The Song Of Matthew

 

A Verse Rendering

Of

 The Gospel According To St. Matthew

 

 

 

By

 

 

Jabez L. Van Cleef

 

© 1999-2005

 


About the Text

 

The text of this work is adapted from “The Song Of Matthew” first appearing in the book Gospels In Verse, Wolume II, A Text Resource for Musicians and Composers (Xlibris Corporation, www.Xlibris.com). It has been changed as follows:

 

1. I have attempted to remove from the story all false and sinful condemnations of Jews which have historically contributed to the practice of eliminationist anti-semitism. The crucifixion of Jesus is shown as the assertion of Roman power, with the collusion of certain religious authorities, within the context of a cosmopolitan and polyglot community.

 

2. The conventional notion that Jesus was followed by a band of twelve men has been modified to include occasional references to women among his followers. Because Judas is often considered to be a personification of the supposed betrayal of Christ by Jews, some references to Judas have been deleted. The group referred to as “disciples” is construed to include both women and men.

 

3. Narrative which includes masculine pronouns and other gender-specific terms has often been modified to allow interpretation as descriptive of either sex.

 

4. References to God or Jesus which would favor one form of human government over another, e.g. ‘king’, have often been deleted.

 

In all other I have attempted to create a text for singing that is “congruent” with holy scripture, as advised in The Book of Common Prayer (pg. 14). I welcome any suggestions to change the text in accordance with the above guidelines if a reader discovers the need for such alterations.  

 

Send all inquiries to jabez.vancleef@verizon.net or visit http://www.spiritsongtext.com


 

 

The Song Of Matthew

 

1.

 

Some ask where Jesus came from, and some others

Give no weight to families and origins. 

To suit the preferences of either type,

I, Matthew, made a genealogy,

From Abraham to Joseph, spouse of Mary,

Which shows just how the line would have descended,

Down through two and forty generations,

Had Jesus been conceived the usual way. 

However, conception of Jesus the Messiah

May have come in an unusual way.

Mary, engaged to Joseph, not cohabiting,

Was claimed to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

If you accept this version, then my history

Is not needed:  Joseph does not signify.

For those who search for facts within the mysteries,

The list will demonstrate a helpful lineage.   

Certainly Joseph meant to disown the baby;

Righteous, unwilling to weather public disgrace,

He planned to leave them both and start anew;

But then one night, while Joseph slept, an angel

Came and suggested that he reconsider.

The angel told him it would be a boy,

And they should call him Jesus, the peoples’ savior.

 

Because while I am telling you this story

I often must refer to special messengers,

Angels in dreams, thought to speak for God,

Or hermits from the desert, dreaming their dreams,

Tradition adding weight to all their stories,

Here I will explain what prophecy is.

A man (by our custom nearly always a man)

Who withdraws himself from earthly pleasures

Is thought therefore better to know the truth

Without distraction from the body’s senses.

In his lonely place of high awareness,

He speaks aloud, in words not fully his,

And either writes these words or calls upon

Those who hear him so to make a record.

The telling of this speech then travels forth

Across the world, and down through time to us,

And we perceive this ancient utterance,

As a statement really made by God

Using the lips and mouth and tongue and voice

Of the hermit, whom we call a prophet.

The words of prophets must come straight from God,

Not be modified by scribe or editor. 

When we have these words writ down before us,

Sustained by study and belief for centuries,

We are prepared to find in things that happen

Proof that in these utterances long ago

God tried to tell us what would happen now. 

 

In my opinion, Joseph’s dream then came

To verify some earlier prophet’s claim,

Through the obscure process called fulfillment,

That a virgin would produce a son,

And the virgin’s boy be called Godwithus.

Now Godwithus and Jesus may be different,

But as I said the process is obscure. 

When Joseph woke he found himself persuaded,

Had Mary as his wife, but knew her not,

Named the boy Jesus as the angel said,

Lest Mary try to give another name;

And if you are inclined to read the list,

Consult another version of my story.

 

2.


 

Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Judea,

When Herod the Great was king of all that province.

On the night when Mary gave him birth,

Three astrologers came asking at Jerusalem:

“Where is the boy-child, King of all the Jews?

We saw a new star rising in the sky;

And come to pay him homage by the star.”

When Herod heard, he feared he would be plagued

By supernatural forces, knives, assassins,

For he would often drink too much mulled wine

Heated at his table in lead cauldrons,

Pois’ning his fevered brain, begetting terrors,

Inspiring him to useless fits of violence. 

He called together all the priests and scribes,

And asked, “Where is Messiah to be born?”

And in their effort to assuage his madness,

They quoted prophet-talk with great conviction,

Claiming a place called Bethlehem, Judea,

Would spawn for them a king by no means least,

A shepherd and a ruler of the sheep,

Thus damning with faint praise twice in one verse.

 

Herod met in secret with the astrologers

And learned exactly when the star appeared,

Though this is something the scribes should have known

Because the star was brightest in Judea,

And the stargazers came from east of there.

(Reports about this star are quite confused.

Even today, many people say

“A bright new star was rising in the east,”

Forgetting the wise men came there from the east,

So that for them it would rise in the west.)

Then Herod off to Bethlehem sent the strangers,

Asking them to find the baby there,

And then come back to tell him where it was,

So he could go and bow and scrape there too.

(I doubt they thought that he would really go.)

They tracked the moving star until it stopped,

Went inside the house where Mary was,

Saw the baby Jesus, felt great joy.

They knelt and paid their homage, each with treasure,

Gifts of gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

That night they all three dreamt the same strange dream

Where voices told them, Stay away from Herod,

And so they took another road back home. 

 

Joseph had yet another angel-dream

Where voices told him, Go with Mary and Jesus

Into Egypt for an indefinite time.

The family woke and packed while it was dark.

They went to Egypt, where they’d never been,

And planned to stay there till King Herod died. 

If this to you seems an extreme reaction,

Remember that a prophet had once claimed,

Speaking directly in the Lord’s behalf,

Out of Egypt I have called my son.

 

Herod, not dead yet, was in a rage

At the astrologers’ perceived deception.

He felt as if he had been meanly tricked.

They had, however, told him that the star

Had risen in the sky two years before.

Herod killed all the children he could find

Under the age of two years, living in Bethlehem.

To some this measure may appear quite harsh,

But as is usual when our reason fails,

We can find cause in ancient prophet-talk,

A time of wailing and loud lamentation:

As Rachel wept for her lost children, spurning

Consolation, for they were no more.

Finally, Herod died, and then the angel

Appeared again to Joseph down in Egypt,

And told him now to bring his family back.

Joseph had heard there was another king,

The son of Herod who had killed the babies,

Ruling the country where they used to live,

He was afraid to go and live in Bethlehem.

They moved into the village known as Nazareth,

Way down by the sea of Galilee. 


 

3.

 

A strange wild man was seen out in the desert,

Eating bugs and honey, wearing hides. 

Stranger still, were crowds of people wand’ring

From Jerusalem and all Judea,

Under a blazing sun, to hear him cry,

Repent, the kingdom of heav’n is at hand!

The silent shout of verses from Isaiah,

A voice is crying in the wilderness,

Prepare the way, the Lord is coming soon!

 

I wondered, why did all these people come there?

Did they not have other occupations?

This wild man, John the Baptist, was demanding,

And not tactful as he pointed out their defects.

They stood meekly all the livelong day

Waiting to be dipped into the Jordan,

And went back to resume their humdrum lives.

I thought, how is it possible that they

Bowed down by the weight of constant labor,

Hemmed in by innumerable, capricious laws,

Religious laws, Roman laws, traditions, local customs,

Above all by the prying eyes of neighbors,

How could these people perpetrate real sins?

Sins worthy of the wrath, the dreadful threats

They sat upon the dirt to hear from him:

 

You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee?

Now try to bear fruit worthy of repentance!

Do not cry, We are the seed of Abraham –

God gets Abraham’s children on these stones!

The ax is sharp and thirsting for your sap –

Take care that you be fruitful, and be saved,

For those that bear not fruit will feed the flames!

I baptize you with water for repentance,

But one who is more pow’rful will come after

To baptize you with fire and Holy Spirit,

His winnowing fork he’ll carry in his hand,

He’ll clear the threshing floor and gather grain,

And burn the chaff with his unquenchable fire!

 

This kind of talk the people meekly took –

More and more came every day to hear it!

One day with all the others on the gravel

There sat Jesus, waiting to be washed.

John said, “Jesus, you should baptize me!”

But Jesus answered, “Let this be so now,

That each of us might righteousness fulfill.”

When Jesus’ head was lifted from the water

The Spirit of God descended like a dove

And lit on him; a voice cried out from heaven,

“THIS IS MY SON, IN WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED.”

 

4.

 

The Spirit of God, the one shaped like a dove,

Led Jesus up into the wilderness,

And left him there to learn of spiritual things.

For forty days and nights he did not eat.

In his fast a devil came to him.

Devils are the reasons we imagine

For all the things we do to hurt each other.

Some people give them horns and tails and hooves,

But those I’ve seen look just like you or me. 

They try to bargain, offering you temptation

Until you pledge to let them take your soul.

 

First this tempter offered Jesus pride,

Saying, If you are great, then tell these stones

To make themselves into some loaves of bread.

Jesus answered with a quote, for he

Did not take pride in magic, but in teaching.

He said,

One does not live by bread alone,

But every word that issues from God’s mouth.

Then the devil flew them through the air

And found a shaky place for them to sit

Atop the temple in Jerusalem.

Seeing that Jesus could appreciate

Someone skilled in calling up allusions,

The devil said,

He will command his angels

To catch you if you fall, and lift you up

(As did not I myself just lift you up)

So you will not be dashed against the stones.

If you are great, and know this, why not jump?

Jesus said, (again, this is a quote):

Do not put the Lord your God to test.

The devil flew them to the highest place

On a mountain with expansive views,

And showed him all the kingdoms of the world.

Now I believe the devil had made bargains

With every king in every palace out there.

The devil said, All these I now give you

If you fall down and worship me right now.

But Jesus said, Be gone! For it is written,

Worship the Lord your God, and God alone.

So the devil left, and other angels

Lifted Jesus up and took him home. 

 

Be mindful of the powers of this world:

For in this story I have just related

The devil says that all the earthly kingdoms

Belong to him, and Jesus does refuse them,

So even to this day they are the devil’s,

And if a king should ever claim to you

That he is sanctified by God to rule,

Stop and be mindful:  pride precedes the fall.

 

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested

(This is a story told in another place)

He wanted to avoid association,

Not because he feared the walls of prison

But knowing that he had from heaven’s kingdom

A charter and a task.  So seeking freedom,

He made a new home in the town Capernaum,

And what Isaiah wrote was thus fulfilled:

Where the road runs there along the sea,

Across the Jordan, down by Galilee,

The people who before in darkness dwelt,

These people have beheld a greater light,

They dwelt beneath the shade of their own death,

And now a light has dawned o’er the whole earth.

From that time henceforth, Jesus said as John:

Repent, Repent, the kingdom of God is near.

But held out, more than flame and retribution

The image of a fount of living water,

A world made new, bathed in the light of souls.

 

One day, walking down along the shore,

Jesus met two brothers, Simon and Andrew.

They made their living there as fishermen:

Out they threw the net, one at each end,

And pulled it in again to see their catch.

Jesus said, If you two follow me,

I will show you how to fish for people.

So they left their net and followed him.

They soon found two more brothers, James and John,

Sitting in a boat, mending their nets,

And when he called, they came and followed him.

 

These four with Jesus went through Galilee,

Teaching those who came to synagogues.

Knowing what we do of Jesus’ history,

You may well ask about his expertise:

Most recently he did resist temptation;

Before that, he observed the preacher John,

Was schooled in small-town life, perhaps a trade,

(Tradition says that Joseph was a carpenter)

And agricultural economy;

Because he was a Jew, he studied scripture,

And evidently had a way with words.

He soon discovered that his touch could heal

Every kind of sickness people had,

Becoming famous even over in Syria.

Crippled people came from near and far;

Pains, demons, epileptic fits he cured,

And soon the noisy crowd of those afflicted

Followed him and watched throughout the night

Outside his door. So, early in the morning,

When he came out, the crowd would be there waiting

To feel the healing touch of Jesus’ hands.

 

5.

 

Better to be seen and heard, above

The ever present clamor of their voices,

Jesus found a path upon the mountain,

Sat down on a ledge where they could see him,

And captured thus the crowd’s benevolence:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for

They will hold the deed to heaven’s house;

Blessed are the ones who weep and mourn,

For they will find the comfort that they seek;

Blessed are the meek, for they inherit

What the proud possess’d when yet they lived;

Blest are those who hunger after righteousness,

They satisfy their hunger and their thirst;

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they

Will see God, when they pass away;

And blessed are all those who strive for peace,

For God will call them all his children then;

You are blest when you are most reviled,

Accused and persecuted in my place,

And great will your reward be up in heaven,

As great as what the prophets saw before you.

 

Because I am myself a decent person,

I know that decent folk obey the law;

I therefore seek to reassure the reader,

That Jesus was not lawless, but did hold,

Instructing all his followers in this detail –

Gentile and Jew – they should obey the law.

So now before repeating many stories

About the deeds of Jesus and his followers,

I give you his interpretation here

Of laws that govern people in community.

In this regard my record is more useful

Than certain other books about his life,

For by and large the others do not mention

Communities and churches of his followers,

But rather they presume, as Jesus told us,

That he would die, and come back from the dead,

And then would come the end of history,

So we would not have churches in his name.

I hope that if I mention this dilemma

I am not making problems for believers

In either his second coming or his church.

