A Life of Jesus

Kenneth B. Tindall

Chapter IX.


Peter glanced over his shoulder at the group standing behind him on the quay. He had been scanning the horizon.

“There’s dirty weather coming,” he remarked. “Would you rather put off the trip till another night, Master?”

“Funking it, Peter?” said Jesus, chaffing him.

Peter roared with laughter.

“I’m not worrying for myself,” he chuckled; “but some of these chaps may not care for it. It’ll be blowing a gale before midnight, won’t it, James?”

His partner looked up from the boat where he was engaged with his brother and Andrew, taking a reef in the sail.

“Squally,” was his laconic reply.

“Well, what do you all say?” enquired Jesus of the other eight who stood with him.

“It’s for you to decide, Master,” answered Thomas, speaking for the rest.

They all knew Jesus’ desire to get away for a few days from the crowds which collected wherever he went. He was tired; only that morning he had found himself so thronged with listeners that he had again borrowed one of the boats and sat in the stern to talk to the people. He wished to be alone with the Twelve to give them final instructions for the preaching tour on which he intended to send them out next month.

“Oh, let’s go,” said Philip; “it’s not going to be too bad, is it?” He addressed his remark to John who was just mounting the slimy steps.

John’s head appeared above the quayside, his teeth showing in an expansive grin.

“You wait and see,” he returned.

“It’s all very well for you, Philip,” laughed Thaddaeus. “We aren’t all experienced fishermen like you.”

It was Andrew who settled the matter.

“It’s going to be a rough night,” he said, “but Jesus wants to go; so come along. And with him on board—”

He stopped, gazing out over the lake. But the others understood.

It was a fine evening, with a steady breeze from the south west. The boat made good headway.

“You’re tired, Master,” said John. “Make the most of the good weather and get a bit of sleep.”

With his brother’s help he spread a cushion in the stern; Jesus lay down; lulled by the lapping of the wavelets on the timbers of the boat, he soon fell into a deep sleep.

It was a dark, moonless night. Wisps of fleecy cloud sped across the sky, through which the stars played hide and seek. Towards midnight the breeze dropped; the sails flapped idly against the mast.

“What about your gale, Peter?” remarked Matthew, with a quiet laugh.

There was no reply. Peter was standing forrard, staring anxiously over the surface of the water towards the north west.

“Better take in another reef,” said Andrew who was at the helm.

Swiftly and deftly Peter and Zebedee’s sons carried out the work, then stood silently gazing once more north-westwards.

Their suspense was beginning to communicate itself to the others. In silence they waited for they knew not what. The boat had lost all way and lay becalmed. The helmsman had no control.

“It’s coming,” said Peter.

Over the black surface of the lake a blacker line was rapidly approaching. Matthew and Simon stood up to watch it.

“Mind your head,” shouted James.

The squall struck them with the force of a sledge hammer. The heavy boat heeled over and shipped water. The boom crashed over, only just missing the ducking heads and almost wrenching the tiller from Andrew’s hand. The water, lashed into sudden fury by the violence of the tempest, seethed and boiled. All that Andrew could do was to turn the boat’s head down wind and run straight before the gale.

The storm increased; in a few moments the waves grew mountainous. The boat which a quarter of an hour ago had seemed large and secure was tossed about at the mercy of the elements. Every time she descended into the trough, her bows were under water and it seemed impossible that she could right herself. She was fast shipping water.

Andrew’s face was set and stern. The other fishermen watched him in silence. They knew that if anyone could bring them through, he could. Yet their anxiety was obvious to Philip, who had been through rough weather with them often before, but had never seen them like this.

As the boat rose to the crest of a wave, a sudden gust caught her and slewed her half round; she heeled over. The water poured over the gunwale. With a spring John was at Andrew’s side; their combined strength only just succeeded in bringing her head round.

“Better rouse the Master;” it was Peter who spoke; “things are not too good. It’s not fair to let him sleep on.”

