“What happened to your face?” Jacob asked as I met him at the Cyrene’s inn.
“I was attacked by one of Herod’s thugs,” I said. “They’re onto us. So watch who you talk to.”
“You didn’t tell him anything did you?”
“I told him I was a friend of Joseph’s. After that, he left me alone.”
“Shit,” Jacob said and rubbed his face. “Well good news is I met with Ananias and his wife Sapphira. Remember them?”
“The one’s from Rome?”
“Yeah. They sold some of their property in Judea. They gave the money to John to distribute to the widows outside of the city walls. It’s finally happening Simon!”
“Don’t let it get to your head!” I told him. “You still need to lie low.”
Just then a big burly fellow with six other men busted through the door. “Χαιρετίσματα Jacob,” the booming voice said.
“You’re Stephanos?!” I exclaimed.
Stephanos looked over to me and back over to Jacob. “Who’s dis?” the man asked in his Greek accent.
“Relax, he’s Simon,” Jacob replied. “He was a good friend of Yeshua’s.”
Stephanos looked me up and down. “I heard you were arrested,” he said to me.
“No, it must have been another Simon,” I replied. “I’m from Bethsaida.”
Stephanos was confused. He looked back to Jacob. “I was told that Ananias gave you money. Our women and children are starving too-“
“Now Stephanos,” Jacob interrupted, “I know where you’re going with this. But Ananias was very clear: he wanted us to use this money to help the widows of Jerusalem.”
“Because we’re Greeks we’re not as important as the Hebrews?”
“I didn’t say that. Please listen to me. I’m only respecting Ananias’ wishes.”
Stephanos was furious. “We’ve been in the streets for days while you Hebrews have been coward up in your homes! Do you support us or not?!”
“Of course I support you!” Jacob yelled then took a deep breath. “I get how you feel, Stephanos, I really do. But you gotta understand our situation. Herod and Pilate aren’t too concerned with the Greeks right now. But they are after us. We can’t be out in the streets and we don’t have the money to spread around to everyone. I’m sorry. But Ananias is a very successful man from Rome and a diaspora Jew just like yourself. If you go to him and explain your situation, he can probably provide you with some assistance.”
Stephanos stood silent for a moment then muttered something in Greek. He walked up to Jacob. “μη με σταυρώνεις,” he said. Then him and his six men left the room.
“You should’ve stayed away from him Jacob,” I said.
“And Stephanos is a convert. To Ananias, he’s still a Gentile. He’s not giving him the money.”
Jacob began rubbing his temples. “I need a drink,” he said.
We went down to the tavern where Levi was scribbling something down. “What are you doing?” Jacob asked him.
“The Greeks wanted something to tell the people back in the Decapolis. Something about Yeshua.”
I looked over the writing. He didn’t write much but it was all in Greek. I couldn’t understand a word of it. Jacob was puzzled. “Where did you learn to write Greek?”
“In school, here in Jerusalem” Levi replied, “I had to learn it along with Hebrew.”
“Maybe we should drop the subject of Greeks for the time being,” I said.
We sat silently drinking our wine for a few minutes. There was a commotion on the streets. Andrew came running up. “They’re about to stone some of the Greeks!” he screamed.
Jacob and Levi instantly got up. “Aren’t you coming along?” Jacob asked me. Against my better judgment, I put down the wine cup and followed them.
A few blocks away, a crowd was gathering. Some were shouting. Others gawked out of morbid curiosity. Moments later, Temple guards began dragging out seven Greeks. One of them was Stephanos.
Behind them followed a few members of the Sanhedrin, including Joseph. Standing beside him was Ananias.
“Thief! Thief!” Ananias shouted. “These men conspired with Yeshua to rob the Temple and overthrow the Romans!”
My heart began to sink. This was a setup.
The guards threw the Greeks in front of Herod’s black-cloaked mercenaries who had their spears ready. Meanwhile, the Roman guards stood back smiling at the whole affair.
A judge from the Sanhedrin stood among the crowd and faced the accused. “Conspiracy, sedition, robbery of Ananias,” the judge said, “are these accusations true?”
It didn’t matter what Stephanos said. And he knew it. From his knees, he laughed and looked at the crowd. “You stiff-necked people,” he said, “your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him—”
“God help you,” the judge said.
With those words, the mercenaries plunged their spears into the bellies of the Greeks. A pool of blood formed in the middle of the crowd.
Levi screamed in horror and ran away.
But the crowd was just getting warmed up. They picked up stones or any disposable object and began hurling them towards Stephanos. He got bruised and battered and knocked in the head a few times but kept crawling forward.
Among the mercenaries, I recognized a familiar face: The scars….the scabs…the wiry frame. It was him alright. It was the man that attacked me a few days earlier.
And Stephanos kept crawling towards this man as the stones were raining down on him. When he reached his feet, Stephanos grabbed the man’s cloak and got to his knees.
I was too far away to hear anything, but Stephanos was clearly saying something to this man. Judging by his face, the figure was stunned by what was being said. But before the figure could react, a member of the crowd smashed a rock into Stephanos’ skull.
The man in the black cloak stood back with blood and brain matter splattered all over his face. He was in a daze.
Before the crowd could mutilate the bodies, Joseph stepped in to quiet them. That’s enough!” he yelled. “The perpetrators of the Passover sedition have been caught and punished! This matter is closed! Please return to your homes!” As the crowds dispersed, the Temple guards started dragging the bodies outside of the city walls.
Jacob and I returned to the inn in silence. We didn’t know what to make of what just happened. “Do we leave Jerusalem?” Jacob asked.
“Why?” I replied. “It looks like Joseph and Ananias took care of our problem.”
TO BE CONTINUED…