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Thursday 23 December 2010

YESHUA AND JESUS - Excerpt from Fifth Gospel

THE two boys sat on the grass. The priestly child, Jesus, was only twelve springs and fair, for he was a Galilean of mixed blood. The older boy, Yeshua, was fourteen springs and from the lineage of kings, as a Judean of pure blood he was of darker of complexion.

Jesus played a plaintive song on his flute. At one moment, the song wafted downwards, over the ridge of the mountain, floating over the Nazirite township below with its rows and rows of houses scattered among figs and pomegranates and grape vines. At another moment the song soared upwards to the sun’s jewel whose gleaming fell over the world and came to rest on the squat fig tree beneath which they sat.

Before them plump, white sheep stood silent and obedient in the grass. From the wide spaces there came a sharp breeze, herb-scented and cool, carrying the sound of a flock of doves flapping their wings in time to the dying and becoming of the soul-full tune.

Yeshua was restless.

He held a stick in his hand. He made figures with it among the cyclamen and the anemones and in a moment he threw the stick away and fell to watching the rustling leaves of the small tree.

He told himself, I see all created things because they are; and they are because God sees them, and because God sees them, I see them in the world, and because they are perfect, I see them in my heart.

But this did not content him.

He looked beyond to where the clouds melted into the heavens. The flute’s song would have calmed him enough to make him fall to sleep except that a dream in the night still lingered in his heart and filled him with puzzlement and concern. Jesus would know its meaning but he was taken with his flute. Yeshua would have to wait, for he did not wish to interrupt him.

Years ago when Yeshua and his parents had arrived in Nazareth Jesus’ family had been the first to befriend them. Discovering a shared lineage had added to their kinship and soon the two households seemed to have no distinction between them. This meant that he and Jesus passed season after season in each other’s company and in time developed a particular understanding between them.

From the beginning, the Essene teachers had singled them out from the other village boys and had sent for the Chazzan, the officer from the synagogue to come and instruct them. The Chazzan had schooled them on the Torah and the Mishnah and had given them instruction on the unity of the Law and the Faith. But the teacher soon discovered that a great gulf divided the two of them. Yeshua loved reading, singing and praying. The rituals of the festivals, all that could be learnt from papyrus and from the word resounded in his soul and gave clarity to his mind. In truth, the older he became the more he felt one with the destiny and the trials of his people upon whom he knew lay the destiny of all peoples of the world. Yeshua understood that Jesus was different. He was not one for the things of the world. His mind could not take up the teachings that the rabbis prized so highly, for his mind was flown away with the song of birds or the flight of a butterfly or the angle of the sun as it fell on a leaf. There seemed to be no space in his memory for knowledge and his vision of the world seemed, to Yeshua, like a soft-spoken dream dusted with the pollen of heaven.

The rabbis were knowledgeable but they were not wise for they could not fathom his friend’s soul. They could not see his capacity for love with their hardened minds. They did not realise, therefore, how with one touch of his hand, one look from his far-seeing eyes, one word spoken soft and rounded from his lips, he could awaken truth and undo all manner of harm, illness and worry. They could not see it, and so they thought him ‘addled’, a child that could not be taught - they called him. And so it was they concentrated instead on Yeshua and let go their training of Jesus allowing him to spend his days as he would spend them, with his sheep, playing his flute song.

The flute song came to its end and the silence of afternoon invaded the empty spaces of the day. Yeshua looked at Jesus and Jesus in turn let his eyes – not blue nor green nor brown, but all three in equal measure – meet Yeshua’s dark ones.

Feeling like a boy and forgetting for a moment that he was more knowledgeable than the priests in their synagogues, he said, ‘I wonder what the sheep are thinking?’ 

Jesus wiped the spit from his flute and looked at it. ‘Sheep do not have thoughts, Yeshua!’ 

Maze!’ Yeshua said, surprised. ‘No thoughts?’ 

‘What do they feel?’ 

Jesus gazed out at the sheep, measuring, or so it seemed to Yeshua, what lived in them. ‘They long for warmer days and greener grass...also...’ His face lit up in a smile. ‘They do not have sympathy for the goats...’

Yeshua smiled himself at the thought of it. ‘They do not like the goats?’

‘The goats annoy them and they smell bad.’

Yeshua laughed. ‘Yes, they smell bad and they are stupid!’ He turned to look at Jesus. ‘You are right! What am I thinking then, what do you see in my head?’

Jesus’ gaze touched Yeshua. ‘Your thoughts are too complicated for my reckoning,’ he told him. ‘They are knotted up, one with the other, and made of sharp corners.’

‘Well...if they are made of sharp corners...' Yeshua threw a clump of grass at Jesus. ‘How can they be knotted? Knots are rounded!’

More grass was thrown and soon the two boys were covered in green and dirt and laughing like anything.

They fell on their backs then and Jesus turned over on his belly, contented, cupping his chin with his hands.

Yeshua looked to the leaves on the tree again, chewing on a blade of grass. ‘Last night I dreamt I was an eagle,’ he said.

Jesus looked at him, ‘How high did you fly?’

Yeshua threw him a speck of a glance. ‘I flew so high that I reached the sun, that’s how high!  After that something strange happened.’


‘The sun turned into a beautiful woman, who stood on the moon and wore a crown of stars. She told me her name was wisdom and she showed me things in a deep well: strange things, terrible wars, fearful sights! She told me it was the future and that it would be grave but that I would perform a task that would save the world, but first I had to remember something, and then I had to forget it again! But I can’t remember what I had to forget!’

‘That is because you have forgotten it!’

‘That is true!’ he said, with a sigh.

‘What happened after that?’

‘The woman moved her hand over the well and showed me something more...she showed me an image of you.’