Nathaniel was sitting in the stern by Jesus’ side; he laid his hand on his arm. He spoke urgently; “Master! Master! We’re foundering.” Jesus sat up. For a moment he looked about him. He saw the strain in the faces of the fishermen, the fear in the eyes of the rest. He looked out at the heaving billows, heard the screaming of the blast.

“Quiet!” he said with calm authority. “Be still.”

The squall ceased as suddenly as it had started. As the wind dropped, the boat heaved in helpless silence on the gigantic swell, till it too began to subside. In an incredibly short time there was no movement beyond a sullen roll of the waters on which the stout little craft idly rose and fell.

The eyes of all the Twelve had been fastened on Jesus since the moment the gale stopped. He seemed unconscious of the scrutiny.

“Why were you afraid?” he said with a smile. “Haven’t you even yet any trust in the Father’s loving care?”

Even as he spoke, there was a gentle puff of wind from the south west. And soon the boat was dancing joyously over the ruffled face of the lake.

In silence James took over the helm from Andrew who stretched himself in utter weariness in the bows and fell straight asleep. Jesus lay down; his regular breathing soon told his companions that he too had dropped off again.

“What sort of man is this, that even the wind and waves obey him?” It was Judas who had spoken, but he voiced the feelings of the rest.

In the grey half-light preceding the dawn they approached a lonely spot on the eastern shore of the lake. The storm had driven them out of their course and this was not the place where they had intended to land. But their chief desire at the moment was to get ashore and dry their sodden garments.

At the point for which they were making a narrow valley ran down to a rocky bay between two fairly high cliffs. On the hill above one of these an enormous herd of pigs was grazing; the face of the other cliff was honeycombed with small caves and looked like a disused burial place. As the light improved the details became more plainly discernible.

“What’s that moving about?” exclaimed Matthew suddenly; “over there behind the big rock.”

“It’s a man,” replied Simon; “I’ve been watching him for some time. Can’t make out what he’s up to.”

“Some fellow come down for an early dip,” said Thaddaeus; “he’s naked.”

“I thought so at first,” answered Simon, “but he’s not been near the water. He does nothing but peer at us from behind the rocks.”

“Shy, I expect,” suggested Thaddaeus with a laugh.

By this time the boat was close in shore and the fishermen were lowering the sail. John had jumped into the water, ready to haul her up to the beach.

“Look at that fellow now,” cried Simon; “he’s looking over the top of that rock.”

“He’s hailing us, isn’t he?” remarked Matthew; “but I can’t make out a word he’s saying.”

Even as he spoke the rays of the rising sun lit up the strange face. The eyes were those of a hunted beast, despairing yet ferocious; the black hair hung in filthy, matted locks over the scarred face; from the corners of the loose mouth frothy saliva dribbled over the shaggy beard.

“He’s mad, poor devil,” said Judas carelessly. “Possessed.”

As the keel of the boat grated on the shingle, the maniac sprang suddenly onto the rock behind which he had been lurking. His tall, powerful frame, stark naked and covered with bruises and sores, seemed of superhuman size, enveloped in the filmy morning haze. A torrent of filthy and blasphemous abuse poured from the obscure lips.

Jesus stepped ashore.

“Jesus,” cried Peter suddenly, “don’t go near him. He’s probably dangerous.”

Jesus looked round with a smile.

“I’m needed over there,” was all he said. And he advanced straight up the shingle towards the naked man. James and John, followed immediately by the rest, were close on his heels.

The madman had caught the name.

“Jesus! Jesus!” he screamed. “What business have you here with me, Jesus? You’re the Son of the most high God!”

The Twelve exchanged astonished glances.

Suddenly the maniac sprang down from the rock and raced over the shingle towards Jesus. Jesus waved back the Twelve who were hurrying to his aid up the sloping beach, and walked forward alone.

Only a few paces separated them. The man stopped, fell on his knees and buried his face in the seaweed.

In a calm, clear voice Jesus said: “You shall be freed from the devils which possess you.”

