Early in the morning, Andrew went ahead of me to the place Philip named. I was glad for time alone to calm the edginess I felt. I splashed water on my face from the basin in the corner and went out under the canopy to pray. My meditation lasted until a whiff of fresh baked festal cakes that Mary promised for our gathering wound its way up the outer staircase. I repeated the Shema as my nostrils filled with the scent of cinnamon and almonds, then bounded down the stairs two at a time.
In the courtyard Mary and Rhoda lifted a large tray, heaped with the sweets, onto John Mark’s head. I grinned at the sight. “My mouth waters for your treats,” I said with eagerness. Mary glanced my way and blushed. Her look took me by surprise. I mumbled some words about the feast and hurried out the gate. Followers were waiting for me. I heaved a sigh of relief and joined them.
The narrow lanes of the Lower City were alive with crowds going to the Temple to stand in line for the Presentation of the Loaves. Others from the twenty-four districts of Israel were bringing their tithes to the Treasury along with Jews of the Diaspora who wait to come to Jerusalem with their offerings until the season is mild and travel is easy. Many of the travelers stay in the quarter where Stephen found a place for us. Jews from Cappadocia and Pontus, Parthia and Asia, Rome and Mesopotamia. I breathed in perfume from Arabia and garlic from Egypt.
“Our brothers from the East and the West bring more than money to the city,” I said to my companions, laughing as we rubbed shoulders with those who anoint themselves with pungent fragrances.
I tried to remember the fresh tang of the sea, but it would not come back to me. We entered the inn and its common smells of wine and cakes were a comfort.
Upstairs, Mary the mother of Jesus and James the Lord’s brother and his household were seated talking to Andrew. Matthew rushed in behind us carrying the scrolls for the Thanksgiving service.
“There was a long line at the scribe’s desk,” he explained, hurrying to a table at the front of the room.
The hundred or so followers we expected from the night before were arriving and they brought friends. Before long five hundred people crammed into the room and overflowed onto the balcony above the street. I looked for Mary Magdalene and Joanna. They were not in the crowd and I wondered if Chuza had forbidden them to join us.
I prayed the surging tide in my stomach would calm and asked, Lord, are these the sheep I am to shepherd? Unlearned Galileans and Greek minded Jews. How will they believe you are raised from death? Send the HELPER you promised.
Matthew led the prayers of thanks to God for the wheat harvest and the revelation of the Law of Moses on Mt. Sinai. He recited the Laws Moses inscribed on stone tablets and then Philip opened the scroll of Jeremiah to the place about the renewal of the covenant between God and his people. Stephen shushed the talkative Hellenist Jews from his neighborhood until they quieted down.
“In those days,” Philip read, “I will put my law within them. I will write it upon their hearts. I will be their God and they shall be my people. No longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD. I will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more.”
Philip put his palms on the scroll to keep it from rattling, for a strong wind was stirring everything that wasn’t tied down. The women held their scarves as a noise from the sky filled the whole house with a mighty roar. Threads of fire crackled and crossed the room, flickering and touching each one of us. Out of the fire a voice spoke. ‘I have touched your lips. Your sins are forgiven. Your guilt is gone.’ I hugged those around me and grinned till my mouth hurt. The fiery glory of the Shechiah filled us. Our shouts of joy tangled into unfamiliar sounds. I don’t know how long young Mark stood calling my name. I only turned when he tugged at my sleeve with all his might. His eyes were wide with alarm.
“Can’t you hear the men in the street banging on the gate? A crowd downstairs is trying to break in. They think the innkeeper is giving out free wine. The owner says you must talk to them before they break down the gate and a riot starts.”
“What? Is that what we sound like to those below? Drunks?”
I made my way to the stairway and looked down. Hundreds of people were in the street and a rowdy bunch of men shouted up to me.
Praise for The Eye of God
“Many of Jesus’ parables are woven into the story. Some dialog feels too modern for the time but that might have been an attempt to reach the modern reader. The novel is primarily about Simon Peter and his relationship with the Messiah, Jesus, even at the expense of his own family. It is well written and should appeal to those who enjoy stories based on the bible.”
—Debra Spidal, Historical Novel Review Online
“… a truly impressive work of scholarship. It”s an easy read in a winsome style.”
—Thomas Trzyna, Professor of English, Seattle Pacific University.
“This well-researched depiction of the life of Simon as he becomes Peter, “fisher of men,” is an engrossing tale—full of savor. I was totally engaged in this imaginative and intriguing story. There are so many passages that have lingered in my thoughts because of the authors elegant and precise descriptions. Her background research and references also add much to this great depiction of life during Roman times.”
“Excellent book. Written from the perspective of St. Peter who meets Jesus and starts following him. The book is biblically accurate, following the Gospel of Mark in the text. Makes the life of Jesus and Peter come alive.”
“Truly well written and compelling. The people of the Bible brought to life. I really feel as though I have a clearer understanding of the cultural climate in the middle east during the life of Christ, and why His news was so compelling.”