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Chapter Thirteen

“Have you journeyed far?” a voice called out from a crude shelter nearby. Yeshu’a shielded his eyes against the light of the setting sun that gilded the summit of the surrounding Elburz mountains, as he rode along the edge of the desert plateau which lay south of the Caspian Sea.

“Have you come far?” the voice repeated with louder emphasis. Yeshu’a observed an old man leaning against the frame of the door of a mud hut. Up to then he had seen neither the house nor its occupant as he rode deep in thought, head bowed against the evening light.

“Greetings to you, brother,” Yeshu’a replied.

“If you would care to take your rest for the night,” said the diminutive shepherd. “I would be happy for the company. I was about to prepare a meal.”

“I am pleased to accept your kind invitation,” Yeshu’a replied. “What name do you go by?”

“I am cursed with the name of Siwa,” he replied, as they were seated around a fire in the middle of the clay floor, with the smoke and steam from the cooking pot, coiling slowly through an opening in the straw roof.

“Why do you say so?” asked Yeshu’a, “I know of such a place in Lower Egypt called Siwa. It is an oasis of great beauty in the dry desert, far inland from the port of Mersa Matruh.”

As they sat huddled close to the fire eating a hot meal of grains and vegetables - for Yeshu’a did not partake of meat - his elderly host related the strange tale of a fifty-thousand-man Persian army, which perished in the Egyptian desert 525 years before.

“They were sent by Cambyses, son of Cyrus the Great, to sack the town of Siwa and destroy the shrine of Oracle,” the old man related, as he stroked his thinning grey beard. “They never reached there and had not been heard of, not from that day to this!”

“A strange tale, indeed,” commented Yeshu’a. “Perhaps they were overwhelmed in a sand storm… it’s so easy to get lost in the desert. They are certainly now with the Lord!”

“Fifty-thousand men, lost in the desert?” Siwa roared a crackling laugh at such a thought. “Surely there would be some hope of a single soldier surviving the ordeal,” Siwa croaked, as he spat into the fire’s flames. “No, ‘twas the curse of the Oracle, I do believe.”

Yeshu’a remained silent, choosing to believe a less mysterious and sensational solution to the mystery of the lost Persian army.

After a few minutes silence Yeshu’a said, “The town of Siwa, is a beautiful place; golden sands, vivid green trees, unspoilt under a blue sky. No need for you to feel cursed with such a name,” Yeshu’a said, in comforting tones. “It is a place of date orchards with many areas floored with dates drying in the sun.”

He went on to detail the many springs that abound the area, which were the life-blood of Siwa, and surrounded by tall green date palms.

“Each spring of Siwa had a channel which carried water into the gardens to irrigate the date crop,” Yeshu’a recounted. “And each spring had a guardian to take account of the amount of water due to each strip of land.”

He went on to describe a miniature canal system of water channels. Mud dams held back the water until a further supply was needed. The guardian would kick down the mud dam to release a good flow of water in the required direction. It is said, that that was how the Jews, in captivity in Egypt, watered the gardens there, in times past.

Legend had it that black sightless fish once lived in the spring and had a connection to the worship in the nearby temple of the Oracle of Ammon. It was here that Alexander the Great paid a personal and, some say, a romantic visit before the statue of Ammon, which is depicted as the body of a man with the head of a ram. When he emerged from the shrine, Alexander had changed, for whatever he received by way of advice, affected him for the rest of his life.

Yeshu’a retired into his blanket near the only window in the small hut, having been sufficiently warmed by the hot meal and the fire. He gazed out upon the mountain landscape scene now being lit up, from time to time, by distant lightening flashes. From the far corner Siwa snored in unison with the distant sound of thunder.

The following morning saw Yeshu’a’ departure with a fond farewell to old Siwa, now left to ponder a different image of his Egyptian name.

Persia was a rich country, because of its situation on the trade route between the East and the West. Upon hearing of Yeshu’a’ coming, the Zoroastrian priests became fearful of his mesmerising influence over the multitudes, for they were the followers of Zoroaster, who was born in 6,300B.C. in the province of Bactria, (now northern Afghanistan) whose God is called Ahura Mazda, and many asked questions of their teacher and prophet, Zoroaster.

“Of what new God dost thou speak?” the priests demanded of him. “Art thou not aware, unhappy man, that Saint Zoroaster is the only just one admitted to the privilege of communion with the Supreme Being, Who ordered the angels to put down in writing the word of God for the use of his people, laws that were given to Zoroaster in Paradise? Who art thou to dare here to blaspheme our God and to sow doubt in the hearts of believers?”

“I preach of no new God, but our celestial Father,” Yeshu’a quietly replied, sensing their intention to entrap him. “It was He who existed before the beginning and will exist until after the end. You pretend that you must adore the sun and the genie of good and evil, but I say to you that the sun does not act spontaneously, but by the will of the invisible creator, who made it. There is no God other than the God of good! He, like the father of a family, does only good to his children. He forgives their transgressions if they repent: honour the day of Judgement, for God will inflict a terrible punishment upon all those who have led His children astray.

“Your doctrine is therefore the fruit of your errors; for desiring to bring near to you the God of truth, you have created for yourself false gods.”