An unearthly wail issued from the madman’s lips.

Some of the pigs on the opposite hill, startled from their peaceful grazing, scampered from the cliff edge, then wheeled round and stood in a frightened bunch, looking around them; two swineherds appeared over the slope and stared down at the scene on the beach.

“I beg you not to torture me,” the man raved.

“What is your name?” said Jesus.

With a look of insane pride the man rose to his feet, slunk up to Jesus’ side, cupped his hands round his mouth and in a hoarse whisper, which was clearly audible to the Twelve, he hissed in Jesus’ ear: “My name’s Legion. I’ve got a whole regiment of devils in me.”

“The regiment must find new quarters,” said Jesus, with soothing persuasion.

The man looked round in vague uncertainty. Then his eyes were riveted on the pigs and his face lit up. He stared at them intently for a moment, then turned quickly to Jesus and gibbered something in an undertone. Not a word of what he said could be heard by the group in the background. But Jesus seemed to understand; he nodded.

With a triumphant yell the maniac sped up the ravine; the Twelve watched him in bitter disappointment; this was the first occasion in their experience when their Master had failed; the man was as mad as ever. They could hear his incoherent gabbling as he leapt from rock to rock. For a moment he was hidden behind a thick clump of ilex; then they caught sight of him again, scrambling up a precipitous slope.

The two lads in charge of the pigs saw him coming and ran for their lives. The pigs themselves, sensing that something was amiss, snorted and ran aimlessly hither and thither; others of the herd, hundreds of them, came rushing over the slope to see what was wrong, till the whole hillside seemed covered with pigs, squealing and grunting in panic.

The climber had passed out of sight behind a jutting overhang of the cliff. Suddenly on the skyline appeared a stark figure, standing straight and gaunt, touched with gold by the sun’s rays. It waved its arms as if casting something from itself to the pigs. The herd stood for a moment with heads lowered as if to charge. Then they broke and stampeded. Down the hill they poured, straight for the brink, where the beetling cliff overhung an inlet of deep water. On the very edge they checked, trying in vain to pull up; slithering and squealing the whole herd plunged over the crags, to splash into the water or to be dashed to pieces on the rocks below.

Holding their breath, the Twelve stood in fascinated silence, horrified by the hideous scene of destruction. Then they turned their eyes once more to the top of the hill. A crumpled, naked form lay on the turf, still as death.

Uncertainly they glanced at Jesus. He was gazing at the limp figure on the hill, an unfathomable expression in his eyes.

“John,” he said, “can you climb that hillside?”

“I can, Master.”

“Then up with you and help that poor fellow down. He’ll be exhausted.”

Glad of action, John hurried away. Jesus rejoined the rest.

“Waste,” he muttered, as he came back to them. “Pitiable waste of life.”

“They are unclean beasts,” remarked Judas; “it’s a judgement on the people for keeping them.”

“No, no, Judas,” replied Jesus; “they are God’s creatures; no creature of God is unclean.”

“But I don’t understand, Master,” said Thomas with a puzzled frown; “did the devils leave the madman and enter into the pigs?”

“He asked that they might,” answered Jesus.

“And you gave them leave,” said Thomas slowly; “yes—I see.”

“It was the only way in which his poor warped mind could understand,” explained Jesus. “Without some such sign he could not believe; and without his belief I could not have restored his reason.”

“He’s coming back,” exclaimed young James, gazing upwards at the hill; “walking quite slowly; John hasn’t reached him yet.”

Ten minutes later John appeared with the naked man; he walked very slowly, hardly dragging one foot after the other, and seemed utterly exhausted and half dazed. As they approached, James returned to rummage in the boat and in half a minute reappeared, carrying an old spare suit of fisherman’s clothes.

“Here, put these on,” he said with rough kindliness; “you’ll feel better when you’re properly clad.”

Without a word the man took the garments and put them on, but fumblingly, as if he had forgotten the use of clothes. Then he sat down on a rock and buried his head in his hands. Jesus sat down by him and the rest drew apart, conversing in undertones.

