The Gospel letter to Athens
Sea Of Galilee
used in this book are in the public domain
It was nice to hear from you, and that your wife and family are fine. It
is especially pleasing to hear that you continue in “The Way” despite the opposition of many who call themselves
Those who rejected the words of the Teacher and crucified Him.
You asked in your letter for me to put down on papyrus my reminiscences
of the teacher. These are the words that I told you as a child, and so I have done .
My faithful servant Samuel will carry this letter to you and the church
that is in your house..
The year I was fifteen, I sat under the great teacher Gamaliel...... He
would sometimes lament the delay in the coming of the Messiah..... He would quote Genesis chapter 49 “ The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver
from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him the gathering of the people “ “ Lads”, he
would say, “the sceptre has departed, and Shiloh has not yet come” “The gentiles have seized the power of
life and death from our elders' and we sit in ashes lamenting our fate”
“The whole world is under the hegemony of Rome , the final empire as the prophet Daniel said,
but what of Jerusalem?... Have we been forgotten by our GOD ?”
Every woman in Judah hoped to be the one to bear this special child that would be our Prince. So much more so
that those who were barren were outcasts and despised among our people......
There were prophets in the land in those days, and several that pretended to be so, that the land was in constant
turmoil.... rebellion was an ever present thing, with the Zealots seeking a prince and too many ambitious men all too willing
to rise up against Rome-- to their doom, of course, their bodies hung on crosses half way to the seacoast on more than one
And many in our midst not wanting “deliverance” from Rome, worshiping the Roman peace rather than
GOD their Creator.... These lost souls ever ready to offer a pinch of incense to a pagan altar affirming that, for them at
least,“Caesar is Lord”....
Now we in Jerusalem had been hearing about a prophet called John that was baptizing people in the Jordan river
of all places... Why he was doing it in the Jordan was unclear. After all, every faithful Jew was ritually cleansed or baptized
periodically for spiritual as well as physical cleanliness.... This John seemed to be announcing the coming Messiah. However,
there had been so many in our generation doing and saying this that no one in our circle (the elite of Jerusalem) paid much
attention. Some poor folk did, but not the well informed. This John also preached loudly against spiritual wickedness of our
religious leaders. Father had much to say about that one evening, cautioning us to be careful about vocalizing our thoughts.....
“This man will come to a bad end”, he said. “The law says that “under the testimony of two or three
a man may be put to death.” By speaking out so about our rulers he speaks out against our social order”. Be cautious
and circumspect and you will be left in peace. Follow such men and you will be cut down by them” (meaning our rulers)..
Now, we had some fields in the Galilee, and so I was sent with two servants to oversee the harvest.
The 2nd day of the harvest, at the appointed time, practically no
one had shown up to work in the fields, so I walked down into the village to see where our workers were. I found almost everyone
gone, with the few left walking out of the village towards a large hillside where a crowd had formed....When I was closer,
I could hear a rabbi (I supposed) teaching. I elbowed through the crowd nearer, and my fine clothes forbade anyone from disputing
As I approached, I could hear him saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness:
for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the
children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness'
sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil
against you falsely, for my sake.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so
persecuted they the prophets which were before you. ….............................................................................”
And many more such words that moved the Earth, and tugged on my heart-- Who was this man, this teacher? I had
never before heard such words.....
He talked about the faithful being the salt and light of the Earth,, and that HE came to fulfill the Law...
At that statement my heart skipped a beat, and he talked about the kingdom of heaven and righteousness. He taught
that Sin begins in the heart and if you transgress in your heart, you transgress the law. And many other things...
Then many sick came to Him and I saw Him heal them and wondered after that man.....
Surely, a prophet is in the Galilee !!!!!
It was later I heard in Jerusalem that this teacher had called fishermen and tax collectors to be his deciples! My
father mocked, saying “and a great prophet is risen in Israel, and half naked fishermen and tax collectors are his deciples?
Search the scriptures, does a prophet rise out of Galilee? No of course not! Our promised one will rise out of Bethlehem Ephratah, a prince who will drive out the Romans, not
some beggar from the Galilee!
For Micah says:
But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, thou be little among the thousands of Judah, out
of thee shall he come forth unto me, to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth from of old, from everlasting”.
After a moment, father continued:”Except of course for those many collaborators who look
There was also a humorous story about how the teacher had for some reason cursed a herd of
swine east of the sea who had then ran off a cliff into the sea drowning themselves at his command. People shook their heads,
snickered, then went back to their daily lives. When I heard of it, I wished I could have been to there see what had really
happened. You know how these stories grow in every re-telling.
My cousin Saul came to stay a day with us on his way from the Jordan to the seacoast. Spending
the night, at supper he brought up the Teacher and was rudely silenced by my father. Later, I quietly visited my cousin in
his bedroom to hear the latest about the Teacher. In whispers, he shared that Jesus had said that those who believe in Him
and tell others He will confess before his father. This Teacher implies his father is God? A very unusual unsettling thought
for a Jew. How can a man's father be God? Once again I know that I haven't heard the whole story. Cousin Saul also said that
the baptizer, John, had been arrested and put in prison. I shared what I had seen and heard while in the Galilee, and we marveled
together. Cousin Saul also said the Teacher had taught that belief in him would divide families. Certainly, this was true
in my family. I believe Jesus is the teacher sent from God and my father won't hear about it!
"Date setters", teacher Gamaliel exclaimed. "A curse of our people. Every few years, someone reads the prophets and does a little calculating
and comes up with a date when Messiah is supposed to come. Over the years, in my lifetime, several teachers have whipped up
enthusiasm over Daniel's prophecies , and have of course been wrong every time. The prophet Daniel gave a list of the four
great world empires, and Israel is not among them. Since, as I previously mentioned in another lecture, that the scepter has
already departed from Judah, I do not think a Messiah will come. Many today even ask what is a Messiah? Even why should we
not be grateful for the Roman peace?"
I found his lecture disturbing. How could anyone be grateful to Rome for anything? True, Rome
no longer allowed the constant warfare of city against city, but at what cost? And what about this Messiah thing? Certainly
this teacher Jesus does not look like the Messiah we are expecting. Of course I later did the numbers of Daniel's 70 week
prophecy again, but when was it supposed to start? Any number of teachers had their own opinion. Who is to say which one is
And by the way, what of Daniel saying the Messiah would be cut off and then Jerusalem destroyed?
How can that possibly be true if Messiah is to come and lead Judah to world hegemony? Very confusing. Sighing, I dusted my
Ink, then rolled up my scroll. Let's hope Gamaliel accepts my lesson. This week will be difficult with an exam before Yom
We're supposed to remember so much. Teacher wants us to stand up before the class" and recite
three more chapters of the law and two Psalms by the exam date. I, like others, I have a hard time remembering memorizing
them. And, I have a hard time remembering the commentary written by the elders on every part of Hebrew life. I am sure glad
my heritage is from Judah and not the priestly class. They generally must have the entire law in their minds. There was no
way I could do that. For me, being a merchant prince of Judah is hard enough.
The thing I find distressing is the Levites have the law and keep an outward show of it. They
look, speak and even smell holy (they overdo the perfume, so it makes one wonder how long ago they had a bath). I laugh to
myself and put up my scrolls for bed, and blow out the lamp. From down the hall, I hear a low snicker "another two nights
of lamp oil" my brother mocks. I ignore him and go to bed.
More pilgrims up to Jerusalem for the feast. I hear them babbling around a nearby table outside
the bakery as I also eat some bread cheese from a noon meal. Sounds like they will be coming to the temple after lunch. They
talk about where they are from, One man mentions he has just come up from Bethlehem for the day. Says he hears that Jesus
might be in the city. Another says "you mean Jesus of Nazareth"? The man smiles, "no, Jesus of Bethlehem. He was born in Bethlehem".
I stopped chewing my bread almost choking on it. "Bethlehem?" Another asked in doubt somewhat mocking. "Yes", the first man
answers. "My neighbor remembers the family. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, his family was forced to flee to Egypt when Herod
was killing the children in Bethlehem. They returned to live in Nazareth after Herod's death."
I could barely move, I was so amazed. I managed to swallow my bread, and stared at the man.
He stared back annoyed. I found my voice "Bethlehem" I asked "you're sure". "Yes young man, Bethlehem" he replied. "I should
know. Some of his family still lives there. They talk about him." I got some more information about them, then in wonder,
stumble back to our classroom. Could this Jesus somehow be the Messiah? “Bethlehem Ephrata, you are least in the tribe
of Judah yet out of you shall come Him who was to rule Israel...."
I was just not able to listen to the afternoon lesson and was rebuked by the teacher. After
the class, I talked with some of my classmates. Some few marveled, most scoffed. One, a lad a couple years younger than myself,
noted that he had heard that Jesus was or had just been at Bethany, A short walk from Jerusalem, and that he taught last evening
in a Grove in the Kidron Valley. "He may be there this evening" John said after all the scoffers had left. "My house is on
the wall near there. Come visit this evening and we can go out the gate nearby, and see him". Five of us agreed. I sent my
servant home, to say I would be at this friend's home, and to return promptly. After this, we trooped out the school gate
and slowly ambled across the city, talking animatedly about this Jesus. We arrived late afternoon. John has sent his servant
in search of Jesus, and he returned with the news as we sat at meat. "Jesus and a small crowd of followers are in the garden,
" his servant reported. We enthusiastically grabbed a bag of bread to eat between us and followed the servant out. It only
took a few minutes to find the garden, and a short while later we saw Jesus surrounded by about 100 people sitting around
a fire. As we came closer, we could hear Jesus talking about faith and righteousness. He said how only a few find God. He
likened a few as those who entered the house by the low narrow door where one had to bow low to enter. All the rest walked
proudly through a city gate down the hillside to the Gahanna. The city dump, where there was always a fire burning the refuse
from the city, signifying the hellfire of the damned.
He told a story about sheep and shepherds and how they enter by the door of the sheepfold,
but that thieves and robbers enter another way. Meaning, I suppose that there is only one way to find God. He then taught
about false teachers that are like wolves who sneak in among the sheep and devour them rend them from the truth. "By their
fruit, you will know them" he said. Jesus also talked about on what truths a man will build his life, telling a story about
building a house on a rock or choosing to build a house on sand that would be washed away when the storm came. We listened
in rapt attention. Everything he said was in the form of story. Some plain, some very hard to understand. Finally, he told
everyone it was getting late, and we needed to go to our homes. He lifted up his hand and blessed us, then left upthe hillside
toward the village. We walked back to Jerusalem, marveling at what we had heard.
This man was indeed a prophet from God. But was He the sent one, the Messiah? We didn't know.
But we were sure it was only a matter of time before we would find out. This Jesus was an outsider to the plots and politics
in the temple. It was certain there would be a confrontation between Jesus and the Sanhedrin. A couple days later, we heard
that the elders had been annoyed that Jesus had healed people on the Sabbath, but Jesus had then left for the Galilee.
