+JMJ+ Welcome to part 29 of A Journey. Jonah and his companion are headed for the Sea of Galilee and doing their best to elude capture by the Romans who must surely be after them.
And now the journey continues.
A Journey – Part 29
Sixth Day for the Third Time, Friday
We were too conspicuous riding our “borrowed” Roman horses with their garish Roman tack and the paths we must use to reach our destination will require sturdier mounts. We traded the horses (which, I admit, saddened me because they were beautiful animals) for donkeys and supplies, and even with all of that, the horse dealer had much the better end of that bargain. But beautiful horses are not what we need. Riding them now would be worse than hanging signs around our necks and lead to a very different something around our necks in short order.
We must make good time while also avoiding any Roman troops in pursuit, any of their spies who could be anyone anywhere, any spies for the Sanhedrin (or the tentmaker’s own), and various and sundry unknowns who are always on the lookout for ways to cheat others and make something for themselves, whether it is money or a name.
We have until evening to cover as much ground as possible. Raphael does not talk much but I hardly notice during the difficult ride. I am more used to being carried in a smooth-riding cart or carriage of my own. Not like that abominable excuse for a carriage to which the tentmaker subjected me. I would almost think he did it on purpose were it not for the fact that he was just as uncomfortable as I was.
“Evening approaches. Where will you celebrate?”
His words after such a long silence surprised me and I did not understand his meaning. Then I realized, the Sabbath was almost upon us. Where would I go? Where could I go? I imagined going to many doors, my father’s name would have opened many to us. But then I thought of what could happen to any of those who took us in and I saw, as in a vision, what would happen to them as a result when the Romans or the Sanhedrin discovered their acts of kindness and hospitality toward us. For the first time I felt pity for these people who were ruled by those who had no heart for them. And I was ashamed that I had rarely thought of them before unless they owed me rent. If they did not, then I had not thought about them at all.
I was jolted out of my reverie of shame when Raphael sighed and stopped suddenly and walked his sturdy donkey off what passed for a path, which would become impossible to detect when as the sky continued to darken. He seemed to know where he was going, but I quickly realized that I did not, though I had been through this region, I thought, many times with my father on his many business travels. Whether it was the darkness approaching quickly or whether this really was some hidden away spot that we had somehow missed.
Raphael stopped again and this time if my smart little donkey had not been paying better attention than I had and stopped, too, we would surely have bumped into him. He dismounted and walked his animal to a house that seemed to appear almost as the last light of the sun disappeared.
The door opened before we knocked and we were shown into a simple but well-appointed room ready for the Sabbath celebration. The family who welcomed us treated us not so much as guests as family returned after a long absence, and for a time all my worries slipped away from me. A few hours later we were shown to our sleeping room and I was asleep almost before I had lain fully down.
Seventh Day for the Third Time, Saturday
But while we were peacefully sleeping, there was anything but peace on the trail we had been following. We did not know it then as we enjoyed our time with this family, but in the morning Raphael slipped outside, and when he returned, motioned for me to follow him. Together we hurried down to the path and there saw tracks of man and beast and many of them. Some were Roman and some were Zealots, so Raphael told me. I did not know how to tell them apart and I cannot help but wonder how he knows, if he does. He would not be the first to pretend to knowledge that he does not possess. But for some reason I believe him. He did not say who was in pursuit of whom, however, and in this I find at least the possibility of encouragement.
We cannot travel today as it is still the Sabbath, but with all of the other traffic on the path today, that is for the best. We will let them put distance between us before we set out again. We will have to set out at dark and so use the cover of the night, keeping eyes and ears open.
Once we returned to the house our hosts insisted on giving us food for our journey. They have taken care of us with joy and generosity the likes of which I have rarely enjoyed elsewhere. Even our animals could not believe the blessings that have been showered upon them for they have been treated as royalty.
Raphael took the father aside and told him what we have seen. The father took in this news with a look of seriousness on his face and some unspoken decision seemed to take place between them, but when he returned to the rest of the gathering, his face was as before: open, generous, beaming happiness and joy. And something else.
Peacefulness. And that is something I have not felt in weeks. I do not want to leave and I wonder if I will ever see any of these people again.
Lord, protect them as Thou hast been protecting us. Let them not be punished for treating us with such kindness.
Among the generous gifts our hosts gave us were garments to replace our own. The Romans will have shared descriptions of us by now, and, as we cannot avoid all contact and as we must travel at some point in the full light of day, we must do our best to blend in. We changed our clothes and handed over our former ones to be burned, leaving no trace behind.
As we passed through Nazareth and Sepphoris, thankful for our benefactors foresight, signs of our Roman would-be pursuers preceded us. Or were they chasing the Zealots? Or both? Were the Zealots chasing them? Whatever the case, once the soldiers reached the Sea of Galilee, they would have fresher troops to call on and greater numbers.
We came through the Arbel pass leading to the Sea and were met by troops blocking our path. There was no way to go around them. As we prepared to surrender ourselves to them, their leader strode over to Raphael and announced that we were now his guests and would, he assured us, enjoy Roman hospitality.
With no one else around and no sign of our earlier rescuers, the Zealots, to be seen, we had little choice but to surrender.
We continued our journey to the Sea of Galilee with an imperial escort, the peacefulness and joy of our earlier hosts now a fading memory.
Rachel, I have not forgotten you. I will do everything I can to find you and to free you. I have promised it and I will do it.
Lord, help me to keep my promise. Help me free my sister.
End of Part 29
Other parts of the story are linked on the Fiction page.
Thank you for visiting and reading. Until next time, whoever and wherever you are, please stay safe and well, virtuous and holy, and remember, we are all on the journey to the heavenly city. So pick up your cross daily 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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