It was not long before the shouts of an approaching crowd were heard; soon they appeared over the brow of the two hills, spread out as if driving cattle. Others came down the gully, headed by a stout little man with a bald head and fiery red face. All carried heavy sticks; one or two had ropes and even iron chains. Some of the cries became distinguishable.

“Where is he?”

“Hunt him out!”

“Search the caves!”

“Take care he doesn’t spring on you from behind!”

Jesus rose as they drew near and went to meet them.

“Here! You!” shouted the fat man; “what have you been exciting mad Jabez for? Where is he? We’ll have to tie him up again.”

“No need for that,” replied Jesus quietly; “there he is; he’s recovered.”

“Recovered be hanged,” blustered the fat man. “He has these quiet spells off and on; it doesn’t mean anything. Come on, boys; hold him tight while Reuben and Job get the fetters on him.”

“No one must lay hands on him;” said Jesus firmly. “I tell you he’s as sane as you or I.”

“Then why did he drive our pigs over the cliff?” asked the fat man aggressively. “There’s our property destroyed—a couple of thousand valuable pigs. And you have the face to say the fellow’s sane. It’s your doing that it happened; oh, I know you couldn’t tell; but he always gets excited when he’s disturbed. We just leave him alone in the old tombs.”

“Who did the pigs belong to?” asked Jesus.

“All of us,” said another man; “we all graze them together to save labour.”

“Was this the only herd?” Jesus continued.

“No, no,” answered the other; “there are two more herds.”

“Then I suggest,” Jesus went on, “that a share of those pigs should be given to those who have lost theirs. That would be good neighbourly kindness.”

There seemed to be general agreement with this proposal. One cheerful fellow added: “By the mercy of God, pigs breed fast. By this time next year, we’ll have made good the loss. Share and share alike, that’s the way, as this chap says.”

“Still we mustn’t take risks,” put in another. “We must clap mad Jabez into chains again.”

One of the swineherds pushed his way to the front.

“It’s my belief,” he said, “that the devils went out of mad Jabez into the pigs. The pigs just went mad.”

Peter came forward.

“It was our Master, Jesus of Nazareth,” he said, “who sent the devils out of him.”

“And into our pigs, eh?” said the fat man with heavy humour. “Well, if he’s a magician, he and you had better clear out.”

“He’s a prophet,” declared Peter with vigour.

“Magician or prophet,” said the fat man truculently, “it makes no matter. We don’t want to lose our other herds. So move off and leave us to deal with the madman as we think best.”

A woman thrust her way through the crowd. Timidly she made her way to Jabez who still continued to sit moodily some distance away. He looked up at her. In a dazed way he drew his hand across his eyes.

“Why, Ruth,” he said as if waking out of a dream; “where have you been all this time? Why are we here? And what are all the folks staring at us for?”

The woman burst into tears. “Thank God! Thank God!” she sobbed; “he’s himself again.”

She buried her face on his knees. Mechanically he stroked her head. The crowd looked on in bewildered amazement. It was slowly dawning on them that Jabez had recovered his wits.

“Are you coming—home, Jabez?” said the woman.

“Home?” replied the man in a puzzled kind of way. “No; I’m going with this man. He’s been good to me. I had devils, Ruth,” he explained, as if she knew nothing about it; “he sent them away. They went into the pigs. The pigs ran over the cliff. I’m going with him. I may come with you, mayn’t I?” he concluded, addressing Jesus.

“Nonsense,” replied Jesus briskly; “you’re going home with your wife. And you’re going to tell her and all these friends of yours what great things God has done for you.”

“Come, Ruth,” said the man, “I’ll tell you. We’ll go home.”

The woman led him away.

Jesus drew aside the fat man and several others who had led the crowd.

“You see,” he said, “he’s no longer insane. Still a little confused of course; but that’s natural. In a day or two he’ll have picked up the threads and be going about his work as before. How long had he been like that?”

