+JMJ+ Welcome to the Thursday night fiction post. (When I pick up the Story of Salvation series again, I may move it to a different night. Still deciding.) I’m writing a work of (historical?) fiction set in New Testament times with characters from the Bible, mostly, with some lacunae filled in with my own imagination. This is a rough draft of what will, I hope, become a novel. Every time I write I find new things I need to research, but right now I’m sticking to writing the rough draft. Other parts of the story are linked on the Fiction page. Come along with me, if you like. Our journey continues.
A Journey – Part 17
Afternoon, Sixth Day, Friday; Evening and Morning, Seventh Day, Saturday
My sister has not been home, not at our home. I am sure these people she spends most of her time with now are more home to her than what has been our home. So I wrote a letter to her and sent it, with a sum of money large enough to provide a dowry for a good marriage for her, by my most trusted servant. She can use it for her dowry or waste it on these people who mean so much to her. She can live any way she desires. I do not care anymore. When my servant comes back, I will be gone and he will be free also to live the rest of his life the way he wants to. I must hurry if I am to leave without time-consuming goodbyes and before evening arrives. I long to be on the road and away. I will write more when I stop for the night.
My plan was to be on the road this morning so that I could reach my first stopping place well before evening. But as I was heading out of the city I passed by that hateful spot. The place of the skull. The place that will always mean horror and remorse to me. A sign of my failure. Of the failure of us all. The failure of the promise. I cannot think about it even now without seeing him there, and even though I never believed that he was The One of the prophecies, still, whatever he was, I have never seen anyone else like him. Something holy has gone from this world and–
Did I just write the word, holy? Where did that come from? He was a man, just a man.
I do not know what is wrong with me. Oh, I was going to write of what I saw when I was passing by Golgotha.
I saw her.
She was there.
She was standing by the cross as she had stood by it while her only son was hanging there. She was standing at the foot of the cross where she had stood and watched as her only son strained to breathe and took his last breath. She was standing under the cross where the man who had been her only child, for whom she had lived almost her whole life, had hung until he far flung arms embraced at last his death.
I wanted to say something to her, to offer some kind of consoling word, some comfort. But what could I say that would ease her pain and grief?
I stood nearby and said nothing but kept silent watch with her, unable to bring myself to approach her or to leave.
When I thought I could bear the silence and grief not a minute longer, she turned to me and spoke in a soft and small voice, taking my arm in hers. “You must be getting hungry and certainly you must be tired. Walk with me and I will see that you have food and rest before you continue on your journey.” Her words were so soft-spoken I almost did not hear them, and the pain underneath them was evident though she made no show of it.
Wait. How did she know about my leaving? I was not carrying a bag or anything to indicate it. And I had not mentioned anything about it in my letter to Rachel, so she did not hear it there. No one knew of my plans yet. I did not even know my plans yet, beyond a vague idea of stopping briefly in the desert before going I-know-not-where after that.
I left off wondering at her knowledge of my state, both inner and outer, as I looked into her eyes and nearly wept when I saw there her deep sorrow and equally deep compassion. She has just lost her son yet she shows sincere concern for me. Yes, yes, hospitality is something we all are to show to stranger and fellow alike. But this was different. She offered more than mere food and rest but something soothing to my soul.
But I was in no mood to be soothed. I wanted nothing more than to be away from Jerusalem and away from Golgotha.
“Come with me, Jonah. The Sabbath is nearly here. The others have returned by now. I wanted to come by here on my way.” She touched the wood and let her fingers rest there. His blood still stained it where the nail pierced his feet. She closed her eyes and rested her head against the spot for a long moment. Then she turned her face away and faced the road, pulling me along with her. “Come. Share this night with us. It’s too late to go anywhere else.”
She was right. I meant to be on the road by now and spending the night in one of my familiar spots among the caves in the desert and to talk to my friend in the morning. But instead I found myself with the mother of the rabbi in the city, the last place I wanted to be, not only in the city but with the rabbi’s rebels.
