Suzanna quickly arose for her morning ablutions, scrambling to join her fellow workers down in the servants’ hall. Their master was coming home today. The preparations, weeks in the making, had reached a feverish pitch the evening before. Benjamin, Suzanna’s immediate overseer, stood directly in front of his line of subordinates, each pair of eyes respectfully lowered, while he perused them. A tug on a shift here, and an adjustment to a robe there, and they were released to their delegated duties.
Suzanna, nervous with the contradictory waves of excitement and dread surging through her, entered the dining hall that had been scrubbed and polished until it shone like a new silver coin. She walked lightly across the threshold, a tamed gazelle marking her own territory. She opened a cupboard recessed into the north wall and delicately removed a folded, pristine white linen cloth, woven with the finest of snowy thread and hemmed with lacy needlework dyed a deep shade of purple.
Suzanna now understood the weeks of daily palm-oil hand treatments, her usual work-roughened fingers as smooth and soft as a newborn babe’s cheeks. She furled the flowing fabric over her head and down onto the gleaming tabletop, guiding its floating folds into order. She lingered briefly to admire the beautiful finished effect.
The elaborately sconced candelabra on the sideboard would be lit later; but now she carried it, ever so carefully, over to the table, repositioning it several times until it was centered perfectly. The hanging prisms shimmered in the gathering daylight, glinting in alternating splashes of shadow and color across the surrounding walls of the large banquet hall, softening the hall’s, otherwise, stark formality.
Hadasseh and Hester bustled into the room carrying trays of figs, dates, and plump grapes to be arranged into designed disarray amidst fresh foliage on either side of the massive centerpiece across the table’s length. The result was breathtaking.
“Benjamin will be pleased with your choices, girls. The garlands compliment the attached roses magnificently!”
Smiling together as one, the twins curtsied and departed. As the heavy door closed behind them, Suzanna caught a whiff of fresh, baking bread. The chief baker and his cooks had been preparing food for hours, concocting delicacies and rich sauces beyond the master’s normal fare. This extra fuss was to impress an important guest, probably a Roman dignitary from the next province. Ignasius had connections in the highest realms, it seemed, and his wealth made him extremely popular.
Suzanna surveyed the banquet hall with a critical eye; then, gasped at an oversight. She had forgotten the fresh-drawn water buckets and foot bowls and towels for the diners! Her upper lip perspired at the thought of such an omission.
“Praise to Allah for reminding me,” she murmured.
The rest of the day flew by as the young ruler’s multitude of servants prepared the palace for King Ignasius’ return . . .
“Master, we are honored with your presence,” Benjamin bowing deferentially, “everything is as you asked.”
“Thank you, Benjamin. Demetrius informed you of our guest?” bringing forward a plainly garbed man, “This is Jesus of Nazareth. We are privileged to have him sup with us.”
“We trust you will find everything in order, my lord,” secretly wondering that such an important personage would appear so humbly dressed . . .
“Thank you for the fine meal, my friend, but you need not have gone to so much trouble. My wants are simple,” Jesus acknowledged, “Now, what is your question?”
“Master, I believe You are the promised Messiah and I wish to have this eternal life You have told about. I have kept the commandments from a child. What else must I do?”
“You still lack something else, my friend. You love the things of this world more than you love God. Sell everything you have and give to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven.”
Ignasius, stung, bowed his head in disbelief, sorrowing for what he would never have because he valued his wealth more than his future.
“I fear for his reason, Benjamin. He has not been right since the great banquet,” Julius, the king’s advisor, shared.
“It cannot be anything he ate—his testers are fine and none of the other guests have any ailments.”
“Suzanna was one of the servers present—inquire of her and report back to me.”
“I think I know what troubles him, my lord,” Suzanna replied, “apparently, that man, Jesus, accused him of being selfish . . .”
Story based loosely on Bible story of the rich young ruler: Luke 17:18-24.
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