The test I passed, and just barely, as I had some difficulty reciting the chapters in front
of the class. But I did it, and although the teacher showed some impatience, nevertheless he gave me a passing grade. The
holy days past, and it was still further rumors about the Teacher from Nazareth.
We did hear that the prophet John the Baptist are had been beheaded by Herod after a drunken
party. But that was all. And his followers had then gone in search of Jesus. About that time, I was sent by my father to the
Galilee to inventory the results of the harvest and the size of our herds. Or more exactly to keep a watchful eye on the family
steward tasked with that job. As father always says, "find people you can trust then watch them so they remain honest." The
third day of the inventory, the two of us had ridden our donkies down by the sea to water them and check on, number our sheep
grazing there. A crowd was assembling, and I glimpsed the teacher Jesus in the midst. The steward was somewhat annoyed by
all these people trampling down our pasture, but I said "let them be, I want to hear what the teacher says". I allowed my
servant and his young son to water the donkeys. We heard Jesus preach and heal people for some time. But it was getting late
and we finally went back to the donkeys and servants. Once there, we found my servant, but on asking, found his young son
had taken his supper, some few loaves and fish, and had gone over to where Jesus and his followers were standing. We then
saw that Jesus was sending out baskets of loves and fish, from where he got the food we didn't know. Then my servant's son
returned and told us that he had given his supper to Jesus disciples, and Jesus and blessed it, pouring it into a basket which
then somehow became full of food, and filled many other baskets from that one. We were amazed by this miracle, as were all
around. Jesus shortly departed by boat, and we left as well. We stayed in the Galilee near Bethesda in our house next to the
sea. The people were familiar with the teacher here, They knew his family and were somewhat upset that Jesus was running around
as an itinerant teacher. And anyway, what respectable teacher would have unlearned fishermen and laborers as his disciples?
"We knew him when" was the attitude. They found it interesting he did miracles, or so it seemed to them. But after all how
could he be special? He was just one of us. Where did he get his teachings? He never sat at the foot of the great teachers
in Jerusalem. He was never a disciple of any of them. He was a carpenter like his father. So, despite Jesus words and healings,
they did not regard him as anyone important. Even his family wished he would stay home and not make a spectacle of himself.
I also heard that some had repeated a story of Jesus saying that He will go up to Jerusalem
and suffer many things from the scribes and Pharisees. The Pharisees asked for a sign from Jesus as to who He is. Jesus reportedly
replied to the Pharisees that the only sign this generation will see as a sign of Jonah-that like Jonah, he would be in the
abyss three days and nights and rise again. So again, I marveled. Was this not what the prophet Daniel said? That the Messiah
would be cut off, killed before the destruction of Jerusalem? And that my own mathematical reckoning of Daniel chapter nine's
483 years would end in a few months time?
So, after the inventory of the harvest and livestock, once again I made for home in Jerusalem.
For the first time I seriously considered that if this teacher was the Messiah, and both his and Daniels words told of the
destruction of Jerusalem after his death, my family should leave Jerusalem. When I made Jerusalem, after two days of rest
(it was a cold hard journey) I met my friends who are as interested in the Messiah as I myself and we discussed the matter
at some length. There was still much to be learned. Among other things, we noted that Jesus had been reported to have said
that the Temple would be razed to the ground and even the paving stones torn up in this generation.
In a village outside Jerusalem, again I saw Jesus as He paused outside a bakery, some of his
disciples standing around him, while others are inside begging bread. I approach him and asked "Master, what good thing must
I do to have eternal life"? Jesus replied, “why do you ask me about what is good. Only God is good. If you want life,
follow the Commandments." "Which Commandments, I asked?" (There are hundreds)! Jesus answered "do not murder, do not steal,
do not commit adultery, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, love your neighbor as yourself." I answered
him "I've done all these things" Jesus replied "if you want to be perfect, go sell all you have, give to the poor and you
will have treasure in heaven, and follow me."
I stood there for a moment, not believing what I heard. How can I do that? I have responsibilities.
And sadly Jesus looked at me, and I turned and walked away. I heard him say as I paused away off, "it is hard for a rich man
to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to see the
Kingdom of God."
My mind was in turmoil. I had been rebuffed by the teacher. He had said that only if I became
a pauper could I follow him? How could this be possible? Is the kingdom of God only for the wretched, the poor, the outcast?
What about a man's responsibilities in this life? Must a tradesman, a Smith, a carpenter, leave his family in poverty, want,
destitution, in order to someday live in the Kingdom? The Law rebukes those who do not take care of our families. It did not
make sense, it was impossible, I did not understand. By that standard, no one was good enough to find God's kingdom.
The day after this, I was sitting at the Eastern gate with my father. He had business with
another merchant there, when, we heard shouting "hosanna to the son of David, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord."
We then saw Jesus rise slowly into the gate on a donkey, the multitudes throwing palm branches in the way. I found myself
being swept along with the throng of people. This was the teacher Jesus and entering Jerusalem as a king on a donkey, presenting
himself as Messiah and King! And so we all followed him towards the temple. When we reached the temple gate, Jesus dismounted
the donkey and walked up the long stairs into the temple. Everyone eagerly watched to see what would happen next. I pushed
to the front of the mob and was in the wave of people that made their way through the gate into the temple just behind Jesus.
He stood for several long moments, then strolled over to the moneychangers, overturned their tables, then finding a whip and
driving them out of the gate exclaiming "It is written, my house shall be called a house of prayer, but you made it a den
of thieves". Jesus then healed many people and was rebuked by the priests for the spectacle, the people praising him as a
son of David their king. The priest demanded from him “by whose authority do you do these things”?, for the priesthood
give their permission to do commerce in the Temple. Indeed, they had made it a law that only "holy" pure sacrifices blessed
by them were permitted to be sacrificed in the Temple. The whole population must buy doves and animals within the Temple to
sacrifice for their sins, so that the sellers and priests made much money from their edict.
Jesus answered by a question "if you answer my question I'll answer yours-was the baptism of
John from heaven or from men?" They dared not answer the question for if they said from man they would be stoned by the people,
for the people held John to be a prophet of God and if they said from God Jesus would ask them why did you not believe him?
So they merely said "we do not know". So Jesus replied "then I will not tell you by whose authority I do these things."
In front of the whole congregation Jesus rebuked the scribes and Pharisees in stories and parables.
After a time, he left the Temple and walked back outside the city to the nearby village. A day later, as I again stood in
the gate, I heard the priests had taken counsel together to kill the teacher. For they had said, "but we must take him quietly,
lest there be an uproar among the people, lest we be stoned."
Again, my mind went back to Daniels prophecy "and He shall be cut off and have nothing due
Him as Messiah and King". I was both somewhat excited and sad in anticipation of what would soon occur. I wanted to make an
effort to follow this man very closely. A couple days later, late on the evening of the preparation of the Passover, I was
watching the rising moon from our balcony over the street, saw my friend Simon hurrying down the street. As I was about to
call down to him, he saw me and stopped. "Jason," he called out quietly, "they have taken Jesus. He is before the Sanhedrin
right now! Can you come with me? I'm going to watch at the high priest house." "They won't let me out”, I replied.”
My fathers steward has bolted the gate and set the watch. Tell me what happens, but be careful!" Simon quietly ascented, Then
hurried off in the darkness.
Jesus arrested! While I had intellectually accepted that it was likely to happen, the reality,
the significance of this struck me like a hammer. Of all the generations that have lived, I get to see this happen. I could
not sleep. At first light, I was up to break my fast, and was walking toward the front of the house into the atrium as the
day watch servant was unbolting the gate. As I approached the door, he was startled "where to this early, young master?" "Tell
the steward I have early business with Simon Ben Jonathan" I retorted as I pushed open the gate. I had buckled on a short
sword under my overcoat as many young gentleman did and the servant not quite mentioned this-but it was early in the day and
maybe that was sufficient reason. I arrived at Simon's house just after the door had been opened. I inquired of Simon, and
was told he was at breakfast, having just come in an hour earlier at dawn. He looked a little tired. He looked up as he bit
into some fruit. "Condemned", was his first word. "Being sent to Pilate." "Why" I asked? "They want him dead, but want someone
else to do it", he replied. "Maybe so the mob won't stone them, I don't know. Sit, Jason, the lambs milk is good this morning,
warm and sweet, tender fruit, divine," the syrup dribbling down his chin. I did as I was bid. "So, they are taking him to
Pilate? This morning?" "Yes," he nodded. "In a couple hours. It was after midnight when I got some rest in John's garden.
Our fathers are away, so no one cares. As soon as I finish here and change, I'm going back. You coming?” Simon asked.
"Wild horses, even my fathers chief steward," Jason said with a grin "could not keep me away. This is really good fruit.”
Over 100 Temple guards and a mob of hangers on were outside the chief priests mansion as we
approached. This gave us an excuse to come close and watch what was going to happen. It appeared we were just in time, since
very shortly after we arrived, many Temple soldiers led Jesus outside in company with quite a few priests dressed in their
finest Temple robes. It promised to be quite an occasion. It only took a few minutes to reach Pilates' Hall. Only a few of
the Temple soldiers and priests were allowed in, but the mob pressing close behind forced the doors remain open and we were
among those in the press. We found ourselves only a few feet from the priests. The chief priest began to address the governor
as soon as he was bid. Pilate cut him off with a wave of the hand after a few pompous sentences, motioning the soldiers to
bring Jesus closer. Staring down at him from his throne, he demanded, "are you the king of the Jews?" Having been well aware
of Jesus triumphal entry to Jerusalem a few days before. Jesus replied "yes, you say it"
The chief priests interrupted, loudly claiming that Jesus sought the Jews to rebel against
Caesar, had even said that he was God, that he taught things that would overthrow the present order and much more. Pilate
held up his hand to silence them, Looking to Jesus and waiting for defense. However, Jesus said nothing. The priests started
accusing again, but Pilate once again held up his hand to stop them, then addressed Jesus "do you have no answer", and when
no answer was made, marveled at this.
Now, the custom was that at the feast the governor would release a prisoner to the people.
Realizeing that Jesus was likely innocent, He cried out to the mob overfilling his judgment hall. "Is it your will that at
this time I release to you the king of the Jews?" Pilate knew that Jesus had done no wrong. The priests and then the mob cried
out "no, release to us Barabbas the zealot." (Who had made insurrection against Rome). And Pilate asked "and what shall I
do to him you call King of the Jews”? many called out "we have no king but Caesar" the priests and then the mob cried
out "crucified him, crucify him". Pilate asked again, "why, what evil has he done"? The priests loudly stated "if you free
this man you are no friend of Caesar". And the mob even louder cried out “crucified him, let his blood be upon us and
on our children". Pilate, fearful of a tumolt rising, ordered Barabbas released and Jesus crucified. Then the soldiers took
"And let us get out of here," Simon said, as Jesus was led into the main hall , the soldiers
barracks to be scourged before his crucifixion. As the mob was filtering out the gate much slower than it had stormed in,
it was not as hard to avoid being trampled as we left. We made for the other side of the street and into a merchants doorway.
