This is a speculative account based on ancient sources, legends and traditions.
Jerusalem: AD Early 30s
The morning after the Sabbath a distinguished gentleman was strolling toward the gate of Jerusalem facing the Mount of Olives. It was a beautiful day, and he had been informed the night before, by his dear friends Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, that something marvelous was going to happen.
As he came to the gate, a publican (or Roman tax-collector) by the name of Silas sat there collecting his payments from the pilgrims streaming into the city for the Passover, the holy festival celebrating deliverance from bondage. The gentleman paused by the table inside the gate, picked up the silver coin of Tyre, and examined it.
The high priesthood and Rome preferred this coin to all others. The pagan god Melqart graced the shekel and the Greek inscription boasting Tyre as the holy city and a place of safety was engraved on it.
He handed the coin back to Silas who offered no comment because he recognized the man before him. For several moments their eyes met, and the publican bowed his head in shame.
Going out the gate, the man looked toward the Mount of Olives with a degree of anticipation. People passed by him, and some who recognized him bowed their heads in honor to the man known for his knowledge of the Law and Prophets.
Soon a young lady joined him. Seeing her, he smiled, “My dear Lily.” They embraced and waited. She was his only daughter.
Soon in the distance shouts and singing began. Down the road came a procession of people waving palm branches and placing their cloaks on the road.
Coming into view, a donkey was led by a man whom everyone had heard of recently, because he had died and was raised from the dead by the man who sat on the donkey. The shouts seemed to echo to the heavens, and people paused to watch what was happening and to wonder at the spectacle and what it meant.
The Roman soldiers stood in awe and a degree of fear as the people in their jubilance went past them. The soldiers had recently arrived from the garrison at Caesarea because thousands of people would be coming to Jerusalem for the Passover festivities; the soldiers were there to maintain law and order.
The political zealots would be among the crowds. They always looked for an opportunity to strike at the Romans.
“Today, my Lily, you are witnessing what our people have struggled, hoped and prayed for generations. Listen to the melodious voices carried by the wind from the mount to this gate. Today, God has remembered His people in bondage and oppression.”
“Father, my heart is warmed by the sight of him who sits on the regal donkey, the true heir of the Davidic throne.”
The procession passed through the gate. “Let’s follow, daughter.”
Unknown to the man or his daughter, someone had been watching them. He was displeased by the apparent joy which filled their faces at the procession of the troublemaker whom many wanted to make king.
He cared not for political zealots or religious holy men. Maintaining the status quo with the Romans was essential for the nation’s survival and their religion.
He had had his fill of the wilderness Baptist and his naïve followers. Many of those had pledged their allegiance to this obscure and uneducated young man on the donkey who dared to claim royalty when his place of origin and birth was so questionable.
Moving quickly, he went to the Temple and the secret chamber where the High Priest’s cabal met. The group of them, which included the sons of Annas, sat there discussing the procession and the danger which it represented.
Coming into the chamber, he bowed and was asked to take his seat at the table. He reported what he had witnessed at the gate.
“We were correct in our assumption that Gamaliel and his daughter are part of the esoteric following of this Nazarene teacher and disrupter,” the young man stated.
“We can deal with Joseph, Nicodemus and the few others of the Council who are allies of this trouble maker of Israel, but Gamaliel is going to be a major obstacle. We need to find a way to have him out of the city,” Eleazar stated boldly.
After much discussion the young man stated coldly, “If something should happen to his daughter, he would be preoccupied, and our plans could come to fruition.”
“You mean to kill her?” Theophilus asked appalled.
“No, I know an herbalist who can give me the right potion to make her very sick, extremely sick,” he stated emotionlessly. “She would wish for death, but she will recover in time.”
“I understand that she is with child. What will happen to the unborn?” Theophilus inquired with a degree of compassion.
“One less slave for Rome,” the young man replied.
At that moment several of the men began to fear this young religious zealot. To poison a young woman of Israel and destroy her unborn was something a Gentile would do, they thought. Perhaps, they reasoned his time with those Greek Stoic philosophers had made him more ruthless and less compassionate; he was a Roman citizen by birth which made him dangerous.
“Proceed with your plan,” Annas urged with a tone of great haste.
After the young man left, Jonathan stated, “We must keep a close eye on him. If he ever turned against us, he would be a formidable foe unmatched even by Roman standards.”
“Totally agree,” Caiaphas stated as he glanced at his father-in-law Annas who had a baleful smile on his face.
Theophilus declared solemnly, “Rachel, weeping for her children.”
The next afternoon Gamaliel was watching the money changers in the Court of the Gentiles. These bazaars or hanuyot bney hanan served the purpose of exchanging money and selling sacrificial animals.
He was disgusted by the bodacious thievery inflicted on the pilgrims as they exchanged their currency for the temple coin of Tyre. He knew the sons of Annas were the real power behind these thieves.
Breathing heavily, a young man comes up to him. “My Master!”
“Stephen, what is wrong?”
“Come quickly! Your daughter is gravely ill at home.”
Gamaliel and his servant Stephen left for Caphargamala, Gamaliel’s estate which was roughly twenty miles from Jerusalem. In the shadows the young man who had planned this dastardly deed watched. He smiled with an arrogance which only a religious youth without compassion could have.
Later that night when the shadows were dark and the moon could not illuminate faces, this young man handed another young man a bag of 30 silver Tyrian shekels. This other young man planned to betray his Master.
He wanted to force his Master’s hand and, with his childhood friend Barabbas who would lead the zealots, cause an uprising against the Romans, proclaim the Nazarene Teacher as King, and eventually destroy Rome and its hideous Empire of Iron and Blood.
Jerusalem “the perfection of beauty” and “the joy of all the world” would reign as the Queen of the cities of Earth. Rome would be a dust heap like so many ancient cities of antiquity—so Barabbas and Judas believed—and Israel would rule the earth.
Judas would be his Master’s Chief Councilor and oversee the treasury. Barabbas would be the Military Commander, like the fearless Joab who had led King David’s army to glorious victories over all who stood in his way.
Unknown to the betrayer, Barabbas had been arrested earlier that day and a number of his zealots killed by the Greek Syrian troops assigned to the Roman Prefect. The young man who had handed Judas the bag of silver had made sure of that, because he had watched Judas very carefully in all his dealings, especially with Barabbas and the zealots.
He knew Judas’ true motivation and greedy lust for influence and political power. People like Judas were just pawns to be used by the right men for their own purposes, and this henchman of the political appointees of the Council knew well how to play the game of manipulation and intrigue.
The nefarious plans of the political appointees of the Sanhedrin were blooming like hemlock. Hemlock was a useful tool to silence teachers who defy orthodoxy, as he had been taught by his Stoic friends when recounting the silencing of Socrates centuries before the present time.
To be continued next week—same time, same place…
G. D. Williams © 2018