 

At times throughout his earthly ministry

Jesus shared his thought about our laws,

Which topics now I ask you to consider.

First, concerning freedom of expression:

“You are the salt that seasons earthly things;  

If salt has lost its taste, what can restore it?

As spoiled salt is trampled underfoot,

So would you your being find discarded

If you tried to be what you are not.

(You cannot be a thing without a spirit.) 

Just so, you are the light that lights the world:

A city on a hill cannot be hid.

Do not hide your lamp beneath a basket,

Put it on a stand where we can see it.

Let your light so shine before all others

That they may see your works, and give God glory.”

 

Second, on obedience to the law:

“I have not come to rid the world of laws,

Or cast aspersions on the words of prophets. 

I come not to abolish, but fulfill.

Before the heaven and earth all pass away,

Not one letter, nor even yet one stroke

Will pass, until the scripture is fulfilled.

Therefore, who breaks the least of these commandments,

Teaching others to go and do the same,

Will be called the least of those on high;

(And may not be on high, but down below.)

But who obeys the law in everything

Will hold the highest place of those on high.

Those who seek eternal life must be

More righteous than the scribes and Pharisees.”

 

Third, concerning anger, strife and murder:

“From ancient times we have professed a law,

You shall not murder, or you may be judged.

But here I say, whether or not you kill,

You may be judged for nursing anger’s plot.

If you are angry with a brother or sister,

Studying insults, marking them as fools,

You too are liable for the fire of hell.

So as you offer up your gift at th’ altar,

Recall the strains that discord may apply,

Leave your gift before the Lord and go,

Reconcile yourself with those in conflict,

Then come and give without a troubled mind.” 

 

Fourth, concerning faithless wives and husbands:

“If it were easy to refrain from straying,

We would not need commandments to forbid it.

Many are they who praise themselves within

For not yet quite completing their desires.

But now I say to you that everyone

Who knows their lust within, still breaks the law.

It’s better if you cut your member off

Than sin with it and be sent whole to hell.”

 

Fifth, concerning laws about divorce:

“As it is flesh in marriage makes the bond,

So is it flesh betrayed that breaks it too;

And if the husband seeks another cause,

He makes a sacrament of his convenience,

To force his wife into adultery.”

 

Sixth, concerning those who would make oaths:

“Again, from ancient times we have been told

To carry out the vows we make to God.

But I say, Better make no oath at all,

Neither by the heaven where God sits,

Nor the earth, where God may set his feet,

Nor earthly cities like Jerusalem.

And do not swear an oath upon your head:

You cannot make your own hair black or white.

I advise, say “Yes” or “No,” and mean it;

Any more assurance is the devil’s.”

 

Seventh, concerning those who take revenge:

“’Tis said when we are injured we can take

Eyes for eyes and teeth for teeth in pay.

I say, do not strike the one who strikes you;

But turn your cheek and let him strike again.

And if he takes the coat off of your back –

Then give your cloak as well to keep him warm.

And if by force he makes you go one mile,

By choice you should continue one mile more.

Give to every one who begs from you –

Lend freely what you have to those who ask.”

 

Eighth, concerning love for friend and stranger:

“Many upstanding citizens believe

We should love our friends and hate our enemies,

And the whole world now follows this belief.

Except that now we make the world anew:

Love your enemies as you love your friends,

And pray for anyone who persecutes you.

For you, your friend and enemy alike,

All are children of a loving God,

Who makes the sun to rise on everyone,

And sends rain on the righteous and the sinful.

For if you love just them who love you back,

What credit is it for your loving nature?

Tax collectors love their friends this way.

And if  you look out for a family member,

How is this attachment judged as virtue?

Even Gentiles favor so their brothers.

The perfect virtue of a perfect person

Loves all God’s children just as God loves us.”

 

6.

 

Ninth, concerning ostentatious giving:

“I say beware of practicing your piety

In such a way that others give you credit;

For you may strive to flaunt your generosity,

But in your afterlife get no reward.

So do not sound the trumpet when you give,

As hypocrites may do in synagogues;

That brassy knell is all that they will hear

Now and hereafter; but when you give alms,

Let not the left hand wait upon the right;

So see that you your alms may do in secret,

And God, who sees in secret, will reward you.” 

 

Tenth, concerning secrecy of prayer:

“You should be wary of your piety

If you are drawn to practice before others

An incremental portrait of devotion.

The hypocrites so love to stand and pray

In synagogues and corners of the street;

They raise their voices, banishing reflection,

Like boys on whom their mothers love to dote.

I say that in their lust to gratify

Their hunger to be recognized for praying,

They have received their answer.  When you pray,

Go into your room and shut the door,

Pray to your Father silently, in secret,

And when you pray do not heap empty phrases,

Climbing the pile of words to be near God.

God knows what you need before you ask it,

So say, Our Father, hallowed be your name,

Your kingdom cometh, and your will be done,

Here on earth, as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread to eat,

Forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors,

And do not bring us to the time of trial,

But rescue and deliver us from evil.”

 

Eleventh, concerning abstinence from food:

“When you fast, wear not a dismal face,

As if to show that pain inside your gut

Reserves a higher chair at God’s long table. 

When you fast, put oil on your head,

Wash your face and keep your visage calm.

Your Father knows in secret what you do,

And will reward you with a heavenly food.”

 

Twelfth, about accumulating treasure:

“Lay not up on earth your worldly goods,

Where moth and rust consume and thieves do steal,

But store up for yourself a heav’nly treasure,

Where neither moth nor rust nor thief do go.

Where your treasure is, your heart will follow.”

 

Thirteenth, concerning soundness of the eyes:

“The eye is a lamp, shining into the body.

The healthy eye will fill the body with light;

Unhealthy eyes fill the body with darkness.

If the light inside of you is darkness,

Think how great, how dark this darkness is!”

 

Fourteenth, concerning service to two masters:

“There is nowhere a slave can serve two masters,

But must love one and so despise the other.

So must you choose between wealth and your God.”

 

Fifteenth, concerning self-sufficiency:

“I tell you, do not fret about your life,

Wherefrom will come your food and what you drink,

Or how your body finds what it will wear.

Is not life more than food and drink,

And your body more than what it wears?

Consider the birds, flying across the sky:

They neither sow nor reap nor gather sheaves,

And yet your heavenly Father finds their food.

Are you not of greater worth than they?

And can your worry add a single hour

To the span of life that God appoints?

Consider the lilies, flourishing in the field,

They neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you

Even Solomon in all his glory

Was not clothed as rich as one of these.

If God so clothes the grasses of the field,

Which are alive today and dead tomorrow,

Will He not clothe you, you of little faith?

Therefore do not agitate and struggle,

For God knows that you need all of these things.

Strive first for God, and for his righteousness,

And what you need to wear and eat will follow.

And do not worry what will come tomorrow;

Tomorrow will bring worries of its own,

And evils met today are quite sufficient.”

 

7.

 

Sixteenth, about a private search for justice:

“Judge not, that you may not be judged by others,

And by your standard measured with their eyes.

The testing that you give, you will then get,

And circumstance may find you a worse bargain.

And can you, in the chamber of your mind

Truly see another as yourself?

The speck that flaws your neighbor’s enterprise

Is larger than the beam that flaws your own,

Yet you are driven to expunge that speck,

And make the world as if it had never been.

You hypocrite, first drag away your beam,

Then perhaps see clearly to that speck.”

 

Seventeenth, about profaning of the holy:

“We know what holy is, and what it’s not.

Do not give your holy things to dogs,

Nor throw your holy pearls before the swine;

For dogs will turn and maul you for your gift,

And swine the precious trample under foot.”

 

Eighteenth, about the need to be persistent:

“If you ask, it will be given you;

What you search for, that is what you find.

If  you knock, the door will open to you,

Persistence in all cases is your friend.

If your child asks for a loaf of bread,

Do you instead provide your child a stone?

And if your child asks for a fish to eat,

Would you give the child instead a snake?

Even evildoers, (which you are),

Know enough to give a child good things,

And how much more will God above in heaven

Give all good things to those who ask of him.”

 

Nineteenth, concerning all the law and the prophets:

“Strive in all things you would do to others,

As you would likewise have them do to you.

So says all the law and all the prophets.”

 

Twentieth, of spiritual progress:

“Many are the souls who take the high way

Leading to destruction and damnation.

The gate to hell is wide, the road is easy.

A narrow gate to paradise leads in;

The road is hard, and there are few who find it,

Adversity the beacon on their path.”

 

Twenty-first, on knowing from their fruits:

“Beware false prophets lurking there in ambush,

Ravenous wolves bedeck’t with wool of sheep.

Always you will know them by their fruits:

Grapes are never gathered from a hawthorn,

Nor from a thistle can you pick a fig.

Of trees, ‘tis said that some are sweet, some  bitter,

But no tree bears its fruit both good and bad.”

 

Twenty-second, concerning self-deception:

“Not everyone who cries aloud, ‘Lord, Lord,’

Will enter heaven when the judgment comes.

Many on that day will lay their claim:

From long rehearsal they themselves persuaded,

‘Did we not prophesy and cast out demons?

Did we not deeds of power in your name?’

Alas, I do not know them, evildoers,

They have themselves rejected all the same.”

 

Last, on those who hear and those who do:

“If you hear these words and do likewise,

You will build your house upon a rock.

The rain may fall, the flood may roar and pound,

The wind may blow and beat against your door,

But the house you built will never fall,

Because it has been founded on a rock.

If you hear, but match not word with deed,

You build your house upon a spit of sand:

When the storm comes, it will never stand.”

 

So did Jesus from the mount conclude,

Fulfilling the commandments and the law,

Not written in a scroll, or cut in stone,

But spoken out before the common folk,

In words that every one could understand

Every word, that they might hear and do,

According to the dictate of the heart.

He taught them as the keeper of their soul,

Not as a scribe, the keeper of a scroll.

 

It may not make a difference whose law

Prevails among the Jews, the Pentateuch

Or this new covenant that Jesus gave us.

The Romans are our masters now, and they

Have laws enough to tell us what to do

And not to do, and power to enforce them. 

But I believe our Roman conquerors

In some fashion we cannot yet know

Will sicken and die betimes as their corruption

Burns and eats them slowly from within.

They are not the same as Jewish folk:

They do things to other human beings,

Even slaves, that we would never do. 

I am told, in Herculaneum,

Among the villas of the very wealthy,

Are cisterns holding water from the mountains,

Where Romans take their aged slaves and servants

Before they die, and chain them in the water,

There to sit as food for captive lampreys,

Because the flavor of these worms, so fed,

Cooked and served at noble Roman banquets,

Is thought to transcend every delicacy.

And Romans after battle march the soldiers

Of the defeated army under a bar,

A spear held fixed and low over the path,

And if they do not bow, they are all killed. 

 

The God of Israel, if he has a name,

May this God never exercise a will

To let his chosen people do such things

To any human being, living or dead.

And when we pass beyond the rule of Romans

Let us love the law that’s best for us

And let it lead us so to do God’s will.

 

At the very bottom of their being,

These Romans worship death, and all aspire

To power over life, by force or guile. 

Down the long succession of command,

From emperor to lowly legionary,

Each one preserves a right to kill the next

Which masquerades as justice when applied.

And that decree, sent out by Caesar Augustus

That all the world should pay a Roman tax,

Subverts the souls God gave us into numbers,

Equal specks flung ‘cross a Roman grid,

So for their purpose we are only increments

Of pow’r expressed, and future revenue,

Not souls unique and born to live forever.

And all our Pharisees and priests forsook

Whatever moral authority they yet had

When they permitted Roman governors

To duplicate their tithe and so oppress us. 

 

But Jesus does not beckon with a sword,

Exhorting us to thirst the blood of enemies,

And revel in his pow’r to take a life.

His hands reach out to heal us, every one.

He glorifies our lives by giving life, 

And fears not death, and does not look for glory,

But manifests the living will of God

By redeeming each of us our sins,

And proving for us immortality,

Not merely as a province of our fantasies,

Or as a salve for aging emperors,

But as the birthright of a child of God.

No more are we or Romans meant to die

Crushed by the cold machinery of heaven

In a world where dictates of the Gods

Are fixed, and there will never be redemption.

 

8. 

 

A great crowd followed Jesus down the hill;

Suddenly a leper blocked the path,

Who knelt and said, Lord, heal me if you choose.

Jesus touched him, saying, I do choose.

And then the leper’s ravaged skin was clean.

Jesus told the leper, Keep this secret,

Do not tell the people how I healed you;

Go, and show yourself to all the priests,

Offer them the gift Moses commanded,

But do not claim in my behalf great powers.

 

As I start to tell how Jesus healed them,

Looking carefully at the way things happened,

There is a limit to my comprehension.

In this case, I find my thoughts arrested

By his instruction that the deed be secret. 

Healing a very visible skin disease

Amid a watching crowd of postulants,

And saying to the healed man, Do not tell:

What is the purpose of this exhortation?

Did not Jesus just begin his sermon

By telling them to let their lights shine brightly

And not to hide their lamps beneath their baskets?

Lord help me to complete my understanding:

I have arrived through prayer and meditation

At an inner place, from where I see

The very sacred and the very sinful

Can, like faces of a common coin

Be subject to a bar of secrecy,

And many are the souls who hoard them both.

 

When Jesus came back to Capernaum

A Roman soldier met him in the street,

Saying, Lord, my servant is at home,

Paralyzed, in terrible distress.

Jesus said, Then I will come and cure him.

The soldier, a centurion, answered him,

Lord, my home is not a worthy place

To house you.  May you only speak your word,

And I am sure my servant will be healed.