He was a seller of fruit and wine, so we purchased a draught and stood there watching the entrance to the great Hall. We could
not see what was happening inside, but after a while a badly beaten man was led out by a cohort of Roman soldiers and a passerby
was coerced into carrying his cross. By his clothes, we thought this was the teacher Jesus being led away, and as quite a
number of the mob followed after him, we did likewise; at a distance.
He was being led by a rope tied to his bound wrists, barely staggering along. Every once in
a while, he would fall and be roughly jerked back to his feet by the jeering soldiers sneering "hail to the King of the Jews,
all bow the knee to the King of the Jews" with much vulgar laughter. We then noticed a pair of bruised and bleeding scantily
clad prisoners also being drug through the streets behind us carrying their crosses to their crucifixion. People watched from
rooftops and alleyways and a few more idlers joined the mob to go see the spectacle. It took most of an hour just to reach
the city gate, and much longer up the Hill to the place of crucifixions. The condemned were thrown down at the base of three
large trees. Their cross pieces were dropped next to their heads. The hands are untied A large soldier sat on the chest of
each man as two soldiers grabbed each arm, placing them on top of the cross piece as a third soldier positioned the nail over
the whimpering condemned's wrist, then when a single stroke of the hammer drove the nail through the wrist into the wood.
Then another blow, and the nail head was flattened against the wrist. Then as they writhed in agony, these other soldiers
grimly held the other wrist over the wood cross piece and the other nail was driven home as well.
Once all three had been nailed to the cross piece, it was used to hoist the twitching rithing
pitiful wretches a couple feet off the ground, then lifting up their legs, bending them at the knees, driving a third spike
through both feet at shoulder height of the soldiers. That way the condemned could push down against the nail fastening their
feet to the cross raising themselves up just enough to breathe, then the agony in their feet overcoming their need for air,
collapsing down to be wrenched by the agony of the nails in their wrists- up and down, up and down they strained for each
breath. After a while, the high priest and several of his lackeys arrived from the city and mocked Jesus, heaping vicious
abuse on him as he strained for every breath. "Show us you are God now they taunted, come down from the cross and we will
believe you" they mocked and ridiculed, laughing to each other. "See, by Satan's power he healed others, himself he cannot
save." Finally, being tired of their abuse, they left some of their kinsman to watch over the preceding, and went back home
to keep the Passover meal.
I was overcome by revulsion at what I was seeing but at the same time I cannot take my eyes
off the Christ that I was now sure he was. This went on for three hours, the two criminals also mocking Jesus. Finally one
of them went silent, repented, asking Jesus to remember him when Jesus entered his kingdom. About the ninth hour, midafternoon,
Jesus cried out "my God my God why have you forsaken me?" Some asked "he calls for Elijah?" One man lifted a rag soaked in
vinegar and held it to his lips. Then a few minutes later, the teacher cried out "it is finished" and died. The Earth did
greatly quake and many graves were opened around us, but not one body could be seen within them.
The centurian and soldiers greatly feared of this, saying "this was indeed the son of God."
And darkness was over the land for some time. Before sunset, the soldiers broke the legs of the two criminals so that they
suffocated and died, but Jesus was already dead. Then a rich man came out of Jerusalem with his servants holding a decree
from Pilate to allow him to bury Jesus body. Shortly, his servants lowered him down as I used my sword to pry out the nails
from his feet and his wrists, having tenderness for him and his weeping mother and friends a few paces away. I accompanied
them to this man's tomb. I saw them wrap the teacher in grave clothes with much myre and aloes. Later, the great stone was
rolled across the entrance to his tomb. An official hastily arrived from Pilate with a troop of soldiers, who placed a royal
seal on the stone so no one could move it, and actually set a guard! After all, this teacher had said that like Jonah, after
three days and nights, he would rise from the dead and the priests were terrified someone would steal the body and say that
he was arisen. I found this all sadly humorous, as if God did indeed raise Jesus no Roman seal would stop it!
Finally, we set out for our homes. I washed thoroughly before arriving home so not to upset
my father who I was sure would be finally home from his business in Caesarea....
1 entry 2 shops 4/12 pools 3 Atrium 8 bedrooms 5 office 7 dining 11 garden 6 sitting 9 slaves
I arrived home just as the sun was setting. The night watch servant had not yet bolted the
door, realizing I should be back soon. With some relief, he closed it behind me and barred it for the night. “We were
wondering where you were” he said. “But your father was too busy telling everyone about his journey to notice”.
For once I was thankful for his preoccupation-or was it benign neglect. The servants wanted me as a friend so no one would
gossip about me to my parents. I went around the atrium and directly to my room and put on a new tunic for the feast. I could
hear my father telling how he had bested a Syrian merchant as I entered the dining hall and quietly sat with others of my
age. It had to have been a half-hour later when he at last noticed me. He fixed his eyes on me briefly then continued on with
the story. It was hard to get a word in when father was talking. People said (behind his back) that he was so interested in
himself that if the roof fell in he would not notice. Mother, somewhat impatiently, finally took his hand and said "husband,
the feast" and he finally broke off his harangue, noted that everything and everyone seemed to be in their place-except for
me whom he may have thought was sulking in a corner-but opened the evening with a prayer that seem to go on forever until
he finally stopped with a start. It must've been mother again, I smiled to myself. Then the Passover began with the ritual
question from my younger sister "why is this night different from all other nights" and father and his brother told the story
of the Passover and our people's flight from Egypt.
This went on until very late, the children nodding off in their places. My father got up and
went out briefly, and I chose that moment to leave for my room. Thankfully, I was not missed. I did not want a confrontation
with my father about where I'd been that day. Passover day, no travel was permitted, so I stayed in my room and on the balcony.
I found doing my lesson work helped me put the previous day's events at least somewhat in the background. Being in two schools
did not make it any easier. On the first day of the week I was in the Gamaliel's school for religious studies, and the rest
of the week in the school of Nahor the Benjamite for more useful topics such as math, science, trade, and other things that
a successful merchant Prince needed to know. It took all day, but by the evening meal I had finished the last of my homework.
The meal was held in silence for once, not even father was his usual gregarious self. Finally it was over, and I returned
The next day, all the men went to the temple, and the day after that is well. Finally, the
first day of the week was next, and I approached our chief steward. "I need to spend the night at Simons house, Steward, to
help study for tomorrow mornings class at Gamalel's school." After a moment, he allowed it and I was gone an hour before dark,
having avoided my father during the feast.
It was just getting dark when I reached Simon's house. However, a little banging
brought the watch and he unbolted the door to let me in, remarking about the late hour for a young man to be walking the dark
streets. I pleasantly greeted him however, as it is wise not to alienate others servants. Simon had heard me come in and peered
over the balcony down at me "Jason, good, come up" he offered. And to a servant, "get Master Jason some wine and meat." When
I entered his room, I saw his lessons and manuscripts laid out all over the place. "Watch where you step" he'd needlessly
urged. "I'm compared scrolls on the Messiah. It's amazing what there really is about him." He enthused. "Maybe we should write
a book on just this subject." "And be crucified as well?" I asked. "No thanks, but we do need to keep a record", Simon insisted,
and I readily agreed. "but privately," I reminded. Simon replied "I think a lot is going to happen, and Jesus and the prophets
say it is is going to be bad." With that, I quietly agreed. "What of tomorrow's class?" I asked. "I brought my lesson, have
you done yours?" Simon laughed. "I guess," he said. I looked at him. "I mean it's written, but I don't know if it will pass"
Simon retorted. With that, we sat down and I read over his work and he over mine. "I think this is fairly good" Simon, I said.
"You could've done a lot more work on it, but it should pass" Simon frowned, "I know", he said. "But my mind/our minds, he
corrected, have been on other things." What if Jesus is resurrected and walks into the temple tomorrow?" I asked. Simon just
looked at me, closed his eyes and shook his head. We both gazed out the balcony. Toward the north, you can see the hill of
Golgotha and we silently wondered on it.
I could not sleep. Tossed, turned; my mind racing with all kinds of possibilities. Finally
I awoke with a start-to total silence. Feeling very thirsty, I got out of bed and groggily walked out to the balcony to get
some of the wine we had not quite drank late last night. I shivered in the early morning chill, a ghostly light before dawn
barely making the darkness flee. Then, in the corner of my eye, I saw the flash of a meteor that seem to continue all the
way to the earth; to Golgotha! I realized with a start that I could see a brightly glowing figure standing next to the tomb
where Jesus had been laid. The guards were gone, it seemed. After a few moments I thought; was that an angel Who moved the
great stone aside that has been securing the door of the tomb?. He then entered and his radiance glowed out of the tomb, so
I then saw the soldiers on their faces outside. Then the light went out, and the half light before Dawn returned. I found
myself just standing there, thunderstruck at what I had just seen. I'd forgotten the wine cup in my hand until I noticed it
again as I turned and some splashed out. Then I took a quick drink and was off to get Simon.
I ran into Simon's room and somehow managed not to quite yell into his ear "Simon Simon he
is risen he is risen". Simon awoke with a start, my self dabbling that I had seen an angel who had rolled away the stone to
the tomb. Simon jumped out of bed and ran past me to the balcony then trying to see in the half light which tomb it was in
which the teacher had been laid, then paused in wonder when he saw the stone had been rolled away, the soldiers milling around.
"He's gone, Simon, I said. Risen." Simon's mother entered, somewhat annoyed by the noise. "Why are you boys waking the house",
she demanded. I found my voice "lady, the master is risen from the dead." I added. “I saw an Angel descend from heaven,
rolling the stone away from the tomb, and he went inside and his glory lit the whole area!" She looked at me as if I or maybe
she has seen a ghost. "See the tomb, lady," I pointed? The stone was rolled away, the soldiers are leaving as well. And we
watched from the balcony. Finally, she shivered "I am going back to bed" then went back inside.
We looked at each other. "Breakfast then?" Simon asked in wonder. "We leave for the tomb, then
we can get to the class on time" I replied. “Would they like to hear about this?" Simon breathed. , I said to Simon,
"quietly, Simon, we tell just a few friends. We don't want to get in trouble. We make a big thing about this, and we might
find ourselves before the elders and we don't want that, do we? Especially my father. He would be angry if we got involved
in this. So, quietly, my friend, quietly." Reluctantly, Simon nodded and we finished breakfast in silence.
