“In Israel, there is a famous healer Who is able to heal anyone,” said Ben-Oni. “I heard Him speak one night when my owners were in Samaria. He was passing through Samaria with His disciples and asked a woman there for a drink of water." He paused long enough to peer intently into the deep shadows.
"He told the woman her life history, so she went running into the village, insisting that the whole town come and listen to this prophet. Then He spoke to all the people in the town, and He healed a man who couldn’t hear or speak and other people, too. I was there.”
Sarah felt a chill go down her spine. “What was His name?” she asked, but she knew before Ben-Oni spoke what the answer would be.
“Jesus,” Ben-Oni confirmed.
They arrived at the gate, sparing Sarah the need to reply. They saw only one other person around, walking toward an inn not far from the gate. He looked like he might be a merchant, but he must have arrived outside the city after sundown, since he came in without his camels and entourage.
“Have you seen a man with a lame leg?” Ben-Oni asked.
“No,” the man replied, “although I just arrived. I haven’t seen anyone other a few men headed for the tavern over there.” He pointed toward a building where light, a sour odor, and noise spilled from an open door.
Ben-Oni and Sarah hurried toward the building.
“You should stay outside, Sarah,” Ben-Oni said. “No respectable woman should go into a tavern. Wait for me here.”
Sarah stepped into the dark shadow of the building, holding her cold arms and worrying silently.
Ben-Oni soon reappeared in the doorway, and Sarah stepped out of the shadows into the moonlight.
“No one has seen him among the people in there,” he said. “Let’s go check the north port.”
On the way to the port, Ben-Oni chattered on about Jesus. “Jesus is the Christ, you know. The Messiah. The Son of God. The Expected One. He’s known by even more titles than that. I’m hoping to earn my freedom so that I can follow Him and be one of His disciples. I’ve heard so many stories about Him. He’s wonderful, and everybody’s so amazed by Him."
He exhaled in a snort. "Except the temple rulers and Pharisees and Sadducees and men like that, they don’t like Him because He is rocking their boat. If they’d just leave Him alone, He could do much more, but they keep harassing Him.”
Sarah paid little attention to his ramblings. Her frantic eyes searched every ditch, doorway, and shadow, and her frantic imagination invented terrible scenes of Paul lying hurt, or worse.
In the end, they searched in vain. There was no sign of Paul anywhere, and the few people they found at the port knew nothing. They walked back to Hamath’s. Sarah hoped maybe Paul returned home while they sought him. Ben-Oni was still babbling about his precious Jesus. I’ve almost had my fill of the boy’s constant blathering on about Jesus, Jesus, Jesus—although I do appreciate his help. A woman wandering about at night alone could be in danger, even in these times, I suppose.
When they arrived home, Paul hadn’t returned. Sarah thanked Ben-Oni and Martha and sent them on their way back to their own beds. She lay on her pallet and cried. What could she do now? She thought about it much of the night as she lay sleepless.
This seemed so unlike him. Or at least so unlike the Paul she knew. Even though they were distant with each other, Paul would never leave without saying anything to anyone, it just didn’t fit his character. Which meant he was hurt, kidnapped, or...or dead. But who’d kidnap such a badly crippled person? She couldn’t pay any kind of ransom for him, and Hamath wouldn’t.
By morning, she decided to ask among the people in the marketplace to see if anyone had seen Paul. Surely plenty of people knew him by sight. Traveling merchants arrived and left all the time. Maybe Martha could help. Someone had to have seen him. There’s still hope, isn’t there? I won’t give up hope.