John’s family home, a week later
“Saba,” Benjamin said as he tapped gently on his great-grandfather’s open door. “I hesitate to disturb you when you are so busy, but I have a question about the part I am copying.”
“Come in, my boy.”
“I have started to copy what you have written about the empty tomb. Because I know that He arose, it did not occur to me to think about what had happened at the tomb, or what you and the others had felt.”
“Sit down, and we will talk,” John smiled as he put aside his own writing.
“Thank you, Saba.”
John started, “When it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and found the stone had been taken away. Jesus had already risen. At that time, none of us understood that He would be raised from the dead.”
“You said that she ran to tell you and Peter.”
“That is correct, my boy, and we ran to see for ourselves. I was first to arrive at the tomb and saw it was true, the stone had been taken away. I looked in and saw the linen cloths he had been bound with, and the cloth that had been over his face was folded separately. I stood there, thinking. If His body had been taken, why leave the cloths? All the things He had said, which had made no sense to any of us at the time, tumbled through my mind.”
“Saba, you have written that Peter went into the tomb.”
“Yes. Peter saw, and believed. But we did not understand. Jesus was not there, and we did not know what to think, so we went away.”
“You said that Mary Magdalene stood weeping outside the tomb…”
“Yes, Benjamin, it is as I have written it. She was the first to see our Lord when He had risen.”
“Did you understand what she meant when she came and told you about Him saying He was ascending to the Father?”
“Gradually, pieces fitted, but remember He appeared to us and talked with us before His final ascension to the Father. He opened our understanding, but no, on the day we discovered the empty tomb we were still confused and shocked.”
“I think I can understand a little of how that must have felt.”
“Can you, Benjamin? Do you perceive what He meant when He told Mary He was ascending?”
“Not really, although I feel I should.”
“Let me remind you of the wavesheaf offering. The wavesheaf consisted of an omer of barley, still on the stalk, cut at the beginning of the spring harvest. The rest of the harvest would not be cut until later. The Jews had made a tradition of it. Three members of the Sanhedrin, each with sickles, went to cut it as the Sabbath was ending. They had ritual questions and responses. But God’s instruction was only that the wavesheaf be cut from the very beginning of the harvest. It was the first of the firstfruits.”
“In the second book of Moses, Saba?”
“Yes, my boy. Our Savior, no longer my cousin, was that Wavesheaf, spiritually. As the physical wavesheaf was lifted, waved, before God for acceptance…”
“You understand, my boy?”
“I think so, Saba. When Jesus told Mary He had to ascend to the Father, he was presenting Himself as the Wavesheaf offering.”
“The first of the firstfruits,” John said, almost inaudibly. Then he added more clearly, “I sometimes think of what the reunion between the Savior and His Father must have been like. They had been together for eternity… until He laid aside his Godhead to come to earth, be born as a baby, and live a sinless life so He would become our Savior.”
“I remember my parents’ happiness and welcome when I came home after working the season in the vineyard,” Benjamin mused.
“Then think on this, Benjamin. Your parents did not have to watch as the ones you had come to deliver, to die for, rejected and maligned you. Nor did they have to watch as you were disgraced and whipped before being crucified.”
“And taking on all the sins of the world,” Benjamin added.
“For the first time in His life, Jesus’ Father had to turn away,” John said, his voice strained. His memories of the crucifixion still troubled him.
After a few moments, Benjamin said brightly, “So, when He presented Himself, I can imagine all the angels saying, ‘Hallelujah’ and rejoicing because He had done what He had been sent to earth to do.”
“So, do you understand a little more of how to copy what I have written?”
“Yes, Saba, I will go back to it now.”
“I shall soon be finished my writing. These memories are almost complete.”
Knowing what John had predicted, Benjamin said sadly, “I will miss you, Saba.”
“The soldiers cannot travel yet, but I still have much to do preparing for His work to continue. There are many false teachers traveling around, leading the unwary, or unknowing, astray.”
Questions brimmed on Benjamin’s lips, but with a self-control he had not realized he possessed till then, he smiled, then walked to the door. “Then I shall leave you to continue and go back to my copying.”
“Is something the matter, Malachi?” Naomi asked the young man as he walked haltingly down the path from the courtyard gate.
“I did not mean to disturb you,” he apologized as she stood up, leaving the washing she had been doing.
“No matter, is there something wrong with you? Something wrong at home? Why are you here in the morning?”