The sun had been up an hour when the steward unbolted the house gate and let us out. "To school,"
we said, and tried not to hurry down the street. As soon as we around the corner, we ran as quickly as possible to the city
gate, and towards the tomb. From a distance we saw a man and a woman standing there. But after passing through a grove hiding
the place , we only saw a woman running away from the tomb. A few minutes later we arrived, but neither of us wanted to be
the first to go in. I encouraged myself and stepped into the tomb followed by Simon. No one was there. The grave clothes were
there, however, still glued together like a cocoon without the host. The person inside obviously had been raised and passed
right through them on his way-where? Heaven? I could not move, so frozen was I in awe at the site. After a couple minutes,
Simon said "we must go." I softly agreed and we walked back outside into the morning light. As we walked away, back to the
city, we could see several people hurrying towards the tomb from a nearby village. We did not want to talk with them, as we
would be late to class, so we hurried on our way.
We were late, a few minutes, earning a disapproving look from the teacher's assistant. However,
Gamaliel had not yet arrived and the assistant was only gathering up the homework assignments. We gave them ours and he sighed,
motioning us to the last seats in the back of the classroom. After a few minutes of looking through the morning lesson scroll,
the teacher entered and we patiently sat through the morning lesson.
As we filed out of the classroom, I invited five of our friends I thought we could trust to
have lunch with us. Once out in the street, I motioned them to the side and in a few sentences described our adventure of
the morning, especially the angel rolling the stone away. One scoffed, the others incredulous, wondering at what I had seen.
We then made our way to the wine merchant whose well-known enterprise was only just down the street. We quietly discussed
this business as we sat in the corner around a small low table. The exchange was quite sharp at one point, drawing unwanted
attention from other customers. Too soon, lunch time was over and we had to be back for the afternoon class. As I left, a
strong hand grabbed my arm and his owner demanded "an angel rolled away the stone, and he is risen?" "Yes," I angrily exclaimed
as I wrenched my arm from his grasp. He just stared, stood there in consternation, as I hurried to catch up with my friends.
The afternoon was boring. Of what use is it to know what some Rabbi 200 years ago thought of
the proper way of handwashing?. I mean, surely, there are more important things to discuss. So we sat there hour after hour
as the Rabbi droned on about this and that authority on the subject. Finally, the Rabbi paused, noticed most of his class
was nodding off. Then, looking sad and resigned, ended the day with homework instructions for the week. We were so glad to
leave. How much longer am I going to have to sit in that classroom, and listen to things that are not really important? Time
seemed to be going so slowly. Anyway, surely not more than another year or so. Another year-that seemed forever. As I enter
the house, the servant on the day watch stopped me and said "the chief steward would like to see you". And so, with a grimace,
I walked over to his office. The steward looked up from his work. "Young master," he began, "I was hearing something distressing
from the servants of another house, they recommended caution on our part." I know by our part he meant me. So here it comes.
"Reliably, you were seen at Golgotha when the teacher Jesus was crucified. You even helped take him off the tree?" His eyebrows
raised. "Yes steward," I said. “I took pity on his mother weeping at the foot of the cross and used my sword to pry
the nails out of his feet and wrists. I wiped my sword on cloth so I did not get his blood on my hands or clothes, I added.
“I did not want to be rebuked for touching a dead body before Passover.' He frowned. "You draw our attention to yourself"
he retorted. "That can be bad. As your father says, do business quietly, give no occasion for our rulers to notice us and
you will live long and prosper." "Yes steward" I replied. He motioned me out, and I left. I sure hope I don't hear about this
at dinner tonight.
Thankfully, father was preoccupied at dinner and mother fussed over something or other that
they had argued over it seemed. So once more I seemed to have dodged the consequences of our actions. I resolve to myself
to be more careful. The chief steward was right.
The next morning, I met Simon and Stephen at the door of Nahor's school. After waiting outside
with others for a short while, we were bid to enter and took our places. Shortly, Nahor himself came into the classroom to
teach the morning lesson. It surprised us a little is most of the teaching was done by his assistants. However it seemed he
was to do the morning lesson. What he first said surprised us. "The events surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth
has the elders in a very anxious state. It is even been rumored that he is risen. The soldiers guarding the tomb say privately
that an angel rolled away the stone. They were given money to say that the body was stolen in the night. What the truth is,
I don't know. Whatever happened, however, will result in serious trouble here I think. If this man actually was the promised
one, my early training does say that the wrath of God will be poured out upon our city. It behooves us to be vigilant and
listen for the approaching hoofbeats of the coming trouble."
"Part of the reason for this school is to educate you of the political realities of our time
so you will be better able to do our families business. Do business quietly and beneath the watch of our rulers. The temple
rulers are religious zealots who would kill you for the least objection to their rules; law. The political zealots,the mob
in the streets, would kill any traitor to their ambitions to throw out the Romans and set up a rule that would be as oppressive
as that of the religious zealots. And, we have Rome who is trying to keep some sort of tranquil peace over all this chaos
bubbling up from beneath.
The best analogy I have is a Roman soldier sitting on a boiling pot trying to keep the lid
on." Everyone snickered. "Every once in a while, some steam raises the lid and his tender parts of scorched." Outright laughter
erupted. "We quietly do business amid this chaos. And if the time comes, we run for our lives. My personal opinion is that
it may well come soon. The trouble is, define soon. I have a house on the coast in Caesarea to flee to if the streets erupted
Civil War. So take heed, and do as you think prudent." With that, Nahor rolled open the scroll on the natural sciences and
began the daily lesson.
After the lunch break, one of Nahor's assistants took over the class. But just a few minutes
into the class, a Temple soldier, an officer, stood in the doorway briefly, then Nahor followed him into the classroom. “Jason”,
Nahor sternly said as he towered over me. “The Temple guard wants to talk with you”. With that, he drew me to
my feet by my arm and walked me out of the classroom. I was afraid. There were several other Temple guards outside the classroom.
One soldier took each of my hands and I was led out into the street right up the Hill. I tried to ask why, but was rudely
silenced by the officer. It only took a few minutes until we found ourselves outside the high priest's house. Then I knew
for sure what kind of trouble I was in. Someone had reported what I've seen. I was led into the outer courtyard by the officer.
The rest of the soldiers waited outside. We shortly rounded a large fountain with trellises of grapevines and I saw several
priests with their assistants sitting around who I assumed was the high priest.
One of the assistants, a great hulking fellow, stood up and approached and stood over me. The
high priest motioned the officer away. "What did you see, young man," one of the priests asked, in a kind voice. Somehow I
found my own voice and said "an Angel" that I repeated "I saw an Angel, descend from its the sky, and rolled the stone away
from the tomb, and go inside" I added. "I was visiting a friend, and went outside on the patio to get a drink at first light.
And I saw a streak as a meteor falling to earth, and I saw the Angel there at the tomb" I babbled on "I know the teacher was
born in Bethlehem", I added, somewhat dazed. I saw some of his family there when I went there on my father's business." The
priest looked at me somewhat shocked, so I defensively added, “he was born in the last couple years of Herod. His family
was warned in a dream to flee to Egypt before Herod killed the children in Bethlehem, and they were there in Egypt until Herod
was dead. Being afraid to return to Bethlehem, they went to live in Nazareth”, I answered.
Absolute silence, the priests looking at one another. "Who else knows this," another priest
finally asked? "I'm sure his family and some of his followers do", I hesitatingly answered. "Who do you think this teacher
was', one of the other priest demanded? I hesitated and my better sense returned just in time and I stuttered "I don't know"
and looked down at my feet.
"You are to mention this to no one else, do you understand"? My inquisitor demanded. I barely
nodded. With a wave of the hand, I was motioned out. The hulking priest assistant dragged me through the courtyard and almost
tossed me out the door. Then he glared at me, turned and went back inside. After a few moments, I gathered myself back together
and walked back to the school. Religious zealots indeed, I thought as I walked. Dangerous men. They will kill anyone who threatens
their authority, power, position. Evil, dangerous men.
I had scarcely gone into the schoolyard when one of the servants told me "go see my master
Nahor.". Quaking inside a bit, I did as I was told. I announce myself at the door of his office and was bid enter . Nahor
stared at me for a few seconds then asked what happened. When I had haltingly told him, he stared off into space a while.
Then, with a start, he looked back at me. "You're in danger, boy," he said. "You had better go home, tell your father, and
be off to the coast out of reach of the Temple zealots. They might do you harm ." "Yes teacher", I said and he motioned me
to leave. I went to the classroom, picked up my scroll, said quietly to Simon, "the priest know what I saw, I'm in trouble,
I may have to go to Caesarea." Then despite the teachers annoyed comment, I left the school, knowing I likely would not be
able to return.
A whole litany of confused thought went through my head as I walked home. Arriving, I went
directly to the chief steward's office, but he was out. So I went up to the balcony and just sat there for a while. I heard
footsteps behind me and heard the voice of my grandmother speaking to me. It was so pleasant, but then I realized with a start
that she had died and was buried months ago. I jumped to my feet turned around and stared in shock. She smiled her kind gentle
smile, step forward and hugged me. "I have missed you so much, my precious boy," she said. "The master Jesus raised us alive
after he rose from the dead. He is Lord and stands at the right hand of God. Tell your father". And with another smile, she
just kind of sort of faded away right in front of me. I just could not move, then broke into tears and wonderful gift I just
Jesus really is who? The Messiah? Even more? Grandmother said she is saw him standing at the
right side of Gods throne. I sat back down heavily, my mind in a jumble of thoughts. And sat there for an hour, or two, I
wasn't quite sure. Then I was summoned to supper by a servant. As there was no point in trying to delay the confrontation
any longer, I dutifully came down the steps into the atrium and to the dining room. Father was lounging at his place at the
head of the table and motioned me to sit next to him. He had an unhappy look on his face. Before he could speak, I said "I
just saw grandmother Sarah. She appeared to me on the balcony, gave me a hug, said she had been raised from the dead by Jesus,
her Lord who stands at the right hand of Jehovah God." Father had a shocked look on his face "on the morning of the first
day of the week, I was up on Simon's balcony getting a drink when I saw an Angel fall from heaven and roll away the stone
from Jesus tomb, then enter. On the way to school, we briefly looked inside and all that was there were grave clothes still
stuck together, but the body was gone.Today, some Temple soldiers dragged me out of my class because some priests wanted to
hear what I saw. Thankfully, they only warned me to keep quiet and let me go." Father looked as if he had seen a ghost "you
saw my mother" he breathed. "Yes father," I replied. "She glowed, just glowed all over, hugged and kissed me, said she was
pleased with me, then just took a step back and faded away. "She said Jesus had raised her and many others from the dead,
and that Jesus is her Lord”. Father frowned, then spoke. "This business with the priests is serious" he said. "First
thing in the morning, you'll go to Caesarea with me. "You will stay there until the danger is over, and you will stay away
from this man's followers, understand?" He looked angry. "I realize is not really your fault, but I don't want you to be where
they can grab you again. Eat your supper" he commanded. As he dug into the dish.
