Hauled Before the Supreme Council

The Tales & Adventures of John Mark — Chapter 14:55-65

Hauled Before the Supreme Council

The Supreme Council gathered around me, for that is what my accusers called themselves—The Supreme Council. As though a group of captives forced into servitude could convict me based on their lies. Though pressed upon by so many, the moon’s light provide illumination enough for me to see faces: Titus and the young man whose uncle lived in Damascus — Onesimus and the veiled woman by his side. To a man and woman each one spoke harshly of my character. 

One after another stepped forward to give false testimony against me.

“I heard him say, ‘We should love our enemy. Pray for those who treat us with contempt.'”

“The lad claimed we should do good to those who hate us.”

“Yes, yes, and yet with his very hands he took a life. Why I heard him confess to as much.”

“‘Bless our enemies,’ he said. Why I dare say the owner’s nephew feels not blessed.”

Others stepped forward making similar accusations and yet none of their testimony agreed, for one claimed I made such a statement soon after being tossed into the cargo hold. Another swore I spoke such words after the fire broke out. The only agreement in any of the statements was the lie that I had confessed to killing Rastus and regretted that ship’s owner had not been in his bunk at the time — that I meant to set the slaves free by taking the life of the one who held them captive.

All at once the purpose of their plan became clear: they intended to gain favor with the owner in hopes of securing their freedom.

“Is this true?” asked the crew’s foreman. “Did you steal aboard with hopes of dispatching the cargo?”

I said nothing for I recalled how the Teacher had been hauled before Pilot and King Herod and tried on false charges. My Lord’s silence stood in contrast to the lying accusations hurled at him. I could do no better than to do as my Lord had and keep my tongue. To speak was to give life to their lies.

“Are you not going to answer?” asked Onesimus.

Still, I said nothing.

“Do you not hear the allegations these men are bringing against you? If you are innocent defend yourself. If not, your silence confirms your guilt.”

Taking a deep breath I prayed for strength to speak words of truth. “Slaves shall be set free,” I answered, “but not by my hand or the hand of any man. My Lord Jesus himself has set free those enslaved. He alone liberates the oppressed and to punishes the wicked.”

“He speaks in riddles so as to conceal his guilt,”one of my accusers said.

“What say you to this?” asked Titus.

“Only that I offer mercy, for that is what my Lord desires.”

Herodes stepped forward, his face flush with anger. “Why do we need any more witnesses? You have heard his foolish talk. The lad is possessed by a spirit.”

“A spirit yes and that of my Lord, for his Spirit testifies and confirms the truth. His Spirit convicts the world concerning sin and righteousness.”

“What are we to make of such babbling?” asked Herodes. “The lad is not in his right mind?”

“What is bound on earth is bound in heaven and what is loosed on earth is loosed in heaven. If I forgive you, then you are truly forgiven. And I do forgive you, everyone, just as my Lord forgives me.”

“Enough! You shall not forgive me.” Herodes turned to the pilot. “Perhaps you can get to the truth.”

The pilot now dressed in a robe, I suppose to keep off the chill, asked in a more gentle tone. “You follow the king of the Jews?”

“You have said so,” I replied.

“That may be a problem, for all aboard follow Caesar.”

I matched his stare, hoping to present courage, though I felt sure he knew my heart was melting with fear.

“You have been accused of many things. Are you not going to answer?” He gestured towards mid-deck where the rabble continued shouting accusations at me. “See how many things they are accusing you of?”

Still, I made no reply. Only chewed on my lip while offering a prayer to my Lord for mercy.

“You killed the  owner of the aid of the owner?”

“Was that your own idea before you heard the charges or after?” I asked.

“Am I a god that I should know such things?” the pilot replied. “These slaves, your own people, handed you over to me. What is it you have done that would prompt them to turn against you?”

“My kingdom is not of this world,” I answered. “If it were, I would fight to prevent my arrest. But my kingdom is from another place.”

“You? A king?”

