The Story of the Life of Jesus







Story of the Life of Jesus

Biblical Prophesies

Commentary on the Real Presence

Acknowledgements                             .



This Story of the Life of Jesus

plus the list of prophecies

and the text on the Real Presence

are dedicated to

Lou and Dorina Emanuelli

in thanks for their

constant love, kindness and helpfulness.



My story of the life of Jesus.                   Michael Blackburn. October 2001


My knowledge in writing this story comes from my Commentary on the Four Gospels, reading Giuseppe Ricciotti’s book of the ‘Life of Christ’, reading Maria Valtorta’s book ‘The Poem of the Man God’, which Our Lady recommended to the Medjugorje Visionaries, reading the Mystic Mary of Agreda’s writings who was reputed to have been told by The Lord to write down what He told her, having studied the Holy Shroud of Turin, having been on three Pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and Meditating when Praying the Holy Rosary.  My aim in writing ‘my story’ is to ensure that, as I get older and my memory may fail, I will be able to refer to it and continue to relive the thoughts. I will also be able to share them with anyone who may be interested.





Of all the known religions only Christianity has the wealth of prophesy to prove its existence. As early as Genesis there are prophecies which have since been proved in Christianity. At the end of the text there are a list of prophesies, not by any means complete, some of which will be referred to within the text.


Time & Creation.


My understanding of ‘time’ is that it is part of God’s creation. God, therefore, exists in timelessness; an eternal ‘now’ which we will only understand when we are the other side of the grave. God created the angels and us in order to give us love and to receive love from us. Our earthly understanding of love is almost certainly very vague. Only when we see God will we understand its true meaning.


Did Jesus really exist?


It is amazing how often this question is asked. It sometimes occurs when Christian principles are being discussed. Those who do not want to accept those principles try to find a way out by doubting the existence of Jesus. On those occasions it is useless to quote from the Bible. The disbelievers are not interested in the Bible. If they do not believe in Jesus then the Bible is also on their list of ‘things not to believe in!’ So we turn to Josephus. Flavius Josephus was a Jew who wrote in Greek in Rome about 93A.D. His book deals with ‘the science of the past’ and it is a mine of information diligently compiled. Through it Biblical scholars have been able to study ‘what we can learn about the Bible from outside the Bible.’ In his writings Josephus mentions ‘James the brother of Jesus, the so-called Christ’. In writing this Josephus presupposes that his readers know who this Jesus-called-Christ is. So here we have a Jewish historian, not a Christian, mentioning Jesus. Yes, of course

Jesus existed.


But this is also a cause of great concern. Jesus said ‘…………but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.’ John 3:18. This is not referring to someone who has doubts but to someone who has no doubts but still refuses to believe. If all else fails we must pray for these non-believers.



Where to Start?


There is only one obvious starting point to the story of Jesus and that is the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady. A perfectly spotless soul had to be prepared to accept the conception of Jesus. This soul had to be free from original sin which we inherit from Adam and Eve. Therefore God intervened in the normal course of events by ensuring that Mary’s conception, through her parents Joachim and Ann, was miraculous. In 1858 Mary announced this miracle to Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes when, asked who she was, she replied “I am the Immaculate Conception.”


We know nothing definite of Mary’s early life though mystics tell stories of her living in The Temple from an early age and it was from there at the age of about thirteen she was encouraged to choose someone to marry. But she had already made a vow of perpetual chastity. Joseph was presented to her as a suitable husband and it soon became apparent not only that he was a most humble man but that he had also taken a vow of chastity. Whether or not the mystic’s stories are correct, it was obviously a marriage made in heaven.


The Annunciation and Incarnation.


Mary’s Immaculate Conception did not mean that she lacked free will. Her first decision was, after listening to the Angel Gabriel, to give her “yes” or “no” to the question which had been presented to her. I have a picture in my mind of the whole of creation waiting for that answer. When it came it presented to the world an opportunity for peace which, two thousand years later, has still not been fulfilled. We are still waiting. But Mary has given her word that a time of peace will come. Mary’s humility could only obey the request laid before her. At her words “let what you have said be done unto me” the Incarnation took place. There is a painting of the Annunciation by Rossetti, which for me, surpasses all others. It shows Mary, after the Angel Gabriel had left her, rather than looking in a state of ecstasy, which most paintings depict, is shown in a state of horror as she clearly sees the life ahead, with all its trials and tribulations, which she has freely chosen. We all have our favourite verses for meditation and one of mine comes in St Luke’s Gospel; ‘……and the angel left her.’ Luke 1:38. I meditate on Mary’s thoughts at that time. Joy at the unbelievable privilege bestowed on her, plus dread at what this privilege holds, but also a feeling of total loneliness – one moment you are in the company of a heavenly angel; then you are alone; an unbearable contrast.


The Visitation.


After accepting the awesome task of being the Mother of Jesus (the Mother of God) her thoughts turn to her cousin, Elizabeth. The angel Gabriel had told Mary that her cousin is in the sixth month of pregnancy. Elizabeth was beyond the normal time of child-bearing and, for the next three months, would need a lot of help. At this time Mary and Joseph were promised to each other but were not married. Mary turns to her betrothed to help her visit her cousin. In those days travelling could be dangerous. Danger would come from wild animals but also from brigands always looking for an easy way making a living and with no conscience as to how they obtained it! For safety, those travelling did so in groups known as caravans. As they travelled some would reach their intended destination and leave the caravan, others would join it. So there would be many farewells and hellos on the way. It is certain that Mary & Joseph would have travelled in such a caravan. But first of all Joseph, who was a carpenter, would have had to hire a donkey and advise his customers that he would be away. “I’m sorry I won’t be able to start/complete the work until I return.” Two thousand years later those words sound familiar don’t they? Not a lot has changed!


Travelling in groups meant a loss of privacy and it is very likely that Mary would have found that difficult. But, putting her faith in God, who she now carried in her womb, she would have accepted the inconvenience as a small price to pay for being able to visit her cousin. The journey would probably have taken about four days, and on the final day would have passed through Jerusalem to Zechariah and Elizabeth’s home at Ein Karem.


The Bible contains certain moments when it is obvious that the Holy Spirit is powerfully at work. The interpretation of those moments will differ from person to person. For me one occurs when Mary and Elizabeth meet. There is no need for Elizabeth to be told of her cousin’s pregnancy nor of the wonder of what was in her womb. Elizabeth knew instantaneously as did the baby in her own womb which leapt with joy. This may have been the closest Jesus and John the Baptist came to each other prior to Jesus’ Baptism by John.


The Magnificat.


At their meeting Mary proclaims the ‘Magnificat’. She would have known of Hannah’s prayer which is known as ‘The Magnificat of the Old Testament.’ (1 Samuel 2:1-10) and used that prayer as the formula for her own.


Biblical scholars seem to disagree on whether Mary stayed with Elizabeth till after the birth. To me, the answer comes in St Luke’s Gospel ‘……..behold, Elizabeth your kinswoman…….is now in her six month…..’ Luke 1:36 and ‘……… Mary remained with her about three months……’ Luke 1:56. I can’t imagine St Luke making the total nine months unless Mary had stayed. And surely the greatest assistance Elizabeth would have required is at the birth. Mary would not have left when she was most needed.


St Joseph Realises Mary’s Pregnancy. 


We are left to assume that Joseph would have accompanied Mary to her cousins and returned to Nazareth to continue with his work. Then, at an appointed time, he would have returned to escort Mary home. During the three months at Ein Karem Mary’s pregnancy would have become more evident but Joseph was totally unaware of all that had happened at the Annunciation. But why hadn’t Mary told him? Because she hadn’t been told to do so. Complete obedience at all times. God is in charge, he will decide how and when events will happen. We can imagine the horror which filled Joseph’s heart when he saw the obvious signs that Mary, his betrothed, was pregnant. What does the Bible tell us? ‘But Joseph………..being an upright man and wanting to spare her disgrace, decided to divorce her informally.’ Matthew 1:19. That means that Joseph is almost unbelievably forgiving. Betrothal was even more permanent than our present day system of engagement. Whilst the couple did not live together as man and wife they were nevertheless deemed to be married but prior to the actual marriage service itself. Joseph’s love for Mary was so great that even though he thought that the baby in her womb had come about by natural means he was still prepared to cause her the least possible offence. Yet he did this at a time when his heart was breaking with sorrow. What a great man he was. What a great man he is! His feelings of despair are brought to an end when, in a dream, he is told that Mary is to be the Mother of God. The Bible tells us ‘… angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Do not be afraid, Joseph, son of David, to take to thee Mary thy wife, for that which is begotten in her is of the Holy Spirit.”’ Matthew 1:20. 


What a joy it must have been when Joseph told Mary of his dream. Surely his words would have contained a request for forgiveness for having thought that the pregnancy had come about other than by the Holy Spirit. Mary would have been totally understanding of Joseph’s predicament and would have told him that forgiveness was not necessary. Now they could plan together for the birth of the one who had been prophesied from earliest Biblical days.


The Decree of Caesar Augustus.


Mary & Joseph would have been aware of the prophesy of Micah:


          ‘But you Ephrathah (Bethlehem), the least of the clans of

          Judah, from you will come for me the future ruler of Israel.’

          Micha 5:1.


But they were in Nazareth, four day’s journey away, and yet the time for the birth was getting near! Did they wonder how the Prophet’s word was going to be fulfilled or did they just leave it to the good Lord to sort out? Whichever is the answer they would have recognised the ‘hand of God’ when Caesar Augustus decreed that a census must be taken. Here was the method by which they would be in the appointed place at the appointed time.


Once again Joseph would have to make arrangements with his customers. But this time he would finish the work-in-hand but not make any promises for new work. He knew that after the baby was born Mary would need all his help. Travelling with caravans was not suitable for new babies. Caravans were a rough-and-ready way of travelling and moved at a speed which had to be kept up with or get left behind. So Joseph would have planned to be away from Nazareth for some considerable time, certainly until the baby was strong enough to travel.


The Journey to Bethlehem.


But the same rough-and-ready travelling conditions would have to be faced on  the journey to Bethlehem with Mary approaching the time for her baby to be delivered. In fact when they left Nazareth the birth only four or five days away. I suggest ‘four or five’, rather than ‘four’, because it was almost certain that, due to Mary’s condition, Joseph would have to slow the donkey down and let the caravan disappear in the hope that another caravan would soon catch them up. In the meantime they were at the mercy of all the dangers. Fortunately, due to the Augustus’ decree there would be more caravans than usual, more people having to make the journey to their town of ancestral origin to register.


But the last day of the journey was the day of the Nativity. The very day when Jesus, our Saviour and Redeemer was to be born of Mary and join us in human form in the world which God the Father had created in perfection and which we have created into chaos. And it really is ‘we’. It is no good trying to put the blame onto the Israelites, or the Sanhedrin or anyone else. We may have been born two thousand years after the birth of Jesus but some of the mess he came to clear-up was made by ourselves, by our sins.


It might be suggested that, in those days, women were used to riding on donkeys, though it is hardly the best way for a pregnant woman to spend the day when her baby is to be delivered. But that was how Mary spent the day of her delivery. It must have meant that Joseph, seeing her discomfort, would have slowed down more and more until they were making very slow progress. That might have relieved Mary’s discomfort but meant that their arrival in Bethlehem was later than anyone else. Thus all the accommodation had been taken. We can imagine Joseph trying his best to obtain somewhere to stay but everywhere was already full. It is probable that, with plenty of customers, the landlords wouldn’t want to be bothered with a pregnant woman who would need more space and a midwife might have to be called.


The Nativity.


Joseph must have been saddened beyond belief when he had to tell Mary that the only place he could find was a place where animals were kept. What would her reaction have been? One of complete acceptance of whatever God would provide. None of the Gospel stories mention a ‘stable’ but St Luke mentions that after he was born Jesus was ‘wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger’. From the word ‘manger’ has come the belief in ‘the stable’. The words of Isaiah ‘The ox knows its owner and the ass his master’s crib.’ Isaiah 1:3. gives even more emphasis to the belief in ‘the stable.’ The Greek  translation of Habakkuk 3:2 is ‘Between two animals you will make yourself known.’ also gives rise to the tradition of two animals at the manger at Bethlehem.


But this is not what the Jews were expecting. Their expectations were of a leader who would come into the world to be a conquering King. One like the Machabees who would rid Israel of its Roman oppressors. The Jewish leaders had built up a list of six hundred and thirteen precepts which had to be meticulously followed. They covered everything from how to wash; what to wear and how to wear it; how to keep the Sabbath and even some rules like the Corban which denied parents the support of their children. (If a man made an oath of The Corban ‘offering’, then his money went to the Temple and not to assist his parents. It was made into a very serious oath which could not be broken.) None of these precepts and rules took into account the love which Jesus was to use as the main purpose of his teaching and his life on earth.


Our perception of The Nativity is clouded by Christmas cards showing a warm looking stable. We are not presented with the unhygienic conditions; the insects crawling over everything; the smell of the urine and dung from the animals, not a place to bring any baby into the world yet this is the most important baby ever to be born and is being born where God the Father chooses him to be born. So we have the first lesson of his ministry – poverty is not to be looked down on. Poverty and humility go hand-in-hand and are the cure for riches and pride.


I can meditate on Joseph and Mary approaching the stable and seeing the place where the birth was to take place. They must have tried to make a special space where things were somewhat cleaner and where Mary could have some privacy. Joseph would have lit a fire to give some heat and he and Mary would have had a meal of whatever food they still had after their long journey. They would have been used to praying together and as the time approached for the birth I can imagine them in deep prayer asking God the Father to take care of all the things for which they hadn’t been able to plan.


Eventually Joseph leaves Mary and goes to the stable entrance to keep watch in case anyone may happen to come. Mary is alone. All my readings regarding this moment agree that Mary had a most wonderful ecstasy which, when it was over, her baby had been born. Jesus was there in her arms. She spent some time privately adoring her baby who she knew was the Son of God. After a while she called Joseph who looked in wonderment at the baby and knelt to adore him. After kneeling for some time he asked Mary if he could hold the baby. As he took Jesus into his arms he was overcome with the realisation of the immense task he had undertaken on behalf of us all.


Some apocryphal narratives (Biblical writings not divinely accepted) suggest that Joseph went to fetch a midwife. But this does not agree with the understanding that Mary was alone at the birth. Saint Jerome, who translated the Bible into the Vulgate and must have been an incredible source of information said “No midwife was there; no women attendants lent their aid; she herself wrapped the child in swaddling clothes; she herself was both mother and midwife.”


The Shepherds.


Whenever the Pharisees and Sadducees thought of this moment it is certain that they would expect themselves to be among the first to be called to adore the long awaited Messiah. But that was not to be. Once again poverty and humility are the hallmark which will be repeated over and over again during Jesus’ ministry. It is to those carrying out the lowly task of looking after sheep that the message of the birth is first given. A choir of angels appear to them singing ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace for those he favours.’ The shepherds had been told ‘Today…….a Saviour has been born…..he is Christ the Lord’ and they will find the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. Luke 2:7. Luke must, at some time, have met and conversed with Mary who told him all that had happened. His Gospel emphasises the poverty of the situation.


So the first visitors to the poverty-stricken trio of Jesus, Mary and Joseph are people equally poverty-stricken, shepherds. We must not take our eyes away from the continual poverty which is being shown to us. Let it take seed in our hearts and in our souls.


How did the shepherds find the actual stable where Jesus had been born? There must have been many stables in Bethlehem. But ‘stables’ were the one thing which the shepherds knew about better than anything else or anyone else. They were probably able to eliminate some of the stables - too many animals: no room – too open: no privacy – and some converted into crude living space for the crowds coming to register – and they would be left with only a few which could be the one they were looking for. So with their own knowledge and the guidance of the Holy Spirit they soon found the place of the Nativity. They would be in awe as they entered. What they beheld was a beautiful young woman, a man who was busying himself in trying to make the space clean and warm and, in a manger, a baby. Here was the Saviour which the angel had told them about. They knelt and adored and offered the simple gifts they have brought – some goats milk – some bread – some kindling wood for the fire – simple but practical gifts which exactly filled the needs of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.


After the shepherds had left Joseph suggested that Mary get some sleep while he kept watch. As Mary sleeps Joseph ponders the task he has undertaken. On behalf of us all he is to look after Jesus the Messiah and Mary the virgin. I can imagine him trying to come to terms with all that has happened and making fervent prayers for all the help he will need.




As soon as possible, when the crowds had dispersed, the Holy Family were able to move into a house in Bethlehem. Eight days after the birth Joseph arranges for a Rabbi to circumcise Jesus. The purpose of circumcision was a reminder of the covenant between God and his people. Surely God the Son should have been exempt. But Mary had not received any instructions of exemption, therefore her son underwent the rite and observed all that the law required. Thus when only eight days old the baby spills his blood and is named Jesus.


Joseph would have brought with him whatever savings he had and his carpentry tools so that he could continue to earn money while he waited for Jesus to become strong enough for the journey to Nazareth.


The Presentation in the Temple.


Forty days after the birth, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple. Firstborn males had to be consecrated to the Lord and an offering be made ‘if she cannot afford a lamb, she must take two turtle doves or two young pigeons……..’ Leviticus 12:8. Mary would be required to undergo ‘the rite of expiation….’ Leviticus 12:7. No mention is made of the redemption payment of ‘five shekels of silver’ Numbers 18:16, which was required for the firstborn son. The Jews were great traditionalists so it is doubtful that they had allowed this payment to cease. Joseph would have known of this necessary payment.


It is about six miles from Bethlehem to Jerusalem. Today, on a bus, it is a short journey. But two thousand years ago it would have taken some considerable time. So Joseph and Mary would have made an early start in taking Jesus to be Presented in the Temple. Even today it is possible to see the steps which they probably used to enter the area of the Temple. Simeon must have been a very special person for him to be told ‘….that he would not see death until he had set eyes on the Christ of the Lord.’ The Holy Spirit had guided him to be there when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus into the Temple. Simeon recognised the child, took him in his arms and recited the words which we know as the Nunc Dimittis which thanked God for keeping his promise and accepting an end to his life ‘…for my eyes have seen the salvation which you have made ready…..’


Simeon’s Words


In my experience the most misquoted words in the Bible are those of Simeon. He is misquoted as saying “A sword will pierce your heart.” What he said was “A sword will pierce your soul….” Luke 2:35. If a mortal heart were pierced then the pain would cease at death. But when an immortal soul is pierced then the pain continues after death. Is that why Our Lady of Medjugorje is sometimes seen to be crying? She sees our sins continuing to hurt her son, the sword pierces her soul, and she cries.


Anna, a prophetess ‘came up just at that moment……..’ (Things don’t happen ‘just at that moment’ without the Holy Spirit being involved!) Because of the child Jesus she was inspired to speak words of praise to God.


The Magi.


By the time of the visit of the Magi the Holy Family had moved from the stable ‘And entering the house, they found the child with Mary his mother, and falling down they worshipped him.’ Matthew 2:11. Many suggestions have been put forward for ‘the star’: a comet (a small body of ice or dust moving around the solar system); the conjunction of two planets; a supernova (an exploding star). But an easier explanation, for those who will accept miracles, is that it was a sign sent by God to guide the wise men. The number ‘three’ came from the number of gifts which they offered. Gold to signify the kingship of Christ; incense his divinity and myrrh his redemptive suffering. In the Western Church the wise men have been named Caspar, Balthasar and Melchoir. They represent the Gentiles with Caspar being black and Balthasar and Melchoir white. Despite their wealth they had the virtue of humility and were not afraid to kneel and adore this child although the poverty must have been apparent. For prophecies we must look to Numbers 24:17. ‘A star will come out of Jacob’. Psalm 71:10-11 ‘The kings of Tarshish and of distant shores will bring tribute to him; and the kings of Sheba and Seba will present him with gifts. All kings will bow down before him…’ Psalm 71:15 ‘May the gold from Sheba be given to him…’ Isaiah 49:7 ‘Kings will see you and rise up, princes will see you and bow down’, and Isaiah 60:6 ‘Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah. And all from Sheba will come bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the Lord.’


King Herod. (He was never actually a true king but only a vassal king. He held his power by repeatedly changing his allegiance to whoever happened to hold the reigns of power in Rome.)


Herod must have been extremely – two-faced! He was well known for his appalling brutality, even to his own children. They only had to step out of line for a moment (even in Herod’s imagination) and he had them slaughtered. But, wise though they were, the Magi were taken in by his apparent solicitude towards the Messiah. To ensure the child’s safety they are warned in a dream not to return to Herod and ‘…they returned to their country by another route.’ Matthew 2:12.


The Massacre of the Innocents.


When the Magi didn’t report back to Herod he was furious. He had lost his chance to go to Bethlehem and kill the ‘infant king of the Jews’. In his rage he ordered that in Bethlehem and the surrounding district all male children under the age of two should be killed. He based the age limit on what the Magi had told him – and added a generous margin to be sure that the ‘infant king;’ would not escape him. At that time Bethlehem would be very small and the number of children involved may not have been more than twenty or thirty. Nevertheless it was a cruel act and one carried out entirely due to pride and envy. Herod couldn’t bear the thought of anyone being ‘king’ except himself.


The Flight into Egypt.


After the Magi had departed Joseph received a message in a dream telling him that he and Mary and the Child must hasten into Egypt because of Herod’s mal-intent. That must have been a terrifying experience. Anyone who has seen the arid desert which they would have to cross will realise that it is no place for a Mother and child. Joseph had been intending to take the family back to Nazareth and was waiting till they were all strong enough. But that journey would have been easy compared to the one now facing them. They would have travelled to Nazareth with a caravan. Now they were alone and at the mercy of whatever terrors they might meet.  


In the inhospitable desert the journey would have taken about a week. Bearing in mind the haste with which they left Bethlehem, one wonders how they managed to obtain any provisions for the journey. It is likely that they had insufficient of everything and suffered great privations as well as living in fear of being followed or at the possible terrors which all travellers had to face. To add to their difficulties it is very likely that Joseph would have taken with him the tools of his trade. How else is he going to support his family in a foreign country unless he can obtain work? But that meant an extra burden to be carried.


They arrive in Egypt. The Bible tells us nothing. It is only in the writings of the mystics that we learn something of their life as refugees: the privations, the racial discrimination resulting in Joseph having difficulty in obtaining work. Yet throughout their time in Egypt they maintained a loving empathy to all their neighbours. 


The Return from Egypt.


After Herod’s death Joseph has a dream when he is told that it is safe to return thereby fulfilling the two prophecies ‘God has brought him out of Egypt’ Numbers 23:22 and ‘…..I called my son out of Egypt.’ Hosea 11:1. So, once more, the Holy Family have to undergo the journey though on this occasion they would be able to join one of the many caravans plying their way between Egypt and Israel. They return to Nazareth.


From the information contained in the Bible, such as the names of those governing Palestine and the Priests holding the top positions at that time,   biblical experts are able to calculate, fairly accurately, the years when events took place. So they tell us that the flight into Egypt happened when Jesus was a few months old and the return when he was about one year old. 


The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple.


Of the next eleven years we are told nothing. But knowing that Jesus is the Son of God it isn’t difficult to imagine his life and that of Mary and Joseph as being one of prayer and great love and for Jesus a period of intense learning. He would have watched his father working at his trade as a carpenter and eventually would have learnt the trade himself. We can understand the perfection with which he would have worked and the justifiable pride of St Joseph watching him. With Mary he would have studied the Biblical writings and learnt them so thoroughly that, later, he would be able to quote them from memory.


It is in Luke’s gospel that we learn of Jesus staying behind in Jerusalem while his parents were travelling back home after the Passover. The fact that they hadn’t actually seen him all day shows the normal relaxed atmosphere in which Jesus lived. Men and women travelled separately and each thought he was with the other. The ‘three days’ would be made up of one day travelling away from Jerusalem, one day travelling back, and one day searching. The anxiety which must have filled the hearts of Mary and Joseph cannot be exaggerated. They have been given, and have accepted, the task of caring for the Son of God and they had failed! It is too awful to think of.