Just after sunrise, as the servants were saddling the mules and loading others, Simon and John
came bursting into the entry . "Jason, Jason," they excitedly exclaimed, “we saw family who had died walking the streets
of Jerusalem". “They said Jesus had raised them up!” " Yes", I replied, " I saw grandmother Sarah late yesterday.
I think it means that Jesus was who he said he was", I continued a little quieter, so no one else could hear. "I'm going to
Caesarea with father, out of the reach of the priests." "How long I will be gone, I don't know" I added. John asked about
school, and “when will we see you again?” "Father said I have to stay away until I'm not in any danger from our
religious leaders", I replied. 'Hopefully, only a few weeks. I'm not going back to the religious school either." They agreed
it was a waste of time. They only went because their parents insisted. Finally, father and mother came out into the atrium,
she fussing about this and that, father only half listening, replying with monosyllables. He mounted his donkey,saying, "enough
already, wife, I will see you upon our return." With that he led the way out into the street. I quickly bade farewell to my
friends and followed the column out the gate.
We rode all morning and briefly paused for lunch. Then, back on the road until late afternoon
when we arrived at one of fathers friends homes quite a ways down the hill from Jerusalem. There was no way we were going
to stay at a public inn along the highway. These were filthy flea invested abodes with food, if you can call it that, that
would gag a maggot. At least at a friends Villa, we would be safe and comfortable for the night. After the evening meal, I
was able to quietly tell others of my age about my adventures and of this man Jesus. While the adults were busy bragging to
each other and drinking too much, we quietly shared until late into the evening.
The next morning, we were on our way again. Midmorning we were passed by a troop of Roman irregular
Calvary pounding their way up to Jerusalem. From bits and pieces of conversation we overheard, it seemed the governor, Pilate,
was getting anxious about the mob and feared trouble. It wasn't until two days later that we passed safely through the gates
of the Roman colony Seaport Caesarea. It had been several years since I'd been there, so I stared with much different eyes
now as I was no longer a child. The street was busy, practically choked with wagons and packed trains ambling on it what seemed
to me to be a painfully slow pace. This procession was not helped by large numbers of hawkers from all manner of businesses
trying to persuade us to enjoy all manner of inns, shops, and, I noticed, with a smile, brothels advertising every manner
of graphic sex in murals on their walls. A number of these sexy sirens leaned out of windows or in doorways, calling out their
talents to the passing crowd. I even had to use my stick to beat back one really insistent harlot who tried to pull me off
my donkey and into her doorway. As we passed wine shop after brothel after bakery the smell of stale wine, stale sweat, and
the dung on the street rose up into the nostrils as a particularly revolting stench. “Hang onto your purse, young master,
my body servant implored. Don't let yourself be lured into one of these places,” he added. “The least you would
lose would be your purse and possibly your life”.
Everyone and everything seemed dirtier than Jerusalem. Rome ruled the world, but brought with
it immorality, corruption of every sort. Rome famously held tenacious grip on the power of life and death, and ignored all
else. We shortly left that quarter and next found ourselves in a more stately part of the city with a little wider streets
and neither harlots nor merchants hawking their wares or themselves. My father's servant banged on a gate and when the proper
words are exchanged, opened to us. Unlike the drab exterior walls, the interior courtyard was charming. Several date and other
fruit trees surrounding two fountains appeared as I entered, along with much Roman statuary. I could see by their poses that
we had exchanged the harlots in the streets for harlots frozen in marble. I grinned. At least these harlots would not be stealing
my purse, Although the relative we were spending time with may possibly want to put his hands in our purses one way or the
other. Our host emerged from his office across the atrium. "Benjamin, Benjamin" he exclaimed "so good to see you." He and
my father embraced. Then he saw me. "Is this truly your son"? He asked. I shyly grinned, nodded, embarrassed. "Little Jason
is grown-up into a handsome man." I blushed a little. "I will have to hide my daughters from him, I think" he jovially joked.
"Come, come inside, you must be hot and tired. My servants will see to your people." So my father and I followed uncle Thomas
inside. It was nicely furnished. Rugs from Persia, lamps of brass, tapestries of beautiful hues, marble vases, many other
really nice things. "It is still an hour before lunch. Would you like to join me up on the roof?" Our host encouraged as we
followed him inside and then up a brass circular staircase over in one corner. Once on the roof, I saw it was a really nice
garden with potted plants everywhere. Looking over the city, I saw we were only a short distance from the man-made harbor.
To the south, was the amphitheatre, its white marble glowing in the midday sun. To the North, was the rowdy district we had
passed through to get here. Between us and the harbor docks were a row of shipping warehouses, one of which was owned by father
and uncle Thomas. Once we were seated, father filled uncle Thomas in with what had happened in Jerusalem, in the last few
"So," father concluded "I thought it prudent to bring Jason here" father said. "Jason needs
to learn more about our shipping business." Uncle replied "Jason is certainly welcome here anytime, and I do have much to
keep them busy." After that they talked business for some time until lunch was served. Yes, work was good, but father still
said I had to go to school; and that there was a good one in the city where all the right people sent their sons. Hector the
Greek tought there. So the next morning I left with father's steward to get me into the school. It turned out the school was
in the Forum, where the laywers and government types kept up a constant harangue before the several magistrates. As we arrived,
we could see that a class was assembling for the day out-of-doors between two fountains which drowned out all the official
nonsense going on around us. After a short time, I was bid sit before the teacher, and the daily instruction began. Even here
though, the events in Jerusalem cast a long shadow. At the midmorning break, several students gathered around talking about
the teacher Jesus.. Various opinions were expressed on what had happened. One asked me "you just came down from Jerusalem?"
I thought to myself I better not say anything so it barely admitted it was so, but that I had no immediate personal knowledge
of the recent events. So they left me alone and animatedly discussed what people had said. Some said Jesus was risen from
the dead and was showing himself to many people. Hundreds were believing in him; the priests were frantically trying to stop
the spread of this "false cult" they called it. At the beginning of the afternoon class, the teacher opinion to us "now we
are Romans, well most of us anyway" he added. "We believe in reason, not in holy men or messiahs. Or fools leading gullible
people to their destruction. I don't want any more talk of this Jewish man-King, Messiah, devil-I don't know. We worship Caesar
, Truth, reason, intellect, philosophy, show us nothing beyond this world but darkness. So we act like men, shine for the
moment, and leave a good report for our descendents to worship at the family shrine."
How pitiful, I thought. His only hope is in darkness. What hope is in that? But I held my tongue
as father had instructed me. And so our afternoon of geometry and other useful things past well enough. One of the boys was
Timothy, who introduced himself as a friend of Simon. We walked home together. "So", he asked, "what really happened?" "Simon
wrote of your adventures a couple days ago, but also counsel caution. It was wise after what we saw today."
"I'm in Caesarea for my safety", I retorted. "Father was afraid of what the religious zealots
would do to me and others who had seen Jesus. If you hear of anyone from Jerusalem looking for me, I must know it once" I
added. I told them of my being dragged before the religious elders and he agreed. "Until tomorrow," Timothy added at my gate.
Then he disappeared into the evening crowd.
The next morning, father counseled me against foolish outbursts and bad companions. I readily
agreed and said nothing about Simon's friend Timothy. After all, I have my own life, and will be careful. On the way to the
school I met up with Timothy and his friend Jonathan. As in Jerusalem, the story of Jesus was on the lips of everyone. I do
not volunteer anything before Jonathan. Timothy noticed but said nothing. As we arrived at the school, a troop of gladiators
Marched by on the way to the stadium, advertising tomorrow's games. Many harlots and better class women dressed up as harlots
hung all over the gladiators they could reach. Many a gladiator adorned rich widows beds and the beds of husbands who looked
the other way. A minute after, Hector the Greecian came out the door and looked in disgust at the vulgar display, barked “boys,
inside”. And we meekly followed him inside
Hector seemed upset, distracted that morning, mumbling on and on how the Empire was descending
into immorality and chaos. "Not as bad as in Rome", he said, "or Corinth in Greece, but bad enough. Now back in the day,"
he asserted, "such things were not openly displayed." One brave boy asked if it was less immoral to debauch and private which
drew a brief disapproving stare. Then Hector began the lesson for the day, on Aristotle's prime mover of all things. "So,"
one Jewish boy asked "did Aristotle mean God by his statement?" Some in the class snickered and a mocking laugh from the teacher
was the reply. "We study reason, not superstition" the teacher retorted and that was that. I thought of the proverb "none
are so blind as those who will not see". The rest of the class showed through the Greeks philosophy the Power of God, but
they refused to allow themselves to consider him. Blind fools leading the blind. I looked over to Timothy and he rolled his
eyes toward the ceiling and shook his head.
The next day was the Lord's day, so I went with my father to the synagogue. The prayer service
started well enough. However as a Rabbi was about to give his reading of the law, he asked if anyone from Jerusalem has something
to say. Several people stood up and to came to the front, turn, face the congregation and began to speak. "Brethren, we have
just come from Jerusalem" he said. "The whole place is in an uproar. Many people who were dead have risen from their graves
and are walking the streets, appearing to their families, and causing consternation among the elders. This Jesus is said to
have appeared to many people and has been touched and handled by them. Many people have believed on him. This is a most extraordinary
thing what is happened, and we are witnesses of these things. My friend Gideon here saw Jesus." "Yes", Gideon replied. "I
was with 40 eating the evening meal when Jesus appeared in our midst. We were much astonished, but he gently smiled and asked
for meat. We gave him some bread and honey comb, he ate then walk from person to person touching some gathering others he
had known in his arms. After a few minutes he bade us farewell and faded away. We were much astonished but elated that we
had seen the risen Lord Christ."
The men returned to their seats amid much murmuring in the congregation. The Rabbi was somewhat
taken aback by this, and after several long moments found his voice and stammered "doesn't the Scripture say that Messiah
must be born in Bethlehem?" At that moment I found myself on my feet speaking out. "Jesus was indeed born in Bethlehem in
the days of Herod. His family fled before Herod's order to kill all the children in Bethlehem, and they went to live in Nazareth."
Absolute quiet in the synagogue, the Rabbi looking as he would fall over. I looked down and my father who had a far-off look
in his eyes. "Respected elders, I continued, I saw an angel roll away the rock of Jesus tomb, and also saw my grandmother
who had been dead six months. I do believe this man Jesus is Lord Christ." Looks of consternation surrounded me. My father
looked up at me in loving sadness, then stood up and led me by the hand out of the synagogue. When we were outside, he put
his hands on my shoulders and looked inquiringly into my eyes. "Son," he's slowly said "now I believe." He took me in his
arms "God help us" he whispered. Then again taking me by the hand, we walked back to Uncle Thomas 's house. It was an hour
later when uncle Thomas came in, saw us and sat down heavily beside me. "By the word of two or three witnesses thing is established."
