I have lived in an interesting time. Not for me the quiet meals in the shade of my own fig tree, the laughter of children reflecting from the walls of my home like sunlight from a pool. Those scenes are remembered from my own childhood. But one of those children I remember was my cousin, the son of my motherís sister, and his short life changed everything.
These iron bands chafe my wrists. I long to rub them, but the chains attached to them keep them apart and prevent such comfort. My limbs ache from being pulled out of joint. No matter. He suffered far worse.
In the corner I hear the scuttling of a rat in the fetid straw. A shaft of early morning light exposes its naked tail, a ghastly pinkish gray against its black coat, as it wiggles through a crack in the stone wall. Free to wander, it returns after the briefest of moments. Such is the tragedy of so many of my countrymen. He offered them freedom and abundant life. They choose instead the yoke of their own rebellion.
This morning they will decide my fate. I harbor no illusions. Vespasian is methodical and remorseless. He sees my name and lineage not as a threat, but a nuisance that he will not abide. But while I have little hope of this life being spared, I have more than a hope; I have a certainty, of the life to come. Because I knew him, my cousin, and I know him now, because he lives.
Did I say an interesting time? Not since the beginning of this age, nor after, will such distress again come upon my people. The armies of the Gentiles tread Jerusalem under their feet. Their Eagle standards circle the Temple like vultures over a wounded animal, as my cousin prophesied shortly before they crucified him. Soon no stone will stand alone and untoppled.
Vespasian did not defeat the Britons by being merciful, and he will show no mercy to the foolish rebels who now hold the temple. His noose tightens, and we are in it. I donít need the gift of prophecy to see this efficient and disciplined general rising up in the chaos of Rome to seize the reins of Empire. He is one kind of leader. We are another. Since my cousin James was martyred, I have shepherded the church in Jerusalem as he did, as his brother Yeshua shepherds us. As servants, we live for the people, not over them.
ďMy Kingdom is not of this earth,Ē Yeshua told Pilate. But these rebels understand only one kind of kingdom, and Vespasian cannot allow any other than Rome, so he seeks the family of David. With no wick, he reasons, the lamp of rebellion will go out.
I knew Yeshua as my cousin. Later, I marveled at his authority and wisdom. I mourned his tragic death, then rejoiced at his resurrection. His presence comforts now. He watches over me, my cousin, my brother, my Lord and my God.
Authorís notes: Simeon, son of Cleophas was chosen to replace the martyred James as head of the church in Jerusalem. The identification of lesser known individuals in Scripture is notoriously difficult. Many names were common and shared among family members. Because Judea, in the time of Jesus, was populated by Aramaic speakers who also spoke Koine Greek, many people had different names in each language, Cephas and Peter, etc. What can be presumed, however, is that if an individual was named in Scripture, they were known in the early church.
Cleophas, also known as Clopas and possibly Alphaeus, was described on the road to Emmaus by Luke and referred to in Johnís crucifixion scene as husband to a Mary who is believed to be sister to Mary, mother of Jesus. He might also have been the father of a lesser known James, son of Alphaeus mentioned as one of the disciples in Matthew 10.
The fourth century church historian, Eusebius, drew from an earlier historian known as Hegesippus to describe Simeonís martyrdom under the emperor Trajan. Simeon would then have been 120 years old. Eusebius also mentions Vespasian, after seizing the city of Jerusalem, seeking descendents of David, so it is possible that Simeon would have been caught up in this earlier dragnet and let go later. Vespasian left the destruction of the temple to his son, Titus, to go to Rome and secure his selection as Emperor by the armies of Rome.
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