Their journey back to Jerusalem must have been filled with terror. Their loss would have been discovered when they stopped for the night. Rather than waiting until the morning they would have set off straight away and travelled through the night with every shadow and every sound seeming to be a brigand or wild animal about to attack. By the morning they were back in Jerusalem and commenced their search. They would almost certainly have gone to the temple early in their search but Jesus was not there. They would have asked everyone ‘have you seen a small boy with this coloured hair, and this height, wearing these clothes’. Yes some may have seen a boy of that description which would give Mary and Joseph hope of finding him. Eventually, knowing of Jesus natural interest in everything spiritual and biblical, they return to the temple. At last their search is over and they see him sitting among the teachers and asking them such searching questions that they were amazed. Mary and Joseph must have been overjoyed and yet they had a question to ask Jesus “Why?” His answer “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be about my Fathers business?” What Jesus was telling them was that God the Father took precedence over his relationship to Mary and Joseph. ‘……..and they did not understand the word that he spoke to them.’ Why didn’t they understand? Why was it necessary for the meaning of Jesus’ words to be hidden from them? It is a mystery. We will find the answer to those questions the other side of the grave. 


Life in Nazareth.


Jesus returned to Nazareth with his Mother and Foster Father. From this point Joseph is no longer mentioned in the gospels. He had carried out his job heroically and diligently. As well as being the bread-winner he had also been the guard and protector of Jesus and Mary. That he had passed on his carpentry skills to Jesus is borne out by Luke’s gospel ‘Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary…..’ Matthew 13:55. So after the death of Joseph, Jesus was able to provide for his mother and himself. But it also means that he knew what it was like to do a day’s work, to try and meet demands of customers, to work under pressure when things were wanted urgently. Nazareth, which is built on a high plateau, was a notoriously difficult place to get to. (In early biblical times it had saved Nazareth from being invaded. The charioteers were unable to negotiate the steep hill.) But it would probably also mean that, like all tradesmen, Jesus wouldn’t always be able to obtain supplies. But try explaining that to your irate customer! Jesus would have had to learn all the skills of negotiation and pacification. He would not be protected from all the trials and tribulations which, as well as the craft itself, are part of having a job.


Luke’s gospel tells us ‘Now Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his ministry.’ Luke 3:23. So from the ‘finding in the temple’ until he came to be baptised by John there are eighteen years during which time Joseph died and Jesus worked as a carpenter. We can wonder at what conversations took place between Jesus and Mary. Would they both have known, from the earliest days, of all the traumas which they would have to face or did they learn of it a bit at a time? From my readings of the mystics it certainly seems that both Jesus and Mary knew exactly what was to happen. That Mary had to live knowing of the ultimate passion and death of her son is awful to contemplate. It is equally difficult to imagine how Jesus coped mentally on a day to day basis knowing that in a very short time, only three years after the start of his ministry, he faced the most painful death which man had been able to devise. We can also meditate on the conversations of Jesus and his mother as the time came for him to commence his ministry. Mary was losing the bread winner of the family, but, much more heartbreaking, she was losing her Son who was also the Son of God. 


The Start of Jesus’ Ministry.


Mary would have known that the time would come when Jesus would commence his three year ministry. This meant that he would have to leave home leaving her with criticism from her neighbours who did not know where her son ‘had got this religion from’ and did not know how he could abandon his widowed mother. Working as a carpenter he had been the bread-winner. How would she survive without his support? As the time drew near Jesus and Mary must have spent time talking about the future – the next three years. Jesus would have saved up enough to be able to leave his mother sufficient for her day to day requirements. He would promise to come back to Nazareth from time to time. Later she would join the group of ladies who would accompany Jesus, his apostles and disciples looking after their daily requirements. We have cause for meditation on the day he left his Mother. What a sad parting that must have been.


Jesus’ Baptism.


Jesus commences his ministry by a sign of humility which, from the point of view of his relationship with God the Father, was unnecessary. He came to John for Baptism. The whole idea of Baptism is a release from sin – Jesus had never sinned. There is no doubt that The Baptist was endowed with many of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. So, as Jesus came towards him he knew that this was the Messiah. He would also be able to sense the perfect state in which Jesus lived. Which is why he asked Jesus to Baptise him rather than the other way round. But Jesus was both truly God and truly man and he was not prepared to short cut anything which men had to undergo even though, in his case, it was unnecessary. So Jesus is baptised by John and God the Father’s voice is heard “This is my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on him.” Isaiah 42:1.


The Temptation in the Desert.


After his Baptism Jesus goes into the desert to fast and prepare himself for the three years ministry to come. Towards the end of the forty days he is tempted by the devil. The actual temptations: ‘being offered nourishment apart from God’, ‘testing God for the sake of self-indulgence’ and ‘denying God to follow false gods who serve the powers of this world,’ may not represent temptations which we can recognise but, for Jesus, especially in his weakened state, they were attractive temptations which would require his full strength of will to fight and overcome. Eventually the devil is vanquished and ‘angels came to attend him’ God the Father was ever watchful of his Son.


The Loyalty of John’s Disciples.


John had gathered disciples around himself. They recognised the saintly man that he was and had great loyalty to him. To these disciples this Jesus would be a threat. So John had to wean his disciples away from himself and to Jesus. This was made the more difficult by the fact that their methods of ministry were totally different. The Baptist favoured a life of sacrifice – little to eat and ragged clothing. Jesus favoured eating among the people, especially among sinners. Consequently he had to be clothed in a way which was acceptable to the people. So the Baptist’s disciples needed persuading to leave John and go to Jesus. 


The Jealousy of the Priests and Pharisees.


The attitude of the Priests and Pharisees towards the Baptist and Jesus is sad. They are suspicious of the Baptist and his visually rough way of life but they are equally suspicious of Jesus’ quite opposite life-style and his contact with sinners. Their problem is that they have one thing firmly fixed in their minds and hearts – jealousy.


Jesus Gathers His First Disciples.


Now it was Jesus’ turn to gather some of the disciples around him. Some came from the Baptist, others were fishermen called from their boats. Jesus was able to see into people’s hearts and souls.


The Wedding Feast at Cana.


It is interesting to note that this is not explained as just a wedding but ‘A wedding feast’ because in those days that is the way for celebrating weddings. The event would go on for up to a week. (Which makes our present day even most sumptuous weddings seem rather like ‘quickie’ events!) Planning ahead for their weddings would take some time and need careful consideration. How many people were coming? How much would they drink? Add some extra for unforeseen guests or circumstances. But, despite all this planning things could still go wrong. Someone had accidentally under-ordered the wine. This would be a great embarrassment for the groom who would have provided for the event. We don’t know who was getting married but it must have been a close family member or friend because Our Lady and Jesus and his apostles were guests. Why were his apostles invited? We can only assume that Jesus’ ministry was understood and believed by those getting married which would make the presence of them all very special. Wouldn’t we all make extra space for such honoured guests? (By the time of the wedding feast in Cana Jesus would have only chosen three or four apostles and not the whole twelve.) 


“They Have No More Wine.”


Our Lady, ever watchful and caring, notices that the wine is finished. Once that information was passed to the groom there would be great embarrassment. It might have been possible to send for more wine but that would take time and the fact that there wasn’t enough would make it look as if he was trying to get married ‘on the cheap’! The happiness of the event would be destroyed. So Mary puts the problem to her son. “They have no more wine.” In doing that Mary must have known that Jesus had the power to perform miracles. How did she know that? Had he previously performed miracles or was her knowledge a gift of discernment? (Our Lady would surely possess all the gifts the Holy Spirit.) Jesus’ initial reluctance, “My time has not yet come”, would be characteristic of someone who had ‘the power’ but preferred to hide it rather than appear to be ‘showing off.’ Mary knows her son and realises the reason for his reluctance but her thoughts are with the wedding couple and so she passes the problem back to him by telling the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Jesus is now under instructions from his mother who he loves more than we can ever understand. His reluctance vanishes in his desire to carry out his mother’s wishes. ‘There were six stone jars……….each could hold twenty of thirty gallons……Jesus told the servants. “Fill the jars with water.” They filled them to the brim and took some to the Chief Steward who, not knowing where it had come from said, “You have saved the best wine till now.” (What vast quantities of wine they must have consumed! ‘Six jars each holding twenty or thirty gallons – filled to the brim.’ That’s a lot of wine! The people drank either water or wine and the latter probably had a low alcoholic level.) Hence Jesus carried out his first miracle. Not one which was to grant anyone a cure but an important one which showed his obedience and love for his Mother – our Mother – Mary. From leaving Nazareth to commence his ministry to the time of the Wedding in Cana would have been about two months. So being with each other in Cana would have been a great joy for them both. This joy would have continued as John’s Gospel tells us: ‘After this he went down to Capernaum with his Mother…………….’


The Twelve Apostles.


Jesus gathers the rest of his apostles around him: 1 Peter, 2 James, 3 John, 4  Andrew, 5 Philip, 6 Bartholomew, 7 Matthew, 8 Thomas, 9 James, 10 Thaddaeus, 11 Simon and 12 Judas. The same number as the tribes of Israel. Other followers/helpers were continually joining Jesus and they became his disciples. 


The Traders in the Temple. The first Pasch of Jesus Ministry.


Early in the first year of his ministry Jesus went to Jerusalem for the  Passover which celebrated the liberation of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. He must have been ready for what he saw as he would have seen it as a boy. The outer court of the Temple had been taken over by traders and was filled with the smell of dung, bellowing oxen, the bleating of sheep, the cooing of doves, along with the shouts of the traders and money-changers. The outer court was where gentiles came to pray, they were not allowed into the inner court on penalty of death. So their space had being usurped by those who were only interested in profit. On top of all this chaos it seems that others were using the outer court as a short cut between the city and the Mount of Olives. All the above activities were necessary especially the money changing as money would be coming in many differing currencies. But it should not have been taking place in the confines of God’s Temple. Jesus shows his authority by making a whip of cords and driving all the rabble out of the temple area, upsetting their tables and scattering their coins. His apostles remembered the words of Psalm 69:9 ‘Zeal for my house will consume me.’


Destroy This Temple and in Three Days I will Raise it Again.

Naturally the Jews question Jesus’ authority for what he had done. His answer leaves them none the wiser. “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it again.” There is no way that either the Jews or the apostles could understand what Jesus meant. It was three years later, after the resurrection, that Peter and the other apostles remembered and believed. By clearing the Temple what Jesus had done was make his Father’s house acceptable for prayer and draw attention to himself and to his ministry.


Nicodemus Visits Jesus by Night.


The Romans had allowed the Sanhedrin, which was the Jewish legislative authority, to maintain its power and control over the Jews. It consisted of both Pharisees and Sadducees. They were proud, stubborn and hard-hearted. Their minds were closed to anything except their importance. But there was at least one of their number, a Pharisee, who kept an open mind in his search for the truth. He was Nicodemus. He saw the miracles wrought by Jesus and realised that this may be the long awaited Messiah. He had recognised the mission of the Precursor John and accepted his baptism. To find out more about Jesus he took the risk of going to see Jesus. If his visit had been discovered he would almost certainly have been ostracised from the Sanhedrin. For safety he visited Jesus by night. How the visit was arranged we do not know. They had a long discourse in which, among many things, Jesus explains to Nicodemus of the necessity to be ‘born again of water and the Spirit’. Nicodemus asks how can one be born again – we cannot return to the womb? Jesus explains that man cannot ‘see the kingdom of God’ unless he has already entered into it, and his entrance into it is not accomplished by human means: “Amen, amen, I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit.” Jesus compares the ‘Spirit’ with the wind ‘which blows where it will’. It is from above that we must be born again. Nicodemus has to admit that he does not understand. Jesus replies “Thou art a teacher in Israel and dost not know these things?” Nicodemus listens while Jesus teaches. Included in the teaching are the words “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert even so must the Son of Man be lifted up……………” Perhaps, at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion Nicodemus remembered those words which is why he risked ignomy by helping Joseph to remove Jesus’ body from the Cross and place it in the tomb. 


The Samaritan Woman.


Only if we live in Northern Ireland, The Holy Land or some similar place where years of hostility have built up a barrier of hatred and suspicion we will understand the feeling of the Samaritans and Jews for each other. The initial cause of the problem was that when, during the time the Jews were exiled from their lands 586 B.C. to 430 B.C., a few were allowed to stay behind to tend the vines etc. These intermarried with the imported colonists. They were therefore a mixed race. When the Israelites were allowed to return from exile and rebuild the temple and walls of Jerusalem these mixed-race Samaritans wanted to help. But because they were not pure bred Jews their help was refused. This caused great resentment which, over the years, grew into a greater and greater hatred.


Jesus is left alone by a well (said to be Jacob’s well though there is no mention of it in the Old Testament) while the Apostles go into a Samaritan village for provisions. They probably went together for protection as they could anticipate a hostile response. That they left Jesus alone was not too surprising because it was ‘about the sixth hour’ 12.00noon. Normally nobody carried water in the heat of the day so they would not expect Jesus to come into contact with anyone.


But a Samaritan woman comes to draw water and Jesus commences a conversation with her by asking her for a drink. (As she neared the well she was probably disconcerted seeing a Jew there.) In speaking to her Jesus is putting her at ease. But his request for a drink surprises her. Jews and Samaritans did not share drinking utensils. By doing so the Jew would become  ceremonially unclean. Jesus was above such unnecessary laws. He was looking for souls to save not man-made laws to obey. Their conversation revolves around ‘water’, she is thinking of water from the well, Jesus is referring to ‘eternal life’. Through the gift of discernment Jesus knew that the women had been married five times which, even by Samaritan rules of divorce, proved an immoral life. Apparently she had not married her present partner. When Jesus discloses this knowledge the woman knows that she is in the presence of a prophet.


The woman mentions ‘The Messiah’ probably hoping that such a mention will bring their conversation to an end. From her point of view this Jewish prophet knew far too much about her. But Jesus declares “I who speak to you am he.” (This is something which Jesus had never done when he was in Jewish territory. Because of his constant miraculous curing of every ailment the Jews were often threatening to take him and make him King. This was not what the Father wanted. But here in Samaritan territory he was able to disclose his real identity.)


At that point the Apostles returned. They would have been surprised, even shocked, to see Jesus talking to the woman ‘But no-one asked “Why are you talking with her?”’  The woman returned to the village and told the people about Jesus. ‘…..they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed for two days.’


The Healing of the Son of a Royal Official.   


Jesus left the Samaritans and travelled towards the Sea of Galilee. When he reached Cana there was a Court Official from Capernaum looking for him. The Official’s son was dangerously ill and he wanted Jesus to go to heal him. Capernaum was some twenty miles from Cana so it would be a day’s journey. The official wanted Jesus to go there personally, like a physician. But Jesus tells him “Go thy way, thy son lives!” The firmness with which these words were uttered inspired an equal firmness of faith in the Father’s heart. He returned and is told that the boy is well and his improvement commenced at the time when Jesus said “thy son lives.” (The father would be a Court Official of Herod Antipas’ court. The same Herod who had The Baptist in prison. That the father was prepared to ask for Jesus’ help shows that ‘faith’ existed in Gentiles as well as in Jews and that Jesus’ fame had spread far and wide.)





Jesus Cures All Who Come.


The Gospel readings, which we hear during Mass, usually concern one main healing or cure. Because of that I don’t think we get the real mental picture of what it must have been like. My readings and my understanding of the situation is that crowds of people would come to wherever Jesus was. Those who could get there themselves did so but others would be carried by relatives or friends. So we can picture Jesus surrounded by a crowd of sick, injured, crippled, blind, deaf, demented people all asking to be cured. Jesus, as well as being fully God was also fully man. As if that wasn’t enough he was fully compassionate and he could not say “No!” I’m sure there must have been times, after a hot day walking from village to village ministering to the people, that he would be exhausted. But, as soon as the people knew where he was, along would come the crowds asking for healing and he never said “No!”. That did not mean that he could cure everyone. To be cured the sick person needed ‘faith’, without ‘faith’ Jesus’ ministrations did not work. 


Then there were the untouchables, lepers, who would break the rules by coming down from the caves or hovels to get as near as they dare without risking being stoned by the villagers. Jesus would do the unthinkable and physically ‘touch them’. By the ‘laws’ that made him unclean but once again we witness his compassion which was greater than the law. The lepers wanted Jesus’ healing and theirs was among the most miraculous of all. Their putrid skin would turn fresh and they would be told to carry out the ceremonial washing and show themselves to the priest. After having spent probably several years cut off from society, having to shout out “Unclean, unclean” and depending on charity for their food, it must have been the most incredible cure to experience.


The Gospels often refer to Jesus ‘driving out demons’. Where are those demons today? Are our psychiatric wards harbouring some of them which are not recognised for what they are? People like Adolf Hitler, who was responsible for the holocaust, and Joseph Stalin and Chairman Mao who between them murdered millions of their own people, were they possessed?  Are some of the terrible murders/rapes we read about carried out by demented people? I don’t know the answer. I just wonder.


The Suspicions of the Pharisees and Sadducees.


We learn from the Acts 5:34 that false prophets were not unknown in Israel and Gamaliel, ‘a wise teacher of the law’, gives two names Theodas and Judas the Galilean. Both had perished and their followers scattered. So the Baptist and Jesus were probably thought to be no more than another two to be dealt with. But the Baptist had shown himself to be someone special and he had a large following among the Israelites. Even Herod had a respect for the Baptist and only imprisoned him due to pressure from his wife Herodius to whom he had an illegal marriage which the Baptist had criticised. (Herodius was to take her ultimate revenge when her daughter, Salome, elicits a promise from Herod to give her anything ‘even half my kingdom’. Mark 6:23.)


Thy Sins are Forgiven.


The Baptist had not been afraid to criticise the Pharisees and Sadducees: “Brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the coming retribution.” As Jesus’ mission commenced the Baptist’s declined, so the Pharisees and Sadducees turned their attention to him. He also had no fear of acquainting them with the truth as happened when he said to the paralytic, lowered down from the roof, “Thy sins are forgiven.” The Hebrew word for ‘sin’ may mean either the sin committed or its consequences; and one of the principal consequences of sin, according to the Hebrews, was physical deformity, especially if it was serious and chronic. In which sense did Jesus use the term? ‘The Scribes and Pharisees (who were almost always present in the crowds looking for ways to accuse Jesus) began to argue, saying “Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”’ Their objection was that Jesus had forgiven the moral guilt, the remission of which could not be ascertained physically by anyone. But there was the other meaning too, that of visible bodily illness; and here it was physically possible to see what happened and all could judge for themselves whether or not Jesus had spoken recklessly. If he had the power to release the paralytic from his deformity then his words would be vindicated. Jesus spoke to his critics: “What are you arguing in your hearts? Which is it easier, to say ‘Thy sins are forgiven thee’ or to say ‘Arise and walk’?” The challengers must have realised that they were cornered, for their challenge had been accepted. Jesus spoke to the paralytic “I say to thee, arise, take up thy bed and go to thy house!” The sick man rose to his feet, rolled up his pallet and walked off. That should have been enough to have converted the Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees to become followers of Jesus and to return to the Temple in Jerusalem and shout the praises of this man, Jesus, who can perform such miracles. But they were hard-hearted and afraid that they might lose their exalted position among the people. So instead of being won-over and impressed by what their eyes had seen they continued to shadow Jesus; continuing to look for opportunities to disparage him and his mission. Such an occasion occurred when Jesus chose, as one of his apostles, Levi (also known as Matthew) who was a Tax Collector. ‘Tax collectors’ were Jews who worked for their Roman oppressors and as such were considered to be traitors. Here was a perfect chance to discredit this Jesus, who was becoming far too popular with the people. Not only had Jesus chosen ‘a traitor’ but he and his apostles had accepted an invitation from Levi to a banquet. The critics ask how Jesus and his followers can sit in the company of publicans and sinners? Jesus’ answer “It is not the healthy who need a physician, but they who are sick” should have been enough to make the critics realise their error. But that was not to be and throughout the entire three years of Jesus’ ministry they continued to follow him trying to find something with which to accuse him.


The Sermon on the Mount.


This was the occasion when Jesus chose to replace ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ with ‘turn the other cheek.’  Jesus teaches us to ‘Love thy neighbour and love thine enemy’ and also teaches ‘I say to you whoever is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgement’ and further ‘anyone who looks with lust at a woman has already committed adultery with her.’ The beatitudes give us a way of life which, if we can absorb into our lives, will enable us to live in peace despite what may be going on around us. (The site of the Church of the Beatitudes, overlooking the Sea of Galilee is a most beautiful place. The impressive eight sided Church was built by the Franciscans but paid for by Mussolini R.I.P. Perhaps that tells us something about Mussolini that we did not know.)




The Our Father. Fasting and True Riches.


Jesus would often go off by himself to pray and the apostles would have to go and find him. Eventually they would get to know his favourite places. But they wanted to know how to pray as Jesus did. In the days of the Temple in Jerusalem I’m not certain that the Jews were used to praying. The system was more aligned to making ‘offerings’. Thus the offering of the first born or of the produce was your ‘prayer’. If your offering were a sheep it would be thoroughly cleansed then taken and handed over to the priest. At that point your involvement was over; you had made your offering. It was then up to the priests to sacrifice the sheep on your behalf. 


Because of this emphasis on ‘offerings’ I’m not sure whether the apostles would know how to pray. But they saw Jesus, probably sometimes in an ecstasy of prayer. They wanted to share Jesus’ way of praying. So on an occasion when he was found praying, they waited until he had finished and then one of his disciples said “Lord, teach us how to pray.” Jesus told them to firstly go to a quiet place – “go to your room, and closing the door, pray to the Father in secret; and the Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.” Then he taught them the words of the Our Father. It is significant that the prayer is not in the first person ‘My Father.’ As such, we would come to the words ‘Forgive me my trespasses’ which would contradict Jesus’ command to ‘love thy neighbour’. When we pray the ‘Our Father’ we pray not only for ourselves but for everyone………………….’Forgive us our trespasses.’


At the same time he instructed them on fasting. “When you fast do not look gloomy like the hypocrites……….in order to appear to men to be fasting.” Jesus continued by instructing them on where their true riches are. “Do not lay up for yourself treasure on earth………….but lay up for yourself treasures in heaven…………….for where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”


The Centurion of Capernaum.


A Roman Centurion was a man in charge of one hundred men. It is surprising to find one who would be wealthy enough to build a synagogue. Nevertheless the Bible story tells us that he had done so. The centurion in question, whilst being a pagan, was obviously kindly disposed to Judaism. That he is also a good-hearted man is borne out by the concern he had for one of his servants who is seriously ill and dying. The centurion’s concern is conveyed to Jesus who makes his way to the centurion’s house. Then we discover that as well as being kind, and good-hearted the centurion is not only totally humble but has great faith. In his humility he suggests that Jesus does not come to his house and in his faith he believes that Jesus can cure his servant from afar. Jesus marvelled at the man’s faith and cured the servant. Jesus’ fame had obviously spread far and wide.


The Widow of Naim.


Naim is a tiny village and has probably not grown in size since Jesus’ time. These days, stopping off at the church means being surrounded by children asking for sweets! As Jesus is passing by a sad sight meets his eyes. He sees the funeral of a young boy, the son of a widow. Because of the special sadness of the death, the whole village is following the procession. Jesus’ compassion takes over and he stops the procession. His whole attention is on the weeping woman. He says to her “Do not weep” and going to the open stretcher on which the body lay says “’Young man, I say to thee arise,’ and he who was dead, sat up, and he began to speak. And he gave him to his mother.” It is not difficult to picture the scene and to understand Jesus’ total compassion. That same compassion is open to us whenever we are in need.   


