way. He was a wise and shrewd businessman who seemed to have only one desire: to be the director of the most aggressive, prosperous and wealthy estate in Cyrene, and he was loyal beyond belief, and now personally also a very wealthy man. Simon could have become so involved in the affairs of business, that he was now beginning to like, that everything else could be forgotten. His affairs stretched from Rome to Greece, Alexandria and Jerusalem.
Jerusalem! This was where he must go, so he made plans to make a business trip, first stopping by Alexandria, then sailing on to Jerusalem. This would be his chance to hear Jesus and to get to know the boys that he now wanted to take along with him. So on a clear beautiful day they set sail on a splendid new Roman ship. He was accompanied by two business associates plus one man and a maid to watch after the boys. He also brought along a large supply of gold, ivory carved into splendid works of art, and other valuables to be traded or sold in Jerusalem or eventually in Athens or Rome.
The journey along the North African through the Mediterranean Sea was relaxing refreshing. It now almost seemed a dream-the struggle he had been through the desert. Food plentiful and the few days on the sea with two boys was a time of real enjoyment. They were filled with energy and life, always seeking questions about Simon's home and life style. They said that some day they would like for him to take them back to his home. There were several Jewish traders on the ship so there was much discussion about this man Jesus. The debates and arguments only whetted his appetite for more knowledge and he grew in the anticipation of seeing Jesus face to face. Most of the arguments seemed to be whether Jesus was the Messiah or just another prophet and what kind of kingdom he would set up. Some whispered that like Joseph Maccabee, Jesus would lead an armed rebellion against the Romans, but others said that Jesus was a man of peace and would never resort to violence, yet the amusing thing to Simon was that none seemed to doubt the miracles Jesus was working. One man constantly kept saying that Jesus was Beelzebub, or the devil, or doing these thing in the power of evil, yet none doubted that he was doing miracles. No one on the ship had seen Jesus personally yet everyone discussed the question with great authority!
Early one morning he awakened at dawn, climbed to the deck and was amazed to see the huge, awesome lighthouse overlooking them. It stood 370 feet high and was a winding cone where at the top big melted pots of coal and wood burned, giving light high in the sky. It was considered to be one of the seven wonders of the world. This was at the entrance way to Alexandria with the lighthouse just off the shore on the island of Phoros. The tower was now 300 years old but it looked as good as new. Alexandria was a fabulous place to visit as Simon rushed through the streets with Alexander and Rufus. They visited the Stadium, the Great Hall of Justice, the aqueducts from the Nile, the amphitheater, gymnasium, and the massive city walls. The city had been built by Alexander the Great over 300 years ago and had grown to a huge city of over a million people. It was now the chief trade center with people from all over the world there. Every color and language could be seen and heard. But Simon was most impressed with the museum, school of medicine, and most of all with the library! He made fast work of his trading and spent several days in the library. It was there that he discovered that the Torah, the sacred book of the Jews, had been translated from Hebrew into Greek. This was the book that contained the record of God dealing with the people and contained the prophecy about Jesus. Simon wanted this so he could read for himself the prophecy and learn more about the Messiah. He discovered that Ptolemy II, a great ruler in Alexandria, had contacted the High Priest in Jerusalem and made arrangements for 72 Jewish scholars to come to Alexandria to translate the Torah and the work was completed in only 72 days! This was why so many people knew about the Messiah, because for now so many years the Torah had been in the common language of the civilized world. Finally, Simon found a copy but the owner did not want to part with it, especially to a non-Jew. But at last after paying a considerable price, Simon joyfully held the scroll containing the Holy Scriptures! He decided to stay a few weeks there in this beautiful city studying the scrolls but as he in the market place alone, he opened one of scrolls and just started to read when one of Jewish traders who had been on board ship came up and said, "You are going to see this man, Jesus? Well I tell you, you must be on your way. A friend of mine just arrived by ship from Jerusalem today. He says there is a conspiracy to kill Jesus; it will be soon!" He was speaking in a hushed voice, "The people believe in him. They are ready to declare him King. The hour of the discussion is at hand.
Everyone thinks Passover will be the time; everyone is going to Jerusalem. Mark my word, something mighty important is about to happen. Some of us are leaving in the morning by ship-you can come if you like!"
Simon was now jolted into action. "Yes, I'll go, I must see him for myself. I've come too far to miss this great moment. Surely they'll make him King. He has done nothing to die; it would disappoint too many people."
As Simon made ready for the early morning departure, his mind was filled with worry. If Jesus were killed, then Beida's faith was in vain, the tribesmen were deceived and all the people be crushed. It was now like a heavy weight in Simon's heart. All gladness was gone, except for the hope that when he arrived he would find that Jesus was King, but that would mean war with the Romans, so no matter what, only trouble could lie but after thousands of miles and countless months, he could not turn back. He must go on in search to find God!
