JOHN, THE BELOVED
Copyright 2019 John N. J. Lupia
JOHN, THE BELOVED
Greetings in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ, with His abundant blessings of peace, and of grace, and of holy joy, that they be with you all dearest and beloved children of God and with all your families and friends, both now and for ever!
I was born into a wealthy Jewish family in Galilee, son of Zebedee, a seaman and proprietor of a large commercial fishing concern, and Salome, the eldest sister of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She was born as I was in our hometown. My parents owned a Roman villa in the hill-town called Tzippor, “little bird” perched on a hill. Since they were wealthy they owned slaves who served as our domestic servants and some served as seamen with father on his fleet of ships.
My father had a severe temperament, he was burly, hands like iron, very powerful and strong physically. He could pick a man up off the ground with a single hand. When he was angry he became the incarnation of one of the Furies of Greek legend. Zebedee was not his real name, it was a nickname my younger cousin Jesus gave him, for it was fashionable for Jewish men at that time to not only have their born Hebrew birth name but also a Greek or Roman name. Jesus called him Zeus, in Galilean dialect “Zebedee”, the god of thunder and lightning bolts, for his temper was truly ferocious and could summon a storm at sea. A native born zealot!
My mother Salome came from the royal family of David who lived quietly in this hill-town for generations. They were very devout like my father’s family. Wealth made her think in earthly terms of power and prestige just like father. She even embarrassed my older brother James and I with this sort of thinking before our brother Jews who were hand picked by Jesus to be his inner circle, which we called in Aramaic chavrusa, which means something much more than mere friendship or companionship but rather the filial love of an intimate close family living Torah. Mother requested that Jesus place James and I on thrones on either side of him when he defeated the Roman Empire and ruled upon his eternal Davidic throne. Jesus smiled at her and explained to her in a way she would understand that she did not realize what it was she was asking.
Because of father’s ferocious temper Jesus called James and I also by Greek names that were also taken from mythological, Kastor and Polydeukes respectively. But Jesus called me also Beloved, as a member of his adopted family or his chavrusa. Not only did Jesus invite me as a loving member of his chavrusa but also into his own personal family beyond our family ties through mother. My uncle Joseph was a builder, like father burly with hands of iron, who could lift two men with a single hand. But he was the complete opposite of my father, for he was meek and mild, very gentle, sweet and kind, and always thoughtful and considerate. Everybody loved him. Jesus’ mother Miriam was so lovely and gracious she was everything a perfect mother should be. Needless to say everyone adored her. Jesus knew I needed to come under his wings and that of his family.
Advocata nostra sul Monte Mario, Rome, Italy. Ancient encaustic painting. Approx. 36" X 54"
Being born into a long line of Galilean zealots we all carried swords and awaited a powerful and mighty general-king Messiah, like Judas Maccabees, who would purge our nation of outsiders who did not submit to Torah and its rule of law. Their notions of this general-king who would be a brilliant strategist and military commander filled our head and that was all we thought about. We all practiced in the town gymnasium as we watched the Romans practice so we could out maneuver them in battle. We were men prepared to fight and die by the sword for God and His holy laws of living! We were unstoppable. At least so we thought. James and I were so crazy with zealot thinking we once suggested to Jesus to grant us the power to send down fire from heaven to destroy the Samaritans in one of their villages that refused us entry. He looked at us in amazement and with his awesome style gently told us : “None of this, none of this is the way of truth of our gemara, i.e, the things to study and to know”.
So being an intimate of Jesus and uncle Joseph and aunt Mary was crucial for us to change our ways of thinking. Jesus made it clear not only to James and I but to all disciples everywhere throughout time that you must hate mother and father sister and brother for His sake or else you cannot be His disciple. So James and I understood exactly what he meant to love our parents but to get rid of their false gospel of thinking and learn his way of teaching, a new way that was indeed very foreign to how we were raised by powerful men to think like powerful men and commanders, ruthlessly for the love of Torah. But Jesus changed all that.
Not only James and I were hand picked to be members of Jesus’ inner circle but also my two sons, Simon and Andrew. In fact Andrew was the first to meet Jesus from my family running home enthusiastically all excited telling us “We have found the Messiah!”
