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  1. AELIUS LAMIA, born in Italy of illustrious parents, had not yet discarded the toga proetexta when he set out for the schools of Athens to study philosophy. Subsequently he took up his residence at Rome, and in his house on the Esquiline, amid a circle of youthful wastrels, abandoned himself to licentious courses. But being accused of engaging in criminal relations with Lepida, the wife of Sulpicius Quirinus, a man of consular rank, and being found guilty, he was exiled by Tiberius Caesar. At that time he was just entering his twenty-fourth year. During the eighteen years that his exile lasted he traversed Syria, Palestine, Cappadocia, and Armenia, and made prolonged visits to Antioch, Caesarea, and Jerusalem. When, after the death of Tiberius, Caius was raised to the purple, Lamia obtained permission to return to Rome. He even regained a portion of his possessions. Adversity had taught him wisdom.

He avoided all intercourse with the wives and daughters of Roman citizens, made no efforts toward obtaining office, held aloof from public honours, and lived a secluded life in his house on the Esquiline. Occupying himself with the task of recording all the remarkable things he had seen during his distant travels, he turned, as he said, the vicissitudes of his years of expiation into a diversion for his hours of rest. In the midst of these calm enjoyments, alternating with assiduous study of the works of Epicurus, he recognized with a mixture of surprise and vexation that age was stealing upon him. In his sixty-second year, being afflicted with an illness which proved in no slight degree troublesome, he decided to have recourse to the waters at Baiae. The coast at that point, once frequented by the halcyon, was at this date the resort of the wealthy Roman, greedy of pleasure. For a week Lamia lived alone, without a friend in the brilliant crowd. Then one day, after dinner, an inclination to which he yielded urged him to ascend the inclines, which, covered with vines that resembled bacchantes, looked out upon the waves.

Having reached the summit he seated himself by the side of a path beneath a terebinth, and let his glances wander over the lovely landscape. To his left, livid and bare, the Phlegraean plain stretched out towards the ruins of Cumae. On his right, Cape Misenum plunged its abrupt spur beneath the Tyrrhenian sea. Beneath his feet luxurious Baiae, following the graceful outline of the coast, displayed its gardens, its villas thronged with statues, its porticos, its marble terraces along the shores of the blue ocean where the dolphins sported. Before him, on the other side of the bay, on the Campanian coast, gilded by the already sinking sun, gleamed the temples which far away rose above the laurels of Posilippo, whilst on the extreme horizon Vesuvius looked forth smiling.

Lamia drew from a fold of his toga a scroll containing the Treatise upon Nature , extended himself upon the ground, and began to read. But the warning cries of a slave necessitated his rising to allow of the passage of a litter which was being carried along the narrow pathway through the vineyards. The litter being uncurtained, permitted Lamia to see stretched upon the cushions as it was borne nearer to him the figure of an elderly man of immense bulk, who, supporting his head on his hand, gazed out with a gloomy and disdainful expression. His nose, which was aquiline, and his chin, which was prominent, seemed desirous of meeting across his lips, and his jaws were powerful.

 

From the first moment Lamia was convinced that the face was familiar to him. He hesitated a moment before the name came to him. Then suddenly hastening towards the litter with a display of surprise and delight —

“Pontius Pilate!” he cried.”The gods be praised who have permitted me to see you once again!”

The old man gave a signal to the slaves to stop, and cast a keen glance upon the stranger who had addressed him.

“Pontius, my dear host,” resumed the latter, “have twenty years so far whitened my hair and hollowed my cheeks that you no longer recognise your friend AElius Lamia?”

At this name Pontius Pilate dismounted from the litter as actively as the weight of his years and the heaviness of his gait permitted him, and embraced AElius Lamia again and again.

“Gods! what a treat it is to me to see you once more! But, alas, you call up memories of those long-vanished days when I was Procurator of Judaea, in the province of Syria. Why, it must be thirty years ago that I first met you. It was at Caesarea, whither you came to drag out your weary term of exile. I was fortunate enough to alleviate it a little, and out of friendship, Lamia, you followed me to that depressing place Jerusalem, where the Jews filled me with bitterness and disgust. You remained for more than ten years my guest and my companion, and in converse about Rome and things Roman we both of us managed to find consolation — you for your misfortunes, and I for my burdens of State.”

Lamia embraced him afresh.

“You forget two things, Pontius; you are overlooking the facts that you used your influence on my behalf with Herod Antipas, and that your purse was freely open to me.”

“Let us not talk of that,” replied Pontius, “since after your return to Rome you sent me by one of your freedmen a sum of money which repaid me with usury.”

“Pontius, I could never consider myself out of your debt by the mere payment of money. But tell me, have the gods fulfilled your desires? Are you in the enjoyment of all the happiness you deserve? Tell me about your family, your fortunes, your health.”

