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CHAPTER 87

Yeshua did not emerge from the river named Jordan for longer than any man could hold his breath by his own will, but he did rise again, to the relief of his brothers Shimon and Yosy, as well as Yohanan and his disciples, who had scoured the river thinking he was drowning. Yohanan peered closely to assure himself it really was Yeshua and not someone else who had dived into the water looking for him. He said, "God is gracious! I thought you had been swept away!"

But Yohanan wondered why the man did not seem to be distressed and gasping for air.

Yeshua said to him, "Peace be with you, teacher. I am well."

But no further explanation was given, which annoyed Yohanan. He let Yeshua return with his brothers to the crowd of hangers-on who watched from the bank of the Jordan. No one else came forward to be baptized. It entered into Yohanan's thoughts how this Yeshua might have made pretense of drowning to drive away the supplicants. He set Yudah of Kerioth to watch Yeshua and his brothers to see what more mischief they might do, and perhaps, when the crowds thinned, bid them to de- part.

Standing apart from the crowd and the river was a man who was said to have an unclean spirit, who continually cried out in a tongue that others knew not. When Yeshua saw this man he was filled with compas- sion and drew near to him.

The man said, "Have you come to destroy us?"

Briefly Yeshua was horrified to imagine the inner state of this man, that he would speak so. Yet the man had sufficient hope to seek out the baptism of Yohanan and the self-control to stand where he did. Yeshua knew the brain was an organ like any other, subject to ail- ments. It was fear born of ignorance that led people to believe the man's irrational shouts were the mark of possession by devils.

But Yeshua saw how these things presented an opportunity. He said, "Hold your peace, and come out of him!" Then he touched the man's bare skin with his hands.

The effect was so swift it surprised even Yeshua. The fellow had sought baptism as a cure, but now at the touch of Yeshua he was no longer driven to make unfiltered shouts. Yosy and Shimon were shocked. Onlookers said, "He commands unclean spirits and they obey!"

The cured man fell to his knees before Yeshua, but he was bid to rise again, and he was led to Yudah, who had been sent by Yohanan to watch over the three sons of Yosef. Yeshua said to him, "If you know you have sinned tell them to this disciple of Yohanan, and be baptized."

Then Shimon and Yosy pressed near to ask their brother how he was now able to cast out devils. Yeshua said, "Only God has the power to do that, and anyone so gifted by God as he chooses. If you pledge not to reveal it, I will tell you the words I heard under the water."

Yeshua's brothers assured him they would remain silent.

So he said to them, "I saw a light when I was under the water. It was down, not up. Not just sunlight, you understand. I heard a voice say, 'You are my beloved son and I am well pleased. Today I have begotten you."

Shimon seemed to leap backwards a step from instinct, fearful of the words that poured from the mouth of his brother. "It is well we have undertaken to be silent, Yeshi. If Hilfai heard you say that that he'd hand you over to the Pharisees for the forty stripes less one."

But Yosef Jr. embraced his older brother on the principle that he had always loved and trusted him, and besides, he had just seen him cure a demoniac with a touch.

"I will need your help, both of you," Yeshua said. "The harvest is bountiful, but the laborers are few."

Like the man cured by Yeshua, some of the crowd suffered afflictions they believed were punishment for sin. But all Yohanan could do, after his disciples determined they were contrite, was baptize them and give assurance they were forgiven. He could not make them well. But now when these unfortunate people came out of the Jordan River Yeshua laid his hands on them and they were indeed healed just as they hoped. Word spread. Soon Yohanan had people taking numbers to be dunked, and when he passed the plate around it overflowed with shekels.

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