He said at length. "And it appears the witnesses are in the hundreds. This thing will turn the world upside down. Well, at
least we out of reach of the sanhedrin here-I think," uncle added. "I will have you escorted to school and home" uncle said,
giving a questioning look to my father. My father waved his arm in agreement followed by "yes". And all three of us sat on
the roof in silence looking west past the harbor, and out to sea.
We sat there a long time. "The truth of a matter does not reduce the practical realities,"
father finally said. "You cannot keep speaking out on this without drawing unwanted attention our way." "Yes father," I answered
respectfully. "As it is, we will not be able to go back to that synagogue." "Yes father" I dutifully replied. "Say nothing
in your school". Father said. "One of my friends who have also heard of these things?" "Quietly, my son, quietly", father
replied. "Say nothing in class". "Yes father", I ascented. With that, a servant brought the afternoon meal to us and we ate
in silence. "The summer break is almost upon us," I finally said. "The classes will not begin again until the fall. Another
month and perhaps I can joinone of your expeditious to Egypt?" Father frowned. "Perhaps lad," he replied. "Perhaps".
At least things went quietly in school. And no one bothered myself, Timothy or Jonathan. A
couple weeks later we overheard the amazing news that Jesus had been with a large group of followers on the mount of olives
which is to the east of Jerusalem, teaching, when he gave them a final blessing and rose up into the air to the clouds, telling
them to teach about him to everyone everywhere. Two angels then appeared, saying that "this same Jesus will return as you
saw him leave,at the end of the age”. the end of the age. I marveled, as did my two friends. It seemed an immense time
spread out before us, until he would come again. I had the feeling that by that time we would long be dust.
A month or so later, we heard that some men had come from Jerusalem, and were teaching about
Jesus in the back of a bakery on the late afternoon of the third day of the week . We resolved to go after school to hear
what was being said. However, as we rounded a corner near the bakery, we saw Temple soldiers dragging people out of the bakery
and so we sliped into the wine shop to watch. The owner noticed us, said, "I saw two Hebrew priests with that company of soldiers
march by a few minutes ago. Word is a plot against the peace was going on behind the bakery." Some 25 men and women were led
away bound back in the direction of the forum. To be judged and jailed, I had no doubt. When the shop owner pressed us, we
bought some of his wine, then made our way home. “The priests were the rulers of the synagogue we went to”, I
told my father after dinner that night. They led the Temple soldiers who arrested those meeting to talk about Jesus. "Here?
In Caesarea?" Father asked in amazement. "You will stay home tomorrow. Stay here until I find out what happened. This is serious
if the Jerusalem elders have ordered the arrest of believers in Caesarea.” Later that day, Timothy came over after school.
"Nothing was said by anyone at school about the arrest", Timothy said. “I did receive another letter from Simon in Jerusalem.
It seems a Temple elders did send out letters to the synagogues to beware of this latest “heresy "they call it. Our
Rabbi here acted on his own authority in having believers arrested. "But what of the Roman law?" I protested. "Rome holds
the power of life and death and forsakes all else", Timothy quoted. “They allow religious leaders to rule their members
how they will. Our Rabbi has chosen the whip. I expect those arrested will be released after they have been well beaten."
Timothy said he could not stay for supper. However he did see my father as he was leaving and briefly informed him of what
Later that night, father told me "you must not get involved with these believers, son." "I
know, I know," he interrupted as I was about to reply. "I do believe, but we must be circumspect, careful. We tend to business,
stay out of sight of the rulers. Being unnoticed we may believe and do as we want with no fear of our rulers. From now on,
you will work for me and the family." "Yes father," I answered. "It is time you took responsibilities as a man." "Yes father",
I said again. "I have decided to send our assistant steward to supervise our land near Capernaum. You will go with him." "Yes
father" I again replied. "Stay out of the synagogues and out of trouble there." "Yes father," I replied. With that, I had
my instructions for the summer.
Two mornings later, we started our trek up the coast. It took a week to travel the distance
to our land just a couple hours walk south of Capernaum. It was several hundred acres of pasture land with a number of acres
of vines and an olive grove near the house. I had always thought of it is a quiet peaceful place. It had been peaceful, except
when the teacher had brought thousands of people with him. I smiled. I sat in the shade in the late afternoon looking east
across the sea. To my left was the towns of Capernaum and Bethesda and to my right the ancient Tell with who knows what name.
Cities and fortresses had been built on that spot only to be ruined, then the rubble level again and again and build up so
that it was now a man-made hill. Only a few ruins remained at the top. People nowadays and no reason to climb that hill, so
it was left inhabited only occasionally by sheep or a wild roe deer. This was a quiet place, I thought again. So quiet that
it would be hard for me to get into trouble here. I smiled. I could see fishermen rowing to shore with the day's catch and
one boat already being unloaded. Nets were hung out to dry just up the beach. Right there is where Jesus had borrowed a boat
to speak to the multitude, and also where Peter had unwillingly cast a net and brought up a large catch. In a way, I could
hear the sound of centuries in the silence.
Vines, vines and more vines I thought during the hot afternoon the next day. I hadn't remembered
how much hard work it was to prune and tend only 3 acres of vines. I'm sure that they will make good wine, but it is a lot
of work. At least the servants had already pruned the olive trees in the early spring. The vines were almost up against the
house on the North, West and south. The vegetable garden was below the house on the slope down to the sea. Unlike homes in
Jerusalem, this one was only one story with an inner courtyard or atrium (that Roman word again)! But with a large covered
deck on the roof from which you could see the surrounding countryside. Father has said I had to work in the fields, not lounge
around in the house like some Roman Senator. So here I was tieing up grape vines to their trellises, cutting off the bad growth.
And always, with a servant in my elbow with the constant "no young master, we do it this way" or "tie them up higher" or "you're
killing the vine" or "do it this way or that". I repeatedly thought about how satisfying it would be to sell him to the next
caravan passing by on the road to Egypt. But then who would tend the vines, the sheep, or the garden. Besides, father had
said I needed schooling in practical things. So, I gritted my teeth and tried real hard not to whack this annoying fellow
across the head with my staff. I think I had drunk seven or eight pitchers of water by the end of the day, and was still thirsty
as the sun was about to go behind the hills in the West.
As we were sitting in the garden on the front of the house, a pair of fellows walking by stopped
and said that two of Jesus disciples would be speaking outside the synagogue this evening. My servants wanted to go see them
but I forbade them saying "father's instructions were to stay away from such people, as they will bring trouble upon us".
And so the visitors departed, alone, in the direction of Bethesda. Now I really did want to go, but I had already got myself
in trouble in Jerusalem, and Caesarea, and hopefully not here too! We had heard the next day that there had been a shoving
match in the village outside the synagogue with both sides claiming they were right. The ruler of the synagogue and some of
his people had decided that these troublemakers had said enough and wanted to disperse the mob. I was thankful I was not involved
in that. About midday, the next day, several men passing by on the way south inquired of my servants if we knew about the
teacher and "The Way". Upon being told that myself and my father did believe, wanted to talk with me a while. I politely bid
them in and confessed my faith in the teacher as well as my caution about doing so publicly as I had already gotten in trouble
for doing so in Jerusalem and Caesarea. I begged them not to publish abroad my faith and they reluctantly agreed. As they
were leaving, I said "I will show the you something." I went into my bedroom and came out with my short sword and drew it.
"You see these nicks on the edge?" I asked. They confessed they did. "This was where I pulled the nails out of the teachers
feet and hands" I said, before we buried him in Nicodemus tomb. Their eyes grew wide with wonder. "Now be on your way, friends,"
I said "and tell no one". I left them to go back to my work until lunch.
Faithfulness to truth. A large part of me wanted to shout from the rooftops that the teacher
is Lord and Messiah.. However, I was only 16, still under the authority of teachers and elders. My father had sternly charged
me with being cautious, as religious zealots were powerful-and dangerous. Still, if a person was not open about their faith,
was that denying their faith? This troubled me.Perhaps one of Jesus deciples would come to the Galillee and I could ask him.
I thought and prayed about my faith for several days when I sent one of my servants to Bethesadia
to search out the families of Peter and Andrew the fishermen. It was widely known they were the Teachers deciples.My servant
came back late that evening, saying that they were still in Jerusalem., but when they came home would let me know.In the mean
time I had much more work to do after the grape wines had been tied up.
I did not know when I had been more sore.And I was getting calouses on my blisters or was it
blisters on my calouses? I was getting bored to death. This was such a quiet place after Jerusalem.Father wrote that there
had not been any more arrests of believers in Caesarea. The ones who had been taken had been let go after a whipping and a
stern lecture. So long as your faith was not much out in the open,meaning you did not “cause trouble” in the synagogue,you
would be left alone. In Jerusalem, on the other hand,it seemed to be that people were coming to believe in “The Way”
by the hundreds, even the thousands and the elders did not know what to do about it. The story was that the chief priest had
had some Apostles arrested, and an angel had appeared in the prison and helped them escape. The guards at the prison had been
put to death when the rulers had heard of it. The very next day the apostles were teaching in the temple.When some of the
more zealot priests wanted to kill them, my old teacher Gamaliel stood up and remind them saying “if this is of men
it will fail, but if it is of GOD you cannot stop it, lest you fight against GOD.” However, soon after this a great
persecution against the believers began and many of them fled , returned to cities across Judea and the Galillee.
The deciple Phillip went through the Galillee,.preaching “The Way” and the kingdom
of GOD. Fineally, I had someone to talk to if I could do so quietly.When he had preached in Bethesdia, amid some opposition,
I sent by night a servant saing I would hear more about “The Way” privately. Phillip replyed that he would stop
by on his way back south towards Caesarea.
The next day at mid morning, Phillip appeared at my gate.I was gratefully in the interruption
in the daily work.He and two friends accepted my offer of hospitality.Once seated, I asked, “can a rich man be a believer
in The Way, in Jesus as Messiah and Lord?” I told him about what Jesus had said to me in Jerusalem, and for a moment
he seemed at a loss for words. I went on to say I had seen Jesus here by Bethesdia, had been at the crucifiction had helped
take Him down from the cross,and that I had seen an angel roll the stone away from the tomb.I said I believe in Him, but had
gotten in troubble twice, in Jerusalem and in Caesaria, because of my belief. This was why I was exiled here until it was
safe for me to return to Caesarea. They looked on me with interest, but still silent. So, I asked,”can a person like
me be accepted by GOD?”
Finally, Phillip answered “Jesus accepts all men who come to Him. You believe in Jesus”?
“Yes” I answered,”I know He is Messiah and Lord”
Phillip replyed, “since you have believed,recieve the Holy Ghost”, and I felt the sudden indwelling of the power
of GOD.”It is the gift of GOD to all who believe, “ Phillip stated. “Will you be long here”? Phillip
asked. “I dont know”, I replyed. “As I stated, I was sent here for my safety after some believers were arrested
in Caesarea. I very nearly was arrested as well, but by the grace of God was not" I added. They smiled. Finally, they thanked
me for the lunch and went out the gate to the road to the coast. “We may be back," Phillips said, and I replied "you
will always be welcome here". With that they took their leave and faded into the distance.
