Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Pen and Paper (07/17/14)
- TITLE: In tatters on the floor
By Gregory Kane
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Matters here continue to go from bad to worse. Moreover, I fear that my grand scheme to bring together God's church lies now in tatters on the floor.
I arrived in Jerusalem less than ten days ago after a journey that was fraught with danger and delay. You know that I had planned to take a ship from Cenchrea, but the Jews hired assassins to follow us on board. I'm not sure what was more attractive to them: the thought of taking a blade to my hide or the prospect of making off with the trunks that contained the offering for the poor in Jerusalem. We got as far as Troas before we finally shook off our pursuers. I'm sorry that we didn't manage to see you in Thessalonica, but I did have the pleasure of Clement's company in Philippi.
You know what high hopes I entertained for the offering. Judea has been plagued by one failed harvest after another, and the church in Jerusalem has impoverished itself to offer comfort to those most in need. Where once the saints sold fields and property to aid the poor, now all has been spent and but little remains. That is why I campaigned to raise funds from the churches in Macedonia, Achaia and Asia. I believed that once those in Judea had received this love offering, they would forgive their brethren for daring to remain Gentiles. In my eagerness, I anticipated a triumphal reconciliation that would unite Christ's church as one.
I knew that it would not be easy. The Spirit repeatedly warned me of a hostile reception. Your old comrade Agabus indulged in some unamusing theatrics to remind me of this. When we finally reached Jerusalem, we presented our gifts to the elders. James and I might not see eye to eye on some matters, but we are united in our compassion for the poor. I was invited to present a report, so I spoke of my ministry among the nations, stressing our common heritage in Christ. Yet, no sooner had I finished than Eliezer ben Joseph spoke up. You will remember him from Antioch, where he and Hananiah stirred up so much dissension. "You see how many thousands of Jews have believed and all of them are zealous for the Law." This was his boast. Not zealous for the cross of Christ; not zealous for the gospel. I was furious. I felt like asking, what about the thousands of Gentiles who live in Judea? What about the Roman soldiers and officials who walk the streets of Jerusalem, do you preach to such as these?
But, no, I held my temper and listened to a lecture on outward propriety. Against my better judgment, I went along with their demands, thinking that by meeting them halfway I might yet achieve some measure of reconciliation. They even insisted that I incur the ceremonial costs of four of their own, presuming that someone who brought such a generous offering for the poor must have plenty of shekels left in his own purse. You can imagine how inaccurate that proved to be!
Seven days later, I was set upon outside the Temple. As the blows started to fall, Eliezer's four spies took to their heels. Indeed, it was only the intervention of the Roman commander that spared my life. Since then, I have been hauled before the Sanhedrin, punched in the face, and nearly flogged. And now I understand that there is a plot to assassinate me en route to a new hearing. What disappoints me in all this is the silence from the church in Jerusalem. No one has defended me before the Jews. Neither has anyone vouched for me to the Roman commander.
Secundus has penned this letter for me and I will send it with him when he returns shortly to Macedonia. I pray that this matter may be speedily resolved as I am anxious to set off for Spain. My dear Silas, I fear that I have written rather too freely and I would ask that this letter not be read publicly. I am weary. My body aches and my spirits are low. But the Master knows what lies ahead and his power will sustain me.
Peace be with you.
Author's note: The details are drawn from several sources in the New Testament. The interpretation is of course speculative.
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