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King Of The Jews by William T. Stead


People of God behold; thy Savior is nigh to thee!
He is come who was promised thee long ago.
Oh! hear him, follow his guidance
Blessing and life will he bring to thee.

But blind and deaf Jerusalem has shown herself;
She has thrust back the hands held out to her in love; Therefore also the Highest has turned away his face, And lets her sink to destruction.

Jesus, accompanied by all his disciples, set out to pay his last visit to Bethany. Peter, with his staff in hand, walked with John beside the master. Judas was present, with disheveled locks and haggard look, James the Greater and James the Less, and Andrew and Thomas, and the rest of the disciples.

Then Jesus spoke unto them and said: |You know, dear disciples, that after two days is the feast of the Passover. So now let us make one last visit to our friends in Bethany, and then go to Jerusalem, where in these days all will be fulfilled which has been written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man.|

The disciples understood not his saying, and after some questioning among themselves Philip ventured to address Jesus, saying unto him, |Has the day then really come at last when thou wilt restore the kingdom to Israel?|

Jesus looked upon Philip with tender compassion, and said unto him, |Then shall the Son of Man be delivered up to the Gentiles, and shall be mocked and spat upon and they will crucify him; but on the third day he will rise again.|

Then said John in a voice that trembled with emotion, as the other disciples gazed at each other in horror, |Dear master, what dark and terrible words thou speakest. What are we to understand by them? Make it clear unto us.|

Then Jesus answered and said unto him, |The hour is now come when the Son of Man shall be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, if a corn of wheat does not fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone, but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit. Now is the judgment of the world. Now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.|

Then were the breasts of the disciples troubled, for they could not understand what these things meant. Thaddeus said to Simon, |What does he mean by this speech?|

Simon replied with a puzzled air, |Why does he compare himself to a grain of corn?|

Then said Andrew unto him, |Lord, thou speakest at once of shame and of victory. I know not how to reconcile those ideas in my mind.|

Jesus said, |That which is now dark to you as the night will be as clear as the day. I have told you before that you may not lose courage whatever may happen. Believe and hope. When the tribulation is passed, then you will see and understand.|

Thomas answered and said unto him, |What I cannot understand is that thou shouldst speak of suffering and of death. Have we not heard from the prophets that the Messiah shall live forever? What can thine enemies do unto thee? One single word from thee would annihilate them all.|

Jesus said unto him, |Thomas, reverence the secret counsels of God which thou canst not fathom.|

Then, turning to the others, he said, |Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you.|

By this time they had approached near the village of Bethany, and there met them one Simon, after whom there came Lazarus, who was raised from the dead, with Martha, his sister, and Mary Magdalene, the latter tall, dark, with long black hair, in dark blue dress with a yellow mantle.

Simon pressed forward; he was an old man and he hastened to meet Jesus. |Welcome, best of teachers, O what joy that thou shouldst honor my house with thy entrance. Dear friends, be also welcome,| he exclaimed; but he was startled to hear the reply, |Simon, for the last time I, with my disciples, lay claim to thy hospitality.|

Simon replied in grief, |Say not so, Lord. Often still shall Bethany afford thee brief repose.|

By this time Lazarus drew near; he was of less than middle stature and silent, as if his sojourn in the other world left him little to speak of in this. |See,| said Jesus, |there is our friend Lazarus.|

|My Lord,| cried Lazarus, embracing him, |the vanquisher of death, lifegiver and Lord, I see thee once again and hear the voice that called me from the grave.|

Then hastened the Magdalene to his side, and kneeling down, |Rabbi,| she exclaimed; Martha also said, |Welcome, Rabbi.|

Then Jesus blessed them, saying, |God's blessing be upon you!|

Then Martha asked, |Wilt thou Lord, grant me the happiness of serving thee?| while the Magdalene timidly inquired, |Wilt thou despise a token of love and gratitude from me?|

And Jesus replied with tenderness, |Do, good souls, that which you purpose to do.|

Then said Simon, |Best of masters, come under my roof and refresh thyself and thy disciples.|