“A servant in a kingdom, yes. Born as a man, like you, was I, but now I have been born again. I came onto this ship is to testify to this truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to the one who is the Truth.”

“Truth? What is truth?” the pilot replied. Turning to the crowd he said loudly, “I find no basis for a charge against him. Other than the accusations of mere slaves, there is no evidence he killed Rastus or that he intended to stab the owner of the ship. I will release him to sentries to be flogged and then return him to the hold.”

They all answered, “No! Hang him!”

“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked the pilot.

But they shouted all the louder, “Hang him!”

When the pilot saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead a mutinous uproar was spreading, he held up both hands before the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood. He is yours to do with as you please!”

All the slaves answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”

“Do you really mean to hang a man on the testimony of men without rights?” the pilot asked them.

“Hang him!” they shouted. All the louder they shouted, “For the life of Rastus hang him!”

“Very well, for the life of one man, I shall allow some of you to go with the crew tomorrow to gather timbers.” Returning his attention to me, the pilot said, “I wash my hands of this matter. Your life is in their hands, now.”

In a surge, the crowd rushed me. Some spat in my face. Others pronounced curses upon me. One of the crew tied a linen strip over my eyes, leaving me blind. While two sentries held me upright, others took turns hitting me with their fists. For some time the beating continued. When at last the sentries released me. I slumped to the deck. Unable to see from where the blows came, violent men kicked me until I could not lift my arm to protect myself. Only when I sense my spirit ebbing did I offer this prayer: “Lord, forgive them.”

A moment later a great weight was lifted from me and I passed from pain into a realm of pleasure and peace.

 

2024 — Birth of the Digital ID Wallet

2033 Jesus

The second beast was given power to give breath [life] to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name. (Revelation 13:15-17)

2024 — Birth of the Digital ID Wallet

“We are looking at a massive advancement in how people use their identity and credentials in everyday contact with both public and private entities, and in how they use digital services.” – Ivan Bartos, Czech Deputy Prime minister for digitalisation

EU Digital ID Wallet to Release in 2024

“Authentication and revocation of wallets should be free of charge to natural persons. However, when wallets are used for authentication, services relying on the use of the wallet may incur costs, e.g., the issuance of the electronic attestations of attributes to the wallet.” (You pay to prove who you are.)

“A possibility has been introduced that electronic attestation [evidence or proof of the individual] of attributes [ID characteristics] . . . be issued to the wallet directly by the public sector body responsible for the authentic source [entity that issues and verifies the ID] or by . . . a public sector body responsible for an authentic source (third party). That identifier may consist of a combination of several national and sectoral identifiers.”

https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2022/12/06/european-digital-identity-eid-council-adopts-its-position-on-a-new-regulation-for-a-digital-wallet-at-eu-level/

Convenience Leads to Adoption of Digital ID Wallet

“The EU Digital ID wallet will give any EU citizen or business the ability to prove their identity or any entitlements quickly and reliably. For example, with the EU Digital ID wallet you can:

  • Request access to a public record such as birth certificate, medical record or land registry
  • On-board a customer to a digital service
  • Sign a business contract
  • Open a bank account
  • File a tax return
  • Apply for a university place anywhere in the EU
  • Claim a medical prescription
  • Prove age
  • Rent a car or register a company car fleet contract
  • Check in to a hotel .
  • HR departments will be able to verify quickly the identity of a job candidate and authenticate any documents they submit to support their applications. They can also insert payslips into the wallet app.

(Conversely, without your EU Digital ID wallet you may not be able to: apply for a job, check into a hotel, rent a car, prove your age, get your medical prescription, apply to college, file a tax return, open a bank account, sign a business contract, buy a home, rent a home . . . perhaps even buy groceries.) – Eddie

“The work of purchasing and procurement teams [will be] much easier. They will be able to prove the company’s identity by sharing a verified registration certificate with suppliers. Treasury departments will also benefit. They will be able to file and complete tax returns much more quickly.”

