Rachel’s voice rang out across the courtyard again. “What did Jesus do?” Mark responded. “Knowing that his action in the synagogue would provoke a response from those in power, Jesus withdrew to the sea with his disciples; and a great multitude from Galilee followed. People came out from everywhere, from Judea, and from Jerusalem, and from Idumea, and beyond the Jordan, and the vicinity of Tyre and Sidon: a great number of people heard of all that he was doing and came to him.” Mark paused to look at his mother before continuing. “My brother Daniel and I were among those who went north from Jerusalem. We were both eager to see Jesus again, each for our own reasons.
“We caught up with him by the lakeshore, but there were so many people we couldn’t get close. But we did hear him tell his disciples that a boat should stand ready for him because of the multitude, so that they would not crowd him; for he had healed many, with the result that all those who had afflictions pressed around him in order to touch him.” “No doubt!” Yiftach interjected. “I’m sure most of those who came to Kefer Nahum came hoping to he healed – not because they thought he was Messiah.”
“No doubt,” said Mark. “But there were those who knew his identity. And they were not quiet about it.” Seeing the quizzical look on Yiftach’s face, Mark offered him a grim smile as he continued. “For days Jesus travelled the region around Kefer Nahum, many of us following. Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they would fall down before him and shout, ‘You are the Son of God!’ And Jesus earnestly warned them not to tell who he was.”
“You told us that before,” Rachel said. “That Jesus did not permit the demons to speak, because they knew who he was.” “Yes,” said Mark. “These demons, spirits that defile the person they inhabit, knew that they were in the presence of a power greater than themselves when Jesus confronted them – a power of an altogether different order than theirs. And so they yelled out Jesus’ identity – trying to control him by naming him.” He paused, shaking his head. “I confess that I did not grasp the importance of what they were saying at the time. I’m not sure even the Twelve did.”
“But why,” called out someone by the gateway, “would Jesus want them to be quiet? Why would he want to keep his identity a secret?” Yiftach offered an answer before Mark could respond himself. “We just heard that the Pharisees approached the Herodians to make plans to kill him. If word reached Herod Antipas’s toadies that Jesus was being hailed Messiah – the True King of Israel – how long do you think Jesus would have survived?”
“Indeed,” said Mark. “But Jesus did not shrink from healing the sick, or from setting free those in bondage to unclean spirits. That in itself would keep attention focused on him. But his next act was a truly revolutionary gesture.” At these words Yiftach and his companions leaned forward eagerly. “Jesus went up on the mountain and summoned those whom he himself wanted, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, so that they would be with him and that he could send them out to preach, and to have authority to cast out the demons. As our young friends can testify, people go into the mountains of Galilee to plot revolution. And ultimately not just to overthrow the Romans, but to see the restoration of Israel – that day when God will make of us a great and glorious nation once more, here in the land given to our forebears, the twelve tribes of Israel. But ten of those tribes were lost to Assyria seven centuries ago: for Jesus to walk down from the mountain with twelve disciples sent a very clear message to those with eyes to see and ears to hear.”
A young boy sitting close by spoke up. “Were you one of the twelve, Yohannan?” Mark laughed. “No, little one. Jesus had already called them to himself – I was just one of many who were following along.” “Who were they then?” asked the boy. Mark turned to address the whole gathering. “Jesus appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter), and James, the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means, ‘Sons of Thunder’); and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot; and Judas Iscariot…” Mark’s voice dropped before he concluded, “…who betrayed him…”