“I have withdrawn to Sicily, where I possess estates, and where I cultivate wheat for the market. My eldest daughter, my best-beloved Pontia, who has been left a widow, lives with me, and directs my household. The gods be praised, I have preserved my mental vigour; my memory is not in the least degree enfeebled. But old age always brings in its train a long procession of griefs and infirmities. I am cruelly tormented with gout. And at this very moment you find me on my way to the Phlegraean plain in search of a remedy for my sufferings. From that burning soil, whence at night flames burst forth, proceed acrid exhalations of sulphur, which, so they say, ease the pains and restore suppleness to the stiffened joints. At least, the physicians assure me that it is so.”

“May you find it so in your case, Pontius! But, despite the gout and its burning torments, you scarcely look as old as myself, although in reality you must be my senior by ten years. Unmistakably you have retained a greater degree of vigour than I ever possessed, and I am overjoyed to find you looking so hale. Why, dear friend, did you retire from the public service before the customary age? Why, on resigning your governorship in Judaea, did you withdraw to a voluntary exile on your Sicilian estates? Give me an account of your doings from the moment that I ceased to be a witness of them. You were preparing to suppress a Samaritan rising when I set out for Cappadocia, where I hoped to draw some profit from the breeding of horses and mules. I have not seen you since then. How did that expedition succeed? Pray tell me. Everything interests me that concerns you in any way.”

Pontius Pilate sadly shook his head.

“My natural disposition,” he said, “as well as a sense of duty, impelled me to fulfil my public responsibilities, not merely with diligence, but even with ardour. But I was pursued by unrelenting hatred. Intrigues and calumnies cut short my career in its prime, and the fruit it should have look to bear has withered away. You ask me about the Samaritan insurrection. Let us sit down on this hillock. I shall be able to give you an answer in few words. These occurrences are as vividly present to me as if they had happened yesterday.

“A man of the people, of persuasive speech — there are many such to be met with in Syria — induced the Samaritans to gather together in arms on Mount Gerizi
m (which in that country is looked upon as a holy place) under the promise that he would disclose to their sight the sacred vessels which in the ancient days of Evander and our father, AEneas, had been hidden away by an eponymous hero, or rather a tribal deity, named Moses. Upon this assurance the Samaritans rose in rebellion; but having been warned in time to forestall them, I dispatched detachments of infantry to occupy the mountain, and stationed cavalry to keep the approaches to it under observation.

“These measures of prudence were urgent. The rebels were already laying siege to the town of Tyrathaba, situated at the foot of Mount Gerizim. I easily dispersed them, and stifled the as yet scarcely organized revolt. Then, in order to give a forcible example with as few victims as possible, I handed over to execution the leaders of the rebellion. But you are aware, Lamia, in what strait dependence I was kept by the proconsul Vitellius, who governed Syria not in, but against the interests of Rome, and looked upon the provinces of the empire as territories which could be farmed out to tetrarchs. The head men among the Samaritans, in their resentment against me, came and fell at his feet lamenting. To listen to them, nothing had been further from their thoughts than to disobey Caesar. It was I who had provoked the rising, and it was purely in order to withstand my violence that they had gathered together around Tyrathaba. Vitellius listened to their complaints, and handing over the affairs of Judaea to his friend Marcellus, commanded me to go and justify my proceedings before the Emperor himself. With a heart overflowing with grief and resentment I took ship. Just as I approached the shores of Italy, Tiberius, worn out with age and the cares of empire, died suddenly on the self-same Cape Misenum, whose peak we see from this very spot magnified in the mists of evening. I demanded justice of Caius, his successor, whose perception was naturally acute, and who was acquainted with Syrian affairs. But marvel with me, Lamia, at the maliciousness of fortune, resolved on my discomfiture. Caius then had in his suite at Rome the Jew Agrippa, his companion, the friend of his childhood, whom he cherished as his own eyes. Now Agrippa favoured Vitellius, inasmuch as Vitellius was the enemy of Antipas, whom Agrippa pursued with his hatred. The Emperor adopted the prejudices of his beloved Asiatic, and refused even to listen to me. There was nothing for me to do but bow beneath the stroke of unmerited misfortune. With tears for my meat and gall for my portion, I withdrew to my estates in Sicily, where I should have died of grief if my sweet Pontia had not come to console her father. I have cultivated wheat, and succeeded in producing the fullest ears in the whole province. But now my life is ended; the future will judge between Vitellius and me.”

“Pontius,” replied Lamia, “I am persuaded that you acted towards the Samaritans according to the rectitude of your character, and solely in the interests of Rome. But were you not perchance on that occasion a trifle too much influenced by that impetuous courage which has always swayed you? You will remember that in Judaea it often happened that I who, younger than you, should naturally have been more impetuous than you, was obliged to urge you to clemency and suavity.”