Weeks went by, it was Mid. Summer and I was still exiled. It felt like exile anyway, in a remote
farm in the Galilee. Finally, however, I received a message from father to return to Jerusalem. As father said, almost half
the city had believed on Jesus and the religious zealots were too busy with all that to bother with one lad. Father has sent
two servants with a message to accompany me to Jerusalem. We waited a couple days then attached ourselves to a large caravan
going south. After a few days we bade them farewell when we reached the road from the coast East up to Jerusalem. Making Our
Way, East to the city, we stayed two nights at my fathers associates estates. Finally, the third day, we could see the walls
of Jerusalem in the distance and well before nightfall had entered the gate and approached my home. The door servant happily
greeted me, bade us enter. I made my way across the atrium to my father's arms. It had been too long. After a few long moments,
he held me at arms length, and, quietly said, “you are becoming a man, my son. Come with me'. And I followed him upstairs
to the roof balcony where we sat and talked about many things. Finally he said, “tomorrow we must go to the Temple.
After that, I have much for you to do. It is around Jerusalem that the teachers word says that sometime in the near future,
Jerusalem will be besieged and destroyed”,.”just like the prophet Daniel said?” I asked. "Yes, son" father
replied. “We don't know how soon, but it will happen. The faithful are told to flee when they see it began to come to
pass. I, for one, do not see any reason for waiting. I will be renting out this house, and selling our holdings in Judea.
Point is, either you believe God or do not. And I do. I am moving our business entirely to Caesarea and I will be sending
you to Egypt, to Alexandria." Father said. "You will be there with cousin Amos, and in your spare time, if cousin lets you
have any," father added with a twinkle in his eye, "you can look into classes at the great Library of Alexandria. A wise man
acquires knowledge." He added more solemnly.
"What about Eunice?" I asked. "Oh, yes, your betrothed. "I will talk to her father", father
said. "They are now believers and should not be a problem for you to marry in another two or three years. You're still 17,
my son". "Yes father", I dutifully replied. And we spent the evening after supper looking out over the city. Finally, it had
been a long day, I was tired and went in to rest. I was asleep as soon as my head touched the pillow.
I had vivid dreams all night. Dreams of Jerusalem in flames and myself running through the
streets, the fire raging and bodies laying all around me. I awakened in a sweat at first light of dawn. Was this dream from
God? I've seen the Temple Mount collapsing into the Kidron Valley, and all the great men crushed among the stones. Crushed
to powder, the few survivors led away in chains to eternal slavery in exile. Yes, I should go to Egypt, I realized. I remembered
the prophecy of Hosea 3 verse 4
“ the children of Israel shall dwell many days without a King
or Prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. After that, they shall return, seek the Lord their
God and David their king and they shall come in fear of the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days."
I told father my dream at breakfast. He said it must have been from God. Looking at the dream
through Hosea's words he also said we should possibly purchase Roman citizenship to protect the family. After all, Hosea's
words “ many days “ could be a very, very long time.
It took father until the fall to sell our fields of vines and olive trees near Jerusalem. Just
as the wind was looking to bring the first snow, we sadly filed out of our house for the last time, passed by the Temple in
all its morning glory, and set our faces away from Jerusalem to the coast. I stopped and looked back once as the city was
passing from view, somehow knowing I would never see her again. My intended, by betrothed, Eunice would follow with her family
as they too had seen the wisdom of exile. Most of Jerusalem was however oblivious to their peril and slumbered on. Like, in
my view, people who live on the slopes of an active volcano which is daily spewing out Ash and cinders, thinking it's always
done that and nothing will happen. The donkies put one foot in front of the other all day until by late afternoon, we entered
the courtyard of our cousin on the road to Caesarea. A good meal, a good nights sleep, the next day on toward the coast.
A couple days later, we entered Caesarea from the South gate hoping to avoid at least some
of the chaos we had encountered on our last visit. We were not disappointed, as Rome they cleaned up the area around that
gate and had chased the more disreputable elements into fleeing elsewhere. It was a relief not to have to pass through that
noxious unwashed throng into the city. Shortly, we arrived at uncle Thomas house to the welcome of the chief steward. Uncle
was elsewhere in the city, but would be back for supper.
I went out with a couple of body servants to the theater as I heard there would be a lecture
and discussion between several of the great teachers on natural philosophy. We arrived a little early and found some good
seats on the aisle halfway back from the stage. I also met my friends Timothy and Jonathan there are so we sat together. "What's
it about?" I asked. “Plato on the motion of the planets," Jonathan replied. "What, they don't believe God guides them",?
I asked mock amazement, and we all laughed. People around us looked annoyed at the mention of God. Timothy added , “no,
they are their own gods." More hostile stares. I frowned, motioned them to be quiet. I did not want to get beat up and thrown
out. Thankfully, the orators entered the stage and distracted the people around us.
Caesarea, port of call for the Eastern Mediterranean. Nexis for the caravan routes from Persia
and China. All the sea trade from Africa and the Far East stopped here on the way, North to the Aegean, Mediterranean Asia
and the Black Sea. And from there West to Greece and Rome. Especially to Rome, Seat of Empire. Although ships could and sometimes
did sail from Rome and Athens Southeast to Egypt, few ships ever tried to sail the return voyage Northwest from Alexandria
because of the prevailing North and Northwest wind. Hence, almost all the ships sailed north along the coast on the in shore
land breeze. This made for good profits for such merchants as my father. From brokering merchandise to be shipped to the Mediterranean
world, to buying shares of cargo destined to all points of the compass. We had a finger in many a venture. Next week, a ship
father had purchased a 1/8 share in its cargo was due to sail south to Alexandria, up the Nile to the Red Sea canal, then
south down the Red Sea to India. I wished I could go with them. I even asked father, but he sternly replied "we let others
take the risks of sea voyages and we take the profits from our success. Only 3 out of five ships we send East return because
of Pirates, or those Eastern princes who act like Pirates, and shoals, reefs , storms beyond belief in the Indian Ocean. No
charts of any real value. These all make any one venture a roll of the dice. But our success pays us seven to 10 times our
investment. The secret, lad, is to spread out your risk in as many ships as possible so your occasional loss will not be too
“I have decided that in couple years, when you are a little
older, and marry," he grinned, "I will send you to Alexandria to oversee our cargoes heading West along the African coast
to Libya, Sicily and Rome. Every generation we send out our sons across the Empire so that any local persecution won't kill
us all. When war with Rome comes-and it will come lad"-father said quietly so no one else would here, "we Jews will all be
under suspicion matter where we live. With you in Alexandria, your brother in Athens and your sisters husbands to take over
business here, if I pass soon, our family's fortune is wisely spread across the Empire."
One thing I could not but see was how many believers in "The Way" had fled Jerusalem to Caesarea.
For now, under Roman rule and protection, we had much less cause to be concerned for our safety than in other cities. Caesarea
was a Roman colony entirely under Roman rule unlike the other places in this province. While the local synagogue had initially
been hostile to "The Way", the majority of the Jews in Caesarea now believed in Jesus and so the rulers has sought a get-a
long policy with the people they believe heretics.
There was even a believers synagogue a couple streets away, and so father and I went there
the next Sabbath. One of the most interesting things I got from the rabbis teaching was a transition from keeping the law
of Moses for righteousness to the new teaching of how Jesus paid the penalties of the law and how we find righteousness in
God's sight by faith in Jesus. This is certainly a sea change in how people find favor, forgiveness with God. Under the law,
no one is wholly righteous even with the blood sacrifices covering our sins. Under This New Way, Jesus is the final blood
sacrifice to make our way to God. This must be why they call this new faith ”The Way”. Nothing we did or could
do was enough to pay the penalty for our sins. It was not Jewish rules , it was by faith in Jesus alone, so what good then
was the law? Through the Jew, God gave the law to show how a person would have to be acceptable to God, an impossible task..
God became a man, Jesus, to show how we could be complete in him and through him finding the only way to God. Those who confess
Jesus as Lord and Messiah, believe he died for our sins and rose again on the third day, to save us from the wrath to come.
For there will indeed be a great and fearful judgment on that final day of the Lord. We spent the rest of the Sabbath day
resting and discussing these things. Another thing I found out about at the synagogue was that Saul, one of the older students
whom I had known at Gamaliel's school , had become a terror to those of “The Way”, dragging them out of their
homes to trials beatings and prison. Another very good reason for us to flee Jerusalem for Caesarea.
The first day of the week, I was given the task of checking the cargo manifest as one of the
coastal ships was loaded. Item by item I checked off, making sure that all cargo that was loaded was correct. And yes, a busybody
clerk was at my elbow all day busy chattering about each item, not to break it, had to make sure it was a right weight for
any number of things so that by noon time I felt like stuffing him and a sack and having him loaded as cargo as well. Think
about a person that just cannot shut up! I dubbed him “noisey”.But I gritted my teeth, said nothing. I finally
sent him down into the hold to, as I put it, see that each piece was stuffed into the exact place it should go. I kind of
grinned at the abuse he gave the dock crew in the hold, hoping that one or more of them would stuff him somewhere. Late afternoon,
we started unloading cargo from another ship that had just come in. I sent my “noisy” friend up the pier with
a scroll to terrorize the ships mate while I watched the crew shuffle their cargo so they could send up what was to be sent
ashore for the warehouse. “Noisy” finally showed up after a while looking a little wet. Everyone snickered as
he said he had been accidentally pushed off the pier into the water. All I said was “your scrolls are wet. Get another
scroll and write it properly”. That got him out of my hair for the rest of the day. Hopefully, he would get lost in
the way home- or captured by slavers and sent to Egypt---or …..........
my mind salivated on several possibilities. Anyway, finally the day was done and I dragged
my body home. It was amazing how tired one could get just checking cargo manifests all day. I did mention "noisy" to my uncle
and how he almost drowned, to uncles amusement.
Every week, we would make our appearance in the synagogue to hear more about “.The Way”.
The weeks turned into months and occasionally we would be visited by disciples from Jerusalem on their way to preach at a
synagogue across the Empire. There was also something quite new, the very large number of Gentiles who wanted to hear about
Jesus. Jesus had said for disciples to go to every nation with his message. Synagogues in far away places had always had a
room set aside for Gentiles to enter to hear God's word taught. Now, however, in some places far more Gentiles would show
up to hear about Jesus that would Jews. This changed the nature of some synagogues, and many new synagogues and house churches
opened for all who wanted to hear. I heard that there was a large number of believers in Egypt, and I much wanted to go there
and fellowship with them.
It seemed to take forever for the next two years to elapse, but finally I was 19 and was married
to my beautiful Eunice. A month later, we boarded a ship and to the tears of our families, we sailed off South to Egypt. There
we spent a long time improving the family business.