The Baptist Sends Messengers to Jesus.


The way the Bible tells the story makes it seem that the Baptist did not know who Jesus was. Surely this can’t be correct. He certainly recognised Jesus when he came to be baptised so why should he have forgotten him? Also I believe that the Baptist would have had all the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Let us recall what Jesus said of him “Amen I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist.” No, I believe the reason the Baptist send his disciples to question Jesus was to prepare them to leave him and follow Jesus.


The Baptist’s disciples ask Jesus “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Jesus is ever cautious at making a direct claim to be the Messiah. So he replies “Go and report to John…..……….the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise” but leaves to the last “and the poor have the gospel preached to them” that being the most important.


The Penitent Woman.


The Pharisees continue to find ways to trap Jesus into saying or doing things which are against the law so that they can disparage him to the people. A Pharisee, Simon, invites Jesus to a meal. The table would have been in ‘U’-shape with the guests laying on divans round the outside of the U and the food served from the inside. So the feet of the guests are at the end of the divans. As the chief guest Jesus would have been placed alongside Simon who would be able to study him closely. During the meal a woman enters the room. She goes straight to the divan of Jesus, kneels, bursts into tears so abundant that she is able to wash Jesus’ feet and to dry them with her long tresses of hair and she anoints them with ointment.


Simon thinks that his trap has worked. This Jesus, who is meant to be a prophet, someone very special, obviously doesn’t know that the woman is a sinner. Jesus knows what Simon is thinking. He tells Simon the parable of the money-lender who had two debtors. One owed him five hundred denarii and the other fifty. The money-lender forgave them both their debts. Jesus asked “Which of them will love him more?” Simon replied “The one who was let off more.” Jesus said “You are right.” Jesus then points out to Simon that, on entering the house, Simon hadn’t washed Jesus’ feet or anointed his head or kissed him. These were all customary acts of respect towards guests. “But this woman has done all these things.” Jesus says to the woman “Your sins are forgiven……..Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Those who were at the table said “Who is this man, that even forgives sins?”


The Calming of the Storm.


The reason for crossing the Sea of Galilee seems to be to escape the crowds – Jesus would not be concerned for himself but he would be concerned for his apostles. They needed a rest from the never ending demands which filled their whole days. During the crossing a storm blew up. The waves were crashing down on the boat and it was at a risk of being overwhelmed. That Jesus is able to sleep under those conditions is a sign of his complete Faith in his Father. The apostles, lacking that faith, and fearing for their lives awaken Jesus. They say to Jesus “Save us!” They knew that Jesus had the power to extract them from this apparently deadly state of affairs. But what did they expect him  to do? We don’t know. What Jesus did was to command the winds to be still – “and there came a great calm.” The sudden change between storm and calm must have been, in some ways, almost as frightening as the storm itself. The apostles ponder “Who is this that even the winds obey?” We can imagine the apostles continuing the journey in complete silence not wanting to ‘break the spell’ of the miracle they had just witnessed.


Jesus ‘Drives-out’ the Demons into the Swine.


On the several occasions, when demons are driven-out, I don’t think we get the full picture of how awful the ‘demented’ person must look. As well as a demented appearance there will probably be foaming at the mouth, a lack of co-ordination in movements, great strength and appalling howling noises – very frightening. I can imagine the apostles, and anyone else who happened to be present, keeping well back from the demonic, in fact hiding behind Jesus, who with his usual authority and compassion takes charge of the situation.


Two of the synoptic gospels refer to only one demonic but the gospel of Matthew refers to two demoniacs. The answer may be same as for other places in the Gospels where some versions say one blind person and others say two. When there were two they used to stay together to help each other and so they became known as ‘one’ pair.


Faced by Jesus the demoniac falls prostrate, calls out “Jesus, Son of God the Most High” and asks Jesus not to torture him. The man is obviously possessed by many demons who call themselves ‘legion’. Their plea is not to be sent to the abyss of Hell (which must be an awful place if even demons don’t want to go there!), so they chose be sent into the swine. Jesus accepts their request and they leave the man. The swine rush into the lake, which can be regarded as symbolic of the abyss, and they drown. The local people, seeing what Jesus had done, feared at having someone among them with such power. There was no telling what he might get up to! So they urged him to leave. The cured man wanted to stay with Jesus but, uncharacteristically, Jesus tells him to go home to his family and tell them what had happened. That was the complete opposite of what Jesus usually said after a cure – “Tell no-one.” There were four main reasons for this; 1 He did not just want to be considered a miracle worker. 2 He did not want his ministry to be hindered by too much publicity about his cures. 3 The Pharisees were always looking for excuses for putting Jesus to death. The cures upset the Pharisees and gave them reason to want to kill him. Jesus knew that would be his ultimate end but did not want it to come prematurely before he had completed his ministry. 4 The people became so excited by the miraculous cures that there was the risk of them taking Jesus by force and making him their King. That had to be avoided. But, in the case of the demoniac who he had just cured, it had happened in non-Jewish territory, hence the swine, so the potential dangers did not exist.




The Daughter of Jairus and the Woman with a Haemorrhage.


Jesus and his Apostles are back on the other side of the lake at Capernaum. There was a crowd awaiting him but, most anxious of all, was Jairus. He was the ruler of the synagogue and his twelve year daughter (his only daughter) was ill ‘at the point of death’. He falls at the feet of Jesus asking him to save her life. They set out for Jairus’ house with the usual crowd following them, pushing, shouting, pleading and kissing his garments, while his apostles and disciples try to clear a path for him.


In the midst of all this noise and confusion Jesus says “Who touched me?” Peter is as perplexed as everyone else at the question. But Jesus ‘felt the power going out of him’. For those of us who don’t possess the ‘gifts of the Holy Spirit’ it is a mystery. But for Jesus there was a real ‘feeling’ of something leaving him and that ‘something’ was his ‘healing power’. It might be argued that at the moment of being touched he had not approved the flow of power from him. But we can be certain that unless the person receiving the ‘power’ had faith then the power would not flow.


At Jesus’ question “Who touched me?” a humble woman comes forward trembling, to fall at Jesus’ feet and tell the crowd what had happened. For twelve years she had suffered haemorrhage and had spent all she had in useless treatments. She knew that if she could just ‘touch but his cloak, I will be saved’. With the courage of her faith the woman had secretly touched the border of Jesus’ cloak and felt herself cured on the instant. Why hadn’t Jesus let her identity be a secret? Why had he brought her to the attention of everyone? Because he had something equally as important to tell her as her cure had been; “Daughter – Go in Peace.” (Jesus using the tender word ‘Daughter’ is used no-where else in Jesus’ recorded words.) Wouldn’t we all be happy to have our identities revealed, to be told by Jesus; ‘Go in peace’?


They continue to Jarius’ house but before they reach it some come to tell Jarius that his daughter is dead. Jesus tells the father “Fear not, only believe and she shall be saved.” They arrive at the house where the customary flute players and mourners had already gathered. The fact that these ‘official mourners’ were already there gives the impression that Jarius had been away from his house for some time. Perhaps he had been searching for Jesus and had been determined to find him rather than return home without him. When Jesus says that the girl is asleep the mourners laugh at him. (These mourners were probably paid for their services which would indicate why they had got there so quickly and why the girl being ‘only asleep’ wouldn’t fit in with their needs!)


Jesus is taken to the girl’s bedside. We can imagine the total anxiety of the parents as they watch Jesus who takes the cold hand of their daughter and says ‘Telita qumi’ which means “Girl arise!” The physician, St Luke, describes the effect of those words: ‘And her spirit returned, and she rose up immediately.’ The parents would be speechless in wonder and gratitude. In order to bring them down to earth Jesus makes a practical suggestion “Give her something to eat.” ‘And he charged them to tell no-one what had happened.’ That would not have been easy to do when the flute players and mourners would have to be told that they were not wanted! Once again Jesus’ compassion had been the driving force which had brought about this miracle. Where he saw ‘faith’ his compassion could not be denied. 


Jesus cures the two blind men.


As Jesus leaves Jairus’ house he is followed by two blind men. They will have heard of the cures which have taken place and see a ray of hope for themselves. They shout out “Have pity on us Son of David!”  Given Jesus’ habitual prudence, that title would not have pleased him as it was a term used to indicate the coming Messiah. Perhaps it was because of that that Jesus appeared to take no notice of them but walked straight back to the house where he was living. The bind men followed, led, presumably, by the crowd. Once they enter the house, away from the crowds, the Messianic words are of less concern and Jesus talks to the men, testing their faith. Jesus touches their eyes, cures them, and earnestly commands them not to tell anyone what had happened. But, like all others who had been cured, they went out and broadcast their news to everyone. Was that disobedience? It is more likely an irrepressible impulse of gratitude with no intention of causing offence.


The Mission of the Twelve Apostles.


In order to spread the message Jesus gives his apostles the ‘authority over foul spirits, so as to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every infirmity.’ Then he sent them out, two by two, into districts not yet covered, to announce the kingdom of God. They had strict instructions not to go among gentiles or Samaritans, but gather up the lost sheep of Israel. Not to take any money, no bag for the journey or extra tunic. Nor must they move from house to house but accept the hospitality of the first house to offer them space.


Extra tunics were used as a cover when sleeping outside. But the apostles were expected to find somewhere to spend each night. Moving from house to house would mean that they were looking for a better place – they must accept and stay at the first place. Nor must they stop to chat to people they met on the way. In the Orient the ‘greeting’ exchanged between travellers could last for hours. As recently as the early twentieth century a Bedouin approaching the ticket window in a railway station for the first time thinks he is obliged to ask the ticket clerk first if he is well, if his children are growing strong and sturdy, if his flocks or his harvest are satisfactory, and only after furnishing these and other evidence of his good breeding does he ask for his train ticket! So we can understand Jesus’ bidding to the twelve that they should avoid such lengthy discourses, not out of a lack of respect, but because their time was to be more usefully employed in announcing the kingdom of God.


The New Testament does not mention the return of the twelve. But other readings of mystics tell of their return and the wonderful stories of cures they have been able to carry out. Their mission had been very successful.


The Death of John the Baptist.


The Baptist is languishing in prison. But in the sumptuous palace events are taking place which will lead to his death. Herod respected the Baptist and used to talk to him. But Herod’s wife Herodias wanted the Baptist dead. He had spoken against their marriage and her pride had been permanently injured. On the occasion of Herod’s birthday she arranged a great celebration and invited all the notables; influential and wealthy people, who would gape at the latest refinements of metropolitan society which adorned the palace. But Herodias’ greatest pride and joy was her daughter Salome, the daughter of her real husband. She had learned to dance enchantingly, such alluring dances as the guests, being country people, could not possibly have ever seen before. The mother played on her daughter’s vanity and the girl responded wonderfully.


Introduced into the banquet chamber at just the right moment when the fumes of the wine and lust had already befogged the guests, the dancer’s shimmering legs whirled her drivelling spectators into a delirium. Herod literally melted with tenderness. Spectacles like this proved his court was truly up to date and superior to all other courts. He called the girl to him and said the words which completed Herodias’ trap! ”Ask anything, even half my kingdom, and I will give it to you.” (Herod’s words ’even half my kingdom’ were not to be taken seriously. They were a great compliment but no more than that. It would be similar to our saying “It’s raining cats and dogs.” We know that it doesn’t mean what it says! And anyway as a vassal King Herod did not have a kingdom!) Salome’s mother told her to ask for the head of the Baptist on a dish. Herod couldn’t retract his promise in front of all the guests so reluctantly he sent his executioner to carry out the gruesome task. Later Jesus’ disciples, many who would have previously been the Baptist’s disciples, succeed in recovering the body and burying it. When Jesus was told of the Baptist’s death he ‘went to a lonely place to pray.’ ‘Praying’ was Jesus way of ‘stoking up the boiler’; getting himself ready for even greater and greater spiritual work ahead. 


Jesus Driven out of Nazareth.


After the raising of Jairus’ daughter Jesus went to Nazareth. It is natural that he should want to minister to his own village but it was not to be a successful mission. To the people of Nazareth he was ‘Mary’s son’, or ‘the son of Joseph’, or ‘the Carpenter’. They would not accept his teaching and because they did not believe (have faith) he could not affect cures. They so resented his words that they were for throwing him of a high cliff to kill him. But, as often happened, Jesus was able to walk away from them. This must have been miraculous and based on the fact that ‘his time had not yet come’.




Parables have a seeming absurdity that conceals a deeper truth. Their fundamental message is that things are not as they seem; we must have our tidy image of reality shattered. For instance ‘The Good Samaritan’ is not primarily an illustration of compassion and loving-kindness to the suffering, but a challenge to see as ‘good’ those we would call our enemies. An advantage of Jesus using parables is that from them his enemies could find no direct statements to use against him.


To make it easier to find any of the parables here is a complete list:


                                                         Matthew             Mark             Luke

Lamp under a bushel                       5:14-15             4:21-22          8:16; 11:33

Houses on a rock and on sand        7:24-27                                   6:47-49

New cloth on an old garment           9:16                  2:21               5:36

New wine in old wineskins               9:17                  2:22               5:37-38

Sower and soils                              13:3-8                4:3-8              8:5-8

Tares (weeds)                                13:24-30

Mustard seed                                 13:31-32            4:30-32         13:18-19

Leaven (yeast)                               13:33                                       13:20-21

Hidden treasure                              13:44

Pearl of great value                        13:45-46

Drag-net                                          13:47-48

Lost sheep                                      18:12-13                                 15:4-6

Two Debtors (unforgiving servant) 18:23-34

Workers in the vineyard                  20:1-16

Two sons                                         21:28-31

Wicked tenants                                21:33-41           12:1-9          20:9-16

Invitation to the Wedding Feast       22:1-11

Man without a wedding garment.     22:12-14

Fig-tree as a herald of summer        24:32-33          13:28-29      21:29-32

Ten bridesmaids                               25:1-13   

Talents (Matthew) Pounds (Luke)    25:14-30                              19:12-27

Sheep and goats (Last Judgement) 25:31-46

The Seed Growing by Itself                                        4:26-29

Creditor and debtors                                                                      7:41-43

Good Samaritan                                                                           10:30-37

Friend in need                                                                              11:5-8

Rich fool (Hoarding Possessions)                                                12:16-21

Alert servants                                                                               12:35-40

Faithful steward                                                                            12:42-48

Barren fig tree                                                                               13:6-9

Places of honour at wedding feast                                               14:7-14

Great banquet and reluctant guests                                             14:16-24

Counting the cost of building the tower                                        14:28-30

Whether to go to war or sue for peace                                         14:31-33

Lost coin                                                                                       15:8-10

The prodigal son                                                                           15:11-32

Dishonest steward                                                                        16:1-8

Rich man and Lazarus                                                                  16:19-31

The master and his servant                                                          17:7-10

The persistent widow and the unrighteous judge                         18:2-5

The Pharisee and the tax collector                                               18:10-14


(John did not use parables in his gospel but he used ‘figures of speech’ – words expressed with a view to persuasive or impressive effect ‘I am the bread of heaven’, ‘I am the light of the world’, ‘I am the sheep gate’, ‘I am the good shepherd’ etc.)


The purpose of Jesus’ parables was to introduce the kingdom of God, or heaven. In the Sermon on the Mount he had spoken of the moral prerequisites for entrance into that kingdom but, now that a little more time had passed, it was necessary to take another step forward, to speak of the kingdom in itself, of its character and nature, of the members who should compose it, of the manner in which it was to be realised. In this regard, too, Jesus’ method was essentially a gradual one.


The reason for this is to be found in the acute expectation by the Jews of a political-messianic kingdom. To speak to these crowds of a kingdom of God without explaining and clarifying, would be to put before their excited eyes the vision of a celestial omnipotent king, surrounded by legions of armed men, or better, legions of warring angels; a being who should carry Israel from victory to victory and finally to dominion over all the earth, establishing as ‘lord and master’ of all pagan nations the people whom they had previously trampled underfoot but whose footstool they would now become instead.  

Yet it was precisely to these inflammable multitudes that Jesus had to speak of the object of their delirious enthusiasm, and to speak in a manner that would at the same time attract and not disenchant them. The kingdom of God was unquestionably to come, yes, and indeed it had already begun to be realised; but it was not their ‘kingdom.’ It was Jesus’ kingdom and quite different. Hence his teaching was to show and not to show, to open their eyes to the truth and to shut them to their fantastic dreams. Extreme caution was necessary, because Jesus at this point was treading volcanic ground which might explode from one minute to the next; and it was his compassionate prudence which induced him to use the parable.


Understanding the Parables.


Some of the Parables are easy to understand, others need interpretation. ‘Hiding your lamp under a bushel’ and ‘Houses built on rock or sand’ are easy but ‘New Cloth on a Old Garment’ and ‘New Wine in Old Skins’ are less easy to understand. The answer is that Jesus is the ‘New Cloth’ and the ‘New Wine’ – he brings a newness which cannot be confined by the old forms. The Parable of the Mustard Seed can be interpreted as the kingdom of God, having small beginnings but it will grow to come to its greatness and power.


In the Bible, yeast usually symbolises that which is evil or unclean. But in the Parable of the Leaven (yeast) it was a symbol of growth. As yeast permeates a batch of dough, so the kingdom of heaven spreads through a person’s life. Or, alternatively it may signify the growth of the kingdom by the inner working of the Holy Spirit.


The ‘Hidden Treasure’ would be understood by the people who Jesus was teaching. In ancient times it was common to hide treasure in the ground since there were no banks though there were ‘bankers’ but you had to be able to trust them. ‘The Treasure’ and ‘The Pearl’ epitomise ‘The Kingdom’ which we are seeking. They are so valuable that we will sell everything to be able to own them.


The Parable of the Drag-net is the same as that of The Tares (weeds.) There will be a final separation of the righteous and the wicked. The parable of the Tares (weeds) also emphasises that we are not to try and make a separation now and that it is entirely the Lord’s business.


The Workers in the Vineyard may be understood as unfair. But in the parable Jesus is teaching that someone who lives a long live on earth will receive not more than those who only live a short life. The parable also teaches that idleness is not identical to laziness. Work is more honourable than doing nothing.


The Parable of ‘The Two Sons’ sometimes causes confusion. The first, who says that he will not go into the vineyard, but then does so, represents the social outcasts. The second who says he will go into the vineyard but then does not, represents the religious leaders, with their mock obedience.


The message of ‘The Parable of the Talents’ as told by Matthew, can be taken to mean that we must make full use of the gifts (of the Holy Spirit) which are given to us. As told by Luke the ‘master’ is going to a distant country to be made king. (This is an unusual thing to do although the Herods did just that when they went to Rome to be appointed rulers over the Jews. And Jesus will soon depart and, in the future, will return as a king.) In both stories the third servant had hidden the ‘talent’ and wasted the master’s ‘trust’. He claims to know that the ‘master’ is ‘a hard man’ so he should have made greater efforts to fulfil the ‘master’s’ wishes. Luke’s story also contains the fact that his subjects hated ‘the master’ and sent a delegation….to say “We don’t want this man to be our king.”’ That may have been included to warn the Jews against rejecting Jesus as King.


Mark has one Parable to himself and it is the Parable of ‘The Seed Growing by Itself’. The mysterious power of the seed is to be compared to power of the

words of Jesus.


The Parables of ‘The Friend in Need’ and ‘The Persistent widow….’ are both examples which encourage persistence in prayer. If we persist then God will hear us.


Mark’s Parable of the Fig Tree is, on the one hand, a parable of compassion, which produces comfort in the disciple who stumbles along the Christian way. On the other hand, it is a parable of crisis, which should light a fire under procrastinators and other unproductive disciples.


To understand The Parable of the Great Banquet’s reluctant guests we must realise that all would have previously accepted the invitation. The excuses are spurious – no-one would buy a field without seeing it and no-one would buy oxen without trying them. Are the reluctant guests those mentioned by Mark in his Gospel 16:16 ‘……..but whoever does not believe will be condemned?’ These are people who do believe but stubbornly refuse to accept that belief. The words in verse 23 ‘….make them come in’ must not be misinterpreted. Middle Eastern hospitality accepts that even the poorest, with oriental courtesy, would modestly resist the invitation until they are taken by the hand and gently forced to enter the house.


The Parable of ‘Building the Tower’ refers to Jesus not wanting people to make a naïve commitment to him. As a builder estimates costs or a king evaluates military strength so a person must consider what Jesus expects of his followers.


The Parable of The Dishonest Steward is not necessarily as it seems. In discounting the debts the manager was making the debtors under obligation to himself. But he was not necessarily stealing from his master. The manager might have been reducing the interest payments to what they should have been before he previously enhanced them in order to make his commission (an acceptable way of making his salary). By so doing he would both satisfy his master, please the debtors and gain their good favour. All-in-all very shrewd. It is the manager’s astuteness which is being commended not his possible dishonesty. But what was Jesus’ purpose in telling this parable? It seems that the master did not intend to punish the steward which is a lesson in Jesus’ command to ‘love thy enemies.’ Another way of looking at the parable is that as the steward was decisive when faced with a crisis, so too should Jesus’ listeners who are wavering in their decision to follow him and his message.


The Parable of the Master and Servant is a lesson for the apostles. Stressed here is responsible ministry on the part of church officials who till the field of the church and shepherd its flock. The point is not that disciples are not worth anything in themselves or in their work for the Lord. The fact that disciples have done their duty does not empower them to lay a claim upon God that they are worthy of God’s graciousness. That graciousness is, and remains, a sheer gift.


I believe that all the other parables are easier to understand. They all have lessons to teach us.


The Feeding of the Five Thousand.


Following  the death of The Baptist, Jesus had gone to a quiet place to pray, but the crowds had followed him. In an attempt to find an even quieter place Jesus and his apostles take to the boat and cross the sea of Galilee. But the crowds are not to be outdone. They saw the boat setting off and anticipate where is might be heading. And they were right! So, once again, Jesus’ plans were thwarted. I feel sure that this desire for ‘a quiet place’ would have been instigated by his concern for apostles. Jesus kept up a hard daily schedule of work with little time for rest. He would have had similar compassion for his tired apostles as he would for the crowds who needed his counselling.


But here they were, a long way from anywhere ‘This is a remote place, and it is already getting late.’ The apostles want the crowds to be sent away but Jesus has other plans. Jesus’ words “You give them something to eat…”, and the whole episode which follows, are a prophecy of the Eucharist which is to come.


From Matthew’s gospel we learn. ‘The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.’ So it is ‘five thousand men’ plus the women and children. The total number could have been in the region of ten thousand. Matthew was careful to mention the women and children separately because he was writing for the Jews who did allow women and children to eat in public with men.


The crowd eat from the five loaves and two fish. (Bread was regarded by Jews as a gift from God, probably from their time roaming in the desert, and it was required that scraps which fell to the ground should be picked up.) Twelve baskets of scraps were collected.


The people had seen the miracle and this had helped to confirm that this man who could cure all illnesses, drive out demons, even cure leprosy and had fed them miraculously was indeed the long awaited Messiah. They were intent on taking him by force and making him their king. Jesus knew their thoughts and, after sending the apostles away in the boat, he made one of his usual miraculous escapes ‘he went into the mountains to pray.’


Jesus Walks on the Water.


The apostles, obeying Jesus, made their way across the Sea of Galilee towards Capernaum. It was dark, the wind was against them and they were making slow progress. Suddenly they see a figure apparently walking on the water. They think it is a ghost but then they hear Jesus’ voice saying “Take courage! It is I, do not be afraid.” Peter, as impetuous as ever says “Lord, if it is you tell me to come to you on the water.” Jesus says “Come.” Peter started to walk towards Jesus but the wind made him afraid, he began to sink. Jesus saves him and says “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” That Peter managed to make even a few steps on the water is amazing. But Jesus asks for a ‘faith’ which is strong enough to allow us all to walk on the water. Is there any wonder that we are all lacking faith compared to Jesus’ desire?


