Jerusalem Arrival

Paulos departed Damascus reluctantly but journeyed toward Jerusalem eagerly. His long postponed pilgrimage was at hand. For the first time, he would behold Jerusalem: the mother city, the dwelling place of the Lord, Mount Zion, the scene of the crucifixion of the Christos, and the hub for his followers. A pilgrim’s heart beat a hurried cadence to his long strides as he journeyed southward along the well-traveled road from Damascus to Jerusalem.

Signs of early summer surrounded him: ripening fields of grain; fruit trees laden with green figs, apples, and apricots; and suckling lambs bleating after the ewes. Each evening, he watched the waning crescent moon grow smaller as the Hebrew calendar month of Lyyar passed; with the new moon, the month of Sivan and summer would begin.

Following his hasty escape from Damascus, Paulos would seek Cephas, the companion of Iesou the Christos and leader of his Jerusalem followers. He reminded himself to speak Aramaic and to call him Yeshua the Mashiah now that he was in Palestine.

“Is Nazareth nearby?” he asked a stranger in Galilee. “Did you know Yeshua of Nazareth?”

The stranger looked him up and down without answering before stalking away, jarring Paulos’ enthusiasm. Paulos slowed his pace as he remembered the martyrdom of Stephen—stoned by his fellow Jews. Paulos suddenly worried that he was walking into a complicated, unfriendly political situation.

Doubt frayed his optimism further as he began to question his reception by Cephas and the Nazarenes. Who was he, to seek an audience with the friends and family of the Mashiah? Why? What was his purpose? He stroked his nose as he shortened his steps.

On top of everything else, with his coin purse nearly empty, he could not turn back. A hot breeze whistled up the valley of the River Jordan, blowing dust in the face of the uncertain seeker.

When he entered Jerusalem, he aimlessly followed the foot traffic. With his last coins, he rented a room in an inn, filled with pilgrims in Jerusalem to offer sacrifice at the Temple. He stripped naked, bathed, and washed the clothes he had worn since he left Damascus, hanging his tunic, robe, and loincloth from a rafter to dry. As evening settled on the city and the din from the street receded, Paulos brooded on a mat in his room without windows. Why should Cephas—leader of the disciples, best friend and confidant of Yeshua, the one who saw the resurrected Mashiah—receive him? What credentials did he offer besides a few converts and a vision? He felt a fool for coming to Jerusalem as a beggar—no clothes, no tools, and an empty coin purse—depending upon the mercy of a stranger.

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