The Decision

Prologue

Most of those who first accepted Jesus as Messiah were Jews. The Jews knew that they were called aside by God, the one true God. They had a divine system of worship and a divinely appointed place to worship. For over a thousand years they had forms and ceremonies.

Having been conditioned that this was the only way to worship, they couldn't conceive of changing their ways. Instead they dreamed that the Gentiles would be admitted into the Jewish church through the means of Messiah.

Somewhere around the year 62, Governor Festus died and there arose a persecution of the believing Jews. Can you imagine the confusion of the believing Jews, as they realized that by clinging to Messiah, they would be cut off from Messiah's people, and the place of worship that meant so much to them? It was into this painful situation that the Holy Spirit moved to show them the better way.

"The Decision" is a fictional story about a man who lived during that time.


THE DECISION

When Amos left the high priest's office, he was shaking. Outside the building he stumbled and would have fallen had it not been for the strong arms that caught him from behind.

"It is a good thing I was here to catch you, brother Amos. Are you all right?" When the older man did not answer, Jacob's voice took on an edge.

"Brother Amos!! It is Jacob, is something wrong? Can I help you?"

Amos shook his head trying desperately to clear it. With effort, he straightened his body, focused his eyes on the young face and mumbled. "That you, Jacob? .......Must have lost my balance."

Jacob's dark eyes clouded with concern as he viewed the ashen face of his elderly friend. "Something is very wrong," he thought. Offering his arm to Amos, he said, "I am going in your direction, my friend. Shall we walk together?"

Amos nodded his head and reached for Jacob' arm. He leaned heavily on the younger man as they walked slowly and silently down the road.

At the entrance of his home Amos fumbled with the key. He could not get the key into the keyhole. Without comment, Jacob took the key, opened the door and led him into the empty house. He settled Amos in a chair and asked softly. "Do you hurt. . . . should I send for a physician?"

The sympathy in the young man's voice was more than Amos could handle. He shook his head and began to weep.

Kneeling beside him, Jacob gently took his hand. "Brother Amos, I am your friend. You have known me since the day of my birth. We are fellow believers. Whatever it is, you can tell me. I'll understand."

The old man cleared his throat, then as if the words hurt him, he coughed them out. The Sanhedrin.....gave me a week....must decide.

Jacob sighed as he stood up....now he understood.

A jug of wine was on the table across the room. Jacob walked to the table, poured a small amount into a cup, returned to Amos and said, "Sip this and tell me."

In a few moments, Amos regained his composure enough to speak. Then a torrent of anguished words tumbled out of him. "I am so confused. I don't know what to do. The temple and the ways of Israel have been my life for seventy years. How can I let all of that go?"

Understanding that the question was not directed at him, Jacob said nothing.

Amos drew a long ragged breath then continued. "My parents dedicated me at the temple when I was eight days old. My earliest memories are of Papa telling me over and over how our way of worship began. Papa's face would glow as he spoke of the rituals and magnificent robes of the priests. The Tabernacle must have been glorious, with all of the beautiful colors, and the gold and the silver. Papa always said that everything had a meaning. He would bend over me, place his big hands on my shoulders, look at me very sternly and say, 'Amos, you must remember, all of these things point toward the Messiah to come.'

"Of course....." As Amos was speaking, his head drifted downward and his voice grew fainter. Then in the middle of a thought, he was silent.

Thinking that Amos had dozed off, Jacob was on the verge of tip toeing out when the older man's head jerked and the narrative resumed.

"Of course it has changed since the beginning. Even so, my family has never missed a holy day at the temple." Amos fastened his eyes on Jacob's face, then continued in a thoughtful voice. "Nothing much was required of us at the temple, just show up at the appointed time with tithe and sacrifice. The priest took over from there, he received our offerings, performed the ritual and pronounced us forgiven. I never felt much different afterward. Once I asked Papa if he felt different. I remember how serious he looked, when he said, 'It is not a matter of feeling, Amos, it is a matter of obedience. We must do this until the Messiah comes and establishes His kingdom.' As the years went by, I wasn't satisfied with the way things were, but I wasn't unhappy either, so I remained faithful.

"It was always impressive to go to the temple, the ceremonies made me feel special. No one else had such grand meetings..... I was pleased when they made me a member of the ruling council. As a member of the council, I was able to cast my vote on all the important matters of the community. The people respected me. Everything about my life was predictable and calm. Then someone told me about this young rabbi who was causing such a stir everywhere he went. One day, a group of us from the council, slipped over to the lakeside to listen and observe what was going on. I'd never heard or seen the likes of Him. There was such a compassionate look in His eyes, you could feel the love in His voice. Miracles were happening....people were being healed. I remember thinking wishfully, how nice it would be if things like these happened at the temple.