Our zealot nature was hard to leave us since we daily beheld Roman tyranny and corruption everywhere. When Jesus kept telling us prophetically about his imminent arrest, torture and death the zealot remaining in us kept surging to the surface. My son Simon, whom Jesus also gave a Greek nickname calling him Peter, was perhaps the most zealous among us and refused to accept Jesus at that scenario vehemently saying he would never let that happen. Another Galilean disciple among us whose name was not changed with a Greek nickname was another Simon also a zealot just like Simon-Peter. This other one however, was a good listener. Ironically, unlike Simon the Zealot, Jesus had to scold my son several times about that to get him to listen like the other Simon and to accept his word and soften his way of thinking. But Peter loved Jesus as much as me. He was still thinking like a control freak that he would be his protector, his defender and champion. But Jesus over time got him to understand the Messiah was not a military leader simply because his kingdom is not of this world.
This world is cursed and all its inhabitants due to our rebellion against God that began with Adam and Eve. Earth, therefore, though with beautiful natural features, is still non-the-less a fallen and broken planet as are its inhabitants, animals and humans. Nothing exists now as it was originally created as a paradise because of God’s curse, which, removed vital elements from all things so that they form imperfectly now and decay and die. This is the world we know. Our planet became the prison of Satan and his devil disciples. They were hurled to earth at the speed of light 50,000 years ago creating Barringer Crater, a huge impact crater where they now live beneath the crust of the earth in a place called Tartarus, chained and suffer unrelenting torment. So earth is not paradise anymore. Nor was it the Messiah Jesus’ kingdom. Instead it is broken, fallen, miserable place, the proverbial “Valley of Tears” and the prison of the fallen angels. It is for us the theater of our salvation where we live out daily Torah and its inner meaning, its inner beautiful truths revealed by the Master Himself who spoke to Moses and the prophets and now to us.
Since Simon-Peter was a zealot and refused to allow his beloved Master and Lord be arrested he drew his sword in his wild temper like his grandfather. When Malchus, a member of Annas’ inner circle and key member of the Sanhedrin and arresting party was led by the traitor Judas into Gethsemane to point him out using the traditional Jewish kiss of Shalom Peter spotted them. And so Peter struck Malchus intending to kill him in a single stroke. But the angels of God intervened so that he merely grazed him severing his ear. Jesus instantly yelled out “Stop!” Loudly telling Peter “Those who live by the sword shall perish by the sword!” This was not the first time Jesus told us that since nonviolence is the foundation of his teaching. But this was his last time to tell and because of that we never forgot it again.
Seeing Malchus so frighten and wounded, Jesus lovingly looked into his eyes while picking up his severed ear and instantly healed him. Malchus was in double shock. First he was still stunned being so powerfully struck by a sword from a burly fisherman, and the second shock was the unconditional love of gentle Jesus who healed his body and soul with his single stroke of his blessed and saving hand.
Malchus left the arresting party and remained alone in the garden that night while the rest went off to the home of Annas and Caiphas. Weeks later he joined the apostles and other disciples and was made a deacon in the infant Church. His brother became a priest. Malchus, who came to arrest Jesus and have him crucified, was the very first among us to pay with his own life giving witness to the Sanhedrin about Jesus being the promised Messiah. Just a few months ago in October of this year 2019 the Master and Lord of all sent his angels to inspire my contemporary Jewish clansmen to uncover in excavation the very site of a Church built in honor of St. Malchus, at Ramat Beit Shemesh. History, in the Acts of the Apostles, records him not by his Hebrew name but his Greek, Stephan, his Greek pet name meaning “Crowned” as a royal poet reciting the Messianic promises throughout history, and as a royal “Crowned” martyr for Christ. Ironically it was the president of the visiting Damascene Sanhedrin named Saul who had Malchus cast out of Jerusalem and stoned as a heretic blasphemer. This same Saul would follow in Malchus’s footsteps and take the Greek and Roman name Paul. Malchus’s brother as I said became a priest and took his brother’s body and brought it home some 18 miles southwest to bury it where the Church stands today.
Although Malchus resigned from the Sanhedrin that fatal night in Gethsemane Jesus was still arrested and went on to be condemned by Caiphas and Annas. After they tore their garments in condemning hatred for Jesus they then cracked Jesus on his skull producing an orbital rim fracture of the superior wall above his left eye and then gouged that eye out mocking his teaching "If your eye causes you to sin pluck it out!" (Matt 18:9) Undoubtedly, they also mocked him doing likewise making him a eunuch for the kingdom. (Matt 19:12)
[Right] Small Greek letter Xi [Left] Xi brand on Jesus forehead on the Shroud at Turin.
