The trip to Capernum had become disastrous. Looking over his shoulder beyond the massive crowd of would be students and desperately ill citizens who had traveled many miles to just touch Jesus’ robes, Judas saw a small detachment of town guards waiting for them. These men had been following them since they left the centuries old synagogue constructed centuries ago out of a darkly hued basalt. Nervously, he pushed his way through the overwrought widows and desperate fathers carrying deathly sick children in their strong protective arms. Like little lambs, the children rarely looked up from their fathers’ chests, faces buried against them, no desire to see the commotion around them, only wanting to feel secure in the pain that was their reality.
Jesus was in his typical spot, underneath a shaded tree on the outskirts of the shoreline that traveled around the entire area of the Sea of Galilee. The cerulean waters were fair and calm that day; there were several dozen fishing boats out on its waters that morning, hauling in a day’s catch out of the large shoals of musht that populated the land locked sea. With the far shore not within sight, the great expanse of open water seemed endless in its reach beyond Jesus’ shoulder. It was no wonder that Jesus identified with this town and its hardworking fishing business. This was home for him. The large, immeasurable sight behind him, keeping him inspired in his own endless journey.
“Rabbi, we might have a problem,”Judas huffed breathlessly when he reached his master’s perspiring form in the hot humidity of the day. “I don’t think they can reach us just yet because of the crowd, but it doesn’t look promising. I think the centurion spread the word of your healing his daughter.”
“I didn’t heal the child, Judas,” Jesus said this steadily, with a rather penetrating glare accompanying his evenly serious tone.
“I brought her back from the dead.”
Several women near the prophet’s wooden sandaled feet hushed with further awe, tenderly playing with the edges of his simlah, hoping to garner some type of healing, desperate to alleviate their physical woes as they strained to hear the details of this miracle Jesus spoke of. Judas felt uncomfortable arguing over the details of what occurred at the private residence of a local centurion named Onis, all he knew is that it appeared a detachment of the military leader’s men were now here to collect Jesus for some reason.
“Brought back from the dead, healed, however you want to describe the miracle it was, but there are some very heavily armed men near the back of this crowd, and they know I have seen them and am up here warning you right now.” Judas cast another nervous glace above the crowd, looking for the familiar spear tips rising above the turbans and dyed shawls of the congregating crowds, and seeing none, he became sick in the stomach. Turning to Jesus he pleaded with him,”Please, we need to get you away from here. Maybe the girl didn’t completely recover as you thought, or Onis received word you are banned in other cities and he wants to clear you out of here at the urging of the priests. I don’t see them any longer, but I am willing to bet they are flanking both sides of this large group of people and pushing forward as we speak.”
The crowd had seemed to surge forward suddenly, pushing even Jesus further towards the shoreline, and he realized word had spread of the early morning miracle working at the centurion’s house and it was causing a large mass of people to show up. Many more than ever seen before. Judas pulled his fellow disciples Thomas and Peter to the side, telling them to stay with their teacher while he spoke with Simon about getting a nearby fisherman to allow them on board a ship that was about to set sail for a second trip out on the sea that day to net more fish.
“Simon!” Judas waved a long sleeved arm in the air frantically, spying the young disciple through a group of young men who were busy carrying a frail looking grandmother towards the front of the pressing crowd. The mop headed youth looked around, brown eyes filled with bewilderment as he obviously seemed to have heard Judas’ call, but couldn’t source the direction. Luckily, the slenderly built man meandered towards Judas, making it easier for the money handler to catch up to him.
“I need you to go talk to one of those fishermen near the shore. See about getting us passage out of here immediately. I have about fifteen shekels I can use to buy the thirteen of us passage if our rabbi’s notoriety isn’t enough.” Judas said this while pressing a small tanned skin pouch into the hands of Simon, whose face was colored with a red splotchy hue of concern along his neck and cheeks as he nodded quickly and began pushing his way towards the shore. Judas wrapped his knee length robe about him tightly, hoping he could get back to the area he had left his master and fellow brethren at without running into the detachment of soldiers that were somewhere nearby. If they saw him, they would grab him and hold him. He had dealings with several of the guards earlier that week when buying off suspicions with warmed wine and cheese. They knew he had money and would probably rob him of it, and arrest them all as well.
Some of the more desperate in the crush of sick women, elderly parents that were raving mad, and impoverished children had begun to cling on to him as he got closer to the front, hoping for any chance of meeting the prophet with miraculous healing powers. Grasping at the ends of his sleeves, one frail woman, probably not even out of her twenties, wound her fingers within his sash, forcing him to stop and push her away forcefully in order to escape the onslaught of enthusiastic followers.
Relief flooded Judas as he finally found Jesus and Peter within view, safe and sound, with no signs of guardsmen closing in, and not seeing the others of their company asked,”Where are the rest of us? Simon is getting us a boat as I speak.”
“Simon came over here already, saying he ran into his uncle while speaking with a few locals that were getting ready to cast off. We will have a ship we can thanks to his uncle’s generosity.” Peter was smiling excitedly at this, and Judas knew why. Peter loved sailing, and fishing even more than that. Looking at the portly man before him in a tunic that was so dirty it looked the same dull tan color as the beach’s sand below their feet, Judas just smiled at the obvious satisfaction on display in Peter’s grin, saying between chortles,”This is not a respite, just a means to get out of here.”