Lost in his memories, Amos paused, then said, "I returned to hear Him a number of times. I started to believe, that this young rabbi was our king, the Messiah.

"Then all that trouble happened. Ananius called the council members to a secret night meeting. Jacob, you must understand.....there was a majority vote. There wasn't anything I could do to stop it. After the meeting, those of us who disagreed with the high priest, planned to return and intercede for Jesus. But then the Romans got involved. Everything happened so fast. Before we could get our thoughts together, they had Him on the cross. That was a terrible shock to me. I thought....Kings don't die on crosses....... only criminals die on crosses.

"I remember that day as if it were yesterday. It was dark at mid day. A large crowd had gathered, some were laughing, some were crying, a few were silent. A centurion, standing at the foot of the cross, was looking intently at Jesus. I heard him say, 'Surely this must be the Son of God', I didn't understand how it could be so, but I believed it.

"A few days later, I didn't know what to believe. Then in the middle of the confusion, there He was, back walking and talking among us. Time flew by. It seemed but the blink of an eye, before He was gone again. He was standing on the hilltop speaking to us, when He was taken up into heaven. Caught up on a cloud and carried out of sight. We all rubbed our eyes...astounded. No one said a word, we just stood there staring. Then two men, who were dressed in white, appeared and told us that he would return in the same manner that we had seen Him leave."

"Your papa was among the group that went to the upper room. You were less than a year old at the time. When he came home, he looked wonderful. Like he had a light inside. I don't think he ever had a doubt from that time on. Quit going to the temple, started a believers meeting in his home. Wasn't any time at all until your mother had that same light shinning out of her. When your papa died, she didn't miss a beat, continued the meetings until you returned from school and took over." Amos hesitated, before he added softly, "I've always regretted that I didn't go with your father to the upper room.

"For a long time, what those men in white said, sustained me. Each day I would look at the sky, and think, this could be the day that He returns. But Jacob, it has been thirty years.... and it is all beginning to seem like a dream. I'm not a young man anymore. It gets harder and harder for me to remember what Jesus said. After He died, I thought that the priesthood would invite all of the believers to worship at the temple. After all, the rituals all speak of the Messiah, and the Messiah had come. But no......they continued on as if nothing had happened.


"Lately there has been so much turmoil. Everything is changing in Jerusalem. Yesterday, a man that I have known for years, called me a filthy cultist and spit on me as I passed by. Jerusalem is my home, yet I am afraid in it's streets. Amos shivered, dropped his eyes, and murmured, The priesthood is not like it used to be. Today, I was called into the high priest's office. He was polite....said that I was being given time to consider my ways because of my past service on the council. Jacob!! If I continue to meet or talk with believers, they will take my home and possessions. He said, that I would not even be allowed to set a foot on the steps of the temple.

"Everything that is familiar in my life, will be taken from me. I wonder if it is worth it. This new religion doesn't even have a temple, a priest or laws." As Amos spoke, his distress became more and more apparent. His voice was almost a wail when he said, "Help me!! I don't know what to do!!" 

"Calm yourself, Amos. You must remain steadfast." Jacob's voice was firm, without doubt. "Don't you see, Amos? We no longer need the old ways. We have been given everything that the old system taught.  Jesus is better than the priesthood. He was called from the Godhead, the priesthood was called from among men. We don't need a fancy building for worship. We are the temple of God. The old way has 613 laws that no one has been able to keep. The new way is to love God with all of our heart, then He will help us to love our neighbors as our self. As for your possessions, you must hold in your thoughts the knowledge that the things of this earth are subject to rust, but the things of God will always remain. Dear friend, you need not be afraid, you are not alone. The Lord will not forsake you and neither will I. My home is open to you. You will be as a father to me. I urge you to hold fast to the confession of your faith."

The sun had already settled behind the horizon when Jacob said, "I must leave you now. Seek the wisdom that comes from above and sleep. Tomorrow your thoughts will be clearer."

At first light the next morning Amos was awake. He rose and enjoyed his usual meal of dried fruit and grain. When he had completed breakfast, he poured water into a basin. After a quick wash in chilly water, he turned his attention to a chest in the corner of the room. Rummaging around in the depths of the chest, he selected the finest of his clothing. "I must look my best today," he thought. When he finished dressing, he took a slow walk through his home. Here and there he stopped to touch an object and remember the joy shared with his wife in these rooms. When he reached the door, he stepped out and locked it. Carefully placing the key in his pocket, he turned and walked purposely toward the residence of the high priest.

The attendant in the outer office tried to stop him, but Amos was too quick for him. When Amos burst into the room, the priest was sitting at his desk. He looked startled, but spoke calmly, "Well, Amos, I presume you have come to your senses." "Yes I have," Amos answered. Without another word, he dropped the heavy key on the desk, turned and left.

When he left the building, Amos was smiling. He felt free, young and very tall.

The end