Slowly, their jubilance died down, but yet they smiled, shaking their heads in wonder, for Jesus truly was come from God, and they did love him with such affection, and they did believe him. They believed in him. As they fell heavily into their seats, one by one, winded from spontaneous celebration, their cheeks ached from their great grins of pure happiness. One or another would let out a big breath, and another would laugh, Ho, was that not glorious!
But John had remained aware of Jesus the entire time, watched as long shadows swept around the hem of his rabbi’s garment, as the burnished glow of the moon and the lamplight emanated around the master, his stillness like a center of gravity among their swirling merriment. Jesus’ eyes had seemed to grow ever deeper, ever darker, as though windows into the cosmos, and John almost imagined he could hear the faint music of the spheres as the Lord looked on.
Jesus, still standing as they all took to their benches, moved back to the window, looking up at the moon, then over in the direction of the temple mount. Something must have caught his attention, for he seemed to lean out, ever so slightly, focused and absorbed. After a moment, he turned to them and asked,
“Right now you believe?”
It was a strange question, and the mood changed. Some shifted uncomfortably, and John felt a sinking in his stomach.
“Behold,” Jesus’ eyes flicked over to Peter, “The hour is coming and -has- come, that you all will have scattered, each into your own separate place.” After such high spirits, these words left them stricken. John felt his own throat constrict uncontrollably, and his eyes sting. He rubbed the sides of his face, then thumbed the start of a tear away from the corner of his eye, even as Jesus continued in a low voice, “and likewise you all would forsake me and leave me alone.”
Once again Jesus looked out the window, then slowly closed his eyes as he lifted his chin. The moon fell full on his face, and it seemed his lips hardly moved, though the sound of his voice filled the room.
“And yet, I am not alone, because the Father is with me.”
Jesus’ changeable face, sometimes laughing, sometimes filled with the righteous fury of Almighty God, sometimes freely weeping, sometimes so mystical he seemed transcendent. Now, his face was at rest, a calm so settled they almost stopped breathing themselves.
“I have said these things to you in order that in me you will have peace.”
Somehow, Jesus made music out of the simple Aramaic word he spoke, schlomo. It was very like shalom, in the archaic Hebrew language of their forebears, the language of the scriptures, and of their ancient prayers. The very word itself had the sibilance of God’s breath, silvery exhalation, a scented mist that gentled and stilled their pounding hearts, pulsing veins, and quaking bodies.
What seemed a lifetime later, as John fingered his long white beard with one hand, and drew his pen across papyrus with the other, the remembered word filled him. He smiled as he recalled Jesus’ gift, for later Jesus would say to them, “I will never leave or forsake you.”
He was writing in Greek, for it was the language of all peoples, and this testament must be made available to all. But he paused over the word for peace, eirene. Would they understand this? Would they know this was the peace of God?
John thought back to that night, as the Lord spoke the word peace to them, and he remembered how, unbidden, the venerable blessing of Aaron had come to his mind,
The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
And how the Lord’s face had shone that night, as he gave them this gift of his heart and spirit.
“Shalom,” John would tell his Greek talmidim, “is well-being. It is health of the body, health of the mind, it is safety and security, it is prosperity, it is wholeness and completeness. For prosperity is knowing you are rich in blessing, that the Lord shall supply all your needs. For wholeness is being made complete in Christ.”
Every year, John would bring in new students, and this would be among the first things he taught them. Jesus had given them peace so long ago, just as their world was about to be shattered, exploded into tiny, nearly lethal shards of disaster and pain. Now he would give these talmidim the same peace from Jesus, for they had the Lord’s Spirit living within them. And they all lived, now, in a world that hated them, as Jesus had said, that visited upon them every possible grievous calamity.
“At every love feast,” John would continue, “we share the peace that comes from Almighty God, even as the Lord invited our ancestors to feast at the table of fellowship. For all other sacrifices were given entirely to the Lord, as God’s savor, a burnt offering translated into heaven. But of the peace offering, our holy Father invited the people to share with God, saying,
“In the scriptures, the Lord commanded the people through Moses,
“‘In the presence of the Lord your God, in the place that he will choose as a dwelling for his name, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, your wine, and your oil, as well as the firstlings of your herd and flock, so that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always.’
“And later in this same passage, the Lord commanded,
“’Go to the place that the Lord your God will choose; spend the money for whatever you wish—oxen, sheep, wine, strong drink, or whatever you desire. And you shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your household rejoicing together.’”
Many of John’s students did not know the scriptures well, for they had grown up away from Jerusalem, in the Greek cities of the Diaspora. Their eyes would widen, as John taught them from the very words of God. And God would do the rest, working deep into the sinews and marrow of their faith.
“This offering the Lord commanded, was a fellowship offering, that peace would be enjoyed between God and the people, and between the people and the land. This is shalom”
John would invariably stand back, then, to allow his words to sink down into the soil of their hearts, and begin to grow tiny tendrils of roots.
“I have said these things to you in order that in Christ you will have peace,” he would say softly, and always the hairs on his arms and neck would stand as his spirit stirred. May these students have your schlomo, he would often pray, in moments like these, that their fellowship may be in you, and our fellowship with them, and in this our joy be made complete.
Scriptures quoted, John 16:25-33, Numbers 6:24-26, Deuteronomy 24:23, 26 (NRSV)
This is my imagined setting of the scene.
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