“The lepers! the lepers!”
“The accursed of God! Kill them!”
These, with other yells of like import, broke in upon the hosannas of the part of the multitude too far removed to see and understand the cause of the interruption. Some there were, however, near by familiar with the nature of the man to whom the unfortunates were appealing- some who, by long intercourse with him, had caught somewhat of his divine compassion: they gazed at him, and were silent while, in fair view, he rode up and stopped in front of the woman. She also beheld his face- calm, pitiful, and of exceeding beauty, the large eyes tender with benignant purpose.
And this was the colloquy that ensued- “O Master, Master! Thou seest our need; thou canst make us clean. Have mercy upon us- mercy!”
“Believest thou I am able to do this?” he asked.
“Thou art he of whom the prophets spake- thou art the Messiah!” she replied.
His eyes grew radiant, his manner confident.
“Woman,” he said, “great is thy faith; be it unto thee even as thou wilt.”
He lingered an instant after, apparently unconscious of the presence of the throng- an instant- then he rode away.
To the heart divinely original, yet so human in all the better elements of humanity, going with sure prevision to a death of all the inventions of men the foulest and most cruel, breathing even then in the forecast shadow of the awful event, and still as hungry and thirsty for love and faith as in the beginning, how precious and ineffably soothing the farewell exclamation of the grateful woman- “To God in the highest, glory! Blessed, thrice blessed, the Son whom he hath given us!”
Immediately both the hosts, that from the city and that from Bethphage, closed around him with their joyous demonstrations, with hosannas and waving of palms, and so he passed from the lepers forever. Covering her head, the elder hastened to Tirzah, and folded her in her arms, crying, “Daughter, look up! I have his promise; he is indeed the Messiah. We are saved- saved!” And the two remained kneeling while the procession, slowly going, disappeared over the mount. When the noise of its singing afar was a sound scarcely heard the miracle began.
There was first in the hearts of the lepers a freshening of the blood; then it flowed faster and stronger, thrilling their wasted bodies with an infinitely sweet sense of painless healing. Each felt the scourge going from her; their strength revived; they were returning to be themselves. Directly, as if to make the purification complete, from body to spirit the quickening ran, exalting them to a very fervour of ecstasy. The power possessing them to this good end was most nearly that of a draught of swift and happy effect; yet it was unlike and superior in that its healing and cleansing were absolute, and not merely a delicious consciousness while in progress, but the planting, growing, and maturing all at once of a recollection so singular and so holy that the simple thought of it should be of itself ever after a formless yet perfect thanksgiving.