So Jesus entered into Simon's house, exclaiming, |Peace be upon this house,| to which the disciples added, speaking together, |And to all that dwell therein.| Then said Simon, |Lord, all is ready, set thee down at table and bid thy disciples sit down also.|

Then Jesus sat down to meat, saying, |Let us now, beloved disciples, enjoy with thanks the gifts which our Father in heaven bestows upon us through Simon, his servant. O Jerusalem, would that my coming were as dear to thee as it is to these, my friends! But thou are stricken with blindness.|

|Yes, Lord,| remarked Lazarus; |O best of masters, dangers threaten thee. The Pharisees are anxiously wondering whether thou wilt come up to the Passover. They are eagerly watching for thy destruction.|

Simon said, |Stay here, Lord; here thou art safe.|

Then Peter interposed with an entreaty, |Lord, it is good to be here. Remain here, in the seclusion of this house, served by faithful love, till the gathering storm be passed.|

But Jesus rebuked him sternly, saying: |Get thee behind me, tempter. Thou savorest not of the things that are of God, but those that be of men. Can the reaper tarry in the shade while the ripe harvest awaits him? The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give his life a ransom for many.|

Then the dark-browed Judas spoke, uttering this time the thought of all. |But, master, what will become of us if thou givest up thy life?|

A chorus of approval burst from all the disciples, |Ah, all our hopes would then be destroyed.|

|Trouble not yourselves,| said Jesus, |I have power to lay down my life and I have power to take it up again. This commandment have I received of my Father.|

And lo, while they were yet speaking, Mary Magdalene silently approached Jesus, carrying in her hand a bottle of ointment of spikenard, very precious, which she poured over his head as she murmured but one word, |Rabbi.| And Jesus also said but one word, |Mary,| but his tone was full of tenderness and love.

As the perfume of the ointment filled the room the disciples spoke among themselves. |What an exquisite odor!| said Thomas, leaning past the others to look.

|It is real oil of spikenard, very costly,| said Bartholomew.

Thaddeus added, |Such an honor has never been shown to our master.|

But Judas could not contain himself. He growled from his distant seat, |To what purpose is this waste? The money might have been much better expended.|

|Yes,| said Thomas, |I almost think so, too.|

Then Magdalene, heedless of the murmurs of the disciples, knelt down and anointed Jesus' feet and wiped them with her long black tresses. Jesus, after a little while, noticing the muttering down the table, asked, |What are you saying to each other? Why do you condemn that which is done only from grateful love.|

[Illustration: |Knelt down and anointed Jesus' feet.|]

The Magdalene knelt back, sheltering herself as it were behind her Lord.

Judas blurted out impetuously his dissatisfaction. |To pour out so much costly ointment, what wasteful extravagance!|

|Friend Judas,| said Jesus, |look at me. Is what is done for me, thy master, waste?|

Judas said, |I know that thou lovest not useless expense; the ointment might have been sold and the poor helped with the money!| Hearing Judas' answer he half turned away and looked wearily upward, folding his hands.

|Judas,| said Jesus somewhat sternly, |hand upon thy heart now. Is it only pity for the poor which moves thee so much?|

Judas replied, |At least three hundred pence could have been got for it. What a loss both for the poor and for us.|

Then Jesus answered and said, |The poor you have always with you, but me ye have not always.| Then he said, |Let her alone, she has wrought a good work on me, for in that she has poured out the ointment upon me, she has anointed me for my burial. Verily I say unto you, wheresoever the gospel will be preached through the whole world, there shall also this which she hath done be told for a memorial of her.|

He then said to the disciples, |Let us arise| -- and then turning to Simon, his host, he said, |I thank thee, benevolent man, for thy hospitality, the Father will repay it unto thee.|

|Say nothing of thanks, master,| said Simon; |I know what I owe to thee.|

Then Jesus arose and said, |It is time to go hence. Farewell all ye dwellers in this hospitable house. My disciples, follow me.|

Peter said unto him, |Lord, wherever thou wilt, only not to Jerusalem.|

Jesus answered, |I go where my Father calls me. If it please thee to remain here, Peter, do so.| Then Peter declared, |Lord, where thou abidest there will I also abide; whither thou goest there go I also.|