“May I see Saba?”
“Of course you may. Go up to his chamber. He is finishing his writing. If his door is open, you may knock and go in. But first, tell me, is anything the matter?”
“We have no sickness,” Malachi smiled his crooked smile, then walked wearily down the path, before turning back and saying, “Although, when I have spoken to Saba, I would appreciate if I may also talk with you. ‘Old Simon’ wants me to make arrangements to take Rachel’s mother to visit her next week, and I believe she is going to bring her other daughter home.”
“Go up and see him, then come and talk with me afterward,” Naomi smiled, then gazed after him, curious, as he went to see Saba.
First, Malachi looked in the upper room and saw only Benjamin working there.
“Can I help you, Malachi?”
“I am looking for Saba,” Malachi replied.
“He is working in his chamber.”
“I need to talk to him, to ask him something,” Malachi explained.
“Then go and see if his door is still open. I spoke with him earlier…”
In a nervous rush, Malachi turned and hurried to John’s chamber. The door was ajar. As he raised his hand to knock, the door opened fully and John came out. “Ah, Malachi, what are you doing here in the morning?”
“Sorry, Saba. You are going somewhere?”
“Only to go and fetch some more ink and another pen. That can wait, come in and tell me what brings you here.”
“I think that ‘Old Simon’ is going to tell me he does not want me working for him anymore.”
“What makes you think that?”
“Do you remember I told you the rabbi’s assistant, Jonadab, was with ‘Old Simon’ the day I returned from Patara, and Elizabeth was at the market.”
“I remember. Naomi was… upset that ‘Old Simon’ did not offer you refreshment but sent you here to see if Rachel was able to be moved.”
“Yes, Saba, and I went back later to collect the donkey and cart.”
“Tell me your concern, Malachi.”
“While I went to Patara on the task for ‘Old Simon,’ he hired someone else to work in the shop. The young man, Seth, who took him around the day after his son beat Rachel. Seth seems a sensible person.”
“I understand that with ‘Old Simon’s’ infirmity, he would not want to be in the position of having to be in the shop each day. Besides, the shop must be busier now that the booth in the marketplace is closed. Samuel has not mentioned that another parchment seller has set up business."
“Yes, Saba. I know what you say is all true, but I have been back for two weeks now, and this is the quiet time of year for sales… and we are waiting for stock to arrive…”
“So, ‘Old Simon’ has kept Seth on in the shop?” John queried.
“Yes, Saba. I have been training Doran to do the work I was doing, and Seth is doing what Doran did.”
“I thought you told me that you would be needed to take Elizabeth to visit Rachel, tell Elizabeth’s sisters what happened, and bring the younger girl, Esther, home. Perhaps that is why this other young man has been kept on.”
Malachi drew a deep breath and said in a rush… “It is more than that, I think. ‘Old Simon’ has been different towards me, since I came back, since the rabbi’s assistant was there when I returned. I do not know how to describe it. He is…sometimes it seems as if he is afraid…”
“Perhaps he is,” John replied. “The Jewish community is a close-knit group. If they think he is showing any sign of being sympathetic to ‘heretics,’ he will be cast out of the synagogue. None of the members of the synagogue will be able to buy from him or sell to him, and in the past, even their homes could be confiscated. I do not know what the ruling of the synagogue here in Ephesus would be, but there may be a cause for ‘Old Simon’s’ anxiety.”
“He also knows you will not be needing such a large regular order of the good quality paper. Benjamin told me to let him know.”
“Yes, that was correct. At the start, we did tell him that we would warn him when my requirements would change. I will always buy what I need to write, but now that these memories are almost finished, my need will not be the same. It must be worrisome for the man to see that his income will drop, and perhaps have the threat of the loss of more business from the Jewish community.”
“I knew the Jewish people do not like us, but I did not understand what they would do to one of their own, threaten them…”
“There has already been the matter of Meshua, and what he did to his daughter, for their synagogue to deal with. Perhaps some in the congregation felt ‘Old Simon’ was too harsh.”
“I never thought of all those things,” Malachi responded. “But then, I saw what her father did to Rachel!”
“Whatever people think, it cannot have been easy for ‘Old Simon.’ Casting-off a son is not something that can be pronounced and forgotten. Whether he shows it or not, he must be feeling very hurt.”
“I have never heard him mention his son at all, not since that time.”
