14:1-2; 18:6-9; Mk 6:14-16; 9:42-48; Lk 9:7-9; 13:31-33; 17:1-3)
those days, King Herod, the Tetrarch of Galilee, increased the taxes
on wheat, wine and oil in order to maintain his style of life in court,
and please the officials of the army.... The people's protests were
to no avail. The prison cells of Tiberias, where the king had his best
palace, were bursting with non-conformist young men and rebellious zealots...
Herod: Where have you put those men conspiring against me?
Jailer: Here they are, King Herod. Not one has escaped the vigilant
eyes of your guards.
Herod: And neither will anyone get away from the axe of my executioner.
Jailer: This young man is Abiathar's son, the Pharisee.
Jailer: Abiathar is at the palace door with two talents of silver
as ransom for his son. He's pleading clemency for his son.
Herod: Clemency?... Did you say clemency?.... Ha, ha, ha...!
What's the charge against the boy?
Jailer: He and a group stole some weapons from the Arsenal of
Herod: Really?... He has hardly grown his beard and he's already
stealing swords! That's conspiracy against his king! Ha! Cut his right
hand off with that same sword. That will teach him a lesson.
Young Man: No, no, have pity on me, my king, have pity on me...!
Herod: Take him and inform the executioner... And this stupid-looking
guy here, what's his offense?
Another Young Man: I didn't do anything, my king, this is an
Jailer: Shut up! Is that the way to talk to your king?...
Herod: What crime was committed by this imbecile?
Jailer: This guy gave us a hard time. He runs like a hare. Twice
he escaped right under the noses of the guards.
Herod: Well, he won't escape the third time. Have his right foot
Young Man: No, no, no!!!
Jailer: This one's a spy, your Majesty. They caught him last
week going over the records of our sales and purchases. He belongs to
the zealot movement.
Herod: So you're a spy, huh?... Gouge his eyes out with a nail
and throw them to my dogs... and let them feast on their favorite food.
Herod Antipas was ruthless just like his father. It was better to
die than be brought to the dungeons of his palace... where dozens
of men and women rotted in dark prison cells... There was a rat-infested
room, firmly shut, a dark and stinking dungeon where living cadavers
and lice coexisted and rebels were thrown to die... There was a torture
chamber guarded by four hangmen who were tasked to carry out the orders
of the king...
Man: No, no, no, no, don't do this to me....! You're a man like
me!.... You can't do this to me...!
grabbed the boy, son of Abiathar, and pulled his right arm over a
wooden wedge, where the blood of the previous victims flowed....
Man: For God's sake!... For God's sake!..... Don't cut off my hand!...
No, no..... I don't want this..... noooo....!!
Jailer: Dammit, cover his mouth and hold him tight!
Young Man: No, no, ....ohhh!!!
a series of interrogations and torture, some prisoners went back to
their homes, ruthlessly mutilated in those prison cells of Tiberias....
Oh my son, my son....! What have they done to you?... My son...!!
Abiathar: Beasts, beasts..!!
son, tried to hide his right arm which ended in a worm-infested stump...
Has your Majesty been informed about the new prophet in Galilee?...
Prophets here grow like mushrooms.
Herod: Prophet? To whom are you referring, you crook?
Adviser: That man named Jesus, a tall, brown and bearded fellow.
A peasant from Nazareth, to be exact.
Herod: Why do you tell me this, huh?
Adviser: Because the King must know what's happening in his kingdom.
This Nazarene is everywhere. He's astute and organized. They say he
wants to change everything, even religion! He's been going from town
to town along the lake, with his group, two by two…
Herod: Tell me, what do they do?
Adviser: What everyone else is doing. Conspire against his Excellency,
telling the people to rise up against the king, not to pay taxes, and....
Herod: Then why did you tell me he was a prophet? He's more of
an agitator, like the rest.
Adviser: Yes and no. It seems this Jesus is a good magician.
He makes miracles! His words seem like honey. People follow him and
stick to him like flies... Some even say he could be the Messiah!
Herod: Ha! The Messiah!.... A good for nothing peasant, to become
the Messiah!.... My prisons are already full of messiahs, and they still
Adviser: They also say this Nazarene speaks with fire, just like
the prophet Elijah!
Herod: That fire can be extinguished by filling his mouth with
sand, until his belly explodes.
Adviser: He's said to be like King David who dances, laughs and
Herod: Let's see if he can still laugh when he's in shackles.