The Bread of Life.


John’s gospel is alone in telling us of Jesus’ words about ‘The Bread of Life’. It was the first of Jesus’ ‘I am’ statements: ‘I am the bread of life.’ He makes it perfectly clear that unless we eat his flesh and drink his blood we shall not have life in him. (This is a direct prophesy of the institution of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Jesus, which will take place at the Last Supper. Jesus’ words make absolutely clear his ‘Real Presence’ in the Eucharist.) But why did Jesus make this statement without qualifying it, without giving an explanation as to his future intentions? Indeed his words were hard to take and ‘From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.’ It seems that Jesus was testing them to the very limit. If, after all the miraculous cures and physical miracles, feeding the five thousand, – they did not believe in him and believe his every word, no matter how difficult that may be, then now was the time for them to leave.


Peter Speaks on Behalf of the Twelve.


The disbelievers walk away. They had taken Jesus’ words literally and were upset by their cannibalistic nature. Jesus asks the twelve “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Peter answers “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” They had no greater understanding of Jesus’ words than those who walked away. But they trusted Jesus’ every word and knew that, in time, all would be explained. They had faith. Those who walked away lacked faith.


(That Jesus let them walk away is a proof of The Real Presence of the Blessed Sacrament. If Jesus had only intended The Eucharist to be ‘a symbol’ then he would have called them back and explained the symbolism. But he meant what he said; “If you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” So he let them walk away.)


The Paralytic at The Pool of Bethesda.


A visit to the Pool of Bethesda today finds it somewhat worn by time but otherwise structurally much as it was at the time of Jesus. A few years ago some scholars mocked John’s Biblical description which stated that there were ‘five porticoes’. These were not to be seen and the critics enjoyed their moment! But the archaeologists got to work and soon revealed the porticoes just as John had stated. The pool was famous for its miraculous properties. When the water stirred the first one into the pool would be cured. The paralytic had been there for thirty-eight years always hoping to be cured. But his infirmity was so bad that someone else always got to the water first and others had relatives to help them, he had no-one. Once again Jesus’ compassion comes to the fore. After questioning the man Jesus says “Rise, take up thy pallet and walk.” The man got up completely cured. Rather ominously the bible tells us ‘Now that day was the Sabbath’; and we know what to expect!

The Jews see the man carrying his pallet, something not allowed on the Sabbath. The cured man explains that the man who cured him told him to take up his pallet. “Who is this man?” they ask. But he did not know it was Jesus. Later Jesus and the man meet in the Temple and the man is then able to tell the Jews who it was that cured him. The breaking of the Sabbath is one reason why the Jews kept persecuting Jesus but when they questioned him he said “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” Which is another reason why the Jews wanted Jesus killed, for calling God his own Father.


Jesus Challenges Ancient Traditions.


The Pharisees were ever watchful in trying to find charges to bring against Jesus. Their aim was to pester him with criticisms to try and humiliate him and discredit him in front of the people. They noticed that the Apostles did not wash their hands before eating. This was regarded as a serious violation of the ‘tradition of the ancients’ and even equivalent, according to rabbinic opinion, to ‘frequenting a harlot’! Jesus replied that obeying God’s laws comes before obeying ancient tradition. But he also showed the hypocrisy of the rabbis. They allow the commandment to ‘Honour thy father and thy mother’ to be circumvented by the Corban. This allowed offerings to be made to the Temple and there was no way of retracting the offering. A person only had to say the word ‘Corban’ and whatever was being offered could no longer be used to help the parents no matter how serious their need although it could still be used and enjoyed by the giver until consigned to the temple. It was a violation of the commandment ‘to honour thy father and mother’ but a way of increasing the offerings to the temple.


The Gentile Woman and Her Demoniac Daughter.


Jesus and his apostles have come out of Jewish territory. This is unusual because he was always insisting that his ministry was for the Jews. Perhaps he was wanting to escape, or give his apostles a rest, from the constant bickering of the Pharisees. Or perhaps he was wanting to find a quieter place where he could instruct the apostles who were still in need of much spiritual formation.


But his fame had gone before him and he is approached by a Gentile woman asking him to cure her daughter who is possessed by an unclean spirit. Jesus ignores the woman and continues to ignore her even though she keeps repeating her request. The apostles are embarrassed by Jesus’ strange attitude towards the woman. Where is his normal compassion? Why is he not answering the woman? The apostles beg him to answer her which he does by indicating that his ministry is for the Jews. Others will come later to minister to the pagans. Jesus said “Let the children (the Jews) have their fill, for it is not fair to take the children’s bread and cast it to the little dogs.” (Some bibles have the word ‘dogs’ but in the Greek it is ‘little dogs’ which indicates ‘puppies’ which softens the meaning and that would have been Jesus’ intention.) The woman is quick with her reply “Yes, Lord; for even the little dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs.” Here was the ‘faith’ which Jesus was looking for. “O woman, great is thy Faith” he says and at that moment her daughter was cured. Here we have a perfect example of persistence in prayer. The woman would not take “No” for an answer and her persistence paid off. A lesson for us all.


Jesus Cures a Deaf Mute.


Jesus is completing his journey through non-Jewish territory and is about to return to the area of the Sea of Galilee when a deaf mute is brought to him. He takes the man apart, applies some saliva to the man’s tongue and, looking up to heaven, says ‘Ethpetah’ that is “Be thou opened!” The deaf mute is cured instantly. Again Jesus commands them to tell no-one but the excitement of the man and the crowd are such that this command is ignored.


The Second Multiplication of the Loaves.


On his return from the Sea of Galilee Jesus went up into a mountain area and large crowds came bringing the lame, crippled, blind, dumb and many others and he cured them all and the people praised God. (As explained in an earlier chapter this is another example of Jesus being surrounded by those in need of healing and showing compassion to all. Gospel stories, which we hear during Mass, seem to concentrate on individual healing and we don’t get the picture of Jesus surrounded by the multitudes and healing them all.)


Such was Jesus’ magnetic personality that the people did not want to leave his presence, and had been there for three days during which time they had not eaten. Jesus does not want to send them away hungry. He asks what food they have available and is told “Seven loaves and a few small fish.” As on the previous occasion the people are told to sit down and, Jesus takes the loaves and fish and ‘gives thanks’. The apostles/disciples pass around among the crowd who ‘ate as much as they wanted’ and seven baskets of scraps are gathered. ‘Four thousand people were fed apart from women and children’.


The Pharisees ask for a Sign.


Despite all the miraculous cures which had taken place the Pharisees ask for ‘a sign.’ They are wanting to watch while Jesus carries out some apparently impossible task which could only be ascribed as miraculous. Jesus refuses. If the cures he has carried out cannot be accepted as ‘miraculous’ then the Pharisees will not believe whatever sign is presented to them.


Crossing the Sea of Galilee.


To escape from the Pharisees Jesus and the Apostles get into a boat and commence to sail across. As they sail Jesus says “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.” The apostles thought that Jesus was referring to the fact that, in their haste to get into the boat, they had forgotten to bring any bread with them. But Jesus uses the word ‘yeast’ as a symbol of evil. As a small amount of yeast can ferment a large amount of dough so the symbolic ‘yeast’ of the Pharisees and Herod can do an immense amount of damage.


A Blind Man is Cured.


Having crossed the Sea of Galilee they land at Bethsaida. A blind man is brought to Jesus for him to cure. Jesus led the man out of the village, put some spittle on his eyes and the man begins to see. So Jesus touched the man’s eyes and he saw clearly. But why did Jesus have to take the man out of the village and why two attempts to heal? It is only conjecture but perhaps the village was too crowded. Jesus needed a quieter place for this particular healing. That the man isn’t immediately cured may be due to a lack of faith - sufficient to complete the cure but not immediately. The man is then sent away and does not follow Jesus. Compare that with the healing of Bartimaeus (Page 50) who is cured immediately and follows Jesus praising him. The blind man at Bethsaida seems to take the cure for granted which shows a considerable lack of faith – probably just enough ‘faith’ for Jesus to effect a cure.


Who do People Say I Am?


From Bethsaida they travel towards Caesarea Philippi. This is pagan country so they are not troubled by the Pharisees. It is a kind of retreat for Jesus and his followers. Jesus is now half way through his three year ministry and the time has come to ascertain whether the apostles had any doubts about his identity. Jesus asks them “Who do men say I am?” The apostles have many answers “Some say you are John the Baptist”, “Some say you are Elias” and many other suggestions. Jesus then said “But who do you say I am?” The apostles must have gasped in amazement. Here was Jesus introducing the very subject which he had jealously avoided until then. We can imagine that there would be a silent pause – even the usual impetuosity of Peter is stilled by the enormity of the question. Then he replies on behalf of them all “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”


Jesus recognises that Peter hadn’t learnt this incredible truth from his own mind or his own investigation but it was the heavenly Father who had told him the truth and he chooses this moment to appoint Peter to lead his church. In doing so he spoke some very important words which we must always remember whatever trials and tribulations may come upon the church….”And I say to you, thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” In the twentieth century and now in the twenty-first century the Church is daily under attack from many quarters, those words of Jesus are the anchor of our faith. They do not mean that attacks will lessen or become less threatening but they do guarantee that even at its worst level the persecution can never eliminate the Church – even if it were to become almost extinct there will always be a remnant from which it will rise again.


At the same time Jesus said to Peter “and I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven….” Thus strengthening Peter as the head, the leader, of the Church on earth. A position which will be passed down through all the ages during which the earth will exist.


Jesus’ final words on this momentous occasion were to command the apostles to tell no one who he was. And that for two reasons. Firstly because ‘the people’ would misinterpret Jesus as the Messiah by wanting to take him by force and make him king. But secondly because the apostles themselves did not understand what was to take place the arrest; passion and death of Jesus. This is the next thing which Jesus deals with, telling them of the suffering which he will have to undergo. Peter’s impetuosity takes over “Far be it from thee, O Lord; this will never happen to thee.” And he who had just been made the head of the Church is slapped down, “Get behind me, satan, thou art a scandal to me….. ” Peter was only declaring what all the other apostles thought, the lingering desire for a conquering Messiah. They were reluctant to accept one of suffering.


A Difficult Verse.


Jesus is speaking to a crowd when he says “I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of heaven.” Various interpretations have been put forward to explain these words. It is thought possible that they refer to those apostles who will shortly witness ‘The Kingdom’ in the Transfiguration.  Another explanation is that the words refer to the apostles/disciple to whom a new understanding of God’s Kingdom will be given after Jesus’ resurrection. Another similar explanation is that the words refer to the anticipation of God’s Kingdom in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Yet one more explanation is that ‘the kingdom of God’ to which Jesus refers will be proclaimed all over the world after the destruction of Jerusalem which is to happen forty years after Jesus’ words.


The Transfiguration.


Mount Tabor is usually mentioned as the place of the Transfiguration though none of the Bible stories actually name the mountain. The other possibility is Mount Hermon. Psalm 88:12 doesn’t help: ‘Tabor and Hermon hail your name with joy’, giving either option! But at eight thousand feet Hermon would be a difficult climb whereas at one thousand seven hundred feet Tabor would be much easier and the ‘six’ or ‘eight’ days mentioned would be sufficient time to walk from Caesarea Philippi.


Jesus’ words of his future passion and death had not been a very good start for Peter being made head of the Church and he needed a boost to his morale. This is provided by the Transfiguration. Along with the brothers James and John, Jesus takes Peter up the mountain. It must have been a hard climb and the three apostles fell asleep but were awoken to see Jesus Transfigured and accompanied by Moses and Elijah.


The effect of ‘transfiguration’ is best described by Luke ‘…..the aspect of his face was changed and his clothing became sparkling white’. As if that weren’t enough he is suddenly joined by Moses and Elijah and the three of them ‘spoke of his death which he was about to fulfil in Jerusalem.’ Peter’s impetuosity comes the fore again. The situation demands silence but Peter speaks up “Master, it is good for us to be here, let us make three shelters, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”  A cloud covers them and a voice is heard saying “This is my son, the Chosen One, ‘Listen to him.’” When the cloud had lifted there was only Jesus by himself.


On their way down the mountain Jesus warned them to tell no one what they had seen, ‘until the Son of man had risen from the dead.’ They kept their silence with the other apostles but among the three of them discussed what ‘rising from the dead’ could mean.


The Cure of a Demoniac.


Down from the mountain Jesus and the three apostles find the other apostles in a dispute with the scribes. The point of the dispute is a boy possessed by a demon which flings the boy into fits bruising him and making him grind his teeth and foam at the mouth. The scribes, pleased to find anything which they can use to belittle Jesus and his followers, have noticed that the Apostles have tried and failed to rid the boy of the demon.


The boy’s father asks Jesus for help. Jesus’ immediate reaction is one of sadness that his apostles lacked the faith to drive out the demon. (We have previously learned that without faith healing cannot take place. This has meant the faith of the person to be cured. Though in the case of the demonic boy it is his father who will need the faith. But in the case of this particular cure it was a lack of faith of the apostles themselves which led to their attempts being unsuccessful.) Jesus deplores the lack of faith of the scribes, the father of the boy and the apostles and says “Bring the boy to me.” In the presence of Jesus the demon becomes violent and the boy falls and is grunting and foaming at the mouth. Jesus asks the father “How long has this befallen him?” In asking this question Jesus isn’t trying to make a physician’s diagnosis but to convey to all who are watching the greatness of the ‘miracle’ he is about to work. The father answers “From his childhood. If you can do something, help us.” by the words ‘If you can do something’ the man shows a lack of faith. Jesus replies “All things are possible to him who believes.” The father senses that he must have great faith and replies with tears “I do believe! Help my unbelief!” Jesus commands the evil spirit to come out of the boy which it does leaving the boy as if dead. But Jesus took the boy by his hand and ‘restored him to his father.’


The apostles ask Jesus why they were unable to cast out the demon. They are told ‘because of their lack of faith.’ To demonstrate the power of faith Jesus tells his apostles “If you have faith like a mustard seed you will say to this mountain: Remove from here – and it will remove.” The mountain Jesus is referring to is probably Mount Tabor.


The Miracle of the Coin in the mouth of the Fish. 


They return to Capernaum and are asked for the tribute to the Temple in Jerusalem. This was a tax for the upkeep of the Temple which was collected annually usually before a feast day, in this case the feast of the Passover. The tax collectors approach Peter and ask whether Jesus is going to pay the tax. Jesus points out that kings do not pay taxes. In fact the taxes are collected for kings. As he is the son of the King of Kings he is exempt from the tax but so as not to upset the tax collectors Jesus sends Peter to the Sea of Galilee and tells him to cast a line with a hook. The first fish which he catches will have a coin worth two didrachmas in its mouth which will cover the tax for both Jesus and Peter. Peter did as he had been commanded. The fish was caught, the coin extracted from its mouth and the tax paid!


To Enter the Kingdom of Heaven Become Like Little Children.


On their way into Capernaum Jesus had heard the apostles arguing with each other. He asks them what they were arguing about. They are reluctant tell him (though it is certain that Jesus already knew). Eventually one of them tells Jesus that they were arguing about which of them was the greatest and which of them should sit next to Jesus in heaven. Jesus answers them by taking a little child and setting him in the midst of them. He then explains that to enter heaven one must become like that child. ‘Greatness’ is measured in humility. To emphasise the point Jesus tells his apostles that, rather than anyone scandalise a little child, it would be better that a mill stone were tied around his neck and be thrown into the sea.




The Man Driving Out Devils.


The apostles had found a man driving out devils in Jesus’ name and had stopped him doing so. Jesus told them that they should not have stopped him. ‘………whoever is not against you is for you……’ Why was this man working alone, why hadn’t he become a disciple of Jesus? Perhaps his marital circumstances and job made it impossible for him to do so. Nevertheless he had absorbed all that Jesus was teaching to the point where he was granted the gift of healing.


Forgive Seven Times Seventy.


Jesus was teaching how to deal with a brother who has sinned when Peter asks, “How many times must I forgive my brother, seven times?” Peter probably felt safe in using ‘seven’ but his generosity seemed skimpy compared to Jesus’ reply “I do not say to you even seven times, but seventy times seven” which means an unlimited number of times – forgiving forever. If we refer to the Sermon on the Mount and ‘turning the other cheek’ then Peter’s ‘seven’ would mean that the eighth blow would nullify the precept. But Jesus’ forgiveness meant that the eighth blow became like the first.


To emphasis the point Jesus turns to the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant. Matthew 18:23-34. A king decided to settle all his accounts and among his servants is one who owes him 10,000 talents. (At the equivalent of £36,000,000 the amount is deliberately fantastic!) The servant is unable to pay and is due to be sold along with his wife and children. The servant falls on his knees and appeals to his master who out of compassion forgives the whole debt. Then the servant meets a fellow servant who owes him one hundred denarii (equal to a few pounds). He demands payment of the loan but because the loan can’t be paid immediately he has the servant thrown into prison. His fellow servants went to tell the master what had happened and he calls the evil servant to him and has him turned over ‘to the jailers to be tortured until he should pay the whole debt.’ (As there is no way that the servant will be able to pay the £36,000,000 it could be imagined that the ‘the torturers’ are ‘everlasting fire’. But we must leave the final judgement to God and, as I believe in purgatory and my ability to pray for the Souls in purgatory, I suggest that the unforgiving servant is confined to purgatory.) This parable agrees with the words contained in the Our Father – ‘Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.’ There is some significance in that it was ‘fellow servants’ who went to tell the master. A false loyalty to a fellow servant might have made them keep silent but their compassion was for the servant who owed the smaller debt. ‘Telling tales’ might be considered a weakness but the total unfairness of the situation made it morally correct.


Jesus Confers Power on the Apostles.


Prior to the Transfiguration Jesus had conferred the power to Peter ‘whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven………’ now he does the same for the other apostles but without the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.


Jesus Journeys to Jerusalem.


This is not the final journey which will lead to the Passion but will soon lead to that journey. Jesus knew all that was to happen and we can be certain that

Our Lady also knew. The sword promised by Simeon is ever piercing her soul. But the apostles and other followers did not know. From time to time Jesus mentioned the form of death he would have to undergo. But the apostles, disciples and followers heard his words but dare not question him.


Taking the shortest route they pass through the territory of Samaritans who still hold grievances against the Jews where they are unlikely to get a good reception (See Page 17.) Jesus sends two apostles to obtain lodgings but they are rebuffed. James and John ask Jesus to let them pour down fire on those Samaritans but Jesus, a man of peace, rebukes them and they go on to another village. Perhaps ‘another village’ was where Jesus had spoken to the woman at the well and where he was already known as the Messiah.


Jesus Arrives in Jerusalem.


This ‘arrival’ was not the final one when olive branches were strewn in front of him. That is still some time off. But, whereas the synoptic gospel’s tell of only one visit to Jerusalem during his ministry, John tells of Jesus making four visits to Jerusalem. His version is probably more likely to be correct. The synoptic gospels truncated their versions possibly for reasons of space but nevertheless included all Jesus’ teaching which was considered necessary.  So, following John’s gospel, Jesus is teaching in the Temple. As soon as he appeared the crowds would gather. There would be both those who believed in him and those who did not believe.


Traditional Ideas About Messiah.


The Jews held some traditional ideas about the Messiah. These ideas had no foundation in scripture but they had grown into the minds of the people and had become fixed as if true. It was common opinion that the Messiah would be a descendant of David and be born in Bethlehem, but also that he would appear unexpectedly after he had remained in retirement for a long time in a place no one knew. But it was well known that Jesus was from Nazareth so he could not be the Messiah. False logic!


Jesus Preaches in the Temple.


He was always having to explain why he did things differently. On one occasion he was being criticised for healing a man on the Sabbath. Jesus argued that they don’t mind circumcising on the Sabbath so why should they complain when he heals on the Sabbath?


Despite threats Jesus did not stop preaching. Yet the chief priests were wanting to arrest him so they sent Temple guards to seize him. When they saw the crowds listening to Jesus and when they heard the truthfulness of his words they returned empty handed with the excuse “No one as ever spoken like this man.” The Pharisees replied “So, you too have been led astray.” On all the occasions when Jesus might have been arrested, but wasn’t, the reason was ‘His time had not yet come.’


Nicodemus, who had come to Jesus by night (see page 16) had the courage to support Jesus by saying “Does our Law judge a man unless it first gives him a hearing?” But the hearts of his fellow Pharisees were hardened. They



replied “………… the Scriptures and see that out of Galilee arises no prophet.” They were wrong; Jonah was of the tribe of Zabulon and consequently came from Galilee!


During the Feast of Tabernacles, which lasted a week, tradition tells us that, after darkness had descended, great lamps were lit. Jesus chose one such occasion to declare “ I am the light of the world. He who follows me does not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.”


The verbal conflicts with the Pharisees could become very intense. That was the case when Jesus proclaimed “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I am.” That was considered to be blasphemy, ‘they therefore took up stones to cast at him; but Jesus hid himself, and went out from the Temple.’ On such occasions Jesus could rely on the fact that ‘his time had not yet come’.


The Woman Found in Adultery.

The Scribes and Pharisees lost no opportunity to try and trap Jesus and make his teachings appear false. John’s gospel tells of the woman caught in adultery. But where was the man? This sin cannot be committed alone and if the woman was a betrothed virgin then both man and woman should be stoned (See Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:23). The incident was obviously staged to trap Jesus and provision had been made for the man to escape. The woman’s accusers could have kept her in private custody while they spoke to Jesus. But they wanted to humiliate her to the maximum. Hence they brought her to Jesus. They knew Jesus was a man of peace – so their trap was to get him to either deny the law of Moses or to agree to the woman being stoned. But Jesus, knowing their evil intentions, did neither of those things. Instead he gave a lesson to us all. “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” He could not be accused of disobeying the Law of Moses yet he had not retracted from his mission of peace. He had added a justifiable clause which he knew none of the men could fulfil. (The accusers were put in a dilemma. They could try and lie their way out of the situation by declaring “I have not sinned” but this man, Jesus, had shown himself the to be reader of souls. What if he were to say “Are you without sin when you behaved thus with that particular woman; and when another day you did thus with another one?” No, it was too dangerous to prod such a hornet’s nest!) So they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest. Jesus waited till all had left, then asks “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned thee?” “No one, Lord” she replied. Then Jesus said ”Neither will I condemn thee! Go thy way, and from now on sin no more.” Justice had been carried out by way of mercy.


The Cure of the Man Who Had Been Born Blind.


Jesus was so frequently healing on a Sabbath that one wonders whether he did so on purpose to try and instil in the Pharisees the stupidity of their objection to such healing. Thus was the case with the man who had been born blind. Unable to do any work he spent his time begging and would be well known to everyone.


This cure is different in that the blind man did not ask for healing but it was the apostles who brought Jesus’ attention to the man. They asked Jesus whether it was due to sin that the man had been born blind. Jesus refutes their words and states that the man’s blindness was caused “so that the works of God might be revealed in him.” (Jesus performed more miracles among the blind than any other ailment. Giving sight to the blind was predicted as a Messianic activity. See Isaiah 29:18; 35:5 and 42:7.) Jesus is saying that this particular man had been born blind so that this specific moment of healing could take place.


Jesus makes a paste of spittle and soil, puts it on the man’s eyes, and tells him to wash in the pool of Siloam. Immediately he had washed he was able to see and people who knew him as a blind beggar were astonished.


The Pharisees become involved and are angry at the breaking of the Sabbath. Then they start to argue as to whether this was really the blind beggar. They involve the man’s parents who are asked questions about their son’s blindness. From the tone of their answers the parents don’t seem have much respect for the Pharisees. “He (their son) is old enough: let him speak for himself.”


In a similar way the son also appears to lack respect. When questioned a second time he says to the Pharisees “I have told you once and you wouldn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it all again? Do you want to become his disciples yourselves?” 


