For fame, for pleasure,
For contentment without measure,
For earth’s vain illusive treasure,
Men still search.
For something firm and lasting,
With life’s temporal ills contrasting,
And it’s fleeting joys surpassing,
Men still search.
Barabbas was searching, though he might not have realized it, and it was his searching that made him take such careful note of Manaheem’s words when this mysterious stranger visited his shop. The fact of Manaheem’s searching is evident from the last words of the preceding chapter. Pilate was searching, and also his wife with him. She, in fact, really thought (though mistakenly) that she had the answer: more power and authority (take Herod’s place).
Let me then introduce yet another in the list of searchers – one more among the ranks of those who, though they may even recognize and name the true object of their search, know not its true source, nor where it can be found.
As far as this world’s goods are concerned, he was quite poor. His family was poor. He’d been poor all his life. Yet, along with his physical poverty, he was spiritually poor as well. There was no real peace or happiness in his life, and he felt this dearth immensely. He had sought for peace and happiness in many ways, such as seeking new friends, losing himself in books, or in his own imagination, getting involved in games and song. He even tried getting drunk once, on a friend’s money. Nothing seemed to help. The object of his search always seemed to elude him, like a speck of light, dancing and beckoning in the darkness, now a rod, now a yard, now a foot, now a few inches distant, then vanishing to leave him in total darkness of heart.
Due to the untimely demise of his father, he was set on his own at an early age without schooling or knowledge of a trade. His initial attempts to find work met with no success. He kept trying desperately, lying about his qualifications, and thus, acquiring a lack of that self-respect and poise for which employers look. Attributing his inevitable failure to that enigma, fate, he took what to him was the only way left. He inflicted upon himself the weary life of a mendicant, trusting hopefully, and often disparagingly, in those who passed him by (a hundred million passing in a hundred housed day, or so it seemed) for every scrap of food, every shred of clothing.
What kind of man the mendicant
Who on the corner begs,
Who has no decent clothes to wear,
But sits in shreds and rags?
Has he no pride, this human being,
To lean on others so?
What makes a man a mendicant?
How can he stoop so low?
What kind of man the mendicant?
Look inward you who ask;
For every man’s a mendicant
Behind his haughty mask.
What kind of men be they that pass
A hundred times a day,
And often never bother
But go on their merry way?
The doctor, and the lawyer,
And the merchant, and the tailor,
And the sweeper,
And the thinker
And the sailor.
Yes, all these and many more
Do pass the beggar by
Without a gift or word to say,
Without a thought or sigh.
A hundred million passing
In a hundred houred day!
And so it went, as day by day he managed to eke out a meager living. He even feigned a limp in order to gain more sympathy, but it didn’t serve to improve his income sufficiently, so he gave it up. Several times, he changed his location in an effort to determine the best spot.
It was during one of these changes of locale that he met the older beggar. The latter, a short, thin, gray-haired old mendicant, with a withered look about him, was sitting at his usual spot begging when he caught sight of the lengthy young man lumbering toward him. Noticing the cup in the young man’s hand, as well as his shabby dress, and thus surmising that he must be of the same profession, so to speak, he looked at him inquiringly and called out, “Say, son, what are you doing?”
“I’m looking for a good spot to beg. I see you got this one already.”
“But, son, this is no life for one so young as you.”
“I know, sir, but I could do no better.”
The old man looked shocked. “You mean to tell me a healthy young man like you can’t find a job in Jerusalem these days? What are things coming to?”
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