Angered by his reply the priests forbade their congregations to listen to him further. Once again, the threats made against him would come from those of the priesthood and the rich merchants, but not from the common people, who consumed his words like nectar upon their lips. Because of the increased danger in that land of the Peacock, his stay was brief. The magi decided to do him no harm, but by night, when all the people slept, they conducted him outside the walls and abandoned him on the road, in the hope that he might succumb to the ravages of the wild beasts abroad in the countryside.

But, Yeshu’a, being protected by the Grace of God, continued upon his way in safety, puzzled how the magi now treated him, in contrast to the gift- laden magi who sought him out as a babe, less than three decades previous.

Having journeyed through Mesopotamia and Assyria, Yeshu’a arrived back in his homeland, the land of Israel. He stayed in many towns and villages speaking with those whom he saw as his people, and was heralded by multitudes who were inflicted with the despair and suffering, from years under the brutal regime of Roman occupation. His arrival amongst them gave them hope at a time that all seemed quite hopeless.

“Do not despair. Have faith in God, as did your ancestors,” he announced to a large gathering seated upon grassy hillside. “You will be delivered out of the hands of oppression.”

A murmur of excitement swept through the congregation, for they mistook this to mean a possible up-rising. Perhaps he would lead them to freedom, they thought. Oh, to throw off this yoke of Roman despotism and to be a truly Jewish nation once again, as Moses intended.

Yeshu’a saw around him great changes in the dress and general lives of his people, particularly in the city of Jerusalem. The wealthy had adopted Greek dress and a Roman way of life. There was a time when they ruled their own country, and had their own laws, but now the position was reversed, with the general population being no better than slaves, eking out a meager living at manual labour. A once proud people now brought down to working for the conquerors of their nation.

“We might just as well be back in Egypt. We are again no better than slaves!” was the much-grumbled remark.

“We were delivered then, perhaps we will be again,” came the hopeful response.

Their hatred for the Romans had no bounds. While they still awaited their Redeemer -their Messiah! - Yeshu’a’s words uplifted them to the point that they felt their hour of deliverance was near.

These Roman pagan’s had caused much atrocious suffering to the Jewish people, and they were in despair. This caused them to ask him where they could worship their Lord, God. Since their Roman enemy had demolished their temples and robbed them of their sacred vessels. He replied, “God cares not for temples erected by human hands, but human hearts are the true temples of God. Enter into your temple, into your heart; illuminate it with good thoughts, with patience and the unshakable faith which you owe to your Father.” Uprisings against the Roman tyrants had long been sporadic incidents, flaring up from time-to-time throughout the length and breath of the land. Wherever Yeshu’a went he was followed by multitudes seeking guidance, and blessings, more of a temporal nature, rather than of a spiritual one. The common people saw in him their longed-for Messiah; he who would deliver them from misery, misrule and oppression. They approached Yeshu’a informing him of the atrocities against them and imploring heavenly intervention.

The high priests, however, were jealous of his popularity and the orthodox Pharisees demanded strict adherence to the Commandments according to the ‘Torah’. While the aristocratic Sadducees also opposed him seeing in his teachings their ruin, suggesting that he was possessed of the devil. The priests held rigidly to the rituals and regulations, laid down by the Prophets of old in the scriptural texts, as being valid for all time, and consequently held the teachings of Yeshu’a as being wholly wrong. Being moved by personal hatred towards him, they encouraged the people to disrupt his meetings and make accusations of blasphemy against him.

The scenes of despair before Yeshu’a, struck deep at his heart. He decided to visit the Essene monastery and report to them of his travels, and what he had learned. He was received with great honour by the Brotherhood, and the teachers praised his wisdom. He still required to gain further heights and have further tests to be passed before he completed his initiation some of which required to spend long days in isolation, in the nearby caves.

When having passed all the tests placed before him, and having conquered the lower self, the “Terapeut,” or Elder, placed a diadem upon his brow and he was declared to be the Christ! All were pleased.

Yeshu’a left the Essene assembly and went down to his home in Jerusalem to be greeted with tears of joy from his mother and family. His brothers wanted to know all about his travels, the dangers and the strange places he had visited. While his sisters wished to know only of the teachings he had learned.

His mother, Murree, sat in silence gazing and listening to her son, with his brothers and sisters gathered around him. A boy had left home, she thought to herself, now a man has returned, and one whom she barely recognised.

“What of John?” Yeshu’a asked, with a smile.

Yeshu’a’ cousin, John, the son of Elizabeth and the priest Zechariah, an old man when their first-born John, was conceived. It was Zechariah who married Murree to Joseph. John was later educated in the priestly duties by his parents and entered the Order of Essenes at Jutha, near Masada. He grew strong in spirit and in stature, later to assume his mission preaching of ‘The Coming’, and baptising for the remission of sin, as taught by his Order. He also spent much time at “The Sea of Solitude,” a volcanic landscape in the valley of Jordan, which both the Essenes and John himself regarded as holy ground .

Yeshu’a was to eventually to meet with his cousin, and Essene brother, in the Essene monastery at Qumran on the banks of the Dead Sea, where John baptised him. It was not John’s wish that he should baptise Yeshu’a, but Yeshu’a requested that he should do so, because he saw it as a preparation for the events ahead.

Baptism had been performed by the Order since the early days at Lake Moeris, in the Fayum district of Egypt.

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