Jesus said, |Come then.|

The disciples arose and clasping their staffs were ready to depart. Then Jesus turned to Mary Magdalene and Martha and said, |Remain here, beloved! Once more, fare ye well. Dear, peaceful Bethany, never more shall I tarry in thy quiet vale.|

Simon, sore troubled in speech as he heard these words, said unto him, |Then wilt thou really depart hence forever?|

Mary Magdalene threw herself at his feet and said, |Alas, I am filled with terrible forebodings. Friend of my soul! My heart -- oh! my heart -- it will not let thee go!|

Jesus said unto her, |Stand up, Mary. The night cometh and the winter storms come blustering on. But be comforted. In the early morning in the garden of spring, thou wilt see me again.|

Lazarus exclaimed, |Oh! my friend, my benefactor!|

|Alas!| cried Martha, |thou art going; and comest thou back nevermore?|

Jesus said, |The Father wills it, beloved. Wherever I am I bear you ever with me in my heart, and wherever you are, my blessings will follow you. Farewell.|

And behold as they turned to go, there met them Mary, the mother of Jesus, with her companions. Mary had a white mantle round her head, from beneath which her long dark hair hung down. She hastened to her son, crying, |Jesus, dearest son, I hastened after thee with my friends, in eager longing to see thee once more before thou goest, all whither?|

Jesus clasped her hands gently and replied, |Mother, I am on the way to Jerusalem.|

|To Jerusalem,| said his mother. |There is the temple of Jehovah, whither I once carried thee in my arms to offer thee to the Lord.|

|Mother,| said Jesus in solemn sadness, |the hour is come when according to the will of the Father I shall offer myself. I am ready to complete the sacrifice which the Father demands from me.|

|Ah,| cried Mary with bitter and piteous cry, |I foresee what kind of a sacrifice that will be.|

John and Mary Magdalene had joined the mother of Jesus, and the two Marys standing together united their lament.

|How much we had wished,| said the Magdalene, |to keep back the master and make him remain with us.|

|It is of no use,| said Simon gloomily, |his purpose is fixed.|

Then said Jesus to his mother, tenderly beholding her, |My hour is come.|

All the disciples cried, |Oh, ask the Father that he should let it pass by.|

Then all the women said, |The Father has always listened to thee.|

But Jesus said: |How is my soul troubled, and what shall I say? Father, deliver me from this hour! But for this hour came I into the world.|

But Mary hearing him, exclaimed as in a trance, |Oh, venerable Simon, now will be fulfilled that which thou once prophesied to me, 'A sword shall pierce through thine own soul!'| And as she spoke Mary Magdalene gently supported her from falling.

Jesus said in terms of gentle reproach, |Mother, the will of the Father was also ever sacred to thee.| His word rallied her courage and she replied, |It is so to me still. I am the handmaid of the Lord. What he requires of me I will bear patiently. But one thing I beg of thee, my son.|

|What desirest thou, my mother?|

|That I may go with thee into the fierce conflict of suffering, yea, even unto death!|

|Oh, what love!| exclaimed John, who stood tearfully beside the two Marys, wistfully looking for some ray of hope to illumine the darkness beyond.

Jesus embraced her lovingly. |Dear mother, thou wilt suffer with me, thou wilt fight with me in my death struggle, but thou wilt also rejoice with me in my victory, therefore be comforted.|

|Oh, God!| she cried in heartrending accents, |give me strength that my heart may not break.|

|We all weep with thee, thou best of mothers,| said the holy women, adding their tears to those of the mother of Jesus.

|I will go with thee, my son, to Jerusalem,| said Mary.

And the holy women declared they also would go with her.

