Yesh, Zeb and Ceph
I'd seen Yeshua many times before at my old flax beating job. He supplied the bosses with beating and thinning boards. He also made stone weights for net bottom lines, anchors and moorings for wet boxes which he made as well. Wet boxes could be hidden out in the lake deeps so that fish could be kept in secret rather than brought ashore to heavy taxation by the fisheries inspectors. And his bone net needles were the best! Everything he made was the best, and surprisingly inexpensive. I once overheard a conversation between him and Azor in the flax thinning tents.
Azor had called out 'You're an idiot!' He did love to shout for all to hear his wisdom, 'You make the best tools, but don't charge as much as you could, so you must be an idiot! You can't be that wealthy or you wouldn't have to work at all, and yet you just stay as poor now as last year or the year before..... Ha! .... Stupid!'
Yeshua didn't answer..... just nodded his agreement. I was expecting some clever reply..... or an offer to bash Azor's head in would have been nice to hear. Nothing but a nod and Yesh just continued on his way. A few weeks later Yesh was back, and Azor tried again.
He called out for all to hear how clever he was, 'Heh! Yesh! So you can't be all that righteous....... by charging cheaper prices you are putting other artisans out of work, and they starve, whereas if you charged a higher rate, which you could, you would earn the same money for less work, have more freedom and wealth, and other workers would be able to get some work as well. And you could afford a nice cuddly wife to cosy up to........what a fool!
I think it was being called a fool that did it. Yesh turned upon Azor and strode towards him with such a look in his eye that Azor stepped back with his hands up, saying ,'Whoa! I was only joking!' Yesh stopped just short of Azor and said something like, 'God never forgives anybody who calls another person a fool, and who I have loved and lost is nothing to do with you', and he turned, walked out and away. From the look on Yesh's face and the tear in his eye, I often wondered if he had been widowed. His family lived on a hilltop about halfway to the Great Sea, but I think that most of the time he stayed among friends like Zebedee or Ceph in Capernaum.
Speaking of losses, Ceph's wife Dinah died that year, and was buried with their stillborn infant son. To see such a vibrant, strong and contented man as Ceph reduced to such sadness and illness taught me much about the fleeting bliss of happiness. I thought that he would die, but Ruth sent for Yeshua who arrived soon after. They sat with Ceph for a time and then both men came outside and walked along the shoreline. From that point Ceph's health picked up, but that joyful twinkle in his eye was gone forever and he became a more serious person. They had both walked back to Ruth's house, where Ceph proposed to look after her as his mother, if she would like to keep him there as her son. She cried as she embraced him in acceptance. The Rock still had a home and Ruth still had a provider.
Yeshua always seemed to draw the best out of any bad situation. At this time Yesh was supplying less people with wood, stone and bone implements and working more and more as a healer, for which his reputation around the shoreline was beginning to exceed even his renown as a craftsman. His knowledge of herbal remedies, illnesses, pains and especially his God given skill to caste out demons was causing people to trek to the lakeside to find him.
Whereas most of the netting and rope making crews were strong, broad, muscled men, Yeshua was taller, lanky and lean in build, a person who could walk or 'lope' long distances, a natural traveller. And that is what he was doing more often.... travelling around the lakeside villages and healing in exchange for local hospitality. He could have become rich if he had travelled to the big cities and treated the wealthy, but he neither wanted the money nor contact with the high class people who were no longer of the true ways.
Although Ceph was instructive and fair to all us youths, he took a special interest in me. I usually had a thousand questions to ask at every opportunity about netting and boatmanship. He taught me about boating techniques, the monsters that lived out in the deeps, and how the Lord kept them out of the shallows where he and his crew worked. He must have been very close to the Lord, because people who follow the Lord's commands always have strength and health, and he displayed both.
I've already mentioned that Ceph ran a small boat inshore-netting crew. His elder brother Andrew worked with and for him, which gives some idea of his zeal. His boss Zebedee ran a few operations, two of them being large-boat crews. Sometimes, the best boatmen would join up to work Zebedee's two boats in a deep water operation to catch the really big fish from the deeps, where the demons lived, but since the big fish in the deeps were evil and banned to us as food they had to be sold to outsiders. These catfish were huge, and the fishermen took them to the Eastern shoreline where pagans bought them at good prices. But how to protect from the dangers of the deeps at night? That was another job for Yeshua who earned free dinners in exchange for his presence on the boat.
Protecting from the Fisheries patrols was another issue that Yesh helped us with. All fishing boats on the great lake were banned from carrying or using more than four oars, by order of King Antipas. The fisheries inspector's boats could have as many oars as they wanted, and so catching up with a fishing boat was easy for them. To be caught with more than four oars was a serious offence, attracting confiscation of boat and all equipment, even death for all the crew. It was fairly easy for an inspector to see that a boat had been breaking the rule simply by inspecting the gunwales of a craft to see if additional oar-lock positions had been fitted, or if unusual wear was showing in places where an extra oar might have been secured.
But Yesh made special wooden pegs that could be pushed down tight over a boat's gunwale and tied in place so that it could not move. In this way an oar could be used without causing any wear to the boat's sides. Round stone weights with holes cut through their middle were slid over oar shafts so that they were more balanced in the hands of a rower and if thrown overboard they would sink blade upright, for recovery at a safer time. Yeshua made these oars. Yeshua was clever, and he hated the fact that the Galilean people were treated as serfs in their Lord's land, taxed and bullied to poverty and forsaken by senior classes who had discarded the Lord's ways, rules, laws and wishes. And so he did everything that he could to even up the odds.
