Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana Page 26

"Son," she said. "The wine is running out."

I looked at her. I saw the cause of it. She didn't have to tell me. The caravan carrying the wine south had been struck on the road by brigands. Cartloads of wine had been stolen, carried off into the hills. Word had only just reached the house, even as dozens of men and women still arrived for the banquet which would go on throughout all of the new day.

It was a disaster of unlikely and dreadful proportions.

I looked into her eyes. How urgently she implored me.

I bent down and laid my hand on the back of her neck. "Woman?" I asked gently. "What has this to do with you and me?" I shrugged. I whispered, "My hour hasn't come."

She drew back very slowly. She looked up at me for a long moment with the most curious expression on her face, a combination of mock scolding and then placid trust. She turned and lifted her finger. She waited. Far across the courtyard and the main dining room, one of the servants saw her, caught her gaze and her gesture. She nodded, as he nodded to her. She beckoned. She opened her fingers. She beckoned for all of them to come.

Hananel was suddenly standing alone without his servants, watching them slip through the crowds and come towards us.

"Mother!" I whispered.

"Son!" she answered, gently mimicking my very tone.

She turned to Uncle Cleopas and put her hand gently on his shoulder, and gazing up at me out of the corner of her eye, she said to Cleopas, "Brother, tell my son the commandment. He has lately received the blessing of his father. Remind him. 'Honor your father and your mother.' Are those not the words?"

I smiled. I bent to kiss her forehead. She lifted her chin slightly, eyes soft, but withholding her smile.

The servants surrounded us. They waited. My new followers were gathering - John, James and Peter, Andrew and Philip. They'd never been very far from me the whole evening and now they drew in close.

"What is it, Rabbi?" John asked.

Far away, the small figure of Hananel stood with folded arms in the candlelight, staring at me, fascinated and perplexed.

My mother pointed to me, as she addressed the servants: "Do whatever he tells you to do."

Now her face was gentle and natural and she looked up at me and she smiled as a child might smile.

The disciples were confused and concerned.

Cleopas laughed silently to himself. He covered his mouth with his left hand, and peered up at me mischievously. My mother walked away. She gave one sharp backward glance at me, her face sweet and trusting, and then she retreated to the door of the women's banquet room and there she waited, half hidden by the gathered curtains in the arch.

I looked at the six huge limestone jars in the courtyard, the jars for the water of the purification, the washing of hands.

I spoke to the servants. "Fill them to the brim."

"My lord, they hold gallons. It will take all of us to take these to the well."

"Then best to hurry," I said. "And call the others to assist."

At once they hoisted the first of the jars and carried it out, through the rear dining room into the night. Another flock of servants appeared for the second, and another group for the third, and so on it went rapidly, so that within minutes the six stood as before, completely filled.

Hananel watched all this carefully, but no one was watching him. People passed him, greeted him, thanked him, blessed him. But they didn't really notice him as he stood there. Slowly he moved back to his place at the table. He sat down, coming between the merry conversation of Nathanael and Jason. His eyes were still fixed on me.

"My lord, it's done," said the first of the servants as he stood beside the row of jars. I gestured to a nearby tray of goblets, only one of many throughout the room.

I heard in my mind the voice of the Tempter in the desert. A delusion! . . . Why, even Elijah could have managed that!

I looked at the head servant. I saw the tension and near desperation in his eyes. I saw the fear in the faces of the others.

"Draw now from the jar and fill that cup," I said. "Take it to Jason, the friend of the bridegroom who sits beside the master. Is he not the master of the feast?"

"Yes, my lord," the servant answered wearily. He put the dipper into the jar. He let out a long low gasp.

The red wine shone in the light of the candles. The disciples stared as the wine flowed down from the dipper into the goblet in the servant's hand.

I felt the coolness come over my skin that I'd felt at the Jordan River. I felt a faint near-delicious sizzling sensation. Then it was gone as quickly and silently as it had come.

"Take it to him," I said to the servant. I pointed to Jason.

My uncle was unable to laugh, or speak. The disciples seemed to collectively hold their breath.

The servant hurried into the banquet room and around the table. He thrust the goblet into Jason's hand.

I let the words reach me through the noise of the throng.

"The wine that's just come," said the servant, trembling, almost unable to form the words.

Jason took a deep drink of it without hesitating.

"My lord!" he said to Hananel. "You've done the most splendid trick." He stood up. Drank more from the cup. "Most men wait until the first wine's done its work, only to bring out the lesser vintage. You've saved the best wine for last."

Hananel stared up at him.

In a small cold voice, he said,

"Give me that cup."

Jason didn't notice the coldness. He was already arguing with Nathanael again, but Nathanael was staring across the table and beyond, at those of us gathered in the courtyard by the jars.

Hananel drank. He sat back. We looked at one another over the distance.

The servants were hurrying to the jars and ladling the wine into the empty cups and goblets. Tray after tray was being taken to the banquet tables and rugs.

No one saw Hananel looking at me, except for Nathanael. Nathanael rose slowly and came towards us.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my mother leave her post at the door of the banquet room and disappear behind the thin veils of gauze.

Young John kissed my hand. Peter knelt and kissed my hand. The others gathered to kiss my hand.

"No, stop this," I said. "You must not do this."

I turned and I went out of the courtyard, through the foyer, and into the open garden away from the revelers. I walked until I was in the farthest corner of the walled orchard from which I could see the rooms of the women flanking this side of the house. The arches were filled with pulsing light.

All the disciples were now clustered around me. James headed towards me and so did my younger brothers.

Cleopas came and stood before me.

Jason and Nathanael and Matthew came out, Matthew arguing forcefully with Young John and with one of the servants, a very young boy, who fell back now, shyly, bowing his head and backing away.