(Conversely, without your EU Digital ID wallet you may not qualify as a government contractor or be able to file your tax return.) – Eddie

“Most users will access the EU Digital ID wallet in the form of a smartphone app. EU citizens will be able to download the wallet app from the major app stores and have their identity verified with high level of assurance to onboard to their wallet. Once done, they will be able to request their key identity credentials and electronic attestations from official institutions (ex: driver license, health pass, vehicle card registration, diplomas, etc..) and from private service providers (ex: IBAN bank credential, verified utility bill, etc…). When these credentials are approved and installed, they will be listed clearly on the app. Later, the user may be able to add more credentials from other enterprises with trusted data such as airlines and insurance companies. With the app installed, the user will be able to select the credential needed to complete a transaction, and authenticate using a password, PIN, biometric or similar.”

https://www.thalesgroup.com/en/worldwide-digital-identity-and-security/government/magazine/eu-digital-id-wallet-coming-heres-what

(12 percent of U.S. and U.K. adults do not own a smartphone.) – Eddie

Belgium’s Digital ID Wallet

“Belgium plans rollout of digital ID wallet in 2023. Belgium’s myID.be wallet will be enhanced to contain more digital verified credentials including the national citizen card to carry out transactions and access to services. Brussels are reportedly piloting their own “digital identity system”, which has been described in less than glowing terms as a “Trojan horse” which will allow the government to steal personal data.”
https://identityweek.net/european-rollouts-overview-biometric-touchpoints-at-munich-airport-digital-identity-program-in-brussels/

Munich Airport Streamlines Processing of Baggage With Biometric Systems

“Munich Airport, Terminal 2 [plans] to install the best-performing biometric systems on the market at the central security checkpoint. The works are set to be completed by Autumn 2024. Travellers will get to experience super streamlined processing of baggage as well as verification of their identity and immigration status.”

(Examples of Biometric Security: voice recognition, fingerprint scanning, facial recognition, iris recognition, heart-rate sensors. “right hand, forehead”) – Eddie

Growth in Digital Id Acceptance

“The number of users joining digital ID is growing. According to a Juniper Research report, this number will increase by more than 50% over the next few years, from 4.2 billion in 2022 to 6.5 billion in 2026. In that way, accessing government services will likely be essential in this construction. The future of digital ID is getting closer, and it’s moving toward a global adoption with enormous benefits for society, contributing decisively to reducing fraud and simplifying people’s lives.”
https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2022/06/07/what-does-the-future-of-digital-id-look-like/?sh=1b6ec7cf266b 

S.4528 – 117th U. S. Congress Introduces Improving Digital Identity Act

“This bill establishes the Improving Digital Identity Task Force to establish a government-wide effort to develop secure methods for governmental agencies to protect the privacy and security of individuals and support reliable, interoperable digital identity verification in the public and private sectors.”

Will U. S. Adopt a National Digital Id Wallet?

“Most Americans eschew the idea of a government-issued national ID perceiving it as an overreach of the state. At the same time, many Americans are more than happy to use their identity credentials within their ApplePay or GooglePay e-wallets. The next frontier in payments will focus on creating a superior and seamless digital-first consumer experience. That means having a seamless application, onboarding, issuance, and payments experience that doesn’t require manual intervention. If your identity CAN’T be verified across borders and on different platforms in different countries, then it won’t be as useful to citizens in the first place. Additionally, with innovation, comes new risks. A breached password does not even come close to a breached biometric. You can always replace your password, but not your unique genetic code.”
https://thepaypers.com/interviews/digital-id-wallets-and-their-broader-adoption-the-us-model-vs-the-eu-way–1259002

Scytáles Wins Eu Digital Identity Wallet Contract

Scytáles AB has won the contract to build the European Digital Identity Wallet. The EU Digital Identity Wallet is planned for a 2024 release, after the legislation underpinning it is passed in spring of 2023.
https://www.biometricupdate.com/202212/scytales-wins-eu-digital-identity-wallet-contract-council-reaches-consensus-on-rules

EU’s Digital Wallet to Go Live in 2024

“The legislative process could be completed by next spring, setting the stage for the wallet to go live in 2024. Under the plan, EU member states will have 12 months to issue their wallets once the regulation is adopted.” – Romana Jerkovic, a member of the European Parliament and member of the EU’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy
https://www.biometricupdate.com/202211/eu-says-it-can-have-a-digital-id-wallet-by-24-regardless-of-challenges

Wreck of the Asklepia

Offered Up as a Prisoner

Much to my relief the Asklepia did not sink.

