Monday, August 13, 2012

Now I Know For Sure

Touching Him, no one ever remains unchanged. I didn’t touch Him. He touched me, but not with His hands. He touched me with His words, and starting with that fateful day, nothing in my life remains the same.

I was a common servant then, a boy really, hired out by my poor parents whenever anyone needed help. I always did as I was told. I was glad to help my father and mother, who gave me life and did so much for me, even though sometimes I wished I could be free like the other boys, to amuse myself. When I became a man, I still honored my parents and, seeking to help them in their age, I hired myself out, working for a man that supplied marriage suppers with food and drink. I traveled all over Galilee with my master, catering the weddings of small and great. I continued to sleep in my old corner at home when our business brought me back to my village. That’s when I brought my earnings to my family’s relief. When I was away for longer, I sent word to my younger brother to meet me where I was. He took the money for me, and between him and me, we four were able to have food and shelter, and even a little for giving alms. From my father I learned, contempt of the poor is a luxury no one can afford. Though a man be poor, there are others poorer still. ‘Cast your bread on the water,’ my father used to say, ‘at long last you will find it again.’

You will no doubt believe me when I tell you that I was a poor man, for as you can see, that is what I am. When I tell you that I whom you see before you now clad in moth-eaten robe and faded turban was once Chuza, the steward of the great prince, Antipas of Galilee, you will laugh. I don’t blame you. I also laugh, though not out of doubt, but out of faith. For He that is Mighty has put down the mighty from their seat, and has exalted the humble and meek. Like our forefather Yosef in Egypt, I was raised up out of my humble state to serve the Lord’s purposes, and when I had done as I was told, He released me to dwell the rest of my days in peace. For no one who serves a great prince is ever safe, or free of cares. The Most-High is merciful, blessed be He! Now, I will tell my story.

I was of marriageable age, but my family’s poverty constrained me from taking a wife. As I have already related, I worked with a master who catered marriage feasts, from Nazareth, to Cana, to Capernaum, everywhere in Galilee. So it was, that we were hired to prepare the feast for the marriage of a man of Cana and his bride. This is what happened. Half-way through the feast, the supply of wine we had ordered ran out. My master was beside himself. As he explained it to the steward of the feast, one of the guests, a young woman—or, at least, she looked young—overheard what was said. At her left sat a handsome young man whom I took to be her lord, though afterwards I discovered to my amazement, he was her son. I was standing near with another helper, awaiting my master’s orders. I heard the woman tell the man, ‘They’ve run out of wine.’

The young lord—for now I was sure he was a lord because of his gentle courtesy—replied, ‘My lady, what does this have to do with you and me? It is not yet time.’ In the pause that followed, I puzzled within myself, ‘What could he mean, saying, it is not yet time?’ but I had no time to wonder, for the woman turned to me, tugged on my sleeve and said, almost in a whisper, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’

I felt embarrassed and confused, but something in her voice gave me confidence as I approached the young lord from his left, bent down, and waited for his instructions. He nodded across the courtyard where the feast was being given, and my eyes followed his gaze. There were six stone water jars lined up against a wall under the eaves. He commanded, ‘Those jars are empty. Fill them with water.’ My companion and I were more than bewildered, but I said to him, ‘Come on! Let’s do what the master says!’ The debate between the man we worked for and the steward of the feast kept their attention off us while we filled the jars.

Fortunately for us, there was a stone cistern just over the garden wall. It didn’t take us long to finish our task.
We were out of breath when we returned to the young lord. ‘Now, go back to the jugs. Ram, you fill a pitcher and pour it into a goblet. Chuza, you give the goblet to the master of the feast.’ I was as stunned as my companion, if his expression meant anything. ‘How does he know our names?’ I asked myself, as we hurried to do what the young lord commanded.

We came up, I reached out and handed the steward the goblet. ‘What is this?’ he gasped as he looked at the rich red wine in the cup, then took a drink. ‘Baruch, what is this?’ he demanded of our master. ‘You tell me the wine is run out, and now your boy hands me this?’ It was impossible for us at that moment to know for sure if he was mad or glad. He asked for another goblet, and we filled it. This the steward took to the head table and handed to the bridegroom. ‘Taste and see!’ he proudly said, and then spouted, ‘Others offer the fine wine first, and then the common, after everyone’s too drunk to know their left hand from their right. But you, Aharon, you saved the best till now!’ He looked around to make sure everyone had noticed.

This is where nothing remains unchanged. This is where no one remains unchanged. The paths of everyday life, zigzagging as they always have, are penetrated from an unseen center, where sometimes a hand is seen, sometimes a voice is heard, but from beyond the world the lightning flash that earths itself in every man is deflected by divine knowledge. A new point of entry is emblazoned on the heart, and the Lord of myriads of divine chariots takes more than Sinai for His sanctuary and Judah for His domain. My life suddenly was broken free from the bonds of fate, and like a golden leaf I was carried downstream in a glistening torrent, and deposited at the Lord’s feet.

Yes, He picked me up, though at the time I didn’t know who He was, only that he must be a young lord. Now I know for sure, He is the Ancient of Days.

