“Simon saw Yeshua come back from the dead!” Andrew said.
“I didn’t see Yeshua!” I replied. “How did you get to be so stupid?”
Andrew and I were meeting with Jacob and Levi at the Cyrene’s tavern after returning to Jerusalem. “What did you see?” Levi asked me.
“Look,” I said, completely ignoring his question, “I only came back to Jerusalem to bring Jacob back to Galilee. I already got Yeshua killed, I can’t let the same thing happen to his brother.”
“I’m not going back,” Jacob said.
“This might come as a surprise to you Simon, but people actually believe the Message. You thought the Romans could never be driven out of Judea, but everyone took notice of Yeshua. Including the Greeks!”
“The Greeks? We were only in Scythopolis for a few days. We barely spoke Greek!”
“Yeshua made quite an impression on them.”
“Yeah, they’re saying that he did all kind of shit,” Levi said, “healing the blind, casting out demons and sending them into pigs, making the lame walk…”
“Are you sure they’re not confusing him with one of the thousands of other lunatics that wonder around the Decapolis?”
“I’m telling ya Simon,” Jacob exclaimed, “these Greeks have some goddamned imagination. They think he’s some wandering miracle worker! There is some guy named Stephanos who followed us all the way from Scythopolis. He’s been screaming in the streets! He’s pissed about the crucifixion!”
“You guys didn’t talk to him, right?”
Right then, Mary walked into the tavern. She had the look of death on her face.
“What’s wrong?” Jacob asked.
All of us ventured outside of the city walls to Joseph’s tomb near the Mount of Olives. The women were weeping. I walked inside the tomb and Yeshua’s body wasn’t there.
“The Greeks?” I asked Jacob.
“How would they have known where his body was?”
Joseph was stomping down the hill up ahead. I looked over to Jacob. “Let me handle this,” I said.
Joseph was only a few yards away when he started yelling. “You guys have been an epic pain in my ass!”
“Now Joseph, calm down,” I said. “I’m only here to collect Jacob and bring him back to Galilee. I swear. I’m not here to cause trouble.”
“Like hell! All the Jews are gone but now the streets are crawling with Greeks! Ever since Passover ended, they’ve been piling into the city!”
“I know, but we have nothing to do with that.”
“Bullshit! This idiot here…” Joseph cried, referring to Jacob, “has been seen screaming on the streets with that lunatic Stephanos. And now all of you are grave robbing!”
I shook my head as I looked over to Jacob. “Joseph, we didn’t take Yeshua’s body. Mary came here this morning and it was gone. As for the Greeks, I don’t know what to tell you. We’ll leave Jerusalem and maybe this will all blow over in a few weeks.”
“Too late. They’ve been threatening the Sadducees and Pharisees because apparently, Yeshua was railing against them in Scythopolis! I know you were there Simon. So this IS your fault!”
Damn it, I thought. I looked over to Jacob. “This has gotten out of hand. We’re leaving.”
“If all of you are leaving, you better do it quick. The Sanhedrin wants this fire put out now! Herod is bringing in mercenaries from all over the empire. A few of them might be here now. You’re probably as good as dead,” Joseph said.
“Then that means you too,” I told him. “You’re as guilty as the rest of us.”
Jacob spoke up. “It doesn’t matter where we go. Do none of you see what’s going on here? The moment Yeshua spoke against the Romans and their collaborators, we had a target on our backs. We knew the risks. And we accepted them. Because look around you: lepers, beggars, widows, children sleeping on the streets. We can’t continue to live like this. Even the Greeks agree! Yes Yeshua is dead, but that doesn’t mean the Kingdom of God is dead too. We continue to fight for it or we die in the streets.”
Joseph was silent.
“It’s time for you to take a stand Joseph,” Jacob continued. “You’re either with us or you’re with Herod.”
Joseph looked down to the ground and thought for a moment. “I have no love for the Romans,” Joseph said, “but I want no more bloodshed. So I ask all of you: stay away from the Gentiles. They aren’t our problem. Let them take the fall for this Yeshua situation. If you can do this, I can keep the Sanhedrin off your scent.”
“But Joseph,” Jacob replied, “a lot of them are Jewish converts. We’re in this together.”
“Listen to me Jacob: stay away from them. And please, for the love of God, lay low!”
With those words, Joseph walked away. Jacob was beside himself. “What does he expect us to do?” he said to me, “we can’t just wish the Romans away!”
I put my hands on his shoulders to calm him down. “Jacob, he may be onto something,” I said. “Let’s face it: we don’t have the power to get the Romans out of Judea just yet. Our only choice is to play the long game. Alright? Now you might be safe in Jerusalem for the time being, but you’re gonna have to live to fight another day. Also, keep quiet about being Yeshua’s brother. Okay?”
Jacob nodded. “Are you going back to Galilee?” he asked.
I smiled. “No. I gotta keep you out of trouble,” I replied.
All of us went back into the city walls individually. As I was returning to the Cyrene’s tavern, a strange man in a black cloak pulled me into an alley and put a dagger to my throat.
“I got money in my satchel,” I said to him.
“I don’t want your money!” the man replied. He was a short, wiry figure with rashes and scabs all over his face. “I recognize you!”
“Well I don’t recognize you.”
“Don’t play with me! I saw you with that man in Caesarea.”
“Yeshua you fool!”
He punched me in the stomach and I fell to the ground. “Why are you in Jerusalem?” the figure asked.
“I’m just a fisherman. I’m here in town because of Passover. I’m leaving tomorrow, I swear!” I said as I was gasping for air.
“Why would I lie about that?!”
He kicked me in the face and I fell flat on the ground. The man continued his interrogation.
“Who do you know here?”
I crawled back to my knees. “Joseph, alright! He’s from Arimathea! He’s on the Jerusalem Council!”
“Can you confirm that?”
“We can go talk to him now!”
The man put his dagger back into his cloak and he helped me off the ground. He also dusted me off. “I’m sorry about the confusion,” he said. “There’s a lot of insurrectionists around. They always cause trouble around Passover. Can never be too safe, ya know?”
I wiped the blood from my mouth. “Indeed.”
“Alright, well you take care now,” the man said.
He walked up to the edge of the alley, looked to his left and right, and disappeared back into the city streets.
TO BE CONTINUED…