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Chapter Thirty-Two






As I Looked ahead to my future, I was again filled with doubt.  Aulus, Rufus, Fronto, and Ibrim would return in good graces to the Galilean Cohort, while I returned to the life of a carpenter’s apprentice, exactly what I had hoped to escape.  Apollo, the only other survivor of our original journey, had a less certain future.  Though the unpredictable Egyptian never liked me, ridiculing me every chance he had, I felt sorry for him.  The fact that he had not been present to see us off was our first topic on the road south.

The men were sullen during the first mile south, partially because they were suffering the effects of wine.  I was not certain about Aulus.  Perhaps he was thinking about his friends Decimus and Vesto, who had not survived.  It seemed unfair that a rogue like Apollo would live while all those other good men died in battle.    

Clearing my throat I asked off-handedly, “Will Apollo recover from his wound?”

Rufus, who rode behind me, snorted. “Who cares?”

“I don’t,” Fronto said gruffly. “I never trusted the man.”

“He would’ve killed you if he could!” Ibrim called out from the rear.

“Don’t worry Thaddeus,” Aulus finally replied, “Apollo’s wound wasn’t bad.  He decided, like you, to go home.  His wife lives in Alexandria, which is probably where he is now.” “For the time being,” he added, looking back from his saddle, “the Galilean fort will be our home.” 

“Aye,” the others muttered reflectively.

“But young Thaddeus is going to be a carpenter,” Fronto grumbled.

“Thaddeus doesn’t want to be a soldier.” Rufus heaved a sigh. “.... He’s going home.”

On that note, we rode awhile in silence on the highway heading toward the coast.  The auxilia seemed disappointed with my decision.  I was too, but I knew I was doing the right thing.  I would be glad to see my family.  In a delayed reaction to the subject, Aulus now said in my favor.  “Thaddeus is lucky.  I’m glad he has a family and home.”

“Someday,” Ibrim said in jest, “I’m going to pay our carpenter a visit.  I might need one of his mules.”

“What are you going to with those beasts?” Aulus glanced back at me.

“I’m not sure,” I said with sigh, checking the line tied to my saddle horn. “Towing four mules it tricky, but once I get them home I’ll let Jesus and my father decide.”

“You decide for yourself!” Aulus snapped. “You’ve spent these months becoming a man; don’t let anyone speak for you lad, not even your father and brother Jesus in spite of his fine words.  Those mules belong to you; you’ve earned them!”

Taken back by his support, I was also offended by his words.  Ambivalence was one of my curses.  I could understand Aulus’ sarcasm about my oldest brother.  I gave Decimus and him the impression that Jesus was a demigod by my fantastic tales, but a son’s duties to his father, especially a Jewish father, should have been understood by my friend.   On the other hand, Aulus, with his Roman pragmatism and soldier’s logic, was absolutely right about two things:  I was a man now, and the mules were my property to dispense with as I saw fit.

Glancing back again at my mules, I nodded thoughtfully. “You’re right, Aulus.  The truth is, I’m not sure how long I can stay in Nazareth.  It’s not only my mules and Roman gladius I take home, I bring mental baggage as well.  I have, as Jesus wanted, learned much about the Gentile mind.  One thing I learned is that they’re not that different than Jews, but the differences are important.  I’ve eaten forbidden food, killed men in anger, and said and done many other things that my people consider unclean.  I have no intention of going to the Temple to expiate my sins as Elisha wanted, and yet, for a while at least, I must return to my life as a carpenter’s apprentice and dutiful son.  That’s not going to be easy.  What the legate offered me in Antioch is greatly tempting.  In spite of the dream I had and my desire to see my family and friends, I’m a different person now.  I can’t go back to that quaking, immature youth who left the Galilean fort.”

“Now, now, you’re still a youth Thaddeus.” Aulus shook his head. “You’re not that changed by your friendship with us.  After all you’ve been through, you have a good heart. You’re still a good lad.  You have a good family and folks that love you.  A soldier scribe is a fine thing, but that’s important too.  The army is our family, not yours.  What I meant was that you must stand on your own two feet.  If you must be a carpenter, be your own man.  If you decide to take Aurelian up on his offer, just make sure it’s what you want.  You’ve earned the right to decide for yourself, but you’re young, Thaddeus.  You have plenty of time.”

“That he has,” Fronto mumbled.

“Hah,” Ibrim declared, with a flourish of his hands, “eighteen summers is a mere pittance in the wheel of time.”

