Chapter 5 - Who Has Believed?
Jedida and Ashira left Elizabeth’s house and approached their own courtyard gate in silence. Jedida spotted her older brother Lemuel sitting on a bench with her children around his feet. Her heart began to lighten. Her brother always had a way to make her problems seem smaller, and she loved to see him. Always, he was the spunky one. As she came closer, she could see him gesturing wildly as he described his latest escapade with the Arabians. Ashira, following closely behind Jedida, saw her Uncle Lem as well, and took in a deep breath as if to flush out the remnants of pain and frustration associated with the encounter with Zivah. She, too, brightened at the welcome sight of her favorite uncle.
Jedida opened the gate and let Ashira and herself through. Lemuel caught sight of Jedida and stood up with a broad smile, extending his arms to her. Jedida surveyed her tall older brother. In his early forties, his jet-black hair was neatly trimmed, reaching down to his beard. His handsome face was weathered and tanned by years of traveling across dusty deserts. Smile lines surrounded his sharp, black merchant’s eyes. He had always been the dependable one, this brother of hers. When he was young, Lemuel had become an apprentice to Nadab, a wealthy merchant. His keen mind caught on quickly, and soon he was a merchant in his own right. And now, though one of the richest and busiest men in all of Galilee, he never failed to visit his mother, Anna, and sister, Jedida, often. He loved both of them very much, and they knew it.
Lemuel’s deep voice rumbled as he picked his way around the children, “Jedida! It is so good to see you, little sister! And Ashira! My, she’ll be as tall as me next time I visit!” Ashira, one of the shortest members of the family, cocked her head playfully at him. Jedida chuckled and gave her brother a hug.
“Yes, she is growing—in many ways,” she added with a knowing look toward Ashira. “Ashira, why don’t you go on inside, and we’ll talk later.”
Ashira quietly obeyed. Glancing sheepishly at her uncle, she slipped into the house.
Always knowing how to ease an awkward moment, Lemuel turned and announced to the other children with a dramatic sweep of his hand, “And so I escaped miraculously with all of my goods from those bandits and here I stand now to tell you of it! The end.” The children pleaded for more. Laughing, Lemuel waved them off, and seeing that they were not going to get any more stories for the time being, the little ones scattered throughout the house and courtyards.
Lemuel took Jedida by the arm and they strolled to the shade of the acacia tree. “So, little sister, how is it going with your household? Everyone managing all right in the weeks that I’ve been gone?”
Jedida paused a moment. “It depends on what you call ‘all right.’ Ashira just lost her temper with Elizabeth’s aunt, Zivah—”
“A character trait she got directly from Simon, no doubt,” Lemuel playfully chided.
Choosing to ignore his remark, Jedida continued, “…and Ariel seems to get more quiet every day. She spends more and more time on the roof, as if she finds more pleasure in being by herself than with others.”
“Ah, but at least she has the quiet, sweet disposition of her mother, if not yet your passion for caring for others,” Lemuel said with a wink and a smile. “Come, come. Tell me about the others!”
Jedida went on. “Ezekiel is a constant bundle of energy. As for the younger children, yes, I suppose everyone is all right. I wouldn’t be all right if it weren’t for Mother. She is such a wonderful help, and I think she has more energy than all of us put together!” Lemuel and Jedida softly laughed together.
“And what of Simon? Surely he should be home by now?” Lemuel asked.
Jedida gave a barely visible grin. She turned to her older brother. “No,” she paused a moment, suddenly unsure of how Lemuel might respond to the news. “I was just getting to that part.” Jedida somehow didn’t get the impression Lemuel would consider it the Good News that the rest of them had felt. “He left just today. Andrew returned this morning to tell him about a man they believe is the Messiah!” Jedida looked hopefully to her brother, “Lemuel, the Messiah!! They say his name is Yesu!” Again, she looked into Lemuel’s eyes, hoping to see even a trace of something positive in his reaction. “As soon as Simon heard, he left with Andrew. I don’t know how long he will be gone, but Lem, this might truly be the One we’ve been waiting for!”
Lemuel looked thoughtful for a moment, “So Simon has gone to check this man out. Well, Simon and I have our differences, but if he believes so strongly about his calling to find a Messiah…well, I can at least say I admire that in a man.”
Jedida nodded slightly as she sat down onto the nearby bench, doubting his words. Lemuel and Simon were as different as two men could be. Lemuel was refined, cultured, and had a passion for being “responsible”. In her brother’s eyes, Simon was as uncultured and unimpressive as they come. Lemuel was rich and successful; and Simon, well, Jedida always thought his heart made up for any wealth he might ever lack. His passion was certainly more about things of God, figuring that if that was in order, then the household would be as well. Yes, the two men were quite different. As she was about to speak, Anna called from the kitchen, “Lemuel? Come inside and get something to eat. You must be starving!”