Though the fire in her cargo hold spread quickly, forcing us to press against walls in order to escape flames, the pilot acted with daring boldness. While waves bashed against her stern, the pilot guided the Asklepia onto a shoal, running her aground in a most violent manner. With her keel stuck fast, great swells began to beat against her bow. For a few frightful moments I thought she might break apart and scatter us into the sea, but a gradual shift in the Asklepia’s position on the shoal’s slope proved fortuitous. In but a few moments the inundation of water rushing into the great ship doused the fire in the cargo hold. Only then, while water sloshed over the port railing, was the crew able to gain the advantage. Soon the fire on deck became but a damp, smoldering heap of charred timbers.

All this I witnessed from the cargo hold, for it was easy to see straight up, so large was the gapping hole from where fire had caved in the deck.

The fact that none of the men and women in the ship’s hold chose to escape served a testimony to the respect they had for Onesimus. Though one or more suggested slipping away to gain their freedom, Onesimus assured them such reckless actions would only lead to a slow, prolonged death preceded first by flogging.

“By the time your tortuous death arrives,” Onesimus said to the man who muttered the suggestion, “it will be a blessed relief. The crew will want to make an example of any who seeks to run.”

“So we are to remain captives until we can be sold? You think that is preferred to the chance of escape?”

“If my bearings are sound, and I believe them to be so,” Onesimus answered, “this shore on which we have fetched upon is but a league long at best and half that in width. I recall spying this island at a distance before we prepared to sail. To escape now would be to find yourself soon captured and forced to choose: escape out to sea or surrender to a horrid death. No, the wise course is to remain with this vessel until such time as a larger body of land comes into view. Only then should we attempt to swim to safety.”

“And when might that be?” asked a man who spoke Aramaic.

While the crew above us surveyed the damage on deck with the lit lanterns, I realized that the man who speaking in Aramaic to Onesimus was an individual named Titus. I suppose Titus thought by speaking in his native tongue others might not know of his proposed plan. Or perhaps he merely meant to draw to himself those from the area of Assyria and build a faction that would support his plan, for was he who proudly boasted of his importance at the city gate. It was he who had declared his intent to use violence against the ship’s owner. And it was he who now suggested that, though it still dark out and we without weapons or lanterns, escape.

“Once repairs are complete and this vessel again underway,” Titus continued, “what is to prevent the crew from sailing to open water with haste.”

In the lanterns’ illumination I saw that Titus was a white haired man with a white beard and eyes dark as coal. His skin had the color of bark from cypress trees, suggesting that he came from the region east of the mountains of Galilee, for his countenance reminded me of the men I had met while traveling with the apostle Paul.

“My hope is only that we survive long enough to escape to a friendly shore,” said Onesimus. “Should some wish to act otherwise, that is for them to choose.”

“I choose to act with boldness and trust the gods to reward me for my courage.”

From the way those around Titus nodded at his words, I gauged that our group had become divided into two factions — one supporting bold action now, another inclined to follow the advice of Onesimus and hope for a more favorable outcome some days in the future.

Sensing that I might gain a much-needed alley, I asked Titus, “Are you familiar with a man called Saul from Tarsus?”

“My village is Maaloula, a two day walk from Damascus. It would take nearly a week to walk from my village to Tarsus.”

“He traveled to your region some days back. Perhaps you heard him speak?”

Onesimus said, “We should offer to help the crew.”

“For what purpose?” Titus countered. “To speed the sale of our souls?”

