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Wednesday, December 7, 2022

The Scribe: The Legend of Josiam Part 2



by Thomas J. Walsh

Chapter IV

That afternoon Josiam purchased a small cart and donkey in the marketplace. He was planning to try to intercept the entourage on its way back to Jerusalem. He would warn the wise men away from King Herod and then have them direct him to the Child’s family so
he could also advise them to flee the king’s soldiers. He never considered himself a brave man; indeed, he was more afraid than he had ever been in his long life. However, his outrage at King Herod’s plan would not let him close his eyes to it. So now he could only wait for darkness and pray for the courage he would need.

After a brief, anxious dinner he never tasted, Josiam slipped out of Jerusalem through the West gate, knowing the Roman legionnaires were watching the southern entrance carefully to spot the returning magi. For about an hour he rode westward, then turned south along the rocky, dusty road towards Bethlehem. He hoped he would meet the northbound caravan quickly, and still be able to slip back into the palace before he was missed by the king. As the trip wore on, though, the man realized that his comfortable life was irretrievably behind him now because of his action. From here on, if he was lucky, he would spend his remaining years eking out a meager existence somewhere. If not, he would soon be put to an unpleasant death as a traitor.

As Josiam neared Bethlehem, he grew increasingly puzzled about the missing magi. Why had he not run into them yet? He hoped he had not missed them, but he had to keep going. Continuing his ride deep into the cold, quiet night, he sat in the cart gazing at the Star. It was becoming more difficult to discern it, since by now it was not very much brighter than any other, and fading noticeably more each night. By the time the man came within sight of the City of David, it had lost most of its bright incandescence. However, Josiam found that the Star was now almost directly overhead and still useful for locating the Child. He offered a prayer of thanks and entered the little town of Bethlehem.

The narrow, twisting streets of the city were little more than dirty, oversized alleyways. It was a very frustrating task, constantly trying to determine the exact position of the Guiding Star. Finally, though, he found the only street that seemed to be affected by the celestial light. There was no bright glow or other obvious miraculous feature about the street to distinguish it from the rest of the neighborhood. To the casual observer the cramped lane looked perfectly normal and identical to the rest of Bethlehem. But a careful searcher could sense a faint difference, a nearly undetectable shimmer in the air, perceived more by a vague feeling than by sight. Anxiously aware that he could easily be mistaken, Josiam was nevertheless convinced that this was the location he had been seeking.

By that time the hour was very late; soon it would be sun-up. The old man was unable to continue without rest. So Josiam decided to wait until first light the next morning to locate the exact house where the infant resided. He removed the harness from the weary donkey, quickly brushed it down, fed it a light snack, and tethered the animal to the small cart. Then he wrapped himself tightly in his blankets to protect himself from the chill winter air, leaned against a wall next to the cart, and immediately fell fast asleep.

Chapter V

Jerusalem roused from its slumber like an old man, noisy and complaining, while Bethlehem awakened like a young maiden, quietly and delicately. When the dawn came, Josiam found that the small town was absent of the instant bustle and clamor of people jockeying for the best position to survive the new day’s struggles. Instead, the streets filled up slowly, sedately, with friends and neighbors greeting one another. Josiam was struck by the difference in the demeanors of the two cities.

Josiam finished his barely substantial breakfast and then began the search for the house of the Child. He knew he could not go knocking on each door inquiring, “Does the Messiah live here?”, but he should be able to easily learn which house had been visited by the dignitaries from the East. Sure enough, within minutes he stood at the correct door. He knocked.

The man who opened was about thirty-five, solidly built, with the thick, muscular arms of a laborer. Josiam could instantly read the worry and wariness in the man’s expression.

“Yes?” he asked, cautiously.

“My name is Josiam. I came from Jerusalem to seek three magi from Persia. I need to warn them and you.”

“Come inside, quickly,” the man replied, and stepped aside to permit Josiam to enter.

Once inside, Josiam took a quick survey. The tiny quarters were comprised of two rooms with an open archway joining them. There were very little personal effects in the sparse rooms, and those were being gathered and packed by a young woman. He noticed a small, dark-haired baby lying quietly in a makeshift cradle on the floor at her feet. The infant was awake and staring directly at the intruder in an oddly disconcerting manner.

“My name is Joseph, Josiam of Jerusalem,” the burly man said. “This is my wife, Mary, and he is our son, Jesus. Welcome to our home.”

Josiam crossed the room and knelt down to better see the boy. He was unlike any newborn Josiah ever encountered. His eyes were already sharp and alert, like a cobra’s, able to grip you and hold you in their unblinking gaze. Even at this early age, the historian felt instinctively that the intelligence of this child would one day be remarkable. His old voice quivered with barely-controlled emotion as he whispered.

