36

A Growing Family

Malchus and Rachel and their parents remained on Patmos. Seth returned to Jerusalem to continue his work with the poor. Malchus oversaw the building of Ruthís house not long after the wedding. Two years passed, and Rachel gave birth to Daniel. Two more years came and went, and Deborah was born.

As a young girl, Deborah learned crafts from her two grandmothers, Ruth and Brigitte. The crafts spanned the cultures of the Hebrews and the land of Gaul. Justin took young Daniel fishing every week.

One day as Justin and Daniel, now thirteen, were preparing for a dayís fishing, Malchus called Justin aside for a question. "Father, the ivory-handled, folding knife you gave me when I was thirteen has been my most prized possession. When I entered Jerusalem all alone, the knife and one denarius were all I had. The knife has served me well all these years. How would you feel if I gave the knife to Daniel? Should he choose fishing as his life work, he will need it more than I do."

Justin smiled proudly as he responded, "I would like that very much. A useful tool passed on to the next generation would most certainly please me."

Walking back down to the boat where Daniel was arranging the net, Malchus reached inside his cloak, pulled out the knife, and said, "Daniel, I want you to have my knife that your grandfather gave me when I was your age."

"Father, you will be lost without your knife."

"My son, a time comes when itís right to pass possessions and responsibilities to the next generation."

Daniel looked over at his grandfather and observed an approving smile, then he reached for the knife. Grasping the knife tightly in his hand, he encircled his father with long, strong arms as an expression of his gratitude.

Malchus continued to oversee the vineyard. Each year the branches that bore no fruit were cut off and used for the fire. The branches that did bear fruit were pruned to bear more fruit. Blossoms turned to grapes. The sun ripened the fruit. After the harvest it was once again time to prune.

Harvest followed harvest and in time, Daniel and Deborah both married and had families of their own. Rachel knew no greater pleasure than her grandchildren. Ruth, Justin, and Brigitte were equally enamored with their great-grandchildren. As the seasons for the grapes flowed by year after year, so the grandchildren grew, just as a new sprout on the vine eventually becomes a strong branch. The grandchildren were young adults when in a span of three years Justin, then Brigitte, and finally Ruth died.

Several weeks before Danielís forty-eighth birthday, an old fisherman arrived on Patmos who had been exiled by the Roman Emperor Domitian. When Daniel met this fisherman named John, he was drawn to the old man by his winsome spirit. After learning that John had been so hurried from his home that he had to leave all of his possessions, including his fishing gear, behind, Daniel decided to make John his fishing partner in order to help him get established.

Daniel visited the shops on the waterfront looking for a knife for his new friend. He found a folding knife very much like his own, except the side coverings were red instead of ivory. While a good knife, it was rougher on the outside and didnít have as fine an edge on the blade as the old one that his grandfather had bought in Spain. Still, Daniel felt good about his plan to give the knife he had purchased to John.

The next day the morning sun still touched the horizon when Daniel walked toward the boat. He could see John leaning over the net arranging the folds and looking for loose ties. Daniel stopped for a moment to reflect on the gnarled fingers that had worked the fishing nets for so many years. Daniel had learned that John, now well into his eighties, had been fishing since he was a boy living beside the Sea of Galilee.

Feeling that the time was right, Daniel reached inside his cloak for his gift. The silent moment continued as Daniel stood, still touching first the red and then the ivory knife. Then he pulled out the ivory one, for he sensed that his new friend John deserved the very best. Daniel moved closer and said, "John, I want to give you this knife."

"But Daniel, what will you use for cutting cord for the net?"

"Oh, I bought a new knife yesterday."

John, seeming to understand Danielís need to give him his knife and the sacrifice it entailed, smiled warmly and accepted Danielís gift.

On Danielís forty-eighth birthday, Rachel invited all the family to dinner. After the celebrating was over, the children were excused to play, and the adults remained seated around the table on the veranda. Daniel began, "Let me tell you about my older friend John whom I selected for a fishing partner. John, recently exiled to Patmos, is the best fisherman on the island. He is writing each evening to the friends he left behind. While fishing, he sometimes seems to be talking to himself.

"While we were working the fishing net today, I asked, ¬ĎWhat is on your mind?í John seems comfortable with me, so he shared, ¬ĎI am talking through the stories of Jesus to be sure the details which I recall are correct.í I asked him to tell me about his friend, Jesus. This wise, old John responded, ¬ĎI will tell you the stories I am writing.í Iím not sure if it is John himself, or if it is the heartwarming stories he tells, that makes me feel such joy in being his friend."

Deborah, who had been intently listening, suggested that Daniel invite John over to her house for dinner sometime. Everyone agreed that they would like to meet him.

"Jesus" was a common name among the people in the Mediterranean world; still, when Daniel mentioned the name "Jesus," Malchus was reminded of the Jesus who healed his severed ear on his last night in Jerusalem over half a century ago.

"Malchus," said Rachel rather thoughtfully, "do you remember Mother telling you about Mary and Martha? These godly women took us into their home until Martha found us a job at the inn. Martha was a wonderful cook. Mary and I loved to sit and talk. The sistersí cheerfulness belied their recent tragedy."

Malchus asked, "What tragedy was this?"

"Their friend Jesus had been cruelly crucified, but that was not the end of the story. During the few days we were there, a continuous stream of guests dropped by. They came to worship Jesus. Martha invited us to sit with the others as they shared their love. I could feel the love that filled the room even in Jesusí absence."

Malchus questioned, "I would think that Martha and Mary would be completely devastated. How could they have taken you in?"

"I think it had to do with Jesus and his teachings. They said that he taught, ¬ĎForgive those who persecute you.í He told his followers he had gone to heaven to prepare a place for them for eternity. Martha and Mary believed they would be with Jesus in heaven someday."

"Interesting," mused Malchus as he thought to himself. "What manner of man could this Jesus possibly have been? Maybe John will have some answers."

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