For like you, I am accustomed to authority,

The soldiers under me do come and go,

And the slaves obey me.  Speak your word.

When Jesus heard this speech he was amazed,

Turned and said to those who followed him,

None in Israel have shown me such faith!

Gentiles come from everywhere on earth,

To share in heaven’s kingdom with our fathers,

While the heirs who should have joined the banquet

Will be thrown into the outer darkness,

To weep and wail and gnash and grind their teeth.

Then to the centurion Jesus said,

Let it be done according to your faith,

And the slave was healed within the hour.

 

Then Jesus came to Peter’s mother-in-law

Who lay in bed with fever, and he touched her

And the fever left her, and she served him;

They brought him many people wracked with demons

He cast out spirits and he cured the sick,

So fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy,

He took away our ills and our diseases. 

And so fulfilling, Jesus did establish

A different way of understanding healing

By making these afflictions and diseases

Gone, as if in fact they’d never been,

Ended, once for all, creating a vision

Of a world made healthy by God’s will;

And not as private benefit for Jews,

Or Jews observing written laws in detail,

But free to every human soul,

Slaves, gentiles, lepers, tax collectors,

Approaching him with faith, asking for help.

And if the healed ones tell abroad these miracles

Are they not in a sense keeping alive

Diseases and afflictions, even in memory,

Which are no more, providing God’s will be done?

 

The next day, they were standing by the water,

And Jesus, wanting to escape the crowd,

Said, ‘Cross the water we should sail away.’

I saw this as a kind of understanding

That with his power over human life,

Came power over human death also. 

So, when a scribe approached and told him, Rabbi

I will follow wheresoe’er you go;

Said Jesus to the scribe, Foxes have holes,

Even a bird of the air has built a nest;

The Son of Man nowhere lays his head. 

And from this I think I heard him say,

“I will not rest, even when I die.”

When one of his disciples said to him,

Before I follow you across the water,

Let me first go back and bury my father.

Jesus said to him, No, follow me,

Now let the dead go bury their own dead. 

By this I think he meant for all of us

That in our doings we must make a choice

Whether we are the living or the dying.

 

When they all had got into the boat,

And they were sailing out across the sea,

A windstorm came and lifted up the waves

So the boat was taking water in.

Jesus was asleep up in the stern,

But they awoke him, saying, We will drown!

He rebuked the winds, the rising waves,

Until around them everything was calm,

Amazed, they said, What sort of man is this

That even winds and seas obey his words?

 

When they came to the far shore of the sea,

On the strand they found a field of tombs

And there two wild and manic men did live,

They were so fierce that none would pass that way.

Suddenly they shouted, Who are you?

Son of God, what will you do with us?

Will you torture us before our time?

Now a large herd of swine was feeding there,

And the demons said, Now cast us out,

But send us into yonder herd of swine.

So Jesus sent the demons from the men

Into the swine, and suddenly the herd

Rushed down the bank and jumped into the sea

Where they all perished.  And the swineherds ran

Into the town nearby, telling the tale.

Then the whole town came out to meet Jesus,

And when they saw him, begged that he would leave.

So I think it always is with miracles:

That common folk will hear and leave their houses

Drawn by the chance of seeing something new,

But in their hearts, before the eyes of neighbors,

Fearing the strange, the captivating other,

They bend and search to find a handy stone,

First one, then three, then many, reaching upward,

Flinging their hail of death from out the sky

Into the healing pool where stands the stranger.

 

9.

 

Jesus and his band of fishermen

Chose not to die among the Gerasenes,

But crossed the sea again, back to Capernaum.

Now I think their time had come to meet

The self-appointed guardians of virtue

Who would become their greatest enemies,

The priests and scribes, Pharisees and elders,

Who saw in Jesus’ fundamental difference

A force disintegrating and rebellious,

Offensive to the one who has no name,

And presumptive of the heav’nly will.

 

Some people brought a man upon a bed.

The man was paralyzed and lay quite still.

Jesus, seeing their faith that he could heal,

Said Take heart, your sins are all forgiven.

But there were scribes nearby who heard him say it,

Who said among themselves, This man blasphemes,

Jesus read their inner thought and said,

Why do you think this evil in your hearts?

Which do you think is easier to say?

“Your sins are forgiven.” Or, “Stand up and walk.”

So that you may know I have authority,

I will take the harder path with him.

So saying, Jesus turned and healed the man,

Saying, Stand up, take your bed and walk.

The man stood up and went back to his home.

All the people saw this, and were awed,

Glorifying Jesus’ healing powers.

 

The tax collector Matthew from his booth

Got up and followed Jesus to his home.

And as he sat at dinner in the evening

Many tax collectors came and ate

With sinners and others of bad reputation.

The Pharisees then asked of his disciples

“Why does Jesus eat with these bad people?”

But Jesus answered, People who are well

Do not need to visit a physician,

As those who suffer illness come to doctors,

These people look for mercy on their sins.

And as physicians strive to heal the sick,

I come to help the sinner, not the righteous.

John the Baptist’s followers came to Jesus

And put to him a question about fasting:

Why do we and the Pharisees fast so often

While you and your disciples do not fast?

Jesus said, As wedding guests should feast,

Not mourn while they the bridegroom entertain,

So should these people have their joy with me,

Before the day comes when I will be taken,

And then may they all fast and mourn at will. 

No one takes a patch of unshrunk cloth

And uses it to fix a worn out cloak.

For the shrinking cloth will pull away

Leaving a bigger tear than what there was. 

New wine is not put into old wineskins

For they burst, and then the wine is spilt.

Rather put new wine into new wineskins.

I am something new under the sun

So to suit the need for knowing me

We should make the laws’ observance new

And so preserve the law, and all my teaching.

 

As Jesus said these things to John’s disciples,

A leader of the synagogue came in,

He knelt and said, My daughter has just died,

But if you come and touch her, she will live. 

Not minding that the scribes had claimed before

That he blasphemed when he forgave a sin,

But seeking to help the man in his distress,

Jesus stood up, and went to see this girl,

To render his power over life and death.

 

On his way, a woman crept behind him;

The woman had been bleeding for twelve years,

And said to herself, If only I can touch

The hem of his cloak, then I will be healed. 

Jesus turned, and seeing her, he said,

Take heart, your faith has made you well again.

And instantly the woman was made well.

 

When Jesus came to where the sick girl was,

He heard the flutes and instruments make mourning,

People were gathering to keen and wail,

And he cried above the crowd’s commotion,

Go away, the girl is only sleeping,

They laughed at him, but he sent them out.

Inside the house, Jesus took her hand,

Her eyelids fluttered open, and she awoke.  

 

He left her house, and walked along the street;

Two blind men saw him, and they cried aloud

Have mercy on us, Son of David, please!

And they followed Jesus to his house,

They came inside, and Jesus said to them:

Do you believe that I can make you see?

Yes, Lord, they said.  And so he touched their eyes,

And said, By your faith, let this now be done,

And their eyes were opened, and they saw.

And Jesus sternly told them, Tell no one.

But they went away and spread the news.

Lord help me to complete my understanding:

If I had spent my life with darkened eyes,

And by the touch of Jesus was made new,

Except through means of some transcendent grace,

How could I even know what a thing was

If I but saw it, and I did not know

How all my other sense would apprehend it?

So as the light of day did smite their souls,

Reflected glory so consumed their being,

They could not hear or understand his words;

Neither of them heard his prohibition,

But told the truth to all as they did know it.

 

Then some people brought to him a mute,

Whom they believed was silenced by a demon,

For when Jesus cast the demon out,

The mute spoke clearly.  People were amazed. 

Saying, Israel never saw the like.

I think that what these people said was true,

And since in both their origin and consequence

His healings had no precedent for them,

The Pharisees claimed Jesus was a demon,

They said he had such power over demons,

That the Lord of Darkness must be in him.

For even if the Pharisees believed this

Honestly, and not from jealous spite,

That Jesus was the evil one incarnate,

This swelled their own importance as his foes;

As likewise they would lose their influence

If they acknowledged him the Son of Man.

Sour men, why was it such an easy task

To see the prince of darkness as a man

Walking amongst them, healing with his hands,

And not believe he was their God made flesh?

 

Then Jesus went to all the nearby cities,

Taught the people in the synagogues,

Proclaimed to them the good news of the kingdom,

Curing their diseases and afflictions. 

When he saw the crowds he had compassion,

Walking through their midst with arms outstretched,

For they were like lost sheep without a shepherd,

Harassed by evil, helpless to defend,

So to help them,  he said to his disciples

Though they are numbered like the stalks of grain,

Few labor for a harvest of such plenty,

Therefore let us ask our heav’nly Husband

Send us laborers to reap this bounty.

 

10.

 

Jesus summoned to him his disciples

Gave them power over unclean spirits,

To cast out devil, sickness, and affliction,

So he gave his power to these twelve:

Simon Peter and his brother Andrew,

James and John the sons of Zebedee,

Philip, Thomas and Bartholomew,

Simon the Canaanaean,  also Matthew,

James, Thaddaeus, and Judas Iscariot.

These he sent out with his own instruction:

Go you nowhere out among the Gentiles,

Nor enter any town of the Samaritans,

But to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Proclaim, the kingdom of heaven now comes near!

You will cure the sick and cleanse the leper,

Cast out demons and revive the dead,

As I gave these gifts without your payment,

So shall you freely give these gifts to them.

Take not gold, silver or copper coin;

Nor bag, nor change of clothes, sandals or staff;

For your labors ask your daily bread,

Whatever town or village you may enter,

Find out who is worthy, and stay there. 

Greet the people wheresoever you enter,

Let your peace descend upon their heads,

If they prove not worthy, turn away

Shake off the dust as you tread out their door

And on the day of judgment they will know

Worse than what fell on Sodom and Gomorrah.

For I am sending you out now like sheep,

Into the midst of cruel hungry wolves,

Be wise as serpents, innocent as doves,

Beware of them, for they will tie you up

To judge and flog you in their synagogues,

Drag you before their governors and kings,

To make examples for both Jew and Gentile.

But when they hand you over, do not worry

What to say, or how to preach the good news,

God is with you and will words supply,

It is not you who speaks in time of trial,

The Spirit of your Father speaks through you.

Brother will give brother to the sword,

Fathers and mothers will betray their children,

And children have their parents put to death.

Everyone will hate you for my name. 

Endure until the end – you will be saved,

And flee one persecution for another,

For truly, you will not see every town

Before the Son of Man comes to redeem you.

Disciples are not ranked above their teachers,

Nor yet does the master serve the slave;

Enough that they resemble one another,

Teacher and disciple, slave and master.

Now see, Beelzebul they call the master,

Much more they will malign those of his household. 

 

Have no fear of those who seek to hurt you,

For that which is concealed will soon be open.

What I say in the dark, you tell in light,

What I whisper, you shout from the housetops;

They kill the flesh but cannot kill the soul,

So do not fear them.  Rather fear the one

Inside you, who can kill both soul and body.

Two sparrows may be sold for just a penny,

Yet not one of them will fall to earth

Without your father marking where they fall,

So every hair on every head is counted,

Do not be afraid, you have more value

Than hairs or sparrows to your loving Father.

 

Watch to see who testifies for me:

Those who openly acknowledge me

I also will acknowledge up in heaven;

But if they stubbornly my name deny,

I also will deny with like persistence. 

(Excepting Peter, who for some good reason,

Our story soon will make a special case,

Lord help me to complete my understanding.)

 

Do not think that I bring peace on earth

For I come not in peace, but with a sword.

I will set a man against his father,

I will set a daughter against her mother,

A daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law,

Make enemies of people in one household.

And if you love your parents more than me,

Then you are not worthy of my service,

If you love your children more than me,

Then you are not worthy of my service,

Whoever does not lift and drag the cross,

However heavy, is not worthy of me;

For those who think they recognize their life,

And seek to find it, they will surely lose it;

While those who know not what their life will be,

But lose themselves for my sake, they will find it. 

 

Whoever welcomes you, this one knows me,

Welcoming also the one who sent me here. 

They welcome prophets in the name of prophets,

And so receive a prophet’s just reward.

Regardless of the depth of their belief,

If they welcome you as righteous people,

They will have the fruits of righteousness. 

And if their hospitality is small,

Cold water for a child in your name,

None of them will lose their just reward.

 

11.

 

Jesus too went out among the people,

Teaching and proclaiming the good news.

John in prison heard of Jesus’ teaching,

And sent his messengers to speak to Jesus.

Are you the one who is to come, they asked,

Or are we still in search of the Messiah?

Jesus asked them, What do you hear and see?

The blind receive their sight, lame people walk,

Lepers are cleansed, the deaf their ears unstop,

Even the dead are raised again to life,

And good news is brought to all the poor. 

And to John I say, Blest be the one

Who hears this and takes no offense at me.

 

Jesus spoke of John then, to the crowd:

Why did you go forth into that wilderness?

To hear the sound of reeds against  the wind?

What searched you for, out walking in the desert?

A prince or kinglet, preening in soft robes?

They wear soft robes up in their royal palaces,

But not I think out on the desert sand.

I think you were looking for a prophet.

Yes, and more, you sought to find some truth,

And did, for John did bring with him fulfillment

The one of whom ’tis written,

See my messenger,

Who will prepare the way before I come.

Among those born of woman, I tell you,

None has been greater than John Baptist is,

And since he came there has been war in heaven,

The violent seek to take God’s house by force,

Prophets and the law prevailed till John came,

And now if you are willing to accept him,

He is Elijah, the one who is to come. 

Let anyone with ears to hear this, listen.

To what can I compare this generation?

They are like children sitting in the marketplace,

Calling to the crowd and one another:

“We played the flute, and yet you did not dance;

We cried and wailed, and yet you did not mourn.”

