13 PROLOGUE me down into death?” (cf. Rom 7:24), we cry to heaven! “Blessed are you,” Jesus responds. In order to make all humanity share in this promised happiness, he does not only lay down precepts, the fulfillment of whichwould suffice tomake aman righteous. He comes to change hearts, not the Law. Jesus limited his travels at first to a territory marked out by three towns: Nazareth, Nain, and Cana. Then he headed east, reaching the western shores of the Sea of Galilee, or the Lake of Gennesaret, and made Capernaum, at the far north, the base fromwhich he set out unceasingly. The lake, called “of Tiberias” after Herod Antipas made the city of Tiberias his new capital, was attractive. It was easy to cross by boat, giving access to the eastern shores which had been won over to the pagan culture and morals; Jesus did not hesitate to venture even there. Within the limits of this expanded triangle, with its opening toward the lake, Jesus called to follow him the men whom he soon chose as his twelve apostles (apostolos, “envoys” in Greek), whom he would describe also as diakonos, “servants.” These men, of very different ages and social backgrounds, would be his close companions and his accredited collaborators for three years, then the missionaries of the Gospel and “the servants of the servants of God” until the end of their lives. Besides the apostles, an important group of disciples, including both men and women, followed him, in particular providing for his needs. Gradually a genuine brotherhood was organized, which very soon was affiliated with a new movement within the Jewish people, causing enthusiasm and admiration among many, irritation and hostility in others. COMPANION OF DRUNKARDS AND GLUTTONS Surrounded or preceded by his disciples, Jesus soon extended his mission field; for long months, starting from Galilee, he would take the major roads running from east to west and back. These routes ended at the Mediterranean ports, Tyre among others, in the far north, where he stayed. They also led, east of the Jordan, to the Greek cities of Caesarea Philippi, of Syria, and of the Decapolis (a network of ten towns), among other areas. Foreigners themselves, whether Greco-Roman or oriental, took these roads, on which the use of Greek was often required. Jesus traveled therefore in the same way as the merchants, the businessmen, and the idea-mongers did. He went far, as much as nearly two hundred miles, in all directions. In all these places his teaching penetrated like a powerful seed, and his community—for there really was a community—spread. The many “signs”—often described as miraculous— that Jesus performed enhanced his reputation as a wonder-worker with versatile gifts. And so he was welcomed as one of those “divine men,” itinerant magicians or inspired prophets, figures that were not foreign to the eastern Mediterranean populations of that time. Despite all that, as soon as the contemporaries of Jesus were confronted with him, directly as hearers of his words and witnesses of his works, it seems that they lost their bearings. For the Jesus who was revealing himself in surprising ways was unlike the models previously experienced or foretold. Those who expected a mortified ascetic discovered a man who enjoyed the good things in life and was denounced as a companion of drunkards and gluttons (Lk 7:34); those who expected an exemplar of purity discovered a friend of publicans [collectors of the Roman tax and therefore very unpopular] and sinners (Mt 11:19); those who expected a scrupulous interpreter of the Mosaic Law discovered an observant believer who nonetheless could behave as a scandalous transgressor, going so far as to teach that the Law is made for man, and not man for the Law (cf. Mk 2:27); those who expected a spiritual master discovered an inspired guide who nevertheless refused to manipulate his disciples in any way; those who expected a royal Messiah called to reign and to kick the pagan invader out of the land of Israel discovered a meek and humble servant (Mt 11:29) reluctant to take power over others. His adversaries, who were recruited mainly from among the religious authorities and the Jewish leaders, took every opportunity to prove that this man had to be either an imposter or possessed by a demon. But the people continued to follow Jesus in a crowd that increased in number every day. For no man ever spoke like this man (Jn 7:46). The four Gospel accounts agree in presenting a charisma emanating from Jesus that was more than human yet capable of touching hearts.