62- THE YEAST OF THE PHARISEES

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Eliazir: Well, I’m here. I have long wanted to talk to you…

Josaphat: Make yourself comfortable, Mr. Eliazir. This cushion has been waiting for you, ha, ha, ha!

Eliazir: And where is Abiel, the teacher? Hasn’t he come yet?

Josaphat: He must be on his way now. You know him, when he prays, he forgets everything… ha, ha, ha!…

A few moments later, the scribe Abiel arrived at the house of his friend Josaphat, the Pharisee. There they met that morning with Eliazir, the powerful landlord of Capernaum. They wanted to talk about something that had been worrying them for quite some time.

Eliazir: We can’t tolerate this. Ever since this man came to Capernaum, everything has become a mess. There’s no respect for the law, for religion, there’s no respect for anything! And it’s all his fault! That mob he goes with is capable of anything. With this man around, stirring the people with his ideas, we’re all in danger. Listen to me: That includes you too…

Abiel: Are you therefore proposing, Eliazir, that….

Eliazir: Yes, and with full force. Let there be formal charges against him before the Roman authorities. After all, aren’t they here to maintain order and put troublemakers in jail? No one can beat him! What happened in the synagogue the other day topped it all…

Josaphat: Well, you saw it, Eliazir; the Romans came but they didn’t do anything.

Abiel: Bah, the Romans don’t take us seriously. They despise us. They let us do our own thing, as long as we don’t bother them…..

Josaphat: Besides, if we accuse him, they’ll bring the case to King Herod. Herod’s a superstitious man, and will wait at least a year before he orders him beheaded, like he did with John the Baptist. I think we’d all like to finish this case soon…

Eliazir: Well, why don’t we pressure him to face the Romans directly?

Abiel: He won’t do it. Let me tell you this, Eliazir: He is as wise as a serpent.

Eliazir: So…?

Abiel: I’ve got another idea. Let’s leave Herod and the Romans in peace. Maybe we don’t need them. Probably he himself doesn’t want to get involved…

Eliazir: What do you mean, master Abiel?

Abiel: Every human has a price. Jesus of Nazareth ought to have it too, don’t you think so?

Eliazir: What do you intend to do?

Abiel: We’ll throw him a good bait… and the fish will bite it…. I’m sure he will….

Peter: James, listen to me: Salome went to the wharf a while ago. According to her, Josaphat the Pharisee was looking for Jesus in your house this morning.

James: What did that sly old fox want?

Peter: To speak with Jesus about something important. Salome went to look for the Moreno in the big house. There he was nailing a door in place.

James: Hey, that gives me the creeps. There’s always a rotten carcass where the vultures gather….

Jesus arrived in Josaphat’s house before noon…

Jesus: Well, here I am, ready to listen to you…

Abiel: Nice of you to have come, Jesus. It’ll be better that we go direct to the point…

Josaphat: It’s about your future, Jesus. A man like you matters a lot. You can ease people’s burdens with just a few well-chosen words coming from you. You’re a man who can go very far….

Abiel: We know that your father died a few years ago, that you are an only son and that your mother lives alone in Nazareth.

Jesus: I see you know a lot about me…

Abiel: What will become of your mother if you insist on the road you’re taking? Whom will she turn to if anything happens to you?

Jesus: I thought we’re going to talk about things clearly. What’s my mother got to do with all this?

Josaphat: We want to help you, Jesus, and your mother too. Since you came to the city, you have never had a regular job. Maybe a few odd jobs here and there, then you always pass away your time in the pubs…. This is really sad for a man like you…

Abiel: We could help you obtain something better. A sure job. You wouldn’t have to wait in the square every morning waiting for nothing. We’ll give you work… not much work, ha, ha…. but something easy and interesting… We’ve got connections, you know that.

Jesus: And what’s the price for this favor? I guess you wouldn’t do that for free.

Abiel: Look, Nazarene, let’s get to the point. You have created a lot of trouble in Capernaum. Everyone knows this, even the Romans. It wouldn’t be difficult to make them see that you’re a menace to Rome. You know what happens next… they will cut off your tongue. But… there’s still time.

