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Chapter Thirty


Back to Samuel’s House




Thanks to a demon or the Evil One, himself, we had abandoned our beloved home.  I wondered those moments if we would ever be able to live in it again.  Eusebius, a daytime optio for Samuel’s sector of town, stopped us once as we approached the entryway to the estate but only to ask Papa what was wrong with the young girl.  Prudently, in anticipation of his meeting with Papa, Regulus hadn’t shared his knowledge with the other optios, so Papa simply explained to Eusebius that they were bringing the child to the physician Abner for treatment.  Nothing was said about Rhoda’s ordeal or the abandonment of our home.  With what struck me as a long, suspicious silence, the optio surveyed our group before giving his horse a kick and galloping away.

“When this gets around Nazareth,” Papa confided to us, “our reputation will be in the cloaca again.”

“God was testing us,” Jesus said grimly. “He won’t forsake us now.”

“Enough with the platitudes, ” grumbled Joseph. “God was testing you, not us.  For whatever reason, Jesus, God forsaked you today.  We got caught in the crossfire.” 

“Yeah,” James joined in, “maybe he’s tired of your high and mighty ways.”

“That’ll be enough boys,” Mama came suddenly alive. “Shame on you!  Do you blame your oldest brother for this?”

“No,” answered James, “we give him credit for it.  It was he who called upon the Lord.  One doesn’t blame God.  I do think he got Him angry this time.  How many times has he counseled us not to tempt the Lord?”

“Yes, on the contrary, Mama,” Joseph replied calmly, “we don’t think this is his fault one bit, but he was foolish.  Yet he’s the bravest person I’ve ever known, which proves this time that he’s mortal and expects too much from himself.”

The stretcher-bearers had entered first.  A doorman stood, holding the great door for the remainder of us.

“Shush!  You must be quiet inside Samuel’s house!” Mordechai demanded, motioning for us to file in.

“Are we gonna get sweetmeats Papa?” whispered Abigail.

“Yes, if you behave,” he said from the corner of his mouth. “Uncle Samuel’s doing us a big favor.  We must all be on our best behavior until our house is cleaned.”

“We’re gonna be all right,” Mama said, patting her daughters’ heads.

Papa put a good face on the crises.  Bravely, yet humbly, Mama and Jesus had also bounced back from the ordeal for the sake of the children.  The expressions on James, Joseph, and Simon’s faces told me that they looked forward to staying in Samuel’s estate.  We would all get cleaned up in the bathes, eat well, and sleep on fine pallets.  Tabitha’s hand in mine was unexpected during the crises.  Though I felt guilty for such thoughts, it made me giddy with delight.  Even Uriah, who Jesus had counseled on the way, seemed relieved that the Pharisee had given us sanctuary in his fine house.  Above all, I realized that nothing—neither storms nor threats of danger—could break Jesus’ spirit.  I heard him laughing at something Martha had said under her breath.  Suddenly, in spite of our misfortune, my family began acting normal again.

Abner had made a cursory inspection of Rhoda, who would be bathed and placed in a special room.  She was, he explained briefly, as we waited in the entrance hall, alive, her vital signs were active, and she might someday awaken from her dark sleep.  Perhaps her mind was damaged, but he just didn’t know.  This was, Mama reassured Uriah, actually good news, since Michael had gone through this state too.  That should have been enough to set our minds at ease.  Uriah had, like myself, counted her among the shades, as the Romans would say.  Now, it appeared as if Rhoda, like Michael and Reuben, would have a long convalescence at the end of which, we hoped, she would spring back like Mariah’s’ son.  Of course, in retrospect, this wasn’t completely true.  Michael had never really shaken his “evil spirit.”  The question was, I asked myself, as I contemplated my family’s fate, would Rhoda, if she came to, prove to be a problem too.  What if, this time, the patient didn’t wake up at all?

With Tabitha so close, it was difficult for me to keep my train of thought.  The voices of servants, herding us like sheep down a corridor, jolted me back to reality.  All of us, especially Jesus, one of them declared, were ritually impure after our experience.  We would have to bath thoroughly and put on new garments before eating or sleeping.  No one, not even Joseph, argued this time about going to the Roman style bathes.  There was no question of ritual impurity.  We had, as Abner called it, been slimed.  I enjoyed sloshing around in the heated water, as did Uriah and my brothers.  Judging by the laughter on the other side of the wall, I could tell that Mama and the girls did too.  Of all the participants, Papa, who had been given a mug of wine, took the most pleasure in the bathes.

