A modern English blending of the New Testament

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Jesus - A blending of the New Testament - Ch. 17 - the council plots Jesus' death
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Jesus teaches that few will be saved  -  a man with dropsy is healed  -  the parable of the unwilling guests  -  the cost of discipleship  -  the parables of the coin, the corrupt accountant, and the rich man and the beggar  -  the resurrection of Lazarus  -  the council plots Jesus' death.


Jesus went on a tour through the cities and towns, teaching as he went. One day a man put a question to him.

"Teacher, will only a few be saved?"

"The doorway is narrow," he said. "Do your best to go through it. I'll tell you this: once the owner of the house has gotten up and locked the door there'll be no getting in. You may stand on the outside, banging on the door, and shouting, 'Lord, let us in,' but his response will be, 'I neither know who you are nor where you're from.' You'll say, 'But don't you remember? We had meals together. You taught in our town. . .' And he'll say, 'I don't even know what town you're talking about. Go away, evildoer.'"

At that moment some Pharisees came up. "You'd better get out of town," they told him. "Herod's out to kill you."

"Go tell that fox that I'll be here for the next two days, driving out evil spirits and performing cures," he told them. "I'll finish my work here on the third day, But then again, perhaps I shall have to leave today or tommorrow or on the third day because it would never do for a prophet to die outside Jerusalem."

One sabbath he went to the home of a prominent Pharisee for a meal. Every eye was on him because right in front of him sat a man suffering from dropsy. At the table were a number of Pharisees and some lawyers. In the course of the meal Jesus put question to them.

"Is it permitted in the law to heal on the sabbath?"

No one would answer. Jesus put his hands on the man, healed him, and sent him away.

"I have another question," he said. "Which one of you, if your mule or ox should happen to fall into a well on a sabbath, wouldn't pull him out?"

The meal continued in silence. Earlier, Jesus had noticed that when the guests were gathering some had chosen the most prominent seats. He spoke to them through a parable.

"When you're invited to a wedding supper," he said, "let me advise you not to take the best seat. Some more distinguished guest may arrive late and your host may come to you and say, 'I'm sorry, but that seat was reserved for this man,' and you'll be in the embarrassing position of having to go to the foot of the table. Instead, take the poorest place. Then, your host may come to you and say, 'Here, take a better seat,' and you'll be honored in front of everybody. Exalt yourself and you'll be put down, even as the humble will be honored."

Now he turned to his host: "When you put on a dinner, don't invite your close friends, your family, your relatives, and your wealthy neighbors. They'll probably return the favor and you'll have been paid back. Instead invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. You'll be glad you did because, when the resurrection of the good takes place, you'll be repaid."

One of the guests said to him, "Think how glorious it will be to be in the kingdom of heaven when they sit down to table there!"

He told this story. "A certain man planned a great banquet and sent out many invitations. Just before the scheduled time he sent out his servants to inform the invited guests that everything was ready. To a man they began to make excuses. One said, 'I bought some property and I must go and check it out.' 'Sorry,' another said, 'I just bought five team of oxen and I must go and see how they work together.' 'Please accept my regrets,' another said, 'but I just got married and can't attend. 'When the servant reported all this, the host was angry and gave his servants further orders: 'Quickly now, go into the street and the back lanes and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame. 'Soon his servant was back again. 'We've done what you ordered, 'he said, 'and there are still some empty places.' The man said, 'Go out of town, go into the highways and the sideroads and insist that they come in so that my home may be filled. And mark my words: not one of those invited in the first place is going to get so much as a taste of what I'd prepared.'"

Everywhere he went, Jesus was followed by great crowds. At one point he turned and spoke to them about the problems of being a disciple.

"It's not easy to be a disciple of mine, "he warned. "Your allegiance to me must go far beyond family ties and affections. It must even be more important than your life; the man who is unwilling to follow me all the way to the cross can't be a disciple of mine.

"If you were going to erect a building, would you not first work out the cost to see whether you could finish it? How embarrasing to get the foundation in and then run out of money and have everyone pointing his finger at you and sneering, 'Look he started something he couldn't finish!'

"Or, to put it another way: here's a commander-in-chief with ten thousand troops under his command. He's marching to an engagement with an enemy of twenty thousand. Don't you think he'd consult with his staff in advance to determine whether or not he could win? And if the consensus is that he couldn't, wouldn't he send an envoy on ahead to see what peace terms he could get? Bearing all this in mind, I tell you that if you're not ready to renounce everything you cannot be one of my disciples."

The outcasts and the disreputable were turning out to hear him in great numbers. This irked the Pharisees and the scribes and set them to grumbling.

"This fellow is a friend of scoundrels," they said. "He even takes meals with them."

So he told this parable: "Here's a woman whose entire wealth is ten silver coins. One day she loses one. Don't you think that she would be concerned to find it? Why she'd search every nook and cranny of the house for it and, finding it, would call in her friends and neighbors, saying, 'Come, celebrate with me; I've found the coin I lost.' And I tell you," Jesus said, "that in heaven they celebrate in much the same way when even one sinner quits his sins."

