“Not enough a sinner? What nonsense is that? I have followed the Law my whole life.” Gamaliel looked at the young man before him. He was deadly serious. He decided to press ahead.
“For us right living will mean this,” he said, quoting from the Torah, “to keep and observe all these commandments before Yahweh our God as he has directed us.”
The crowd nodded in agreement at the way that Gamaliel was handling this young man. But the crowds, fickle as they were, also leaned forward to see how Stephen would respond.
Rumors followed him everywhere. Miracles and healing and great signs seemed to cling to Stephen tenaciously, though he denied that the power was his. Gamaliel had friends in the Synagogue of Freedmen in Alexandria and they swore that he was nothing but a troublemaker. He had come from Cyrene for the festivities but had stirred up so much trouble that Gamaliel was asked to investigate. So far, he wasn’t sure who had the upper hand in this discussion.
The people crowded around to hear every word. Gamaliel could have wished for a quieter place away from the crowds to question this young man. He wasn’t sure how much was being said for their benefit and how much he truly believed. He was certainly a follower of Yeshua, the carpenter from Galilee, but he had such an aura of certainty and power about him that Gamaliel felt the student rather than the teacher.
Still, this last bit was going too far. What nonsense to say that he was not enough a sinner.
“When you discover your sin, you will discover your salvation,” Stephen said, looking directly into Gamaliel’s eyes.
“Now you dare to call me a sinner? First I am not sinner enough and now I am a sinner after all. Which shall it be?” Gamaliel managed to keep his tone light.
“Are we not all sinners?”
His words were smooth, gentle but they could not cover over his meaning. This was intolerable.
“Name my sin,” Gamaliel said. “Name it here and now.”
“All sin is one and its name is not unknown. Search your heart and you will find the name written there.”
Gamaliel leaned forward and soundly slapped Stephen’s face. Then he took off his sandal and shook the dust from it in front of the people and rose without a word and walked away.
Saul was at his side, almost running to keep up, imprecations exploding from him every few steps. Gamaliel strode through the crowds, his mind aflame, his pace a pounding step. He raced down the steps and out of the porticos of the Temple.
“Isra´el would be better off without him and his kind.”
“What did you say?” Saul touched his shoulder and Gamaliel stopped abruptly in the street, half-turning toward him.
“I said that Isra´el would be better off without him and his kind.” His words were clipped and hard. This was another Gamaliel, a hidden side come to light, buried beneath the exterior of righteousness.
Saul just looked at him with those piercing eyes and Gamaliel hesitated for a moment and then turned to go. He would talk to no one about this. He would leave the city for a few days. He needed to think. He would go to his family home in Beth-lehem and sort it all out there.
As he walked away, Saul stayed rooted in his place. He stood there a moment longer and then strode away, back into the Temple to put his plans into action.
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The Temptations of the Cross by Bert A. Amsing
Copyright © 2012 by vanKregten Publishers. All rights reserved.
Footnotes and references included in original manuscript.