We’re halfway through the Catacomb Adventures, and the lives of this little group of believers will be taking a definite turn. Though this story is fiction, it’s based on the Book of Acts and the letters in the New Testament written during the time of the Early Church. Take some time to read these amazing sections of the Bible. See The Early Church Chronicle (in Today’s Posts) to help you find these stories in the New Testament.
When Anna woke the next morning, she had no idea it would be her last day in the catacombs.
At breakfast, Mama told her that they were sending one of the men to check on Jacob.
He had not returned the night before, and they were concerned. Zacarias asked Shimone to go, but the young man just wasn’t himself. He quickly refused, apparently frightened at the very thought of going above. As Anna ate her bread and fruit, and watched the young man from across the room; he seemed dejected and anxious.
“His experience in prison has changed him,” she heard Zacarias say, quietly, “but he’ll be all right in time. Jonathan, will you go up and look for Jacob?”
“Be very careful. Everyone knows you were a follower of Jesus. Even though you weren’t one of the Twelve, you traveled with them. The Jewish leaders will recognize you.”
“I’ll be careful.” Jonathan left quickly on his mission.
At morning prayer time, Shimone was very jumpy. Soon they found that there was more wrong than they’d thought at first. As they gave prayer requests, he said, “I wish I had the courage that the other disciples do. When they’re put in prison they’re so brave. All I wanted to do was get out and hide.”
“Nobody likes to be in jail, Shimone,” said their leader. “Nobody wants to be persecuted. But God gave you strength to go through it. You said you told another prisoner about Jesus while you there. That took courage. You’re just tired and scared right now. You’ll feel better in a few days.”
Shimone put his face in his hands and groaned. “But there’s more. I must confess to you that I told a lie.”
“Tell us about it,” said Zacarias, kindly.
“I put us all in danger. I came in the Tunnel Three entrance instead of the front entrance as I told you.” He looked at Anna. “You were right. It was me you heard. I didn’t answer when you called out. It was wrong to break one of our most important rules, but the soldiers were following me. I suppose they wanted to see if I would lead them to our hiding place.”
“So you panicked?” said one of the men.
Shimone nodded. “I didn’t want to be caught again. I didn’t want to ever go back in that horrible dungeon! So I took the short cut and came down Tunnel Three. It was crumbling all around me. It could have come down on all of us.”
Zacarias put his arm around the young man. “We forgive you, Shimone. God does, too. And the tunnel didn’t collapse. Jonathan checked and it looks all right.”
After prayer time, as Anna went to her work in the nursery, she prayed for her brother and tried to keep trusting God to keep him safe. Soon the children took all her attention for they were filled with energy this morning. Isaiah was more wound up than ever, and raced right out past them all, laughing and dancing out of their reach. Then he turned, and ran down the tunnel.
Anna dashed after the three year old and quickly caught up with him. She scooped the little boy into her arms. “Oh, you’re so naughty. But not today! You’re going right back to the nursery, and you’re going to stay there!”
They were close to Tunnel Three again, and she suddenly stopped. What she heard confused her. It sounded like water splashing, although it was actually more like a roar. Why it was water! She peered around a corner, and stared in shock. Far down at the end, near the entrance, it poured in like a waterfall.
But where was it coming from?
Perhaps the cisterns above had cracked, and the water had broken through! Suddenly a huge chunk of rock broke off, and a great wall of water burst in. It rolled and splashed down the tunnel toward them!
Anna turned and ran, Isaiah bouncing and squealing in her arms!
“Get out!” she screamed, as she passed several chambers, and entered the nursery. “Get out! Tunnel Three! It’s flooded! The water will be here any minute!”
Zacarias came running. He took in the situation at a glance. “Go! Everyone! Now! No, don’t stop for your things!”
A thunderous rumbling suddenly turned their attention back to Tunnel Three.
“It’s collapsing! The whole tunnel’s coming down! Take the alley entrance! We won’t make it to the front entrance! Be calm, everyone, but go quickly.”
Women grabbed babies. Old men hobbled along as fast as they could go. The young boys who had been in class with their teacher, helped the toddlers and widows.
They hurried along the maze of tunnels as water rushed after them, filling up the narrow passageways as it splashed along.
Shimone was in shock. He was crouched near a wall, and couldn’t seem to move. “It’s all my fault! I shouldn’t have come down that entrance. It’s all my fault.”
Zacarias grabbed his shoulders. “It’s not your fault. You probably didn’t help it, but something’s going on with the cisterns above us. You didn’t cause the water to come through! Now go!” Their leader forced Shimone, up and pushed him along. “Here, take Isaiah.”
Zacarias pulled the little boy out of Anna’s arms and shoved him into Shimones’. The young man came to his senses, and ran with the frightened child.
Zacarias whirled around to Anna. “I have a job for you. When you get above I want you to run to my friend’s estate. Tell him there’s an emergency and that we’re coming there. But we need to give him time to get ready for us. Come back to tell us if all is well.”
Anna nodded and raced ahead, glad that there was something that she could do to help. She cautiously rose up into the alley.
Here there was an old broken-down stone house where they could all hide.
She quietly joined the crowds on the way to the market place. Finally, she turned a corner, and broke into a run. She looked like any other child who was running along the city streets, going on an errand. It wasn’t long before she reached the estate, and was knocking on the door of the large, beautiful house and explaining it all to Zacharias’ friend. Amos.
She was told to sit and rest a minute. She waited on a luxurious couch, and a servant brought her a cold drink. As Amos hurried off to give orders and make things ready, Anna had time to wonder, why did God allow such a thing? They had lost their hiding place…their home…and all their possessions. They couldn’t stay here for long. It wasn’t a good hiding place since politicians and Jewish leaders visited all the time. Why would God do this to them?
Jacob was on his way through the city streets, hurrying to get back home. His mother would be so upset. Zacarias would never give him anything to do again!
Suddenly he spotted Jonathan, so tall that he was head and shoulders above the crowds.
“Jacob! Praise Jehovah! You’re all right. What happened?”
“I’m sorry! There’s Romans everywhere. There were soldiers near every entrance until late last night. They’re watching us more and more closely. The governor’s orders, I heard!
I hid in the gardens and fell asleep — and slept all night!”
“It’s all right,” Jonathan put a hand on his shoulder. “All that matters is you’re safe. Of course you did right to wait. But come, your mother’s worried.”
They approached the main entrance of the Catacombs and stopped short, ducking behind a wall.
Roman soldiers! They were everywhere!
“They’ve discovered us. They’re going down into the tombs!”
“We’ve got to warn the others!”
“Come on, around to the alley entrance. Although I don’t think we’ll make it in time to get down and warn them.…”
Jacob thought of his mother and sister back in that cold, dark dungeon again. Please Lord God, no.…don’t let that happen….
But as they fought their way through the crowds and dashed into the alley, there were their friends, climbing up out of the hidden entrance, disappearing into the old abandoned building.
Jacob’s shoulders slumped in relief. They were safe. “But how did they know the soldiers were coming?”
Jonathan shook his head. “I don’t know. Let’s go find out.”
Together they all waited in the dark building for Anna to return with news from Amos. In the meantime, they thanked God for sending the flood that had saved them from the Roman soldiers’ raid.
One of their teachers would one day say “all things work together for good” and they would know that it really was true. God could use even a flood to help them.
The question now was what did God have planned for them next?
To be continued….
By Carol Bennett