He told another parable: "There once was a man with two sons. One day the younger came to him and said, 'Father give me the share of your estate that will one day come to me.' The Father did and a few days later the young man turned his belongings into cash and took off to a distant country where he squandered the money in carousing and every kind of extravagance. It so happened that, at the time he ran out of funds, there was a serious famine in the area and he found himself in actual need. He took a job as a hired hand whose duty it was to feed the pigs. One day he reached the stage where even the slop for the pigs looked good to him, and there was no relief in sight. At that point he came to his senses said to himself, 'here I am, half-starved, while back home even my father's servants have more than they can eat. I'm going home. I'll say to my father, "Father, I have sinned against God and I've let you down. I don't deserve to be known as your son but let me work for you as a hired-hand."' He headed for home. Before he reached the gate, his father saw him coming and saw how impoverished he looked, and his heart went out to him. He ran to meet him, threw his arms around him, and hugged him close. The son said, 'I'm a sinner, father. I've sinned against both God and you and I don't deserve to be known as your son.'

"The father turned to the servants. 'Quickly!' he said. 'Bring the best clothes from the house and put them on him. Quickly, a ring . . .and some shoes. And that calf we've been fattening -go slaughter it. We're going to have a party. The son I'd given up for dead is alive! I was sure he was lost but now we've got him back!' The man's elder son had been working in the field all that day. As he drew near to the house he heard the sound of music and the laughter and talk of a party. He asked one of the servants what was going on. The servant told him what had happend. The elder son was furious and wouldn't go near the house. His father came out and pleaded with him, but the son said, 'Look father, all these years I've worked for you. Never once have I deliberately disobeyed you. Yet in all that time you've never given me so much as a young goat so that I could throw a dinner party for my friends. Then, today, your son comes home after squandering your money on whores, and you kill the fattened calf for him.' His father said to him, But son, you've been here with me all the time. Everything I have is yours. What was I to do but to be happy and celebrate? He's your brother and I thought he was dead. But he's alive! I thought he was lost, but now he's home again.' "

Then Jesus told a story especially for the disciples. "There was once a wealthy man who put all his affairs in the hands of an accountant. One day some people informed him that the accountant was mishandling his affairs. He called the man in. "What's this I hear about you?' he said. "Turn in the books. You're fired.' Well, the accountant said to himself, 'What am I going to do? I've lost my job. I'm not physically up to doing manual labor and I could never lower myself to beg. I know what; I'll fix it so that even when I'm out of a job people will welcome me to their homes.' So he had his boss's debtors in and said to them. 'Let's see now, you owe us for one hundred barrels of oil. Quickly, tear up the bill and make out one for fifty!' To another he said, 'You owe us for a hundred bushels of wheat. Make it eighty.' Despite himself the boss couldn't help but admire the rascal's shrewdness.

"In the short term, "Jesus went on, "wordly men are often far wiser than good men. I'm telling you to use money wisely - tainted as it may be - to make friends so that when it runs out they may welcome you into the everlasting houses. A man who is careful in small matters will be careful in important things, and if you can't handle 'filty lucre' wisely, who's going to trust you with true wealth? Nobody can work for two employers; he's bound to favor one over the other. You can't serve both almighty God and the almighty dollar."

The Pharisees, who were very interested in money, had been listening. When they sneered at what he had said, he spoke to them.

"You Pharisees," he said, "you may parade your piety before your fellow-men, but God knows your hearts. The things that impress men are often abhorrent to God. The standard for men's lives up to the time of John the Baptist was the Mosaic Law and the  sayings of the prophets. Since John, the message is the good news of God's kingdom -and throngs are pressing their way in. Nonetheless, remember that heaven and earth will have ceased to exist before even the smallest point in the Law is canceled. For instance, it remains true, as is specified in the Law, that anyone who gets a divorce and remarries is an adulterer. So is the man who marries a divorced woman."

He told another parable. "There was once a wealthy man whose clothes were the finest and whose food was the best. One day they laid the most wretched of beggars at his gate. His name was Lazarus. His body was covered with running sores, and he was so hungry he longed for the crumbs on the floor beneath the rich man's table. The dogs went to him and licked his sores. Time passed. Lazarus died and was carried by angels to a place right beside father Abraham. The rich man died and was buried. In Hades, suffering, he looked up and saw, in the distance, Abraham with Lazarus at his side.

"Father Abraham,' he shouted. 'Have mercy and send that beggar to me so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I'm in agony in these flames.' Abraham replied, 'Think back, my son. When you were alive you had nothing but the best even as Lazarus had the worst. But now he's being comforted and you're in torment. Moreover, there's an impassable chasm between us. Even if we wanted to, we couldn't get across to you nor could you cross to where we are.' The wealthy man said, 'Then I entreat you, father Abraham, send Lazarus to my family-home to talk to my five brothers so they won't come to this place of agony.' Abraham said, 'They have the teachings of Moses and the prophets; let them heed their words.' 'I know they have' Father Abraham,' the man said. But if someone were to come back from the dead, they'd repent.' Abraham said, 'if they won't pay attention to Moses and the prophets, they won't be convinced by the return of a dead man!' "

The apostles said to Jesus, "Give us more faith."

