I remember those days and I think of the huge throng that dragged around behind us. A great train, men and women, young lads. People you felt honoured to meet and people you would not introduce to – well, never mind you would not introduce them to your aunt. You would not introduce them to your street-wise uncle.
Several of us tried to warn him. I am tempted, now, to say: ‘Judas tried to warn him,’ but that would be a lie, or rather, I am sure Judas DID warn him, but so did I, and several others, and I can imagine the cool, funny, witty rebuke that would have followed, if Jesus heard me just blame Judas. So I won’t.
Jesus has taken us twelve off out of the press. I know, to my shame, that that particular day it was me who tried to warn him. He was sitting with his back to an olive tree, not very comfortably, but cool in the shade.
‘Um,’ he replied, ‘so let me get this clear. You are – well you USED to be – a fisherman.’ He stopped and looked at me. I nodded, no idea where this was going. ‘Right, so you used to throw out a net, and you caught just the fish you could sell, right?’
I grinned ruefully. I am no fool, and now I was second-guessing him. But I played along. It was best to. He liked that. And well, he had that way with him, that somehow you wanted to make it easy for him. ‘No Rabbi, all sorts got caught in the net.’
‘Ah, so once the net came near the surface, you could see what was what, and only bothered to haul in the good.’
‘No, we just hauled the whole lot in. You cannot open the net under water without losing the whole catch. Well, really you can’t open it at all.’
‘So as soon as you got them in the boat, then you sort them?’
‘No, in the boat you just had a great flapping confusion. We took them to the land, and sorted them there, into baskets. Valuable, saleable but not valuable, worthless.’
‘Where you could take time, and judge what you had?’
‘Yes, where we could make a good calm decision.’
And then he confounded me. I thought he was going to say some of the people were good and some worthless –but no. He said: ‘Each time I meet somebody, their lives are a huge mix, a bundle of fish in a net. Some of the things in their lives are good, valuable. Some are run-of-the-mill, needing a lot of work to make much of. And some parts of their lives are worthless, and some are utterly poisonous, deadly. One day, maybe, they can throw away the parts which are poisoning them, and dispose of the boring parts to some good use, and take the exciting valuable bits and build on them. But asking them to do that too soon just means that everything gets muddled and lost. We have to wait, and perhaps for a lot of it, we have to wait until the angels come and do it for them. Perhaps. Meanwhile, we take the struggling bundle along with us.’