After the Pharisees had ejected the man Jesus found him and asked “Do you believe in the Son of man?” “Sir,” the man replied “tell me who he is….” Jesus said, “…….he is speaking to you.” ……………and the man worshipped him.


Jesus the Good Shepherd.


At the time of Jesus, one of the main occupations, though a lowly one, was that of a shepherd. A good shepherd was what everyone wanted for his flocks. A lazy shepherd or one who did not take the job seriously was a hazard to be avoided. So when Jesus started to compare himself to a Shepherd his listeners could make immediate comparisons. He was talking a language which they knew without having to strain their minds.


At night all the sheep would be put in an enclosure entered by a narrow gate. During the night a shepherd would stand guard at the gate to protect the sheep against thieves or wild beasts. Towards dawn he opens the gate so that the shepherds can collect their flocks. The shepherd comes and calls his sheep. Each shepherd has his own call and the sheep recognise it and follow him out of the gate.


Jesus tells his listeners that he is the gate. Others who had got into the sheep pen had got in over the wall. They are thieves who only come to steal, slay and destroy. Jesus is alluding to pseudo-messianic preachers who mushroomed in Palestine both before and after him. They were ‘false prophets’ that Jesus had warned against.


Jesus continues his discourse by announcing “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” Hence he was telling exactly what was to happen when he died for us. But Jesus, the good shepherd, had more to announce. The sheep he is referring to are the Jews but he continues: “Other sheep I have that are not of this fold. Them also I must bring………….and there will be one fold and one shepherd.” Jesus is speaking of the gentiles who will be brought into the one sheepfold under himself the one shepherd.


His final words regarding the ‘shepherd’ and the ‘sheep’ give affirmation to his ‘laying down his life for his sheep’. “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life……………… one takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself.”      


This discourse took place after Jesus had cured the blind man. Many Jews said of Jesus, “He has a devil and is mad.” But others said, “No! These are not the words one who has a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?”


Three Men Come to Jesus.


St Luke mentions three men who come to Jesus and ask to follow him. There is no certain chronological order as to when these three occurrences happened. The first man is described as a Scribe. He says to Jesus “Master, I will follow you wherever you go.” The man was probably thinking that a prophet as powerful and authoritative as Jesus would have a permanent and suitable headquarters. Jesus has to disenchant the man: “Foxes have dens, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” In other words, the first to follow the rule of complete faith in Providence laid down in the Sermon on the Mount was the Preacher of the Sermon himself.


Another, who according to Matthew was ‘one of the disciples’ asks to go and bury his father before following Jesus. Jesus answers “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” This seems harsh and requires an explanation. It is possible that the man’s father was not already dead and the man wanted to wait for that occurrence, how ever long that might be, before following Jesus. If the father was already dead then, by Jewish custom, the man would have been with his father and not with Jesus.


A third man wants to say goodbye to his family before following Jesus. He is told “No one, having put his hand to the plough, can make a straight furrow if he keeps looking back behind him.” Whoever is bound for the kingdom of God must not turn back to look at the things of the world which he has left behind. For me that means keeping my eyes on the spiritual road ahead and not looking back on the materialism which the world offers.


The Seventy-Two Are Sent Out.


The words ‘apostle’ and ‘disciple’ frequently occur. From the word ‘apostle’ we know that Jesus is referring specifically to the twelve. When the word ‘disciple’ is used it means ‘other followers’ which might include the apostles. When we read of the seventy-two being sent out that number may include the apostles. 


As previously, with the apostles, they are sent out two by two so they will be able to support each other in their task. Their mission was to be the same as when the twelve were sent out. They are to cure those who are sick and tell everyone ‘The Kingdom of God is very near to you’.


We don’t know how long they were away on their mission but we are told ‘The seventy-two came back rejoicing. ‘Lord’ they said ‘even the devils submit to us when we use your name.’

The Great Commandment and The Good Samaritan.


A lawyer, attempting to put Jesus to the test, asked him “Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life? Jesus replied “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” (In those times answering a question with a question was a common practice). The man replied “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.” Jesus answered him, “You have answered right, do this and life is yours.” But the man was anxious to justify himself and asked Jesus “And who is my neighbour?” Jesus then told the story of The Good Samaritan. This story was made the more real by the fact that, in those days, the route from Jerusalem to Jericho would be a dangerous one with bandits ready to attack anyone who looked vulnerable. Also the Inn which Jesus mentioned did actually exist. It was the only Inn between Jerusalem and Jericho.


The Priest and the Levite ‘passed by’ because, by the laws by which they lived, to come into contact with blood would mean that they would be ‘unclean’ and unable to carry out their duties in the Temple. It was those archaic laws which Jesus kept trying to correct. However useful those laws may have been they should not take precedence over compassion. The story not only emphasises the compassion of the Samaritan traveller but it also enforces Jesus’ command to ‘love thy enemy’ (Samaritans and Jews were at loggerheads with each other. For anyone to ‘Pass by on the other side’ seems heartless but I am also guilty of ‘Passing by’ when there is starvation, earthquakes, and other such calamities in today’s world and I hold on to my bank account! As we sow so shall we reap.)


Martha and Mary.


The story of Martha and Mary is one where I can very clearly see myself! I am the one, like Martha, dashing about worrying about this and that instead of getting my priorities right like Mary. I hear Jesus’ words and I try and take them to heart “you worry and fret about so many things…….” That’s me! ‘Dear Jesus, help me to calm down and concentrate on your ways which will lead me to everlasting life.’


Persistence in Prayer.


St Matthew has Jesus teaching the Our Father at the time of the Sermon on the Mount (See page 20). St Luke has Jesus teaching it now, after the episode with Martha and Mary. He follows it with a lesson in persistence. He relates the story of a man knocking on the door of his neighbour late at night asking for food for an unexpected visitor. The immediate reaction is “No. We are already in bed.” But if the man keeps knocking and shouting his neighbour will eventually relent and give him what he requests. So it is with God. ‘Seek, and you will find, knock and it shall be opened to you.’


Jesus Cures a Demoniac. The Pharisees Blasphemy.


A man who is blind, dumb and possessed by a devil is brought to Jesus who cures him. When the dumb man started to speak the crowd were amazed. As always there were some Pharisees present, they were always spying on Jesus hoping to catch him out in some blasphemy for which they could convict him. Seeing the cure and hearing the dumb man speak they used the only course open to them; they said that Jesus had cured the man through the devil. Jesus explains that any kingdom divided against itself is heading for ruin. If the devil is assisting in cures then he is working against himself. Jesus suggests that the Pharisees ask their own exorcists if they drive out devils in the name of satan. Of course they don’t and they would have to agree with the calumny which the Pharisees have spoken against Jesus.


Once Again a ‘Sign’ is Asked For.


As on page 32 Jesus is once again asked for a sign to prove he is the Messiah. Surely the many cures were enough of a sign. But the Scribes and Pharisees wanted more than that. They wanted proof by a miracle. Jesus carried out cures by the Will of his Father in heaven. He was not a magician with a magic wand who could perform miracles to please his audience. If the Scribes and Pharisees couldn’t accept the cures as proof then they were blind to the truth.


Jesus refuses such miracles and takes the opportunity of prophesying his burial for three days. “No sign will I give but the sign of Jonah the prophet who was in the belly of the fish for three days, so will the Son of Man be three days and nights in the heart of the earth.” After the Crucifixion the Pharisees remembered Jesus’ words about ‘three days in the earth’ and ask Pilate to take steps to guard the tomb where Jesus’ body lay.


Jesus at a Dinner at The Home of a Pharisee.


The conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees is growing deeper and more serious. The Pharisees could not forgive Jesus for the independence which he preached regarding their legal formalism shown by the six hundred and thirteen precepts. They also resented the miraculous cures which Jesus performed though their minds were blinkered as to how these cures were performed. In truth, they did not want to believe!


Nevertheless Jesus is invited to dinner by a Pharisee. We do not know whether this invitation was a serious desire to understand Jesus’ teaching or another attempt to trap him.


Instead of carrying out the prescribed ablutions Jesus went straight to his place at the table. (Such washing was not commanded in the law but added in the tradition of the Pharisees.) His host saw this and his disgust showed on his face. Here was Jesus’ opportunity to ‘have a go’ at the Pharisees and the way they put unnecessary things before the more urgent and charitable. These can be termed Jesus’ woes.


Woe to you Pharisees because you pay tithes on mint and rue and every herb and disregard justice and the love of God. (Tithes had to be paid on crops but the Pharisees took that to the unnecessary extreme by including small herbs. By doing so they looked on themselves as being ‘holier than thou!’ .)


Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the market places.


Woe to you because you are like unmarked graves, which men walk over without knowing. (The Jews whitewashed their tombs so that no one would accidentally touch them and be defiled. Just as touching a grave resulted in ceremonial uncleanness, Jesus was saying that associating with the Pharisees could lead to moral uncleanness.)


Woe to you, because you load people down with burdens that they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift a finger to help them. (As well as making unnecessary laws which everyone was expected to keep the Pharisees then made ways for themselves to circumvent them.)


Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your fathers who killed them. (Outwardly the Jews appeared to honour the prophets but inwardly they rejected the Christ the prophets announced. They lived in opposition to the teachings of the prophets, just as their forefathers had done.)


Woe to you experts in the law, because you have  taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered and have hindered those who were entering. (They kept themselves and the people in ignorance of the way of salvation. As Matthew says ‘they shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces.’)


A Warning Against Avarice.


A man came to Jesus and said “Master, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me”. (The general rule for distribution of inheritance as  described in Deuteronomy 21:17 is that the eldest son should receive double the amount of a younger son. This no doubt led to disputes and is probably the reason for this man’s request.) His demand is selfish and materialistic. There is no indication that the man had been listening seriously to what Jesus had been saying. Jesus replies with the parable of the rich fool. The man who built bigger barns to hoard his huge grain crop. But that night his life is demanded. “Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich towards God.”


Be Ready.


Jesus leads on to warnings to ‘be ready’. A master tells his servants that he is off to a wedding and will be late returning home. The servants, solicitous towards their master, keep a vigil at the door through the night-time listening for the time of his arrival. “Blessed are those servants whom the master, on his return, shall find watching!” In the same way a prudent householder has his house watched because he does not know at what hour the thief may come. Jesus concludes: “You must be ready, because you do not know at what hour the Son of Man is coming.”


Peter asks Jesus for an explanation. “Lord, art thou speaking this parable for us or for all alike? In answer Jesus tells of a servant who has been appointed to dispense food to colleagues in his master’s absence. If, instead, that servant takes advantage of his master’s absence to lord it over his fellows and to spend time eating and getting drunk, the master will come home unexpectedly and punish that servant. In short, there is a general principle, that much will be required of him to whom much has been given; more will be demanded of him to whom more has been entrusted. Hence at the ‘coming’ of the Son of Man the lot of everyone will be fixed and unchanging, but that lot itself will be subject to differences and degrees.

Consequences of Jesus’ Teaching. War and Disorder.


Jesus came to bring peace – peace between the believer and God. Yet the inevitable result of Christ’s coming is conflict - between Christ and the anti-christ.- between those who believe and those who do not believe. This conflict will split children against their parents, brothers against brother. It is a conflict between Christ’s children and the devil’s children.


Repent and Avoid a Violent Death.


Jesus uses two incidents to illustrate that we must avoid a violent death. Though the ‘violent death’ to which Jesus is referring is the loss of one’s soul. Some Galileans whilst offering sacrifice in the Temple had been slaughtered by Pilate. We do not know the cause of their deaths but they must have broken some important Roman regulation. In the second incident a tower had fallen crushing to death eighteen people. Jesus explains that in both incidents, the deaths did not mean that they were more guilty than anyone else in Jerusalem. But unless we repent then the loss of our souls will be much more violent than the deaths in those two incidents.


The Cure of the Stooped Woman and Healing on the Sabbath


Whilst in a synagogue on a Sabbath Jesus sees a woman stooped with pain. She had been like that for eighteen years. He cured her. The ruler of the synagogue is angry and vents his feelings on the crowd. “There are six days in which one ought to work; on these therefore come and be cured and not on the Sabbath.” Jesus replied “Hypocrites!” and explains that as a donkey can be taken to water on the Sabbath so much more can the healing of someone who has had eighteen years of pain be acceptable.


Once again Jesus despises the Jews’ categories of prohibitions for the Sabbath. Jesus is in the home of a prominent Pharisee who has asked Jesus to dine with him. We can be rightly suspicious of the Pharisees’ reason for the invitation. It is the Sabbath and a man suffering from dropsy comes to Jesus for a cure. (It seems strange that this man should be allowed into a private dinner but perhaps he was allowed in so that Jesus’ actions on the Sabbath could be put to the test.) Jesus knows the thoughts of the Pharisees and therefore asks: “Is it lawful to cure on the Sabbath?” They gave no answer so Jesus put another question to them. “Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fall into a pit, and will not immediately draw him up on the Sabbath?” Once again there was no reply. If it is right to rescue an animal on the Sabbath then surely it is right to rescue the health of a man. Jesus healed the man


Taking the Lower Place.


It seems that at the start of the dinner which Jesus was attending, the guests had been vying for the better places at table. He tells them to take the lowest place then they may be asked to go up higher. But if you take the highest place then you may be shamed into taking a lower place. For everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled and he who humbles himself shall be exalted.


Give Hospitality to the Poor and Crippled and the Blind.


When you invite your family, neighbours and rich to your dinner you are putting yourself at risk of being invited back. Then one becomes involved in a vicious circle of invites, re-invites. It is much better to invite the poor, crippled, and the blind. There will be no risk of being invited back because they have nothing to repay with. But at the resurrection of the just you will be repaid. Jesus is referring to a Spiritual Banquet. Jesus’ teaching was based not on earthly rewards. The rewards will be attained in the Kingdom of Heaven.


Jesus in Jerusalem for the Festival of Lights.


The Festival of Lights was to celebrate the re-dedication of the Temple after its desecration by Antiochus Epiphanes in 168BC. Jesus’ presence in the city was immediately noticed both by the people and the authorities. His usual adversaries, the Jews, confronted him in the Temple and said “How long will you keep us in suspense?. Tell us are you the Christ, tell us openly.” It may seem that they wanted his confirmation so that they could give themselves to him body and soul. But that was not the case. They wanted to hear him say the words so that they could twist it into an accusation against him and bring him to his ruin. Jesus is aware of their treacherous intentions and suggest that they determine whether he is the Messiah from the works he had done. Jesus tells them “What my Father has given me is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch anything out of the hand of my Father. I and the Father are one.” The reason for this indirect answering is that anyone contemplating calmly and objectively the miracles performed by Jesus could conclude that the kingdom of God was ‘at hand’ and that he was the Messiah, whilst at the time having no verbal evidence from Jesus that he was the Messiah and therefore no way of denouncing him to the political or Temple authorities.


Although Jesus had not given them the ammunition they wanted to be able to denounce him they understood the meaning behind his words and were furious. They rush to stone him but Jesus ‘went forth out of their hands’. ‘His time had not yet come’ and until that time came he was able to control such situations and continue with his ministry.


Who Will be Saved?


A man asks Jesus “Lord, are only a few to be saved?” This question reflected the prevailing Jewish opinion that the chosen were to be much fewer in number than the damned. Jesus’ reply repeats the concept of the Sermon on the Mount according to Matthew. ‘Strive to enter by the narrow gate, for many will seek in vain to enter when the master, seeing that all the invited guests have arrived, will rise and go to shut the door. Then it will be too late, and in answer to their knocking they will hear: “I do not know where you are from!’” Jesus continues “When you see yourself shut out, you will persist, saying ‘How does this happen?’ We have eaten and drunk with you, and you have taught in or market places! – And yet the answer will still be ‘I do not know where you are from; depart from me you workers of iniquity.’ Nor will your places at that banquet remain empty, for other guests, not Jews, will come from the east and the west, and the north and the south, and sit down to feast in the Kingdom of God.”


Herod’s Demand Conveyed by the Pharisees.


Jesus was now in Herod Antipas’ territory. It was this same Herod who had killed the Baptist. He would have heard that Jesus was nearby and stirring the people with his miracle cures. But Herod is still haunted by having killed the Baptist; which he only did after being trapped into it by his unlawful wife Herodias. So, although he could easily have had Jesus arrested, he prefers to have him out of his territory. He doesn’t want to face another situation of having to agree to the death of someone for whom he had a high regard. Herod even thought that Jesus might be the Baptist reincarnated.


So he asks some Pharisees to suggest to Jesus that he leave the district as he is in danger of being arrested. The Pharisees are happy to carry out this task because if Jesus goes to Judea then they will have more opportunities to arrest him themselves. Jesus, in prophetic words which indicate his time in the tomb, asks the Pharisees to tell Antipas, who he calls ‘the fox’ because of his sly trick in sending him out of his territory, that he will be two more days casting out devils and performing cures and on the third day he will leave. Jesus continues in a lament for Jerusalem saying that it is there that he must go “since it would not be right for a prophet to die outside Jerusalem.” Throughout all his conversation with the Pharisees Jesus shows no fear of Herod. He is secure in the knowledge that ‘his time had not yet come’.


The Cost of Being a Disciple.


Large crowds are following Jesus who tells them “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father, mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple. No one who does not carry his cross can be my disciple.” (The Hebrew and Arab understanding of ‘hate’ was not as our present day understanding. It means that we must love Jesus more than our father, mother, wife, children etc. and even more than we love our selfish-selves. Jesus is not preaching hate.) Continuing on the same theme Jesus says “Everyone of you who does not renounce all that he possess, cannot be my disciple.” That these words are intended for those who ‘leave all and follow him’ is borne out by the two parables which he uses as examples. One of the man who starts to build a tower without calculating the cost and the other of the king who must consider the strength of his army before going into battle. Both examples indicate the serious consideration which must be made. Similarly we cannot be a true follow of Jesus: priest, monk, nun, lay-brother, etc without making a 100% commitment and leaving behind everything else which had previously been your way of life.


Jesus’ purpose in making clear the necessary terms for following him are due to the large crowd following him. Many were attracted to him by his personal magnetism, his spiritual authority, his miracles and by the expectation of sharing somehow in his messianic kingdom. But Jesus knew that at the very first sign of difficulties they (and we) would beat a hasty retreat


Material Possessions or Poverty


The Hebrew law considered material prosperity to be a gift from God and a reward for those who observed the moral law. Conversely poverty and wretchedness were the reward of the impious. Therefore the Pharisees laughed in incredulity at Jesus’ love of poverty. But Jesus was not saying that wealth was sinful in itself but how one used that wealth. If it is used to obtain material possessions then Jesus’ words “make friends for yourself with the mammon of wickedness” are appropriate. But if it is used in helping the poor and disadvantaged then it yields an imperishable profit. To illustrate this point Jesus tells the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. (This was the only time that Jesus had named someone in a parable. Was he perhaps thinking of Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary, who he would raise from the dead?) The rich man used his wealth on himself never thinking of Lazarus who, covered with sores, sat outside the rich man’s house. When the rich man died he calls out, in his torment, to Abraham for help – “a drop of water- or to be able to go and warn his brothers.” But it is too late. He had wasted his wealth on himself and by so doing had wasted his chance of eternal life in heaven. As the Pharisees had anticipated, Jesus left Herod’s territory and went into Judea. When the time was right, they were now in a position to apprehend him.


Gratitude for Healing.


Ten lepers approach Jesus asking to be cured. If their cure had been immediate then they would surely have thanked Jesus there and then. But Jesus chose to tell them to go and show themselves to the priest and it was while they were on their way that the cure took place. In their joy at being so miraculously healed all but one, a Samaritan, forgot to return to thank Jesus


When is the Kingdom of God Coming?


The Pharisees ask this question of Jesus. Were they being serious or were they trying to catch him out? They are told that no amount of calculation can fix the time or place of Christ’s return in judgement. When it happens it will be plain for all to see. The world will be caught unprepared, as it was by the flood. When speaking privately to the disciples he tells them that God alone knows the time and place. He warns them against false prophets. The important thing is to be ready. The early Christians, harassed by incessant persecution yearned to see Christ’s coming. They dated Jesus’ words by man’s calendar. The apostles dated Jesus words by the calendar of God remembering ‘that one day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.’


Perseverance and Humility in Prayer.


Jesus tells two parables on prayer. The first is about the judge who is eventually worn down by a woman’s persistence and takes on her case. The second contains the proud Pharisee and the humble tax collector. The first goes to the front of the temple and announces his virtues. The second stands just inside the door of the temple, confesses that he is a sinner, and asks for forgiveness. The latter went home justified before God. Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exatled.


The Question of Divorce.


The Pharisees, never missing an opportunity and in an attempt to catch him out, ask him “It is lawful for a man to put away his wife for any cause?” (In the Mosaic law divorce was permitted but only by the husband. He could write a bill of divorce if his wife ‘did not find favour in his eyes for some uncleanness.’ He would put such a bill into her hand and send her out of his house. But there was a problem in determining what was meant by ‘some uncleanness’. Some interpreted it to mean adultery, others interpreted it to mean a wife who burnt her husband’s dinner or even if the man found a woman more beautiful than his wife! The rabbis were proud of this faculty of divorce and considered it a special prerogative granted by God only to the people of Israel but not to pagans.) In his answer Jesus reminds his questioners of the early scriptures. “Have you not read that the Creator, from the beginning, made them male and female, and said, ‘For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? Therefore they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder.’” The Pharisees, not happy with Jesus’ reply, which got rid of their selfish concessions asked “Why then did Moses command to give a written notice of dismissal, and to put her away?” Jesus replied “Because Moses, by reason of the hardness of your heart, permitted you to put away your wives; but it was not so from the beginning.” To a direct question Jesus gave a direct answer with no room for misunderstandings.


“Suffer Little Children to Come Unto Me.”


Such was Jesus’ charisma that people brought their babies to Jesus to have him touch them. The disciples tried to stop them (they probably did this out of the best intention thinking that Jesus needed some rest from his labours.) But Jesus rebuked them with the words “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not accept the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”


The Rich Man’s Question.


A certain rich man asked Jesus “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied “If you will enter into life, keep the commandments.” The young man once again asks “Which?” In reply Jesus recites the Ten Commandments and when he had done so the young man replied “But I have observed these since a boy. I should like to know if there is something else lacking in me.” The young man was surely telling the truth because, we are told, Jesus looking upon him, loved him.” (Words which we would all like assigned to ourselves.) Then Jesus told him “ You lack one thing. If you wish to be perfect, go, sell all your goods and distribute the proceeds to the poor, for thus you will have treasure in heaven; and then follow me.” These words saddened the young man – for he was very rich. He was unquestionably a good young man, but his was an ordinary and down-to-earth kind of goodness. He would certainly have made an excellent official for the Roman Empire, but he failed his first examination for high office in the kingdom of heaven.


The Difficulty of the Rich Entering Heaven.


After the young man had left Jesus uses the incident to explain, to his disciples the difficulties of the rich entering heaven. The disciples are incredulous. Being endowed with riches had always been thought of as gift from God, Jesus’ words are turning that long held tradition upside down. But Jesus takes the matter even further “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, that for a rich man to enter heaven.” The disciples response was “Who then can be saved?” to which Jesus replies “With God all things are possible.” (For a better understanding of these words perhaps we need to know Jesus’ meaning of ‘rich’. We need enough on which to survive and look after our families. But we can be rich in material things to the extent that they take over our lives. Conversely we may possess many material things but be rich in our spiritual lives. Under those circumstances materialism is not controlling our lives. Where is our heart? If it is caught up in materialism then the camel and the eye of the needle are our just reward. But if it is centred on the love of God and of our neighbour then, despite whatever material things we possess, we are carrying out God’s plan. In that respect a clue to our desire to fulfil God’s plan is to tithe to the poor and disadvantaged always remembering that those who say “Charity begins at home” do not know the meaning of charity.)


