The Light of Truth

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Chapter 19

CHAPTER 19

Home of Matthew and Ednah

Later that evening relaxed after the meal, the two men talked while Ednah cleared away the remnants of the supper they had shared. Giannis shared with Matthew his hopes and plans for his marriage to Lois. “I have enough money to purchase a home. I was hoping that I could find one with a workshop attached so that I didn’t have an additional rental.”

“What is the amount you want to spend?” Matthew asked.

When Giannis told him what he had available after subtracting the costs he would need to set up his business, Matthew said, “God is blessing you, Giannis. Just last week our neighbor, a little farther down this street, said he and his wife want to sell and move to be with his family in Myra. Because the home and workshop are combined, there has not been much interest in buying. Most people want a home, not a home plus workshop and he doesn’t want to divide his property. The workshop would lose its value, and there could be problems as they are almost joined.

“Do you have an idea of the price?

“The amount you mention you have, will more than meet what they want to sell for.”

“I would be interested to talk to the owner after these days of Saturnalia are over.”

“Leaving it till then would be wise since he is Roman.”

Approaching the subject tentatively, Giannis asked, “Did I understand correctly that you have somewhere safe to keep the money for the fellowship?”

“I have more than one safe place. Since you left, John has been arrested twice. On the second occasion, he was warned that his goods could be confiscated.” Raising his hand to stop Giannis interrupting, he continued, “The home of John is where some of the tithes from the group are, or were, held… until now. Because of the warning, we have started transferring the funds. In the meantime I am also holding the takings from Samuel’s shop until we can work out a long-term solution.”

Pushing aside the questions Matthew’s information raised, Giannis explained, “I have been wearing a special garment with all the money from my sales. Not only is it heavy and uncomfortable, but I would like to find a safe place to keep the money it contains until I can make the purchases of a home and business.”

“I can help you if you wish. One of the safe places is here. Bring me the money you want to be saved. We will count it together and I will give you an acknowledgment of what you have given me, then I will store it till you need it.”

“No need for that, I trust you, Matthew.”

“Oh but yes, there is need... for both our sakes. We do all we can to avoid dissension between brothers, and disputes over money can be a major cause of misunderstanding.”

“I see what you mean.” After a pause, Giannis continued, “As we will be busy in the morning, would it be acceptable if we do that now?”

Matthew nodded, and Giannis went to the bedroom he had been given and removed the garment. The relief and feeling of lightness surprised him momentarily. He had worn it so long, he felt free without it.

“You have been blessed indeed, Giannis. This will be an excellent start to your new life here," Matthew said when they had counted the money.

“I have thanked God daily for His mercy. To be able to sell my business so quickly, and all my stock also sold...this truly is from God. So now I need to find a home, a workshop and establish my business. Then I will be able to talk to Samuel about my betrothal to Lois.”

“Lois is a gentle person, but one who was much hurt when she was young.”

“Yes, I am aware of that,” Giannis replied quietly. “I won’t cause her any distress.”

Nodding, Matthew recorded the money and wrote a record of it. He put the money into a box saying, “Now, I will put it away.”

Giannis went to follow him, but Matthew stopped him. “It is better that only I know where the money is kept. In these times with the Roman threat...”

Seeing his look of concern, Matthew smiled, “You are wondering what will happen to the money if I am captured or killed?”

Giannis shrugged apologetically.

“There is a code, known to all the elders. If the Romans were to find it, they would think it was something to do with household tasks. If anything happens to me, someone will decipher it, locate the correct safe place and distribute the money to the rightful owner.”

“Correct safe place?” Giannis was puzzled.

“There are many safe places. It would not be wise to keep all the money in the one place. I do not seem to be a person the Romans watch, or even if they know I am a follower of the ‘Way.’ Not many people know my task as quaestor, either, but I take no chances.”

Smiling, Giannis said, “I am awed.”

“It is necessary. We have to keep accurate accounting for the Lord’s money and protect it from harm so it can be used as He directs, as the brethren have need. In these times, we have also had to be careful with our own monies. I will move this money of yours to another place tomorrow. It would not be wise after dark.”