 

“Suavity towards the Jews!” cried Pontius Pilate.”Although you have lived amongst them, it seems clear that you ill understand those enemies of the human race. Haughty and at the same time base, combining an invincible obstinacy with a despicably mean spirit, they weary alike your love and your hatred. My character, Lamia, was formed upon the maxims of the divine Augustus. When I was appointed Procurator of Judaea, the world was already penetrated with the majestic ideal of the pax romana . No longer, as in the days of our internecine strife, were we witnesses to the sack of a province for the aggrandisement of a proconsul. I knew where my duty lay. I was careful that my actions should be governed by prudence and moderation. The gods are my witnesses that I was resolved upon mildness, and upon mildness only. Yet what did my benevolent intentions avail me? You were at my side, Lamia, when, at the outset of my career as ruler, the first rebellion came to a head. Is there any need for me to recall the details to you? The garrison had been transferred from Caesarea to take up its winter quarters at Jerusalem. Upon the ensigns of the legionaries appeared the presentment of Caesar. The inhabitants of Jerusalem, who did not recognize the indwelling divinity of the Emperor, were scandalized at this, as though, when obedience is compulsory, it were not less abject to obey a god than a man. The priests of their nation appeared before my tribunal imploring me with supercilious humility to have the ensigns removed from within the holy city. Out of reverence for the divine nature of Caesar and the majesty of the empire, I refused to comply. Then the rabble made common cause with the priests, and all around the pretorium portentous cries of supplication arose. I ordered the soldiers to stack their spears in front of the tower of Antonia, and to proceed, armed only with sticks like lictors, to disperse the insolent crowd. But, heedless of blows, the Jews continued their entreaties, and the more obstinate amongst them threw themselves on the ground and, exposing their throats to the rods, deliberately courted death. You were a witness of my humiliation on that occasion, Lamia. By the order of Vitellius I was forced to send the insignia back to Caesarea. That disgrace I had certainly not merited. Before the immortal gods I swear that never once during my term of office did I flout justice and the laws. But I am grown old. My enemies and detractors are dead. I shall die unavenged. Who will not retrieve my character?”

He moaned and lapsed into silence. Lamia replied:

“That man is prudent who neither hopes nor fears anything from the uncertain events of the future. Does it matter in the least what estimate men may form of us hereafter? We ourselves are after all our own witnesses, and our own judges. You must rely, Pontius Pilate, on the testimony you yourself bear to your own rectitude. Be content with your own personal respect and that of your friends. For the rest, we know that mildness by itself will not suffice for the work of government. There is but little room in the actions of public men for that indulgence of human frailty which the philosophers recommend.”

“We’ll say no more at present,” said Pontius.”The sulphurous fumes which rise from the Phlegraean plain are more powerful when the ground which exhales them is still warm beneath the sun’s rays. I must hasten on. Adieu! But now that I have rediscovered a friend, I should wish to take advantage of my good fortune. Do me the favour, AElius Lamia, to give me your company at supper at my house to-morrow. My house stands on the seashore, at the extreme end of the town in the direction of Misenum. You will easily recognize it by the porch, which bears a painting representing Orpheus surrounded by tigers and lions, whom he is charming with the strains from his lyre.

 

“Till to-morrow, Lamia,” he repeated, as he climbed once more into his litter.”To-morrow we will talk about Judaea.”

The following day at the supper hour Lamia presented himself at the house of Pontius Pilate. Two couches only were in readiness for occupants. Creditably but simply equipped, the table held a silver service in which were set out beccaficos in honey, thrushes, oysters from the Lucrine lake, and lampreys from Sicily. As they proceeded with their repast, Pontius and Lamia interchanged inquiries with one another about their ailments, the symptoms of which they described at considerable length, mutually emulous of communicating the various remedies which had been recommended to them. Then, congratulating themselves on being thrown together once more at Baiae, they vied with one another in praise of the beauty of that enchanting coast and the mildness of the c
limate they enjoyed. Lamia was enthusiastic about the charms of the courtesans who frequented the seashore laden with golden ornaments and trailing draperies of barbaric broidery. But the aged Procurator deplored the ostentation with which by means of trumpery jewels and filmy garments foreigners and even enemies of the empire beguiled the Romans of their gold. After a time they turned to the subject of the great engineering feats that had been accomplished in the country; the prodigious bridge constructed by Caius between Puteoli and Baiae, and the canals which Augustus excavated to convey the waters of the ocean to Lake Avernus and the Lucrine lake.

