The following story is part of an ongoing series. To read the rest of the series click here.
“So, what happened then, Paul?” asked Mark, who had been silent for some time. He seemed to be annoyed, wanting to reach the end of the story. “What does all of this have to do with you being here in prison?”
“About 50 days after all of that stuff happened with Jesus came Pentecost. I love Pentecost. We call it the Feast of the First Fruits. It is a huge party to commemorate the corn harvest, the last crop to be harvested in each season. Jews from every corner of the world gathered together for this feast, and that included my mom and dad. Every Pentecost, we would get together at my sister’s house.”
Saul’s mother danced around the room preparing the meal, weaving in and out of family members standing in the small kitchen and sitting at the table. The flow of words was constant, speaking non stop to anyone that would listen.
“The Pharisee of the Pharisees you know. They say nothing but excellent things.” She stopped behind where he was sitting to straighten his hair from behind.
“Cut it out, Mom. I’m not four”, as he swatted her hand away.
Ignoring him completely as if he wasn’t in the room, she started moving about the room again. “Such a book worm he is, though. They say he is always about studying and learning. Wanting to know the truth.”
Dropping her voice a little, “If only he would meet a nice girl…start a family…have a son. But no. Not my boy. Too busy reading. Well, at least he isn’t afraid to stand up for what he believes in.”
“Saying what you think isn’t always a good thing, Mom. Sometimes it can get you in trouble. I’ve made some enemies.
“They think that I take myself too seriously”, Saul continued. “Some of the older priests have been telling me to ease up some. They tell me that I am “over” zealous,” at he word “over” he held two fingers in each hand up in the air, making quotation marks in the air, “if that is possible.”
“Nonsense. You are a Pharisee. That is your place. Excitement for the Law is what makes it real, what makes people believe in you. We look to men like you to teach us”, answered Jeremiah, Saul’s father.
“But I find it exceedingly difficult to tolerate others, Father, that don’t understand the Law and the Prophets, and it infuriates me. When some take the words of the Law and twist them to fit their own interpretation…I can’t stand it! This is not some mere book. This is the Word of God.”
“Saul, trust the Lord. He will be faithful to give you the wisdom that you need, to make the changes that He wants you to make.”
“Twenty years into my studies, and still my Father passes to me wisdom from “on high.”
“What’s the commotion outside?” The noise of the foot traffic outside had risen to the point that the conversation inside the house was almost impossible. Even still, there were voices that rang clear in the distance. Paul’s sister had jumped up from the table, and was looking out the window.
People were streaming down the street, gathering in an open area at the end. Several men were motioning everyone in the area to come closer.
Saul didn’t seem impressed. Public speaking wasn’t so rare. His father and mother jumped up in excitement and headed toward the door, drawn to the commotion.
Jeremiah pushed his way through the crowd, trying to hear what the men at the center were saying.
As he passed people, he overheard one man say to his friend “What kind of sign is this? How is it that these fishermen from Galilee, of all places, speak so many languages?”
His friend replied with loud slurred speech, “ne wors in Arabic, but shews from Spain hearin’ same shtuff. The’re drunk! I love Pentecosh.”
“No, you are,” replied the friend as he pushed forward.
Jeremiah could almost hear the words from the man speaking at the front…
“…listen to my words. We are not drunk, as some of you are saying. How could we be drunk so early in the morning? Listen to the prophet Jos…”
As he excused himself to work his way forward, he noticed the differences of the people in the crowd. Some were local to the area. Some wore the dress of Egypt, and some of Greece. To the right were several Ethiopians, conversing in a language unknown to him. He continued to gaze in every direction. There were small pockets of Parthians, Medes and Elamites in front of him. Scattered here and there were groups of men from Mesopotamia, local Judeans, and Jewish Asians like himself. Libyans, Cretes, Arabians. He couldn’t ever remember seeing a crowd like this gathered together at one time.
He had to focus to hear what was being said. There was still a tight pack of people between himself and the front of the crowd. The words drifted his way above the commotion…
“…of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders…,” spoke one of the men. His voice seemed to be growing in confidence and strength. Jeremiah no longer needed to strain to make out what was being said.
“…ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death…”
Gasps erupted from the whole crowd. Everyone was drawn to this man, hanging on every word.
Jeremiah was struck in amazement. He spun to the right, and saw the way that the Ethiopians were also amazed by what was being said. He asked one of them,
“How can you understand? Do you know what he is saying?”
“Yes”, several of them replied excitedly. “But we speak Aramaic as well as you. He is not speaking in Aramaic. We hear him in our own language.”
“But that is not possible. He is speaking perfect Aramaic.”
“No sir”, they argued.
Jeremiah turned around to face some men of Mesopotamia behind him.
“Do you understand him clearly”?
“Of course, he is speaking in a clear Roman dialect.”
Jeremiah slowly turned to face the speaker again, absorbing every word.