Josaphat: If you keep your mouth shut, we’ll leave you in peace. And to prove to you that we know how to appreciate your worth… we’ll in turn give you a good post, and you could earn plenty of money…

Abiel: Yes, of course we know that money is not everything… but in this job people would be at your beck and call… I’m sure that will encourage you… You are an ambitious man, and you don’t settle for less. Look, Herod wants to revamp the administration in Galilee. He needs intelligent and capable people… like you…

Josaphat: Think about it, Jesus… It would be good for you to accept it…

Jesus: And if I refuse….

Josaphat: Well, in that case… your life might be in danger, you see… And not only yours… but also that of your fishermen friends….. poor fellows…. They’re still young and can defend themselves well… but your mother can’t… and people could make things difficult for her…..

Abiel: Try to understand, Jesus… Set aside all these idle dreams from your head. They’re like clouds that appear at one moment and disappear in another. Put your two feet on the ground, young man, and stop looking at the clouds…

Jesus: No, I can’t. I’ve been doing it since I was a little boy. We farmers can hardly read from books, and that’s why we learned how to read what the clouds and the sky have to say….

Abiel: Talk to us clearly this time, Jesus.

Jesus: That’s very clear. Like me, you also know how to read the clouds. If the sky becomes red like blood in the afternoon, that means we’ll have a fair weather, isn’t that so?… And if the clouds hide themselves and the southwind begins to blow, what would you say’s gonna happen?

Josaphat: Ha, ha…. That’s a sign of a warm weather…

Jesus: And you, Master Abiel, what happens if the clouds gather along the west?

Abiel: There’s gonna be a storm…

Josaphat: Enough! Where are you leading us, anyway?

Jesus: Hypocrites! How come you know the signs from above, yet do not see those from below!…. Yes, there’s going to be a storm… from below!… Hypocrites! Aren’t you aware of what’s happening around you? The people are awake, but you continue to sleep. You call one crazy and a dreamer if you can’t buy him with your money. Hypocrites! The prophet John did not eat nor drink, and you accused him of being possessed by a demon. On the other hand, when I go to the pub, you say I’m a drunkard and a glutton. You are like stupid children doing things at the wrong time: you don’t dance at a wedding, neither do you cry at a wake. To think that you are the wise men and the priests of Israel! Hyprocrites!…

Abiel: Just a minute, Nazarene, listen…

But Jesus turned his back and left the house…

Abiel: Imbecile! You’ll regret this some day.

Peter: What happened, Jesus? What did they want from you?

Jesus: The usual thing, Peter. They’ve been after us since that incident in the synagogue.

James: You’ve got to be careful, Jesus. These people are dangerous.

Jesus: They say we’re the dangerous ones, and not they.

James: Oh, yeah? So, they’re afraid of us! Hell, I like that!

Philip: Well I don’t… They also feared the prophet, John… see what happened to him….

Jesus: John had to end up that way… What was he? Not a bamboo that’s jostled by the wind? No, he didn’t bow before anyone.

Peter: Not even before King Herod himself, so to speak…

Jesus: That’s why they cut him in the middle, like an upright tree. That was the only way to finish him off… He was also offered the good life of influence and money, but John never gave in to anything.

Peter: Okay, so what happened, Jesus? Why did they call you? To talk about the prophet, John?…. Are they still afraid of a dead man?

Jesus: No, Peter, now we’re the ones worrying them. They fear that people may open their eyes and realize that the religion that is taught them is nothing but a roll of human laws and precepts invented by themselves. That’s why they want to keep our mouth shut, by force or cunning, whichever works best…

Philip: What’ll they do?

Jesus: They’ll have to use force, Philip. They’re violent men. All the privileges they’re enjoying were obtained that way, at the expense of others. Now, they want to buy the Kingdom of God through the use of force…

James: Did they offer you money, Jesus?

Jesus: Yeah, and a good job. Anything, just anything if we shut up. You know what I’m thinking?… From now on, we should keep an eye on the yeast of the Pharisees. A little of the old yeast is enough to spoil the whole dough. These people are rotten and can ruin everything….

James: They’ll think of every scheme to use against us….