“I also,” said Pontius, with a sigh, “I also wished to set afoot public works of great utility. When, for my sins, I was appointed Governor of Judaea, I conceived the idea of furnishing Jerusalem with an abundant supply of pure water by means of an aqueduct. The elevation of the levels, the proportionate capacity of the various parts, the gradient for the brazen reservoirs to which the distribution pipes were to be fixed — I had gone into every detail, and decided everything for myself with the assistance of mechanical experts. I had drawn up regulations for the superintendents so as to prevent individuals from making unauthorized depredations. The architects and the workmen had their instructions. I gave orders for the commencement of operations. But far from viewing with satisfaction the construction of that conduit, which was intended to carry to their town upon its massive arches not only water but health, the inhabitants of Jerusalem gave vent to lamentable outcries. They gathered tumultuously together, exclaiming against the sacrilege and impiousness, and hurling themselves upon the workmen, scattered the very foundation stones. Can you picture to yourself, Lamia, a filthier set of barbarians? Nevertheless, Vitellius decided in their favour, and I received orders to put a stop to the work.”

“It is a knotty point,” said Lamia, “how far one is justified in devising things for the commonweal against the will of the populace.”

Pontius Pilate continued as though he had not heard this interruption.

“Refuse an aqueduct! What madness! But whatever is of Roman origin is distasteful to the Jews. In their eyes we are an unclean race, and our very presence appears a profanation to them. You will remember that they would never venture to enter the pretorium for fear of defiling themselves, and that I was consequently obliged to discharge my magisterial functions in an open-air tribunal on that marble pavement your feet so often trod.

“They fear us and they despise us. Yet is not Rome the mother and warden of all these peoples who nestle smiling upon her venerable bosom? With her eagles in the van, peace and liberty have been carried to the very confines of the universe. Those whom we have subdued we look on as our friends, and we leave those conquered races, nay, we secure to them the permanence of their customs and their laws. Did Syria, aforetime rent asunder by its rabble of petty kings, ever even begin to taste of peace and prosperity until it submitted to the armies of Pompey? And when Rome might have reaped a golden harvest as the price of her goodwill, did she lay hands on the hoards that swell the treasuries of barbaric temples? Did she despoil the shrine of Cybele at Pessinus, or the Morimene and Cilician sanctuaries of Jupiter, or the temple of the Jewish god at Jerusalem? Antioch, Palmyra, and Apamea, secure despite their wealth, and no longer in dread of the wandering Arab of the desert, have erected temples to the genius of Rome and the divine Caesar. The Jews alone hate and withstand us. They withhold their tribute till it is wrested from them, and obstinately rebel against military service.”

“The Jews,” replied Lamia, “are profoundly attached to their ancient customs. They suspected you, unreasonably I admit, of a desire to abolish their laws and change their usages. Do not resent it, Pontius, if I say that you did not always act in such a way as to disperse their unfortunate illusion. It gratified you, despite your habitual self-restraint, to play upon their fears, and more than once have I seen you betray in their presence the contempt with which their beliefs and religious ceremonies inspired you. You irritated them particularly by giving instructions for the sacredotal garments and ornaments of their high priest to be kept in ward by your legionaries in the Antonine tower. One must admit that though they have never risen like us to an appreciation of things divine, the Jews celebrate rites which their very antiquity renders venerable.”

Pontius Pilate shrugged his shoulders.

“They have very little exact knowledge of the nature of the gods,” he said.”They worship Jupiter, yet they abstain from naming him or erecting a statue of him. They do not even adore him under the semblance of a rude stone, as certain of the Asiatic peoples are wont to do. They know nothing of Apollo, of Neptune, of Mars, nor of Pluto, nor of any goddess. At the same time, I am convinced that in days gone by they worshipped Venus. For even to this day their women bring doves to the altar as victims; and you know as well as I that the dealers who trade beneath the arcades of their temple supply those birds in couples for sacrifice. I have even been told that on one occasion some madman proceeded to overturn the stalls bearing these offerings, and their owners with them. The priests raised an outcry about it, and looked on it as a case of sacrilege. I am of opinion that their custom of sacrificing turtle-doves was instituted in honour of Venus. Why are you laughing, Lamia?”

“I was laughing,” said Lamia, “at an amusing idea which, I hardly know how, just occurred to me. I was thinking that perchance some day the Jupiter of the Jews might come to Rome and vent his fury upon you. Why should he not? Asia and Africa have already enriched us with a considerable number of gods. We have seen temples in honour of Isis and the dog-faced Anubis erected in Rome. In the public squares, and even on the race-courses, you may run across the Bona Dea of the Syrians mounted on an ass. And did you never hear how, in the reign of Tiberius, a young patrician passed himself off as the horned Jupiter of the Egyptians, Jupiter Ammon, and in this disguise procured the favours of an illustrious lady who was too virtuous to deny anything to a god? Beware, Pontius, lest the invisible Jupiter of the Jews disembark some day on the quay at Ostia!”

