Authors: Bodie,Brock Thoene
Tags: #Historical, #Fiction, #Christian
BODIE & BROCK
Jerusalem Chronicles, Book One
For all the Thoene grandchildren:
Tommi Jane, Wilke Lynn, Turner, Connor,
Titan, Ian, Jessie, and Chance.
Much love from Bubbe and Potsy.
All the promises of Psalm 91 are yours.
Table of Contents
efore he called me forth from the grave, Jesus wept. His was not the loud, frantic keening of the women who mourned outside my tomb. His was a sigh and a groan and a single salty tear. It was, at first, almost imperceptible, even to those standing closest to him.
But his sigh shook the universe, and the place where I was quaked. I stood in the midst of those who watched and waited for all things to be set right.
Jesus groaned, and the heads of angels and saints turned to look down upon the earth in wonder.
His tear trickled down his cheek, and a spring burst forth at my feet. Pure, clear water spilled from its banks and flowed down a mountainside, leaving a myriad of new stars, like flowers, blooming and rising in its wake.
I remember thinking,
On a clear night, constellations above the earth reflect on the still surface of the sea. But here? Only one of Jesus’ tears contains a galaxy
My eternal companions and I listened. We heard his voice echo from Bethany across the universe! He commanded, “Roll away the stone!”
We all waited in anticipation for the next word from his lips.
Then Jesus spoke my name: “Lazarus!”
Surely he could not mean me
, I thought. But all the same, I whispered, “Here I am, Lord.”
Centuries have come and gone since his holy sob ripped me loose from timeless conversation with the ageless ones. Ten thousand, thousand scholars and saints have asked, “Why? What made the King of Heaven bow his head and cover his eyes and spill holy tears onto the earth? Why? Why did Jesus weep?”
When the L
your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to give you … wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant … be careful that you do not forget the L
who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
he sun rose over the garden where my wife and newborn son lay in a newly cut tomb. Thirty days had passed since my Eliza had died in childbirth, taking with her all my hopes and joy. Spring had come to Judea. The vineyards were all in bud, bursting with the promise of new life, but in my heart, death reigned. My life had been pruned as savagely as the most severely clipped and seemingly barren vines in the depth of winter. Ironically, today was my thirtieth birthday.
By rote I spoke the final words of
and placed two stones of remembrance before the grave. The official days of mourning were at an end, but as I walked to the Bethany synagogue
to wash away the ashes of my sorrow, I still carried the weight of my grief with me.
Near the ark containing the Torah scrolls, a minyan of ten village leaders prayed the morning prayers. They did not look my way or speak to me of Eliza and the baby. There was nothing left to say. Custom declared that this morning was officially the moment for me to get on with living.
I accepted their seeming indifference as I stepped into the cool bath and immersed myself, sinking my curly, unkempt hair into the water’s tomblike embrace. When I emerged, I still found my thoughts returning to the beautiful woman I had
loved with all my heart, and to the baby boy who had lived only three short days.
If only …
Did my persistent sorrow show in my face? Did resentment for the brevity of grief permitted me reflect in my eyes?
Judah ben Perez, my friend since childhood, greeted me when I had dressed in clean clothes and emerged into the late spring sunlight. Now we were both widowers—he for many years—but I resented and rejected any comparison between his stoic acceptance and my too fresh, too painful sense of loss.
“The peace of HaShem is with you, David ben Lazarus, my brother!” His tone was too bright, as if he had forgotten Eliza was gone. His words hurt me like light hurts the eyes when one looks directly into the sun.
“And with you, Judah.”
“Welcome back.” He took my arm as though I had been gone on a long journey. “Have you heard the news from Jerusalem?”
Being a rich merchant in the nation’s capital, Judah was much better positioned than most to receive the news from the wider world. His trading caravans regularly made journeys to and from Petra, Ecbatana, and Alexandria. Amphorae of oil or wine or dates or wheat, each bearing the clay seal of the House of Perez, were frequently seen on the docks of Caesarea Maritima. From there they were soon en route to Antioch, Athens, and even Rome itself.
The Roman province called Coele–Syria that stretched from Damascus to the Nile included the Jewish homeland and was rightly called the Breadbasket of the Empire. Pomegranates and sycamore figs grown on my land took their places in the straw-lined baskets of commerce conveyed by Judah’s export company.
Sometimes it amused me to think that grapes from my
Bethany estate, raised under my care, picked at my direction, crushed under my supervision, and transformed into wine of my vintage, made much longer voyages than ever I had done or dreamed of doing.
I never cared to visit Rome, but the fortunes of my house were increased every time a Roman senator’s wife praised the product of my labor. Therefore, I had always looked forward to Judah’s reports.
He was counting on that interest now. As transparent as was the device, I was still grateful for his concern.
Though the politics of Rome and Jerusalem were unfolding a mere two miles from where we stood, I shook my head. I had heard nothing of the outside world for the past month. “What now?”
“The new Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, is staying at old Herod’s palace. He has held meetings with Caiaphas and Annas. The high priesthood is well and truly in the complete control of Rome. Sacrifices are offered daily by Caiaphas in the Temple for Rome and Emperor Tiberius. Every synagogue is commanded to pray for Tiberius.”
“May HaShem bless and keep Tiberius … far away from the land of Eretz-Israel.” I smiled slightly as I uttered the rabbinic blessing for our oppressors.
“Tetrarch Herod Antipas has taken Herodias to his bed.”
“The wife of his brother.”
“And here’s the big news … Caiaphas himself performed the marriage ceremony. The sect of Pharisees is in an uproar. A very quiet and fearful uproar, but even so …”
I pondered this news. “It’s sure to lead to unrest in the countryside, where people still have a conscience. What will Pilate say about such an unholy union?”
“Pilate could care less about his morals. I mean—” he glanced over his shoulder before continuing—”was there ever a more wicked ruler than Tiberius Caesar? As long as our people do not fall into open rebellion, and we hold our tongues and pay our taxes and—”
“Pay and pay and pay. Was there ever such a time as this? Come, Messiah! Deliver us!”
“Herod Antipas has gathered up his entire court and gone off to his palace in Galilee for the season. Out of sight of the people and Pilate.”
I walked with him toward the road that led to my home. “That’s better for all of us. May HaShem bless and keep Herod Antipas …”
“Far away from us …” Judah paused.
The departure of Antipas from Jerusalem was a good thing. His oppressive rule was far worse than that of his father, Herod the Great. Antipas was fully controlled by Rome, while possessing the same vices as his “Butcher King” father.
Judah’s strong jaw stiffened as he waited until a group of village women carrying laundry baskets passed us on the road. When he was certain no one could hear, he resumed. “Well now, my friend, let me tell you. There is unrest in the air. There has come a man … a prophet or a lunatic, depending on who you ask. His name is John. Some say he is Elijah the prophet returned, as holy prophecy teaches. He appeared in the wilderness east of the Jordan, preaching against Rome and Herod Antipas. He calls the common folk to prepare for the coming of the Kingdom of God. He warns of HaShem’s judgment: fire and destruction raining down upon the House of Herod.”