Adviser: They also say... well, they say a lot of things.
Herod: Are you insinuating something? Speak out clear, man. What
else do they say of him?
Adviser: Just plain people's gossip, my King...
Herod: What else do they say about this fellow? Dammit!
Adviser: That he's John the Baptist, who has come back from the
Herod: What a big lie! John is dead. I myself had him beheaded!
Adviser: They say John's spirit left his body through his neck
when his head was cut off.
he went back to Machaerus seven times looking for the door. And when
he found it, he fled in haste and...
And what? Finish it, man!
Adviser: And his spirit slipped into the Nazarene's body. This
is true, your Majesty, because this Nazarene speaks exactly like Zechariah's
Herod: You're a big liar! Why do you deceive me?... Have you
heard him speak, huh?!
Adviser: Personally no, my King, but they say....
Herod: I'll have you beaten for being a liar!
Adviser: Take it easy, your Majesty. You were the one who obliged
me to inform you...
Herod: I want this man right away!
Adviser: Yes, my King.
Herod: I want to see his face, and I'll know what kind of a man
is this Jesus. I've got acute senses, you know. If he's a fake, then
I'll have his tongue pulled out. And if he's a prophet, I'll have him
Adviser: What if he's the same John who resurr....
Herod: Shut up, rumor-monger! Shut up! You just want to scare
me! And damn you, John the Baptist! Even in death you don't leave me
same day, two men came to the house, asking for Jesus. They came from
Are you Jesus of Nazareth?
Jesus: Yes, I am. But, why do you speak in such a low voice?
There's no one sick in this house!
Another Pharisee: There may not be one for the moment, but perhaps,
there will be a dead man, and soon. King Herod has been looking for
Jesus: Really? How come you know that?
Pharisee: We're from Tiberias. We're friends of the king's adviser.
Jesus: And what does this fox want with me?
Pharisee: He thinks you're the resurrected John the Baptist and
you want to avenge him. Herod is a very superstitious man.
Pharisee: Just a piece of advice, young man. Go away from here.
Hide in any village in the mountains, and don't tell anyone, not even
your friends, where you are.
Jesus: There's something I don't understand here. You're friends
of a palace adviser, yet you're helping me flee from the king. Why?
Aren't you so well-paid by Herod, that you need not look for other means?
Pharisee: No, no, it's not that, Nazarene. Last week, they cut
off the right hand of a nephew of mine, son of the Pharisee, Abiathar.
Tears rolled down my eyes when I saw that worm-infested wound of his,
and I promised myself to help any Israelite escape from the claws of
this assassin, whatever his ideas might be.
Jesus: I understand... What about you, why don't you say anything?
Did you see the mutilated boy?
Pharisee: He's my son. I'm Abiathar, the Pharisee.
enraged, clenched his fists and became teary-eyed...
Pharisee: Get away from here, young man, if you don't want the
same thing to happen to you, or it might even be worse.
Jesus: No, I'm not going away.
Pharisee: Believe us, young man. Your life is in danger. Don't
Jesus: Yes, I do, and I thank you for having informed me. But
I'm not leaving. When you go back to Tiberias and see that fox in his
den of gold and marble, tell this on my behalf: that he can't stop me
from doing what I'm doing now, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow;
that I'm not scared of him nor of his threats, because until now no
prophet has ever died in Galilee, but in Jerusalem.
Pharisee: Don't be crazy, Nazarene, and listen to us...
that moment, my brother James and I came back from the wharf. Even
our neighbors peeped through the house to take a glimpse at our visitors...
Is there anything wrong, Moreno? What seems to be the problem?
Jesus: Nothing. Herod is not satisfied with the blood that has
been shed. He wants more. He wants to drink of the blood of all the
children of Israel!
John: Scoundrel, that's what he is! Look what he's done with
the taxes: he wants to drain all our pockets of the little money we
have, for his mistresses' jewelry.
A Woman: The king is an adulterer. He lives with his sister-in-law,
his brother Philip's wife. What a vicious man!
Jesus: That would be the least, neighbor. He can do anything
he pleases with his life, but not with his neighbor's. That man is a
stumbling block. There'll be no peace here while he's on the throne,
robbing the people and torturing our children.
usual, the barrio folks started milling in the street in order to
listen to Jesus...
Jesus, let's go inside first.
Jesus: No, John. The people must know what's happening in our
country. They had the right hand of this man's son cut off, do you understand?
If it were your own hand, would you just keep quiet?