Peter Questions the Reward for The Apostles.


Having listened to Jesus’ words regarding the rich Peter says “Look, we have left everything and followed you. What are we to have then?” Jesus replies that they will sit on twelve thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel. But he takes the reward even further “………………..everyone who has left houses, brothers, sisters, father and mother, children or land for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times as much, and also inherit eternal life.


The Labourers in the Vineyard.


To illustrate God the Father’s plan for the distribution of rewards to Jesus’ followers Jesus tells the parable of the labourers in the vineyard. The workers go into the vineyard at various times of the day but, although some have worked all through the heat of the day, they receive the same payment as those who have worked only a few hours. They are dissatisfied and grumble at their employer. They are told that they have no reason to complain they have been paid the agreed rate for the days work. (The Jews saw themselves as God’s chosen people and expected to have prior claim to heaven. This parable tells them that they will have no right to be offended when latecomers, sinners and Gentiles enter God’s kingdom.)


The Resurrection of Lazarus.


Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary were very special to Jesus. Their complete faith and belief in Jesus as the Messiah meant not only that he had a deep love for them but also made their home at Bethany a safe retreat for Jesus and yet one which was very close to Jerusalem. We know that Jesus had previously ‘raised from the dead’. The first time was Jarius’ daughter and the second the young boy from the village of Nain. But Jarius’ daughter was still laid on her bed and the young man hadn’t yet been buried. Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. After being told that Lazarus is ill Jesus purposely stayed away from Bethany. He knew what was to happen and also knew that it would be ‘the last straw’ for the Sanhedrin. Two days later he and the apostles set off for Bethany. The apostles were incredulous that Jesus was going towards Jerusalem. The last time he had been there the Jews had wanted to stone him. (Known to Jesus but unbeknown to the apostles the journey was to lead to much more than stoning.) Thomas, who we know for his doubting, shows his courage by saying to the apostles “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” When they reach Bethany, Martha comes to meet Jesus but her words belie her belief in what is about to happen. Mary comes to join them and they make their way to the tomb where Lazarus was laid to rest. That ‘Jesus wept’, shows his humanity. Then, after praying to the Father Jesus ‘cried out in a loud voice’ “Lazarus come out!”. As Lazarus slowly came out of the tomb still wrapped in strips of linen and a cloth around his face the effect on Martha, Mary, the apostles and the Jews, who had come to pay their respect, must have been emotional but still almost to the point of disbelief. But they had to believe as it was happening before their eyes. Jesus tells them “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”




The Sanhedrin Plot to Kill Jesus.


Some of the Jews who had witnessed the raising of Lazarus went to the Pharisees and told them what had happened. Immediately a meeting of the Sanhedrin was called. Logically we would expect this miracle to give the Sanhedrin the confirmation they needed that Jesus was the Messiah. But that was not their interpretation of events. They saw the miracle as a threat to their positions and also a threat to the Jewish nation. Caiphas, the high priest, put the whole matter into the following words “….…it is better…….that one man die………than that the whole nation perish.” It is not being denied that Jesus might be the Messiah but this latest miracle is too much to bear. Anyone capable of performing such a miracle is a danger to the nation and must be eliminated. Yet previously these same Pharisees had asked Jesus to perform a sign. What greater sign could there be than to raise someone from the dead who had been in the tomb for four days?


From Ephrem to Jericho


Jesus would not be unaware of the danger so he and his apostles withdrew to Ephrem north of Jerusalem. From there they made their way to Jericho before making the final journey to Jerusalem. At all times Jesus was in charge. He knew the dangers and also knew the Father’s will which he was to fulfil.


A Blind Man Cured and a Tax Collector Converted.


Two happenings in Jericho. Two blind men, one named Bartimeus, ask to be given their sight. Jesus cures them and ‘on the instant they joined the crowd following him.’ A tax collector, named Zaccheus, who must have been searching for riches far superior to silver and gold, wanted to see Jesus. But he was small in stature and could not see over the crowds. So he ran ahead of the crowd and climbed a tree. When Jesus came level with the tree he called to Zaccheus. “Zaccheus, come down I must stay at your house today.” This was met with the usual criticism; “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” But the effect on Zaccheus is immediate. “Lord, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone out of anything I will repay back four times the amount.” Jesus rejoiced that salvation had come Zaccheus’ house.


Mary Anoints Jesus.


The route from Jericho to Jerusalem passes through Bethany. Jesus would be well aware that this would be his last opportunity to see his good friends Lazarus, Martha and Mary. In fact he arrived in Bethany only six days before the Passover. A banquet had been arranged, at the house of Simon the leper, obviously a man who had been cured of that disease. It is certain that Lazarus would have been a guest and Martha would have been assisting in serving the guests. At some point Mary enters the banquet room carrying an alabaster vase used for keeping valuable perfumes. She went straight to Jesus and, kneeling before him she poured the ointment from the vase over Jesus’ feet wiping them with her hair. St John tells us ‘the house was filled with the scent of the ointment.’ Judas Iscariot takes offence at what he sees as a waste and speaks up, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given the poor.” John’s gospel tells us, ‘[Judas] said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he was in charge of the common fund and used to help himself to the contents.’ Jesus response to Judas is, “Leave her alone. Why are you upsetting her? What she has done is a good work. You have the poor with you always, and you can be kind to them whenever you wish, but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial.” Was it at this point that the devil entered into Judas’ heart which led to him betraying Jesus?


Jesus Triumphal Entry Into Jerusalem.


The Pharisees would have had their spies keeping a watch on Jesus and would have known that he was in nearby Bethany. So they kept to their plan of attempting to apprehend him. But they also put Lazarus on their death list because him being raised from the dead and been the cause of many believing in Jesus. (After Jesus’ crucifixion they must have been satisfied with their work and forgot their plan to kill Lazarus.) It was the custom to meet large groups of pilgrims coming into the city for the Passover so Jesus’ ‘Triumphal Entry’ was not an extraordinary happening in itself. But those meeting his group went out of their way to shout out “Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” These words were not going to help lessen the Pharisees feelings towards Jesus. Jesus had obtained the use of a donkey which he rode into Jerusalem thereby fulfilling the prophecy ‘…..look your king is approaching, riding on the foal of a donkey.’ Zechariah 9:9. When Jesus enters the Temple the triumphant cries continue as groups of children shout “Hosanna to the Son of David!” right under the very noses of the high priests and Scribes who object to Jesus and say “Do you hear what these are saying?” Jesus replied “Yes; have you not read: Out of the mouth of infants and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?” The Pharisees must have been driven mad by Jesus’ unquestioned triumph and his ability to freely walk around. But his, and Lazarus’ popularity, made it impossible to apprehend them without causing a riot. The Pharisees had to bide their time.


Jesus Weeps Over Jerusalem.


At some point Jesus is on the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem where now stands the Shrine of Dominus Flevit. It is here that Jesus weeps over Jerusalem. His tears are twofold. He is saddened by the thought of the total destruction of all that he sees which will take place in forty years time. He tells his apostles “They will not leave one stone on another.” That is exactly what the Romans did. In order to show their superiority they went out of their way to completely destroy the magnificent structures which had taken decades to build. But Jesus also wept for those living at that time, men, women and children, and the trials they would have to encounter as they were led into captivity. Jesus even prophesies how the enemy will defeat the city, “they will throw up a rampart and surround you on every side.”


Greeks Ask to Speak to Jesus.


Some Greeks ask to speak to Jesus. The Bible doesn’t tell us either that Jesus agreed or what he said to them. It is unlikely that he would have denied their request. Perhaps the reason for this being mentioned is to indicate that Greeks (Gentiles) came to Jerusalem to take part in the Passover.


‘If a Grain of Wheat Falls to the Ground and Dies……………’


Jesus is the ’grain’. He will die and ‘yield a rich harvest.’

The Son of Man Must be Lifted Up.


A further prophecy of what is to happen within the next few days. Jesus was frequently talking about his passion. But the apostles either did not understand or did not want to understand. Those Jews who considered Jesus to be the Messiah would not understand. Their expected Messiah would be able to tackle any situation and would soon rid them of their Roman oppressors.


Jesus Curses the Fig Tree.


It is morning and Jesus and the apostles make their way from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem. They had not eaten and as they pass a fig tree Jesus curses it for not having any fruit. As it was not the time for the tree to be bearing fruit the situation is symbolic. The symbolism was the abundance of foliage but lack of fruit which compares to the luxuriant Pharisaic foliage with obstinate void of moral fruit. The next time they passed the tree it had withered.


“Who Gave You Authority to Do These Things?”


Jesus is teaching in the Temple when the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees come to question him. They want to arrest him but dare not do so as the populace are listening to Jesus’ words and, if he were taken by force, it would cause a riot. So once again they bide their time. But, in the meantime they hoped to catch Jesus out by their questions. They ask Jesus who gave him his authority. It was a common strategy among the doctors of the Law to answer a question with a question which is what Jesus does. Jesus says “Answer my question and I will answer yours. Was the Baptism of John from heaven or from men?” Jesus knew that he had put them on the spot. If they replied that it was from heaven then why didn’t they believe it? If they say it was from men they will upset the populace who regarded John as a prophet. So they chose to say “We don’t know.” Therefore Jesus does not have to tell them where his authority comes from. Their plan at trapping Jesus had failed and they had been belittled.


The Parable of the Two Sons.


Jesus tells this parable to show that the Scribes and Pharisees are like the son who agrees to go into the vineyard but then doesn’t go. Publicans and harlots are sinners who say “No” but having listened to Jesus’ teachings are like the son who changes his mind and obeys.


Tribute to Caesar.


The Pharisees are so anxious to trap Jesus that they are even prepared to work out a plan with the Herodians who they would otherwise not have much time for. The plan is to get Jesus to either agree to pay taxes to Caesar in which case the populace would be against him or to get him to disagree in which case the Herodians would report him to Pontius Pilate. It was a plan which couldn’t fail! To add their evil plan they come to Jesus pretending to respect him and in need of his teaching. But when they ask “Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar of not?” Jesus knows their trap and is ready for it. “Show me a coin” he says “whose are this image and inscription?” “Caesar’s” they say. “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s”. Jesus had answered their question without entering into the political field. He had not shown disrespect to Caesar but had used the question to ensure respect for God. The Pharisees and Herodians were defeated.


The Sadducees and Resurrection.


Now it was the turn of the Sadducees. They did not believe in the resurrection of the body. To prove their point they put forward their argument in the form of a woman who marries. On the death of her husband she marries his brother who also dies and this continues on till she has been married to each of seven brothers. (They were using the law of ‘Levitare’ which Moses prescribed, that if a Hebrew died then, in order to provide an heir for the deceased, his brother should marry the widow.) They ask Jesus “If there is a resurrection who will the widow be married to in heaven?” Jesus tells them that in heaven they will neither marry not be given in marriage. In heaven we will be like the angels.


The Greatest Commandment.


Jesus’ answer to the Sadducees delighted a doctor of the Law. He came with his own sincere question. “Which is the greatest commandment of the Law?” Only one question is asked but Jesus’ answer quotes two commandments which he is not prepared to separate. “The first commandment of all is ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, with they whole mind, and with thy whole strength.’ And the second is ‘Thy shalt love they neighbour as thyself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” In fact they are inseparable. To love God without loving our neighbour is impossible. In the same way loving our neighbour without loving God is equally impossible. The two are inextricably linked. The questioner went away happy with the answer and, as a bonus Jesus tells him, ”You are not far from the kingdom of God.”


Hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees.


Jesus pronounces seven ‘Woes’ against the Scribes and Pharisees. He tells the people to do what they say but not what they do. Because they are always wanting the places of honour and to be greeted in the Market Place and to be called Rabbi. Do not call anyone Father or Teacher (the warning is against seeking titles of honour to foster pride. We must avoid unreasonable literalism in applying such commands.) 1. Woe to you , you shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. 2. Woe to you, you travel over land a sea to win a convert and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much the son of the devil as you are. 3. Woe to you, blind guides. You say, “If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing, but if he swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.” 4. Woe to you, you give a tenth of your spices- mint, dill and cummin, but you neglect the more important matters of the law. 5. Woe to you, you clean the outside of the cup and dish but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 6. Woe to you, you are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones. 7. Woe to you, you build tombs for the prophets and say “If we had lived in the days of the prophets we would not have killed them.” (Jesus knows that the Pharisees share the disposition of those who killed the prophets.)




Jerusalem Admonished.


Jesus refers to the killing of prophets and the stoning of those who have been sent. He laments on how he would like to have gathered together the children of Jerusalem during his four visits (only one visit in the synoptics but four in John). Jesus deplores that his repeated attempts to save the city and the nation had all been frustrated, and that the whole structure gradually built up by God for the salvation of Israel is to be gradually demolished by the perversity of men.


The Widow’s Mite.


Jesus sits opposite the thirteen chests also known as ‘trumpets’ from the shape of the elongated opening through which the money was dropped. In the midst of all the rich people was a widow who went unnoticed as she dropped in her offering. Jesus called his disciples together, and said to them: “Amen I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who have been putting money into the treasury. For they all have put in out of their abundance; but she has put in all that she had.”


“There Will Not Be Left One Stone Upon Another.”


The Temple Building was magnificent. The Jewish Historian, Josephus describes it: ‘The lower temple precincts, where their foundation was lowest, had to be supported by walls three hundred cubits (about 150 yds) high; in some places even higher; nevertheless the entire depth of the foundations did not appear, because they (the builders) filled in most of the hollows in their desire to level the lanes of the city. In the building (of the foundations) there were used stones forty cubits (about 20 yds.) in length. The structures at the top were indeed worthy of such foundations. In fact, the porticoes were all double, and supported by columns twenty-five cubits (nearly 40 ft.) tall, which were monoliths of pure white, topped with cedar. Their natural magnificence, their polish and arrangement made them a wonderful sight to behold. As Jesus and the apostles look on this scene Jesus tells them “Dost thou see all these great buildings? There will not be left one stone upon another, they will all be thrown down.”


“Tell Us When Are These Things To Happen.”


In response to the Apostles’ question Jesus gives two replies. One refers to the Temple and the other to the end of time. The destruction of the Temple was to take place in forty years time and Jesus tells them “Amen. I say to you, this generation will not pass away till these things have been accomplished.” That answers the first part of the Apostle’s question. Now he must answer the second half of the question by describing the signs of the end of the world. The second part begins with “But in those days, after the tribulation, ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’” That sounds very much like the ‘Three Days of Darkness’ which we keep hearing about. It comes in the writings of many mystics. Have we any need take them seriously? Can we avoid to ignore them? The operative words in Jesus answer are “… those days….” Jesus is not being drawn to give any more precise time. And the reason is that The Father keeps that information to himself thus letting Jesus ‘off the hook’ for any more details. I wonder, was this one of those few times when Jesus was glad not to have the information which was being asked of him?


The Parable of the Ten Virgins.


This parable has a direct bearing on the previous knowledge of the end of time. Those who remain alert and bring supplies with them will be ready ‘to enter’, those not prepared will ‘not enter.’


The Sheep and the Goats.


This parable sorts us out! It states very clearly why Jesus will separate us into those who will stay with him in the everlasting happiness of heaven and those who will be sent to the everlasting abyss of hell. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was in prison and you came to me.” So if we buy a copy of ‘The Big Issue’, offer a drink of tea to the man who comes to repair the vacuum, give to the Church 3rd World Group and think kind thoughts about those in prison will that be enough? It is up to each of us to examine what we do, how often we do it, and to make our assessment. But we had better err on the safe side!


Judas Plans to Betray Jesus.


Now it is Wednesday, the day before the Pasch, yet the chief priests and Pharisees had still not made their final plans how to arrest Jesus. They were continually side-tracked by the crowds who listened to Jesus’ every word and who would cause a riot if the arrest was made in their midst. There had to be a more subtle way of apprehending Jesus. An answer to their dilemma came in the form of Judas. Why did he do that terrible thing? Jesus had accepted him as one of the twelve so he must have had very special qualities. My readings about Judas, other than the gospel, give the impression that he was quick-tempered, always striving to improve but, equally, always failing. John’s gospel tells us ‘he [Judas] was a thief; as keeper of the money bag he used to help himself to what was put into it.’ These are harsh words from one who had a special place in Jesus’ heart. From the gospel readings we are given the impression that what Judas saw as a waste of precious ointment by Mary, when she anointed Jesus’ feet, was the ‘final straw.’ But perhaps Judas, like the Pharisees had been looking for a Messiah who, like one of the Maccabees, would take up the sword and rid the Jews of its Roman oppressors. Also Jesus was always walking into danger and was not interested in taking advice from his apostles which would have kept him safely away from his enemies. Could part of the answer regarding Judas be that unlike the other apostles, who blindly followed Jesus, Judas was trying to follow him with a logic which did not work, which did not make sense. Whatever Judas’ motives may have been the Pharisees were delighted to take the opportunity. Judas would be able to lead them to a quiet place where, away from the crowds, the arrest could take place without causing a disturbance.


The Last Supper.


To add to the complications of religious life in Jerusalem the Pharisees and Sadducees did not always agree on which date the Passover should be celebrated. In that particular year the Pharisees opted for Thursday while the Sadducess for Friday. Why did Jesus and his apostles choose Thursday? Because Jesus knew that by Friday night he would be dead and in the tomb so he had to choose Thursday. He sent two apostles to prepare the room. They are told to look for a man carrying a pitcher of water. It was unlikely that they could get confused by seeing several men carrying water, that was woman’s work! The apostles follow Jesus’ instructions and prepare for the Passover in a room which is now known as The Upper Room or The Cenacle. Whichever day Jesus had died it is poignant that killing the Paschal Lamb should coincide with the killing of the Lamb of God - the Son of God.


Places at the Table.


The apostles gather for the Passover and immediately find themselves arguing as to who should have the better place. This might have been started by Judas. Later on in the meal we are told that Jesus, in replying to a question from John, says “It is one of the twelve who dips with me in the dish.” To be close enough to use the same dish as Jesus one would have had to take an upper place at the table. Had Judas taken this place as a ploy to make it seem that had a special love for Jesus when in reality he was preparing to betray him? Jesus hearing their arguments, gives them an example of humility by washing their feet. This was a task usually carried out by the lowest of slaves. The apostles must have been amazed and yet equally appalled that Jesus, who they know is the Son of God, should be washing their feet. Which is why Peter, on behalf of us all, tries to protest. But this is only the start of the amazing things to happen at this, the ultimate, of Passovers.


The Enigma of Judas.


Among readers of the Bible there exists a great amount of sympathy for Judas. It must be misguided but nevertheless it is there. Throughout the four Gospels Judas isn’t mentioned as being troublesome except by John who tells us that it was Judas who complained at the waste of valuable nard which Mary used to anoint the feet of Jesus. John then tells us that Judas stole from the common purse. It is when we read stories other than the Bible that we learn of Judas’ strange personality. The Poem of the Man God, dictated by Jesus and written down by Maria Valtorta, which Our Lady of Medjugorje recommend to the visionaries, has Judas as a thorough nuisance for much of the time! He comes over as being proud, overbearing and lustful. Yet, at the last supper the Apostles are asking, “Who is it who is to betray you?” as if they had no idea who it might be. Judas is an enigma which we will only solve on the other side of the grave.


Jesus Institutes the Eucharist.


Anyone who has attended a Passover will know that unleavened bread and wine form part of the celebration. A happy celebration is what it is. A release from slavery to freedom. So once the Passover had been duly celebrated everything was already there for Jesus to continue with the institution of the Eucharist. We can dwell on the significance of the Passover being the start of a new life for the Jews followed immediately by the Eucharist as a new life for God’s church on earth. For many the Eucharist is a puzzle. Some consider it to be cannibalistic. But for those who believe, it is a unique opportunity of getting so close to Jesus that he becomes part of you. For me, what it expresses most of all is the humility of Jesus. Surely wanting to come to us in the form of bread and wine is equally as humble as washing our feet. It is so easy to fall into the trap of taking the Eucharist for granted. Instead we should make a time for preparation and equally a time for thanksgiving. It is the most beautiful of Sacraments and fulfilled the many prophecies which Jesus himself had spoken. One can only wonder at the minds of the Apostles as they realised the significance of what Jesus was doing when he instituted the Eucharist. Despite all he had previously said there is no way they could have anticipated what was to happen. Then it suddenly all fell into place.


The New Commandment.


Jesus left it until the Last Supper to give his apostles a new commandment ‘I give you a new commandment; love one another.’ (But surely there is nothing new about that. The aim of the ten commandments is to show love one to another commencing with love of God and then proceeding to love of one another – not to steal from one another– not to kill each other – not to bear false witness etc.) But Jesus adds to his words which makes them new. ‘I give you a new commandment; love one another….just as I have loved you.’ John 13:34. That is a tremendous challenge. Are we capable of loving as much as Jesus loves? The answer is that we must try. We will continually fail and fall. We must pick ourselves up and start again. There is no doubt that if we are persistent in our desire to love as Jesus loves then, in time, and with his help, we will achieve a level of love which, although it will never equal his, will nevertheless raise our love to a level which we previously thought impossible. ‘With God all things are possible.’ Mark 10:27.


The “I am” Statements,.


John’s gospel did not include any of the parables. Instead he gives us Jesus’ seven “I am” statements.

            1. I am the bread of life.

            2. I am the light of the world.

            3. I am the sheep gate.

            4. I am the good shepherd.

            5. I am the resurrection and the life.

            6. I am the way, the truth and the life.

            7. I am the true vine.


The Farewell Discource.


John’s gospel also gives us Jesus’ discourse before leaving the Cenacle. Jesus was aware of what was to happen in the Garden of Gethsemani. His apostles were not aware. What thoughts must have gone through their minds as they heard Jesus’ words. The main points were:


            I will be with you only a little longer.

            Where I am going you cannot come.

Jesus comforts his apostles.

            The Vine and the Branches.

            My words remain in you.

            The world hates the disciples.

            The coming of the Paraclete.

The disciples’ grief will turn to joy.

Jesus prays for himself.

Jesus prays for his disciples.

Jesus prays for all believers.

The Garden of Gethsemani.


They leave the Cenacle and make their way to the Garden of Gethsemani. Here Jesus commences His Passion. We are told that he was made to see all the sins of the world which he was to accept so that he could redeem us. The thought of what was in store leads him to ask his Father to be released from this burden. “…………yet not what I will but what thou willest.” As happened at the beginning of his ministry during the temptation in the desert happens again when an angel is sent to comfort him. His grief is heightened by the apostles falling asleep. During the Passover celebration much wine is consumed and it had made the apostles sleepy. They were unable to stay awake.


The Betrayal.


Despite all we might think and have read about Judas, it is certain that Jesus loved him as much as any other of the apostles. That makes it the more poignant that he should betray Jesus with a kiss. This is the moment when the apostles took to their heels in terror. This happening emphasises Jesus’ parable of the Ten Bridesmaids. Had the apostles being awake and prepared for action their reaction might have been very different. But awaking to the situation meant that they did what everyone does when caught unawares, ‘run away’.


Jesus Before Annas.


Jesus is taken to Annas who had previously been High Priest and is the father-in-law of Caiphas who is the present High Priest. It makes sense to let Annas use his experience to be the first to question Jesus. If Annas’ questioning could fix a charge against Jesus then it would speed up the process when he went before Caiphas. During the questioning an overzealous servant, perhaps trying to impress the officials, struck Jesus on the face. To the annoyance of Annas and his associates Jesus had been completely calm even after the servant hit him; he spoke to the servant asking him “….why dost thou strike me?” Due to the lateness of the hour, it was probably two hours after midnight before the questioning finished, it was decided to continue the proceedings in front of Caiphas and the whole Sanhedrin at dawn.


Peter’s Denial.