“Best part of seven or eight years,” volunteered one.

“And always lived here in these old tombs,” said another.

“And wouldn’t wear a shred of clothes,” added a third, “just tore them into pieces if we managed to put anything on him. Many’s the time we’ve had to bind him up with ropes, he was that fierce; but he broke them straight off; strong as Samson he was, in his mad fits.”

“Even chains and fetters couldn’t hold him,” put in another speaker.

“Such a good chap he used to be, too,” said one.

“And now his mind’s restored,” said Jesus quietly. “I’m sorry about your pigs; but isn’t it worth it? You have your friend with you again.”

“Ay, that’s better than all the pigs,” remarked the last speaker. “What I say is, pigs are all very well, but they’re only dumb creatures; and it’s not so bad losing the pigs as it was for Jabez losing his wits, poor chap.”

“Well, if you put it like that,” concluded the fat man, “I suppose it isn’t. Still, pigs is pigs.”

“And Jabez is a man,” interrupted Jesus quickly; “and every man is a son of God. Think that over.”

He turned and walked back to the boat. The fishermen had already sensed his purpose and had her ready. The sail was hoisted and they ran northwards up the shore to the spot which they had intended to make the night before.

In silence the crowd watched the little craft till it rounded the next point. They had lost a valuable herd of pigs; yet they felt glad. Their friend was restored; but that was not all. They knew that something unspeakably good had been done; that someone unspeakably good had been among them.

They turned and walked back to Gadara.

It was in a sun-drenched creek, sheltered from the wind, that Jesus gave to the Twelve the final instructions for their preaching tour.

In the boat there had been a lively discussion about the weird events of the morning; most of the Twelve maintained that the devils had undoubtedly been cast out of the man into the pigs; a few, headed by Thomas asserted that the herd had merely taken fright and stampeded. Jesus had sat in the stern, listening but saying nothing. When they came ashore, someone put the question to him direct. He laughed outright.

“Does it really matter?” he said. “Jabez is restored and the pigs are lost. You can take what view you like. One thing is certain; the recovery of one man’s intelligence is of more importance in the Father’s eyes than the lives of thousands of animals. Yet destruction is never a part of God’s purpose. You must think the problem out for yourselves. What really does matter is that the madman has recovered; and what I want you to understand is that any one of you could heal insanity or disease, if you could bring yourselves to believe that the Father would work through you as he does through me. All that is needed is your own belief in his power and your willingness to become instruments of his love and goodness.”

The Twelve looked at one another in bewilderment.

“Well, just try it,” continued Jesus with a laugh; “you will find that you have authority over the devils and that through you the Father will cure disease and disablement. He needs us as his instruments.”

Then Jesus gave them practical instructions for the tour. They were to travel in pairs, to take with them no food, no money, no change of clothes—nothing but a walking-stick to help them on their way. They would find plenty of kindly people who would be ready to put them up in gratitude for their teaching; with such folk they should make their home until they left the town or village. And if any place refused to listen to them, they were not to waste their time there.

“Shake off the dust of that town from your sandals,” he concluded with a smile; “let them see that they have missed an opportunity of learning the truth.”

As they approached Capernaum next morning, they noticed more people than usual on the quayside. Some of the crowd were waving and gesticulating, clearly with the object of attracting their attention. When they came within earshot someone hailed them.

“Is Jesus on board?” said the voice.

“Ay,” shouted John; “what’s up?”

“He’s wanted. Look sharp!”

As Jesus stepped onto the quay, a man pushed his way to the front. He fell on his knees at his feet. Jesus recognised him at once; he was the ruler of the principal synagogue, Jairus by name.

“My little daughter is at the point of death,” he began in a shaking voice; “I beg you to come and lay your hands on her, that she may be healed and her life spared.”

Jesus took the man’s hand; he rose to his feet.

“Take me to your house,” he said.

