Judd: A Criminal

My name is Judd. Today I am seen as a criminal, but it was not always so. As a boy, I grew up in Apollonia, which is forty miles northwest of Jerusalem or twenty-two miles south of Caesarea Maritima on the Mediterranean coast. My people are Samaritans. From my early youth, I sailed on small boats in the Mediterranean off of Apollonia. At the age of twelve, I sailed with my father on a Roman cargo ship out of Caesarea Maritima bound for Alexandria, Egypt. When I saw the men hoist the sails and felt the ocean spray against my brow, I knew I was where I belonged.

By the age of sixteen I was a first mate sailing regularly out of Caesarea Maritima for Rome, Athens, Tarsus, Alexandria, and Ephesus. After a month or two at sea, I would return to Apollonia for an extended stay.

Amaris was the prettiest girl in our town and fun to be around. We had always been friends, so I can't really say when we fell in love. When we both reached the age of sixteen, we asked for our parents' permission to marry. Amaris knew my work meant I would be gone for a month or more at a time, but we each believed that our love could hold us together throughout the times of separation.

Adam was our first child, then two years later Adam's brother, Zared, was born.

Our boys were ten and twelve when I had an accident at sea. A rope for loosening the sails entangled my left hand and maimed it. For the rest of the trip I was of no help in running the ship. When we reached our home port, Caesarea Maritima, a doctor told me I would never be able to use my left hand again. This, of course, ended my sailing career.

Usually the twenty-two mile journey home was sheer joy, knowing I would soon be with Amaris, Adam, and Zared. But this time I felt a heaviness in my step as I knew that life would never be the same again for them or for me.

When I reached home, my greatest supporters, Amaris, Adam, and Zared ran to the door to greet me. With a little bit of embarrassment, I told them about the accident at sea. Adam and Zared sat on my lap and laid their heads against my chest while Amaris gave me the encouragement I needed to go forward. I knew they understood.

So at sunup the next day, I began my search for another job. My hand was still hurting but my self-esteem was hurting even more, for my self-esteem had always been equated with success at my job. After several weeks, I concluded there were no openings in Apollonia nor in the surrounding countryside. Each time I applied for work, I could see the prospective employer looking at my bad hand as he shook his head, "No."

After a month of disappointments, I suggested to Amaris that we go to Jerusalem. Such a large city would surely have jobs for a willing worker. The next day before sunrise the four of us put our belongings in a cart behind our donkey and headed for Jerusalem. Adam refused to ride because he was a man, but Zared agreed to a turn in the cart after his mother had ridden for several miles.

After spending the night in Lydda, the halfway point, we departed early for Jerusalem. When we arrived in Jerusalem the streets were jammed with people scurrying about. Amaris and I kept looking for a place to set up camp near some water. With the mild spring weather, we could live out of our cart until I was able to find work. We walked all the way through Jerusalem without finding a place to stop, so we continued south for five more miles to Bethlehem.

By the time we arrived, the sun had set and the boys were tired. With both determination and apprehension, I knocked on the door of an inn. To my relief, I was greeted by a jovial man who said, "My name is Bartholomew. How may I help you?"

"I am Judd. My family and I have journeyed from Apollonia in Samaria. I'll have no money until I find work. I am looking for a place where I can get water, park my cart for the evening, and bed down my family."

"My rooms are a denarius for the night, but you may stay free in the stable behind the house. You'll find water and clean straw where you can make a bed for your family."

Bartholomew went with us behind the inn to the covered stable. He helped unhitch the donkey and showed me a railing which could be used to hold the cart level. As Bartholomew turned to go he said, "After you water your donkey, you can put him in the pen with the other animals."

Amaris spoke to Adam and Zared, "Help me look for wood scraps to make a fire for supper." As they began to search in the darkening dusk, a robust woman came around the corner carrying a large bowl.

"My name is Abigail. I'm Bartholomew's wife. He told me about your long trip. This stew was left over after I had served all my guests for supper. Let me fill your bowls."

"I am Judd, and this is Amaris, Adam, and Zared. May Jehovah bless you for your kindness, but you must know that I have always provided for my family, and I shall continue to do so as soon as I find work."

For eight straight days, except for the Sabbath, I looked for a job in Jerusalem and the surrounding area. My rejections always came as soon as the prospective employer noticed my useless left hand. Bartholomew continued to let us stay at his stable. Even though I told Amaris we were not to take charity, I could tell that Abigail was replenishing our dwindling staples.

Late in the evening Bartholomew would stop by to offer encouragement. He even told me how happy Abigail was. She had never been able to have children and seemed to have adopted Amaris as her daughter and Adam and Zared as her grandsons.

On the ninth day of imposing on Bartholomew and Abigail, I made a mistake that would cost me all that I had. Because Moses was my ancestor, I had learned the ten commandments as a boy, just like the Judeans. But this one day I was particularly hungry, and as I walked through the market square at the end of the day, I passed an unattended booth where the remains of the day's vegetables lay. I rationalized to myself, "These will be thrown out later tonight, so I'll just help take them off of their hands."

As I walked through the marketplace, a group of Judean men apprehended me. I felt guilty and ashamed when they took the vegetables out of my pouch and ushered me straight to the prison where they told the guard about my stealing. To my dismay, I found that a Samaritan can be put to death in Judea for stealing from a Jew. Since the day I had sailed on a Roman cargo ship as a twelve-year-old, I had never known a moment of fear. Now I was frightened and scared. What would happen to Amaris, Adam, and Zared?

On the third day of my imprisonment, Bartholomew found me. He said, "We have all been worried about you. Abigail insisted on moving your family into our quarters when you didn't return. Amaris was terrified at first but is now doing better as she can see how the boys love their adoptive grandmother. We will make sure your boys are fed, clothed, and loved."

As he left, Bartholomew and I agreed to hope for the best. The jail held several other criminals. One of these was Barabbas, who said that Pontius Pilate, Procurator of Judea, would release a criminal of choice to the Jews for Passover. Barabbas was getting his friends to bring their friends to improve his chances of being chosen. I secretly hoped I might be selected for release because of my lesser infraction.

But Barabbas' politics worked, and he was freed. The next day, another criminal and I were taken from the prison to Golgatha Hill where criminals were crucified. We were joined by a third whom they called Jesus. Jesus was more mistreated than I by the crowd. The guard told me that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God and that Pilate himself had ordered a sign to be nailed on His cross that read, "This Is the King of the Jews." Amidst His abuse, Jesus said, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing."

As the three of us hung side by side on our crosses, the man on the far side screamed and cursed in his pain while this One, whom they called Jesus, cried out to His Heavenly Father. His profound submission convinced me that His claim to be the Son of God must be true, so with all the breath left in me I said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."

And He answered, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with me in Paradise."

Based on Luke 23:32-43.

Copyright 1997 by John C. Westervelt

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