Gethsemane

Maryam

It was the evening of Passover. Yeshua had sent Shimon and Yochanan to prepare the meal. We had escaped the crowds that had followed us from Bethany after the miracle at Eleazar’s tomb, and had lined the streets as Yeshua rode into the city on a borrowed donkey. He had sent most of his followers away, and said it with such heaviness that they listened. He seemed drawn, distant, as though he was afraid of something we couldn’t see. Andreas, Shimon’s brother, had joined us not long before, bringing the news that his previous teacher, Yochanan bar-Zechariah the Baptizer, was dead. Yudah too was still with us. The rest of us were growing weary of his anti-Roman diatribes, except for Yeshua, who now seemed not to hear them.

Yeshua led us to a two-storey house not far from the Temple, into the upstairs room where the table had been prepared for us. Yeshua took his seat between his mother and me.

“Yeshua,” I said, “what’s wrong?”

He didn’t answer for a long time. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “I will not eat the Passover or drink the fruit of the vine until all these things are fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.”

“Yeshua, I don’t understand. What is going to happen?”

Yeshua picked up the unleavened bread from the middle of the table and said a prayer of thanksgiving. “This is my body,” he said. “It is given for you.”

I began to understand, then.

I went through the rest of the meal in a daze, not wanting to think about what Yeshua had said. Some of the disciples talked amongst themselves, but we were mostly silent except for the required prayers.

At the end of the meal, Yeshua refilled his cup and gave thanks once more. “This is my blood of the New Covenant,” he said. “It is poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sin.”

Each of us drank in turn from his cup. I hoped that he was mistaken. After all I had been through, I couldn’t lose him like I had lost Yitzhaq.

We went with him to the Garden of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives.

“Wait here,” he said. “Pray that you do not come to the time of trial.”

I prayed, harder than I had my entire life. Yeshua walked into the darkness. I saw his figure kneeling not far away, but I couldn’t hear what he said. I turned back to find Yudah gone, and the rest of the disciples asleep.

Yeshua returned, apparently strengthened. When he saw the sleeping figures his brow knitted.

“Wake up!” he said. “Can you not watch with me one hour? Get up and pray!”

As he was speaking there was a commotion behind us. I turned and saw a group of armed men, with torches and cudgels. With them was Yoseph bar-Kepha the high priest, and beside him Yudah bar-Shimon.

I was shocked. I knew Yudah was frustrated that Yeshua wasn’t listening to his revolutionary ideas, but he had made his opinion of the Judæan government very clear. Surely he wouldn’t have sold Yeshua into the hands of people he considered traitors and collaborators?

Yudah said something to bar-Kepha, then walked towards Yeshua, who made no attempt to keep him away.

“Yudah,” he said, “is it with a kiss that you betray the Son of Man?”

Yudah didn’t answer. He walked up to Yeshua and kissed him on the lips. Bar-Kepha’s guards seized him. Something moved quickly through the air and one of the guards screamed, his head gushing with blood.

“No more of this!” said Yeshua, breaking free of the injured guard. He picked something up from the ground: it was a severed human ear. I felt sick.

The guard flinched as Yeshua reached out with the ear. In a moment he was healed and he renewed his grip on Yeshua.

“Have you come out with weapons, to arrest me like a bandit?” asked Yeshua. “Why not arrest me in the Temple or the synagogue? You had ample opportunity. But no, this is how you work. Quietly, under cover of darkness. So, do what you have come here to do.”

Yeshua was led away, and I sat in the garden until daybreak, weeping to myself.

Fishers of men

Yochanan

I didn’t really know where he came from, at first. I mean, I know he was born in Bethlehem, and he occasionally let slip little bits about his childhood in Nazareth, but he didn’t talk about himself much. No, that’s not the right way to begin. I don’t suppose it really matters, because this is my personal account, not the one that everyone will read, but it’s worth doing this right anyway. I am Yochanan bar-Zebadiah, fisherman and accidental saint, and this is my story.

It was just before sunset, and Shimon bar-Yonah, my brother Yaqov and I were hauling the nets in for the last time, ready to row back to the shore.

“Make sure you don’t let any fall back in,” said Shimon.

Father hired Shimon after his brother Andreas ran off to follow Yochanan bar-Zechariah, the Baptizer. He was older than Yaqov and me, and he acted as though he was in charge, which made Yaqov furious. I didn’t mind so much, since it meant I could just watch the birds in the sky while I worked.

With the catch safely stowed, we set off for home. When we were half way there, Shimon gave a shout.

“It’s Andreas!”

I shipped my oars and looked over my shoulder. Sure enough, there was a tall figure standing on the shore, waving to us. When we reached land, Shimon ran to his brother and embraced him.

“I was worried sick!” he said. “How could you run off and leave me like that?”

“Yochanan was only in town for one day—the Baptizer I mean,” said Andreas. “It was important, Shimon. I’m sorry.”

Shimon didn’t seem entirely convinced, but he said nothing.

“Shimon,” said Andreas, “it really is an important thing that we’re doing. The Baptizer always said he was only preparing the way for another, greater than he. Well he thinks we’ve found him. Come and see.”

We followed Andreas through Bethsaida to the house where bar-Zechariah was staying. It was summer, and everything was dry and dusty. The houses were mostly single storeys, the same yellow colour as the ground. As we walked, Andreas told us how the stranger had come to be baptized the previous day. What was strange was that he hadn’t come from the town like all the others. He had walked straight out of the wilderness, obviously fatigued, hungry and thirsty, and wouldn’t tell anyone what he had been doing there, or much else apart from his name, Yeshua bar-Yoseph. Andreas’ story seemed unbelievable, but I was curious to meet this man.

We reached the house, Andreas knocked, and we were ushered into the single room, which was packed with men and women. I could spot the man Yeshua without being told. He was of average height, and obviously used to manual labour, even with the starvation. He wasn’t the centre of attention—bar-Zechariah was, surrounded by his disciples asking him questions—but the room, indeed the world, seemed to revolve around him all the same. I pointed to him discreetly.

“Yes, that’s him,” said Andreas.

The stranger had noticed us come in, and came over to greet us. Before Andreas could make any introductions, he looked straight at Shimon and said, “You are to be the Rock.”

I looked at Yaqov, who was as mystified as I was, but it seemed to mean something to Shimon. I realized later that Yeshua’s message wasn’t the same to everyone, but I didn’t know that then.

“You are fishermen?” said Yeshua.

“Yes,” I said. I couldn’t get more than that out of my mouth.

“If you come with me,” he said, “I will make you fishers of men.”

At that moment, food was brought out, and the gathering broke into small groups. The four of us and Yeshua ended up eating together, and talking long into the night. Yeshua didn’t say much, but his contributions were always the most profound. Somehow, by the end of the night, I had decided that I would go with this strange dreamer, if he would have me. I was surprised that Yaqov and Shimon—most of all Shimon—said the same.

Nothing was ever the same after that.