Faith?" he said. "If you have as little faith as a single grain of mustard seed you can say to this mulberry tree here, 'Be uprooted and be planted in the ocean,' and it will be. A question: would any of you, if you had a hired hand whose job it was to tend sheep and to plow, say to him when he comes in at the end of the day, 'Come in and have your dinner?' Wouldn't you be more likely to say, 'Get my dinner ready, then change your clothes and serve me. Then when I've eaten, you may.' Does one thank a servant for doing what he's paid to do? By the same token, when you've done what's asked of you, you should think of yourselves as unexceptional servants who've done no more than is expected."

Lazarus of Bethany was sick. Lazarus was the brother of Maratha and Mary in whose home Jesus had visited, and Mary was the women who had washed his feet with her tears dried them with her hair. The sisters sent a messenger to Jesus with the word; "Your dear friend is very ill."

When he received the message he said to the disciples, "It's not a terminal illness: its purpose is to bring honor to God and to be a means by which God's son is honored."

He was very fond of the family, but despite the news, stayed on where he was for another two days. Then he announced to the disciples, "We're going to Judea."

They remonstrated. "Teacher," they said, "Only a few days ago they were ready to stone you there. Do you really think you should go back?"

"There are twelve hours in the day, aren't there?" he said. "One doesn't stumble during the day because he has light. It's only when it's dark, when there is no light, that one stumbles." He paused a moment, silent, and then he said, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep. I'd better go and wake him up."

"But Master, if he has only fallen asleep he'll be all right."

He told them bluntly, "Lazarus is dead. For your sake, I'm glad I wasn't there earlier, since your faith in me may now be strengthened. Let's go."

Thomas turned to the others. "If he's going," he said, "let's go and die beside him."

By the time they got to Bethany, Lazarus had been buried four days. The town is no more than a couple of miles from Jerusalem, and a number of leading Jews from the city had come to see Martha and Mary to offer their sympathy. A message came to Martha that Jesus was on the outskirts of the town and she ran to meet him.

"Oh, Teacher," she said, "if only you had been here, Lazarus would still be alive. Even now I know God will give you anything you ask."

"Your brother will rise again," he said.

"Oh, I know he'll be resurrected on the final day -"

"But Martha, I am myself the resurrection life. Anyone who believes in me, even if he dies, will live again. And, living with faith in me, he'll never die. Do you believe this?"

"Yes, I do, Teacher. I believe you're the Christ, God's son, the one we've waited for."

She left him and ran home. Inside the house she whispered to Mary, "The Teacher's here. He wants to see you."

Mary jumped to her feet and ran to meet him. The mourners in the house had seen her run off, so they followed her, presuming that she had gone to the tomb to weep. Jesus had not gone into the town and was on its outskirts, at the place where he had talked to Martha. When Mary saw him, she ran to him and collapsed at his feet.

"Oh Master!" she sobbed. "if only you had been here he wouldn't be dead."

Jesus looked at her, shaking with sobs, and at the weeping mourners, and he was deeply moved.

"Where is he buried," he asked.

"Come, we'll show you."

At these words Jesus burst into tears. The mourners standing watching said, "Look how much he loved him."

"But," another said, "surely if he could open a blind man's eyes he could have kept Lazarus from dying."

Jesus walked up to the entrance of the tomb, visibly moved. The tomb was, in fact a cave with a stone covering the opening. He told them to roll the stone out of the way.

"But Teacher, there'll be a stench. He's been dead four days," Martha said.

"Didn't I tell you that if you'd trust you'd see the marvelous things that God can do?" Jesus replied.

When they had moved the stone, Jesus raised his eyes and prayed. "Father," he said,"thank you for having heard me in the past. I know you always do, and I say it now only so that the people here may know I'm here because you sent me."

He paused a moment and then shouted at the top of his voice, "Lazarus, come out of there!"

Out came the dead man, his hands, feet, and face wrapped in burial cloths.

"Take those things off," Jesus said, "so that he may go home."

Many of the mourners who had followed Mary from her house and had seen Lazarus resurrected believed in him; others went to the Pharisees and reported what had happened. The chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council.

"What are we going to do about this?" they said.

"There can be no question but that this man does some astonishing things, but if we allow him to go on like this everybody will be following him. And that will bring in the Romans. You know what they'll do; they'll destroy our place and our society."

Caiaphas, the high priest, spoke next. "Realize what's happening here." he said. "Don't you see? It would be better for one man to die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed."

Caiaphas didn't himself realize the significance of what he had said. But, as the high priest that year, he had unwittingly be inspired to predict that Jesus would die, not only for Israel but to unite as a family all the dispersed children of  God.

From that day on the council met to lay plans to bring about Jesus' execution. Consequently, Jesus stopped his appearances in public and, with the disciples, traveled to the village of Ephraim at the edge of the desert. They stayed there for a while.
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