“The question is, Thaddeus” Rufus asked half-seriously, ‘are you a good carpenter?’”

“.... No,” I admitted after some thought, “my heart’s never been in it.  But then neither have my other brothers.  Only Jesus shares my father’s love of wood.”

Ibrim, who rode next to me awhile, pulled out a small metal flask.

“Tell us more about this brother of yours,” he said, allowing me the first drink.

It struck me as strange that moment that I had told Elisha’s guards and the prefect of the Antioch Cohort, himself, about Jesus miracles and yet failed to tell these men.  They were all that was left of twelve men, who had helped shape my life.  The spirits touching my tongue were strong and vile.  Though I lost my breath a few seconds, my eyes watered, and I was immediately light-headed from the spirits, I forced a smile as I returned the flask.

          “Well, let’s see,” I muttered, gathering my wits. “... I was instructed not to bring this subject up.”

          “About your brother Jesus?” Ibrim frowned.

          “Now Thaddeus,” Aulus looked back thoughtfully, “Decimus didn’t want you to preach.  He said nothing about him.” “You think very highly of your brother Jesus.” He raised an eyebrow.  “He’s a good man.  I’d like to meet him someday, and I’d like to shake the hands of the man who raised such sons.  You’re fortunate to have such a family to go home to, but you must make your own way in life.”   

“My own brother was my family,” Rufus reflected aloud, adding, “...I have no family now.”

          “I have only sisters,” Ibrim said drowsily. “I haven’t seen my people in years.”

          “Well, I’m an orphan,” grumbled Fronto. “My family and people are slaves!

          Already after only a short while during our trip south, because of too much wine and not enough sleep, my riding companions were weary and out of sorts.  I also detected a spiritual malaise.  I knew we wouldn’t make very good time today.  It would be a long journey ahead.  If I had read my dreams correctly, poor Jesus had a great burden now.  He needed my assistance, and, in spite of my ambivalence, I missed my family sorely—Jesus the most.  Unfortunately, because we were traveling the coastal route and the sense of urgency seemed obviously absent in my friends it was going to take a long time.  I could do nothing to expedite our trip.  As before, because of the boredom of travel and camp life, they expected me to entertain them.  This time, however, I wouldn’t be talking about my people’s history.  What I would tell them was not written in our holy scriptures.  It was something I personally witnessed: Jesus sermons, miracles and the letters of his wondrous travels.  How could I possibly describe him to their untutored minds?  The very thought of Jesus and my family had made me homesick.  There were times during my travels with Elisha and his guards and back at in Antioch when I was on the verge of tears.  I wished we had some wine instead of Ibrim’s spirits.  Perhaps, I thought hopefully, that crafty Ibrim had managed to slip a flask or two of good Greek wine into his saddlebag.  I had been foolish in drinking his concoction, because now, I too was out of sorts with spiritual malaise.  Nevertheless, I told myself stout-heartedly, glancing around appraisingly at my friends, the hour has come.  I will tell them what I know of Jesus, my brother, but this time I wouldn’t mince words.  I would tell the truth.  I doubted very much that they would believe my fantastic tales.  If nothing else it would enliven their flagging spirits and generate an interesting conversation for us until we stopped for the night.



          Because we weren’t traveling through hostile county and were so close to the coast, we drew together in an undisciplined group as the mules trailed behind me, returning to single file or two-by-two formation only when traffic met us head-on, until finally, at a slow pace, when I reached a climactic point, we stopped altogether off the road.  

Drawing upon my God-given memory, I started at the beginning of Jesus life. 

“Before I start,” I warned them, “no one believed what I told them about Jesus.  What I’m about to tell you, I didn’t even share with Aurelian, not that it mattered, since he wouldn’t believe me either.  But it’s the truth.  I couldn’t have dreamed up such an incredible tale.  The fact is I can scarcely believe some of the story myself.  There were times during my childhood when I would stuff my fingers into my ears, close my eyes tightly, and sing loudly, in order to shut out his babbling.  Jesus was always a strange boy.  It’s hasn’t been easy being the youngest brother with him at the top.  As the oldest son, he was always treated specially, and yet half the time he was not doing his chores like the rest of us; he was wandering the hills alone, talking to himself.  The only time he played with us was when he was playing physician, curing all manner of small beasts, even dogs, of sickness and maladies.  Yet, in spite of what we learned from him about nature and healing, my brothers and I thought he was deranged.” 

