The days had flown since we returned from Nazareth, some days I fished and other days I spent with Jesus and the rest of the group.
Our days with Jesus soon fell into a comfortable routine. He’d come by the house and we’d chat for a while and then we would wander through the village and find the rest of the group. We would usually end up at the beach or in a field, and Jesus would teach us about the coming kingdom. And to be truthful, it sounded a little bizarre at times.
For example, one day we had gathered in a field and people heard that Jesus was there and pretty soon there were hundreds of people sitting in the grass. They wanted to hear what life would be like after the Romans were gone, when the new kingdom came.
Instead Jesus said, “You will be blessed by God when you recognize your need for him, and that happens more easily when you’re poor and have to depend on him. And he will bless you by giving you the Kingdom of Heaven.
And God will bless those who mourn by comforting them. Don’t think too highly of yourself, because those who are humble in God’s sight will inherit the world.
If you hunger and thirst for justice, you will find your blessing in God’s justice. And those who show mercy to others will be shown mercy by my Father.
If you want to see God, then keep your heart pure. Be a peace seeker, and you will be called his children.
But don’t think everyone will appreciate the new you. And when you are persecuted for doing God’s will and his work, when people lie about you and slander you, God will bless you. Just smile and remember the prophets were treated the same way.”
I could see Iscariot and the Zealot shaking their heads, this wasn’t what they had signed up for. Justice would be when the Romans had been defeated and that certainly wouldn’t happen by seeking peace and showing mercy?
Jesus looked over and said, “You’re not sure about this are you? You’re thinking things will only change through force.”
“Force is the only thing the Romans seem to understand.” The words were spoken by Simon, but Judas was nodding in agreement. “Moses told us that justice was an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Eventually the Romans will get back what they’ve given.”
“Really? At the end of the day do you want to live in a country made up of toothless, blind people? That’s where those thoughts will lead you. The violence and hatred will never stop.
Let me teach you a better way. If a Roman soldier demands that you carry his equipment a mile, offer to carry it two miles.”
“That’s crazy! He might force me to carry his stuff, but I won’t be going one step further than he forces me to go. Go an extra mile, what will that accomplish?” Simon was almost foaming at the mouth he was so enraged.
But Jesus wasn’t finished, “and if that same soldier demands your cloak, offer them your shirt. I know that you don’t have to and that they’ve done nothing to deserve your kindness, but you need to treat others the way you’d like them to treat you. And more than that, shouldn’t you treat people the way you want my Father to treat you?”
As I watched the crowd, I could see some nodding while others were shaking their heads. We had suffered at the hands of the Romans for so long most people couldn’t even get their heads around treating them with anything but scorn and contempt.
You can’t be serious,” someone shouted, “If you look at a Roman wrong, they’ll slap you.” A mummering of agreement came from the crowd.
Jesus paused, as if weighing his words, “And if in a rage someone slaps you in the face, as humiliating as that might be, turn and offer them your other cheek.”