Springingtiger's Blog


Chapter 9:

9

Every time anyone discovers who I am I always seem to get the same question, “What was Jesus like?” There are variants, of course, but they all seem to begin, “Did you know…?” or something of that ilk. It is fair to say I have met some interesting people over the millennia. I never met Genghis Khan, but I did meet his grandson Kublai.

I was a member of the Italian mission to Cathay which the Mongols had succeeded in conquering. I was impressed by Kublai Khan. He was much more civilised and cultivated than one would have expected of a Mongol and yet he lacked the airs, graces and pomposity of his Chinese courtiers. What he had inherited from his grandfather was presence. Even when the Khan appeared relaxed he had the air of a tiger poised to spring.

The Khan had a wide knowledge of both arts and sciences and an incomparable grasp of military strategy. He also had an insatiable curiosity and wanted to know all about Europe and the things we had seen on our journeys. Signor Polo was only too pleased to speak at length about his journeys, but I was anxious. In my opinion the Khan was far too interested in European military matters and I wondered whether his questions about the fortified cities we had seen might not have an ulterior intent.

As I deliberated thus I realised that Kublai Khan was watching me with a half smile. When he caught my eye he arched his right eyebrow in a motion do deliberate it could not have been involuntary. Suddenly he stood and so, of course,did we all except the Chinese who knelt their heads to the floor. Before we could copy them the Khan said,

“Signor Cain, why don’t you walk with me?” I

I immediately joined him. As we started to move so did the others, but the Khan merely said,

“Only Cain!”

The others sank back to their knees. I couldn’t help but observe they looked relieved. I followed Kublai Khan into the garden.

At first we walked in silence until the Khan said,

“In my court there is an old Buddhist monk who tells an interesting tale of his youth in Bodhgaya. Have you ever been there?”

Without thinking I said I had and added a few remarks about it as a place of learning.

“Yes, he said he met a man called Cain. He pointed you out to me. Perhaps you should tell me exactly who you are.”

I had had many years practice in lying, but there was that about the Khan’s eyes that suggested that he knew far more than he was revealing. In the end I opted for what I believed to be the safest course and told the truth. He showed no surprise, but back then the Mongols still believed many fabulous legends and my story was not so outlandish by comparison. The Khan handed me a peach and bit into one himself,

“They say the Emperor in heaven has peaches that convey immortality. It is something many men would kill for.” He paused for a while as we enjoyed our fruit and continued,

“I suspect that you have tasted bitter fruit as well as sweet. I know you suspect my questioning of your fellows and I am sure you would like to urge them to caution.” Again he paused watching my reaction then concluded.

“I like you Cain. I would hope that there will be no bitterness in our parting, I wish you the sweetness of a long life.” He handed me a seal and said,

“I am giving you the choice of any horse in my stables. Take this to the Stable Master he has everything you will need for a long journey. Ride west and do not return. Goodbye.”

With that the Khan pointed to a gate and turned back to the palace. That same day I departed, better equipped for a journey than I have ever been.

However I have wandered somewhat off the subject of what Jesus was like. I am ill equipped to say what he was like as a man, however unlike many of the giants of history I did at least have the opportunity to see Jesus teaching and I do mean teaching.

People tend to think of him as a preacher, but he rarely preached and not in the way that Christians thought of preaching. If you read the Bible – heavily edited though it may be – you get a sense of Jesus’ style. He didn’t stand up and spout he tended to sit and just answer questions. If the crowds were large he stood to help his voice carry. However most of the time – in the oriental tradition – people asked him questions like, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ or, ‘Who is my neighbour?’ Sadly most of the questions were edited out by later scribes which explains why sometimes Jesus’ teachings seem a little disjointed.

Unlike preachers Jesus didn’t need to shout. He was clear and articulate and he had an unusual gift for drawing listeners into his every word. As he spoke, especially when telling a story his voice would become softer and lower. His listeners would lean forward and strain to hear him, Then as they hung on every word as he reached his denouement his pitch and volume would rise as he hit them with his message and you’d see the whole crowd sit up bolt upright. As a consequence people remembered his words and so they lasted long after his short life ended.

People often ask me if Jesus was God. All I can say is that he wasn’t like any of the Old Gods I have met and he never claimed in my hearing to be God. His primary concern as far as I could see was to have his listeners live the most fulfilling lives possible. He was a great teacher, friendly to everyone, but somehow aloof. Unlike the Gods I’ve met, Jesus never demanded worship nor sacrifices. He seemed more interested in having people follow their own religions better than having anyone follow him. Jesus shared one characteristic with nearly every ‘holy man’ I’ve ever met and that was a need to spend time by himself away from the crowds and the bustle of everyday life. He was an inspiring enough teacher for me to go and listen to him several times. He did have a gift for healing, but so did others throughout the centuries.

I only met him face to face once. James – one of his close friends whom I had been questioning earlier that day – insisted on introducing us. Before James could speak Jesus held up his hand an spoke,

“I know Cain.” He said and turning to me said, “I am sorry, my friend, you still have a long way to go. In the end you will be glad of your journey.”

It felt as if he really did know me and all about me. Whether he did or not, I may never know, but he was right about being glad of mu journey and I have not yet reached the end. Was he God? I don’t think so, he was far too decent a man to be a God…trust me, I should know.

 

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