‘Me?’ Jesus turned his head all smiles and frowns at him. ‘What was doing?’

‘You were climbing steps, carrying something on your back...when I looked closer, I could see that it was me you were carrying, and that I was heavy. And you told me that I would be light if I let go of my treasures...that I would find them again, but that for now they were heavy. When finally I threw off all that I possessed I was light, like pollen in the wind! I knew that from that time there would be no need for words between us.’ He looked at Jesus, ‘I do not know what it means, this dream!’

Jesus nodded, thoughtful. ‘This is a difficult dream.’

Yeshua sat up to look at the heart-form of his friend’s face and the wide set eyes full of colours, ‘Not for you! You always know what my dreams mean!’

Jesus shrugged his shoulders.

‘Will you not tell me?’

‘Perhaps, you know too much already?’ Jesus teased.

Yeshua let his gaze roam over the sheep and the long view of the world, ‘I always tell you what I know!’

‘Yes.’ Jesus frowned. ‘You know many things.’

‘Come...brothers tell each other everything!’

‘We are not brothers, Yeshua,’ Jesus corrected him resting his head on the crook of his arm.

Yeshua scowled, feeling querulous. ‘Why not?’

‘Jacob and Simon and Jude and Jose...they hide behind corners to throw stones at me, they do this because they love you, because they are your brothers, not I.’

Yeshua felt the blood rise in his face. His brothers were mean spirited and ignorant. ‘If I could swap them for you - I would do it a thousand times over!’ he said.

‘That is why they throw stones,’ Jesus pointed out, with a simple clarity that cut at the roots of Yeshua’s anger.

There was a long thoughtful moment and something occurred to Yeshua. ‘Where is your knife...the one you carry for cutting rope? Come...give it to me.’

Jesus hesitated. ‘It is sharp, I am told never to take it from its sheath unless I have to.’

‘The sharper the better...come on...I’ll show you.’ He gestured full of impatience.

Jesus complied, but with caution. Yeshua took it and in a moment had made a cut in the palm of one hand.

Jesus grew alarmed to see blood, but Yeshua ignored it, and said to him, ‘Do you remember how the rabbis taught us that the body of a man, his flesh, Tzelem, is the image of God, and that his blood is Demut, the likeness of God. Do you remember? This blood is the likeness of God because in it flows the soul. Look at it! Don’t be afraid!’ He showed him his bloodied palm. ‘This is my soul you are looking at...now give me your hand.’

Jesus sat up and made a weak smile of hesitation. ‘Come Jesus, don’t you trust me?’

‘I trust you!’

‘Then give me your hand!’ Jesus put out his palm and winced. ‘The knife is sharp, it will not hurt.’ Yeshua made a swift cut and the boy stared at the blood now flowing from the wound with appreciation. ‘It did not hurt!’ he said amazed. ‘Your blood,’ Yeshua told him with a serious voice, ‘is also Demut, the likeness of God...Now, when I bring my blood, my soul, together with your blood, your soul, like this...’ He joined his hand to Jesus’ hand in a clasp and held it firmly. ‘It means that we are the same. Do you understand? We share the same likeness of God in our bodies. This means more than just brothers in the blood of Abraham, Jesus! Even though I share in the same blood with my brothers, my soul is not in Jacob, nor is it in Jude, or Simon or Jose, and theirs is not in me. But you and I, we are one now, and this means they can never come between us. Do you know what else, Jesus?’

‘What else?’

‘It means that if I die, my soul will still live in you...because we now share the same likeness of God, the same soul.’

They let go.

Jesus’ eyes grew soft and distant, and he seemed to be fitting this idea to his mind as he nursed his wound. Yeshua wiped the blood away from his hand and watched it ooze from the cut and spread into every crevice and line. He sucked the wound and said, 

‘Now you must tell me the meaning of my dream, because we are brothers.’

Jesus looked at him with a blank face. ‘I would tell you, because we are brothers, Yeshua, but in becoming brothers the meaning has winged away from my mind!’

Yeshua sighed and rolled over on his back again. ‘You goose! You have lost too much blood!’

The freshening breeze came and Yeshua felt a strangeness creep over him. He turned his eyes to the old road, and saw a caravan making its slow way in the valley. ‘I feel something will soon change, Jesus. Perhaps this is the meaning of the dream? It may happen when we go to Jerusalem, to celebrate our coming of age ceremonies...Do you know the first thing that I shall do in Jerusalem?’

Jesus took up his flute. ‘What will you do in Jerusalem?’

‘I will go to the priests and I will ask them why they shed the blood of sheep and goats and doves, and why they burn them for sacrifices, when Isaiah and David tell us we must not bring burnt offerings to God...’

Jesus began to play and Yeshua was not surprised, for talk of cruel things, of priests and temples and kings, never entered into his knowing. They were like the breezes that moved over this ridge on which they sat. They did not go deep, but brushed past and moved on towards other mountains, and other boys sitting with their sheep.

Yeshua watched the shivering leaves. ‘I think we shall be awakened at the Temple to something new, you and I.’

Jesus paused. ‘When our eyes open, because we are one, shall you see through mine and I through yours?’

These words made an impression on Yeshua. All day his dream had made him feel something in his heart and now that something sat on the lip of his mind, perched just so - near enough for him to taste, but too far from his reach to be grasped. It was tantalising and frustrating, this remembering, and he was so taken with it that he barely noticed Jesus begin to play another tune. And in this way they remained for a time, listening to God in the wind that carried the spring-song, God in the bleating of the sheep and in the chewing of the goats, until the sun began to fall towards the mountains and from below there came the sound of a woman’s voice, calling them for dinner.

They stood together then, as one, and descended the hill to their homes, arms over shoulders.

They spoke no more of their newly won brotherhood, or of the future that awaited them.