“Then one day,” I paused, searching my memory. “Jesus found a small sparrow in mother’s garden, half dead, on its last breath.  Usually he would apply various herbs to affect a healing.  Many times the dog, cat, or small animal just needed food and rest.  That day, however, his efforts to revive the bird had failed, so he began blowing air into its tiny beak, an act that horrified James, Joseph, Simon, and me.  I was tired of Jesus airs and strange ways.  My father had been repairing the rabbi’s roof that day.  When I told him what Jesus was doing, he took me by the hand and hurried back to our house.  The rabbi, of course, was shocked by this unclean act.  I was certain that Jesus would finally get punished.  He was long overdue.  When my father and I arrived in the garden, however, my mother just stood there, with my twin sisters cringing behind her skirts, a look of astonishment, perhaps horror, on her face.  Something wonderful was about to happen that would forever change our lives.  Jesus, who had been holding the small birds in the palms of his hands, raised his arms, and released the sparrow into the sky.  In his peculiarly deep, though child-like voice, he said: ‘Fly away sparrow.  Fly to my Holy Father’s kingdom and tell Him I know the secret!’  ‘Secret, what secret?  Did you tell him Mary?’ asked my father, flashing Mama an accusing look. ‘I told the boy nothing,’ she shrugged, comforting the girls, whose mood had turned to fear. ‘Jesus is playing a children’s game.’”  “But it wasn’t a game,” I looked dreamily at the heavens. “...Jesus had performed his first miracle.”

“No, Thaddeus,” scoffed Aulus, shaking his head, “that would make him a god.”

“Or demigod,” Rufus offered thoughtfully. “Many men have such gifts.  You’ve heard about Hercules, Aeneas, and Achilles.  Look what they did!”

“Now Rufus,” snorted Fronto, “when’s the last time you saw a demigod in the flesh, let alone one that’s a child?”

“Yes, Thaddeus.” Aulus looked around at the group. “Surely that sparrow must’ve been alive.  The dead, whether beasts or men, don’t return.”

“Really?” the Gaul replied airily, “What about the Phoenix rising from the ashes or Osiris, whose body was torn asunder yet returned to life.”

“You don’t believe that nonsense.” Aulus made a face. “Apollo, the Egyptian, told us those stories.  He wasn’t serious.  In fact, he was drunk.  You’re not even a Roman or Egyptian, Rufus.  Why would you say such a silly thing?”

Rufus and Fronto broke into laughter and Aulus suppressed a smile, but Ibrim gave me a curious look. “Why would Thaddeus lie?” he muttered, sipping from his flask.  “...Let him finish.  There’s more to his tale.”

Already Aulus and Fronto doubted my words.  Aulus would, as he had before, only humor me.  Rufus had obviously spoken in jest, and Ibrim appeared to be slightly intoxicated, which seemed to discount the sincerity of what he just said.  Because it would only get more fantastic for these men, I was hesitant about continuing.  Despite their disbelief, I had succeeded in two of my goals.  The subject, if nothing else, gave us something to talk about, and I had awakened them from their malaise.  Unfortunately, they didn’t take me seriously.  I couldn’t blame them, of course.  I hadn’t believed it myself.

“Go on, lad.” Fronto reached over to gave me a nudge. “This is getting interesting.”

“Yes,” Rufus suppressed a smile, “we enjoy your wild tales.”

“Why?” I sighed with disappointment.  “You don’t believe me—none of you.  I’m not making this up.  I’m not addled.  I saw it with my own eyes.”

“I believe that you believe,” Ibrim declared with a belch. “My mind’s open.  Let’s give poor Thaddeus a chance.”

Was Ibrim serious? I wondered that moment.  In the past, Rufus had shown the most interest in my stories.  Though he just poked fun at me, he had seemed to be half serious.  That moment, on their way back to the fort, a contingent of Roman cavalry galloped toward us.  As the wind blew northward, a cloud of dust began rolling our way.  The optio riding in front raised an arm, jerking his thumb sideways, as if to say, “Move aside!”  Reacting quickly, Aulus gave his horses a kick, “All right men,” he barked, “let’s not block the road.  Thaddeus can finish this story as we ride.

“Very well,” I said with a nod, “but I’ve only just begun.” 

“Where are you men headed?” the optio bellowed through cupped hands.

“We’re going home,” Aulus answered cheerily, “to Galilee, southward along the Great Sea.”