“Now this is living!” he declared, sipping his drink.

“Why didn’t they give us drinks?” Uriah whined. “We’re thirsty too.”

“He’s back!  The old Uriah’s back!” I dunked his head.

“Here, take a swig,” Papa handed him his mug.

“Mmmm, that’s good,” he licked his lips. “It’s sweet, not sour like my father’s wine.”

“There’s different kinds of wine,” Papa said, offering me a sip. “I prefer Falernian.  You can’t get much sweeter than that!”

Neither Jesus, James, or Joseph said a word about his actions.  It just wasn’t that important.  Too much had happened today that overrode everything else.  Why was I thinking about Tabitha so much?  She was practically my sister.  No one seemed that worried about Rhoda.  Was it because of what Abner had said about her vital signs?  She was still alive, but she might never wake up.  In that dark place that Jesus and Mama didn’t seem to have, did we wish that she would just die and be done with it?  We didn’t need another incorrigible like Michael in our house.



That night, after our purification in Samuel’s bathes, we dressed in clean clothes provided by the chamberlain.  Papa had his chat with Regulus in Samuel’s garden, while we gathered at the table.  We would learn at dinner that the optio had been shaken badly by the event.  His suggestion, of course, was to burn our house to the ground and build anew.  I don’t know whether Regulus understood the difference between a Hebrew demon and the pervasive evil spirits of Roman religion.  I only learned this myself later during my journey to Antioch.  All we understood that night was that the optio saw in the terrible smell and mess a bad omen, not for himself but for his superstitious men.  Priam and Falco liked and admired Jesus.  Like the other guards, even on the other shifts, they felt he had supernatural and magical powers.  Though the rule in the provinces was less defined, witchcraft was illegal in Rome.  Because most of the guards were Romans, themselves, they carried this superstition and fear, and yet, after our ordeal with Rhoda, we knew we had nothing to fear.  Even the optio had great respect for the oldest son.

Papa explained to Regulus why he didn’t want to burn our house: he had built it with his own hands and such a conflagration would alert the town.  How could we explain this to our neighbors and friends?  Yet what other choice did he have?  It would, he told us at the table, be a controlled fire, similar to the one priests performed to cleanse the inside of ritually contaminated abodes.  The trick was to scorch it without catching the entire structure on fire.  Regulus thought this was an impossible task, but he could suggest nothing better.  What came out of the short meeting in the garden was Papa’s realization that the optio couldn’t accept the possibility that Mama was a witch or that her oldest son practiced sorcery.  He, in fact, accepted Mama as a healer, not someone who practiced the black arts, and was convinced Jesus had godlike powers.

After those last words, Papa shook his head. “I’m sorry, I know it sounds blasphemous, but I didn’t argue with him.  With such a high opinion of Jesus, I figured he might give us the benefit of the doubt.”

“Under the circumstances,” James said, heaving a sigh, “you had no other choice.”

  Mordechai and Abner both nodded gravely.  Samuel, who was propped up by pillows on a nearby couch, grunted in agreement.  Jesus gave Papa a troubled look but said nothing, as the subject of our recent crisis became a religious discussion. 

“It all goes to show,” Samuel wheezed, “is that God often tests a righteous man.”

“You mean like Job?” James frowned.

“I recall reading about him.” Mordechai stroked his beard. “God boasted to Satan of Job’s righteousness and accepted Satan’s challenge.”

“I never liked that scroll.” Abner made a face. “Why would the Lord allow Satan to persecute a righteous man?”

“The point is sir,” confessed Jesus, “I tested God.

At this point, Samuel insisted that someone give the Shema so we could begin eating.  Samuel, himself was on a strict diet, but following Mordechai’s brief prayer, the rest of us jumped into the task with gusto.  As we munched, I looked across the table and discovered that Mama, in spite of her experience, was enjoying the feast, as were Uriah, the girls, and my four brothers.  Papa, who chatted amiably with Mordechai and Abner, as Samuel muttered under his breath, always seem to make the best of a bad situation.  Even Jesus, who was greatly troubled by the will of God, ate heartily that evening.  The uncomfortable subject of our home’s defilement was made light of, as the men grew tipsy during the meal.  During the banter, a suggestion made in jest caught my attention as I chewed my food and continued to guzzle pomegranate punch.  Pausing long enough to hear them above the crunching of my jaws, I sat my mug down and pricked up my ears.