The crowd was starting to surround them at this point, and Jesus kept conversing with students and pilgrims from as far away as Jericho, offering comfort and insight to any that would listen. Keenly aware that their exit was quite literally the waters behind them, Judas firmly placed his hand on Jesus’ back, leaning in towards him, their dark eyes meeting one another and saying,”Why don’t we close the gap between us and the coming boat? We can wade out a little further, baptize a few people that request it and then board the boat when it gets here.”
“That seems wise,” Jesus said in a tremulous tone. He was holding a small child that couldn’t have been more than three or four years old, that was wrapped up in linen bandages, the odor of death along with perfumed oils mingled in the air around them. It might have been a daughter or a son, but decay had set in long ago, and in his arms was just a husk of what once was; an unrecognizable left over of what once brought vibrancy and life to the elderly woman in front of him.
This tiny woman had traveled from a remote village in Samaria, having heard of Jesus and knew he was the one that had been rescued from the deserts of Judea a few years earlier by a local trader called Akiva. Her purpose here was to bring back her daughter who had died of a terrible respiratory infection some twenty years earlier, and having lost her husband that same year her daughter passed, she never had anymore children or remarried. Today, she wanted that chance returned to her. She wanted her precious toddler restored so she could experience joy again and redeem the two decades of grief that described her life. All of this she had pled to the stunned prophet, then stood in front of him in hopeful silence, her sagging watery eyes watching him with expectant affirmation of her request.
The sight was repugnant in Judas’ mind. The miracles had gone far enough that day, and if the guards saw Jesus clutching a dead body, they would never see daylight outside a prison wall ever again. Raising his brightly dyed purple sleeve over his lower face, wafts of the tainted air still rising up between his chin and robe, he could taste the rot in the air on his lips. Who carries a corpse for so many miles, he thought incredulously, and he immediately began to run her off, along with the two teenage boys accompanying her who had been paid to help dig out the body from a faraway tomb. Peter tried to protest this action at first, but when he looked to Jesus for support in his protestations, he was shocked to find the rabbi in muted agreement with Judas’ decision to make the woman leave.
“This daughter has long been in the comforts of my Holy Father’s arms. It is not right to tear her away from such bliss, mother. She has reaped her rewards and will not have them stolen.” Jesus pushed the dead child away when the heartbroken woman began to wail and curse him, wishing she had never heard of his miracles. Wishing she had continued in her grief ignorant of hope, she began to tear at her chest, fiercely ripping at the hems of the collar and sleeves of her dress. Jesus was dumbfounded at her anguish, never being exposed to such a level of desperation in any of his travels. Hurriedly he rose, heading towards the waters behind him, welcoming the outline of Simon’s acquired ship meeting his gaze another few hundred feet away, also hoping Gedara offered less exposure and selfish desire.
A scuffle had started to erupt a few feet into the shoreline, and alerted by the image of James running across the water’s edge on the pebbly textured beach with a look of complete panic entrenched in his features, Judas knew Onis’ men had made it up near the front of the crowd; gleaming flashes of sunlight seemed to reflect out of the top of the mass of people gathered about the sea side, flashes that were all too familiar. Seeing the guards were in pursuit and closing in, Judas began swimming towards the small fishing vessel, the men manning it throwing long braided ropes of camel hair intertwined with hemp. Letting his robe slip into the shallow water beneath him, he looked back to see Jesus and others following suit, including a few onlookers from the small town.
The guards didn’t appear to pursue any further than the beach, turning their attention to the frenzied crowd behind them, forcefully pushing men and children alike out of their way, encouraging them to disperse. The Samarian woman was following the twelve of them into the sea, her dead child still clung to her breast, desperate for Jesus to bring her daughter back to her. Jesus ignored her, her pleas, and after climbing aboard the ship and watching the shoreline become distant, the entire group of disciples and their rabbi watched the woman release her child into the deepening blue chasm of sea water, then allowing herself to sink below the surface as well, resigned to her wasted efforts of renewing any chance of happiness in her life.
There were many important lessons he sought to teach his group of twelve while in Capernum. The finer details of protocol with the synagogue clerics and priests, and the importance of fully listening to the message that was being taught. This woman’s willful death was a lesson for him to learn that hadn’t been foreseen, and as the men watched their master sob in frustrated anger at the woman’s behavior, Judas took even closer to heart the constant danger of performing miracles and hoped Jesus would truly take deep consideration of ceasing such activities.
Whether the distraught prophet would do so before reaching Gedara was to be seen, but looking over to the nervous face of Thomas and Peter, Judas knew it had to happen sooner than later. Such incidents of suicide were frowned upon, and family members might seek damages from them all, citing Jesus as a false prophet because he would not revive a long dead child after other similar miracles in other cities.
The trip to Gedara would take the remainder of the day and part of the next. With the sea being calm and plenty of wind in the air to fill the sail, Judas rested against some old nets that were piled along the starboard side of the ship. The rough, unmoving nature of the ropes they were woven of were stiff, providing comfortable pressure to his tired back. As he looked around, he saw of them were exhausted, even depressed, and most decided to rest in one way or another. None truly feeling any relief from the heavy burden weighing on their minds after the events they witnessed that day. Judas drifted into a fitful nap. Focusing on the surrounding noise of water running along the ship’s stern, he tried to clear his mind of the worries that seemed to dance circles in his mind, as he was unsure of what lay ahead with the possessed man and the demons that lie in wait.