Without another word Jairus began leading the way; the crowd, partly in sympathy, partly through sheer curiosity, closed in behind, a chattering, jostling throng of men and women. Some of them pushed ahead; so that Jesus and his guide could hardly make their way along the narrow streets.

Suddenly Jesus stopped and looked round.

“Who touched me?” he asked.

Those nearest him began to laugh. This must be his humorous way of asking for a bit more room.

“Who touched me?” he asked again. He spoke quite seriously.

“Master, the whole crowd is pushing and jostling you,” replied Peter, who was close beside him. He was frankly puzzled.

“Someone did touch me,” went on Jesus. “I could feel God’s healing power passing through me.”

A woman made her way to the front. Pale, trembling with nervousness, yet with a face full of astonishment and relief, she sank at Jesus’ feet. In a clear, low voice she told her story of many years sickness and suffering; all her savings had gone on doctors’ bills; then she had consulted Dr. Luke; he had told her he could do nothing for her; but he had spoken to her of Jesus’ wonderful cures. She had taken her opportunity in the crowded street and had touched the edge of his clothes: she had known at once that she was cured of her affliction.

Jesus laid his hand on her head; she stood up.

“It was your own confidence in God’s power which made a cure possible,” he said; “you can go home in the certainty that the illness will trouble you no more.”

While he was still speaking, he was conscious of a whispered conversation behind him.

“It’s too late,” said a voice; “no point in troubling the healer to come further.”

“She’s,—” Jairus could not bring out the word.

“Your daughter is dead,” replied the other.

Jesus turned sharply. Jairus was standing, staring straight in front of him. Unconscious of the sympathetic glances of bystanders, he seemed to have lost all power of thought or movement.

Jesus touched him on the arm.

“Don’t be afraid,” he said urgently; “just have trust. She shall be restored.”

Jairus woke as from a trance; hope and doubt struggled for mastery in his face.

“Come!” was all he said.

A few minutes’ quick walking brought them to the house; the Twelve were close behind. The crowd of sightseers, awed by the tidings of Death, followed more slowly.

The professional mourners had already been summoned; the plaintive notes of a flute and a confused sound of wailing came from the back of the house.

At the door Jesus turned to the Twelve.

“Come with me, Peter,” he said; “and you, James—and John.”

Jairus entered the house; a woman met him, clearly his wife.

“When did it happen?” he asked.

“An hour ago—while you were down at the quay.” She spoke calmly, almost without expression.

“May I see her?” asked Jesus.

Without a word the mother led the way to a little room at the back. It appeared to be full of people. As they entered, the wailing suddenly ceased; the mourners looked up in surprise.

A small bed stood on the further side of the room. Jesus walked across and looked down at the still, calm face of the child who lay there. Then he turned.

“There’s no need for mourning,” he said; “the little girl’s not dead, but asleep.”

An ill-suppressed titter ran round the room. Of course she was dead.

Jesus spoke again: “I must ask you good people to leave us.”

The mourners looked at Jairus; he nodded. In silence they filed out.

Again Jesus looked down at the still little figure on the bed. He took one limp hand in his own. He spoke, quietly, but with authority.

“Little girl, listen to me. Stand up.”

The child moved—pushed aside the bedclothes—rose to her feet. She stood, looking at Jesus in bewilderment. When she caught sight of her mother and father, she smiled. There were three other strange men in the doorway. She ran across the room to her mother.

“I’ve had such a lovely dream,” she said. “I’m feeling lots better. And oh—I’m so hungry.”

“Better give her a good breakfast,” suggested Jesus with a laugh.

“Are you a new doctor?” said the child.

“You don’t need a doctor now,” replied Jesus. “But don’t you go getting ill again. I’ll come in tomorrow and see how you are.”

Jairus accompanied them to the door.

“Say nothing of this to anyone,” said Jesus; “it’s better not to talk about it.”

Jairus looked at him, but said nothing.

“I told the mourners she was not dead, but asleep,” Jesus went on. “Let it stand so.”

“It shall be as you wish,” answered the child’s father.

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