Jesus: Today they wanted to trap me. Tomorrow it could be Nathanael or Thomas or Judas… or anyone of us.

Philip: Well, the way I see it, this matter of the Kingdom of God is becoming complicated…

Peter: People must be warned. These people have spies all over. With a couple of dinars, they pay a squealer and can ruin everything.

James: Damned owls! That’s what they are, lurking in the dark!

Jesus: Our job will be done in broad daylight. We’ll announce all our plans and everything they do behind closed doors shall be revealed right from the balconies of our houses… If they think we are intimidated, they’re wrong… We’ll never give up.

Eliazir: So, Master Josaphat, were you able to scare him?

Josaphat: Scare him? That fellow is too proud to be scared!

Eliazir: What did he say?

Josaphat: He’s crazy. He thinks he’s a prophet!

Abiel: The only thing he knows is to eat, get drunk and hang around with his gang of rogues…

Eliazir: So, what do we do now, Josaphat?

Josaphat: Bide time, Eliazir. The fish is caught by its mouth, as the lake people say. Well, this fish will also perish through his mouth. He’s so imprudent and arrogant. If he doesn’t shut up, then it’ll be the worse for him. You’ll see, friend, everything will just be a matter of time… Let’s leave him alone… He’s putting up his own cross, ha, ha, ha….

Eliazir, the rich landlord, and Josaphat, the Pharisee, a teacher and faithful follower of the law of Moses, continued talking. Meanwhile, the clouds, whirling about the west, promised a strong storm coming….

*Comments*
The social groups wielding economic, political and religious powers in society were gradually banding themselves together against Jesus. In this episode, the first of these alliances has taken shape. On the one hand is Eliazir, the landlord. In Galilee, after Roman domination the agrarian structure became highly centralized in the hands of a few. These landowners were naturally opposed to any popular movement with social justification. Together with Eliazir are two Pharisees, teachers of the law. Although it was not always the case that the Pharisees came from the ruling class, a number of them belonged to the latter. They had religious powers: They “saved” and “condemned” according to their interpretation of the Law. For this group, Jesus – who was associated with the “damned” and had no respect for the Law – was extremely dangerous. He questioned everything about the mechanism of religion. These two powerful groups finally tried to involve the political and military elements of Rome, in order to picture Jesus as dangerous, because he awakened in the poor the hope of liberation. Bribery was one of the innumerable tactics of the powerful to counteract any resistance from the people. In general, before getting rid of a leader, first there is an effort to “buy him.” Blackmail, a good job, money, or even threats are methods used to weaken commitment to a cause that demand sacrifices. Jesus, at this point in his life, was already very popular among his countrymen. He was a leader, and as such, must have been exposed to pressures of this type.

Jesus talked to his enemies of “the signs of the times,” which they failed to read. Not so long ago, the great prophet, Pope John XXIII, frequently referred to what he called “signs of the times.” He said we should be aware of what was going on around us in history in order to see the future and work for a better one for all. Just as Jesus awakened the people of Israel from their passivity, giving them hope through a community that shared and worked for the attainment of justice, in our times it is a sign for us as well. With Christian communities as a base, people’s organizations multiply, mature and grow. These, too, are signs of the times. They shall determine the future.

For “decent” people of his period, Jesus was a notorious man and his life was a real scandal for them. The gospel retained what was said of him: “one who ate a lot, a drunkard, and a friend of the prostitutes.” On another occasion, he was called “a Samaritan” (Jn 8:48), which was a strong insult, equivalent to “bastard,” a “son of a prostitute.” The entire gospel gives testimony to the fact that Jesus was not anti-social, nor a shy man, whose life had little to do with that of the monks, and the ascetics who inflicted self-punishment in order to free their spirit. Neither did he resemble the solemn and sober prophet, John the Baptist. Jesus was a man from the town. His natural environment was the square, the street and the barrio. For him his daily life was sanctified by people’s joy, full of simplicity and without complication, the very way by which to reach out to God.

(Mt 11:7-19; 16:1-12; Mk 8:11-21; Lk 7:24-35, 54-56)

62- THE YEAST OF THE PHARISEES

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