It is easy so for us to listen to the story of Peter’s denial and put the blame firmly on his shoulders. I think differently. If I share ‘original sin’ with Adam and Eve then I should also share Peter’s denial. It is certain that, had I been in the garden of Gethsemani, then I would have reacted like all the apostles and run away. It is equally certain that, like Peter, I would have wanted to ‘save my skin’ by denying any knowledge of Jesus. The cock crows for me, and whenever I sin, it continues to crow.


Jesus in the Dungeon.


The gospels do not tell us where Jesus spent the hours in between. On my three pilgrimages to the Holy Land I have been to the house of Caiphas and walked down some stone steps cut out of the solid rock under the house. At the bottom was a dungeon. The steps are comparatively recent. Previously the only way down was to be lowered by a rope. The dungeon would be in complete darkness and would be full of stench. Mary of Agreda, in her book ‘The Mystical City of God,’ where she wrote what the Lord told her to write, says of this dungeon:


            It was now past Midnight and so that Jesus could not escape

            during the night they kept him bound by the chains and ropes

and locked him in a subterranean dungeon. Scarcely any light penetrated into this prison. It was filled with uncleanliness and

            stench. It had not been cleaned for many years. No-one thought

            it worth cleaning as it was used to house the very worst of



Psalm 87, which is psalm of desolation, is a very suitable meditation at this sad, dark place.

                                    Lord my God, I call for help by day;

                                    I cry at night before you.

                                    Let my prayer come into your presence.

                                    O turn your ear to my cry.


                                    For my soul is filled with evils;

                                    my life in on the brink of the grave.

                                    I am reckoned as one in the tomb:

                                    I have reached the end of my strength,


                                    Like one alone among the dead;

                                    like the slain lying in their graves;

                                    like those you remember no more

cut off, as they are, from your hand.


You have laid me in the depths of the tomb,

in places that are dark, in the depths.

Your anger weighs down upon me:

I am drowned beneath the waves.


You have taken away my friends

and made me hateful in their sight.

Imprisoned, I cannot escape;

my eyes are sunken with grief.


I call to you, Lord, all the day long;

to you I stretch out my hands.

Will you work your wonders for the dead?

Will the shades stand and praise you?


Will your love be told in the grave

or your faithfulness among the dead?                    

                                    Will your wonders be known in the dark

                                    or your justice in the land of oblivion?


                                    As for me, Lord, I call to you for help:

                                    in the morning my prayer comes before you.

                                    Lord, why do you reject me?

                                    Why do you hide your face?


                                    Wretched, close to death from my youth,

                                    I have borne your trials; I am numb.

                                    Your fury has swept down upon me;

                                    your terrors have utterly destroyed me.


                                    They surrounded me all the day like a flood,

                                    they assail me all together.

                                    Friend and neighbour you have taken away:

                                    my one companion is darkness.


There is no sadness in any other psalm to be compared with this, and no psalm ends on such a note. The final line of the psalm ‘my one companion is darkness’ agrees with the dungeon which I visited.


Jesus Before Caiphas and the Sanhedrin.


In the stench hole dungeon Jesus would have had no sleep. He is hauled out at dawn and taken before Caiphas and the Sanhedrin. This is start of the official ‘religious trial’. Annas would have conveyed to his son-in-law the proceedings of the early hours. To assist in the trial witnesses are brought forward but they were so false that they contradicted each other. This would have infuriated Caiphas who would want to be seen as ‘in charge of the situation.’ He would not want to ‘lose face’ in front of the gathered assembly. As on the early morning trial Jesus remained silent until the question was asked “…tell us whether thou art the Christ the Son of God.” This is a question which Jesus had avoided during his three year ministry because ‘his time had not yet come’ but now, at this trial, ‘his time had come’ and it was time to reveal the truth of who he was. Jesus replies “Thou hast said it.” which meant ‘I am what you have said.’ The whole Sanhedrin rose up as one in declaring that Jesus had blasphemed and that the penalty was death. Yet, all that Jesus had done, was to state the truth.


The Jews and the Death Penalty.


The Roman occupiers had taken away from the Jews the right to put anyone to death. But there is an anomaly. Whenever anyone was stoned to death it seemed to take place on the ‘spur of the moment’ with no waiting to get permission. Perhaps the distinction was between an official death on the cross, with all its publicity and total humiliation, as against a quick death by stoning which was over and done within a very short time. (I have been unable to find a definitive answer to this anomaly.)




When Judas heard that Jesus had been found guilty and the sentence was crucifixion he did not need to wait for the political trial by Pilate. He realised the horror of what he had done. That realisation itself was enough for him to receive complete forgiveness. But Judas went into despair and decided on the ultimate loss of Hope by committing suicide. I, like many others, feel sorry for Judas. I can only leave him to God’s mercy and compassion.


Jesus Before Pilate.


A man in Pilate’s position must have felt to carry a lot of power and ‘power corrupts’. But along with the power came the ‘decision making’. To try and keep that to the minimum troops were every ready to deal with any uprising. If trouble could be ‘snuffed out’ before it became too difficult then Pilate’s position would be made easier and he was all for an easy life. The fact that Rome wanted to keep the Jews firmly in their place was the reason Pilate was in Jerusalem. Rome knew that the Passover was an emotional time for the Jews when troublemakers might try to cause problems. So Pilate had travelled from the beautiful Roman city of Caesarea Maritima to be where the action might be! His journey suddenly became necessary when the Sanhedrin present him with a troublemaker, a Galilean named Jesus. It took Pilate little time to realise that Jesus had done nothing to deserve the death penalty which he was asked to approve. In fact he was impressed by Jesus. His quiet manner, his open demeanour and eventually his strength of character after the scourging. Pilate had no love for the Jews especially when they made his life difficult which is what they were now doing. Whatever his admiration for Jesus it wouldn’t stand in the way of agreeing to the death sentence. But he would have liked to deny them their request! But for all the arguments he tried the priests and Pharisees had ready answers. Eventually they hit him where it hurt most by suggesting that Jesus was a threat to Rome. In doing so they lied! Referring to the occasion when they had asked Jesus whether it was right to pay taxes to Caesar they told Pilate that Jesus had said “No”. Jesus had done no such thing. Pilate tried one more thing. Learning that Jesus was from Galilee he sent him to Herod who had jurisdiction over that province and who happened to be in Jerusalem. Pilate hoped that Herod would deal with the problem. But that did not happen and Jesus was soon back into Pilate’s power. So he used his power by having Jesus scourged. This was not a Jewish scourging which would have been limited to thirty-nine strokes. The Roman scourging was much more severe. Scourging continued until the victim collapsed. The only factor which the scourgers had to abide by was that their victim must survive the scourging. Death was to take place on the cross. The Roman soldiers who were carrying out Pilate’s orders were probably getting bored. This Jesus was as much a nuisance to them as he was to Pilate. They had been up most of the night. They had been on ‘stand-by’ as the Jews seemed restive. They had had to escort Jesus to Herod and back. All in all the man was a thorough nuisance and it was about time they had their own bit of fun with him. One of the games they used to play was called ’The King’s Game’. The outline of the game can still be seen chiselled out on a stone slab in the Praetorium. But here they had a man who claimed to be a king. “Let’s honour him by making fun of him…….….…..let’s crown him using a crown of thorns”. So Jesus was appallingly ill-treated so much so that when he was returned to Pilate he was shocked at the sight and felt sure that here was his chance to appeal to the compassion of the crowd. As Jesus came out Pilate says “Here is the man” but, incited by the Pharisees and priests, the people shouted “away with him, crucify him.” At Passover time the people were granted the release of a prisoner but Pilate’s hope that they would ask for the release of Jesus came to nothing when the crowd chose to ask for Barabbas. He had taken part in a rebellion. Pilate was put under more pressure to release Jesus by his wife who told him of a dream where she had suffered a great deal because of him. The Pharisees’ final persuasive words were to point out to Pilate that he would be in trouble with Rome if he let Jesus go “Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.” That put Pilate in fear of his position as procurator! So he handed Jesus over to be crucified.





The Way of the Cross.


I imagine a very disorganised procession making its way from the Praetorium towards Calvary. The crowds, aroused by their sick curiosity, surge forward and have to be pushed back by the legionnaires. To add to the confusion two other prisoners are to be crucified and are added to the procession. Ahead of the procession went a man carrying a sign showing the crime for which the men are to die. Pilate had written the sign to go over Jesus’ cross. It said ‘Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews.’ When the chief priests and Pharisees saw the sign they said to Pilate you should have written ‘this man claimed to be the king of the Jews.’ To which Pilate replied “What I have written, I have written.” So Pilate was able to get some revenge at the way he had been outwitted. The Stations the Cross give us a map of the journey to Calvary though many of the stations are tradition and not based on biblical fact. Tradition tells us that Jesus met his sorrowing mother, that he fell three times and that Veronica wiped his face. Actual Biblical facts tell us that Mary was at the foot of the Cross and we know that Jesus probably fell or Simon of Cyrene wouldn’t have been made to help Jesus. But the word ‘Veronica’ comes from the ‘vera icone’, it is the name of the relic, and we do not know the name of the brave woman who, filled with compassion, faced the wrath of the soldiers by wiping the face of Jesus. The fact that Simon was forced to assist in carrying the cross indicates the terror by which the Romans ruled.


The Two Criminals Crucified with Jesus.


We can spare a thought for the two men crucified with Jesus. ‘One on the right and one the left giving the impression that the one in the middle was the worst criminal.’ It is possible that the execution of these men had been brought forward to fit in with the death of Jesus. It would make for a better spectacle to have three deaths rather than only one. So the two men would be feeling great bitterness towards Jesus, increased by the fact that Barabbas had been chosen for release instead of one of them. Matthew’s gospel tells us that the two men taunted Jesus. But Luke gives us the story of the ‘good thief’. How can these two versions be reconciled? Perhaps they both started out by taunting Jesus but then one of them, seeing the ‘majesty’ of Jesus’ crucifixion, was converted to ask for help which he received in abundance.


The Gateway to Calvary.


Inside the Russian Chapel of Alexander is the final gateway which Jesus would have passed through on his way to Calvary. By having the chapel built over it the gateway has been preserved and it is now possible to stand exactly where Jesus would have walked or stumbled or struggled on his journey. There was a tradition that if anyone thought the criminal was not guilty then they could stand in that gateway and proclaim the criminal’s innocence. The criminal would then be returned to the city to be re-tried. What would Jesus’ thoughts be as he approached that gate? There must have been people in the crowd whom he had cured. A blind person who could now see, a paralytic who could now walk and many others. Wouldn’t at least one of these come forward to defend Jesus ………………...but none did ………………. If we had been there what would we have done?





The Crucifixion.


The rowdy procession reaches Calvary and preparations are made to crucify Jesus and the two criminals. Pictures show the criminals tied to their crosses with ropes while Jesus is nailed. Why the difference? Four hundred and fifty years earlier, in the book of Ezra we read, ‘And I have made a decree. That if any whosoever shall alter this commandment, a beam be taken from his house, and set up, and he be nailed upon it……’ (Ezra 6:11). So nailing to wood was something which was known as a punishment. But the reason why Jesus was nailed may be connected with having been helped by Simon of Cyrene. The cross beam which Jesus had been carrying would have been tied to him by ropes. These same ropes would be used to tie him to the cross. But when Simon took the cross, the ropes weren’t needed and went missing, dropped along the way. But nails were needed to fasten the cross beams to the uprights so nailing was the alternative way of fastening Jesus. It can be assumed that this would fit in very well with the chief priests and Pharisees who would enjoy seeing Jesus receiving the very maximum of suffering. After all, for the past three years, hadn’t he made them suffer with all his healing and derogatory speeches against them? ‘Let him suffer now; it is no more than he deserves!’ Our crucifixes usually show the nails passing through the hands. But nailing there would not work as the weight of the body would tear the hand. The nails would have been placed through the wrist. In so doing the nail would damage a sensory nerve which would cause tremendous agony. The stigmatist Theresa Newmann said that although she carried the stigmata in her hand it would not have been so with Jesus. The Holy Shroud of Turin confirms this and clearly shows the nail going through the wrist. We can spare a thought for Mary who had followed her son on his journey to Calvary. She has to watch as her son is brutally nailed to the wood. But who is to blame for this brutality? The soldiers were only doing their job. To them Jesus was a criminal. I am to blame. My sins have helped the tree to grow; have helped the nails to be made; have helped the hammer to be made and assist the soldier as he brings down the hammer onto the nail, piercing Jesus’ flesh. No-one else needs to be blamed. When meditating on the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery of the Holy Rosary I can imagine the three howls of pain as the nails are driven into Jesus’ hands and feet. What must it be like to be nailed to a cross? ’Everyone’s Way of the Cross’ by Clarence Enzler tries to explain it:-


            Christ speaks            “Can you imagine what a crucifixion is?


                                                My executioners stretch my arms;

                                                they hold my hand and wrist against the wood.

                                                and press the nail until it stabs my flesh.

                                                Then, with one heavy hammer smash, they drive

                                                it through – and pain bursts like a bomb of

                                                fire in my brain. They seize the other arm;

                                                and agony again explodes.

                                                Then, raising my knees

                                                so that my feet are flat against the wood,

                                                they hammer them fast too.”


How Long Was Jesus on the Cross?


Mark’s gospel tells us ‘It was the third hour when they crucified him’. (The third hour is 9.00a.m. which, if Jesus did not die till 3.00p.m., means six hours on the Cross. That is a contradiction of John’s account which tells us that it was ‘about the sixth hour’ 12.00noon. when Pilate handed Jesus over to them be crucified. Various hypotheses have been proposed to reconcile these two statements. One suggestion of biblical scholars is that Mark’s gospel contains a copyist’s error because the Greek numerals for three and six can be confused. Or it may be that Mark used Roman time, in which the appearance before Pilate would have been at 6.00a.m.and the crucifixion at 9.00a.m. But, although they started their days very early compared to our ways, they would have needed much time for all that was to happen. It would seem more likely that Jesus was crucified at 12.00noon, the sixth hour, and was on the cross for three hours until 3.00p.m., the ninth hour.)


The Seven Last Words.


“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

“This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise.”

“Woman, behold thy son. Behold thy Mother.”

“My God! My God! why hast thou forsaken me?”

“I thirst.”

“It is consummated.”

“Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit.”


Jesus dies on the Cross.


Mark sets a frightening scene: ’At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour’ Jesus cries out “Eloi, Eloi lama sabachthani” (‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Psalm 21 This psalm contains many verses appropriate to Jesus being on the cross ‘But I am a worm not a man, the butt of men, the laughing stock of the people. All who see me deride me.’ ‘Parched as burnt clay is my throat, my tongue cleaves to my jaws.’ ‘Many dogs have surrounded me……….they tear holes in my hands and feet’ ‘……they divide my clothing among them. They cast lots for my clothing.’ But when Jesus shouted the first dreadful line his mind would have gone to its triumphal end, thanking his Father that this dark way of desertion  led to the light beyond it.) Bystanders hear the word “Eloi” and think Jesus is calling for Elijah. They wait to see if Elijah will come but Jesus cries out with a loud voice and breathes his last. As Jesus died the synoptic gospels all tell of terrifying happenings: ‘At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.’ Matthew 27:51-53. ‘The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. ‘ Mark 15:38. ‘…..darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.’ Luke 23:44-45. The Roman Centurion who had been in charge of the crucifixion and had seen all that had happened said “Surely he was the Son of God”.


Jesus is Taken Down From the Cross.


While St John looks after Our Lady, whose sorrow is hard to imagine, it is left to Joseph assisted by Nicodemus, to go to Pilate and ask for the body of Jesus. Both were members of the Sanhedrin but were not party to death of Jesus. By becoming involved in helping the Mother of Jesus they were putting themselves at odds with the rest of the Sanhedrin. It was a very brave act of compassion. Pilate queried that Jesus was already dead. (This gives even more confirmation to Jesus having been only three hours on the cross. If it had been six hours Pilate would not have queried the death.) Permission is given and Joseph and Nicodemus prepare myrrh and aloes to carry to Calvary. In the meantime the soldiers had broken the legs of the two criminals to speed their deaths but when they came to Jesus they found him already dead so they pierced his side with a lance and blood and water flowed out. In order for this to happen the heart has to rupture so that the red blood sinks to the bottom while the watery serum remains on the top. Opening with the lance produces the two flows. But what it means in reality is that one of the causes of Jesus’ death was a broken heart caused by grief. On the return of Joseph and Nicodemus Jesus is lowered from the Cross and into the arms of his sorrowing Mother. But they must move quickly as it was getting near sunset and, with the next day being the Sabbath, all activity must cease. Nearby to Calvary was a tomb which Joseph had prepared for himself. Jesus’ body was taken there and after being anointed with the myrrh and aloes was wrapped in a burial sheet as was the custom among the Jews. Mary would be given some time to stay by the body of her son but eventually would have been kindly coaxed away so that the stone could be rolled over the tomb opening. Mary, John and the other men and women who had witnessed the Passion and Death of the Son of God made their way to the Cenacle where, possibly, the apostles had gathered.


The Sanhedrin’s Concern.


The Chief Priests must have been concerned that, at the moment of Jesus’ death, there was an earthquake and other strange happenings. Then they remembered Jesus’ words. “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it again.” So they went to Pilate and asked him to place a guard at the tomb on the pretext that his followers might come and take the body and claim that  Jesus had risen from the dead. Pilate agreed and a guard was put in place also taking the extra precaution of putting seals on the stone.


The Resurrection.


No one saw Jesus in the act of rising from the dead. None of the gospel writers say how he emerged from the sepulchre; one of them implies that he did so without disturbing the stone rolled against the entrance, although his resurrection was accompanied by extraordinary signs: ‘And behold there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and drawing near rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightening and his raiment like snow’. Hence it was an angel who rolled away the stone, but the tomb was already empty, and that was why the stone was removed, because it no longer served any purpose. All four Gospel writers agree that the sepulchre was discovered to be empty very early Sunday morning. The soldiers sent by the Sanhedrists had been on guard. They would have been stretched out on the ground sleeping when the earthquake woke them. Terrified, they fled immediately, making for safety through the nearby city gate.


Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene.


The Holy Women planned to bring spices to anoint the body of Jesus. As they set off to buy them one of their number couldn’t wait but ran ahead by herself to the tomb. It was Mary Magdalene. But what she saw when she got there filled her with dismay. The round stone had been rolled away and the entrance stood wide open. She went to tell Peter. In the meantime the women had arrived at the tomb with the spices. They had been wondering how they would roll away the stone but discovered that it had already been removed. They entered the tomb and are confronted by two angels who tell them that Jesus had risen. They were naturally terrified and fled to the Cenacle to tell the eleven. (I wonder if, by this time, Jesus had appeared to his Mother who would know of the ‘resurrection’ and be more anxious than we can ever imagine to see her Son.) After hearing Mary Magdalene’s story Peter and John had rushed to the grave and saw the linen cloths and handkerchief folded in a place by itself. The way the cloths and handkerchief had been removed from the body made it clear that the body had not been stolen. Something much more dramatic was the reason for the empty tomb. By now Mary Magdalene had returned and standing weeping she hears a voice saying “Woman, why are you weeping?” And, thinking she was talking to the gardener she replied “Because they have taken away the body of the Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him!” The man was Jesus and he said “Mary!” Turning to him Mary said “Rabboni” and threw herself at his feet to embrace them.


The Women are Not Believed.


Thomas was not the only one to ‘doubt’. When the women who had seen the angels returned, they were not believed nor was Mary believed when she told them that she had seen Jesus.


On the Road to Emmaus.


Cleophas, and another disciple, are despondently making their way to Emmaus. Jesus joins them, though they do not recognise who he is. He asks them why they are looking sad. They reply that he must be the only one who has not heard of the terrible things which have been happening in Jerusalem. Commencing with Moses and all the Prophets Jesus interprets the scriptures and things appertaining to himself. When they reach Emmaus the disciples urge him to stay. As they were at table they recognised Jesus ‘In the Breaking Bread.’ Then they realised who had been their companion on the way. They returned immediately to Jerusalem but they too were not believed.


Jesus Appears to the Eleven.


Finally Jesus appears to the eleven, except that it would have been to the ten, because Thomas was not with them! His appearance seems to have been miraculous. No doors were opened, he just ‘appeared in the midst of them’. Nevertheless he wanted to leave them in no doubt that he was real flesh and blood so he asks for something to eat and he is given some broiled fish and a honeycomb. Then he opened their minds so they might understand the scriptures. Later he appeared again so that Thomas might believe. It was then that he spoke the words which are directed at us all “Blessed are those who have not seen but have believed.”


“Peace Be With You.”


After the Resurrection these were Jesus’ words whenever he appeared. Why not make them our words of greeting too?




“It is the Lord.”


It is interesting to note that whenever the apostles were unsure what to do next they did what most of them knew more about than anything else – they went fishing! So it happens that they had returned to Galilee and were in the boat fishing. They had been out all night and caught nothing. At daybreak they see a stranger on the shore who asks them if they have any fish. Their negative response is replied by being told to play out the net on the right. They do so and make a catch of one hundred and fifty-three large fish. John, the apostle who Jesus loved realises who the stranger is and says “It is the Lord.” At this Peter threw himself into the sea and made towards land, the others followed in the boat.


The Primacy of Peter.


When they had all come ashore they found that there was some bread and Jesus had prepared a charcoal fire. Jesus said “Come and have breakfast.” This was the third time Jesus had appeared to them after rising from the dead. (This is my favourite place in the Holy Land. Whenever I have been there the sun has been shining. There is an outside altar protected from the sun by trees. There are stone seats set in a semicircle around the altar like a small amphitheatre. The birds are singing in the trees and the water of the Sea of Galilee can be heard lapping on the shore. Perfect peace. A Mass offered in that beautiful place is a Mass to be remembered for ever. There is also a statue representing two figures: Jesus and Peter.) It was here that Jesus purged Peter of his three denials by asking him three times, “Simon, son of John, do you love me.” Peter’s three positive responses leads to Jesus confirming Peter as the head of his Church on earth.


The Ascension.


They have returned to Jerusalem and Jesus leads them to the top of the Mount of Olives overlooking the city. As Jesus blesses them he says to them “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world.” As Jesus spoke these words he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. The apostles and disciples worshipped him and they were continually in the Temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.





Of all the known religions only Christianity has the wealth of prophesy to prove its existence. As early as Genesis there are prophecies which have since been proved in Christianity.


Genesis 3:15. ‘I shall put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; it will bruise your head and you will strike its heel.’

Revelation 12:2 and 12 17.


Numbers 23:22. ‘God has brought him out of Egypt.’ Matthew 2:15.


Numbers 24:17. ‘A star will come out of Jacob.’ Matthew 2:2.


Deuteronomy 18:15 ‘Yahweh your God, will raise up a prophet like me…’

(These words indicate series of prophets but also are the basis for Messianic expectation which receives fulfilment in Jesus.)


Psalm 2:7. ‘He said to me, “You are my son, today have I fathered you “He trusted himself to Yahweh, let Yahweh set him free! Let him deliver him, as he took such a delight in him.”’ Matthew 27:39-44. Mark 15:32. Luke 23:35.


Psalm 21:1 ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ Mark 15:34.


Psalm 21:14-15. ‘My strength is trickling away my bones are all disjointed my heart has turned to wax, melting inside me. My mouth is dry as earthenware, my tongue sticks to my jaw.’ John 19:28.


Psalm 21:18. ‘….….they divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.’ Matthew 27:35. Mark 15:25. Luke 23:34. John 19:24.


Psalm 30:5 ‘….to your hands I commit my spirit.’ Luke 23:46.


Psalm 33:20. ‘Yahweh takes care of all their bones, not one of them will be broken.’ John 19:33 & 36.