“Sometimes things are too painful to talk of.” John was thoughtful for a few moments.
Malachi stared at the floor, unsure what to say, then John spoke again.
“Think back. Benjamin said that the granddaughter, was in the shop, and her mother said she had been ordered by her father not to work there again,” John said.
“It was ‘Old Simon’ who insisted she go in there,” Malachi explained. “He was in so much pain, he needed Doran to help him to the home.”
“That would have made it worse for ‘Old Simon’; he would have blamed himself.” John looked at Malachi assessing his understanding of what he had said.
Sighing, Malachi responded, “Is that why he never came to visit Rachel? I thought it was strange.”
“Think of what I said about the synagogue rules. For me to go to ‘Old Simon’s’ shop and buy goods is acceptable, although some of the stricter Jews would think otherwise. However, for him to come and visit me, that would have led to many enquiries, perhaps a temporary ban, for him. I have forgotten the term they use, but it used to be quite common if someone was not keeping all the ‘traditions.’ No, Malachi, no matter how much he loves his granddaughter ‘Old Simon’ would not have been able to visit her here. If he knew she was being cared for here, he most likely tried to keep it a secret from them.”
“I suppose it has been difficult for him. I had no idea of all those rules and penalties.”
“Yes, and from what she said on the morning she came to say goodbye to her daughter, she had been seen, and ‘Old Simon’ had been scared, or threatened, by Jonadab.”
“I did not know they could be so severe. It sounds as though they are worse than pagans.”
“Do not judge what you do not understand. You are still a young man, there is much of the world you do not yet know. This is why we try to protect our young men and urge you to keep close ties in our fellowship. In that way, there will always be someone to help and guide you as you grow.”
“There have been times I felt…”
“Restricted?” laughed John.
“There was always someone who noticed if I did something I should not have done,” Malachi admitted, self-consciously.
“We try to teach and encourage. Our way is not the way of the strict Jews, although we have similar laws. However, perhaps you will understand your employer a little better now, and remember also that he is in a great deal of pain most of the time.”
“I am sorry. I suppose my only thoughts of ‘Old Simon’ were that he was my employer, and I did not think of all that he has to consider. Although, to be truthful I do not see him in his home as much as Doran does. Learning how to manage the shop kept me occupied, but Doran always helped ‘Old Simon’ to and from the house. Without Rachel, there was more record-keeping needed, so I did that. Now it seems, Doran is taking my place doing that as well. Then when Elizabeth was here every day visiting Rachel, ‘Old Simon’ needed more help from Doran with his medicine.”
“Is Doran Jewish?”
“Yes, Saba. They are neighbors. His mother made a meal for ‘Old Simon’ the night Rachel was hurt. I do not know how much she knows of what happened. After Benjamin and I moved her to the cart, I locked up and ran ahead to find Phillip or his son. I never told Doran anything about what had happened, perhaps the master did. Now he is paying Doran’s mother to cook his meals, and do the jobs that Elizabeth did before. I think it is because Elizabeth will be away from home while. I take her to visit Rachel. I will be paid, he says. I am concerned though. While we are away, they will be making changes to the house.”
“What kind of changes?” John asked. He wondered if ‘Old Simon’ was planning to put his daughter-in-law out, too.
“A grandson from Egypt is coming with the first shipment of parchment when the seas are safe to travel again. He is to work in the shop for the season. Doran said that was why workmen were hired to make changes to the house.”
“This grandson from Egypt, he is going to stay there… to live with ‘Old Simon’?”
“I think so. ‘Old Simon’ has spoken of it to Doran. He was my helper but has now taken over what I was doing, and a new lad has been hired, Seth. He helped ‘Old Simon’ to close the booth in the marketplace and took him around doing the business that needed to be done, that first week when the shop was closed…Oh. I told you all that before, sorry, Saba.”
“Your mind is brimming with many things, stop and think of them one at a time. Now, Malachi. You said that you will be paid to take Rachel’s mother to visit her.”
“Yes, Saba. And I am to wait in the village, stay with someone while the mother goes to visit a sister and bring the other daughter home. Then when the other daughter comes back with her mother, I am to bring both of them home. However long that takes, I will be paid.”
“Then that is not something to trouble you. I am sure Bartholomew, the elder in that area, will make sure you are looked after as long as you need to stay.”
“Perhaps I could do some work while I am there.”