“What happens if you are taken and your property confiscated?”

“Don’t worry. If I am arrested, all this will be cleared before the Romans have time to find it. They will take the house.” Realizing he might give something away he went on, “Besides, most of us are ‘little fish.’ We live quietly and conduct our businesses honestly, paying our taxes and living unobtrusive lives.”

“You seem to have things well organized. I apologize if I appeared to doubt you.”

“With the amount of money you have entrusted to me, you are right to be concerned.”

“It should only be for a short time until I can buy the home.”

Matthew’s wife came back into the room.

“Talk to Ednah while I put this box away. She knows the owner’s wife, and might know more about the details of when they are leaving.”

Turning to his wife, he said, “Giannis is looking for a home with a workshop. I have told him about the people further down the street. You see the woman at the market, maybe you can give him some information about when they are leaving.”

“They went to spend Saturnalia with family in Myra. Fabia told me she wouldn’t mind if they didn’t come back, she misses her children so much.”

Seeing Giannis’ puzzled look, she explained “Fabia is the wife of the owner of the home and workshop that might suit you. Both her daughters married and moved to Myra. And both of them have children whom she rarely sees. Unlike many Roman women, Fabia is very close to her two children and wants to live near them.”

“Do you know if they have left the sale of the property with an agent then?”

“There is a house steward living there. He would be able to tell you... but wait till after Saturnalia.”

“Thank you, Ednah... and I also wanted to thank you for your hospitality.”

“You know we are glad to help you. How are Andreas, Zander and Philos… and his friend Lukas?”

“They are well and send their greetings.”

Ednah smiled, remembering them with genuine affection.

Matthew returned and asked, “Has Ednah been able to help you?”

“Yes, thank you. When this pagan festival is over, I will see the steward at the house and find out if there is an agent handling the sale, or if the owner is coming back.”

“Ednah has always been sensible,” Matthew addressed Giannis and smiled fondly at his wife.

“It has been a long day. I hope you don’t mind, but I would appreciate just going to the room you have given me, and settling down for the night.”

“I think you would have started very early, and covered a considerable distance today.”

“And the days before, too,” Giannis admitted.

“Then I hope you rest well,” Ednah said with her usual smile.

“Do you want me to call you when I am ready to leave in the morning or do you want to rest?” Matthew asked.

“Please call me. I said I would help Samuel.”

“You know we are closing our shops until this festival is over?”

“Samuel mentioned that.”

“In the time we are closed, some of us are meeting with Saba and Samuel to organize the last transfer of funds from his house. Would you like to accompany me and renew your acquaintanceship with the family while I meet with Saba and Samuel?”

“I would like that very much, thank you.”

“Then when you see Samuel tomorrow, tell him I invited you to come with me.”

“Thank you, I will.” Bidding them a good night, he went gratefully to his bedchamber. He wondered if Lois would still accept him. Samuel hadn’t said anything, but there had been no time for conversation with a day as busy as the one he had spent with them had been. It was not only the journey that had been tiring.

As he unpacked his meager possessions, he determined that with some of the money he had kept, he had to purchase new sandals tomorrow while he was at the market.

Thinking of the family, his mind jumped to the account John had been making of his time with the Messiah and wondered if he had completed it. Benjamin hadn’t mentioned anything, but they had been so busy filling up pottery jars there had not been much time to speak, and when they had it was about what they were doing.

He thought of Lois and smiled tenderly. She was gentle and shy, and as Matthew had reminded him, had been hurt when she was young. After he had spoken to Samuel of his intentions before his return to Cyprus, Naomi, in a motherly way, had, with Lois’ permission, given him some information about Lois’ background.

After saying his prayers, he lay for a long time thinking about starting up his business. He would have done well today if he had been set up and able to supply the jars that Samuel had needed. That was something he needed to talk to him about. Would he be willing to buy jars for the ordinary oil, as well as the small, ornamental ones they had already discussed? He knew the sales of the perfumed oil were slower, but they had been profitable.

John’s family home

“Giannis arrived back today,” Samuel told his wife when they arrived home.