At the idea of a god coming out of Judaea, a fleeting smile played over the severe countenance of the Procurator. Then he replied gravely:

“How would the Jews manage to impose their sacred law on outside peoples when they are in a perpetual state of tumult amongst themselves as to the interpretation of that law? You have seen them yourself, Lamia, in the public squares, split up into twenty rival parties, with staves in their hands, abusing each other and clutching one another by the beard. You have seen them on the steps of the temple, tearing their filthy garments as a symbol of lamentation, with some wretched creature in a frenzy of prophetic exaltation in their midst. They have never realized that it is possible to discuss peacefully and with an even mind those matters concerning the divine which yet are hidden from the profane and wrapped in uncertainty. For the nature of the immortal gods remains hidden from us, and we cannot arrive at a knowledge of it. Though I am of opinion, none the less, that it is a prudent thing to believe in the providence of the gods. But the Jews are devoid of philosophy, and cannot tolerate any diversity of opinions. On the contrary, they judge worthy of the extreme penalty all those who on divine subjects profess opinions opposed to their law. And as, since the genius of Rome has towered over them, capital sentences pronounced by their own tribunals can only be carried out with the sanction of the proconsul or the procurator, they harry the Roman magistrate at an
y hour to procure his signature to their baleful decrees, they besiege the pretorium with their cries of ‘Death!’ A hundred times, at least, have I known them, mustered, rich and poor together, all united under their priests, make a furious onslaught on my ivory chair, seizing me by the skirts of my robe, by the thongs of my sandals, and all to demand of me — nay, to exact from me — the death sentence on some unfortunate whose guilt I failed to perceive, and as to whom I could only pronounce that he was as mad as his accusers. A hundred times, do I say! Not a hundred, but every day and all day. Yet it was my duty to execute their law as if it were ours, since I was appointed by Rome not for the destruction, but for the upholding of their customs, and over them I had the power of the rod and the axe. At the outset of my term of office I endeavoured to persuade them to hear reason. I attempted to snatch their miserable victims from death. But this show of mildness only irritated them the more; they demanded their prey, fighting around me like a horde of vultures with wing and beak. Their priests reported to Caesar that I was violating their law, and their appeals, supported by Vitellius, drew down upon me a severe reprimand. How many times did I long, as the Greeks used to say, to dispatch accusers and accused in one convoy to the crows!

 

“Do not imagine, Lamia, that I nourish the rancour of the discomfited, the wrath of the superannuated, against a people which in my person has prevailed against both Rome and tranquillity. But I foresee the extremity to which sooner or later they will reduce us. Since we cannot govern them, we shall be driven to destroy them. Never doubt it. Always in a state of insubordination, brewing rebellion in their inflammatory minds, they will one day burst forth upon us with a fury beside which the wrath of the Numidians and the mutterings of the Parthians are mere child’s play. They are secretly nourishing preposterous hopes, and madly premeditating our ruin. How can it be otherwise, when, on the strength of an oracle, they are living in expectation of the coming of a prince of their own blood whose kingdom shall extend over the whole earth? There are no half measures with such a people. They must be exterminated. Jerusalem must be laid waste to the very foundation. Perchance, old as I am, it may be granted me to behold the day when her walls shall fall and the flames shall envelop her houses, when her inhabitants shall pass under the edge of the sword, when salt shall be strewn on the place where once the temple stood. And in that day I shall at length be justified.”

Lamia exerted himself to lead the conversation back to a less acrimonious note.

“Pontius,” he said, “it is not difficult for me to understand both your long-standing resentment and your sinister forebodings. Truly, what you have experienced of the character of the Jews is nothing to their advantage. But I lived in Jerusalem as an interested onlooker, and mingled freely with the people, and I succeeded in detecting certain obscure virtues in these rude folk which were altogether hidden from you. I have met Jews who were all mildness, whose simple manners and faithfulness of heart recalled to me what our poets have related concerning the Spartan lawgiver. And you yourself, Pontius, have seen perish beneath the cudgels of your legionaries simple-minded men who have died for a cause they believed to be just without revealing their names. Such men do not deserve our contempt. I am saying this because it is desirable in all things to preserve moderation and an even mind. But I own that I never experienced any lively sympathy for the Jews. The Jewess, on the contrary, I found extremely pleasing. I was young, then, and the Syrian women stirred all my senses to response. Their ruddy lips, their liquid eyes that shone in the shade, their sleepy gaze pierced me to the very marrow. Painted and stained, smelling the nard and myrrh, steeped in odours, their physical attractions are both rare and delightful.”