Son, you know much of the rest of the story. How years later we decided to leave Alexandria
for Sicily and lately the southwestern coast of Italy near Naples and are there to this day. Times of persecution have come
and gone but our faith remains. Lately the great apostle Paul past here on his way to Rome. We were blessed to be able to
fellowship with him for one day. All too often now, a Roman officer arrives with a troop and demands all believers sacrifice
a pinch of incense to Caesar, proclaiming “Caesar is Lord”. In the past, I have done so out of the need of protection
for my family. However, over the years my conscience has bothered me about this and the day may soon come when I must refuse
to do this and be martyred for our faith.
I am enclosing a package with this letter containing my sword with which I pried the nails
out of our Saviors feet and hands. May it inspire the faithful in their service to our Lord.
I fear the soldiers are coming again tomorrow, so I send this letter off today. I may be with
our loving Savior long before you read this letter.
Your loving father ,
Jason Ben Benjamin.
Why did the angels announce Jesus birth to the shepherds ?
Why not around the temple on a feast day? Why not to Caesar Augustus in Rome?
all, the shepherds did not look good, smell good, were the lowest class in society....
GOD saw fit to show Himself to the humble, to his servants such as the old priest Simon and the widow Anna in the temple 8
days after Jesus birth.....
today, Jesus shows himself to those who earnestly seek him
1:26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
1Co 1:27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the
wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
1Co 1:28 And base things of the world, and things which
are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are:
1Co 1:29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.
How many people are members in a church or synagogue, and think that they are
good to go,
Just like the Pharisees that Jesus condemned???
Those who looked down their nose at the trailer trash and ex-cons in our society
What were the expectations of the Jews ?
Jacob prophesied in Genesis 49:8/10 exactly where the Messiah would be born,
and to the Tribe of Judah....... And even gave the generation Messiah would come...
Gen 49:10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor
a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people
The book of Daniel was revered across the whole Greek empire, from Athens to
Persia to India.
Daniel exactly prophesied the whole history of the Greek Empire, Astounding
the whole ancient world.
The prophet Daniel in Ch 9's 70 week (490 year) prophecy told the whole world
exactly when and where Jesus was going to present himself as Messiah.
The 3 wise men had certainly read Daniel. They knew that the Messiah had to
be born maybe 30 or 40 years before Daniel said the Messiah was going to present himself , SO unlike the Jews in Jerusalem,
the wise men were watching.... When they saw THE Sign in the heavens, the Holy Spirit told them to go to Judah.
The religious elite in Judah were unbelieving, they were liberals . Herod had
thrown out the Bible believers and brought in His Sadducee supporters ... So the Sadducee told the Wise Men to go away, and,
BTW, stop in Bethlehem, as Micah had said:
Micah 5:2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be
little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be
ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
Jesus was less than two years old at that point....
The Wise men brought Gold, a Kingly gift,which the family needed to flee into
Egypt... The frankincense and Myrrh spoke of Jesus crucifiction and Embalming and burial... The family need to flee because
Jeremiah 31:15 said that Herod would order the killing of all the young boys in Bethlehem.
What did the rabbis like Gamaliel say about the messiah in Jesus generation?
“Woe unto us, for the scepter has departed, and Shiloh has not come—we sit
in ashes lamenting our fate... We have been abandoned by our God.”
showing that unlike the Greeks,they were oblivious to Daniels prophecy.......The liberals were running
In their minds, the Scepter had departed when Rome sized the power of life and death from the Sanhedrin,.........This
happened when Jesus was a boy...
So the prophecy Had been fulfilled, Messiah was walking among them.
And they were clueless about it...
Factions in Judah
Like was said by a Jewish leader in 1948,“we could have a nice little war here without any Arabs”
three main factions:
the Liberal Sadducee who ran the temple and the Pharisees who looked good, smelled good
and looked down their noses at everyone else as being “unclean”..
The Revolutionaries, the Zealots who wanted to throw out the Romans
and bring in good secular govt. (run by themselves of course)
The Collaborators with Rome ... The Jewish Hellenists who worshiped
the Roman Peace, wanted 'Peace and safety” … they were humanists just like today...
as Solomon said, there is nothing new under the sun...
When they finally did revolt from Rome in 66AD it was a chaotic mess.
See Josephus “Wars of the Jews” its free online......
When John the Baptist came along
All the right people in Jerusalem asked, why is he baptizing and in the Jordan
river of all places... people snickered, shook their heads.... after all, baptizing or ritual cleansing was a very Hebrew
thing... Jews did it every holy day and before entering the temple...
The religious elite sent a delegation out there anyway, and John was very rude to them... how dare
John talk like that to his betters?
Later along, we find out that John came in the spirit and power of Elijah, fulfilling the old testament
prophecy mentioned in:
Luke_1:17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,
and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
When Jesus came along
Factions everywhere, despising each other, all vieing for power, position,
with the Romans caught in the middle, like our troops in Iraq, Afghanistan.
All agreed however, that only the right, , politically correct person could be the leader or even the
Messiah.... whoever or whatever a messiah was... every faction had their own idea about who the Messiah was supposed to be.
Scripture pictures two messiahs, a suffering servant and a mighty king..
The faithful remnant saw the coming Messiah afar off like you will see far away mountains.
What they could not see was that there are large long valleys between those mountains..... one particular
valley of 2000 years....
Guess which Messiah the Jews of Jesus day wanted? They didn’t think they needed the messiah depicted
in Isaiah 53, dieing for their sins.... they went to temple,did the Law of Moses thing, well, kinda sort of anyway,,, associating
with all the right people... tithing, sacrificing then going right back to their worldly ways... and somehow thinking they
not a clue
that blood sacrifices were only good to cover excuse their sins if there was also repentance..... a repentance that changed
their lifestyle, a repentance that brought them into a close walk with GOD....
As in today, the vast majority just went through the motions of having a religion, they just did not
So,Where did Jesus come from? Only his family and a few neighbors
knew Jesus was born in Bethlehem fulfilling Micah's prophecy …. and after all Jesus only lived there for a year or so...
He grew up in Nazareth...
Even though he supposedly was a son of Joseph and of David the King,“everyone just knew”
that Jesus was illegitimate, that Mary was a harlot who had gotten pregnant before her marriage to Joseph...... so the whispers
were very loud against Him in that small town...
They forgot the scripture which said:
Isa 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign;
Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (which means “GOD with us”)
He had to be both Immanuel and Jesus / Joshua which means “God saves”
It is said in isaiah:
Isa_53:3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
So when Jesus started preaching and doing
miracles, people in his home town rejected him...
Mat 13:54 And when
he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence
hath this man this
wisdom, and these mighty works?
Mat 13:55 Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and
his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?
Mat 13:56 And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence
then hath this man all these things?
Mat 13:57 And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet
is not without honor, save in his own country, and in his own house.
Mat 13:58 And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.
Every established Rabbi had apprentices or deciples..... Rabbis
would quote their rabbi as their authority such as Paul said that he was a disciple of the renown Gamilael....
so when Jesus started calling fisherman and tax collectors to be his disciples,
the community was in disbelief.... and all the right people mocked Him....
Some said “Search the scriptures, that no prophet comes out of the Galilee
I'm sure others said: said 'Half naked fisherman, tax collectors follow him....
the no-bodies of society mingled with the unclean …..”
Is it any surprise then that He was despised and rejected ?
Except for the ordinary people who followed Him to be healed or on a couple
occasions to be fed....
Everywhere Jesus went He preached kindness, humility, righteousness,
and He vigorous taught against pride and haughty religiousness....
Mat_5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Mat_5:5 Blessed are the meek: for they
shall inherit the earth.
Mat_5:7 Blessed are the merciful: for
they shall obtain mercy.
Mat_5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart:
for they shall see God.
Mat_5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers:
for they shall be called the children of God.
And so much more........
Jesus taught in parables or stories,IMHO, so that only those truly searching would understand
Rich Young Ruler
there so many good people like the “Rich young ruler” that I write about
in my book who came to Jesus and said:
Mat 19:16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master,
what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
Mat 19:17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good
but one, that
is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
Mat 19:18 He (the rich young ruler) saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou
shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,
Mat 19:19 Honor thy father and thy mother:
and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
19:20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
19:21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt
have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
Mat 19:22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful:
for he had great possessions.
The “Rich young
ruler” did not understand that its not what we try to do that forgives our sin, but faith in Jesus who paid the price
in His blood for our sin.
It has been well said that religion is man searching vainly and
futilely for GOD, while Christianity is GOD searching for people who will trust in Him....
Just like the prophet Elijah when he was searching for GOD, he could
not hear GOD :
1Kings 19:11 And GOD
said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent
the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in
the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in
1Ki 19:12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD
was not in
the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
The faithful listen for GODs still small voice....
Finally, the thread of blood
GOD slew animals, shed their blood to cover Adam' and Eves sin.
Abel came with a blood sacrifice and was accepted by GOD, Cain came without blood and was rejected
The Fathers one by one came to GOD with blood, Abraham offering Issac until stopped by GOD.
In Egypt, GOD instructed the Hebrews to paint the blood on the door posts of their homes so the death
angel would pass over.
When the Hebrews took Jericho, the spies told Rehab the harlot who had sheltered them to hang a scarlet
cord from her window, and so her family was spared and she became the great great grandmother of King David.
Year by year blood was offered in the temple to cover the peoples sin, with only the righteous few
understanding their salvation by looking forward to the suffering Messiah who would once and for all pay the price for their
sin on the cross...
Read ALL of Isaiah 53 for the picture of Jesus on the cross paying the price for our sins.
The Messiah coming as the mighty King:
Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son
is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God,
The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Isa 9:7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be
no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from
henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
Zec 14:3 Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as
when he fought in the day of battle.
Zec 14:4 And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before
Jerusalem on the east,...................................
Whose feet? Who is coming?
Zec 14:5 And ye shall flee to the valley
of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the
earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.
Zec 14:8 And it shall be in that day, that living
waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer
and in winter shall it be.
Zec 14:9 And the LORD shall be king over all the earth:
in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one. Israel,Do you remember the Shema ?
Deut 6:4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God the LORD alone
And what of the nation Israel?
Zec 13:8 And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the LORD, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein.
Zec 13:9 And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them
as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It
is my people: and they shall say,
The LORD is my God.
Zec 12:10 And I will pour upon the house of David, and
upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced,
and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall
be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.
Zec 12:11 In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the
mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon.
Zec 12:12 And the land shall mourn, ….......every house in Israel
Zec 13:6 And one shall say unto him, What are these
wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house
of my friends.
Job 19:25 For I know that my redeemer
liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
Job 19:26 And though after my skin worms destroy
this body, yet in
my flesh shall I see God:
Job 19:27 Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall
behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.
We know that Messiah, Jesus lives and He is coming very soon,,,
what is your relationship with GOD/ Are you ready for Him to come?