“They were right, I truly believe that now. This boy really is God’s Promised One, our Messiah. Praise to God!” With that, the old man prostrated himself on the dirt floor before the Child.

Mary had not moved since Josiam walked over to her infant son. Now she spoke to him, softly, tenderly.

“Please arise, sir. We are just a simple family. There is no need to humble yourself before our Son,” she said. “Not yet,” she added in a nearly inaudible whisper to herself.

Josiam stood up and looked at Mary. She was a small, unusually beautiful girl of about sixteen, with a slightly olive complexion, oval eyes, high cheekbones, and a soft, full mouth. She would have driven men’s hearts to distraction if not for her almost perceptible aura of innocence. He bowed deeply to the young mother, then turned back to address

Joseph. “I am, or rather was, King Herod’s Chief Scribe. The magi promised to return to him once they found you, so that he too could come to pay homage to your Son. I came to warn them and you that it is only a ruse so that he can send soldiers to kill the Child. He fears that his throne will be taken from him. I was unable to find the wise men, but I tell you that you must take your family and leave here, quickly!”

“We know about Herod,” Joseph answered. “An angel came in a dream and told the travelers to return home by another route. I was also visited in a dream by an angel. He warned me about the king, and instructed me to take the woman and boy to Egypt until Herod is dead. We are preparing to leave this very day.”

Josiam’s heart sank. His efforts and his sacrifices were all wasted! The magi were not coming back to Jerusalem after all and the family was fleeing to safety, all warned already in dreams by an angel of God. The same God Who had played such a cruel joke on a simple clerk in his waning years. Why had He done this? What was Josiam to do now? He had been willing to accept his fate for a purpose, but for nothing? The old man collapsed to his knees and wept.

Mary knelt down to comfort him. “Do not despair, Josiam,” she told him. “The Lord has a reason for sending you to us. We need only look for it, with His help.”

“What possible use is an old man to any of you?” Josiam asked bitterly. “I have nothing to offer, nothing.”

“Not true,” Joseph exclaimed suddenly. “In fact, you may be exactly the person we need while we are in Egypt.”

Josiam looked at Joseph quizzically. “How?”

“We may be hiding in Egypt for a long time, until it is safe to return. Our Son will need to learn the Law of Moses and the Holy Scriptures. He will need to know all the prophecies, the history of our people, and how to read and write. I am only a poor, uneducated carpenter. I can teach Him some of these things, but not as much or as well as you can. Josiam, Jesus will need you to be His teacher!”

His teacher! Me? The tutor of the Messiah? Josiam was stunned. How could he serve in such a crucial function? Is this really what God had in mind for him? Did he deserve such an honor and trust?

After a few moments, the ex-scribe slowly began to smile. Who better? Even most of the chief priests did not have the knowledge at their fingertips that he did. He certainly had no other plans for the next few years. Most importantly, he was one of the very few who knew that this Child was special. Of course he would become His teacher, and what teacher would ever have a more precious student?

Chapter VI

With Josiam’s assistance, Joseph and Mary finished packing their meager belongings. Then Mary and Jesus rode in Josiam’s cart as the four of them left Bethlehem behind them. They had to move slowly and rest often for the elderly man’s sake, but neither Joseph nor Mary seemed to mind the slow pace. They were confident that God was guiding them and would keep them safe.

That night, several miles out of the city, the exhausted travelers set up a makeshift camp for the night. When everyone had finished their meals, Josiam and Joseph sat and talked while Mother and Child slept. Josiam related to Joseph all that had occurred since he first met the wise men. When he was finished his tale, the father of the Messiah thanked the scribe for all he had done, and for what he had offered to do. He extended his massive hand to Jesus’ new tutor in friendship, which Josiam clasped happily. He already learned that Joseph was really a quiet, gentle man, belying his rough appearance. However, he also felt certain that the carpenter took his responsibilities very seriously. Joseph would stop at nothing to protect his precious charges. Josiam made a silent vow to do the same.

Soon the only sound was the snapping of the dry wood in the campfire. Josiam and Joseph looked up at the clear night sky, alive with the glitter of hundreds of sparkling, shimmering lights. After a few moments, they found the greatly diminished Star of Bethlehem. While they watched, it flashed brightly once, as if winking to them in approval and blessing. Then, its heavenly mission complete, the Star vanished.

The End
December, 1991


Anonymous said...

This is such a moving and well written story. I'm in awe that this was written in only 90 mins! What a wonderful story for Christmas. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

This is a very well written and moving story. To think that it was written in 90 minutes is extremely impressive. I really enjoyed this beautiful story, thank you so much for sharing.

Lynne said...

So beautiful! Thank you for publishing this and thank you, Thomas Walsh, for writing it.