Pontius listened impatiently to these praises.

“I was not the kind of man to fall into the snares of the Jewish women,” he said; “and since you have opened the subject yourself, Lamia, I was never able to approve of your laxity. If I did not express with sufficient emphasis formerly how culpable I held you for having intrigued at Rome with the wife of a man of consular rank, it was because you were then enduring heavy penance for your misdoings. Marriage from the patrician point of view is a sacred tie; it is one of the institutions which are the support of Rome. As to foreign women and slaves, such relations as one may enter into with them would be of little account were it not that they habituate the body to a humiliating effeminacy. Let me tell you that you have been too liberal in your offerings to the Venus of the Marketplace; and what, above all, I blame in you is that you have not married in compliance with the law and given children to the Republic, as every good citizen is bound to do.”

But the man who had suffered exile under Tiberius was no longer listening to the venerable magistrate. Having tossed off his cap of Falernian, he was smiling at some image visible to his eye alone.

After a moment’s silence he resumed in a very deep voice, which rose in pitch by little and little:

“With what languorous grace they dance, those Syrian women! I knew a Jewess at Jerusalem who used to dance in a poky little room, on a threadbare carpet, by the light of one smoky little lamp, waving her arms as she clanged her cymbals. Her loins arched, her head thrown back, and, as it were, dragged down by the weight of her heavy red hair, her eyes swimming with voluptuousness, eager, languishing, compliant, she would have made Cleopatra herself grow pale with envy. I was in love with her barbaric dances, her voice — a little raucous and yet so sweet — her atmosphere of incense, the semi-somnolescent state in which she seemed to live. I followed her everywhere. I mixed with the vile rabble of soldiers, conjurers, and extortioners with which she was surrounded. One day, however, she disappeared, and I saw her no more. Long did I seek her in disreputable alleys and taverns. It was more difficult to learn to do without her than to lose the taste for Greek wine. Some months after I lost sight of her, I learned by chance that she had attached herself to a small company of men and women who were followers of a young Galilean thaumaturgist. His name was Jesus; he came from Nazareth, and he was crucified for some crime, I don’t quite know what. Pontius, do you remember anything about the man?”

Pontius Pilate contracted his brows, and his hand rose to his forehead in the attitude of one who probes the deeps of memory. Then after a silence of some seconds:

“Jesus?” he murmured, “Jesus — of Nazareth? I cannot call him to mind.”

 

 

 

 

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Luk 24:5-6

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6He is not here; he has risen!

I consider Christian living quintessentially is a point of view of an individual correctly understood and lived from that standpoint. Unless one knew his mind it would be a constant struggle to right himself and hold the position where he ought to be. If we seek thus a clear point of view others also are entitled to theirs. As a Christian my concern is with the living. Of these Risen Christ is like the pole star that mariners of old took their bearing. If others seek their salvation from dead works what am I to fault them? They serve their masters gurus,shamans and preachers. I have found my savior and it suits me to live in the land of the living and to seek His Will in charting my course.

Nu 21: 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.

We read in the Old Testament of putting up a bronze snake. Material to make the snake came from the free will offerings of the people. There were also men whose art excelled in fashioning snakes as well as ark of the covenant.

The saving of their lives was not in their own works, art or in their symbols. Instead it counted on their faith. We read that their murmurings didn’t end with it. They were rebellious people whose attention span for things of God was indeed very short. Like Simon Peter who could receive the revelation from God and could not mind the things of God just as easily he received it. The same Simon Peter wanted to experience what it is to be Jesus. But his faith was so little he could not keep up with his master.(Mt.14:28-31)The children of Israel were of divided mind so God’s majesty could not be appreciated or kept in their rebellious hearts. Bronze serpent or a miracle of Jesus to men of little faith are dead works. Then there are false preachers who wish to establish their control over others. Even this day we are of little faith we can only be moved by supposedly miracles performed by preachers and healers who are in most cases dubious and of little merit. Those who seek Christ among the dead works remain like the proverbial house divided.

The lesson of Easter teaches us to fix our standpoint correctly. The Word, Life and Vision are three legged stool to give us stability. Many stranded rope is, as the Bible teaches us, not easily broken. A tripod is stable. Our stability is established on His Word,our life and in our vision. Of the last our vision is focused on Risen Christ and not an historical Jesus.  Simon Peter looked at the boisterous waves rather than his master and he began to sink. Easter celebrates Risen Christ and life, and not death. Not dead works either.

Simon Peters plight in this context teaches us to keep our focus on the Risen Christ. ‘I am the Resurrectiion and life, said he. If what we believe cannot be translated into action it is of little use. Apostle James speaks analogy of Christian living to the mirror. We see our lives reflected in the Word but we soon forget what we saw thereon since we do not do what we need to do.