For when John came he did himself deny

Neither ate nor drank, but sparingly,

And so they said, He is possess’d by devils!

And when the Son of Man did follow him,

Eating and drinking as he pleased with sinners,

They said, now see a glutton and a drunkard!

Nothing that we do can please them now,

And wisdom’s vindicated by her deeds.

 

Then as Jesus thought about the cities

Where he had healed and raised folk from the dead,

He reproached the people living there

Because they saw but they repented not.

“Woe unto you, O Chorazin, Bethsaida,

For if the deeds of mercy done for you

Instead had been vouchsafed on Tyre and Sidon,

All of them would wear sackcloth and ashes,

And so when judgment comes, then you will pay.

Will Capernaum be lifted up to heaven?

Never, she will slide into the pit!

I say now, if my deeds of pow’r be done

In Sodom, it would last until today!

Even so, you cities, in that judgment

Sodom would fare better than yourselves. 

 

Then Jesus said a prayer of thanks to God:

Thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,

For you have hidden all these holy things

From the wise and the intelligent

And have instead revealed them to the children.

Father, such has been your gracious will,

All things have been handed down to me,

No one knows the Son except the Father,

And no one knows the Father but the Son,

And those to whom the Son reveals the Father. 

I say come unto me all you that toil,

Come ye weary, ye with heavy burdens,

Come unto me and I will give you rest,

Take my yoke upon you, learn from me,

For I am gentle and my heart is humble,

Here you will find comfort for your souls,

My yoke is easy and my burden light.

 

12.

 

Jesus went through grain fields on the sabbath.

His disciples followed.  They were hungry

And they plucked and ate the heads of grain.

And when the Pharisees beheld them eating,

They said, This is not lawful on the sabbath.

Jesus said, You know what David did

When he and his companions needed food?

They ate the bread of presence in the temple,

Which was against the law, except for priests.

You know that in the temple these same priests

May break the law and still are not found guilty. 

And if you say that this is not the temple,

I tell you, as I stand among this grain,

I am something greater than the temple;

But if you Pharisees knew what this means,

That I desire mercy and not sacrifice,

Then you would not so condemn the guiltless.

The Son of Man is Lord of all the sabbath

And those who follow Him break not the law. 

 

Then Jesus went inside the synagogue.

There was a man who had a withered hand.

The priests and scribes approached him and accused him,

“Can you cure this man here, on the sabbath?

Jesus said, Suppose you had a sheep,

Only one sheep, that fell into a pit

On the sabbath:  would you lift it out?

So how much more of value to you priests

Is a human being than a sheep?

He said then to the man, Stretch out your hand! 

He stretched it out, and Jesus healed him then,

One hand was just as sound as the other hand.

Silenced, the scribes and Pharisees went out,

Conspiring to destroy the Son of Man.

Yet everywhere he went the crowds were waiting,

And every one who came there to be healed,

All of them were cured and went their way,

And he ordered them to keep it secret.

The verses of Isaiah were fulfilled:

Here is my servant, one that I have chosen,

My Beloved, with whom I am well pleased,

I will put my spirit in his mouth

And he will offer justice to the Gentiles,

He raises not his voice nor cries aloud,

And will not make a  tumult in the streets,

My servant will not break a bruised reed,

Nor quench a smoldering wick, until he brings

The victory of justice to God’s children,

And in his name the Gentiles will have hope. 

 

Then they brought Jesus a demoniac 

Whom the devil had made blind and mute.

At Jesus’ touch, the man could speak and see.

The people in the crowd were all amazed

Asking, Can Jesus be the Son of David?

But the Pharisees claimed yet again,

That Jesus was in legion with Beelzebul. 

Jesus said, A kingdom against itself,

A city or a house against itself,

So divided, each of these will fall.

If Satan casts out Satan, so is he

Against himself, and so his kingdom falls.

And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul

Then who do your own exorcists employ?

The Spirit of God within me drives them out,

And the kingdom of God now comes to you.

If I were to plunder someone’s property

First I would take care to bind the master.

If you are not for me, you are against me,

And if against me, I can still forgive you,

Every sin and blasphemy save one:

Whoever speaks against the Son of Man

Will be forgiven if they so confess;

But those who speak against the Holy Spirit

Will never be forgiven in this age,

Nor in all ages till the end of time.

Good trees yield good fruit, and bad trees bad,

Can a viper offer me a blessing?

The mouth speaks from the fullness of the heart,

This fullness good or evil will reveal,

So see your utterance before you,

And judge yourself what careless words you utter.

For when you come at last to hear your judgment

For careless or for mindful words you said,

You will be judged as worthy or condemned.

 

The scribes and Pharisees then sought a sign,

To prove that Jesus was the Son of God.

O evil and adulterous age! said he,

You have no sign except the prophet Jonah,

The one who was three days and nights held fast

In the belly of the giant fish;

For so the Son of Man will be enclosed

For three days in the belly of the earth,

In a place that stands outside of time.

The people of the city Nineveh

Will rise up and protest this generation,

Because they did repent when Jonah came,

But you do not repent the Son of Man,

Though you have treated him far worse than Jonah.

The Queen of Sheba also will condemn you

Because she came here from the end of earth

To listen to the wisdom of King Solomon,

And greater things than Solomon are here!

 

You have seen me drive forth unclean spirits:

When such spirits leave a person’s heart,

They wander out across the desert waste,

Searching for their rest, but find it not,

Then says the unclean spirit, “I return,

To go back in my house, from whence I came.”

The house it finds is empty, swept, in order,

So the unclean spirit goes and rallies

Seven other spirits yet more evil;

Together they all move into the house

(Which is the person’s heart seeking salvation),

And so that person’s heart becomes at last

More corrupted than it was at first;

So is it with this evil generation.

 

While he spoke, his mother and brother came.

They stood apart, and sent a message in,

That they were waiting there to speak to him.

Jesus did not go, but asked the messenger,

Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?

And pointing to his followers he said,

Here are my mother and my brothers also,

For they who do my Heavenly Father’s will,

Are all I need of family here on earth.

 

13.

 

Jesus went and sat beside the sea.

Such a great crowd gathered on the shore

He waded out and jumped into a boat,

To tell his parable across the water,

While the crowd collected on the beach. 

A sower went to plant, and seeds were scattered,

Some fell on the path, where birds did eat them,

Some fell on the rocks, and found not soil,

They sprang up quickly, for they were not buried,

But when the sun came, burned the sprouts away;

Some fell midst the thorns and vines, and choked,

Yet some fell on good soil, and grew apace,

And brought a harvest of a hundred fold.

Let anyone with ears attend my story.

 

His disciples stopped him here and asked:

Why do you speak the truth, but in these parables?

Jesus said to them, You know my secrets,

But in this crowd such knowledge is not found. 

For you, the ones who have, yet more will be,

But they who know but little, will know less,

And what they know will be forgot in time. 

I speak in parables to fulfill Isaiah:

They will listen, never understanding;

They will look, and never yet perceive;

A people hard and fast against persuasion,

Their ears are blocked, and they have shut their eyes.

Their eyes are not for searching out the truth;

Their ears are not for listening; yet should they

Turn with understanding in their hearts,

They would see and hear, and I would heal them.

Blessed are your eyes, they search and see;

And blest your ears, for listening and hearing.

The multitude of prophets and the righteous

Have longed to see and hear what you now know.

 

Who hears my word and does not understand it,

The devil comes and steals away the seed

Snatches away the seed sown in his heart:

This is where the seeds fell on the path.

Who hears my word and burns at first with joy

May then see their excitement pass away

When their belief engenders opposition:

This is where the seeds fell on the rocks.

Who hears my word but then lets earthly cares,

The lure of wealth, or yoke of family duty,

Choke and starve the word so it yields nothing:

This is where the seeds fell ‘mongst the thorns.

Who hears my word and understands it well,

And gives it room to flourish in the heart

Then bears fruit and yields a bounteous harvest:

This is where the seed falls on good soil. 

 

A farmer sowed his seeds out in a field

When everybody slept, his enemy came,

Sowing weeds among the wheat, and fleeing

In the night, unseen by anyone.

The plants came up with weeds and wheat together.

The farmer’s slaves said, Master did you sow

Good seed and bad together in this field?

An enemy has done this, says the farmer.

Shall we master, then,  remove the weeds?

In doing this you would uproot the wheat.

Let the weeds and wheat grow up together,

And at harvest time, instruct the reapers,

Collect the weeds, bind and burn them first,

Then gather all the wheat into the barn.

So shall their souls be brought to heaven’s kingdom.

 

I am the one who sows the seeds of wheat.

The good seeds are the children of the kingdom,

The weeds the children of the evil one,

The enemy who sows them is the devil.

The harvest is the end of all the ages,

And they who reap and burn are heaven’s angels.

These angels cut and bind from all the earth

All cause of sin, and every evildoer,

And throw this evil harvest in the fire,

Where they will weep and writhe and gnash their teeth,

And then the righteous souls will shine like suns,

Beacons in the kingdom of the Father.

Let anyone with ears now hear me speak!

 

If someone sowed a little mustard seed,

And tended it till it became a tree,

So big the birds would nest among its branches,

So also are we brought to heaven’s kingdom.

 

And if a woman took a little yeast

And mixed it in with water, oil and flour

Three measures full, and all of it was leavened,

So also are we brought to heaven’s kingdom. 

 

If a man found a treasure in a field,

And in his joy sold everything he had,

And then he went and bought himself the field,

So also are we brought to heaven’s kingdom.

 

And if a merchant sought the finest pearl,

Found and acquired it, recking not the price,

Selling all he owned could he but have it,

So also are we brought to heaven’s kingdom.

 

And if a net caught every kind of fish,

The fishermen would sort the fish they caught,

Putting the good fish here, the bad ones there,

So will it be when comes the end of ages,

And angels sort the evil from the righteous;

So also are we brought to heaven’s kingdom.

 

All these parables fulfill the prophet:

My mouth speaks, and my voice proclaims the truth

Hid from the foundation of the world.

So also are we brought to heaven’s kingdom.

 

Said Jesus, Have you understood all this?

And when they answered “Yes,” he said to them,

So, if a wealthy man brought forth his treasure,

And showed you what is new and what is old,

Then would he be like every priest and scribe,

Trained in truth to enter heaven’s kingdom.

 

Then came Jesus back to Nazareth,

The little town where he was born and raised,

Known as the son of Joseph and of Mary.

And there he taught the people in the synagogue.

They were all astounded, and they said,

Where did Jesus get so wise and powerful?

Isn’t he the same, the workman’s son?

His mother is the one that they call Mary,

His brothers James and Joseph, Simon and Judas.

Don’t his sisters live right here in town?

Where did this man get all these ideas?

And very soon they took offense at him,

And he said, Here the prophet has no honor.

And in that town his deeds of power withheld,

Because they would their unbelief persist.

 

 

14.

 

The son of the Herod who had seen the star,

Called Herod Antipas, soon got word of Jesus,

And in fear confessed to all his servants,

That John the Baptist was raised from the dead

And worked his powers using Jesus’ body.

The Tetrarch’s slaves, like many humble people

Followed and believed in Jesus’ teaching.

He was called Tetrarch, for the Roman state

Divided the province Judea into four

Giving him a quarter to rule over,

Where his father had ruled over all.

The Romans called his father, King of the Jews.

Herod Antipas took his brother’s wife,

Herodias, and married her himself.

In the desert John had told the people,

Herod breaks the law to take this woman!

Herod had wanted to put John to death,

But feared the crowd, because John was a prophet.

So Herod had arrested John and bound him,

Put him in prison so he could not speak.

But when Herod’s birthday came, Herodias

Had her daughter dance before the feast.

She did so inflame the lust of Herod,

He promised to give her anything she asked.

Herodias then prompted her to say:

“Cut off John’s head and put it on a platter.”

Herod was grieved, yet must he keep his oath,

To maintain respect among his people,

And so commanded that the deed be done. 

John’s head was cut off in the cell below,

Brought on a platter, and given to the girl,

Who did present it finally to her mother.

John’s disciples came and took the body,

Buried it, and then brought word to Jesus. 

 

When Jesus heard about the death of John,

He went off in a boat just by himself.

He thought about the crowd that followed John

Out to the desert, enraptured by his voice,

Carried away to senselessness with fervor

Like Romans at the Bacchanalia,

Chasing a hairy god, seeking deliverance,

Not drawn by heated flesh and drunkenness,

But by the power, by the stark austerity,

And dreaming of revenge instead of coitus.

Even as the waters clasped them in,

And each one did emerge in readiness

For world and god and everything renewed,

They understood his promise of fulfillment

But thirsted on the sand for something more.

 

Here was Jesus, placid, deep in thought,

Healing the sick, and asking for their faith.

They saw him in his boat, and followed him,

Walking along the shore to where he was. 

He looked up, saw the crowd, and came ashore,

Having compassion on them in their sickness,

And healed them.  In the evening, his disciples,

Came and said to him, This lonely place

Has no food.  The hour is getting late.

Send the crowd now off into the villages,

So they can buy some bread and feed themselves.

But Jesus said, They need not go away.

You can give them what they need to eat. 

They replied, We don’t have any food,

Five loaves, two fish:  this is all there is.

And Jesus told them, Bring the food to me.

Then he sat the crowd down on the grass,

Took the loaves and fish and looked toward heaven,

Blest and broke the loaves and fish in pieces;

His disciples passed them to the crowd,

And everybody ate till they were filled.

When the disciples took up what was left,

They gathered up twelve baskets full of pieces.

Five loaves, two fish had fed five thousand men

And several thousand wives and children too.