But Jesus, holding her hand, tenderly forbade her: |Later you may go thither, but not now. For the present stay with our friends at Bethany. I commend to you, O faithful souls, my beloved mother, with those who have followed her here.|

Eagerly the Magdalene accepted the charge.

|After thee,| she exclaimed, |there is no one dearer to us than thy mother.|

But even at the eleventh hour Lazarus interposed one last word of entreaty: |If only thou, O master, couldst remain!|

Not noticing this, Jesus said, |Comfort ye one another. After two days you may come up together to Jerusalem, to be there on the great day of the feast.|

Mary said: |As thou wilt, my son.|

But the holy women said: |How sadly will the hours pass when thou art far from us.|

Then Jesus spoke to his mother and said, |Mother, mother, for the tender love and motherly care which thou hast shown to me for the three and thirty years of my life, receive the warmest thanks of thy son.| And stooping down he kissed her. Then raising his head, he said, |The Father calls me. Fare thee well, best of mothers.|

Mary asked him: |My son, where shall I see thee again?|

And Jesus replied: |There, beloved mother, where the Scripture shall be fulfilled: 'He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and he opened not his mouth.'|

Mary sobbing, cried aloud, |Jesus, thy mother, oh! Oh, God, my son!|

Half fainting she was held up by the holy women, who exclaimed, |O beloved, faithful mother!|

The disciples departed, muttering, |We cannot endure it. What will be the end of all this?|

Then burst from their lips the despairing cry, |Alas, what affliction lies before us all?|

But Jesus said, |Sink not in the first conflict. Hold fast by me.|

And the disciples repeated, |Yea, master, fast by thee.|

Lazarus and the women looking back after Christ as he passed out of sight, exclaimed, |Ah! our dear teacher,| while Simon said, |He brought happiness to my house.|

Simon then turned tenderly to Mary and said: |Come, mother, and condescend to enter in.| |One consolation remains to us in tribulation,| said Mary Magdalene, and Martha added, |To have the mother of our Lord with us.| Turning to the other women, Lazarus said, |And you, beloved ones, come with us, we will share our woe and tears together.|

All then together went into the house, Mary Magdalene supporting the mother of Jesus.

* * * * * *

Now as they came unto Jerusalem they looked down upon the whole city which lay before them. Then said John unto Jesus, |Master, behold what a splendid view of Jerusalem from this spot!|

Matthew said, |The majestic temple, how splendidly it is built.|

Jesus was troubled in spirit, and after gazing for a moment over the city, clasped his hands in grief and cried, |O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, O that thou hadst known even in this thy day the things that belong unto thy peace! but now they are hidden from thine eyes!|

Jesus wept.

His disciples beholding him weep were amazed. At last Peter ventured to say, |Master, why grievest thou so sorely?|

Jesus answered, |My Peter, the fate of this unhappy city goes to my heart.|

Then said John, |Lord, tell us what shall this fate be?|

Jesus answered and said unto them, |The days will come when her enemies will make a trench about her walls and close her in on every side, and lay her even with the ground. She and her children within her walls will be dashed to the earth, and not one stone will be left upon another.|

Andrew, giving expression to the general consternation, asked, |Wherefore shall the city have so sad a doom?|

Jesus said, |Because she hath not known the day of her visitation. Alas! she who hath slain the prophets will kill the Messiah himself.|

Then spoke all the disciples together, |What a terrible deed!|

James, the elder, said, |God forbid that the city of Jehovah should bring such a curse upon herself.|

And John with pleading voice added, |Dearest master, for the sake of the holy city and the temple, I beg of thee go not thither, so that the opportunity may be wanting to those evil men to do the worst.|

|Or,| said Peter, |go thither and display thyself in all thy majesty, so that the good may rejoice and the evil tremble.|

|Yes,| cried all the twelve eagerly, |do that.|

Philip said, |Strike down thine enemies!| and all added earnestly, |And set up the kingdom of God among men!|

Jesus answered, |Children, that which you desire shall come to pass in due time, but my ways are appointed to me by my father, and thus saith the Lord, 'My thoughts are not as your thoughts, and my ways are not as your ways.'|

Then, as if to cut short a useless discussion, he said, |Peter!| Peter replied, |What wilt thou, Lord?| and the Lord continued, |It is now the first day of unleavened bread, in which the law commands that we should eat the Passover; you, both Peter and John, go forward and prepare the Passover that we may eat it in the evening.|

Peter and John, who stood the one on the left and the other on the right, asked, |Where wilt thou, Lord, that we prepare the Passover?|

