And now—for they are his society chiefly—as to his apostles! What absurdity; though not—what new absurdity, for it is quite in keeping with the rest—his apostles are some fishermen, ignorant people who but the other day followed their trade. And tomorrow, to pile one absurdity on the other, they are to go out into the wide world and transform its aspect. And it is he who claims to be God, and these are his duly appointed apostles! Now, is he to make his apostles respected, or are perhaps the apostles to make him respected? Is he, the inviter, is he an absurd dreamer? Indeed, his procession would make it seem so; no poet could have hit on a better idea. A teacher, a sage, or whatever you please to call him, a kind of stranded genius, who affirms himself to be God—surrounded by a jubilant mob, himself accompanied by some publicans, criminals, and lepers; nearest to him a chosen few, his apostles. And these judges so excellently competent as to what truth is, these fishermen, tailors, and shoe-makers, they do not only admire him, their teacher and master, whose every word is wisdom and truth; they do not only see what no one else can see, his exaltedness and holiness, nay, but they see God in him and worship him. Certainly, no poet could invent a better situation, and it is doubtful if the poet would not forget the additional item that this same person is feared by the mighty ones and that they are scheming to destroy him. His death alone can reassure and satisfy them. They have set an ignominious punishment on joining his company, on merely accepting aid from him; and yet they do not feel secure, and cannot feel altogether reassured that the whole thing is mere wrongheaded enthusiasm and absurdity. Thus the mighty ones. The populace who had idolized him, the populace have pretty nearly given him up, only in moments does their old conception of him blaze forth again. In all his existence there is not a shred the most envious of the envious might envy him to have. Nor do the mighty ones envy his life. They demand his death for safety’s sake, so that they may have peace again, when all has returned to the accustomed ways, peace having been made still more secure by the warning example of his death.
These are the two phases of his life. It began with the people’s idolizing him, whereas all who were identified with the existing order of things, all who had power and influence, vengefully, but in a cowardly and hidden manner, laid their snares for him—in which he was caught, then? Yes, but he perceived it well. Finally the people discover that they had been deceived in him, that the fulfilment he would bring them answered least of all to their expectations of wonders and mountains of gold. So the people deserted him and the mighty ones drew the snare about him—in which he was caught, then? Yes, but he perceived it well. The mighty ones drew the snare together about him—and thereupon the people, who then saw themselves completely deceived, turned against him in hatred and rage. And—to include that too—compassion would say; or, among the compassionate one—for compassion is sociable, and likes to assemble together, and you will find spitefulness and envy keeping company with whining soft-headedness: since, as a heathen philosopher observed long ago, no one is so ready to sympathize as an envious person—among the compassionate ones the verdict would be: it is really too bad that this good-hearted fellow is to come to such an end. For he was really a good sort of fellow.