We live in an age of instant gratification; we also have cultivated many attitudes to prove we are in the swim of things. There are buzz words like quality time,tough love and proactive. Do they really mean anything worthwhile? Of course not. If we cannot make our time count in quality we are wasting it. In driving our children on the wrong path by our negligence and foolishness any toughness we imagine by doling out love is non starter.

The angel announced to the women to proceed to Galilee but we read that Jesus himself appeared to them. Angels are all  right but salvation is not for them to give. (Mt 28:5-9)The sign of New Age it must be that people are talking of their guardian angels as though they are talking of houseplants. They will need much more than pruning and quality of mulch to make sense of what they mean by angels. A guardian angel for them is like a security blanket to hold on to in times of their stress. Well it suits them to feel secure with their buzz words. These buzz words are short cuts to thinking. As a Christian my point of view is set on Christ whose words are unchangeable. Since he has overcome death, his words also shall live on. We need to seek him among the living.

Mt 28:”All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. vs.18.And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” vs.20

benny

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Grace describes man’s response to the world without and to God.

What we owe God?  In Christ we have become new creation. We have put on Christ. Grace must show something new that is a life on a higher plane. This aspect is between us and God who has chosen to be partakers of His glory. Grace gives us a new awareness.

Grace also gives new responsibility towards our family and community.

When we consciously cultivate the Christian virtues we are making  grace given to us to abound.2 Pe 1 :5-8(NIV)

5For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the world of theatre actors playing a role try to get into the skin of the character they play. It is necessary to understand the character so they will sound convincing. The  audience as a  result is helped. This analogy  is of course awkward since it only explains a make believe world. For a Christian putting on the nature of Christ is in ernest and is his entire life. Therefore a Christian who has put on Christ must get to know what Christ typifies: love, brotherly kindness etc.

The i in CHRiST must be where it is placed and not try to make look like this: i CHRST

The qualities that St. Peter writes about are not works but fruits of grace. In the gospel of John we read that grace came with Jesus while the law is associated with Moses.

Regarding works any Christian who thinks like the Pharisee in the parable of Pharisee and the Publican would be distracting others from Christ. If salt has lost its savor what good is it? If others do not see Christ but you,  it belongs to works.

Finally a question arises: in a world Jesus Christ is just a name and not worshiped or revered as in the century when the Church was valid (and the works of the apostles were very much seen as manifestation of God) how do we reveal Christ? If one asks now how Christ looks like probably the answer would be ‘Mel Gibson.’

You see how perceptions, taste, emphasis and worship change with time. I do not think putting on Christ should be held in a literal sense.

Historical Jesus and the prince of Peace are sure to mean different for all believers. But the Son of Man who is our Savior cannot two persons; neither can the man of Sorrows who sits on the right hand of God can be two different persons.  Jesus who is the life and resurrection is only one, coequal with God in the trinity. The Word bears witness to us and it is what is our template. Our ministry as Christians are  to fill within these. Works may help you to fill out some but it will never fit. Like the leaven of the old woman it should fill the whole lump. only grace can do that work.

benny

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There are two kinds of people. Those who love to go with the flow. Then there are those who make a stand for their convictions no matter how contrary and rough the current is. Of the latter I shall cite two. Socrates was one who stood for his convictions. Jesus is another. Mind you what the Greek philosopher stood for and the purpose for which Jesus accepted death were for entirely different reasons. Yet their souls had affixed the shape of Truth in different order. Order of the spirit of man (who didn’t take anything for granted or heresay as true) gave Socrates to accept the verdict of the state however unjust is one. The other order led Jesus to Golgotha because he submitted to a spirit of higher Truth.

It was Thomas Paine who observed that he who has never ruffled anyone with a contrary opinion was a hypocrite. Spirit of the times is gentle and highly seductive to those who have chosen to take the line of least resistance. Such a person may get elected to the highest office but he has sold himself to be hatchet man for the majority.
Soul is kind of representation and Socrates represented every seeker of Truth who wielded reason as a scalpel to remove the flab from Truth which only made it appear as something else.

Spirit of the times is the vector of so many traditions culture and norms that peoples all across the globe may impact on each. But soul of man gives him a special insight and the wherewithal to let his spirit work with the guiding spirit of his times.

2.
Spirit of the times accept Dalai Lama as a spiritual leader; but how he represents to the Tibetans and to the People’s Republic of China holds a difference. Those Tibetans in exile or those who are left behind see him as a reincarnation of the last lama. To the man on the street he someone worthy of respect as a holy man.

