupting her, "but has not a large number of the people espoused my cause, which will frustrate the plan of my enemies?" "Yes," replied she, "the power of your preaching, your freedom of speech against those in authority, the novelty of your doctrines and especially your miraculous cures, have gained you many friends, but this popular favor is like a mountain rivulet, which suddenly swells up and as soon subsides." "You are right, O blessed among women," answered Jesus, "the majority of this people are not seeking redemption from sin, but from quite different burdens, and when the time of separation shall come, they will ungratefully and meanly abandon me. Your view into the future does not deceive you, but the enmity and unfaithfulness of men must serve God's purposes, for the fulfilment of which I am come into the world. My way leads down a precipice before which I shrink, but without my own will 1 follow the God in me, whether" it be upwards or downwards." At these words, his countenance, which for a moment had been sad, became transfigured as it were, for the divinity in his human being shone forth; and Mary, breathing in all the heavenly rays streaming from his glorified face, felt herself pervaded with supernatural exultation. A long pause ensued. Mary was silent, but she was, as always, entirely absorbed in prayer. "Beautiful," thus spake her spirit completely sunk in God, — " beautiful was the rising sun, beautiful was the green turf, beautiful the blue sea, beautiful was this feast of love in this faithful family, but more beautiful than all is He. What an hour is this! My eyes shall see the king in his beauty." *

* Is. xxxiii. 17.

"Now, what answer does my mother give?" asked Jesus, breaking the silence. Then she extended her hand towards his head without touching it, and exclaimed, "Blessed art thou who sayest, Lo, I come; I delight to do thy will, O my God!" * "And blessed," he continued, grasping her hand, "be she who yieldeth her will to the will of her maker, and whom a sight of the sword which is to pierce her through does not alarm! But now, tell me, what is in the bundle there with which you burdened yourself?" The transition to this question was abrupt, and to answer it, it was necessary for Mary to use a different tone which she gained only by degrees. "What is more pleasant for a mother," * Ps. xl. 8.

she continued, than to labor for a beloved child? and what would be more painful for her than to be compelled to surrender this advantage to other women? The bundle consists of all sorts of linen garments, of which you stand in need. True, it is not the finest linen, for we are too poor to procure that, but it is substantial and clean, and everything was cut out, sewed, and hemmed by myself. My thoughts are always employed about you, but I never think of you with greater satisfaction than when I am able to do something for you."

As she opened her treasures and took out each piece, mentioning its purpose and use, Jesus exclaimed several times, "How richly you have cared for me, and how industriously you have worked! This is more than I need and more than I can use. That is just as beautiful and ample as the fitting out of a son who brings home his bride or who sets out on a long journey!" She knew well her present was far from deserving this exalted praise, but how glad she was that he was gratified — those cheeks of hers so familiar with sorrow had not for a long time reddened so deeply.

Then the Lord laid his arm upon her shoulder, and as he thus conducted her to the bench against the wall, and had taken his seat by her side, he said, "Now continue to relate to me what you began down-stairs at the table! Is the town upon the hill still white with

out* and dark within?" "Even to this day, my son and Lord," replied she, "are they as inimical to you as they were when they had determined to hurl you down into the abyss from the edge of the hill." f "And is Mary," he continued, "still like a lily among thorns." "Yes, Lord," was her answer, "the daughter of Eli J continues to be the favorite subject of wicked tongues, but she lives so retired that the thorns do not pierce her." "And your husband?" he asked still further, "they perhaps treat him more kindly, because he is a

♦Nazareth, in Arabic, is medinet abjadh, and that is the translation of the Hebrew designation bahar laben air.

fLuke iv. 29.

J Thus Mary is called in the Talmud. See Luke iii. 23.

descendant of David?" "Oh, no," she replied, "he is only a carpenter, and in the eyes of the people he committed a great sin, because he did not cast you away, whom heaven bestowed upon him, as illegitimate." At these words the countenance of Jesus was covered as with a thunder-cloud, and Mary was alarmed as if she had desecrated that which was holy in using this language; and with the design of smoothing their apparent severity, she added, "But the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and such indignity is our honor." "It is so," he continued; "but are the brothers and sisters as far above these blasphemies of the unbelieving as their parents?" Mary's countenance was tinged with melancholy, and, with a painful choice of words, she said, "Lord, they do not unite in these blasphemies. They all prize you highly and love you, but they think you go too far; they are alarmed at your opposition to the present order of things; they cannot understand how their eldest brother should be the Messiah of Israel." "What," he asked with astonishment, "have not James and Jude proceeded further yet ?" * "Yes, Lord," she answered, "these two agree with me better than the others. Whenever we speak of you they are on my side, and as I was leaving home, they called after me, 'Salute him and tell him to pray for us!'" "That will I do," said he; "this Galilee

* The authors of the New Testament epistles bearing their names.

is a land of the shadow of death,* and he who has long been confined in a dark dungeon becomes only slowly accustomed to the light of the sun."

After they had thus spoken for about an hour, he rose, saying, " Now, mother, I must leave you. The time of the mincha (evening) has come, and my vocation directs me to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." "Am I not also one of them?" she asked. "No," answered he; "you know the Shepherd of Israel, and can say with Shulamite, My friend is mine and I am his." "But since you travel up and down the country," said she, " I see you so seldom, and yet I am so happy when I see you." "You will see me many times yet," he continued, * Is. ix. 2.

"but you will not see me with unalloyed joy until the next world." "Yes," she replied, "I must wean my spirit from you for this life, but what is easy to you by virtue of the divinity that reigns within you, is hard for me, who am nothing but a weak child of humanity." "And I know," he resumed, "the circumstances which after God has elevated you so high, yet draw you down to earth, and which will not permit your heavenly aspirations to be disappointed."

These words were consoling. She

felt that he read her inmost soul. "Now

let us go," said she, "and do not spend

upon me, a single person, any more of

that time which you owe to the many."

He kissed her forehead and said, "So, go in peace, but stay here in Capernaum with this dear family as long as you can. I hope to see you again, even if not under circumstances like the present. You need the strengthening of your faith, but before long you will be able to lift your voice with the prophetess Miriam,' Let us sing unto the Lord, for he hath done wonderful things; the horse and his rider hath he cast into the sea.'"