“Bartholomew will be able to help there. I will write a note that you can take with you telling him that you are skilled in copying, in figuring…”
“Oh Saba, thank you,” Malachi interrupted.
“Now, your next concern?”
“That ‘Old Simon’ will no longer want me to work for him when I return.”
“Malachi, are you aware that you have already made a separation in your mind?”
“I do not understand.”
“You have always referred to ‘Old Simon’ as the master, as I understood, because he is your employer. But during most of your talking this morning, you have mainly called him ‘Old Simon.’ Had you noticed?”
“No, I had not, and I do not mean to be disrespectful, Saba.”
“I did not think you were being so, I noticed the change, and wondered if you had already made a separation in your mind. What will you do if you have no employment when you return? Have you considered that?”
“I have worried about it, Saba. With my father away, even though he provides well for us, my money is needed. My younger brothers are growing…”
“Your mother budgets well though.” John gave the young man a long, considering look. “Have you thought of going to sea like your father?”
“My mother would not like it. She worries about my father as it is.”
“Well, then, what have you learned at ‘Old Simon’s’ shop that will help you gain another position?”
“Let me think. I keep records of the supplies that are sold. I do the accounts for ‘Old Simon’ to check.” Mentally going through his duties, he realized he had learned more than he had thought. “It has been my job to arrange the deliveries of the orders, although, at present, there are not many of those. There will not be until the ships are sailing again. Oh, and I have learned to deal with impatient customers.”
“You have many skills then.”
“There are not many opportunities here though. Most of those positions only become vacant when someone dies or moves away.”
“Perhaps you should talk to Bartholomew while you are there, see if he knows of anyone who needs the help of someone with your skills.”
“I had one thought earlier, but I dismissed it, thinking it might be presumptuous.”
“Tell me, and I will let you know what I think,” John said while wondering if Malachi was hoping for work with him or his family.
“When I took the news about his father to Timon, I could see he was struggling to learn so much. He has a warehouse full of goods which are waiting to be shipped. Then there are the ships, including the one my father is captain of, waiting until it is safe to sail back… with their cargoes. I thought at the time that Timon needs someone trustworthy to help, but with the difficulty Timon was having to cope, I did not like to say anything. Instead, I went and helped in the warehouse, while waiting for a caravan to come to Ephesus. I had a day before the Sabbath free, and the day after, so I showed the man the method Rachel used in ‘Old Simon’s’ storeroom.”
John gave an approving nod, “It sounds as though you were a blessing to the man.”
“Thank you, Saba. He said it was a good system, and if ever I wanted to move to Patara he was sure Timon would employ me. I did not talk to Timon about it though… I did not think I would be needing work, but most important was Timon’s difficulty. Not only having to learn something unfamiliar to him, but the news I brought him was shocking. He could barely take it in, he was very distressed.”
“Understandably so. I think Elizabeth talked with Naomi and Lois. She was worried about him, and his wife is with child. It is a heavy burden for the man. How did you and he fare together?”
“I already knew him. It was he who hired me to help in his father’s booth at the market when his father was away, before I went to his father’s shop. I liked him, and he knew of my beliefs.”
“Perhaps that is your answer. Pray about it, and I will pray too.”
“Thank you, Saba.”
“You should also talk with your mother and see how she would feel about you working so far away. It might help if you told her there is a strong community of our brethren there.”
“Thank you, Saba. I will pray about it, talk to my mother and hear her thoughts, then consider how I will feel being so far from family.”
“It is not easy the first time you go away from home, Malachi. I can tell you that from my experience, but there are brethren in Patara who would support and encourage you, if you choose to go to live there.”
“Thank you for helping me sift through my concerns, they were all jumbled in my mind and making it so hard to think. Thank you for your time and your wisdom, now I shall leave you in peace. I need to talk with Naomi about taking Elizabeth to see Rachel.”
John smiled as he watched the young man hurry away. Before he went back to recording more of his memories, he decided to go up to the prayer room. There were so many things he could include in these writings, but he felt that the essential parts had been completed. He had written of the signs of Jesus’ Messiahship and had recorded the last one, His resurrection from the dead. Closing his chamber door quietly, he went up to the roof. The end of his recollections was in sight, he wanted guidance about what else to record, and how to prepare himself for what would soon come, his arrest. There were so many people he had to pray for, and now another one, he smiled. Young Malachi showed great promise and was part of the future of the faith continuing until Christ returned.