“And Abba put him to work as soon as he came through the shop door,” laughed Benjamin.

“We needed his help,” added Alexander.

“I liked him,” Jason volunteered, to Naomi’s surprise. Both Lois and Jason had that same quality of vulnerability, and both had relaxed with him.

Pulling herself back from her thoughts, she instructed, “Go and change out of those wet robes!”

Men and boy went to do her bidding, then came back to wash quickly hoping not to be drenched by another shower.

Over their meal, the men discussed the day and told the women that Giannis had come back with enough money to buy a home and was looking for one with a workshop attached.

Naomi, knowing that Lois wouldn’t say anything, observed, “So, his plans are progressing faster than he thought.”

Lois blushed as Samuel smiled at her, before turning to answer Naomi. “Yes, he said that God had blessed him with an excellent sale of his business.”

“And that is a blessing because when the sale is hurried, it is often for less, rather than more,” John added.

“All his stock was sold too. After these festivals, he will be able to proceed with his plans.”

When the meal was over, Benjamin asked John, “What have you written today, Saba?”

“Come and see,” John invited, and led the way to his bedchamber.

Dodging around the scribe’s desk and chair, Benjamin said, “We still have not moved these back into the upper room.”

“Finishing the writing is more important, which is why I said I would do some of the writing myself when you were needed at the shop.”

“It was busy,” Benjamin said as he settled himself at the scribe’s chair and sorted through the pages. “You have written a lot, Saba,” he observed.

“Say nothing to your mother just yet,” John warned, “but I believe that I will be arrested again and taken to Rome this time. I need this finished before then and secured in a safe place until it can be copied and distributed.”

“Malachi obtaining work at Meshua’s booth in the market-place was a gift from God.”

“Indeed. All the more because it was Meshua’s son who hired the lad. No one knows he is of our group, and he was able to buy us the ordinary grade parchment for the copies.”

“As you have frequently quoted, Saba, ‘O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!’” Benjamin said.

“Correct. It was our brother Paul who recorded that, and you are ‘growing in grace and knowledge,’ my dear boy. I have decided that I will finish the writing, and you must do the copying. If I am taken before I complete it, there will be no one who can finish.”

“I thought you believed that God would protect you until it is complete.”

“I do. But I believe He is warning me that the time is near that I will be taken.”

Not fully taking in the significance of John’s words, Benjamin said, “Then you must spend all your time writing, Saba.”

“No. I have other arrangements that must be made, people to prepare. I will write as often as I can, and you can copy what I have written.”

“Much of your writing is copied, up until we realized we were short of parchment. I will do as much copying as I can and I am sure Giannis would be pleased to help.”

“All in good time. First, many things need to be settled.” Then looking at him steadily, he decided to warn him. “You know that Matthew is taking over the finances.”

“Yes, I do, but I guess I thought it was just a precaution.”

“Perhaps I did not make it clear enough. I believe God has shown me that I will be taken to the emperor,” and before giving Benjamin a chance to comment, he changed the subject and started discussing what he had written.

Benjamin looked up and saw the shock of dark hair before he saw Jason and understood that his great-grandfather was avoiding being overheard.

Benjamin followed his lead and picked up a sheet on the scribes’ desk. “You have re-written this part, that there were Greeks seeking to talk with Him, Saba?”

“I had to go back and put in something I had missed before. I think you will be able to follow it when you make the copy Benjamin.”

Benjamin glanced at the other pages that were laid out to dry and saw that Saba had been writing about Jesus’ trial. He looked at his great-grandfather and nodded imperceptibly, realizing he did not want to discuss it at this time.

John spoke softly, “Many people wanted to see Jesus, to talk with Him. What would you have asked Him if you were a visitor to Jerusalem and had heard all the rumors and controversy about Him?”

Jason, who had come quietly into the room, looked at the sheet Benjamin had put back down. “May I speak, Saba?” he asked, feeling more confident with John and Benjamin.

Surprised, but pleased, John invited him to respond.

“Would they have wanted to know if He was going to rally people and fight the people who were trying to kill Him?”

“A good answer, young Jason.”