John: Okay, Moreno, okay, but there are lots of squealers around.
You can never tell...
Jesus: Hey, all of you, listen to me! If anyone here is a friend
of this fox, disguised as the king, tell this to him on my part: he
who lives by the sword, shall perish by the sword...You
cut off the right hand of Abiathar's son, God will throw you into the
fire with your two hands. You cut off a foot of Manasses' son, the Lord
will throw you into the fire with your two feet. You gouged somebody
else's eyes with a nail, pulled out fingernails with a pair of pliers,
castrated men and raped women in jail, or mutilated the sons of Israel.
God will throw you and your whole body into hell, where the worms will
feast on it. You had the prophet, John, beheaded. God will have a large
millstone tied around your neck and have you thrown into the depths
of the sea. You and the rest of the criminals do not deserve to breathe
the air nor step on this ground. Tell Herod all this on my behalf...
turned and went inside the house. He was so enraged. He sat on the
floor, buried his face in his hands and remained quiet for a long
twenty years before Jesus was born, King Herod established the city of
Tiberias, on the left bank of Lake Galilee. It was named in honor of Tiberius,
the Roman emperor. He then made it the capital of Galilee, instead of
Sepphoris. Tiberias was the regular residing place of Herod Antipas, where
he had his palace built. For many reasons it was a hated city, not only
because of the king's presence but because it was built on a cemetery
- and therefore, for the Pharisees, "impure" - and dedicated
to the king of Rome. For this reason, the nationalists found it a despicable
place. Today, Tiberias is one of the most populated and modern cities
of Galilee, with several hotels, good restaurants and sports centers to
boast of. (Water skiing and sailing are regular sports on this lake).
the basement of the palace - as was common during the period - were the
dungeons that served as a prison for Herod's foes. Although in Israel
torture did not exist as a form of punishment for prisoners, Herod the
Great employed excessive torture during his reign, in violation of the
Jewish law. His son, Herod, the contemporary of Jesus, brutal as he was,
followed in the footsteps of his father. His greed for power and the diminishing
popularity of his reign, dependent on Rome, as well as the people's discontent,
made of him a ruler capable of committing any crime in order to save his
has existed throughout history. Human beings, in degrading their condition,
made others suffer in order to dominate, to subjugate and obtain information.
Torture is almost always linked to the unjust exercise of power. We ought
to know that even the official Church has engaged in torture. Only five
hundred years ago, heretics were burned, non-conformists non-believers
were horribly tortured, and all types of pressure were employed over the
"enemies" of the Church. The theme of torture is "basic"
to a Christian reflection. Its eradication, its rejection by any means
is a Christian task, a matter of urgency and priority.
text in the gospel that deals with the "scandal of the small people"
has been often used to illustrate the theme of corruption of minors, child
pornography and the like. In Biblical language the phrase "the small
people" does not refer only to children. The small people are the
poor, the disabled, the oppressed, the powerless who are crushed by people
in power. For these little people, humans like the blood-thirsty king
are a scandal, taken in the context of the origin of the word: stumbling
block. That is to say, people like them are deterrents to poor people's
growth, development and life. That is why it would be better for them
to be hurled into the sea with a millstone tied around their necks. Wheat
flour and that of other cereals were obtained by going through a mill.
The mill was an instrument composed of two pieces of stone, one turning
over the other. Mills were basic in a home. They evolved into different
shapes through the centuries. In Jesus' time, the so-called "ass-mills"
were utilized. The stones were so huge, only an ass (or a donkey) could
turn the stone that was on top of one fixed on the ground. This was the
kind of mill used by various families. Several of these very heavy stones
were found among the archaelogical ruins of Capernaum. Seeing the size
of this piece, one can imagine the tremendous impact of the phrase used
by Jesus, one that is "exaggerated," according to the typical,
oriental manner of speaking, reflecting Jesus' grave criticism of the
exploiter of the poor.
14:1-2; 18:6-9; Mk 6:14-16; 9:42-48;
Lk 9:7-9; 13:31-33; 17:1-3)
from the book: A Certain Jesus, Vol. 2 (Chapter
Copyright @ 1998 by Claretian Publications,
This book offers a
new approach to appreciating the life of Jesus. The first part of the
Chapter is in dialogue form in an up-to-date conversational language.
This makes the reader realize that Jesus was once a very ordinary guy,
a typical man in his time. The last part of each chapter contains an
explanation of the biblical references, thus giving one the perspective