 

Jesus put the disciples on the boat,

Telling them to sail across the lake,

Then, after Jesus had sent home the crowd,

He went out on the mountainside to pray.

In the dark he sat there, all alone.

On the sea the boat was swamped in waves,

Far from land, the wind rose up against it,

Before dawn, in the twilight, Jesus came

Walking toward them ‘cross the heaving sea.

When they saw him walking on the water,

They cried in terror he must be a ghost.

Jesus called across the wave and din,

Saying, Take heart!  Do not be afraid!

Peter answered, Lord, if this is you,

Tell me to come with you out on the water.

Said Jesus, Come.  So Peter left the boat,

And stepped across the waves to Jesus’ side. 

But when Peter felt again the wind,

He cowered and shrank.  Down his legs did go,

Throwing up his hands he cried, Lord save me!

And Jesus caught him by the hand and said,

O ye of little faith!  Why do you doubt?

And then they got together on the deck,

And the wind ceased, and everything was calm,

And all of his disciples worshiped him,

Saying, Jesus is the Son of God.

 

At dawn they came to Gennesaret’s strand

Where the local people knew of Jesus,

And they sent the word of his arrival there

To all the houses and the villages.

And the people brought him all the sick,

That they might touch his garment, hem or fringe,

And all of them who touched it, they were healed. 

 

15.

 

The Pharisees and scribes then sent to Jesus

A delegation from Jerusalem,

Asking, Why do your disciples break

The law and the traditions of our elders?

For they wash not their hands before they eat.

And Jesus answered, Why do you yourselves

Break the law to favor your tradition?

For God commands, Honor thy father and mother,

Yet your tradition allows a Jew withhold

Support from father and mother, so to give

More to enrich the temple’s treasury,

Telling them that God has greater need. 

So to bolster vain and sumptuous ritual,

You snatch bread from the mouths of aged souls

While taking pride of place among the faithful.

You hypocrites!  Isaiah said to watch for you,

They who do me honor with their lips,

But set their hearts on things so far from me;

In vain they proffer praises with their vanities;

As if their pride and precepts were my doctrines.

 

Then he called the crowd up close to hear:

Listen!  Understand me when I say

What goes in your mouth cannot defile you.

What comes out your mouth defiles your spirit.

The Pharisees took great offense at this

Which contradicted dietary laws;

And there were arguments amongst the crowd,

But Jesus begged the people let them pass.

Jesus said, You know my heavenly Father

Has planted seeds in many of your souls,

And will uproot the ones He has not planted. 

Leave these scribes and Pharisees alone,

For they are blind men, guided by the blind. 

Regardless of which one will lead the way,

Both of them will end up in the pit. 

Peter said, Explain this parable.

Jesus answered, Don’t you understand?

What goes in your mouth will pass your gut,

And out of you it goes into the sewer. 

But what comes from your mouth, comes from the heart,

The heart, the origin of all defilement. 

From the heart comes every evil plan,

Adultery and theft and fornication,

From the heart comes murder, lies and slander;

These are what defile a person’s soul;

To eat with unwashed hands does not defile.

 

Then Jesus went away, to Tyre and Sidon,

And there a foreign woman shouted, Lord,

Have mercy on me, for I have a daughter,

And she is tormented by a demon.

And at first Jesus did not answer her.

His disciples said, Send her away,

For she follows us and shouts your name.

And Jesus answered, I am sent to heal

Only the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

But the woman came and knelt before him.

Saying Lord help me. And to her he answered,

It is not fair or just to starve the children

By casting their food out so to feed the dogs.

And she said,  Yet, Lord, e’en hungry dogs

Eat the crumbs from off their master’s table. 

Jesus answered, Woman, great is your faith!

Your daughter now be healed as you have asked!

 

And Jesus passed along the sea, and found

A place to sit upon the mountain side.

The crowds brought forth the lame, the maimed, the blind,

The mute, and those possess’t, and many more,

They put them at his feet, and he did touch them,

And all were cured, so was the crowd amazed. 

And they all praised the God of Israel. 

 

Then Jesus called up his disciples to him,

Saying, I have compassion for this crowd,

Three days and nights they have been here with me;

And I cannot send them back home hungry.

And the disciples said, This is the desert!

Where can we find food for such a crowd?

Jesus asked them, How many loaves have you?

They said, Seven, and a few small fish. 

So he made them all sit on the ground,

Taking the food, he offered thanks to heaven,

Broke the loaves and fish, and passed them out,

And all of them did eat, and they were filled,

And they took up the broken pieces later,

Seven baskets full of bread and fish.

Four thousand men so ate out in the desert,

The women and children there were even more.

Jesus sent the crowd away, and left,

Heading for the region of Magadan. 

 

16.

 

Then came again the Pharisees and Saducees,

Telling Jesus to show a sign from heaven. 

He said, When it is evening, don’t you say:

“We will have fair weather. The sky is red.”

And when you see the sky is red at sunrise,

Don’t you say, “The red sky threatens storms.”

You make interpretations of the skies,

But cannot read the signs of your own times.

An evil and adulterous generation

Asks for signs to prove the Son of Man,

But no sign will be given save the fish

Where Jonah for three nights and days was held.

Then did his disciples come to him

Complaining they did not have any bread. 

Jesus said, Watch out, beware the yeast

The Pharisees and Sadducees put in.

They were puzzled, saying to one another,

“It is because we have forgot our bread?”

But Jesus said, O ye of little faith,

Why do you care if you forgot your bread?

Don’t you remember, five loaves fed five thousand?

And seven loaves four thousand more did feed?

Why do you still fail to see the truth?

I did not speak of leaven, or of bread, 

But of their teachings and hypocrisies. 

 

Then they came to Caesarea Philippi,

And Jesus asked them, What do people say?

Who is the Son of Man?  And they did answer,

Some say you’re John the Baptist, others Elijah,

Others Jeremiah or a prophet.

But you,  who do you say I am?

Simon Peter said, You are the Messiah,

And you are the Son of the Living God. 

And Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah,

You did not learn of this from flesh and blood!

But now my Father in heaven has revealed it,

And you, Petrus, you will be the rock

Whereon the Son of Man will build his church,

The gates of hell will not prevail against it.

I give you the keys of heaven’s kingdom. 

Whatever you bind on earth, ‘tis bound in heaven;

Whatever you free on earth, ‘tis loosed in heaven;

And now I order all of you forbidden

From speaking words of this to any others.

 

From that time on, Jesus would foretell

That he must go into Jerusalem,

Suffer greatly from the priests and scribes,

Be killed and on the third day raised again. 

Peter hearing this, took him aside,

Saying to Jesus, Lord, forbid these things;

But Jesus turned and said to Peter, Nay,

Get behind me Satan, speak not so,

For you are a stumbling block to me,

You speak of human things and not divine.

 

Then Jesus said to all of his disciples,

If any of you want to be my followers,

Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow.

For those who want to save their life will lose it,

And those who lose it for my sake will find it. 

What would it profit you to gain the world,

If in so doing you would lose your life?

And what return would you expect to get,

If you gave up your life for any sake?

I tell you now, the Son of Man will come

With angels in the glory of his Father. 

He will make recompense for what’s been done,

As truly as I tell you, here and now,

That some are standing, who will not taste death

Before they see the Son of Man arrive. 

 

17.

 

Six days later, Peter, James and John

Went up the mount with Jesus, all alone. 

They saw Jesus new, he was transfigured,

And his face was shining like the sun,

And his clothes became a dazzling white.

Suddenly they saw Moses and Elijah,

They were talking to the Son of Man. 

Then Peter said to Jesus, It is good,

We are here with you, and I can make

Dwellings for you and Moses and Elijah. 

And suddenly a bright cloud came on high,

And a voice spoke down out of the cloud,

Saying, THIS IS MY SON,  THIS MY BELOVED,

WITH HIM I AM WELL PLEASED, LISTEN TO HIM.

They fell down on their faces, filled with fear,

But Jesus touched them, saying, Rise, fear not.

They looked and they saw Jesus, all alone,

And then they came back down the mountainside.

Jesus said, Tell no one of this vision,

Until I have been raised up from the dead. 

They asked, why must Elijah come here first?

Said Jesus, speaking now of John the Baptist,

Elijah comes and first restores all things. 

But if Elijah has already come,

The scribes and priests would never recognize him,

And they would do with him just as they pleased. 

And so the Son of Man will also suffer

When their forces come to take him off. 

 

As these four returned to Galilee,

There came man who knelt in front of Jesus,

And he said, Lord, have mercy on my son,

For he suffers terribly from fits,

And when they come he falls into the fire,

Or into the water, depending where he is,

And your disciples’ healing power failed. 

Said Jesus, O ye faithless and perverse,

How much longer must I live with you?

Bring the poor child here to me for healing.

And Jesus took the demon out of him.

When his followers came to him and asked

Why could we not cast the demon out?

Jesus said, Because you have not faith. 

If your faith were small as a mustard seed,

Yet it was genuine and planted there secure,

You could say to the mountain standing here,

Move from here to there, and it would move,

And there is nothing that you could not do. 

 

Before they left the seashore, Jesus said,

The Son of Man is going to be betrayed,

Human hands will take and flay and kill him,

And on the third day he will rise again. 

And the disciples wept to hear these things. 

 

When they came back home to Capernaum,

The tax collectors came and spoke to Peter,

Saying, Does Jesus pay the temple tax?

He does, said Peter.  But when Jesus came,

He asked of Peter, knowing what he’d said,

From whom do kings of earth take toil or tribute?

Do they ask for payment from their children?

Then Peter said, No, Lord, they take from others.

Jesus said, The children then are free.

We have no need to pay a temple tax;

However, lest we give offense to them,

Go now to the shore and cast a hook;

Take the first fish that the hook brings up;

Open its mouth, and you will find a coin;

Give this coin to them for you and me. 

 

18.

 

Then the disciples came to him and asked

Who is the greatest one in Heaven’s Kingdom?

Jesus called a child to stand among them,

Saying, You must all become like children,

Or you will not enter the heaven’s kingdom.

This child’s humility will rule o’er heaven;

For those who now are last, will there be first. 

And the one who welcomes in my name

One so innocent, also welcomes me. 

And likewise, if you place a stumbling block

Before the feet of any little ones,

Then it would be better if you wore

A great millstone, fastened around your neck,

And you were drowned in the deep blue sea.

Woe to the world with all its stumbling blocks!

And though we all know we may trip sometime,

Woe to them who put these blocks before us.

If it is your foot that makes you stumble,

Then cut it off.  Better to have one foot

Than walk with two into eternal fire. 

And if it is your eye that makes you stumble,

Then tear it out.  Better to have one eye

Than see with two the flames of your damnation.

 

Do not despise the smallest of these children,

For each child has an angel up in heaven

Who sees the face of God continually.

And if a shepherd has a hundred sheep,

And one of them is lost, doesn’t the shepherd

Leave the ninety-nine to find the one?

And when he finds it, truly, I tell you,

He rejoices more at finding that one

Than for the ninety-nine who did not stray,

For God’s will is that every one be found.

 

From this may we be taught to speak with them

With whom we share our love in a community. 

When brother or sister work their sin against you;

Tell your grievance to them privately.

If they listen, you regain their trust. 

If they don’t, then go and speak again,

Taking one or two along to witness,

So that what you say may be confirmed;

And if they still refuse to hear your words,

Tell your grievance to the whole assembly,

And if they still refuse to hear the church,

Let them be to you as Gentiles are,

Or as a tax collector (Asking yourselves

In prayer, whether God so means for you

To love this person more or love him less?)

For what you bind on earth is bound in heaven,

What you loose on earth is loosed in heaven,

And if you find agreement here on earth,

For anything you ask, it will be done,

By my Father who is up in heaven.

Where two or three are gathered in my name,

They will know that I am there among them. 

 

Peter asked, Lord, if a brother sins

Against me, how much sin should I forgive?

Should I forgive him up to seven times?

And Jesus said to him, Not seven, Peter,

Not seventy-seven times would be enough.

Let me tell a story so to teach you:

A king had reached his day of reckoning

With all the slaves who served him in his palace.

The first slave owed the king ten thousand talents,

But he could not pay, so the king said,

Let this slave be sold to make the payment,

Together with his wife and all their children,

And all of their possessions and their cattle.

So the slave fell on his knees before him,

Saying, Have patience, I will pay it all,

Then pity moved the king to stop the sale,

And he forgave the slave all of his debt. 

Then that same slave went out and came upon

Another slave who still owed him some money,

Seizing him by the throat, he said, Now pay,

The other slave fell down and begged the first,

Pleading, Have patience, I will pay it all,

But pity did not move the angry slave,

Who had the other slave thrown into prison.

When all the other slaves saw what had happened,

They told the king about the first slave’s hardness,

And so the king said to this slave again,

You wicked slave, I pitied and forgave you,

Because you begged and pleaded for my mercy;

Now should you not show mercy to this other,

As I showed mercy when you came to me?

And then the king in anger had him tortured,

Until he found a way to pay his debt;

So will my heavenly Father torture you,

If you do not so forgive your brother,

From your heart, when he begs your forgiveness.

 

19.

 

Jesus departed Galilee and went

Across the Jordan, down into Judea. 

He was traveling towards Jerusalem.

Large crowds gathered wheresoe’er he went,

So he preached and taught and cured the sick. 

Pharisees came, and set for him a test:

They asked him if he thought that it was lawful

That men divorce their wives for any cause.

He answered, You have read, in the beginning

He made them male and female and then said

The man should leave his father and his mother,

And join his wife, these two become one flesh.

So then they are no longer two, but one:

What god has joined, let no one separate.

