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A Prison None Escaped

October 12, 2012

  The Roman officer had commandeered a ship to take the condemned prison to the island, a rocky island where he would slowly starve to death, and they had been waiting several days until the weather was considered favorable.

But, now, the weather had improved and the skies offered the prospect of smooth sailing was before them. The ship had to tack to make its way to the island and so the going was slow, but  for the journey back the prevailing winds would bring them back as fast as the ship could go. But for now, the oarsmen would have to put their backs to the task.

Both he and his detail were experienced at sea and had made this journey the previous year when they had dropped off that old Jew. He wondered if he managed to last two or three weeks there. He didn’t like Jews. As far as he was concerned they were all insurrectionists and the world would be better off without them. There weren’t enough rocky islands to send them all to and he thought that it was a shame that he could not have been there to see the old man perish, to have him beg for help that he would never get from a centurion.

What he could not have been prepare for was this: when they debarked the ship to bring the new prisoner they found the old man still alive. It was just unimaginable and created problems.

He could not possibly leave the new prisoner on the island with the old man. He might show the new prisoner how to survive on the island which would have been contrary to the desire of the governor. Of course, the immediate solution was to run the old man through with his gladius, his short sword, but that might create other difficulties for him. The old man was supposed to die a slow death. It would go very bad for him, if he ran the old man through and word got back to the powers that be. They might bristle at a quick death. He might be transferred to fight the Scythians or the Britons and the Brythonians or just executed on the spot. Who could ever be sure about what a Roman governor might do?

So, he did the prudent thing. He put the old man in the ship and brought him back to the governor for disposition. So the old man got to leave their little hell on earth.

We don’t know why he did so, but the Roman governor set the old man free. Perhaps, the man looked so wretched that he thought that he could not be a threat to the empire anymore. Perhaps, it was superstition or fear of this Jew’s God. Perhaps, he just felt the old man had suffered enough. We will never know.

But this we do know: the old man’s name was Yonah bar Zebedee and the rocky island was called Patmos. We know him as John, a disciple whom Jesus loved.


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