Here are a pair of images of Jesus…

…kneeling alone on a beach in the early morning, fanning a small pile of kindling into flame. Earlier, alone, he had caught a few fish, and now he’s preparing the fire to cook them. He looks out over the still-misted waters of the lake, and hears the faint sound of men out in a boat. The sun lifts above the horizon of the surrounding hills, and its first rays strike his eyes. He looks down. The sun’s afterimage dances on the inside of his eyelids. He opens his eyes, and sees the small fish lying on a piece of wood. The sound of the men on the lake, though still faint, is getting louder, and the mist is disappearing under the sun’s heat. He removes his sandals, picks up the fish and carries them a few steps into the water. Using his bare fingers he prises the fish open and cleans out their innards, then rinses them clean in the water. The blood laps against his ankles…

…reclining on the dirt floor against a cushion made of shredding reeds. He is among a sizable group that includes a few of his students, some tanners and fishmongers who reek in distinctive ways, various fishermen and tradespeople. All of these are sitting cross-legged on the floor. A handful of tax collectors also have mats to lean against. The tax collectors are noticeably cleaner than the others, because they have special robes for going out.  One of them owns this house. Street urchins are slinking ferret-like against the walls, waiting to pounce on stray bits of food. The house-owner’s concubine has prepared the food, a large pot of boiled barley with dog meat added for the special occasion. The pot sits on wooden slats in the middle of the party. Jesus and the tax collectors have bowls that she fills for them; all the others crawl to the pot and use their fingers to stuff their mouths. What falls to the floor gets snatched up instantly by the feral children.

The privileged guests also have small clay bowls for their wine. A few of the prostitutes from the house down the street have joined the party, and they are carrying wine flasks around the crowd, pouring out for those honored to have their own bowls. The others drink straight from the flasks as they are brought around, the wine often spilling down their necks and dying their robes red. As the night goes on, a guest occasionally goes out with one of the women, and when the couple returns, they bring a full flask with them.

The party is raucous, the story-telling vivid and earthy. The home-owner, inflated with the honor of hosting a traveling rabbi yet enlivened far beyond propriety by the wine, raises a hypothetical point of doctrine in a loud voice: Are all dogs kosher to eat, or only Jewish dogs!

A tremor runs through the hilarity; the students, even though drunk, glance at one another, then over at their teacher.

But Jesus is rocking with laughter, holding his sides. His own face is red. “Don’t you realize,” he cries out, “that whatever goes into a man ends up in the crapper! And a crapper’s ritually clean!” (Matthew 15:17)

The party-goers roar. The students slap each other on the back and signal for more wine. The prostitutes are happy to oblige.

And the teacher’s eyes are peaceful with perfect satisfaction.

These are images of the invisible God.

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