But then the Pharisees and scribes asked him,

Why then did Moses tell us husbands how

To make certificates and to divorce our wives?

Jesus said, Because you are hard-hearted,

Moses allowed you to divorce your wives,

But you know, before Moses, it was not so.

Whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity,

And marries another, he commits adultery.

His disciples said, If this is true,

It’s better if a man would never marry. 

But Jesus said, Not everyone can do this,

But only those who can avoid adultery.

You can learn by thinking of the eunuchs:

There are eunuchs who were born this way,

And eunuchs made this way by others’ hands,

And eunuchs who have chastened so themselves

That they may better enter heaven’s kingdom;

I say to you, accept this if you can. 

 

Then some people brought their little children

So he might lay his hands on them and pray,

And his disciples ordered them away,

But Jesus said, Let little children come to me,

Heaven’s kingdom is theirs, most of all,

And he laid his hands on them and prayed.

 

Then a young man from a wealthy house

Came to him and said, O teacher, tell me

What good deeds will let me live forever?

(Thinking that his wealth could be transformed

By deeds into a spiritual treasure

And so proclaim his family’s good fortune.)

Said Jesus, I can’t tell you what is good,

Only God in heaven knows what’s good;

But if you wish to find eternal life,

Keep the commandments, and you probably will. 

Which commandments? asked the wealthy youth.

Do not murder, nor cheat on your wife,

Do not steal, do not bear false witness,

Honor your father and your mother also,

In all things, love your neighbor as yourself.

I have kept all these, the young man said,

So will I enter into eternal life?

Jesus said, Now, if you seek perfection,

Go and auction all of your possessions,

Then give all your money to the poor,

And you will have great treasure up in heaven,

Then come, and follow me, and we will go there.

When the young man heard these words, he left

Downhearted, for he owned so many things,

And he could not imagine owning nothing;

And Jesus said to his disciples, See,

The rich will suffer passing heaven’s gate,

See a camel laden with its packs

Is caught and stuck within a needle’s eye,

And so do mortal goods obstruct the passage

Of the wealthy into the heaven’s kingdom.

Who then can be saved, Lord,  they all cried,

Jesus said, For mortals, it’s impossible,

But for God, everything is possible. 

And Peter said, O Lord, we have left everything,

We followed you.  So what then will we have?

Jesus said, When all things are renewed,

And I am sitting on the throne of glory,

Each of you twelve will sit upon his throne,

Judging over the twelve tribes of Israel,

And everyone who left the world behind,

Houses, families, children, fields and cattle,

All of these forsook, for my name’s sake,

Will receive a hundredfold and more,

And all of these inherit life eternal,

And the first on earth will then be last,

And the last on earth will then be first.

 

20.

 

As they traveled toward Jerusalem,

To help them understand what soon would be,

He gave a parable to his disciples:

What is the kingdom of heaven like?

Once there was a man who owned a vineyard.

Early in the morning he went out

To hire the workers who would pick his grapes,

And they agreed upon the daily wage.

Later in the morning, he went out,

And saw more workers standing in the marketplace,

And said, You go, and if you start right now

I will pay you all the daily wage.

And the man went out again at noon,

And in the afternoon went out twice more;

Every time he found them standing there,

Idle, because they had not yet been hired.

When evening came, the man said to his manager,

Give the laborers their daily wage,

Start with the last and then go to the first,

Every one of them is paid the same. 

But when laborers who started first

Received their pay, they grumbled and complained,

Because they thought they would receive more money,

And said, these workers only worked one hour

And yet you paid them just the same as us,

The man said, Friend, I do you no wrong,

We agreed on what the wage should be.

Take what you have coming, and then go,

I choose to give these others the same wage,

Do you envy them my open purse?

Just so, the last on earth will then be first,

And those who now are first will then be last.

 

As Jesus kept the road into Jerusalem,

One day he took the twelve off by themselves,

And said to them, Now hear you what will happen,

The Son of Man will be betrayed and taken

The priests and scribes will sentence him to death.

They will hand him over to the Gentiles

To be mocked and flogged and crucified.

In three days he will rise up from the dead.

 

Then came to him the mother of James and John,

Who with them knelt to him, and asked a favor.

She said, O Lord, declare that when these two

Come into your kingdom, they will sit,

One at your left hand, one upon the right.

Jesus said, You know not what you ask.

Can you drink the cup that I will drink?

And they both said to him, Yes Lord, we can,

And he said, Yes, you will drink from my cup,

But sitting at my right hand or my left,

This is not a favor I can grant,

But is prepared for those my Father chooses.

When the others heard this, they were angry,

But Jesus said, You know the Gentiles’ kings

Are lords and tyrants over all their subjects. 

But it will not be so amongst you twelve.

The man who would be king must be a servant,

As I came not to vanquish, but to serve,

So let my life be ransom for these many.

 

As they were leaving Jericho one day,

There were two blind men there beside the road.

When they heard his people passing by,

They shouted, Lord, have mercy on us here!

Jesus stopped and stood and spoke to them,

What do you want me to do, to help you here?

And they said, Lord, let our eyes be opened.

Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes,

At once they saw, and they did follow him. 

 

 

 

21.

 

When they reached the outskirts of Jerusalem,

Jesus sent two followers ahead,

Telling them to go into a village,

Looking for a donkey and her colt,

Take them away and bring them here, to me,

If anyone tries to stop you, answer thus,

The Lord needs these, and they will let you go. 

Now this is not the only living instance

That one commandment would be sacrificed

To bolster the requirement of another:

By taking away the law, Thou shalt not steal,

To add to, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, 

This necessary theft fulfilled the prophet,

The one who said,

Behold, O daughter of Zion,

Your king is coming, humble on a donkey,

Even on a colt, the donkey’s foal.

 

So the disciples did as he instructed,

They brought him up the donkey and the colt,

They threw their cloaks across the donkey’s back

And sat him so the people could behold him.

A crowd of people came and lined the street,

Spreading their cloaks across it for a carpet,

Cutting leaves and branches from the trees,

Waving them in the air, shouting and singing,

Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David,

Blest be the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest heaven!

The word of his arrival spread like fire,

Till the whole city buzzed with expectation,

Threats of intervention, glimpses of turmoil,

Strangers in crowds announcing to each other:

The prophet Jesus comes from Galilee!

 

Jesus led the crowd into the temple

Driving before them all the moneychangers,

He overturned their tables and their seats,

Until the galleries were bare of commerce,

And as the merchants fled across the plaza

He called after, crying, It is written,

My house shall be called a house of prayer,

But you are making it a den of thieves.

 

Then he and his disciples made a place

Inside the temple, where the blind and lame

Came in crowds so to be touched and healed.

The cries of children calling out, Hosanna,

Hosanna to the Son of David, rang

And echoed up among the mighty pillars,

And as the priests and Pharisees heard this,

They met in corners, whispering, enraged,

And filling with a sense of dislocation,

Said, Do you hear what all these people say?

Said Jesus, Yes, and so is it fulfilled,

Out of the mouths of babes and nursing infants,

I have prepared these praises for myself.

(I think that only God is free from blame

For justifying his own praise this way.)

 

So saying, Jesus left Jerusalem

And spent the night nearby at Bethany.

And as he was returning in the morning,

He stopped to eat some figs from off a tree,

But there were no figs on it, only leaves,

And Jesus cursed the tree, and said to it

May no fruit ever come from you again!

And the fig tree withered at his voice.

So his followers were all amazed,

To see the fig tree wither when he spoke,

But Jesus answered them, If you have faith,

Not only will you wither trees like this,

Even if you tell the mountains, Fly

And throw yourselves down yonder in the sea!

These things will your Father do for you,

If you but ask in prayer, with faith, from him.

And once again they went into the temple

And found a place to gather folk and heal.

Soon the priests and elders came and spoke to him:

Who gave you authority to do this?

Jesus answered their request by saying:

John the Baptist was himself baptized:

By what authority did water wash his sin?

Did the cleansing come from heaven down,

Or from the human hands that washed him clean?

And they went off and argued with themselves,

If it’s from heaven, then he’ll likely say

Why then did you not believe his teaching?

And if we say his gift was merely human,

Then the crowd will surely turn against us

For all of them believe John was a prophet.

So they answered Jesus, We don’t know. 

And so he said to them, I will not say

By what authority I heal and preach to them.

 

Then Jesus told the priests a  parable:

A man had two sons, and he told the first,

Go and labor in the fields today.

The first son answered, No, but later did;

The father told the second son, Go also,

He said, Sir I go, but then went not.

Which son carried out his father’s will?

The priests and Pharisees all said, The first.

I say, no matter how you keep the law,

And measure your observance by your goods,

The tax collectors and the prostitutes

Will enter heaven’s kingdom long before you.

For John came down the path of righteousness,

And you did not believe him when he said

I am a voice crying in the wilderness,

But all those people whom you scorn and shun

They believed him, and they begged for mercy,

And even after you had seen all this,

Did not change your minds and find belief.

 

So listen to another parable,

Which may yet help you with your unbelief:

There was a man who planted him a vineyard,

With a fence, a winepress, and a watchtower.  

He leased it to some tenants and went off. 

At harvest he sent slaves to take some produce:

But the tenants would not pay their rent,

They beat and stoned and killed the master’s slaves,

So he sent more slaves, more than before,

And the tenants beat and killed them too;

And finally he sent his son to them,

Thinking to inspire obedience,

But when the tenants saw the son, they said

Let us kill him, and get his inheritance,

They seized the son and threw him out and killed him.

Now when the owner of the vineyard comes,

What will he do to them his murd’rous tenants?

And the priests said, He will kill those wretches,

And lease his vineyard then to other tenants

Who will pay their share at harvest time.

And Jesus said, The scripture is fulfilled,

The one stone that the builders first rejected,

Has now become the building’s cornerstone;

This stone will break all them who fall upon it,

And it will crush the one on whom it falls;

And so, the God’s kingdom now taken from you

Just as the vineyard is taken from those murderers,

And giv’n to those who will produce the fruits

And share them with the master of the vineyard.

 

And as the priests and Pharisees did understand

That Jesus spoke of them, they would arrest him,

And imprison him for blasphemy,

But they, fearing the crowd, did not arrest him,

Because the crowd saw Jesus as a prophet.

 

22.

 

(Jesus thinking he had this audience captive

Sought to exploit the ready opportunity,

By teaching them another violent parable,

Lest there were still priests and Pharisees

Who did not understand his teaching yet.)

Once there was a king who had a son

For whom he did prepare a wedding banquet.

He sent out slaves to call on all the guests

But those he had invited would not come.

So he sent other slaves, who advertised

The dinner is prepared, the oxen slaughtered,

Fat calves and all delights await you there,

Come now help us celebrate the wedding!

But they made light of it and went away,

One to his farm, another to his business,

And others seized the slaves, beat and killed them.

The king, enraged, now sent out his army,

Destroyed the murderers and burned their city,

Then he said to his surviving slaves,

The wedding feast is still prepared, and waiting.

Those I asked at first have proved unworthy,

Go therefore now, into the city’s streets,

Ask everyone you find there to the banquet. 

And so the slaves went out into the streets,

Gathered all they found there, good and bad,

And soon the wedding hall was filled with guests. 

When the king came in, he saw a man

Unlike the others, with no wedding robe.

And when the king asked the man about his robe,

The man was speechless.  So the king declared,

Bind him hand and foot, and throw him out,

Let him cry in the dark and gnash his teeth.

For many are called, yet but few are chosen.

 

Then the Pharisees sought to find a way

To lead Jesus into seditious speech:

So, cloaking their request in deference,

They said, Because you are sincere in teaching

The way of God according to the truth,

And do not seek to counsel partiality

For power, wealth,  position, or any cause,

Tell us if you think that it is lawful

To pay tax to the Roman emperor.

But Jesus could discern their secret malice,

And said, Since you are making me a test,

Show me the coin you use to pay the tax.

They brought him a denarius and he said,

Whose head is on this coin, and whose the title?

They said, It is the emperor’s face, and title.

So he said, Give therefore to the emperor

What is his, and to God what is God’s.

The Pharisees were amazed and left him them. 

 

Then the Sadducees came in to test him,

Asserting that there is no resurrection,

And saying, Moses gave us all a law

That if a man dies childless, then his brother

Shall marry his widow and raise up the children.

Now if there happens to be such a man,

Who has six brothers, and they all die childless,

Leaving the widow, who herself then dies,

Whose wife of the seven shall she then be?

You’re wrong both in the letter and the spirit,

For when these peoples’ souls are resurrected,

They neither marry, nor are given in marriage,

They are all like angels up in heaven.

And you can’t deny the resurrection,

For long ago did not God say to you,

I am the God of Abraham and Isaac,

And the God of Jacob, yet these three,

Are still alive in more than memory,

For he is God of the living, not the dead.

And all who heard him were amazed at this.

 

When he had so silenced both the Pharisees

And  Sadducees, they chose from out their number

A lawyer, who set forth this final test:

Which commandment, teacher, is the greatest?

Love the lord your God with all your heart,

With all your soul, and with all your mind.

This is the first, and the greatest commandment.

And the second is like it:  Love your neighbor

As you love yourself, and on these two

Depend all other laws and speech of prophets.

 

At the end of the day, Jesus asked,

Pharisees, whose son is the Messiah?

And they answered him, The son of David.

Tell me how it comes to pass that David

By the Spirit calls his own son Lord?

For did not David sing,

The Lord he said

To my Lord, Sit with me, at my right hand,

Until I put your enemies under your feet?

Thus if David calls his own son Lord,

How can the same one still be David’s son?

 

And finally they reached an end of answers,

And of questions too, for they his enemies

Did not dare to ask him any questions.

