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Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Tribute to Caesar

Witness: Anya, a Jewish peasant woman of the time of Jesus.

Story n. 15 (see previous posts)


 “Whoever drinks from my mouth will never thirst.” 
This is Jesus’ promise and Anya’s desire: To drink every word as if it were the last drop of water in the desert. I’ll remember them, she thinks, cherish them, make them mine. Under the twinkling stars at night or the melting sun during the day she follows Jesus closely, loving him with the desperate awareness of the imminent end. But his voice is consoling, his demeanor peaceful. Anya rests in the unfading light that emanates from his being. The mere way he moves his hands about when he speaks fills her with wonder. She remains still, eager to capture each gesture and impress it in her memory.
The mountains outside of Jerusalem are blue and pale in the early morning mist and the humming of the bees accompanies Jesus’ discourse:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Remain in my love. This is my commandment: Love one another as I love you. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit.”
Anya calls him softly by his name, knowing that he can’t hear her while clearly and quietly he passes on to them his never-ending bliss.
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness. I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world. Believe in the light, so that you may become children of the light.”
Dwelling upon the harmony of his voice Anya watches how intently the disciples are listening. Beautiful Mary Magdalene is moved to tears, her pale hands clasped together against her chest. James, worn out and dusty, seems to rejoice at Jesus’ promises and exhortations. Peter is frowning, standing motionless with his arms folded. Jesus’ words evoke all sort of emotions and they always stir the heart. The Pharisees are not immune. Their reaction is usually one of contempt and distrust. They pretend to be righteous in order to trap him in his speech. Today a small group is approaching, ready to shatter the holiness of the moment. An icy chill runs through Anya’s body. In her eyes their essence is pure evil. One of them, a man with hollow temples and a high forehead, addresses Jesus:
“Teacher,” he says, “we know that you show no partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Therefore we ask you, is it lawful for us to pay tribute to Caesar or not?”
Jesus answers with a shade of irony:
“Show me a denarius.”
The man hands him the coin, watching him inquisitively.
“Whose image does it bear?” Jesus asks him.
“Caesar’s, “he replays.
“Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
The man remains silent. His lips shrink as he lays his glassy stare on Jesus. Anya smiles inwardly, wondering how many times the Pharisees will humiliate themselves before acknowledging that they are no match for Jesus. She has already forgotten that one day he will surrender to them and the Sadducees out of his own will. She refuses to remember what he said about the scribes arresting him, mocking him, killing him. She’s filled with the certitude that Jesus will never leave his disciples. He’s the Messiah. He will become King of Israel and bring glory to his people. He will be with them forever.