Is there no escape? Here I am in–I realized with a start that I did not know in whose home we were keeping the Sabbath. I could not tell who the owner was so I could not tell whom I should thank for their hospitality. Even through their sorrow and grief, there was no lack of gracious giving and sharing. I have to admit that I did not expect that. I don’t know what I did expect but not that. What did I think, they were barbarians? No, that describes the Romans.
Except for the Romans who were there with us. Oh, yes, only a few but they were there. God-fearers, they would ordinarily be called. But these, these were followers with the others. I had a scare when he singled me out. I thought I was going to be arrested.
“Are you the one called Jonah?”
I resisted the urge to bolt through the door. I hoped I looked calmer than I felt but I’m sure I did not.
“I have a message for you from Nicodemus and Joseph.”
He knows Nico and Joseph? How curious.
“They want to talk to you.”
Well, they had better hurry, I plan to leave as soon as I can.
“You will be spending the Sabbath here, won’t you? I mean, where else?”
He had me there. I cannot leave. No travel on the Sabbath which began at sundown. Mary, the mother of the rabbi, and Mary the one they call the Magdalene, some other women also named Mary, many of the disciples, including Peter and John, the Centurion, and some others I can’t remember–we all prayed together and the Sabbath entered into our midst and I do not think I will ever experience it in the same way ever again.
The words of the prayers seemed different, there was meaning even in the parts that were in Hebrew. I know some Greek, mostly Aramaic, but little Hebrew. But tonight I understood, or almost understood, more than ever before. I wanted to remember it but as soon as the prayers ended, though I tried to hang on to the feeling, it was gone.
Rachel is here, as I expected. She received the letter but has not read it yet. Yes, she received the money, too, and has hidden it away where it will be safe. I do not know where that is and I do not want to know, but, contrary to this latest set of decisions of hers, she usually has a good head on her shoulders and I trust her to handle it well.
The message from Nico and Joseph was to ask me to delay my plans to leave. How did they know? I still have not told anyone. They want me to travel with them. Where, they did not say. We were interrupted by the Magdalene who came by to tell us gently that Mother (they all call her that, I notice) needed to rest so we are all going to sleep now. If it had been for anyone else but her, I would have been offended, but for that poor woman who had been through so much, I could forget about talk of plans and travels and cover my racing mind with the soft, warm blanket of concern and generosity shown by someone whose own grief would have paralyzed another.
I stretched out in a corner of a sleeping room, fully expecting to lie awake for hours, planning this, worrying about that. I was sleeping like a baby in moments.
The morning began on a different note. One of the God-fearers brought us the news. The Sanhedrin has persuaded some soldiers to go through the city to find any followers of the rabbi and bring them in for questioning. They just want to talk, they say.
I knew I should have made a run for it. I could be enjoying the pleasures of the desert now instead of hiding from the dangers of the city, stuck in a house I do not know, with people I do not know, where I will likely be arrested as a follower of the one I steadfastly refused to follow.
But where will they take us if they arrest us? To the house of the High Priest? And will they charge us with traveling on the Sabbath? The irony. I was kept from traveling on the Sabbath and now I may be forced to do so and be charged for doing so, too.
Just when I thought the day could not get any worse, now we received word that the tentmaker was looking for us, too. Looking for me, that is. He wanted to make me an offer to work with him.
All conversation stopped and my friends, old (well, compared to the others) and new, turned to look at me with new eyes. Who was this Jonah person, I could hear them thinking. It was a bad sign.
So this is Your famous sense of humor, Lord. I will laugh about this later, if I am still alive.
End of Part 17
Other parts of the continuing story are linked on the Fiction page.
Thank you for visiting and reading. I hope you’ll join me again. Until next time, whoever and wherever you are, please stay safe and well, virtuous and holy, remember, we are all on the journey to the heavenly city. So pick up your cross and follow Him, so you can become who you were meant to be: a SAINT! May the Lord bless and keep you and yours, and may His peace be always with you. +JMJ+
Image in the cover: From the east, Nazareth, Holy Land, from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
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