 

23.

 

Then leaving behind all these preliminaries,

Jesus addressed the crowd and his disciples,

Castigating Pharisees and priests,

As one who had no fear of their reprisal. 

 

They sit on Moses’ seat, dispensing laws,

And all of you should follow what they say;

But do not follow what these people do,

For they will never practice as they teach.

They bundle a heavy burden, hard to bear,

And lay it on the shoulders of the poor,

But one and all are loath to lift a finger

To help those sore downtrodden raise and move it.

Their deeds they calibrate for public viewing,

With broad phylacteries, and fringes long;

They love the place of honor at a banquet,

And strive for choice seats in the synagogue;

They proffer favors to th’ indulgent toads

Who greet them, supplicating in the market,

Who warm the chambers of their prideful hearts

By letting drop the honorific “Rabbi.”

Shame on you for calling them a Rabbi,

For God’s the teacher, and we’re all his students,

And we should name no fathers here on earth,

For we all have one Father, up in heaven.

Nor can you priests call yourselves instructors,

For you have one instructor – the Messiah.

I will now instruct you:  listen closely.

The greatest among you soon will be your servant.

They who exalt themselves will then be humbled;

And they who are the lowest be exalted.

 

Woe to you, ye Pharisees and hypocrites!

You lock the people out of heaven’s kingdom!

You will never enter there yourselves,

And yet when others enter you would stop them! 

 

Woe to you, ye Pharisees and hypocrites!

You cross the sea and land to make a convert,

Then you would train this neophyte to be

Twice as much a child of hell as you!

 

Woe to you, blind guides, deceivers, fools,

You tell them that an oath upon the sanctuary

Is an oath upon an empty box,

But swearing by the gold amassed within it

 

Binds the faithful to keep fast their vow.

Blind fools!  Do you not see which is the greater?

The gold, or that which makes it sacred gold?

The lust to gather, or the aspiration?

 

You say, who swears an oath upon this altar

Is bound by nothing more than block and mortar,

But which prevails, the object of a duty?

Or is it the sanctifying spirit?

 

If you make your oath upon an altar,

You swear by every gift that is upon it,

And by the sanctuary, and the faithful,

By heaven, and the throne of God, and God.

 

Woe to you, ye Pharisees and hypocrites,

For as you tithe your mint and dill and cumin,

You neglect the spirit of the law

Which is to help us build a world of justice

 

Tempered by mercy and imbued with faith. 

From the ocean of the world’s injustice

You strain out gnats while camels pass the sieve,

And simulate your sanctity with pride.

 

Woe to you, ye Pharisees and hypocrites,

You wash the surface of the cup and plate,

Then eat from them with greed and self-indulgence,

For you mistake appearances for virtues;

 

Clean the inside of your spirit’s vessel,

Assure its content free from all corruption,

Your sustenance will come then honestly,

And you preserve a clean and wholesome spirit.

 

Woe to you, ye Pharisees and hypocrites!

You are like standing, gleaming tombs of white,

So beautiful with whitewash on the surface,

But inside they are full of bones and filth!

 

Woe to you, ye Pharisees and hypocrites!

You would build great tombs for all the prophets,

And decorate the graves of all the righteous,

And claim if you had lived in days of yore

 

Not to shed a drop of prophets’ blood.

But you yourselves descended from their murderers

And now fill up the measure of your ancestors;

How can you snakes escape the mouth of hell?

 

Therefore I send you prophets, sages, scribes,

And some of these you kill and crucify,

Others you have flogged in synagogues,

And chased like packs of dogs from town to town,

 

So down upon you rains the righteous blood,

From righteous Abel murdered by his brother

To righteous Zechariah,  whom you murdered

Between the sanctuary and the altar. 

 

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, I mourn thee,

Killing your prophets, stoning God’s holy messengers!

How often have I sought to shelter them,

Gathering your children there together,

As a hen protects her brood under her wings,

O city! You would never let this be.

 

See now.  Your house is left you,  desolate,

And you will never see me any more,

Until aloud you call up to the sky,

Blest is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

 

 

24. 

 

Then Jesus left the temple, and his followers,

Marveled at how grand and tall it was,

And he said to them, You see these buildings?

Not a stone will rest upon a stone,

All this edifice will be thrown down. 

 

Then he went out on the Mount of Olives,

And they came and spoke in private to him:

What will be the sign that you are coming?

When will be the ending of the age?

And Jesus said, Beware the talk of signs,

For many people claim to be Messiah,

And even more by them be led astray.

You’ll see wars, and then hear talk of wars,

But do not fear, the end will not be yet,

Nations will rise up against each other,

Famine and earthquake sweep across the land,

But all of this is only the beginning,

The birth pang of an infant world renewed.

 

They will hand you over to be tortured, 

Everywhere you go, people will hate you,

As one by one the faithful fall away,

From fear of death, or pain of persecution,

From hatred and betrayal in their midst.

False prophets will lead some of you astray,

And as the vigor and the life of law

Recede, the love of many will grow cold. 

If you endure, you will all be saved,

And good news be proclaimed to all the world,

Before the end.  The desolating sacrilege

Will then be standing in the holy place,

As the prophet Daniel has foretold,

Let the reader hear and understand,

And all Judea flees into the mountains.

And the one who watches from the housetop,

Must not stop to rescue his possessions,

Or the one that labors in the field,

Must not fetch his coat before he leaves.

Woe to the women who are great with child,

Or those who nurse, mother and infant, then,

And pray for all who suffer in that time

That they not flee in winter, or on Sabbath,

For such pain and carnage has not been

From the beginning of the world, till now,

And its like will never be again.

And if the Father had not stopped the time,

Not one of you would be saved in those days,

But, for the sake of them that have been chosen,

Our father will make cease the storms of death.

 

Then, in that silence, if they say to you,

Look!  Here is the Messiah!  Lo, he comes!

Do not believe it, for they will be false,

Simulated signs to lead astray,

Within and without, you will wander off;

Take note, for I have told you this beforehand,

He is neither waiting in the wilderness,

Nor in the inner sanctum of the palace,

For as the lightning comes from out the east,

And flashes ‘cross the sky into the west,

So will be coming of the Son,

Where the corpse is, there the vultures gather.

 

 And when the rain of suffering subsides,

The sun will darken, and the moon turn gray,

The stars will fall from heaven to the earth,

The powers of the heavens will be shaken.

Then will the Son of Man send forth his sign,

Across the heav’n, and all the earth will mourn,

He himself will come in clouds of glory,

Sending forth his angels with a trumpet,

And they will bring the souls of his elect

From the end of heaven and of earth.

If you watch, you know when this will be,

For from the fig tree you can learn a lesson:

When the branch is tender, and the leaves,

Unfurl, and spread to catch the light of day,

You will know that summer’s warmth is near;

So also when you see the ending signs,

You will know the Son of Man is coming,

Is near, is standing at the very gates.

Truly I tell you, that this generation

Will not pass away before he comes,

Heaven and earth will pass and be forgotten,

But these my words will linger till he comes.

And no one knows the day or hour he comes,

Neither angels, nor the Son of Man,

Only the Father in heaven knows the time;

For it is as it was in Noah’s time,

When all the people ate and drank and married,

Until the day that Noah did embark,

So little did they know until that flood,

Came and carried everything away,

So will it be when comes the Son of Man:

Two farmers will then stand beside a furrow,

One is taken, and the other, left;

Two women, grinding meal together:

One is taken, and the other, left;

Keep awake, soul, for you do not know

At what hour or day your Lord is coming.

If the watchful owner of the house

Had known beforehand when the thief was coming,

He would have stayed awake and barred the door.

So must you be ready for that moment,

And so your soul eternal will secure. 

 

As a master might appoint a slave

To make sure his household is protected,

To give the other slaves all their allowance,

Let us be certain that the slave is wise:

Wise and blest is he who stays at work,

And when the master comes is still awake;

But if he be a wicked slave,

He tells himself, My master is delayed,

And beats his fellow slaves with sticks and chains,

Eats and drinks with parasites and drunkards,

And on a day when he does least expect it,

The master comes and puts him out the door,

To join the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.

 

25.

 

Heaven’s kingdom brings to mind a wedding:

Ten bridesmaids took their lamps, and they went forth

To meet the bridegroom, but he was delayed. 

Five of them were foolish, five were wise. 

The foolish took their lamps, but no more oil,

The wise took lamps and flasks of oil beside.

As they waited past th’ appointed hour,

All of them did nod their heads and sleep;

Then at midnight there rose up a shout:

Look!  Here is the bridegroom!  Come to meet him!

All the virgins woke and trimmed their lamps.

The foolish begged the wise, Please give us oil,

For we have none, and our lamps do flicker;

But the wise say, No, there’s not enough,

Go and buy more oil if you need it.

As the foolish bridesmaids went to buy it,

There came the bridegroom, opening the banquet,

And those with burning lamps accompanied him.

But when the foolish bridesmaids did return,

The door was shut, and they all cried, Lord, open!

But the bridegroom said, I do not know you.

Keep awake, therefore, and be prepared.

 

Once a man was going on a journey.

He called his slaves, entrusted them with money.

He gave them each a different amount,

According to the skills that they had shown.

To one he gave five talents, another two,

Another, one, and then he went away. 

 

The slave who had at first received the five

Went and traded, and made five more talents.

Likewise the one who had received the two,

Traded these, and he made two more talents.

But the slave who had received the one,

Dug himself a hole and hid the money.

After a time the master did return,

And asked these three to show him what they’d done.

The first slave told him, See, I made five more.

And his master said to him, Well done,

As you have earned my trust in this small thing,

Many things will I put in your charge;

You may now enjoy your master’s favor.

And the second told him, Master, see,

From your two talents I have made two more,

And his master said to him, Well done,

As you have earned my trust in this small thing,

Many things will I put in your charge;

You may now enjoy your master’s favor.

Then came the slave who had received one talent,

Saying, Master, I knew that you were harsh,

Reaping where you did not sow the grain,

Gathering where you did not scatter seed,

So in fear I went and hid your talent. 

Here it is.  You have just what is yours. 

His master said, You wicked, lazy slave!

Is there justice in your accusation,

That I reap and gather what’s not mine?

You should at least invest this with the bankers,

So I may get my own to earn some interest.

I take this talent from you, and I give it,

To him who made the five turn into ten. 

For to the ones who have, more will be given;

And from you empty-handed will be taken

Even the little that you thought you had. 

I throw you, worthless slave, into the darkness,

 Where you may ever weep and gnash your teeth.

 

When the Son of Man comes in his glory,

He will sit upon the throne on high,

And all the nations will be set before Him,

And He will sort the souls from one another,

As a shepherd sorts his sheep and goats.

And He will say to those upon his right hand,

Come, for you are by my Father blest,

Come you now and enter in the kingdom,

Prepared from the foundation of the world,

For I was hungry and you gave me food,

I was thirsty, and you gave me drink,

I was a stranger, and you welcomed me,

I was naked, and you gave me clothing,

I was sick, and you took care of me,

I was in prison, and you visited me. 

And then the righteous souls will answer him,

When was it, Lord, that we did see you hungry?

When did we see you thirsty, and give you drink?

When were you a stranger, and we welcomed you?

When were you naked, and we gave you clothes?

When were you sick, or in prison, and we visited?

And the Son of Man will answer them:

Just as you did it for the least of these,

These who are members of my family,

So you did it to me, and so now come,

And enter into heaven’s kingdom with me. 

 

And He will say to those upon his left hand,

You that are accursed, depart from me

Go now into the eternal fire

To dwell there with the devil and his angels:

For I was hungry and you fed me not,

I was thirsty, and you gave no drink,

I was a stranger, and you drove me off,

I was naked, and you clothed me not,

I was sick, and you would leave me die,

I was in prison, and you let me rot.

And they would answer also, When, O Lord

Did we see you hungry, thirsty, naked,

A stranger or a prisoner or an invalid,

And when did we not minister to your needs?

And just as surely he will answer them:

Just as you did fail the least of these,

So did you fail me in my hour of need,

And so you enter the eternal punishment,

As they the righteous find eternal life.  

 

26.

 

Jesus said, In two days comes the Passover,

And I will be betrayed and crucified. 

And as he spoke, the chief priests and the elders,

Gathered with the high priest Caiaphas,

And they conspired to capture him and kill him,

In such way as they might avoid a riot. 

 

Jesus was at Bethany awhile,

Staying with Simon the Leper in his house. 

As he sat and took his ease at table,

A woman with an alabaster jar

Came in and poured some oil on his head. 

When his disciples saw the costly ointment,

They were angry and decried the waste.

They said the woman should have sold the oil,

And then the money given to the poor. 

Jesus said to them, Why do you trouble?

She has performed a kindness here for me.

You will always have poor people with you,

But you will not forever have me here. 

She prepares my body now for burial,

For she can see what’s coming more than you. 

Wherever this good news is told the world,

What she did will be remembered by them.

 

Then one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot,

Presented himself in secret to the priests,

Seeking to be paid  for  the betrayal.

They paid him thirty silver pieces for it,

And he bethought himself to fix the time. 

 

When came the first day of unleavened bread,

The disciples wanted to prepare a feast,

And said, Where should we make our preparations?

He said to them, Go forth into the city,

You will meet a man, and say to him,

The teacher says to you, My time is near.

We will keep the Passover at your house.

And all of these things happened as he said.

And at evening, Jesus came and joined them.

As they ate, he said, Someone betrays me,

And they voiced their anguish, saying to him,

Surely, Lord, I will not betray you!

And he said, Watch and see the one who dips

His hand into the bowl along with mine:

This disciple is the one betrays me,

And though we both fulfill the will of God,

Woe to the one by whom I am betrayed.

