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Horace Elisha Scudder

The Wandering Jew

When our Saviour was passing out of Jerusalem to the place where he was to be crucified, he was made to carry the heavy cross on his shoulders. Many people followed him, and others stood in the doorways of the houses he passed, or looked out of the windows.

One of these who looked on was a shoemaker, Ahasuerus by name. He did not believe in Christ. He had been present when Pilate pronounced the sentence of death, and, knowing that Christ would be dragged past his house, he ran home and called his household to see this person, who, he said, had been deceiving the Jews.

Ahasuerus stood in the doorway, holding his little child on his arm. Presently the crowd came by and Jesus in the midst, bearing his cross. The load was heavy, and Jesus stood a moment, as if he would rest in the doorway. But the Jew, willing to gain favor with the crowd, roughly bade him go forward. Jesus obeyed, but, as he moved away, he turned and looked on the shoemaker and said:—

"I shall at last rest, but thou shalt go on till the last day."

Ahasuerus heard him. Stirred by some impulse, he knew not what, he set his child down, and followed the crowd to the place of crucifixion. There he stayed till the end. And when the people turned back, he turned back with them, and went to his house, but not to stay. He bade his wife and children farewell.

"Go on!" a voice said to him, and on that day he began his wanderings. Years afterward he came back, but Jerusalem was a heap of ruins. The city had been destroyed, and he knew that his wife and children had long since been dead.

"Go on!" he heard, and he wandered forth, begging his way from house to house, from town to town, from one country to another. He wandered from Judæa to Greece, from Greece to Rome. He grew old, and his face was like leather, but his eyes were bright, and he never lost his vigor.

He went through storms and the cold of winter, he endured the dry heat of summer, but no sickness overtook him. He joined armies that were going forth to battle, but death never came his way, though men fell by his side.

He was never seen to laugh. Now and then, some learned man would draw him into talk, not knowing who he was, and would find him familiar with great events in history. It was not as if he had learned these in books. He talked as if he himself had been present. Then the learned man would shake his head, and say to himself, "Poor man, he is mad," and only after the old wanderer had left would the thought suddenly come, "Why, that must have been the Wandering Jew."

Where is he now? No one knows. Wandering, weary, he moves from place to place. Sometimes he is driven off by the people, he looks so uncanny. When war breaks out, he says to himself, "Perhaps now at last the end of the world is coming;" but though wars have lasted a hundred years, they cease at last, and still the Wandering Jew goes on, on.