“Well, I agree with your optio,” Mordechai said with a belch. “Burn it down.  Samuel or I will give you a loan to build a bigger house.”

“Yes, that might be best.” Abner sighed. “Your home’s too far gone to be ritually cleaned.”

“No,” Papa shook his head and wiped his beard, “I couldn’t do this.  Samuel’s done enough.”

“You’re all talking as if I’m no longer here,” grumbled Samuel. “I don’t see why Joseph and his family can’t stay here.  The house is big enough.”

“What?” Mordechai caught his breath. “Are you serious?”

“Of course, I’m serious,” Samuel’s voice quivered. “It’s either them or my worthless relatives.  There’s nothing that can be done with Joseph’s house, except its destruction.  My time is growing short.”

Papa seemed to register mixed emotions at Samuel’s suggestion.  Now that the solution had shifted from loaning money for building us a new house to living with our benefactor, however, Mordechai had a change of heart.

“Surely, something can be done,” he gave Samuel a worried look.  “Fire might be out of the question.  Even scorching the inside will damage the structure.  Maybe after it dries, it can be scraped away, like sheep dung off a walkway or food off a table.  Then it could be ritually cleaned.”

“Yes, that might work.” I caught Papa’s gaze. “I remember vomiting on the floor once.  It was cleaned away without a trace.”

“We’re eating dinner,” groaned Joseph. “Let’s discuss something else?”

I was certain everyone else agreed.  Even Mama made a face.  Yet Papa’s eyes widened.  He nodded slowly, as he took another swig.  Slowly, as it was murmured back and forth between the chamberlain, physician, and Pharisee, the idea set Papa’s eyes ablaze.  “You know something,” he announced, wiping off his beard, “all this time that ordeal made us believe our house might be uninhabitable because of the stench and being ritually impure, but Mordechai might be right.” “We, my family,” he said, standing up and looking around the table, “lost our heads today.  Rhoda did such a thorough job of sliming, its very memory made me want to take a torch to the house and burn it to the ground.”

“Humph, let me get this straight,” Abner said, amused by the thought. “You’re going to let that infernal filth dry and then scrap it off your floor and the walls of you house.”

“Well,... it’s worth a try,” Papa said after chewing a mouthful of food.

Abner chuckled to himself, apparently in his cups.  Being a physician made him especially coarse, but Papa seemed delighted at the thought, and Mordechai, who dreaded having the house filled indefinitely with guests, was relieved.  I was just happy we had a plan.  Jesus had said nothing as he ate his dinner, until this moment.

“I remember scraping bird droppings off a freshly sanded table.” He took a methodical sip of punch.  “It left a stain, but stains can be rubbed out or painted over.  If we all work diligently, we can return our home to normal.”

Everyone cheered his enthusiasm in their own way.  As the girls clapped their hands, James and Joseph stroked the chins in agreement.  Mama smiled faintly at her oldest son, her blue eyes twinkling with approval.  As usual, Uriah was too busy gobbling everything in sight.  I had eaten so much, myself, I thought I might burst, and yet I was content.  We had a plan!  The men laughed aloud, Samuel cackled with mirth as the servants poured the men more wine.  I don’t know how he managed it so quickly but Simon reached over while Papa was chatting with Mordechai, and drank half of his goblet of wine.  I was too far away from the adults to try this, but my turn would come.  Even Samuel, though ailing, was tipsy tonight.  Tomorrow night, I would make sure I was sitting beside Papa, Mordechai, or Abner.  Of all the people at the table, I think Jesus was the happiest, and he was as sober as a stone.  His face radiated with purpose again, as if God, Himself, had whispered His approval into his ear.



That night we retired to our pallets in much greater spirits than when we entered Samuel’s house.  As before, I shared a room with Uriah, James shared one with Joseph, Papa and Mama shared the same quarters as did the girls, and Jesus, like the stricken Rhoda, had a room to himself.  That this seemed unfair, considering the fact that Jesus didn’t appear to sleep, didn’t occur to me, until I began writing down my thoughts.  It seemed callous, as I reflect, that only Mama and Jesus seemed concerned very much for Rhoda’s health.  A word I hadn’t yet learned back then—perfunctory—was how I must describe our endearments as we looked into her room.  A small lamp cast its ghostly glow upon her as she lie on her pallet, with hands clasped on her chest.  She looked already dead to me.  As the scribes might say, I had mentally written off this troublesome girl.  Except for Mama and Jesus, we held out little hope.