Jesus said, |When you come into the city there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water, follow ye him and wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the good man of the house, 'The master says, Where is the guest-chamber that I may eat the Passover with my disciples?' and he will show you a large upper chamber furnished and prepared; there make ready the Passover.|

|Thy blessing, O best of masters!| said Peter. He and John knelt on either side of their Lord, Jesus placed his right hand on the head of John and his left hand on the head of Peter, exclaiming, |God's blessing be with you!|

Peter and John having departed, Jesus said to the others, |Accompany me for the last time to the house of my Father.|

Then Judas, who had for some time past stood apart, came forward and said, |But, master, allow me; if thou wilt really leave us, make some arrangement for our future support. Look here,| he added, pointing to the small bag almost empty of coin, which he carried in his girdle, |there is not enough here for one day more.|

Jesus looked upon him and said, |Judas, do not be more anxious than is needful.|

But Judas went on muttering and looking not at his Lord, but at the bag, |How well the value of that uselessly wasted ointment would have lain therein! how long we could have lived on it without care!|

Jesus reproved him, saying, |You have never lacked anything hitherto and, believe me, that what is necessary will not fail you in time to come.|

Judas said, |But, master, when thou art no longer with us our good friends will soon draw back, and then we shall be left in sore distress.|

Jesus said unto him, |Friend Judas, beware lest thou fall into temptation.|

The other disciples who had listened to this conversation then interrupted, saying altogether, |Judas, trouble not the master so much.|

Judas retorted, |Who will take thought if I do not? Have I not been appointed by the master to carry the bag?|

|Thou hast,| said Jesus, |but I fear -- -- |

|And I also fear,| interrupted Judas, |that soon it will be empty and remain so.|

Then Jesus went close up to him and said gravely and gently, |Judas, forget not thy warning. Arise, now let us go hence, I desire to be in the house of my Father.|

Jesus then, followed by his disciples, excepting Judas, passed on to the city.

Judas, being left alone, said to himself, |Shall I follow him any longer. I do not much care to do so. The master's conduct to me is very inexplicable. His great deeds allowed us to hope that he would restore again the kingdom to Israel. But he does not seize the opportunities that offer themselves, and now he constantly talks of parting and dying, and puts us off with mysterious words about a future which lies too far off in the dim distance for me. I am tired of hoping and waiting. I can see very well, that with him there is no prospect of anything but continued poverty and humiliation, -- and instead of the sharing, as we expected, in his glorious kingdom, we shall perhaps be persecuted and thrown into prison with him. I will draw back. It was a good thing that I was always prudent and cautious, and have now and then laid aside a trifle out of the bag in case of need. How useful I should find those 300 pence now which the foolish woman threw away on a useless mark of respect. If, as seems likely, the society is about to dissolve, they would have remained in my hands -- then I should have been safe for a long while to come. As it is, I must consider the question, where and how I can find subsistence.|

As he stood alone under the trees, perplexed and troubled, Dathan appeared in the distance, and, spying Judas, said to himself, |The occasion is favorable. He is alone and seems much perplexed. I must try everything in order to secure him.|

Then stepping forward he laid his hand upon the shoulder of Judas, exclaiming, |Friend Judas!|

Judas started as if a serpent had stung him and striking his head with his hand cried, |Who calls?|

|A friend,| said Dathan; |has anything sad happened to thee? Thou art so absorbed in thought?|

Judas, staring wildly, asked, |Who art thou?|

|Thy friend, thy brother,| cried Dathan.

Judas, staring backward, exclaimed: |Thou art my friend, my brother?|

|At least,| said Dathan, |I wish to be so. How is it with the master? I also would like to become one of his disciples.|

Judas said, |One of his disciples?|

|Why?| said Dathan, |hast thou then forsaken him? Are things not well with him? Tell me that I may know how to act.|

Then Judas said unto him, |Canst thou keep silence?|

|Be assured of that,| said Dathan.

|Then,| answered Judas, |it is no longer going well with him. He says himself his last hour has come.| And then Judas rapidly ran over the various predictions of disaster which he had heard from the lips of Jesus. |I intend to forsake him, for he will yet bring us all to ruin. See here,| said he, producing the almost empty purse, |I am treasurer, see how it stands with us.|

|Friend,| said Dathan, shrugging his shoulders, |I shall remain as I am.| At this moment six of Dathan's companions came up.

