Walking the Cat . . .

Because life's kinda like that . . .

True Believer pt4. . .(it could have happened this way)

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          Weeks passed with no word of Yohanon’s fate; the few travelers Yeshua encountered offered little new information.  A chance meeting with a pilgrim on his way to Galilee finally provided information as to Yohanon’s whereabouts.

           “Yes, I know of the Baptist,” the man said in response to Yeshua’s query.  “But I wouldn’t be in too big a hurry to find him if I were you.”

           “Why not?”  Where has he been taken?”

           The man looked at Yeshua with deep sadness.  “Macherus.”

          “Macherus?  Are you certain?”  Yeshua asked, incredulous.  Macherus was the name of a fortress some miles from Jerusalem.  Originally built as an outpost for troops guarding the southern frontier, in recent years it was used as a prison for political dissidents.  It also had the reputation of being the final destination for King Herod’s enemies.

          The traveler nodded solemnly in response and continued on his journey, leaving Yeshua to his own thoughts as he watched the pilgrim walk away.  If what the man had told him was true, there was little hope he would ever see Yohanon again.  He returned to his campsite in a state of near despair.  Without the Baptist’s leadership, the movement he began would founder, the people unprepared for the Messiah when he appeared and Kingdom of God would not be realized.

          Yeshua was not ready to abandon Yohanon’s mission when the Kingdom was so close at hand.  He shared his mentor’s belief that the teachings of the Torah were not a collection of abstract ideas but an integral part of everyday life.  He understood Yohanon’s sermons and lessons were intended to show the rules of the Covenant were not obstacles but a means to improve their lives.  When God saw fit to establish His Kingdom — and it would not be long in coming — only those who freely repented their sins and followed the rules of the Covenant for love of God would be welcomed into the Kingdom and given the opportunity to enjoy all its freedoms.  There were many, Yeshua knew, who heard the Baptist’s message and were gladdened by the hope it inspired.  But he also knew without Yohanon’s presence to constantly reinforce his message, they would soon fall away and seek out others whose messages held appeal.

          There were other preachers who wandered the desert.  Yeshua had seen some of these sad, demented med, preaching their gospels of divine retribution; of a Messiah, a Warrior King who would force the Romans from Israel and establish a kingdom of the righteous to last for all time.  It was a message that held no small appeal for many, especially the poor and those who did not benefit as a result of the Roman occupation.  Yeshua understood, as the Baptist did, these wandering preachers were mere rabble-rousers parading as prophets and promoting a message of outright rebellion, a message shared by the Zealots.  They were not interested in establishing a kingdom dedicated to peaceable adherence to God’s Covenant.

          The majority of Jews did not accept the idea of open rebellion against Rome.  They had their fill of war; many were still haunted by the images of the thousands crucified by the Romans after the rebellion led by Judas of Galilee.  They had little or nothing to do with Romans.    Like Yeshua, they wanted only to work their fields or conduct their business, raise their families and worship their God without Roman interference.  They constantly complained of the Roman demand for taxes, which they characterized as  tribute to a pagan god; something strictly forbidden by Mosaic Law.  It was a major point of contention between Jew and Roman, one that escalated from demonstrations of Jewish outrage to widespread guerilla warfare.  It was also a subject the Romans found increasingly difficult to comprehend.

          The few Romans the people did encounter were soldiers; men who regarded religion as little more than superstition, more useful in preparing men for combat or controlling populations than in paying tribute to some supernatural deity.  The one area in which this attitude was obscured was in regard to the Emperor.  While it was true the Emperor was elevated to the status of a god, usually by his own decree, most Romans viewed the various celebrations and rituals in his honor as more a matter of political necessity than religious observance.  Yeshua had seen evidence of this attitude while working at Sepphoris.

          Aurelius Galba, one of the Roman engineers charged with overseeing construction in the city, had summoned Yeshua to explain the day’s construction plans.  “King Herod wants a likeness of the Emperor Tiberius carved for the atrium wall of his residence, Jesus<” the engineer said without looking up from the plans strewn across the table in front of him.  Galba spoke only Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic being too difficult a tongue for the Romans to master.

          “There are none among the men who have such skill, Engineer Galba,” Yeshua replied in Greek.

          “You mean to tell me there are no artisans among you Jews?”

          “None with the skill you require, Engineer Galba.  Our artisans content themselves with making ornaments for the Temple, clothing or jewelry or other useful items.  They do no make images of animals or men.”

          Galba was nonplussed.  “Surely, there must be such images in the Temple in Jerusalem; images of your god, your holy prophets there.”

          “There are none, Engineer Galba,” Yeshua replied matter-of-factly.  “The Torah, our Holy Law, forbids making such images lest they be taken for gods and worshipped before the God of Israel.”

          Aurelius Galba tried, unsuccessfully, to hide his consternation.  It wouldn’t do to berate these men for following their religion.  It would only make it more difficult to get them to work, and it was hard enough as it was.  “I’ll have to bring an artisan from Damascus to do the work,” he conceded, obviously irritated by the delay it would cause in the construction.  The engineer leaned heavily on the work table and appeared to study the plans laid out there.  “Perhaps it’s not such a bad thing you are forbidden to carve images of men, Jesus,”  he said more to himself than to his foreman.  “It’s been my experience that men make poor gods, and gods make even poorer rulers.”  After several moments of silence passed between the two men, Galba looked up.  “That will be all, Jesus.”

          Alone in his cave, Yeshua paced as he contemplated what to do next.  “Should I go to Macherus and add my voice to those calling for his release?”, he asked aloud.  “Or should I go to Jerusalem and petition the Sanhedrin to intervene on his behalf?”  Neither idea held promise.  The addition of his voice to those already petitioning the king for the Baptist’s release would scarcely matter to anyone except himself and the likelihood of the Sanhedrin entering the controversy on the side of an itinerant preacher against King Herod was practically non-existent.  Even if the high court took up the matter, it could be months before they decided on a course of action and by then it would be too late.  Prayer and meditation had proved ineffective.  Something had to be done, and done quickly or the Baptist’s movement would collapse and his message would be lost.




Written by stevewthomas

April 22, 2014 at 6:53 pm

2 Responses

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  1. I would quite enjoy reading the rest of this tale. I hope you take the time and effort required to complete it. I have a few suggestions; The term “bolted” seemed out of place. It seems you were trying to write from Yeshua’s thoughts and it felt odd to read a 20th\21st century slang term during his thought process in the cave. However, I imagine I could be persuaded on the subject with a solid argument.
    Also, it seems there was something missing in between when Yeshua got dressed after leaving the river and when he arrived back at the cave. Unless it is to be assumed that the river bank runs right up against the entrance to the cave or maybe I missed it somehow. It wouldn’t hurt to spend a few more words on the various settings in this story, I have a pretty vivid imagination, but with others who appreciate your work it might not be so. They may just need a little more minds-eye candy to stay immersed in the story. Again, just a few suggestions and ,I think, constructive criticisms.

    Joshua Stephen Thomas Sr.

    September 1, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    • All points well made, Joshua. Truth be told, the “backstory” to these pages is something rather personal and for the time being the project is on hiatus. I may return to it in the future though. Thanks for thinking other readers “appreciate” my work. Judging from the feedback (or lack of it) I’ve received on WP, you’re in the minorty. Thanks for reading & commenting, -S-


      September 1, 2015 at 4:25 pm

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