From Uriah’s babbling lips came the pronouncement most of us felt: “She’s going to die.  It was too much for her.”

“Don’t worry, Uriah,” I tried to console him, “Michael survived.  He was half starved before Jesus got to him, and he lived.”

“Hah,” Uriah spat bitterly, “I remember when Jesus cast out his demon.  He was never the same!”

“But he didn’t die,” I replied quickly. “Jesus helped Mama keep that rascal alive.”

Uriah’s dark little eyes flashed in the lamplight. “You think I want my sister to be like him,” he barked. “I would rather she was dead than wake up and be a curse upon us all.”

“Oh?” I said with a yawn. “What if she remains in the dark sleep?  That would be a  burden too.”

“No one should suffer the dark sleep,” he said with great conviction. “The only Rhoda I want to see is the little sister I knew as a small child before the Evil One entered my family’s house.”

“My thoughts exactly,” I murmured drowsily. “Poor Rhoda’s better off dead.  End of subject.  Now let’s get some sleep.”

Uriah continued to chatter.  Under normal circumstances I would have been impressed by these deep thoughts.  His words, at least, had matured since our schooling in Nazareth.  Unfortunately I was too exhausted to care.  As before, when Uriah wouldn’t shut up, I found myself drifting gradually into slumber, Uriah’s voice fading into the twilight world preceding sleep.

 “Plee-ease Uriah,” I muttered, rolling onto my side, “I’m tired.  Go to sleep!”

“I think my father has a demon,” he prattled. “He once beat me for belching at the table....When he screamed at me, spit flew out of his mouth.”

“Good grief,” I groaned, stuffing my fingers into my ears, “plee-eease, Uriah, shut up!


“I’m so-o-o-o-o sle-e-e-epy....Zzzzzzzzz....Zzzzzzzzz.”
            Suddenly, as I tumbled down that long dark corridor to sleep, I remember being shaken and hearing distant blather, but that was all.  There were no visions or even a trace of a dream recalled the next day.



Upon awakening that morning, I sat up suddenly as if someone had just screamed at me, which in fact they had.  The door to our chambers was open.  A servant scurried past.  Uriah was nowhere in sight, as I looked around the shadowy room, rubbing sleep from my eyes.  Again I heard a voice calling my name, this time in the distance: “Jude come quickly!”  Fearing that some new disaster had befallen my family, I quickly dressed and slipped into my sandals then ran toward the sound of the voice.

“James, Joseph, Simon,” Papa waved his arms excitedly, “Rhoda has disappeared.  According to the servants, Jesus and Mordechai have begun looking for her.  If she acts like a wild beast again, an uninformed sentry might just strike her down.” “We must hurry!” he called back, as he led us out the door.  In the background bewildered by this turn of events was Uriah.  Mama kept the girls in the house as Papa insisted, though Tabitha insisted on coming along.

“I thought she was in the dark sleep,” Uriah whimpered.  “Rhoda was practically dead.”

“We can’t wait for you to catch up,” I counseled, as I tried keeping up with the others.

“Two-by-twos!” Papa stopped to direct.  “Slow down if you hear galloping.  If a sentry asks what’s wrong, we tell him we have a family emergency.  If he asks who, we’ll tell him truthfully that it’s the rabbi’s daughter.” “Just let me do the talking.” He threw up his hands.

Sure enough, as we reached the main road down the hill from Samuel’s estate, a sentry called out angrily, “Halt Jews!  What’s the hurry?”

Papa sputtered out our story.  Uriah, still trailing in the distance, was bawling.  Tabitha, restrained by Mama, was still back at the house.

“Why is that child weeping?” snapped the sentry, climbing off his mount.

“That’s Uriah,” piped Simon, “he’s sister’s very sick.”

The Roman frowned down at his.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t our acquaintances Hadrian or Balto but a new sentry, we hadn’t seen before, who climbed off his horse.

“I am Callisto,” he mumbled curtly, “please state all your names.”

Obediently, we responded in sequence.  When Papa sounded off, the sentry’s eyes widened in recognition.  When Uriah arrived at the scene, James clamped a hand over his mouth.

“I’ve heard about you.” He reached out to pat Papa’s shoulder. “Ho-ho, you’re that carpenter, who has that miracle-working son.”

“Well, yes.” Papa sighed with relief. “We’re proud of him.”

“Hah!  Proud isn’t the word!” he exclaimed, removing his helmet and wiping his brow. “From what I heard, your son’s a demigod.  He cures dead people and makes it rain.  Hercules was once a demigod.  Now they build statues of him.  We Romans worship men like that.”

