Jacob gave the customer her change while his sister handed over the bolt of bright colored cloth. Mama was busy filling another customer’s order. They were certainly doing well in their new business.
The small group of Christians were settling into life in the coastal city of Perga. The voyage from Caesarea, after it’s frightening beginning, had been very calm. They had all felt secure for the first time in a very long time. They knew that soldiers might be waiting for them when they docked, but for the moment, out in the middle of the ocean, they were safe.
Marcus had long discussions with Zacarias and the other men and sure enough, it wasn’t long before he became a follower of Jesus, too.
“I’ve never been happier!” said the soldier. “I know that my life might get very difficult, but all I can think about right now is that my sins are forgiven!”
Finally, upon arriving in Perga, all was quiet. As the Christians left the wharf, they were relieved that no one seemed to care who they were and why they were there.
They found Amos’ friends very kind. The group was welcomed into homes, and the believers in Perga helped them find places to live and get work.
Now Jacob looked out into the busy marketplace from their little booth. He thought about the businessman in the Perga church who had trusted them, lending them the money to restart their business. They were doing so well that it wouldn’t take much longer to pay him back.
They missed Father, though. Jacob and Anna worked very hard to take his place in the business. Anna did the housework during the mornings. Jacob went to school with several other boys of The Way, learning mathematics and the languages, as well as the Old Testament Scriptures, with a tutor. Then both children joined Mama in weaving and dying the cloth. But they didn’t mind the work. It was wonderful to be living like normal people again, and making their own money.
For the most part, the believers in Perga were able to worship in freedom and safety. Some of the Greek people didn’t like the Christian teachings, and there were Jewish leaders here, too. But they weren’t as cruel and hateful as in Jerusalem.
Marcus had gone on to his new post in Ephesus, but had promised to visit. He had written several letters already. He told the truth, and was thankful that his commander didn’t mind if he was a Christian as long as he did his job well. There might be trouble later for it was expected that Roman soldiers worship the emperor. But for now all was well. The large church in Ephesus had welcomed him, and he was learning many things about his new God.
Suddenly Jacob’s thoughts were interrupted.
“He’s coming! He’s coming! He’s just outside the city. Don’t forget to come early! We’re all going to have supper together!” One of the young girls from the Perga church hopped up and down excitedly outside their booth as she gave this message to Mama; then she ran on to tell others.
Jacob and Anna glanced at each other. Their family wasn’t as excited at the coming of the visitor as the Christians from Perga seemed to be.
“Well, let’s pack up then,” said Mama. “Most everyone’s done shopping for the day, anyway. We need to stop at the house to get the food I prepared for the feast tonight.” She looked at her children and smiled bravely. “We can do this. I know it’s hard but God has forgiven him, and so can we.”
A while later, the small group of Jerusalem Christians smiled politely in welcome, but the believers from Perga were nearly beside themselves with excitement.
“If it hadn’t been for him, none of us would know about Jesus!”
“He’s gone through great persecution! He’s been all over telling people about Jesus! He’s so brave!”
“He started our church here. If it wasn’t for him, there would be no church!”
“Here he is! It’s Paul! And Barnabas! Is the food ready? They must be hungry and tired! Have them come in!”
The men were gathered together, ready to greet the travelers. The women and children stood nearby. The Jerusalem Christians were glad to meet the great preacher, too, but the others loved him like a father. He was their teacher, the one who had led them to know the truth. In the family of God, it was as if they were his spiritual children.
Jacob was up with the men. He had had his birthday on shipboard, and now that he was twelve, he was considered a man. He could sit in on their Bible study times and discuss the Scriptures with them.
The men surged forward, and greeted Paul and Barnabas and the others. The great teacher wasn’t very tall. He looked tired, and they knew from letters that he had been through many difficult things in his travels.
He had been beaten and nearly stoned to death. He had gone up through Ephesus and Galatia, and was on his way back to Jerusalem now, visiting all the little churches he had started.
He was eager to see how everyone was doing. He wanted to teach them some more of God’s truths, and answer their questions.
The Perga men stepped aside to let those from Jerusalem come forward. Zacarias was introduced, and he greeted the guests. Shimone, and Amos, and Jonathan, and the others eagerly spoke to the travelers.
Then it was Jacob’s turn.
But he couldn’t do it. The man seemed kind and gentle but….
“And this is Jacob….” said the pastor from the Perga church.
“Hello, Jacob,” Paul started to greet him but Jacob suddenly pulled back, a frown on his face. Angrily, he turned away. He just couldn’t talk to this man. The anger that surged through him was so great, that he couldn’t even force himself to be polite.
There were murmurings from the Perga Christians. He heard some of their whispers.
“Well! And we thought he was such a nice boy…that he loved God, and wanted to honor him…what an insult to our guest!”
The men from Perga looked horrified that Jacob would offend their guest in such a way. With hospitality and courtesy to visitors so important in their culture, he knew that he was in disgrace.
But then he sensed Zacarias behind him. The man gently put his hands on Jacob’s shoulders.
“Our Jacob is a godly young man. We appreciate his love for the Lord, and all he’s done to serve God and our little group. He’s been very brave and loyal.” Zacarias took a deep breath and continued quietly, “but we also understand his feelings right now. We know God has used our brother Paul in a mighty way to bring many to salvation, but you see, back when he was known as Saul of Tarsus, he was the one who killed Jacob’s father.”
There was a gasp, and everyone suddenly understood, even Paul, who looked very shocked and saddened.
“Even so,” somebody finally spoke up, “Paul is different now.”
Jacob saw that they felt he should forgive and forget. But how could he? Nothing anyone could say would ever bring his father back….
Check in next week for the last chapter of The Catacomb Adventures.
By Carol Bennett