"I tell you, I don't believe it!" said Matthew.

"What do you mean, you don't believe it!" declared Young John. "I saw it. I saw them take the jars to the well. I saw them bring the jars back. I talked to them. I saw their faces. I saw it. How can you stand there and say you don't believe it?"

"That explains how you believe it," said Jason, "but not how we are to believe it." He rushed up to me, forcing the others out of the way. "Yeshua, do you claim to have done this, to have changed those six jars of water into wine?"

"How dare you put that question to him!" said Peter. "How many witnesses does this require for you to believe? We stood there. His uncle stood there."

"Now, that I do not believe," declared my brother James. "Cleopas, did you witness this yourself, what they're saying, that all the wine being served now was water before he changed it? I tell you, this is mad!"

Suddenly all but Cleopas were speaking at once. Only Cleopas stood there studying me.

The night was evaporating and up came the deepest blue of the dawn. The stars, my precious stars, were still visible. And beyond, the house sang still and throbbed with dancing.

"What will you do now?" Cleopas asked.

I thought for a long moment. Then I answered.

"I will go on, from surprise to surprise."

"What are you saying?" James demanded.

They fell to quarreling again. Jason gestured furiously for silence. "Yeshua, I demand that you tell these gullible fools that you did not turn water into wine."

My uncle began to laugh. As was always the way with him the laughter started low, creeping, and then gathered strength and depth. It remained muted yet became darker and fuller.

"Tell them," said James. "Our young cousin here will make himself a laughingstock with this story. He'll make you a laughingstock with it. Tell them this did not take place."

"It did take place, we saw it," said Peter. Andrew and James bar Zebedee joined furiously in the affirmation. Then my brother James threw up his hands.

"I believe you could drive the devil out of a woman," said Jason. "I believe that you can pray for the rain to stop and it might stop. Those things, yes, I believe those things. But not this, this I don't accept."

Cleopas spoke up again.

"What will you do?" He drew very close to me, so that I couldn't escape him, but the others could still hear him. "When you were a little boy, you asked me many a time for answers. Remember this?"


"I told you one day you would give us the answers. And I also told you that I would explain everything that I knew."


"Well, I am telling you now: you are the Anointed One. You are Christ the Lord. And you must lead us."

Peter, the sons of Zebedee, and Philip all nodded and said they too believed this.

Cleopas said, "You must lead us now, you have no choice. You must go forth and answer every challenge put to Israel. You must take up arms as the prophets have foretold."


"Yeshua, you can't escape it," Cleopas said. "I saw and heard at the Jordan. I saw the water changed into wine."

"Yes, these things you saw," I said, "but I will not lead our people into battle."

"But look around you," said Jason hotly. "The times demand it. Pontius Pilate - why, he's the reason John came out of the wilderness. It was Pilate with his cursed ensigns. And the House of Caiaphas, what did they do to avert the disaster! Yeshua, you must call all Israel now to take up arms."

"My brother," said James. "Surely that is so."


"Yeshua, the words of Isaiah call on you to do this," said Cleopas.

"Don't quote them to me, Uncle. I know them."

"Yeshua, if you did this thing," said James, "then how can we fail? We must take up arms. It's the moment we've waited for, prayed for. If you tell me you did this - ."

"Oh, I know how bitterly you are all disappointed," I said. "And I have seen in my mind's eye the armies I might lead and the victories that might come to pass. How could you think I don't know such things?"

"Then why won't you accept your destiny?" asked James bitterly. "Why must you always step back?"

"James, don't you understand what I want? Look into the faces of those around you who saw the wine come from the jar. I want an innovation that will ignite the world. That wine is no less than the blood inside my veins. I come to bring the Face of the Lord - to the whole wide world!"

They fell silent.

"The Face of the Lord," I repeated it. I looked intently at James, and at Cleopas. I looked one by one at each of them. "The Face of the Lord I mean to bring to all."

Silence. They stood still loosely gathered and staring at me, rapt yet not daring to speak.

"Don't you know all battles fought with swords are ultimately lost battles?" I asked. "Don't you see yourselves that Scripture and history are filled with battles? What comes of battles? Don't speak to me of Alexander or Pompey or Augustus, of Germanicus or any Caesar. Don't speak to me of ensigns whether they are raised on high in Jerusalem or lost in the Teutoburg Forest of the far north. Don't speak to me of King David or of his son Solomon. Look at me as I stand here! I want a victory that far surpasses anything that's been written, either in ink or in blood."

I went on speaking against their silence.

"And you must trust in me how I will do it," I said. "Whether in signs and wonders, whether in moments of personal calling, whether in pointed and trivial or enormous demands! I call on you to follow me. To discover it with me."

No answer.

"It begins now at this wedding," I said. "And the wine you've drunk is for the whole world. Israel is the vessel, yes. But the wine flows from now on for all. Oh, I wish I could fix this as the final triumph, this lovely morning with its gentle paling sky. I wish I could open the gates for all to come and drink of this wine here and now, and that all pain and suffering and suspense would come to an end.

"But I wasn't born for that. I was born to find the way to do this through Time. Yes, it is the Time of Pontius Pilate. Yes, it is the Time of Joseph Caiaphas. Yes, it is the Time of Tiberius Caesar. But those men are nothing to me. I've entered history for the whole of it. And I won't be stopped. And I go now, disappointing you, yes, and to what village and town I head next, I don't know, only that I go proclaiming that the Kingdom of God is on us, that the Kingdom of God is with us, that all must turn and take heed, and I will declare it where the Father tells me I must, and I will find before me the listeners - and the surprises - He has in store."

"We are with you, Master," whispered Peter.

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