In Callisto’s blasphemous and misinformed words, Jesus was given his strongest praise by a pagan—a stranger at that.  Not one word from Papa about Rhoda’s health was mentioned.  It no longer mattered.  As if his recognition of Jesus’ father made everything all right, he jumped back on his horse and, calling back a friendly admonition, galloped away.

“Good health Joseph of Nazareth,” his voice trailed off. “Counsel your children not to run in town.  Nothing is so foolish here than a running Jew.”

With this amiable insult, he reminded us of one of the Romans’ most important rules.  Quick-stepping down the main road and through our gate, we dashed impulsively up to the front door, yet halted before entering the house. 

“Well,” Papa said, looking over his shoulder, “here goes.”

“This is going to make me sick,” Simon made a face.

“Me too,” Uriah shivered with dread.

Though he opened the door just a crack, the smell immediately assailed our nostrils.

“Lord of Heaven,” he groaned as he opened the door, “can I really clean this place up?”

“We’re going to do it together,” I reminded him bravely, pinching my nose.

When we entered one-by-one into the shadows of the shuttered house, it sounded as if we all wretched at once.  James and Joseph backed away in revulsion.  Uriah and Simon had, as we stood in the center of the large room, already ran back out into the front yard, gasping and making gagging noises on the way.  Lurching forward like drunk, holding his forearm up to his mouth, Papa almost made it to the window as if he might let in some light, then just as quickly changed his mind.

“That’s not a good idea,” he concluded settling shakily onto a stool.

“We’ve seen enough,” I said, my tunic pulled up to my face, “Rhoda’s not here.”

“It’s so dark.” James cried, tromping across the floor. “Let’s open the back door for light.  We don’t want anyone smelling this.”

A stream of sunlight filled the room.  It was, as we expected, empty.  Just for good measure, though, James peeked into the back room, and Joseph checked our parents’ chambers.  Needing no more affirmation, we all rushed out the back door for fresh air.

“Shut the door behind you, Jude,” Papa ordered in a strained voice. “The odor might carry into the wind.”

“I’m gonna be sick,” Joseph staggered into the yard.

“Burn it!” Papa cried out angrily. “I’ve never, in all my days, smelled anything so rank.”

I knew Papa was upset, so I didn’t argue with him.  Even with this horror before us, I could see disagreement registering on James’ face.  Joseph was bending over and vomiting, as I imagined Simon and Uriah did in the front yard.  We looked around, searching numbly for signs of Jesus and the girl.

“Your oldest brother will never give up on lost souls.” Papa said wearily. “We should never have taken that girl in.”

“Where do you suppose she is?” James glanced up and down the yard. “You think she might’ve ran off somewhere else?  Last time she ran down the road.”

“Dear God, I hope not,” Papa grabbed his forehead. “She would be in great danger with all those soldiers about.” “On the other hand,” he added, scratching his head, “they might be in danger too.”

“What do we do now?” Joseph asked weakly. “She could be anywhere.  She could’ve ran into Samuel’s woods.”

“I don’t think so,” I shook my head. “I think, in her state of mind, she’d return home.”

“Why didn’t I think of that?” Papa pounded his temples. “That could be a problem if Joachim opens his door.”

“Yeah,” snickered James, “she might tear him to pieces.”

“No,” I corrected gently, “not his home, our home.  She wasn’t happy over there.”

“She’s not here Jude,” Papa waved impatiently, “we already checked.  She’s probably running amuck.”

“Unless, of course,” I suggested, looking across the yard, “she ran down the Shepherd’s Trail.”

“I think,” Papa declared, settling on a stump, “Jesus and Mordechai are out there right now hunting for Rhoda.  They’ll need the help of the sentries to bring her in.”  “This isn’t good.” He buried his face in his hands. “In broad daylight she’ll become a spectacle in town.”

“Please Papa,” I said, trotting toward the trees, “let’s check the trail.  I have a strong feeling about this.  Come on James and Joseph.  It’s where I’d go.”

“You’ve never been possessed,” replied Joseph.

“I’m not so sure about that,” quipped James.