To the Tibetans he is the 14th of his line. As a living lama he represents to them the centre that holds their cultural and national identity together. In other words he is a representation of Tibetans.
But soul of Dalai Lama is not borrowed clothes of any lama dead and gone but something that can bear the weight of all those lamas who had gone before him. Even if he chose to live a life differently it validates such a change. Soul is the essence of a living being and no matter how many reincarnations of changes he may undergo in a spiritual creation the soul doesn’t shift. Soul of Dalai Lama is constant.

Soul is this Power of One regardless of changes his body or spirit may experience.

benny

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Soul of man gives him a taste of truth. But does he take it seriously? To Everyman truth invariably presents itself in everyday things. Also in his daily interaction with others. No matter what his soul is it is the only article he has to rely upon. For better or worse.

The only Welshman ever to hold the office of Prime Minister of the British government never dreamt he would go that far. But David Lloyd George despite his straitened circumstances and in Llanystumdwy, North Wales  found all that necessary to equip himself for that highest post. Of course such a rise came in degrees. His uncle Richard, a master cobbler and later a lay Baptist preacher was a strong Liberal who encouraged him to take up a career in law and enter politics. A great deal of his self-confidence came from having been brought up by one who trusted in his abilities and provided a good role model. One day while sitting on the branch of a tree young David in a flash saw he was someone special. Soul gives such flashes of intuitive understanding and it without exception is couched in Truth. Spirit of man however must tap on the spirit of the times and know how to negotiate with those who are all competing with him.

For those who take their cues from the Scriptures, the soul works more or less in similar fashion. Soul looks at Truth through the window of words. Certain passages are signposts and comfort or warning in the verses at times come with far greater force that one who is spiritually tuned to the Word cannot miss them.

2.

If our soul is adequate to lead us to Truth why some seek signs and wonders? In Jesus’ time also such curious folks did exist and they followed Jesus but not for knowing Truth. (Jn 4:48). Fellowship of saints or believers do have great power when each soul is a free agent. In the day of Pentecost those who heard Peter and other apostles knew Truth was at the heart of the extraordinary event. Their souls did vouch for that. We read that they didn’t ask for a replay or another miracle. ‘Men and brethren what shall we do?’ They asked and  submitted themselves to the promise the Word held out to them.

John was a cousin of Jesus. John in his time did no miracle or toadied to the shallow whims of his audience. Of him Jesus said he was the greatest born of women. (Mt.11:11) Since a Christian is born of Word, Spirit and Water he is born again. He is raised up to the heavenly places (Eph. 2:4-6) and his Soul as such does not need silly tricks we see some preachers employ to finance their rich life style. These false preachers succeed with those who hold their souls in light esteem.

Tailpiece: there is no magic bullet that can demolish your disbelief than your own soul. benny

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Truth is absorbed into the very fabric of Nature, that does not lose its significance even when it is shown up as matter. It is in the heart of atom, that you may call micro cosmos; micro cosmos corresponds with our cosmos or macro cosmos. (ref: Correspondence principle) Truth is not compromised even when matter is compounded into identifiable objects. Every element is in context of Truth by which Cosmos holds together. We may see a part  of it and it is our visible  universe.
2.
God is Truth that is the basis for all religions. In the case of Christianity core value is the belief that Jesus descended from God, and took the form of man; died  and ascended to the right hand of God.
God is also love. God as Truth remains constant whereas Love connects. When I speak of my beloved it means simply that I have someone to whom I am connected. Truth cannot change form but it can render love on the basis of Truth. If Jesus is in context of Truth so we are all,- as explained in the first section. Love incarnate (‘A body hast thou prepared for me’, so prophesied the Psalmist.) is Truth given a human face.
benny

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Inspiration is hitching your experience to several notches higher. Raising yourself to that height is living life at a higher plane.
Curing A Nightmare©
Herenis of Alexandria as an infant cried a lot and as a child he was strange. In his eyes there lurked something wild and when he could speak he said,’ I see specters ghastly shapes calling me forth.’ Of course he saw nightmares often and his parents brought many physicians to find a cure. None of them could except one old man who listened to the symptoms of the child. He told the boy,” You write down what you have seen. Then we shall see.”
The result of it was a tale that predated Frankenstein by two millennia. Herenis wrote of the monster made by mechanical means. After he had finished to the surprise of all, he was cured of his affliction.
His mentor who suggested the cure read his book and told his parents:’ A wonderful tale. Of a monster that can change shapes. Who could have thought a monster lurking in everyday objects?’

Imagination plays with everyday aspects of life and to leap to something not yet born is to enlarge boundaries of reality. Cosmic Mind is the  Ultimate Reality in which our reality touches barely. But with inspiration we cover a higher ground. I recall one of the miracles in the New Testament. The woman who was afflicted with bleeding touched the hem of Jesus. In her inspired mind she knew she would be healed. It was so.

benny

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