Searching in Caesarea
In spite of their concern for Malchus, Justin and Brigitte enjoyed their time on the sailing vessel, since they hadn’t had a month together with just the two of them for as long as either could remember. Despite occasional rough seas and Brigitte’s resulting bouts of seasickness, the trip seemed to go more quickly than they had expected, since they had so much to talk about and share. When the vessel arrived at Caesarea Maritima, Justin and Brigitte sensed that they were in the right place to find Malchus and hoped that they would at least be able to hear a word about his well being.
In the city, the two of them were welcomed by a centurion friend of Justin’s. Unfortunately, he was unable to recall anything about a Roman boy of Malchus’ description being in the city over the past two years. When he asked the Roman soldiers for any clues as to Malchus’ whereabouts, they too had no information to offer.
The centurion suggested, "If you want to stay awhile to search for your son, go across the city and out the east gate. You’ll find a comfortable inn at a fair price there. You’ll recognize it as the inn with a star over the door.
As Justin and Brigitte walked toward the inn, Justin thought, "This city could pass for a little Rome." Brigitte, having been only in Gaul and Spain, was awestruck by the grandeur of the buildings and avenues. Outside the eastern gate, they came to an inn. Justin was sure this was the right one when he noticed skillfully carved six-pointed stars over the door and the windows on either side of it.
Justin knocked on the door, and a cheerful innkeeper invited them in. He seemed more than happy to check them into a room. For Brigitte, it felt good just to lie back on the straw-filled mattress and not feel the rocking of the ship. The following morning, Justin and Brigitte returned to the dock where they had left the ship the day before and asked each of the captains if they had seen anyone matching the description of Malchus. One after another, the captains said that they knew nothing of the boy and were not familiar with his whereabouts. Day after day Justin and Brigitte returned to the dock, but the response of the newly arrived captains was always the same.
After a week of arduous questioning, Justin began to wonder if they were taking the right approach. It seemed that they were getting nowhere. That evening at dinner Justin pondered aloud, "Knowing our son, if he were this close to Jerusalem, he might well have gone to that ancient city."
"Then we must search that city too."
As soon as they finished their dinner, Brigitte immediately returned to their room and began packing their belongings so that they could leave early in the morning for Jerusalem.
Justin talked with the innkeeper about their Jerusalem trip. The innkeeper explained, "You may make a deposit of forty denarii each for two donkeys. When you return, your money will be refunded except for one denarius a donkey for each day you are away."
"What route do you recommend?"
"Over the last two years, four young men from Jerusalem who have stayed several days every three months with me preferred the route through Sychem. They said it is cooler, since it is closer to the mountains. No matter what route, you will need to stay overnight somewhere, and Sychem has good facilities for you and the animals."
"If you can have the donkeys ready, we would like to leave first thing in the morning."
Justin and Brigitte were awake early with excitement and a hope of finding Malchus in the great city. After several hours on the dusty trail, they stopped to water the donkeys. Brigitte, not accustomed to riding, decided to lead the donkey for awhile to rest the donkey and the parts of her body that were not used to the constant jolting. An hour’s walk made the donkey’s hard back look more inviting. The pattern of riding and walking continued throughout the first long day. A second grueling day followed the first.
An hour before sunset on the second day, they entered Jerusalem through the Sheep Gate near the Temple. Justin asked a Roman soldier stationed near the gate about a place to get room and board. The soldier replied, "If you will go east out of the city on the main road for two miles, you will come to a small town. While Jerusalem inns are always crowded, you can choose from several good ones in Bethany."
Just as the sun was setting, Justin and Brigitte arrived on the outskirts of Bethany. Justin suggested that they stay in the first of the roadside inns, since it would be closer to Jerusalem for their daily journey into the city. Brigitte gladly agreed as the dust from the desert trail had filtered through her hair, and the sun had drained the last of the energy from her weary body.
As Justin approached the front of the inn, his trained eye focused on the relief carving of a loaf of bread and a cup of wine. Justin surmised from the detailed cutting that the work was that of an accomplished artisan. Justin rang the metal bell on the doorpost. In a moment the innkeeper greeted them.
Justin responded, "I am looking for a place for my wife and me to stay for a few days."
"I have a comfortable room available. Let me help you with your belongings. You can put your donkeys in the stable in back while I help your wife to the room."
Having secured the donkeys in the stable, Justin gave them food and then drew water from the well for the animals. When he returned the bucket to the well, a young woman about Malchus’ age was waiting to draw water to fill several pitchers. Justin’s eyes remained fixed on the girl for a moment, for she was unusually beautiful.
He walked the path to the front door of the inn. Inside, Brigitte motioned him to a table where she was seated. She said, "Our things are in our room and supper is ready to be served." These were just the words that Justin hoped to hear. Though not something he would confess to his wife, he, too, was tired and hungry. The two weary travelers silently ate and soundly slept that night with dreams of Malchus.
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