«You are wrong. You have still two things there.»
«Remembrance and hatred. Remove them. Become really empty… and I will give you something new to put in there.»
«Ah! Ah! You make me laugh.»
– John of Endor, prior to understanding who he was speaking with.
188. …the old man climbs laboriously up a stony lane to a very poor and shabby looking house. « He lives here. I will go in and call him. »
Peter, pointing at some poultry scratching about in a dirty yard, says: « This fellow is not an Israelite. » But he says no more because the old man comes back followed by a man blind in one eye who is as dirty and untidy as everything round his house.
The old man says: « See? This man says that it is over there beyond that dilapidated house. There is a path, a stream, a wood and some caves, the one at the top, where there are still traces of ruined walls on one side, is the one you are looking for. Is that right? »
« No. You have muddled everything. I will go with these strangers. » The man’s voice is harsh and guttural, which increases everybody’s feeling of uneasiness.
He starts walking. Peter, Philip and Thomas make repeated signs to Jesus to advise Him not to go. But Jesus does not pay attention. He walks with Judas behind the man, and the others follow Him… unwillingly.
« Are You an Israelite? » asks the man.
« Yes, I am. »
« I, too, or almost, although I do not look like one. But I lived a long time abroad and I got into many habits, of which these fools here disapprove. I am better than the others. But they say that I am a demon, because I read a great deal, I breed poultry which I sell to the Romans and I can cure people by means of herbs. When young, because of a woman, I quarrelled with a Roman – I was at Cintium then – and I stabbed him. He died, I lost one eye and all my wealth and I was sentenced to life imprisonment. But I knew how to cure people, and I cured the daughter of one of the guards. I thus won his friendship and some freedom… I used it to escape. I acted badly, because the man certainly paid for my flight with his life. But freedom seems so beautiful when one is a prisoner…»
« Is it not really beautiful afterwards? »
« No. Jail, where one is alone, is better than being in contact with men who do not allow you to be alone and come around us to hate us…»
« Did you study philosophy? »
« I was a teacher at Cintium… I was a proselyte…»
« And now? »
« Now I am nothing. I live according to the reality of facts. And I hate, as I was and am still hated. »
« Who hates you? »
« Everybody. And God is the first. She was my wife… and God allowed her to be unfaithful to me and ruin me. I was free and respected, and God allowed me to become a convict serving a life sentence. God abandoned me, men were unfair. Both He and they destroyed me. There is nothing left here…» and he strikes his forehead and his chest. « Rather, here, in my head, there are my thoughts, my knowledge. It is in here that there is nothing » and he spits contemptuously.
« You are wrong. You have still two things there. »
« Which? »
« Remembrance and hatred. Remove them. Become really empty… and I will give you something new to put in there. »
« What? »
« Love. »
« Ah! Ah! You make me laugh. I have not laughed for thirty-five years, man. Since I had the proof that the woman was unfaithful to me with the Roman wine merchant. Love! Love to me! It is like me throwing jewels to my chickens! They would die of indigestion, unless they passed them out with their excrement. The same would happen to me. Your love would be a burden to me, if I could not digest it…»
« No, man! Do not say that! » Jesus lays His hand on the man’s shoulder, He is deeply and openly distressed.
The man looks at Him with his only eye and what he sees on that most sweet and beautiful face causes him to be struck dumb and to change his expression. From being sarcastic he becomes very serious and then really sad. He lowers his head and with a changed voice he asks: « Who are You? »
« Jesus of Nazareth. The Messiah. »
« You!!! »
« I. Did you not know about Me, since you read so much? »
« I knew… But I did not know that You were alive and… above all, I did not know this. I did not know that You are good to everybody… thus… also to murderers… Forgive me for what I said… about God and love… Now I understand why You want to give me love… Because without love the world is hell, and You, the Messiah want to make a paradise of it. »
« A paradise in every heart. Give Me the remembrance and the hatred that make you ill and let Me put love into your heart! »
« Oh! I wish I had known You before!… then… But when I killed, You were certainly not born yet… But later… when I was free, as free as a snake in a forest, I lived to poison people with my hatred. »
« But you did also some good. Did you not say that you cured people by means of herbs? »
« Yes. To be tolerated. But how many times I had to struggle against my desire to poison people by means of potions!… See? I took refuge here because… it is a place where the world is ignored and which the world ignores. A cursed place. In other places I hated and was hated and I was afraid of being recognised… But I am wicked. »
« You regret having harmed the prison guard. Do you not see that there is still some goodness in you? You are not wicked… Your only trouble is that you have a large open wound, which nobody is curing… Your goodness runs out of it as blood from a wound. But if someone would cure your wound and heal it, My dear brother, goodness would increase in you, because it would no longer vanish as it forms…»
The man weeps with bent head trying to conceal his tears. Only Jesus Who is walking beside him notices them. He notices but does not say anything further.
They arrive at a cavern made of rubble and mountain caves. The man endeavours to steady his voice and says: « Here it is. You may go in. »
« Thank you, My friend. Be good. »
They come out of the ruins and they begin to descend the path they had walked up previously. The man blind in one eye is still there.
« Are you still here? » asks Jesus pretending that He does not notice that his face is flushed because of the many tears he has shed.
« Yes, I am still here. I will follow You if You allow me. I have something to tell you…»
« Come with Me, then…»