Psalm 68:9. ‘…….for I am eaten up with zeal for your house….’ John 2:17.


Psalm 68:21. ‘To eat they gave me poison, to drink, vinegar when I was thirsty.’ Matthew 27:34. Mark 15:36. Luke 23:36. John 19:29. 


Psalm 71. The entire Psalm is devoted to ‘The Promised King.’


Psalm 77:2 ‘I will speak to you in poetry, unfold the mysteries of the past.’

Matthew 13:34-35.


Psalm 109:1. ‘Yahweh declared to my Lord. “Take your seat at my right hand, till I have made your enemies your footstool.”’ Matthew 22:44.


Psalm 117:22. ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the corner stone,’ Matthew 21:42.


Isaiah 1:3. ‘The ox knows its owner and the donkey his master’s crib.’

Luke 2:7.



Isaiah 7:14. ‘Therefore the Lord himself shall give you. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.’

Matthew 1:23. Luke 2:7.


Isaiah 9:2 ‘The people walking in the darkness have seen a great light.’ The ‘great light’ is Jesus and his salvation would be the ‘light’ for the Gentiles.


Isaiah 11:1. ‘A shoot will spring up from the stock of Jesse, a new shoot will grow from its roots.’  Matthew 1:6.


Isaiah 28:16. “Now I shall lay a stone in Zion, a granite stone, a precious corner-stone, a firm foundation stone, no one who relies on this will stumble.”

Matthew 16:18. & 21:42.


Isaiah 40:3. ‘A voice cries, “Prepare in the desert a way for Yahweh. Make a straight highway for our God.”’ Matthew 3:3. Luke 3:4. John 1:23.


Isaiah 40:11. ‘He is like a shepherd feeding his flock, gathering lambs in his arms, holding them against his breast……’ Matthew 18:12-14. Luke 15:4-7.


Isaiah 42:1-9. ‘Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight.’ A Messianic Psalm.


Isaiah 49:7 ‘Kings will see you and rise up, princes will see and bow down…’

Matthew 2.1-12.


Isaiah 50:6. ‘I have offered my back to those who struck me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard. I have not turned my face away from insult and spitting.’ Matthew 26:67. Mark 10:34. Luke 22:63-65.


Isaiah 52:14. ‘As many people were aghast at him – he was so inhumanly disfigured that he no longer looked like a man…..’


Isaiah 53:3. ‘….he was despised, the lowest of men, a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering. Yet ours were the sufferings he was bearing.’

Matthew 8:17.   


Isaiah 53:7. ‘Ill-treated and afflicted, he never opened his mouth, like a lamb to the slaughter-house, like a sheep dumb before the shearers he never opened his mouth.’ Matthew 26:63. & 27:12-14.


Isaiah 53:12. ‘Hence I shall give him a portion with the many, and he will share the body with the mighty………………….’ Matthew 26:26-28.

Mark 14:22-25. Luke 22:9-20.


Isaiah 53:12 Also interpreted as:- ‘He was taken for a criminal’. or ‘….being counted as one of the rebellious.’ Mark 15:28. Luke 22:37.


Isaiah 60:6 ‘Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah. And all from Sheba will come bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the Lord.’ Matthew 2:1-11.


Isaiah 61:1. ‘The spirit of the Lord Yahweh is on me for Yahweh has anointed me.’ ‘He has sent me to bring the news to the afflicted, to soothe the broken-hearted.’ Matthew 11:4-5. Luke 4:18. & 7:22.

Jeremiah 23:5-6. “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch…..”


Jeremiah 33:14-16. “’The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfil the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah.’”


Ezekiel 34:22. ‘I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered.’


Hosea 11:1 ‘….and I called my son out of Egypt.’ Matthew 2:15.


Micah 5:1. ‘But you (Bethlenhem) Ephrathah, the least of the clans of Judah, from you will come for me a future ruler of Israel.’ Matthew 2:6. Luke 2:4.

John 7:42.


Zechariah 9:9. ‘Rejoice heart and soul, daughter of Zion! Shout for joy, daughter of Jerusalem! Look, your king is approaching, he is vindicated and riding a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ Matthew 21:1-5.

Mark 11:1-11. Luke 19:28-38. John 12:12-15.


Zechariah 11:12. ‘So they weighed out my wages: thirty shekels of silver.’

Matthew 26:15. Mark 14:10. Luke 22:3-6.


Zechariah 11:13. ‘Yahweh said to me, “Throw it to the smelter, this princely sum at which they have valued me!” Taking the thirty shekels of silver, threw them into the Temple of Yahweh for the smelter.’ Matthew 27:3-10.  


Zechariah 12:10. ‘They will mourn for the one they have pierced.’ John 19:37.


Zechariah 13:7. ‘Strike the shepherd, scatter the sheep!’ Matthew 26:31.

Mark 14:27.


Many more prophesies can be found but the above are an example of the firm foundation on which the Christian Church is built.


The Psalms quoted throughout this work are given the Greek Septuagint numbering.


The Real Presence.

How many Roman Catholics believe in the Real Presence? On page 411 of The Message of Merciful Love, which contain Jesus’ words to Carmela Carabelli, the strong impression is given that few really believe. Instead the Eucharist has become ‘a souvenir, a simple memorial’ and from these erroneous thoughts come unconcern and sacrilege.


Sadly, in the Church today, the fashion is to regard Our Lord’s presence in the Eucharist as something that is not completely real, something that has only a symbolic meaning and this level of belief varies from person to person. But this is not the traditional teaching of the Church. Pope Paul VI in his encyclical ‘Mysterium Fidei’ wrote “In the course of the day, the faithful should not omit to visit the Blessed Sacrament, which, according to the liturgical laws, must be kept in the churches with great reverence. Such visits are a proof of gratitude, an expression of love, an acknowledgement of the Lord’s presence. Christ is truly the Emmanuel that is, GOD WITH US. Day and night He is in our midst, He dwells with us, full of grace and truth.”


What do we mean by the Real Presence? We mean that at the moment of Consecration, through the words of the priest, by the power of the Holy Spirit the Bread and Wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus. This miraculous change is made whilst still maintaining the appearance of bread and wine.


What proof do we have for this Miracle of the Eucharist?


Firstly we have the words of Jesus from St John’s Gospel:


                               “In all truth I tell you,

                               it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven,

                               it is my Father who gives you the bread from heaven,

                               the true bread; for the bread of God

                               is the bread which comes down from heaven

                               and gives life to the world.”


 “Sir”, they said, “give us that bread always.” Jesus answered them:


                               “I am the bread of life.

                               No one who comes to me will ever hunger;

                               no one who believes in me will ever thirst.”  John 6:32-35.


‘Meanwhile the Jews were complaining to each other about him, because he had said, “I am the bread that has come down from heaven.” They were saying, “Surely this is Jesus son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know. How can he now say, “I have come down from Heaven?’” John 6:41-43.


                                “I am the bread of life.

                                Your fathers ate manna in the desert and they are dead;

                                 but this is the bread which comes down from heaven,

                                 so that a person may eat it and not die.

                                 Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever;

                                 and the bread that I shall give

                                 is my flesh, for the life of the world.”


Then the Jews started arguing among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus replied to them:


                                 “In all truth I tell you,

                                 if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man

                                 and drink his blood,

                                 you have no life in you.

                                 Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood

                                 has eternal life,

                                 and I shall raise that person up on the last day.

                                 For my flesh is real food

                                 and my blood is real drink.

                                 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood

                                 lives in me

                                 and I live in that person.

                                 As the living Father sent me

                                 and I draw life from the Father,

                                 so whoever eats me will also draw life from me.

                                 This is the bread which has come down from heaven;

                                 it is not like the bread our ancestors ate:

                                 they are dead,

                                 but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.”   

John 6:48-58.


Now we refer to St Matthew’s Gospel:


Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread and when he had said the blessing he broke it and gave it to the disciples. “Take it and eat,” he said, “this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he handed it to them saying, “Drink from this, all of you, for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Matthew 26:26-29.


Now from St Mark’s Gospel:


And as they were eating he took bread, and when he had said the blessing he broke it and gave it to them. “Take it,” he said, “this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he handed it to them, and all drank from it, and he said to them, “This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, poured out for many.” Mark 14:22-24.


Next from St Luke’s Gospel:


Then he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” He did the same with the cup after supper, and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood poured out for you.” Luke 22:19-20.



Those, then, are the references from the four Gospels and the words Jesus uses are very definite. Jesus was not a man to play with words. When he said “Take up thy pallet and walk” he wasn’t talking imaginatively but he meant what he said and many cripples did exactly that.



Other writings, of St Paul and early Christian writers confirm the Real Presence under the appearance of Bread and Wine.


St Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians which probably preceded the Gospels wrote:- ‘For the tradition I received from the Lord and also handed on to you is that on the night he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread, and after he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” And in the same way, with the cup after supper, saying “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me.” Whenever you eat this bread, then drink this cup, you are proclaiming the Lord’s death until he comes. Therefore anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily is answerable for the body and blood of the Lord.’ 1 Corinthians 11:23-27.


St Justin in the First Century wrote:- ‘We salute one another with a kiss……

then is brought to the President of the brethren, bread and a cup of water and wine, which he receives; and offers up praise and glory to the Father of all things, through the name of His Son, and the Holy Ghost; …….and when the President and all the people have assented, they whom we call deacons give to each of those present a portion of the Eucharistic bread and wine, and water; and carry them to those who are absent.’


St Irenaeus C140.-.200 wrote:- ‘He declared that the chalice which comes from his creation was his blood, and he makes it the nourishment of our blood. He affirmed that the bread which comes from his creation was his body, and he makes it the nourishment of our body. When the chalice we mix and the bread we bake receive the word of God, the eucharistic elements become the body and blood of Christ, by which our bodies live and grow.’


A Fourth Century Catacheses wrote:- ‘On the night he was betrayed Our Lord Jesus Christ took bread and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples and said “Take eat: this is my body.” He took the cup, gave thanks and said: “Take, drink: this is my blood.” Since Christ himself has declared the bread to be his body, who can have any further doubt? Since he  himself has said quite categorically, “This is my blood,” who would dare to question it and say that it is not his blood?’


St Thomas Aquinas in the Thirteenth Century wrote:- ‘Since it was the will of God’s only-begotten Son that we should share in his divinity, he assumed our nature in order that by becoming man he might make us divine. Moreover, when he took our flesh he dedicated the whole of its substance to our salvation. He offered his body to God the Father on the altar of the cross as a sacrifice for our reconciliation. He shed his blood for our ransom and purification, so that we might be redeemed from our wretched state of bondage and cleansed of all sin. But to ensure that the memory of so great a gift would abide with us for ever, he left his body as food and his blood as drink for the faithful to consume in the form of bread and wine.’


Why then can there be any doubts that he meant exactly what he said by the words “This is my body - this is my blood?” The only reason is that Satan, who despises Jesus and doesn’t want us to believe, puts the doubts into our hearts, our minds and our souls.




One of the objections regarding the Real Presence is that it appears to be cannibalistic. The answer to that is Jesus’ unbelievable and perfect humility. How else can we explain his desire to offer his real body and real blood for us to eat and drink? If the choice to eat and drink had been ours then the objection would be proved. But the choice was that of Jesus and we cannot disobey.



A book with many stories of the Eucharist is ‘Eucharistic Miracles and Eucharistic Phenomena in the Lives of the Saints.’ By Joan Carroll Cruz. Published by Tan Book Publishers Inc. of Rockford in the U.S.A. This book is probably stocked by most Catholic Book shops. It contains forty-two stories regarding the Eucharist, and will make excellent reading for those who wish to make a further study of the often dramatic, true stories of the Eucharist. The miracles in the book date from the 8th century to the 20th century.


Here are an edited version of six stories from the book:


Miracle of the Eucharist. Lanciano  8th Century.

‘A monk, wise in the ways of the world, but not in the faith, was having a trying time with his belief in the Real Presence of Our Lord Jesus in the Eucharist. He prayed constantly for relief from his doubts, and from the fear that he was losing his vocation. He suffered through the routine of his priesthood day after day, with these doubts gnawing at him.


The situation in the world did not help his faith. There were many heresies cropping up all the time, which kept chipping away at his faith. They were not all from outside the church either. Brother priests and bishops were victims of these heresies, that were being spread throughout the Church. The morning, while he was having a strong attack of doubt, he began the Consecration of the Mass for the people of the town. He used the same size host which is used in the Latin Rite Mass today. After the consecration of the Host and Wine, what he beheld caused his hands to shake, indeed his whole body. He stood for a long time with his back to the people, and then slowly turned around to them.


He said “O fortunate witnesses to whom the Blessed God, to confound my disbelief, has wished to reveal Himself in this Most Blessed Sacrament and to render Himself visible to our eyes! Come, brethren, and marvel at our God so close to us. Behold the Flesh and Blood of our most beloved Christ.”


The host had turned into Flesh.      The wine had turned into Blood.


All that happened one thousand three hundred years ago. Had that miracle taken place, and then the flesh and blood disintegrated, as would have been normal, the miracle would have been none the less a miracle. The priest’s faith had been renewed. The entire town, the whole country for that matter, became aware of the miracle. Pilgrims flocked to Lanciano to venerate the host turned into Flesh and the wine turned into blood. Belief in the Eucharist had been reborn.


But that is not all. The miracle is ongoing. The Flesh and the Blood, without the use of any form of preservative is still present in a reliquary at the Church were the miracle happened. Scientific tests carried out in 1970-71 show that the Flesh is real Flesh and the Blood is real Blood.  Also the Flesh and Blood are of the same blood group as on the Holy Shroud of Turin.  


It is impossible to truly appreciate the Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano without seeing the impact it has on those who witness it. All questions and doubts about the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist are defeated. After seeing the miracle one priest said “I can never raise the host or wine at the consecration again, without seeing my Lord’s very Heart between my fingers, His Blood alive in the chalice before me.”


On another occasion, after a priest had shown the Miracle to pilgrims he came to the foot of the altar and made the following observation: “Remember that this miracle that you have witnessed happens every day in every church in the world at the consecration of the Mass.”


Miracle of the Sacred Hosts. Siena 1730

In Siena on the eve of the Feast of Assumption thieves stole a ciborium containing 351 hosts. Three days later they were found in the ‘poor box’ of a nearby church. Every one was accounted for. They were dusty and dirty and it was decided not to use them for Holy Communion but to put them in a tabernacle and let them decay naturally.


Now, 273 years later, the hosts are as fresh as the day they were consecrated. They have not been protected from the elements and should have decayed as long ago as 1730!


In 1922 the church proclaimed the hosts to be a miracle of the Eucharist and they are kept in a reliquary to be venerated.


Miracle of Bolsena-Orvieto. Italy 1263

In the Middle Ages, in Bolsena, which is seventy miles north of Rome, a priest named Peter of Prague, who was on a pilgrimage to Rome, stopped off and asked to offer Mass in the Church of St Prestina.


He had doubts about the real presence and before Mass prayed about his doubts. At the moment of Consecration as he held the host up blood started to drip from the host onto the marble floor. In confusion, and not knowing what to do, he wrapped the bleeding host in the corporal and left the altar.


Pope Urban IV was staying at nearby Orvieto so Peter went to tell the Pope what had happened. The Pope sent a bishop to fetch the Corporal and Host from Bolsena. As the bishop approached Orvieto the Pope went out to meet him and when he saw the Blood Stained Corporal he knelt in adoration.


The Pope had the relic placed in the Cathedral of Orvieto and later instituted the feast of Corpus Christi  ‘The Body of Christ’. The Blood Stained Linen remains in a special chapel of the cathedral in a gold reliquary. In the church at Bolsena can be seen the pieces of marble floor which the blood stained when it fell from the host.



The Miracle of Santarem. Portugal 13th Century.

There lived in the village of Santarem, 35 miles south of Fatima, a poor woman who was made miserable by the activities of her unfaithful husband. In her extreme unhappiness she consulted a sorceress, who promised deliverance from her trials for the price of a consecrated Host. After many hesitations the woman finally consented and visited the Church of St. Stephen. After receiving Holy Communion, she removed the Host from her mouth and wrapped it in her veil, intending to take it to the sorceress.


But, within a few minutes blood began to issue from the Host. The amount of blood increased so much that it dripped from the cloth and attracted the attention of bystanders. Seeing blood on the woman’s hand and arm and thinking her injured, several witnesses rushed forward to help. The woman avoided them, ran to her home, leaving a trail of blood behind her.


Hoping to hide the bloody veil and its contents, she placed them in a chest; but during the night she was forced to reveal them to her husband when a mysterious light issued from the trunk, penetrating the wood and illuminating the whole house. Both knelt in adoration for the remaining hours until dawn, when the parish priest was summoned.


News of the mysterious event spread quickly and attracted countless people who wanted to contemplate the miracle. Because of the furore, an episcopal investigation was promptly organised. The Host was taken in procession to the Church of St. Stephen, where it was encased in wax and secured in the tabernacle. Some time later, when the tabernacle was opened, another miracle was discovered. The wax that had encased the Host was found broken into pieces, and the Host was found miraculously enclosed in a crystal pyx. This was later placed in a gold and silver pear-shaped monstrance with a ‘sunburst’ of 33 rays, in which it is still contained.


After the approval of the ecclesiastical authorities, who saw no reason to condemn or suppress reports of the miracle, the Church of St. Stephen was renamed ’The Church of the Holy Miracle.’ It is here that the Host is still preserved and displayed for the admiration and veneration of pilgrims. In the nave of the church, high up on both sides, are ancient paintings depicting the miracle.


The Host is somewhat irregularly shaped, with delicate veins running from top to bottom where a quantity of blood is collected in the crystal. In the opinion of an eminent New Jersey physician, who has observed the miraculous Host many times over a period of years, the coagulated blood at the bottom of the crystal sometimes had the colour of fresh blood, and at other times dried blood.


The miracle has endured for over 700 years.


The Miracle of Hasselt. Belgium 1317. 

Constant Vab der  Straeten, a renowned historian who was for many years an officer of the cathedral of Hasselt, gives us a brief history of this miracle.


A priest from Viversel, helping the priests in the city of Lummen, was asked to bring the Holy Eucharist to a man of the village who was ill.Taking with him a Host in a ciborium, the priest entered the man’s house and placed the ciborium on a table while he went to speak with the family in another room.

While the priest was absent, a man in mortal sin wandered into the room, removed the cover of the ciborium, touched the Host then picked it up. At once the Host began to bleed. Frightened, the man dropped the Host into the ciborium and quickly departed. When the priest returned for the ciborium he found the cover removed, and he was astonished to see the Host spotted with blood.


At first undecided about what to do, the priest finally brought the ciborium and the Host to the pastor and related what had taken place. The pastor advised him to carry the miraculous Host to the church of the Cistercian nuns at Herkenrode approximately 30 miles away.


This convent, founded near Leige in the 12th century, was the first foundation of the Cistercian nuns in Belgium. Even during a time of decline in the Cistercian Order, this foundation continued to grow in size until it ranked among the most important convents in the Low Countries. Because of this venerable community’s reputation for holiness, the pastor apparently felt that the miraculous Host would be more appropriately enshrined in the convent’s church.


The priest journeyed to the Cistercian church, and as soon as he approached  the altar and placed the Host upon it, a vision of Christ, crowned with thorns, was seen by everyone present. Our Lord seems to have thereby given a special sign of His willingness to be enshrined there. Because of this vision and the miraculous Host, Herkenrode quickly became one of the most famous places of pilgrimage in Belgium.


The Host was securely kept in the church at Herkenrode until 1796, during the French Revolution, when the nuns were expelled from their convent. During this dreadful time the Host was entrusted to the care of a succession of different families. It is said that it was once placed in a tin box and walled into the kitchen of a house.


In 1804 the Host was removed from hiding and taken during solemn services to the Church of St. Quentin in Hasselt. The picturesque church of Gothic architecture, dating from the 14th century, contains impressive paintings of the 16th and 17th centuries which recall events in the history of the miracle. But, much more important, the Church of St. Quentin still guards the miraculous Eucharistic Host of 1317, which still remains in splendid condition.


Dubna, Poland 1876. A very remarkable event is recorded to have happened on the fifth February 1876, in a small town in Poland called Dubna, during the celebration of the Forty Hours Devotion in the Church of The Blessed Virgin Mary.


Amid the terrors of the revolution, the church at Dubna had been fortunate enough to escape molestation, and that reason, added to the religious motives, contributed to make the number of religious worshippers thronging the edifice particularly large. As the Blessed Sacrament was exposed to the view of the multitude, soft brilliant rays of light began emanating from the monstrance, in plain sight of the people kneeling close the sanctuary. Then a wonderful apparition took place. The figure of the Saviour appeared distinctly in the place of the Host, and remained there throughout the entire forty hours. Catholics and heretics, some from motives of strong faith, others out of mere curiosity, went to the church to witness the miracle, until persons in every walk of life, and of every form of belief offered their solemn testimony to the fact of the manifestation. This wide acknowledgement brought the affair to the ears of the city officials and as a result the parish priest was called to give testimony before the director of police. The Governor of Schitomar being informed, it was forbidden under pain of imprisonment to speak of the apparition. But the witnesses were anxious to parade God’s work before the incredulous, and consequently they were content that God saw fit to exhibit His marvellous power on their behalf. A written statement of the miracle having been submitted by the priest to the bishop of the diocese, the latter requested that the event should be kept secret, lest the church should be closed by the civil authorities.


Two Old Testament References to The Eucharist.

The Old Testament has many references to the Eucharist which is to come:


As Abraham was walking up Mount Moriah to obey God’s command to sacrifice his son, Isaac asks “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham replies “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering.” That foretold the future when God gave us his only Son as the offering.


On the night when the Hebrews prepared to leave Egypt, they sprinkled the blood of the lamb on the door posts so that the Angel the Lord would ‘Passover’ their homes and not kill their firstborn sons. That blood is symbolic of the blood of Jesus which we receive in Holy Communion. The Manna which the Hebrews ate during their desert wanderings is symbolic of the bread of the Body of Christ which we receive in Holy Communion.


Another miracle was told to me by a priest who was also having doubts. He told me that soon after his ordination he had doubts and asked Jesus for a sign. Some time later he was offering Mass in a convent and had to take the Eucharist to a nun who was poorly in bed. The Ciborium was full which makes it very easy to spill Hosts. (As a Eucharistic Minister I know this to be the case. Hosts are very light and one has to be very careful not to spill them.) Everything went well till he was coming down the stairs when he tripped over the chasuble which was too long for him, and he fell down the stairs. When he got to the bottom his one concern was for the Sacred Hosts. He discovered that he was holding the Ciborium high above his head in his right hand. The cover had come off the Ciborium and was lying on the floor. The Cirboium was bent…….it must have had a heavy knock. But where were the Sacred Hosts? The priest looked around the floor expecting to find it covered in Hosts. But none were to be found. They were all safely in the damaged Ciborium. A miracle! The priest took that as the sign he had asked for. From that time he has never doubted.


So, when we talk of the ‘Real Presence’, we mean what we say. If we allow the ‘tempter’ to take over our minds and hearts and feed us with doubts then think for a moment of how those doubts must hurt Jesus. He has given us ‘His All’ and yet we are throwing it back in his face and saying “We don’t believe.” Is it any wonder that in various apparitions Our Lady is sometimes seen to be sad and crying? She, above everyone, knows how much her Son gives of Himself and she grieves out of sadness for her Son and for us.


We must help to dispel Our Lady’s grief and BELIEVE. Our BELIEF will show Jesus how much we love Him and will make up for years of unbelief and neglect.





Eucharistic Miracles and Eucharistic

Phenomena in the Lives of the Saints.

By Joan Carroll Cruz.

Tan Book Publishers Inc.



USA 61105


New Catholic Edition of the Holy Bible

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The Bible Reader’s Encyclopaedia and Concordance

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