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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Winter (the season) (08/13/09)

TITLE: The Heretic
By Val Clark


Maccabee thrust his shoulders back and rapped his knuckles imperiously on the door.

The servant, Hannah, opened it. Red rimmed eyes glazed quickly past his face and back to the ground. ‘He’s…. She’s…. Not today.’

He refused to let Hanna’s grief-stricken voice weaken his resolve and pushed roughly past her. ‘The elders insist.’

The interior of the house was deep in shadow; a welcome relief from the sun-baked road.

He’d have liked more time to examine the interior. He’d walked past the house often enough, coveting its palatial proportions, courtyard and roof-top garden. Now he was finally inside there was no time to linger.

‘Look at me, girl, where is he?’

Hannah slowly raised her head. Tears welled in her eyes. ‘She’s dying.’

‘I’m on synagogue business. Show me the way.’

He didn’t want to touch her. Yes, he was in a pious home but one could never be too careful. He would just have to take the risk that she was not ritually unclean. His fingers bit into her thin shoulders as he propelled her into the house.

She led him up a narrow stone stairway that clung to the wall and into a room on the second floor. As soon as he released his grasp she scuttled away.

A shaft of light from the high window illuminated the leader of the synagogue kneeling before his daughter’s bed. His eyes were on the face of a girl in the last stages of a wasting disease. Her fleshless hand lay engulfed in his.

‘Abba.’ Her voice was soft, drifting on the air like a feather on a calm day.
‘Rabbi Jesus, he could heal me.’

Maccabee shivered. Jesus. How he loathed that name.

Jairus’ head drooped over her hand for long moments.


Jairus flinched and sighed. Placing his daughter’s hand on the sheet he stood.

‘Master, you must come immediately. It’s been four weeks. This Sabbath….’

Jairus’ raised a finger to his lips, his eyes narrowed and slid towards his daughter. ‘Come.’ He mouthed, and glided down the stairs and out of the house.

Out into the afternoon sun. A sun which failed to take away the chill that had settled into his being with that one word, ‘Jesus’.

‘What news of Jesus of Nazareth?’ Jairus’ words sent stabs of ice up his spine.

‘Master my orders are to take you to the synagogue.’
‘What do you think, Maccabee? One more disordered Sabbath or the life of a child?’

‘But Master, the rulers of the Temple are united. Jesus is a heretic. It’s only a matter of time before he condemns himself to death.’

‘We can discuss this along the way.’

As they approached the crowd Jairus said, ‘Perhaps Jesus’ miracles are signs that he really is Messiah, just not the sort of messiah we anticipated.’

To Maccabee’s astonishment Jairus pushed through the crowd that pressed around Jesus and knelt before him. ‘My dear daughter is at death's door. Come and lay hands on her so she will get well and live.’1

He gritted his teeth at the look of compassion and understanding that passed between Jesus and Jairus. The desire to betray Jairus and gain the elders’ loyalty settled into his cold heart.

As they walked back to Jairus’ house Maccabee rubbed his arms and sought the sunlight at the edge of the crowd, wondering fearfully if he had caught an illness from the girl.

Jesus stopped the crowd before reaching Jairus’ home and commanded all but three of his men to stay away. Maccabee followed at a distance.

His heart rejoiced when they turned the corner into Jairus’ street. The strident tones of several flutes fought to be heard over the wails of mourners. All his problems were solved. The girl was dead. Jesus would leave. Jairus would go with him to the synagogue.

He stamped his foot in frustration when the small group entered the house. Suddenly the musicians and professional mourners were on the street, laughing derisively.

One voice rang out, ‘I know a dead body when I see one!’

Maccabee leapt up onto the wall of the courtyard and peered through the window of the girl’s room.

Jesus took the girl’s hand and said ‘Little girl, get up.’2

The girl stood up.

Only Yahweh could heal. This heretic must be of the devil, imitating the work of Yahweh.

Ice, as cold as the snow in Jerusalem, formed around his heart. He settled his back against the sun-drenched stone wall, but it made no difference.

1 Mark 5:21 The Message

2 Mark 5:40 The Message

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Member Comments
Member Date
Laury Hubrich 08/20/09
This is a good story. The pronouns got a little confusing sometimes, though. I'm not sure how hard the topic was hit - that might hurt you but I do like this one.
Catrina Bradley 08/20/09
Superb Biblical fiction! My heart was racing, even though I knew the end. You squeezed the topic in at the end, but you probably aren't strong in that category. Nevertheless, your writing is outstanding, your talent very evident.
Suzanne R08/20/09
The scene was set really well. I like the way the cold kept advancing into Macabee's heart as the story progressed, culminating in the icicles forming around it. Excellent.
Verna Cole Mitchell 08/21/09
I liked seeing this familiar story through the eyes of the heretic. Masterfully done.
Karen Ward08/23/09
"He's...She's...Not today." Great dialogue. I was right there in this story. Excellent job. :)