They had a guard bring them a red-hot brass stylus and branded Jesus on the forehead with the letter “Xi” (see above Greek letter) signifying the “Cross” (Xylon) and the “Gallows,” for all condemned prisoners were to be turned over to the Roman authorities and executed by crucifixion under Roman law. The brand is where you get the phrase "He is a marked man" meaning a man condemned to die.
Detail of the Shroud of Turin. Courtesy Archdiocese of Turin.
Having blinded Jesus, fatally cracking his skull, swelling his left cheek with brutal beatings with rods and fists while blindfolded with half his sudarium (now in Oviedo), delivering him covered head to toe in purple bruises, and now with a glaring branded forehead Xi as a condemned prisoner Pilate had little or no choice but to comply with the tyranny of the Sanhedrin and their cronies brought before the Roman bench demanding on the top of the lungs “Crucify him!” “Crucify him!” Had Pilate not handed Jesus over to the Jews saying "Crucify him yourself!" Jesus would have died from the wounds from the Jews alone. But God's plans are mysterious. Jesus was given a second round of brutal torture from the Romans who satirized him as a king and one soldier carved the word REX on his left upper lip, crowned him with Gundelia tourneforti and it seems bound it to his head with hot molten wax whose dark drips are clearly visible along Jesus' right side of his head and face.
Gundelia tourneforti a very sharp prickly thorny plant grown only in Jerusalem.
Sudarium of Oviedo. Courtesy Cámara Santa, in San Salvador Cathedral, Oviedo, Asturias, Spain.
[Above] Photograph of the sudarium (shown above rotated counterclockwise from original) used to blindfold Jesus by the Jewish guards who beat him mercilessly all night before handing him over to Pontius Pilate. This is half of the sudarium used to wrap the infant Jesus by Mary laying him in a manger. Mothers wove this in traditional Jewish weave with S-twist linen yarn, unlike the foreign weave of the Shroud now at Turin which Mary learned while in exile for twelve years living in Alexandria, Egypt. The temple guards took Jesus' sudarium off his waist since Jewish men wore them as a sash and money belt with their tachrichim (Hebrew: תכריכים), i.e., long white rectangular four cornered linen garments (amphimaschalos) with tzityiot in each corner (modern modified Jewish garment now called a prayer shawl or tallit). This tachrichim is Jesus seamless garment which today we call the Shroud at Turin. After removing Jesus' sash cloth, i.e., his sudarium they tore it in half using only half to blindfold Jesus as they played a mimic child's game of mockery called Kollabismos "Play the prophet" "Who struck you now". Each time they punched him, or whacked him with a rod. The darkest blood stain on the left covered his left eye socket since that eye was gouged out. Courtesy Cámara Santa, in San Salvador Cathedral, Oviedo, Asturias, Spain.
As Jesus hung so desecrated and disfigured on his Cross he forgave everyone, and as temple leader in song called a precentor he intoned for us to sing Psalm 22, which we all did at the foot of the Cross. As he was breathing his last he turned to me and to his mother. He said to her “Woman, Behold your son” meaning me. Then to me, “Son, Behold your mother.” Just as Jesus on his cross neither pronounced any private messages to individuals like the repentant thief, and telling his mother and me we were now mother and son, these were without any doubt public pronouncements intended for everyone everywhere for all times and so they were recorded for you and all posterity to listen, learn, and believe.
I had learned much as a household member of Jesus’ personal family. His mother Mary though my age was truly a mother like no other to me. She taught all of us just as she had her own son and now we leaned on her always looking to her, who bore him, raised him, taught him, and loved him with her whole life.
So, “Be not afraid” dearly beloved as God repeats so often in His sacred scriptures to your ears, mind and heart, “Be not afraid” to take Mary as your mother. This is the echo through scripture just as God sent His angel to my uncle Joseph so long ago telling him : “Be not afraid” to take Mary as your wife." so now again to us, Be not afraid” to take Mary as your mother." It was the final command of the Messiah our Holy Savior as he hung dying for our salvation. Let us respect him and obey him and learn from Him and take his own mother to be ours also as he so ardently wished.
With all my love,
John, the Beloved, Apostle and Evangelist