“This man Saul,” a young man said, “I have heard of him. My uncle lives in Damascus. He spoke of how a man called ‘Saul from Tarsus’ carried with him letters from the high priest of Jerusalem. He passed through their village with the intent of presenting such letters in the synagogues. My uncle warned that should any be found who belonged to the Way, whether man or woman, this Saul wast to take them as prisoners to Jerusalem to be put in prison.”

“He has changed,” I replied, “for on the day he was to arrive in Damascus he saw a great light.”

“I venture we too will see a great light in but a few hours,” Titus interrupted. “And when we do, we shall be forced to repair this vessel and be on our way. I say we act now, one and all, and flee while we still can.”

“With your permission,” said Onesimus, speaking to the group, “I shall propose to the owner of this ship that any among us who have wives or children may be allowed to depart in the morning with crew in order to find timber on this island. Their families will remain aboard. If the man does not return, his family will suffer harm.”

“Your words are those of a madman,” said Titus, his voice rising. “Help this crew? Never!”

“His plan is sound,” I said, coming to the defense of Onesimus. “We should love our enemy. Pray for those who treat us with contempt. Do good to those who hate us. Bless them. Do this and it will be as if we are heaping burning coals upon their heads. Do good to our those who persecute us and we might yet be set free without harm.”

“Set free indeed,” Titus replied. “Very well, let us offer the two of you as ransom for our lives. Should we offer to do as you suggest and go with the crew to fell trees for timber . . . and fail to return  . . . then let our blood be on your head.”

“Though your suggestion carries merit,” said a voice I had yet to hear, “I offer this alternative incentive.”

And older woman stepped forward. The lanterns’ light fell across her face. With a shawl draped over her shoulders and face veiled I saw only her eyes and in them I perceived a hint of bitterness and evil.

“For the opportunity to explore the island and fell trees, we shall present to the owner evidence that this lad has contrived to take the life of the owner’s aid, his relative. For this information we will ask that one of us be left on this island when we sail. What say all to this?”

I supposed all thought they might win the opportunity to remain ashore, for with one voice the crowd shouted, “Surrender the Hebrew! Surrender the Hebrew!”

Stunned by how quickly the crowd turned on me, I watched Onesimus to see if he might come to my defense. Instead, he eased away to join the woman. Clasping her hand, he stood by her side, nodding in agreement with the chant of the crowd until at last his lips parted and he too began to chant, “Surrender the Hebrew! Surrender the Hebrew!”

All at once the warning from the Teacher took on new meaning. “If you forgive a man when he betrays you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive him, your Father will not forgive your sins.” With the crowd’s chant growing louder, I found it difficult to breathe.

A moment later the crowd gave me up to the sentries.

Your Perfect Christmas Gift

Reality Coaching for Writers

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For more information, check out:
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Slogging Through Blogging? Perhaps It is Time to Wax Your Sleigh

Reality Coaching for Writers

Hey, nonfiction writers and bloggers- today’s episode of Reality Coaching for Writers discuss the why behind your writing- the benefits of blogging, and what you need to begin and stay the course.

Resources and sites mentioned in today’s episode:
WordPress.org
problogger.com
Bloggingbistro.com
Tribes by Seth Godin

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The Cost of Running

Mark 2:13-17 — The Tales & Adventures of John Mark

The Cost of RunningThe pirate’s blow narrowly missed my ear, its blade slamming into the wooden deck with a resounding thunk. For but a moment I wondered how he had missed but then it became clear — one the sentries had come to my aid. Crashing into the assailant, the guard drove the pirate back towards the railing. Then bringing his fists down on the assailant’s arm, he struck the raider just above the elbow. The sword clanked to the deck. Whirling, the pirate raised onto the balls of his bare feet as if to charge, but the sentry’s hard kick sent pirate sprawling back against the railing.

