Searching in Jerusalem

As the sun rose, Justin and Brigitte were again on the road, but this time they felt an excitement as they walked into the city of Jerusalem. Her motherly intuition told Brigitte that they would find some hint of Malchus here. Of course, the first people of whom they inquired regarding Malchus’ whereabouts were the centurions, as Justin knew how trained they were in observation. Unfortunately, however, they were unable to recall a Roman boy of Malchus’ description and suggested that they check out the marketplace.

Justin and Brigitte followed this recommendation. When they reached the marketplace, they found a beehive of activity. Women were selling their wares and bickering over prices, trying to make the best sale possible. Fruits and vegetables of all kinds lined the walkways. Here and there musicians were gathered in groups playing melodies on their psalteries and pipes, hoping to receive some coins for their performance from those who passed by.

Justin looked over the size of the crowd as he would in assessing an opposing army and thought to himself that there must be a woman from every household in Jerusalem in this place. Now all they had to do was find one who was familiar with their son. Brigitte was hopeful that this would be the day that they would hear a word about Malchus. She began immediately to describe him to one of the leather vendors, but the vendor just shook his head, almost as if he didn’t understand, and continued fixing the leather thong on the sandal he was holding on the bench top.

Next Brigitte approached one of the women selling vegetables and fruit. After purchasing some grapes, Brigitte again described her son. The woman recalled seeing no one of that description in the marketplace. The woman then summoned some of her friends to see if they might have seen him, but no one seemed to know about him. Brigitte, however, was determined not to give up. Knowing that time was of the essence, she and Justin split up in the crowd. Justin questioned the vendors, while Brigitte began to approach the women who had come to the marketplace. In desperation, she went from one to the next describing her son, but no one had heard of him or knew of his whereabouts.

When the day came to a close and the vendors were packing up their wares, Brigitte, hoping Justin might have some good news, began to look around for him. As he approached her from a distance, she could tell by his gait that he too had heard nothing. Feeling like they had searched in every possible corner of the marketplace, they headed back to the inn for dinner and a night’s rest.

For the next five days they returned to Jerusalem, stopping people across the city to describe their son and ask if they had seen him. The next day was the Sabbath, which meant that all commerce would stop for a day. Brigitte remembered that Malchus’ friend Aaron always went to the synagogue on the evening of the beginning of the Sabbath. She reached for Justin’s hand across the dinner table and with beseeching eyes asked, "Can we find a synagogue and slip in the back and ask Aaron’s God for help in finding our son?"

When she looked at him in this way, the answer was always, "Yes."

After dinner they found a synagogue and a seat in a back corner beside the women’s section. No one disturbed them as they bowed their heads. As they prepared to pray, they heard the priest speaking in Hebrew, "And from the scroll of Proverbs—‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.’"

Justin and Brigitte finished their prayers and returned to the inn and the privacy of their room. Justin took both of Brigitte’s hands in his and, looking into her eyes, said, "Tomorrow we must make a new plan, since we have not found Malchus in Jerusalem. But for this moment and for this night, let’s trust in the Lord." Justin’s leadership in this matter calmed all of Brigitte’s fears and she slept soundly.

At breakfast Justin asked the pleasant woman who had been serving them all week if she had a daughter working in the kitchen. The one serving, who had always been so gracious, asked with a mischievous smile, "Why do you ask?"

"The day we arrived here searching for our son, I returned the bucket to the well to a young woman who looks just like you."

The warm smile continued as the server said, "Yes, that was my daughter. She works in the kitchen. Would you like to meet her?"

"Yes, we would."

The mother and daughter returned to the table, and before the mother could speak, the daughter squeezed her mother’s arm tightly. This beautiful young girl stood and stared at Brigitte and then at Justin before fixing her eyes once more upon Brigitte. By now her eyes were misty. What seemed like an eternity was truly only a minute or two. Breaking all the rules of servant and guest, the young woman sat down on the bench beside Brigitte. "You are Malchus’ mother!"

Brigitte took the girl into her arms and both of them began to cry.

Justin looked up at the mother who began to speak, "I am Ruth, and this is my daughter Rachel. Should you be Malchus’ parents, then we are already friends."

After a while, Rachel dabbed her eyes with her apron and began to speak in a quivering voice, "Malchus was a close friend of mine untilÂ…" Her voice drifted off as she looked away.

"Until what," Brigitte prodded, "until what?"

"Until they took him away."

"Who took him away?"

"First of all, let me say that my mother and I have been living here at this inn for several months, but it hasn’t always been so. We previously lived in the compound of Caiaphas the high priest where Malchus was an indentured servant."

Brigitte looked at Justin, then Justin inquired of Rachel, "What do you mean an indentured servant? Our son is a Roman citizen. He can’t be an indentured servant."

"He was by his own choice, and he never revealed his citizenship to the priests. Unfortunately, he was taken to the island of Patmos not long ago, and his remaining indentured time was sold to the Roman governor there. I do not know this for sure since it was shared with me by one of Caiaphas’s slave girls. She was told this by one of the sailors on board the vessel that supposedly had transported Malchus to the island."

Justin, still in disbelief about the idea of his son being an indentured servant, asked Rachel to describe the Malchus to whom she referred. A half-smile came over Rachel’s face as she recalled the Malchus she had known, "He was tall, blond, gentle, kind, a bit shy, but very conscientious."

"Were there other distinguishing features?" Justin pressed. Rachel thought for a moment, "Well, he was the only servant who could speak three languages--Latin, Hebrew and Greek. The use of these languages and his skills with mathematics were what placed him in charge of all the outside servants. He did all the buying and selling and kept the records for the high priest. You should be very proud of the leadership of your son."

Justin, now convinced that this young girl knew his son and that Malchus probably was on Patmos, began to estimate in his mind the time required to sail to the island. Speaking so that all could hear, he said, "At least a week would be required to reach the island from Caesarea. Brigitte, how soon can you be ready to go?"

Brigitte gave a warm hug first to Rachel, then to Ruth, as she thanked them for their help in her search for her son. Next, she moved quickly toward her room while telling Justin over her shoulder, "Just give me a few minutes."

Justin turned to the mother and daughter who he believed were sent by their God and asked, "What may I do to express my gratitude?"

Rachel replied, "It’s enough for me just to meet you and to know that you will soon be reunited with your son. Have a safe journey, and may Jehovah God grant you His mercy in your search." Then, without another word, she turned and moved quickly to the kitchen, and her mother began to clear the dishes off the table.

Justin settled the bill with the innkeeper and went to the stable to prepare the donkeys. As he was bringing the donkeys around front, he met Brigitte and the innkeeper bringing their belongings out the door. Saying farewell to their host for the week, they mounted the donkeys and with hopeful hearts moved down the road toward Jerusalem.

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