Better for him that he had not been born!

Judas, who had already betrayed him,

Said to him, Surely it is not I?

But Jesus said to Judas, You have said so.

 

And while they ate, Jesus he took bread,

After he had blest it, then he broke it,

And he gave the bread to his disciples,

Saying, Take and eat, this is my body;

Then he took the cup and he gave thanks,

And passed the cup from hand to hand around,

Saying to them, Drink this, all of you,

For this is my blood of the new covenant,

Which is poured out for many, for their sins,

I will never drink of this fruit again

Until the day comes when I drink it new

Together with you in my Father’s kingdom. 

Then together they all sang a hymn,

And left to go out on the Mount of Olives.

There Jesus told them, You will all abandon me,

For this night you will do as it is written:

I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep

From the shepherd’s flock will all be scattered.

But after I am raised up from the dead,

I will go ahead of you to Galilee. 

 

Peter would ingratiate himself,

And said to him, I will never desert you,

But Jesus, knowing better, said, Nay Peter

Before the cock crows you’ll deny me thrice. 

But Peter swore again, Though I must die,

I will not deny you are my Lord,

And so said all of his disciples then.

 

Jesus went out to Gethsemane

A quiet garden on the Mount of Olives,

And said, Sit here while I go in and pray.

Peter James and John he took with him,

And  he was worn and anxious in his prayer,

Saying, I grieve now, even unto death,

Stay here and watch while I go further in.

And deeper in the dark and shady garden

He threw himself upon the ground and cried,

My Father, if you can, let this cup pass,

Yet not my will, but thine the will be done.

Then he came back and found them fast asleep,

And waking them, he said to Peter, So

You could not stay awake one hour with me?

Now stay awake and pray that you be saved

From the time of trial and temptation.

The spirit’s willing, but the flesh is weak. 

And back he went alone into the shadow,

Praying, My Father, if this cannot pass

Unless I drink it, then your will be done.

Then again he came and found them sleeping.

Leaving them, he went and prayed some more.

Saying the same words he had said before. 

Then he came and woke them one last time,

Saying, Are you still sleeping while I pray?

Get up, the hour is here, the Son of Man

Is now betrayed into the hands of sinners:

Behold you, my betrayer is at hand. 

 

Judas arrived, leading a hostile crowd,

Roman soldiers armed with swords and clubs. 

And Judas gave his company a sign,

That Jesus was the one whom he would kiss. 

And he kissed Jesus, saying, Greetings, Rabbi.

Jesus said, Friend, do what you must do.

The soldiers and the crowd laid hands on Jesus,

And one of Jesus’ friends reached for his sword,

Struck the high priest’s slave, and severed his ear.

Jesus stopped him, saying, Put your sword back,

Who lives by the sword, dies by the sword.

If I but call upon my heav’nly Father,

Could He not send twelve legions of angels here?

But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled,

Which say that it must happen in this way?

Then Jesus turned and spoke to the whole crowd:

Have you come here with swords and clubs to get me

The same as if I were a thief or bandit?

Day after day I sat in the temple teaching,

There you listened and did not arrest me.

But how you were, and how you are, is done,

So that the words of prophets are fulfilled.

Then all the disciples deserted him and fled. 

 

The crowd took Jesus to the high priest Caiaphas,

Where scribes and elders waited to convict him,

And Peter followed after at a distance

Lingering in the courtyard of the palace. 

He sat and waited there among the guards

Because he sought to know how it would end.

The elders canvassed,  looking for false witnesses,

To justify their claim of execution;

But nobody could testify against him. 

Many false witnesses did in fact come forward

But their stories did not find agreement.

Finally two of them agreed: 

He claimed

He would tear the temple to the ground

And build it up again in three days time.

The high priest stood and questioned Jesus then:

Have you no answer to this charge against you?

But Jesus kept his silence, so the priest said,

Under oath before the living God,

Are you the Son of God?  Are you the Messiah?

Jesus said, You say so, but I tell you,

From now on you will see the Son of Man

Seated at the right hand of the Power,

Coming toward you on the clouds of heaven.

Then the soldiers flew into a rage,

Tearing the clothes off Jesus, and they said,

He’s a conspirator! Now we need no witnesses.

You have heard his claim!  What is your verdict?

And the Romans said that He should die. 

They spat upon his face, and struck, and slapped him,

And seeing that the spittle blinded him,

Taunted him, saying, Prophesy, Messiah!

Which of us is going to strike you next?

 

Outside in the courtyard, Peter waited,

And a servant girl came up to him,

Saying, You were also with this Jesus.

But Peter quickly said this was not so,

And later when he went out on the porch,

Another servant girl knew who he was,

And said, This man did follow Jesus here.

But Peter swore an oath, I do not know him!

And then again bystanders came at him,

Saying, ‘Tis certain you are one of them,

You talk just like a Nazarene, don’t you?

Then Peter cursed, and swore another oath,

Upon my soul, I do not know this man!

And at that moment heard the rooster crow,

And did remember Jesus prophecy,

Before the cock crows, you’ll deny me thrice,

And Peter left there, weeping bitterly. 

 

27.

 

As the dawn broke over Jerusalem,

Inside the palace, all the priests and Romans

Conferred amongst themselves to make a plan

Of how to start th’ machinery of his death.

They had him bound and led away by soldiers,

In custody of Pilate, the Roman Governor. 

 

When Judas saw that Jesus was condemned,

Repenting his betrayal, he brought back

The thirty pieces of silver he was paid. 

He said then to priests and to the Romans,

I have sinned, betraying innocent blood.

They answered him, What is that to us?

You’ll find a way to expiate your sin.

He threw the silver on the temple floor,

And ran away, and hid, and hanged himself. 

And the priests gathered up the silver,

Saying, We cannot place these in the treasury,

Because this money has been paid for blood. 

With the money they bought the potter’s field,

(Needing a place to bury foreigners),

Which to this day is called the Field of Blood. 

So had the prophet Jeremiah written,

So they took the thirty pieces of silver,

The price of the precious one, set by the people,

And gave them in exchange for the potter’s field,

As the Lord commanded them to do.

 

Now Jesus stood before the Roman governor,

And Pilate said, Are you King of the Jews?

Was there mockery in asking this?

For Jesus was no Herod Antipas,

Nor could Pilate really think that ever

Jews would have authentic kings again.

Jesus simply answered him, You say so,

And to the priests and elders would say nothing.

Pilate said, I do not understand,

These people make so many claims against you,

And yet you do not answer any of them;

But Jesus still declined to say a word,

And Pilate looked on him with great amazement,

For such a mind as his, though not religious,

Gave credit to the supernatural,

And may have seen the semblance of a God,

As Liber, dazed and beautiful, stands among

The Roman sailors, they who know him not,

Who break their promise to press on to Naxos,

And are turned into monsters of the sea. 

 

Now at this festival the Roman governor,

By custom, would release a prisoner,

Whom the crowd would claim deserved this mercy,

And the Romans held a famous criminal,

Jesus Barrabas, a notorious outlaw.

So Pilate went before the crowd and asked them:

Whom do you want us to release to you?

Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus your Messiah?

For he suspected Jesus the Christ was innocent,

Although the priests might envy his authority. 

As Pilate sat upon the seat of judgment,

His wife inside the house sent word to him,

Do not execute that innocent man,

For I today am pained and suffering greatly

Because of a dream wherein I saw his face. 

But, never less inclined to hear those fancies,

With which she might beguile, and then torment him,

Pilate turned, and once more asked the crowd,

Which of these two would you have me release?

And with one voice the crowd cried out, Barabbas!

Pilate said, But what then should I do

With this Jesus who is called Messiah?

And with one voice the crowd said, Crucify him!

And although Pilate took great pleasure in the thought

Of seeing Jew conspirators striped with blood,

He asked the crowd, What evil has he done?

Still with one voice, they shouted, Crucify him!

So, taking yet more pleasure in their anger,

Pilate pretended that nothing could be done,

But rather, that a riot was beginning,

And so, before the gathered multitude,

He dipped his hands in water and he washed them,

Said, Of this man’s blood my hands are clean,

And all you here may see to this yourselves.

Then Pilate sent Barabbas to his freedom,

And Jesus to be flogged and crucified. 

 

Pilate’s soldiers took him in the palace,

And the cohort gathered close around him;

They stripped off all his clothes and decked him out

With a crown of thorns, a robe of purple,

And a tufted reed in his right hand;

Then they knelt before him and they mocked him,

And shouted, Hail, Hail, King of the Jews,

They spat on him and snatched away the reed,

Struck him on the head, and mocked some more;

Then they stripped him of the purple robe,

And dressed him in his own clothes once again. 

Then they led him out into the street.

 

As they went out, they met a man named Simon

Who’d come up to the city from Cyrene,

And they compelled this man to drag his cross. 

Through the winding streets marched the procession,

To Golgotha, (which means, Place of the Skull),

And there they offered him some wine to drink,

But it was mixed with gall, and when he tasted it,

Refused it.  Then they crucified him.

They tore his garment off and passed it round,

Casting lots to choose which one would keep it. 

Then they settled in to watch him die. 

Over his head they put the charge against him,

A sign which read, Jesus, King of the Jews.

 

They also crucified two bandits there,

One at Jesus’ right, one at his left.

 

The people passing by derided him,

They shook their heads and taunted him and said:

You who would destroy our mighty temple,

And build it up again in three days time:

If you are the living Son of God,

Save yourself!  Come down off the cross!

The priests and scribes and elders also mocked him,

He may save others, but can’t save himself!

He may be king, but hanging in a tree!

He’s lifted high, but now he can’t come down!

If he descends we will believe in him.   

He trusts in God, let God deliver him;

If he’s the Son of God, where is his Father?

 

At either hand the bandits taunted also. 

 

At midday,  darkness overcame the sky,

Lingering until midafternoon,

Till Jesus raised a loud and dreadful voice,

Eli Eli lema sabachthani?

My God, O why have you forsaken me?

And some of them nearby, who heard this, said,

This dying man is calling for Elijah,

And they dipped a sponge in vinegar,

Put it on a stick and held it up,

And others, watching, counseled them to wait,

For they would see Elijah come to save him,

But Jesus cried again and breathed his last,

And at that very moment in the temple,

The curtain tore in two from top to bottom,

The earth shook, and the rocks beneath were split,

Tombs were opened, and many saints were raised.

(After his resurrection they came out,

Entered the holy city, and we saw them.)

But at that very moment, a centurion,

Standing with the guard and keeping watch,

Saw the earthquake and was terrified,

Saying, Truly, this was the Son of God.

 

There were women, watching from a distance:

The mother of the sons of Zebedee,

Mary the mother of James, and Mary Magdalene.

 

In the evening came a wealthy man,

Joseph of Arimathea was his name;

He went to Pilate asking for the body.

Pilate bid the soldiers take it down

Which they did, and gave it then to Joseph.

In a linen cloth Joseph he wrapped it,

And laid it in his own new-hewn rock tomb.

He rolled a great stone up against the door,

And the two Marys, sitting opposite,

Watched him push the stone up into place

And go away until the end of Passover.

 

In the morning, priests and Pharisees

Came with a petition before Pilate:

Sir, recall that this impostor said

That after three days, he would rise again.

We ask therefore that you command your troops

To make this tomb secure for these three days. 

Otherwise his followers may go in,

Steal his body, and proclaim abroad,

He is risen, raised up from the dead!

Enlarging their deception, and fomenting

Rebellion to legitimate authority.

Pilate said to them, You have a guard;

Go ahead, make the tomb secure;

And so the guard  cemented the stone in place,

Using mortar to close up the cracks,

And then left several soldiers there to watch.

 

 

 

28.

 

After the Sabbath, the first day of the week,

As the sun was rising in the east,

The Marys went to see the tomb again. 

Suddenly they felt a great earthquake.

An angel of the Lord came down from heaven,

And he rolled back the stone and sat upon it. 

His visage was like lightning, and his robe

Shone out white as snow, only much brighter.

For fear of him, the guards who watched the tomb

Fell down to the ground, as if they were dead.

Fear not, said the angel to the women,

You search for Jesus, who was crucified:

He is not here, for he has been raised.

Come and see the place where he did lay!

Go quickly, and tell all of his disciples:

Truly, he is risen from the dead!

He goes ahead of you to Galilee,

Follow there, and you will see him soon.

They ran away with fear and joy commingled.

As they went to tell all his disciples,

Suddenly Jesus met them on the way.

He greeted them, and then they came to him,

Fell to the ground and held him by his feet,

And worshiped him, until he said to them,

Do not be afraid, but go and tell

My brothers and my sisters all to go

To Galilee, where we will be together. 

 

Meanwhile several members of the guard

Revived from their paralysis of fear,

Told the priests what happened at the tomb.

The priests and elders so devised a plan

To explain the body’s disappearance. 

They set aside a large amount of money

To pay the soldiers for this testimony:

Jesus’ disciples came by dark of night,

Stealing his body while the soldiers slept.

The priests assured the guard that if this came

To Pilate’s ears, they would somehow explain

This dereliction of a soldier’s duty,

Substituting one lie for another.

The soldiers took the money from the priests,

And so kept their conspiracy intact. 

 

Eleven disciples went to Galilee,

Where Jesus had them gather on a mountain.

They saw and worshiped him, and yet some doubted. 

But Jesus said, Now all authority

In heaven and on earth, is given me. 

Go therefore and preach to all the nations.

Baptize them, in the name of the Father,

And the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

Teach them to obey what I command,

And remember, I am with you always,

Now and forever, to the end of ages.

 

 

Finis.