What surprised Gamaliel the most was the vividness of his memories. Every word, every gesture and nuance of the encounter was engraved on his mind as if it had happened only yesterday. They say that it is a sign of old age when life is lived more in the past than the present.
The words still hurt, and his guilt had mounted almost daily after that encounter as he watched Saul dragged the Christians before the Sanhedrin to be ridiculed and whipped and even put to death. Not everybody agreed with Saul and they looked to him to put a stop to it.
Everybody remembered his words to the Sanhedrin only a few months before when Ya´acov and his lackeys had tried to have those Galilean fishermen put to death. Now Saul, his own student, was at Ya´acov’s right hand doing all his dirty work and he could do nothing about it.
The heresy would die out by itself. They couldn’t persecute their own people. These were simple Galileans whose hope was in the Maschiach. Who could fault them for that?
But it was more than that. It was the look in the eye of Stephen that had unnerved him. After that, he could not fight them nor protect them. His guilt would not let him.
And now Benjamin was one of them.
Gamaliel shifted uncomfortably in his seat as the story of Benjamin’s secret meetings with this strange sect unfolded. The whole world was going crazy. Everything was changing. Everything he ever loved was being destroyed – Yerushalayim, his beloved city, the Temple and now Benjamin. But Gamaliel hid his thoughts and sat quietly upon the cold, hard bench as he heard the boy out.
“Bubba, have I offended you?” Benjamin slipped to the ground in front of him and took his hands in his own, stroking them. But Gamaliel did not respond.
“Forgive me for keeping this secret from you.” Benjamin said. “I wanted to tell you a thousand times, but I was afraid.”
Gamaliel saw the teardrop land on the back of his hand, spreading over a white spot on his skin and then traveling swiftly down and away, leaving a trail of grief behind it. The tear belonged to Benjamin.
He swallowed with difficulty and lifted his bent fingers to pat the hand of his grandson. “You were afraid, Benjamin?” He spoke softly. “That is perhaps the saddest thing of all.”
He took a deep shuddering breath, raising his head and looking up at the ancient walls of the Temple in the distance, at the fortress of Antonia towering opposite it, anywhere but at Benjamin. What was he supposed to do now?
Without thinking, he glanced at Benjamin, thankful that he did not catch his eye. He saw him with his head bent low, lost in thought, the silence thickening between them. For the first time Gamaliel did not know what to say. Benjamin was slipping away, following a path he could not take.
Closing his eyes tightly for a moment, he pressed and rubbed his gnarled fingers into them, pinching the bridge of his nose. He let out a long, low breath carefully, thoughtfully.
He made his decision. He couldn’t very well turn in his own grandson after all. Gamaliel clutched at Benjamin’s hand and gripped it hard as if to stop him from going on that journey or, perhaps, to take him along. Anything to close that empty distance between them.
“You and I are to have no secrets from each other.” The rebuke was firm. “We shall keep this between the two of us, Benjamin,” Gamaliel said, finally looking at his grandson, “and you shall tell me the whole story, every detail. No more secrets.”
The next few hours passed in deep discussion with Gamaliel probing the boys’ understanding of the commitment he had made to this radical sect, this new heresy – that word seemed too strong now that Benjamin was involved. The years of training had not been wasted for the boy was thoughtful and penetrating in his new beliefs. But this sect was much stronger than he had believed. It was no mere extension of the old faith. This was a transformation.
He found beneath it all a core of faith in this man Yeshua that he could not understand. Benjamin admitted that Yeshua had died as a criminal on a cross outside Yerushalayim more than thirty years ago, but he treated him as if he were still alive and in constant contact with him. He had heard the stories, of course. But, until now, he had not given them much thought. Stories and truth are often far apart. And these stories were more difficult to believe than most.
So they talked and argued quietly with heads bent close together as Rabbis do and the hours slipped by.
Click here to read more……
The Temptations of the Cross by Bert A. Amsing
Copyright © 2012 by vanKregten Publishers. All rights reserved.
Footnotes and references included in original manuscript.