Reaching past Benjamin to read the next part, Jason said, “But how does this next part you wrote explain that?”

Benjamin read the words, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”

“To Him, glorification meant His death and resurrection...”

“They would have seen it differently?” Jason asked.

Closing his eyes, John recited from the prophet Daniel, “‘In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like the Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven. He came to the Ancient of Days and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away and His kingdom which shall not be destroyed.’”

Both Benjamin and Jason waited quietly till John opened his eyes and smiled at them.

“But you said He died,” Jason said accusingly.

“Yes, Jason. His glorification could only come through His death for mankind’s sins. No greater glorification could be given. If Jesus had mounted a rebellion against Rome... and the Jewish authorities, what would that have achieved? An imperfect, temporary victory over men. What was needed, and what God provided, was a victory over sin and death.”

Seeing Jason’s puzzled look, John continued “I don’t expect you will understand. We, His friends and disciples, did not know what He meant, at that time. Later, when Jesus was resurrected and He explained the scriptures to us, then we understood. Another prophet, Ezekiel, had foretold that God had said He would provide atonement. But again, none of us understood. When we realized that Jesus meant that He was going to die, it was beyond our comprehension.”

“You have said before, Saba, that tradition has a powerful hold over us,” Benjamin stated.

“Yes,” John answered. “We were caught between belief in Jesus’ teaching, and the tradition we had been reared with. Tradition says the Messiah would be a conqueror who would restore Israel to its former position.”

“But you have written that He was troubled...” Jason observed, rubbing his neck to ease the ache where it hurt from trying to peer at the page.

“And what I said next was that Jesus asked, ‘What shall I say? Father save me from this hour?’ Perhaps you are too young yet, Jason, to ever have been in a position where you knew you had to do something but everything and everyone around you tells you otherwise. Right then, Jesus affirmed His determination to do what He had come into the world to do. ‘It was for this reason I came to this hour.’ Then he called, ‘Father, glorify Your Name!’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it and will glorify it again.’ The crowd heard it. Some thought it thundered, others said an angel spoke to Him.”

“Jason!” Alexander called as he approached. “Time for us to retire for the night.”

Jason thanked John and left the room as silently as he had entered it.

“It’s becoming a habit with him to come in here before he goes to bed,” smiled John.

Agreeing, Benjamin went on to ask, “Do you want to stop now?”

“Not yet. I have written more,” he said. Pointing at the sheets Benjamin had scanned briefly, “Read them and tell me if you have any questions.”

When Benjamin finished reading, he asked, “How did you feel? Jesus was being treated as a criminal. The crowd was divided... did you understand?”

“No, my boy. I must be honest, I didn’t understand. But I trusted Jesus. I saw how deeply He believed, and His faith and determination carried us along, at least for the time.”

“What you said before, ‘unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies...’ Do you know what that means now?” Benjamin asked.

“You tell me what you think.”

After a long silence, Benjamin read, “Unless a grain of wheat falls and dies in the ground, it remains alone, but if it dies, it yields much fruit…” Then he said tentatively, “We are the fruit. Is that it, Saba?”

John nodded and smiled a tired smile, “Jesus’ life is the pattern. We are to imitate Him. We have to put to death our earthly desires.”

Benjamin gasped.

Guessing his great-grandson’s thoughts, John assured him, “No, my boy, I mean put to death self-centered striving after position, wealth. His way was the way of service, we too must serve.”

“But are you saying that because He didn’t marry, we shouldn’t either?”

“Benjamin, Benjamin... I was married, Peter was married... need I go on?”

“No, Saba, you don’t, and I don’t think you should. You look tired and I am keeping you awake.”

“You are only keeping me from my prayers, but I will stop now. Have a peaceful sleep, Benjamin. You will have another busy day tomorrow.”

“And after that I will be back to helping you, Saba.”

“Don’t forget I have a meeting with your father, Matthew and the other elders on the first day the shop is closed. Perhaps you can show Giannis the work we have done... if he comes.”

“I will, Saba. God bless you and grant you an excellent rest.”

“God bless you, my boy," John replied as Benjamin turned to leave the room.

*****

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