The four of us negotiated the trail as if we might encounter a wild beast, which, considering what had happened, was not far from the truth.  Simon and Uriah, we learned later, had returned to Samuel’s house.  Though frightened, himself, Papa insisted on leading us, brandishing a branch, which he moved right and left before him in comic flogging motions.  In hysterical humor, James called it a demon switch, giggling foolishly as a small furry animal crossed our path.   In spite of our laughter, all of us, Papa included, picked up stones to brain Rhoda with.  It occurred to me, though, when I considered the facts, that we had nothing to fear.  It seemed to me that Rhoda would run from not to us.  It also appeared likely she would have awakened from the dark sleep as Michael had, moving about sluggishly as the walking dead.  When I considered how deathlike Rhoda’s pose had been, any other alternative seemed unlikely.  Nevertheless, Papa, James, Joseph, and I expected the worst.  Anything was possible after yesterday’s ordeal.

When were halfway down the trail and could see the camp and plain below, something moved in the distance chilling our bones.  Suddenly, as I moved past them, shielding my eyes from the morning sun, I wasn’t afraid.  There, amidst a handful of Arabs, including their leader Odeh, mulled several Roman soldiers.  Two of the sentries had dismounted from their horses, while the remainder appeared to be on foot.  In the center of the Arabs and Romans, stood a tall young man in white holding the hand of a small child.

“Merciful Abraham,” cried Papa, “what does this mean?”

“It’s not good,” mumbled Joseph, “not good at all.”

“Are they angry with Jesus and Rhoda?” James voice quivered. “What do you think?  I can’t tell.”

“Angry!” Joseph decided.

“Let’s go find out,” I grew excited. “Jesus found Rhoda.  The Romans won’t harm him.

“Jude, get back here!” Papa shouted, as I took to my heels.

Fearing how the Romans might interpret my actions, they tried to stop me in my tracks, but I was too fast.  Remembering Callisto’s warning about running Jews, I felt stupid but also joyous.  Papa was furious.  James and Joseph were fearful.  By the time they caught up with me, however, I was close enough to holler a greeting and let them know I wasn’t a threat.

 “Regulus, Gratian, Leto, Diblius, and Zeno!” I cried.

An event that required our optio, four of his men, and two roving sentries, had boded ill from afar, but the Romans, Regulus included, were in good spirits.  Jesus appeared to have been chatting with them.  Even the normally sour-faced Leto was smiling at something Jesus said.  The most amazing thing, of course, was Rhoda, who was once again acting like a young child.

Papa, James, and Joseph were speechless.  The looks on our faces caused the Romans great mirth, especially our guards.

“Your son chased this child half way into the desert,” Regulus explained jovially to Papa.

“Ho-ho!” Gratian laughed, slapping his knee. “Ran like the furies, both of them—‘specially the girl.”

“You scared me to death,” Leto confessed, grinning at Jesus. “I saw this mad little thing scurrying by then a streak of white, which turned out to be you.  At first, when I heard the commotion, I thought we were being attacked!

“Praise the Lord,” Papa murmured, clutching my hand.

Regulus stepped forward to grip Papa’s forearm. “Our sentries witnessed the whole thing, as did my guards.  Go ahead Zeno,” he motioned amiably, “you went after her.  Tell them what you saw.”

“Well sir,” the gruff-looking guard cleared his throat, “it’s like Gratian and Leto said, only we were closer in.  Ol’ Dib and me was walking the perimeter when we saw this wild thing run past.  I thought it might be a mad jackal or dog, but it went so fast we couldn’t make it out.  Then we saw this fellow in white dashing after her, calling her name over and over.  I couldn’t make out the rest.  Maybe he was praying.” “Truth is,” he added, shrugging his shoulders, “she was too fast—even for him.  Luckily, the sentries were making their rounds or she’d be long gone!”

“Jesus was really upset,” claimed Diblius, “like he wanted to ring her neck.”

“I could see that,” one of the sentries jumped in. “She would’ve out ran him too, if we hadn’t rode her down.”

“Roped her like a mad thing,” the second sentry boasted.

“Zeno was correct,” Jesus said flatly, “I was praying.  Rhoda was still in the grip of darkness.  Now she’s fully awake.”

“What does that mean?” muttered Joseph.

“All that matters to me kind sirs,” Papa grinned happily, “is the look on that child’s face.”

“I was asleep, and Jesus awakened me,” she said in clear, sane voice.

Though we didn’t trust her yet, this person holding Jesus hand was not the same Rhoda we had seen in the past.  The snarling beast had apparently left.  Jesus would not take credit for ‘waking her up,’ but the soldiers looked upon him with awe.  The spirit of the Romans as they mingled with shepherds and Jews before departing also left a lasting imprint on my mind. 


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