Had the sentry pressed his advantage he might have succeeded in keeping his life, but while bending over to pick up the sword, the pirate quickly drew a knife from his belt and plunged it deep into the sentry’s chest. For a moment a look of shock shown in the sentry’s eyes. Then he staggered backwards, hands clutching his chest, blood squirting from between fingers. With a gurgling moan, he slumped to his knees and fell face forward. Moving quickly the pirate withdraw his dagger from the dying man’s chest and turned to reach for his sword.

His actions came too late; the second sentry snatched up the sword and in a whooshing blur, brought the blade flush against the side of the burly assailant’s neck, nearly severing his head.

“Live by the sword, die by the sword,” the Teacher had warned. I saw now that my Lord’s words rang true, for with his own weapon the pirate had been slain.

Stunned, perhaps in shock, and confused by the wild brawling around me, my chance to escape over the side passed. Paying little attention to the pirates clambering over the railing, the sentry aimed the sword at my back and marched me towards a deck hatch. A kick to the back of one knee dropped me into a kneeling position. A second kick against my ribs sent me sprawling headfirst into the hatch hole. I plummeted into darkness, landing hard on rough planks. Above me the sentry slammed the hatch door shut, sealing me in darkness with others in the cargo hold.

If the young woman thought I would be welcomed aboard the Asklepia she greatly misjudged the temperament of its crew and ship’s owner. Running from trouble always comes at a price and for me my attempt to flee Saul and Barnabas had led me into a ship’s brig filled with slaves. While the ship rolled side-to-side with swells that passed beneath her hull, those around me groaned as if about to become sick. Others complained loudly.

“Honored I am in my village,” a voice shouted in Aramaic. “I demand to be let out!”

“Do you not hear the crew’s screams, man?” a voice countered.

In darkness a hand gripped my shoulder, startling me.

“You were on deck. What did you witness?” The man spoke with the calm, steady diction of someone in charge. “Is the crew in revolt?”

The shock of being found and accosted so quickly caused me to stutter, “Pi, pi, pirates intend to take the ship.”

“I pray they will,” my neighbor whispered to me. His hand released my shoulder. “Perhaps we will fare better at the hands of murdering thieves.”

Not willing to state my fears that the pirates would demand we join them as crew or be killed, I kept silent.

“In the darkness of night was I stolen from my tent,” a man shouted. “Bound and shipped onto another vessel, were my wife and children. And for where I know not. If offered the chance, I would cut the throat of the person who took me.”

“I sat at the city gates deciding matters with other elders.” said another man. “For me to be treated in this way will bring hostilities. If not from my countrymen then from my fists when I am presented the chance.”

There it was: two men who wished the ship’s owner dead. But if it was freedom the killer desired, why not simply dive over the side after taking the aid’s life? Had one of the two men been seen in a hallway after leaving the owner’s cabin and been tossed back in the hold?

The stench of unwashed men and the odor of their retching prompted me to take short, quick breaths. Above us the roar of flames intensified, suggesting that not only the sails but the masts and spars had also caught fire. From the clank of blades clashing there seemed to be no end to the fighting.

Boasting in Aramaic the man nearest to us shouted, “The god of Ceres will not stand for this travesty.”

“Perhaps your gods are asleep,” a younger voice mocked. “Or indisposed.”

“May my god strike you down for your impertinence. To disparage the god of Ceres is to invite calamity.”

“Knowledge is my god,” the young man countered. “And your gods are no gods at all, for they cannot speak or hear.”

“You speak blasphemy and shall reap the wrath of the gods!”

Despite the increasing heat of the stuffy space, my skin became clammy, as if I were chilled with a fever. Or perhaps it was because of the cramped, stinking room and the ship’s chaotic motion that I began to feel ill. Bending forward I hugged my mid-section, expelling stomach-gas as quietly as possible. In but a few moments the queasiness passed and I felt somewhat better. Only then, while inhaling deeply, did I notice the faint smell of burning wood and smoke. Lifting my gaze upwards, I tracked the faint, narrow glow of orange spreading between each ceiling plank. The Asklepia was on fire.