The time aboard ship was short but it was too long. This boat was filled with fruit and produce and smelled awful. The cabin they lived in was small and hot, the two boys were sick the entire trip and he could hardly wait for the ship to port in Joppa. When it did they hurriedly secured transportation and set off for Jerusalem. He asked no questions but assumed that everyone was coming for the Passover or to join the army that would make Jesus King.
Everywere there were conversations where he could hear the name Jesus. There were strong forces of troops at key points so he assumed they knew something was about to happen.
Then they reached the top of a high hill and before them was-JERUSALEM!
The city was sparkling in splendor before him-the massive high walls with the clustered buildings inside and in its midst the temple.
Simon wanted to go then to view it but there were more pressing matters now. They hurried on into the city, in the huge open gate and through narrow streets jammed with people of every color and dress. There were people in the dress of riches and those of begging poor. Animals of all nature and the aroma of fresh fruit, vegetables and also the rotten and decaying all mixed together in a way that was beyond description. There were also people swearing profane words as they traded and at the same time people about praying. It seemed as if the whole world had sent a few thousand representatives to this one place.
"I've arrived," he thought, "and now, where is this man, Jesus?"
Simon arrived at the gate of the military headquarters and showed his letter from the military commander at the garrison in Cyrene to the guard at the entrance. The letter was addressed to Mark Augustine of Pontius Pilate Guard. Soon a strong soldier appeared and greeted him, inviting him inside but Simon instead asked Mark to come with outside where his children and caravan were waiting.
"I've come a long way to be here. The garrison commander in Cyrene told me of your interest in Jesus. Can you tell me where I can find him? I much have to speak to him about. I want..."
"Shh-" said the Soldier and they moved to a deserted corner of the street. Then he began to speak softly. "The letter tells me who you are and of your interest in Jesus. I feel I can trust.
Now listen. The matter is very serious! Multitudes of people are following this man. Why even Joanna, the wife of Chuza, King Herod's own steward, is a follower of his. Only a few days ago Jesus came into Jerusalem. It was a sight to behold. There were tens of thousands of people along the streets. They tore limbs from the trees and scattered them along the way. Others spread their clothes along the way, they waved palm branches and shouted 'Hosanna, Blessed is the King of Israel, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord, Blessed be the Kingdom of our Father David, Hosanna in the Highest!' Jesus was riding upon a donkey. I've never seen anything like it. It's like the whole country is ready to follow him but-there is strong opposition by the religious leaders. They fear him. Why just the other day Jesus entered the Temple overthrew the money tables, scattered the animals to be offered in sacrifice and cried out, 'My house shall be called a house prayer, you have made it den of thieves.' Why he even said of them, 'Woe unto you scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites. You devour widows' houses and make long prayers. Ye shall receive greater damnation, you have omitted the weightier matters of the law; judgment, and faith. You blind guides, you are like white tombs that appear beautiful outward, but within full of dead men's bones and of all uncleanliness, you outwardly appear righteous men but within you are full of hypocrisy and inquity. You are snakes, a generation of vipers. How can you escape the damnation of hell?' Now do you see why they hate him? He is something else. They have been plotting to kill him and I fear they will succeed."
"But why should you worry if they kill him?" said Simon. "Because I've heard him, others of our troops also have been sent to spy on him and he has said nothing against Caesar. I have never been able to get him off my mind. It is torment trying to forget him, for once you've seen him you know this is something special."
"But where is he? I want to see him," replied Simon.
"That we don't know. He hasn't been seen too often in the past few days. People everywhere are looking for him for one reason or another but few can find him. But this I know. Often he stays in Bethany, just outside Jerusalem. He has good friends there. One is called Simon the Leper. The other are two sisters, Mary and Martha, and they have a brother named Lazarus-and get this: Lazarus died, was buried for four days, then Jesus brought him to life about a week ago!"
"What?" cried Simon.
"Yes, it's what everyone says. I don't know but maybe when you get there you can find out more. Just ask for Simon the Leper's house.
"I shall, I shall," replied Simon. "I'll see you again for dinner when I return to Jerusalem."
He ran over to the small caravan and directed the driver to take them to Bethany. The streets were crowded as they pushed their way along. Simon had never seen such a jam of humanity.
It seemed as if the whole world were here. He was filled with eager excitement. They made their way out the gate and along the winding road leading to Bethany. He had business affairs to attend to but decided not to even acknowledge that he was in Jerusalem until he had seen Jesus. Arriving in the hill city of Bethany he inquired as to the house of Mary, Martha and Lazarus.
He was immediately directed to a large house with spacious grounds and beautiful flowers. As he approached the house the two boys came running after him. It was almost dark as he knocked on the door. Soon the door opened and a sparkling radiant lady who appeared to be in late twenties, stepped out and said, "I welcome you in the name of the Lord. Can I help you?"