Judas, alarmed, asked, |Who are these? I will not say another word.|

|Stay, friend,| said one of the newcomers, |you will not regret it.|

|Why have you come here?| asked Judas.

|We were going back to Jerusalem and we will bear thee company if it please thee.|

Judas, suspiciously eyeing them, asked, |Do you also perhaps wish to go after the master?|

Then said the traders, |Has he gone to Jerusalem?|

|For the last time,| said Judas, |so he says.|

|What!| said they, |for the last time? Is he then never going to leave the land of Judea again?|

|Why do you ask me this so eagerly?| said Judas, |do you wish to become his followers?|

|Why not?| said the traders with a laugh, |if the prospects are good;| and Dathan added, |Explain to us, Judas, the meaning of thy words that he would bring you all to ruin.|

And Judas replied: |He tells us always to take no thought for the morrow, but if today anything happened we should all be as poor as beggars. Does a master care thus for his own?|

|Truly,| said the traders, |the lookout is bad.|

Then Judas related once more the story of Mary Magdalene's waste of precious ointment. |And at the same time this very day he permitted the most senseless waste which a foolish woman was guilty of, thinking to obtain honor; and when I found fault with this I only met with reproachful words and looks.|

|And thou canst still care for him after that?| said the traders contemptuously, |and art still willing to remain with him? Thou shouldst take thought for thine own future; it is high time.|

|So I have been thinking,| said Judas, |but how can I find a good opening?|

Then said Dathan, |Thou hast not long to seek, for the fairest opportunity is awaiting thee.|

|Where? How?| said Judas eagerly.

|Hast thou not heard,| said the traders, |of the proclamation of the council? Such a good opportunity of making thy fortune thou wilt never find again thy whole life long.|

Judas' eyes gleamed. |What proclamation?| he asked.

The traders said, |Whosoever gives information as to the nightly resort of Jesus of Nazareth shall receive a large reward.|

|A large reward!| said Judas.

|Now who,| said they, |can earn it easier than thou?|

Dathan muttered to himself, |We have nearly attained our end.|

The traders pressed Judas anew, |Brother, don't neglect this good fortune.|

Judas said hesitatingly, |A fair opportunity. Shall I let it slip?|

Then struck in Dathan, |The reward is not all. The council will look after thee in the future. Who knows what might not yet come of it for thee!|

|Consent, friend! Strike the bargain,| cried all the traders together.

Judas hesitated one moment and then clasped Dathan's hand, saying, |Well, be it so.|

|Come, Judas,| said Dathan, |we will bring thee straightway to the council.| But Judas said, |No, I must first go after the master, and so obtain information in order to make things sure.|

Dathan said, |Well, then, we will go to the council and report you in the meantime. But when and where shall we meet?|

|In three hours you will find me in the street of the temple,| replied Judas.

Judas then shook hands all around with the traders. |Done!| exclaimed Judas, as Dathan and the traders left him.

Judas was now alone. He walked to and fro under the trees and said to himself: |My word is given; I shall not repent of it. Shall I avoid the good fortune which is coming to meet me? Yes, my fortune is made. I will do what I promised, but will make them pay me in advance. If then the priests succeed in taking him prisoner, if his reign is over -- I have assured my own prospects and will besides become famous throughout all Judea, as a man who has helped to save the law of Moses, and shall reap praise and glory. But if the master should gain the victory, then -- yes, then I will cast me down repentant at his feet, for he is good. I have never seen him drive the penitent from him. He will take me back again and then I shall have the credit of bringing about the decision. Anyhow, I'll take good care to leave a bridge behind so that should I be unable to go forward I can return. The plan is well thought out. Judas, thou art a prudent man. And yet I feel a little afraid to meet the master, for I shall not be able to bear his keen, searching look, and my comrades will see by my face that I am a -- -- No, I will not be that. I am no traitor! What am I going to do but let the Jews know where the master is to be found? That is no betrayal. Betrayal is something more than that. Away with these fancies! Courage, Judas, thy future is at stake.|

Judas, who had started with horror when he first mentioned the word traitor, resolved to play his appointed role and departed to find Jesus.

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