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Saturday, September 3, 2011

FICTION FRIDAY: One More Time, Chapter 19B


They mounted their horses as the sun rose the next morning. Hamath saw a crowd of people gathered around a Man seated on a rock. With a crowd that size, surely someone would know of Bildad. They dismounted and walked to the edge of the crowd. Despite the distance between them and the speaker, Hamath could hear him clearly. The Man must have a powerful voice, yet it didn’t sound like He was shouting, but speaking for his ears alone. Remarkable.

Sometime during the Man’s presentation, tears began to run down Hamath's face and into his beard. Enoch seemed to be in the same condition. Several of the others in the large group of listeners, men and women alike, also wept. When the Man finished talking, many knelt before Him, including Hamath and Enoch. Hamath rose to his feet. "Who is this Man?"

A nearby man answered in a choked voice. “He’s called Jesus. Some say He’s the Messiah, some say He’s a prophet. Whoever He is, He speaks truth to the heart.”

Hamath and Enoch walked away from the group, leading their horses in silence for a time.

Hamath turned to Enoch. “I’m at odds with myself, Enoch. I know you’re my servant, but I find myself in debt to you. I just thought about many times I treated you like a piece of my property rather than the good man you’ve been. I’m sorry.”

“There were times when I was less than loyal to you, sir. My thoughts haven’t always been charitable. I ask your forgiveness, too.”

Hamath’s shoulders relaxed. “You are forgiven, Enoch. At least you kept your lack of charity inside you and didn’t treat every person you met like camel dung. That’s what I’ve been doing. How could I have been so oblivious?"

Hamath gathered the reins and mounted his horse. “And I know this is a strange question, but what is a ‘Messiah?’ All I know is that this Man gave me a message that turned me inside out.”

“I’ve heard the Jews believe their God will send a savior to free them. Maybe this is the One they’ve been expecting. I’m not sure all of the ins and outs of their religion.”

“I don’t know Who He is, all I know is that He somehow made me see myself, and I don't like what I've been.”

“That could be a step on the right path, sir. Maybe recognizing we have been less than perfect at one time or another—Hah! Many times over!—is a beginning.”

“I’ll try, Enoch, but I hope you’ll be patient with me. Meanwhile, we still have to find Paulos.” Hamath hailed a passerby.

“Hello, friend. We are looking for a certain slave trader named Bildad. Do you know of him?”

“No, neighbor, I don’t. But perhaps a slave might be able to give you better information. Temple slaves could be the best source. There is a chief of slaves there, one Petronius. He was a slave of the Romans and now of a Jew. I think he could tell you where this Bildad resides.”

“Can you give us directions to the temple?” Hamath asked.

“I can.” The stranger pointed. “Follow this street in that direction.”

“Thank you.” Hamath bowed his head. “We are indebted to you, sir. Fare you well.”

Hamath and Enoch reached the temple and entered the Court of Gentiles. They began asking for Petronius and found one who led them to the man. Hamath’s eyebrows raised in surprise. The scarred slave wore a clean, white linen tunic, and he carried himself like a king. He looked more like a merchant than a slave, except for the hole through one earlobe, a symbol that proclaimed the man had chosen to be a slave forever rather than to be freed.

“Are you Petroneus?” Enoch asked.

“Yes I am. Do you need something, sir?”

“Do you know of a slave master called Bildad?”

Petronius’s lip curled in contempt. “I do know of him. That one is an evil man. It’s rumored that he kidnaps women, children, and men who have the misfortune to be wandering out away from the safety of their families. When he captures them, he treats them worse than dogs. He should be enslaved himself and treated as he treats these poor people.”

Hamath felt a heat rising in his face, remembering how he pushed Paulos into Bildad’s hands. “Can you tell us where to find this Bildad?” he asked. “We wish to rescue or buy back a man he, uh, took.”

“When he is in the area, you can usually find Bildad at a tavern called The Edge, on the north side of Jerusalem. Take the road leading to Nazareth, and you should find the tavern along that way. But I don’t suggest you try to rescue anyone from him. You could end up as slaves yourselves. If you must, take some strong men with you or plenty of money or both.”

“Thank you, friend.”

“God go with you. You will need Him.”

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