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Gamaliel shuffled through the dusty streets in the quiet moments before day break as he had every day since his youth many years ago.

It just took longer now.

The suddenness of the dawn in this city on the edge of the desert always surprised him.  He would begin his journey in gloom and darkness to arrive at his place on the Temple walls just in time to experience the shining splendor of a new day, a new beginning, perhaps, even a new hope – for hope is what he needed most these days.

A pillar of his community, yet he was bent with the passing of many years.  He still walked with as much dignity as was possible under the circumstances.  His face was kind, his eyes bright, his beard full, his head crowned with the gray hairs of wisdom and experience.

But he was old and with every passing day he felt it more.  His skin was translucent with age, stretched tightly over his bones, the veins in his hands visible to the eye.  He could no longer write with his crippled hands, the fingers rigid with arthritic pain, but he still spoke strongly and with a deep baritone voice – and the people still listened.  That was something.

Bubba, what do you make of it?”

“Make of what, my son?”  Gamaliel said, still lost in his own thoughts.

He was far too old to make the journey by himself anymore and he was thankful for the strong young arms that supported him as he scuffed the dirt into little whirls of dust in this most holy of cities.

Young Benjamin, his grandson, was a blessing beyond words.  Already taller than his grandfather, Benjamin was a constant and helpful companion with a strong back and a gentle touch.  A simple and unadorned robe fell to his ankles, almost covering his sandals of camel hide, hiding his lanky frame.  His light brown hair fell long upon his neck in contrast to the new growth on his chin, which struggled to call itself a beard.  His face was common, pleasant, but his patrician nose was out of place, a divine afterthought on an already imperfect creation.

It was the eyes that saved him.  Eyes that commanded attention, that expected much but asked for nothing.  Loving eyes, and loving hands attentive to his every need.  In truth, Gamaliel gloried in the attention that old age expected from the young.

Bubba, I’ve been telling you about Jubal’s report from Galilee.”  The rebuke was mild.  “Do you think the Romans will try again?”

“What do you think?”  Gamaliel liked to ask his own questions.  Benjamin had a sharp mind.  Let him come to his own conclusions.

“I think the Romans are demoralized.”  Benjamin said, helping his grandfather around a slab of uneven stone.  This was a discussion they had been having for months already.  They had turned it over and over, looking at it from every possible direction, worrying at the problem like a dog with a favorite bone.

Impetuous he could be, full of the vigorous opinions of youth, but Gamaliel enjoyed the sparring discussions.  Like a vagrant breeze on the grasslands of Jezreel, his grandson’s face could change from playfulness to scowling frustration with his growing awareness of what was happening to his people.  For years Benjamin had witnessed the mounting anger of the people toward the occupying forces and the resulting crackdown of discipline from the Romans.  Yerushalayim was a powder keg ready to blow and it would take very little for the Romans to solve the Jewish problem once and for all.

Especially now.

“They are ready for anything, Jubal says.  They have spies in Syria who will give them enough warning and the spirits of the people are high,” Benjamin said.

It was more than a case of hotheaded zealots stirring up trouble.  The Jewish people as a whole were fed up with the Romans and were ready to do something about it.

When it had finally happened, it even took Gamaliel by surprise.  First the Roman garrisons in Yerushalayim and Caesarea were overrun and then the two legions that marched down from Syria were defeated and had to retreat with heavy losses.

“The people are celebrating but I don’t think it’s over yet.”  Benjamin continued to build his argument.

“No, it’s not over yet,” Gamaliel said quietly.

The people saw this first victory as vindication from God that their battle against Rome would be won.  All of Palestine was ready to rise up and throw the Romans out once and for all.  The very air he breathed seemed charged with wild excitement and fear at the audacious gamble the people were taking with their lives and their future.

No, it was definitely not over yet.

*****

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The Temptations of the Cross by Bert A. Amsing
Copyright © 2012 by vanKregten Publishers. All rights reserved.
http://www.desertwarrior.net     info@desertwarrior.net

Footnotes and references included in original manuscript.

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