“You’re wise to take the old road,” he cried, as they rode past, “the desert route is no longer safe—a highway of cutthroats and thieves.  The Nabataens and their allies are up in arms.  It looks like we’re going to have to wipe those rebels out.”

“You mean Fabius, Legate of the Fifth Legion.” Aulus nodded, shielding his eyes from the sun. “I wished he’d been there before.  We lost eight men there.  Good luck—all of you.  They’re a murderous lot!

“Thank you,” he called back as they continued on their way, “have a safe journey.  Give Longinus, my old friend, my regards.”

Hearing that familiar name, my homesickness swelled in my chest.  Longinus, a hard-bitten Roman centurion, like his prefect Cornelius, had befriended my family.  He had seemed skeptical about my desire to join the legions.  I wondered what he would think of me now.  As I sat daydreaming in the saddle, I was jerked awake when Ibrim tapped me with his bow, and resumed my narrative where I had left off.

 “...We were stunned both by what Jesus had said and done.” I said, glancing protectively back at my mules. “I wanted to believe that the bird that Jesus supposedly brought back from the dead had really been in the dark sleep and awakened naturally as many creatures do.  Perhaps it had merely been knocked senseless after slamming into a tree.  It was even possible, I reasoned as we stood in silence that day, that Jesus did, in fact, revive him,” “...but it was much more than that,” I added wistfully. “Jesus had brought it back from the dead.”

“Incredible,” Ibrim mumbled.

“Yes,” I confessed, “it’s hard to believe.”

For a moment, our small procession halted again, this time at a fork in the road leading to the sea.  The four men sat uneasily in their saddles with baited breath. 

“When Jesus spoke those haunting words, my father took him aside to talk to him alone.  James, Joseph, Simon, and I snuck down to the meadow where they stood.  I remember my father questioning him severely about his outlandish claim, but the most important thing I heard that morning I still find troubling.

“Jesus?” he looked into my brother’s blue eyes. “Did you really bring back that dead bird?”

          “Yes, father,” he answered without hesitation, “through the Holy Father, I brought him back.”

          “So it’s true,” father said, raising his eyes to sky. “….It has begun.  Thus sayeth the Lord!”

          “Mother of Zeus!” Aulus gasped.

          “Let him continue,” Fronto raised a hand, “...this is getting good.”

Feeling the Thracian’s powerful hand on my shoulder, I cleared my throat, brushed a tear away from my eye and continued my story: 

           “After that day, Jesus wandered around in a daze, talking to himself, and becoming a spectacle to our neighbors and friends.  Most the townsfolk simply thought he was addled in the head, but Joachim, the town rabbi, thought he was a blasphemer and heretic, driven by Satan’s power.  The hostility of townsfolk grew after they heard Joachim’s fiery sermons.  Though it began with the incident of the sparrow, Jesus was not totally to blame.  Our family had always been considered eccentric.  After Mariah, the town witch, was threatened with stoning, our father gave her and her delinquent son Michael sanctuary.  On behalf of the townsmen who had rallied in front of Joachim’s house, a small band of roughians led by Reuben, the tanner, vowed to burn down our house.  Before they could act upon their threat, however, Cornelius, prefect of the Galilean Cohort, sent men to spirit Mariah out of town.  The prefect also insured us that our family would be protected by his men.  After Rueben and his cohorts, in defiance of the Romans, set fire to Mariah’s house, Jesus prayed for rain.  The skies opened up those moments, flooding the gardens and collapsing the roofs of many homes.  Reuben and his band became outlaws that night.  This event, together with the unrest in Galilee, created a permanent presence of Roman sentries in Nazareth and neighboring towns.  Though most Nazarenes begrudgingly accepted our protectors, many townsmen remained resentful.  Though it all seemed to have started when Jesus cured that bird, several elders blamed Joseph, his father, who had shielded a witch, collaborated with Romans, and sired a heretic son. 

           “Because of the resentment in Nazareth, we had few friends.  To find customers requiring carpentry, Papa was forced to go to other towns.  His sons became outcasts in town.  Just when it seemed as though everyone had turned against us, however, Samuel, a venerable Pharisee, befriended our family.  Not only did he help find clients for Papa’s business, he found a remedy for one of our family’s problems: Jesus.  It was decided that Jesus would accompany Samuel’s nephew Joseph of Arimathea on his trip, thereby removing this reminder of our family’s eccentricity and also giving Jesus a chance to see the world.

