‘So you do not blame them for sleeping?’ asked John. Jesus had worked the Ten Bridesmaids up into a good story and had been telling it during the day.
Those days, with the crowds, the only time we really got to talk was the night. I looked at Jesus. He looked fit to drop. Here, in private, and in the house with just the little light flickering he let himself look worn out. I knew that in the day, with the crowds, he would sparkle as bright as ever.
‘I do not blame anybody for yearning for sleep, no. But the point is, they have forgotten what they are there to do. Like the bridesmaids who have forgotten to get oil, or just not bothered to get it, I see people every day who have simply forgotten what this people of God are actually supposed to be doing. They have totally lost track of what they are here to do. It is such a waste.
‘Let me try it another way. There were three slaves, all belonging to a rather rich, grand master. He was pushing off to visit some estates and these slaves were to be left alone. So he gave them all money, silver. He told them he wanted them to do something with it. Big sums of money, you realise. One got over a million pounds, and another half a million. The third chap only got a quarter of a million.’
‘Only!’ said Matthew.
‘Only,’ said Jesus, ‘Well off went the rich man, and the slaves considered their course of action. The man with the million went into business and in a year, doubled it. So did the bloke with half a million.’
Matthew, who understood the currents and swirls and eddies of money, frowned. ‘It is pretty good going to do that. My reckoning is you would be lucky to put say twenty per cent on to your money. If you were being at all honest.’
Jesus lowered his eyes, and looked out under his lashes. ‘Whoever said anything about honest?’ he replied, almost flirtatiously ‘Because the slave owner comes back, and he summons his possessions, and asks for an account. He gets back two million, and a million, and then the third chap comes in. Grubby. He hands his master back the same quarter million he started with. He did not want to trade dishonestly, and he was afraid to trade honestly. He dug a hole and buried it. Now he has dug it up. His master told him he should at least have lent it to the money lenders at a good rate of interest’
‘But that is against the law,’ protested Judas, horrified.
‘Oh yes,’ said Jesus, happily, ‘But burying it? He had not made a penny. He was afraid. Afraid of loss, and wanting to keep himself pure. Of course the master took the whole sum off him, demoted him. Poor guy went back to ploughing the fields.’
We looked back, horrified. ‘But he was the only honest one!’
‘He was the only one who forgot what he was supposed to be doing,’ said Jesus.