“Pray tell what good is your knowledge to you now?” asked the man loyal to to the god Ceres. “Can your knowledge free us from this vile place? Save us from being sold into servitude?”

“You shall know soon enough,” the young man answered, “for I sense we are about to be set free.”

Though in my spirit I felt convicted to declare that there was but one true God, I remained silent, for all my attention remained fixed on the orange glow that continued to increase in brightness overhead.

“How is it that you came to be captured?” my neighbor asked.

When I did not respond immediately, a different voice called, “Perhaps he is one of the pirates sent to spy on us.”

I considered the stranger’s comment, wondering best how to reply, then answered,  “I took no part in the attack. I stole aboard, that is true, but only in desperation. I hoped this vessel would take me to the coast of Tyre and Sidon.”

“I know of Tyre and Sidon,” said my neighbor. “Have heard of its violent reputation.” His hand found mine. “I am Onesimus, slave to Philemon of Colossae.”

“John Mark, a Hebrew from Jerusalem.”

“Why this ship” my neighbor,” Onesimus, asked, “when there are other vessels that might be more suitable to such a passage?”

“I . . . someone said I should . . . um, deliver an important message for the owner of this vessel.”

“As do I have a message to deliver,” growled the man seated near us. “And deliver it I shall with my fist should the owner and I ever meet.”

“Should you have the occasion to speak to the owner of the ship,” Onesimus asked, “what would you say?”

Unable to make out the faces of those around me, I sat terrified, for I feared that should I tell them that I sought to deliver a message of liberty, the men and women in the cargo hold might riot. With the ceiling planks glowing with the brilliance of a setting sun, I found the courage to speak the words the Teacher had placed in my heart.

“‘I come to set the captives free,’” I answered. “That is the message of the Teacher. Such was the good news I spoke to the owner of the ship.”

“What an odd thing to say to someone who grows rich by stealing villagers from their tents,” said Onesimus. “And when he heard your words, did the owner of this ship agree to set us free?”

“You are not owned by any man,” I replied. “The Teacher wishes for you to know this — for all to know this. The Teacher did not come for the righteous, the religious, the rich. Rather, he came to save all who do evil, who are lost, and who are held captive by sin and sickness and darkness.”

Those around me began murmuring, though I knew not if my words brought hope or offense, for most spoke in tongues I could not comprehend.

“Would you dare to call me evil?” asked Onesimus

Sensing the attitude of my neighbor had changed, I quickly reassured him that I did not mean to impugn his character. “While it is true that all men are inherently evil, this is not how we were created or the future Yahweh intends for us. In the beginning of all things we were created in his image and what Yahweh creates is good always. But through the actions of one man sin came into the world. For this reason we now know right from wrong, good from evil, and we choose evil over good. Why, this very evening I myself acted with evil intent when I stole my way onto this ship.”

“Evil am I? For which offense do I deserve to be enslaved?” Onesimus asked. “Tell me if you can. Does your god judge so harshly that a man can be taken from his tent in the darkest of nights and forced to be a slave? Is this the god you serve?”

The harshness of his tone left me afraid I had said too much — or explained my Lord’s love in a manner that dishonored him.

“If there be any among us evil it is the Hebrew from Jerusalem,” a voice called out. “With his very words you have have heard him say as much. And did the sentry who brings us water and food not say this very evening that a wicked man walks among us? Perhaps if we purge this evil from among us the ship’s owner might look with fondness upon us and grant us a measure of comfort. Reveal that he is the one with with blood on his hands. What say the rest of you?”

Immediately a cry went up, “Death to the Hebrew! Death to the Hebrew!”

In but a flash of intense heat and falling timbers their shouts of accusation turned to panic. All around me men and women scurried away, screaming as the ship’s deck caved in, trapping us beneath burning timbers. A large ceiling beam gave way, pinning me against the floor where I lay. Flames from its splintered base shot across my legs, searing the soles of my feet.

The Asklepia was going down and if not first burned alive, with her sinking we too would go down to the depths of the sea.