“With his controversial son out of town, things quieted down for our family.  Father’s business increased, and his family’s prestige gradually began to return.  Jesus’ journey with Joseph of Arimathea shaped his views about religion and the nature of God, and yet the letters he sent to our family were considered too heretical to share with anyone else.  In deed, Jesus said many strange things, but mostly his letters were filled with information about his experiences and the places he had seen.  In company with Joseph’s guards, he visited the Pharos lighthouse and museum in Egypt, the great buildings of Greece and Rome, and seen countless other wonders most Galileans would never see.  During his trip, as explained in his letters, Jesus’ notion of a universal God for Jew and Gentile alike was shaped.  This belief, shared by the Prophet Isaiah, seemed to have been proven by his discovery of the pedestal for the Unknown God in both Greece and Rome.  Jesus had written many controversial things in his letters, but this notion of the universal God bothered James and Joseph the most.  When Jesus returned home and shared his views with listeners, the reminder of his heresy was rekindled in their minds.  After all the Lord came to the Chosen People, not pagans and Gentiles.  Had not the Jews been given the Promised Land? 

“Make no mistake, my friends,” I said, slapping my knee, “by the standards of Pharisees and rabbis, Jesus was and is heretic.  For me the most incredible things in his letters were not his views.  I had heard Jesus talking strangely many times before.  It was those miraculous things forced upon him during his odyssey with Joseph of Arimathea.  The third and fourth miracles after incident of the sparrow and the fire at Mariah’s house occurred during his voyage to Greece and later on route Rome when their ship almost capsized at the sea.  Jesus tamed both storms with his prayers to God.  Unfortunately, this caused jealousy among the Pharisee’s sons, Matthias and Levi.  When Jesus claimed that the pedestal to the unknown god was proof of the Gentile yearning for a universal god, even the Pharisee, his benefactor, rebuked him.  He found Jesus questioning nature annoying at times.  Yet later, during a visit to one of Joseph’s clients in Gaul, Levi, his youngest son, grew gravely ill.  Close to death, Levi lingered in the dark place as Jesus again prayed to God.  The physician called in to heal Joseph’s son had applied all of his medicine and science but it took but a few words from my brother to bring him back to life.  Joseph was jubilant, and yet his oldest son Matthias was resentful of him, saying to Jesus, “who do you think you are Beelzebub Lord of the Flies?”  The jealousy that he felt for my brother boiled to a head one day in Simon of Cyrene’s garden when he physically attacked my brother.  Jesus believed Matthias would have killed him.  Once more, however, he called upon the Lord, this time to cast out the demon in the Pharisee’s son—”

          “Ah, it is like the jinns,” Ibrim muttered to himself.

          “How many miracles is that now?” Fronto turned to Rufus.

          “Six,” Rufus muttered in disbelief, “...that’s more than Hercules!

          “Continue,” Aulus said hoarsely.

          “There’s not much more,” I exhaled wearily, “at least not of a miraculous nature.  Though he behaved himself, Matthias was never the same after his exorcism.  Levi became Jesus’ friend.  During this visit, Jesus and Joseph’s guards explored the caves near Simon of Cyrene’s estate where they found writings of the Old Ones, the people who lived in Cyrene before the arrival of the Greeks from Thera.  Jesus was interested in all knowledge, from the most insignificant leaf lying in our yard to the Pharo Lighthouse, which he and Joseph’s guards visited in Egypt.  Nothing escaped his awe; everything, he believed, was part of the Lord’s design. 

            “When Jesus returned from his odyssey he was different, much more mature, and yet, in the most important ways, he was the same.  He had learned, among many things, to keep his opinions to himself until the right moment.  The mystical glow in his blue eyes when he left with Joseph of Arimathea would return at times, but he had learned to laugh at himself.  The urgency in his grasp of God and our religion was replaced by conviction and patience in what he believed.  I’m still not sure of his plan or what he might do with his life, but he no longer took himself seriously.  He accepted, with determination, his responsibility as the oldest son, working faithfully to learn the trade of carpentry in our father’s shop.  To the annoyance of James and Joseph, he quickly mastered this craft as he did everything else.  As he assisted Papa in the shop, he met new and old clients, who saw a side of him none of us had seen.  Instead of walking the hills in dreamy meditation or irritating townsfolk with strange speech, Jesus concentrated on being a good carpenter and becoming, to all appearances, an ordinary brother and son.” “This then,” I almost whispered, “is the Jesus I left behind in Galilee...I pray to God that what I fear the most has not turned our world upside down—”

          “What are you saying?” Aulus interrupted. “Is Jesus all right?  Is someone ill?”