The gossip began immediately as the marriage supper was ending. Everyone had his own version to tell of what happened, where the wine came from. Ram and I knew, but we didn’t tell. Strangely, no one even bothered to ask us. Gossips are never interested in the truth. Our master was wroth with us nonetheless, and dismissed us both from his service, punishing us for his mistake, and envious of our startling invention. I returned home dejected and cheated of my wages. Days later Baruch turned up at the door of my parents’ house asking for me. They told him they did not know where I was. He said he would pay them my wages if they would tell him how I had produced the wine. ‘What are you talking about?’ they protested. ‘What wine?’ But of course, I had told them all.

The first change was losing my livelihood. The second was finding it again. I did not have to look for it. It found me. As I now know, He found me.

Not long afterwards, an official came to our door with two soldiers asking for me. ‘Is this where we can find Chuza the wine maker?’ My parents were afraid, thinking, ‘What has he done now?’ I sensed their fear and emerged from behind the opened door. ‘Are you looking for me, sir? I am Chuza, but I am no wine maker.’ ‘That’s for the king to decide,’ he replied. ‘We are here to present you to the king. He has heard about the marriage feast in Cana.’

Afraid, and yet not afraid, I turned myself over to the soldiers and they carried me into the presence of the prince. (We do not call Herod Antipas ‘king’ for we have no king but the Holy One of Israel, blessed be He!) I was surprised at his gentleness as he asked me in detail what happened at that feast. Something inside me said, ‘Tell him the truth,’ and I did as I was told. About the young lord and the lady, I told him. What she said, what he said, I revealed all. ‘Well, this is a wonder!’ exclaimed the prince. ‘Come, Chuza! We sense that there is something about you, something mysterious and auspicious. Come and stay with Us, and be Our steward. Since you have told Us the truth, We want you to rule Our household.’

I looked down and stammered, ‘But majesty’—I didn’t know how to address him; I had never met a prince before—‘I am only Chuza, the support of my aged parents. You must be mistaken. I did nothing. I performed no miracle. It was that man I told you about. I only did what I was told, what he commanded.’

The prince stood up—he was seated and I knelt before him—and raised me to my feet. ‘Come, Chuza, We make you Our steward. We will provide for your parents. We will give you a wife as well. Stay with Us.’ And so it was. My parents were cared for, and my brother too. The prince gave me a wife of the house of Israel, even of the house of David, the virgin Joanna. Her family was rich, known at court. They were Hellenists. At the time, I knew nothing of these things. Now, I know more.

Joanna was chosen for me because—again, this was a change incredible and unexpected, for both of us—she was a relation of the mother of the young lord that worked the sign. Yes, it was Joanna who explained it to me. Miryam was the mother of the young lord whose name was Yeshua. Though her family and Miryam’s were of different wealth and station, Joanna visited Miryam and Yeshua often, helping them. Unknown to me, she was even at the marriage feast, and drank of that new wine that knew no vine. Joanna and I lived happily together in the palace for three years, as we followed the young lord, she with her feet, I only with my heart.

‘For three years?’ you ask. ‘What happened to that life, emulator of Yosef son of Yaakov?’ I know, I know. Yes, it is very hard to believe, but I am telling you the truth. I was the steward of Herod Antipas. Joanna was my wife. The young lord Yeshua grew in stature and in favor with God and men. Well, with some men, and only for a time. The same who followed Him when He healed and fed them, many of those called for His execution, not knowing who He was. But I knew. Joanna knew. When they lay His lifeless body in the tomb, my Joanna went with some other women disciples—yes, my wife was among the first to know He had scattered hell’s minions and taken it captive when He rose from the dead—to anoint His body. She came back screaming that the tomb was empty.

The commotion came to the ears of the prince. He was already very troubled, for the sake of that Man, as were all the rulers of the parceled land of Israel. He called us into his presence, seeking to know the reason for this outburst of my wife’s.

‘What is this all about?’ he demanded. In my heart, I knew that a tie was about to severed. Touching Him, no one ever remains unchanged. The prince had commanded me, one day not long before, to tell him the truth, for he wanted to know, and I told him. This time it was different. Seeking not the truth, indeed terrified of it, nevertheless he asked. As she began to speak, he suddenly shut tight his eyes, shot out his left hand, and barked, ‘Enough! Enough of these lies! I’ve heard all I want to hear! Get out of my sight!’ Even with his eyes closed, Joanna’s testimony pierced through those jeweled eyelids.

As quickly as I once was snagged in the maw of his service I was—we were—disgorged, and turned out into the street as though we had never known the palace. This was, for me, a blessed relief, for I wanted to follow that Man with more than my heart. Returning from Yerushalayim where she had followed Him that holy week before the Passover was sacrificed, she now shared with me the good news that He was to meet His disciples right here in Galilee, and that is what, in fact, happened, not many days after. Yes, He appeared to us again and again in those days before Shavuot. Even I was among those who met Him again, this time knowing who He is.

Touching Him, no one ever remains unchanged. I didn’t touch Him. He touched me, but not with His hands. He touched me with His words, and starting with that fateful day, nothing in my life remains the same.