It was Yeshua who had built fish-keeper wet boxes that could be sunk down to the bottom of the lake in pairs, with lines between them that could be snagged by hooks for recovery. Contraband fish could be kept in these until a boat was ready to run a big catch over to the Eastern shore. They were also useful when we caught very large catches. If we only brought small catches ashore the inspectors would not seize too many fish.... they needed to let us live; but if we brought a huge catch in they would seize nearly all of it, telling us that they had been lenient in the hard times. In this way we could store our best catches and release them slowly.
Where Yeshua was clever with improvisation, Zebedee was shrewd in business and politics. He encouraged his crews to visit the same houses as the Lake and customs officials, and he made and kept good friendships up with these dangerous people. He believed that It was wise to get close to enemies.
After a day's work, whether it was making nets, working them or repairing them, we would all trek to the 'local' for food, wine, chatter and relaxation. And that is where I began to see and listen to Yesh most often. He visited Zebedee fairly regularly, and after going round commercial, farming and fishing businesses he would often come to where we all dined and relaxed.
He was amazing. Whereas the big-heads would boast until we were bored, Yesh could say a single short sentence and leave everybody just transfixed with an idea, or a suggestion. He knew so much. I heard that he grew up in Egypt, and that is probably how he knew about magic, wellbeing, herbs and things like that. I tell you..... a man could come into the place, twisted over in agony after being crushed, strained or injured, and Yesh would walk round him, touching prodding and pulling, saying 'Don't fight me! Just move here, bend there....' etc and then suddenly the person would be smiling, saying 'Yes! Oh yes!' and then trying various stances, and skipping and ......... better! Yesh would always tell them to stop sinning as they danced off, because obviously these things only happened if you deserved them.
And, as already mentioned, Yesh had special powers. He could save souls from demon posessions. Truly, I've seen many a person, shouting, raving, throwing themself about, ranting..... quite incurable, until Yeshua was there standing before them. He might slap them, shouting 'Don't you do that to me! Get out!' ..... and the demon would leave, just like that. I say 'the demon', but many times there must have been legions of them within a person. Sometimes he would demand to know a demon's name, others he would just 'be there' and the demon would give up and get out quietly while it could.
I reckon that Yeshua could cure anybody of any sickness. I've even seen him bring back the dead. Yes, I have! I first saw this in my third year with Cephas. I was ten by then. Yesh was sitting with us, chatting and enjoying his food and wine, when some men rushed in with a dead person. I remember the guy's eyes just staring at the ceiling. Yesh didn't need anybody to ask, he just rushed over, firing questions like, 'How long? What was he doing?' He pushed his fingers into the man's mouth, then put his hands upon his chest, and with a great strength he thumped both hands down on the man's chest, screaming 'Come out! Come out, unclean demons!' bashing again and again. And, eventually, the man heaved, sat up, staring ahead, and then fell back, breathing very hard and groaning. He lived again! I didn't see any demons leaving, you can't actually see them, but that they were leaving was obvious because of the extraordinary noises and sounds coming from the man.
As you can imagine, that customs house became a place of hope, and people would come from around the district for cures and reliefs. Later on people came from miles around, and Yeshua could not just drop in for food, chat and relaxation because he would be curing and devil-casting for the rest of the night. At about that time Ceph and Zebedee got into the habit of having Yesh stay at their homes, because he gained little rest at the customs-house. But he must have loved healing. He never charged money for cures, although people often left coins or gifts as they rushed away, full of the joys of redemption and health.
Yesh wasn't a priest, nor was he full of the threats and self-righteousness of the Pharisee lawyers. He could command demons better than any other person in living memory, and yet he was so understanding of people. Where priests would rant and rave over a person's actions, demanding severe punishments, Yesh would usually have a totally different approach based on empathy, sympathy, understanding and love.
Yes, that was it, Yeshua loved people, even when he was angry with them his love and understanding wasn't discarded. He often gave what money he had to the poor. The way he saw it, he didn't need anything, or want anything save for himself and his abilities, which more than provided for him day by day. He was simply contented as he was..... all the time.
So this was why an artisan like Yesh found himself constantly among the fishing crews, on voyages in their boats to the deeps, and above all, one of their closest friends. Yesh loved the water and boats. And he liked our company. And without his skills and powers Zebedee would not have built such a roaring and illicit trade with the eastern shore. It was Yeshwho had convinced Zeebedee, long before, to get his junior boys (like me when I first joined up) to collect all food scraps for use as surface bait. If a calm sea was surface baited and then left for an hour or so, the resulting catch could fill a boat. Zebedee valued Yeshua's initiative very highly.
I don't think Yeshua needed to make things later on, although he must have found time because he always had a little bag of net-needles, and amongst the fishing crews and netters he used these to barter for whatever he needed. Yesh didn't need much money. He often told us, 'Don't use money, deal with each other in kind, then you can't get hit with on-the-spot taxation. If you don't need anything you won't be carrying anything when you're next stopped by a tax official, and then you can't get fleeced. '
And he often said that to live without needing anything, a person was relieved of the stress and tension of life. A bit like a wild creature, which possessed nothing, but had everything it needed. A bit like the desert living Immerser. This was Yeshua's way of teaching us how to be happy even under the oppression of our hypocrite priests and Antipas. Neither Antipas, the priests nor the wealthy class were like us, they all played at being one of us when they weren't pretending to be sophisticated Greeks. Absolutely everybody who was wealthy and powerful was like that. They didn't belong to and obey the old laws like we workers did..... I'm amazed that the Lord even allowed them life, but there you are, the Lord has mysterious ways.