There was no sign of either Naomi or Lois when Malachi came back downstairs. He decided he should wait. Elizabeth needed an answer, and ‘Old Simon’ wanted to know so he could make plans. Sitting near John’s bench, he thought about all that John had helped him sort out in his mind.
“Malachi!” Naomi greeted him as she and Lois came through the connecting gate to the land next door. “Lois and I have been spreading out the washing to dry. At this time of year, every fine day is a bonus.”
“Do you have more to do? I do not want to delay you.”
“No, it finished for today. You wanted to talk with me,” she said as she sat down beside him.
“Excuse me, Naomi, I will go and wash the downstairs floors,” Lois said, “This is a day they will also dry.”
“Sorry, Malachi, I am sure you are not interested in our domestic arrangements. What was it you wanted to talk to me about?”
Leaning forward, Malachi said, “It has been a week since Rachel was sent to the village, to the healing woman.”
“Yes. She must be progressing.”
“Her mother wants to visit her. She was told a week or two. ‘Old Simon’ wants to know so arrangements can be made.”
“I doubt she would be able to bring her home yet if that is what she is hoping, but she will be able to visit her next week.
“I will tell her she can make arrangements then.”
“Is Elizabeth alright? I had thought she might have come here.”
“That was one of the other things Elizabeth was concerned about. She did not want you to think she was rude, but she has been unable to visit you and thank you again for all you and the family have done. There is an atmosphere in the home. The rabbi’s assistant seems to have made demands that ‘Old Simon’ is afraid to break, and Elizabeth has probably been told to stay away from heretics like us.”
“So, how will she be able to visit her daughter?” Naomi asked.
“The younger daughter has been staying with one of her aunts and her family. They are Jewish. She stayed with them after their Feast. Seemingly the rabbi said she should come home. So Elizabeth will travel to her sister in the same village that Rachel is in. Then she will go on to the farm where her other sister and the younger daughter is.”
“Sounds complicated. Do you mean that in the village where Rachel is being looked after, there is an aunt? It explains why her mother did not want Rhea to know who was being sent into her care. I wonder if she mentioned it, and with all that was going on, I forgot. Did Elizabeth say anything about the aunt, the one in the village?”
“Yes, it is one of her older sisters. Her husband is a grain merchant. Rhea, who is caring for Rachel, used to be a servant in her house. The other sister is married to Levi ben Nathan, and they have an extensive farm.”
“Yes, I know of them. Our family has had dealings with them, and they are an honorable family.”
“It is them, the ben Nathan family that Rachel’s younger sister is staying with. So in order to bring the girl home, ‘Old Simon’ is sending Elizabeth with his donkey and cart. I am to take her to visit her sister, but she will visit Rachel first, I think. Then I am to wait in the village until Elizabeth and her daughter return.”
“How is she going the rest of the way?” Naomi asked.
“Elizabeth said her sister will send her with one of their servants. ‘Old Simon’ thinks it best if they do not meet me. I will simply be a servant of her father-in-law, sent to take her there.”
“So what is it you wanted of me?”
“To pass on Elizabeth’s message and to ask if you think it will be agreeable for Elizabeth to visit.”
“I am sure it will be fine. As you know, Malachi, our brethren are very hospitable. Rhea will make her welcome, and I am sure Elizabeth is missing her daughter very much.”
“I think so.”
“And you, Malachi. Will you be staying until Elizabeth and the younger girl are ready?”
“Yes, I am to bring them home.”
“Your mother will not mind you being away, again, so soon? It seems that it will take a week, most likely two, since Elizabeth has to see both her sisters… and you have only been back from Patara for a week.”
“But it is not until next week. Arrangements need to be made for ‘Old Simon’ as well.” He smiled, “Aima says it will be alright. And ‘Old Simon’ is going to pay my wages while I do this.”
Naomi raised her eyebrows. She did not think that ‘Old Simon’ was noted for his generosity. “Then you had better go and tell Elizabeth and ‘Old Simon’ they can make arrangements.” She smiled, “At least, as they are Jewish, you will not be asked to travel on the Sabbath.”
Malachi grinned and stood up. “I will go and do that now.” As he made his way to the back gate, he thought happily that while in the village there would be much time to think about his future. He wondered if he should send a message to Timon before he left and ask if there was work for him. He would pray about that, too.