          “If my dreams are correct, yes—my father!” I looked away, fighting back tears.

          “I’m sorry we can’t go faster,” he consoled gently. “We’re taking the safest route.  We’ll try to cover as much time as we can on the coast.”

“I dunno,” Fronto mumbled, scratching his beard, “I think you made a mistake.  Those mules aren’t as important as your family.  You’re lucky to have one.  I would’ve sold them in Antioch and found passage on a ship.” 

          “They’re all I have to show for this,” I replied, patting my mule and glancing protectively back at the others. “I was nearly killed during my odyssey—several times.  I was treated horribly by those men and almost made a slave...Yet I don’t regret it.” “I would never have met you,” I said, looking around at the group. “My brother once told me that true friendship is often more valuable than family.  Blood is not the only bound.  I will miss Decimus, Caesarius, and the others.  Perhaps, if you’re still at the Galilean fort, I’ll see you men again.  I don’t know if I’ll join Aurelian as a soldier scribe, but I’m glad I became the owner of five mules.  I can’t conceive of not bringing these faithful beasts home.... They’re one of the miracle experienced in my life.”

          “Thaddeus,” Aulus replied hesitantly, “...we’re not all staying in the Galilean fort.  I’m retiring.  If my orders are worth the paper they’re written on, I might get a plot of land somewhere in Galilee or Judea.  Aurelian’s seal is on the scroll.”

          “I haven’t made up my mind,” Fronto seemed conflicted. “According to our orders, it’s up to us.”

“Well, I came too close to death this time.” Rufus shook his head. “I might just muster out and work the docks in Joppa, until I manage passage to Gaul.”

Ibrim, who appeared to be inebriated, laughed foolishly, waving his small hands. “I am not a shepherd.  I’ll never return to the herding or farming, like my kinsmen—never.  The army is all I know.”

“Our family befriended a shepherd named Oudeh,” I reflected for his benefit. “They seemed to be a happy lot, but the townsfolk in Nazareth think they’re all a bunch of thieves.”

“Oudeh?” Ibrim made a face. “I have a uncle with a similar name.  Odeb was a drunkard, who beat his wife, and chased off his children.  He was an evil man!”

Ibrim was becoming progressively drunk, ranting about his hatred of his family but also about his mistreatment in the army.  Fronto pointed out teasingly that he, like his uncle Odeb, was becoming a drunkard too.  Nothing was said about my narrative, however.  Until this small talk had died down, I was certain that they were dodging the subject.  Then, so typical of my Gentile friends, they began idly commenting on the fantastic tales of my brother.

“Well, I’ve said enough about him,” I said, shrugging my shoulders. “.... What happened after he came home might seem rather boring.”

“Like I said before.” Aulus gave my mule a pat. “I want to meet this miracle worker.  If I get myself a little plot of land, maybe he can build me a house.”

“You don’t believe me,” I concluded glumly. “Very few people do.”

“As Ibrim said,” he quoted him, “I believe you believe it.  We Romans have to see things for ourselves.”

“I want to believe you,” I heard Fronto utter, “but it’s too fantastic to believe.”

“What is real?” Ibrim muttered aloud.  “The mind plays tricks on us.  The heart is our greatest guide.”

What Ibrim said was true.  In fact, Jesus had said as much himself.  I glanced back at Ibrim with a smile.  I knew Aulus wasn’t serious about Jesus building him a house.  Like Rufus and Fronto, he looked very tired, worn out by his service to Rome.  Perhaps to drown his own unhappiness, Ibrim had taken to strong drink.  I said a prayer for my friends.  I felt sorry for these men, especially Aulus, who would be given a pittance for his long service.  As the road narrowed sharply and we could smell the Great Sea, our small band lapsed into silence, each of us wrapped in our own thoughts.  Had I made an impact upon them with my stories about Jesus?  I asked myself.  So far the answer seemed to be no, but then as Rufus’ horse trotted up alongside of me, he leaned discreetly to the side as he held his reins, and I heard him say in a low voice as if he didn’t want the others to hear, “I believe you Thaddeus.  When you go home to Nazareth, I’m going home too.  I’m finished with the army—this life isn’t for me, but I have a feeling our paths will cross again.  I think someday I will meet your brother too.  This god you speak of has given him great power.  I want to know this man!”


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