The old sleep lightly, as Benjamin obviously had forgotten, and for the last few minutes Gamaliel had been awake, though with his eyes closed and his breathing deep, listening to the teaching of his grandson.
He began to stir as if he had just awakened and all the eyes of the people turned to him, even Benjamin who had stopped in mid-sentence.
The look on Benjamin’s face was worth it. So few real pleasures are left in life but that was one to treasure.
But he saw alarm on many faces in the crowd. They didn’t know if he was angry or not. Benjamin had used his presence as a cover for his own teaching, authenticating it by having him near, even if he was asleep. As Benjamin stumbled to give a mixture of apology and explanation, Gamaliel waved him to silence.
“Did you know,” he said, “that Peter spoke right over there on those steps with the Temple full of people from all parts of the world? The colors and pageantry of so many cultures and languages were especially high that year. It seemed that the whole world had come to Yerushalayim. It has never been quite the same since. I was there. That was more than thirty years ago. A lifetime.”
Benjamin was wise enough to let his grandfather carry on with the story. The crowd shifted and murmured for a while but settled down as Gamaliel began to speak.
Gamaliel was not a total fool and he spoke about that day without teaching, without commentary. He merely told the story. What harm could come of that? No one would be able to accuse him of heresy. He was too old to change his ways, anyway.
It was a weak argument. There was danger even to be associated with a follower of the Christ, especially a teacher of the heresy, as Benjamin so clearly was. This would be no exception.
Perhaps it was his old age that made him heedless of the danger, or perhaps it was this new hunger for some truth he could cling to while his world fell apart around him. Gamaliel didn’t know. His heart was sick and that was all. And yes, there were the people, he couldn’t forget them. They, too, needed answers.
“And now,” Gamaliel said, as he ended his story, “it is time to rest. You must all go now and leave this old man to make his way back home. I may arrive just in time to come back for the evening sacrifice.”
The people smiled at his humor for he would shuffle very slowly with many stops before he would reach his home. This daily routine in the Temple was a true pilgrimage for the old man and the people loved him for it.
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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.