Lemuel winked at his sister and, laying his hand on her shoulder gently kissed the top of her head. Then he acquiesced to his mother’s call and swept across the courtyard into the house as Jedida turned her attention to the children.
Once inside the house, Lemuel grabbed a handful of dates from the bowl Anna offered, as he immediately began fuming about Simon. He was clearly not as supportive as he had implied earlier. In fact, he was angry.
“But, Mother,” he said in a trying-to-be-hushed voice, “He left his entire family—seven children and two women—to follow some man no one’s ever heard of and whom he’s never seen, who his brother tells him is the Messiah? It is the height of absurdity! Jedida’s beginning to wear down. It is clear she is not only tending to this household, but taking it upon herself to see that Jesse’s household is provided for as well. And as a matter of fact, you don’t look as you used to yourself! Nine mouths plus neighbors to feed is a lot. Who is going to take care of the fishing business? Jared?! He is not made for fishing!”
Anna, who had been busily working in the cooking area, looked at him, “Wait a minute, son. Fishing is a prosperous enough business. And Jared will adjust. Jedida is as economical as they come!” She emptied a basket of dates into a roughly-woven sack. “We’ll be fine.” She pulled the drawstring closed with a firm tug. “And what do you mean calling Simon’s pursuit of the Messiah, ‘the height of absurdity’? Haven’t our People always longed for Messiah? Our entire nation is built around such a moment, such an era. Why do you mock? Why not now? Why not us? Everyone who has heard of Him has been awed and excited. Even Ezra, Lem, and you know he knows the Scriptures.” She sighed, exasperated, and added, “The prophet John singled out this man Jesus. Can you not even consider the possibility that He may be the Messiah?”
Lemuel grabbed another handful of dates. His eyes grew big as he saw a wriggling worm in his hand. He threw the handful into the trash pile and continued pacing around the room. “Mother, there are some facts of life you don’t seem to understand. First, dreams about a Messiah do not feed a family. And, of course I am longing for the Messiah just as much as you are. Of course, as you said, all of Israel is longing for a Deliverer. But we both know how many false deliverers have risen and FALLEN, and how many people have been hurt. They are proven false over time. It is dangerous and unnecessary for Simon to risk his family this way. Too many Galileans rushing off after every man who claims to be the Messiah only—”
Anna held up her hand authoritatively, “Lemuel, you are my son. As such, you must at least hear me out. Surely you remember what the prophet Isaiah declared:
In the past Adonai humbled the land of Zebulun andNaphtali, but in the future He will honor theGalilee of the Gentiles, the way along the sea…”
Lemuel was pacing again, still listening, but too agitated to stand still. Seeing she still had his attention, Anna kept speaking. “The Prophet was speaking of us, Lemuel! Here, this land, Galilee, Zebulun’s land! You know the other promises as well as I do…we could go on and on. What is more, Jesus has been declared by the baptizer John to be the Lamb of God and Savior of the world. I believe that that makes this man very different. Ten thousand counterfeits can never steal theTruth, if we are courageous.”
“Perhaps…” Lemuel muttered reluctantly.
Anna continued. “I appreciate that Simon was willing to at least go and find out, in spite of the potential cost to his household. And, my son, you know Jedida and I are perfectly capable of raising a family, even when things are a little difficult. But,” she said, as Lemuel tried again to interject, “I know we will need help. Maybe you’re here as Adonai’s way of providing for us.”
Jedida, working in the courtyard, overheard bits and pieces of the conversation between her brother and mother. On the one hand, some of what Lemuel had said was correct. Simon had dropped everything, and with him even missing a few days of fishing she would certainly be challenged in her ability to feed and care for the household. On the other hand, if Adonai Elohim Himself had ordained this Jesus to be his king, shouldn’t Simon follow him? After this time of hardship might come the time of great prosperity that all Israel hoped for. And besides, her mother was one of the wisest people she knew. If Anna believed everything would turn out all right, then it must….Mustn’t it?
Ashira’s thoughts raced as she settled down for the evening. Was it really just this morning that abba and I spoke of Isaiah’s prophecy? It seems as though days have passed since we were talking at the shore. That phrase, that wonderful name: Prince of Peace… That’s definitely what I need—a Prince of Peace. The Promised One is to be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father…and Prince of Peace. Is that who this Yesu is? Everything in me longs for that!
But everything is such a mess. I’m a mess. I’m not sure what I hate more: Zivah, or my reactions to her. I definitely need peace where she’s concerned. But so far, Jesus has ushered in everything but peace. My abba is gone again—everything feels unsettled and shaken by that. Even Uncle Lem, who can wear a smile in the worst circumstances, is clearly disturbed by the mention of the man, Yesu. Not even a full day has passed since the “coming” of this Messiah, and everything in my world has been thrown into upheaval. What could this possibly mean?
I don’t know…Maybe the peace that has been prophesied is more related to the realm of national affairs—tossing off Roman dominion and restoring the nation of Israel? I know that’s certainly what some people think…