THE SIEGE OF JERUSALEM
THROUGHOUT THE ANCIENT CITY OF Jerusalem, anarchy
gripped the city. Roman soldiers laid siege while resistance Hebrew
groups inflamed the situation further. The Roman war machine displayed
its full might as they sought to eradicate what it considered to
be an uncivilized and ungrateful population. Caught between two
warring factions were the average citizens, the people just trying to
eke out a living and survive.
Central to the town, and clustered among many similar-looking
stone structures, sat the simple home of Nicodemus. A descendant of
the dominant ruling class of Pharisees, and a member of the religious
council known as the Sanhedrin, Nicodemus was destined to rise as a
leader. Yet, all of his aspirations were quickly being erased.
In this living anguish, tomorrow was an eternity.
“YaHoWaH, hear my prayers, for I am frightened for my life. Our
town, the city of David, is being torn apart. Please provide a miracle
and find a way for me to escape. For You are— ”
Interrupted, Nicodemus swiveled his head and stared. With their
fist, someone pounded on the front door. He stopped breathing, and
his eyes narrowed in fright.
The banging repeated.
A voice on the other side of the door shouted, “Nicodemus, open
Cautious, he arose from his kneeling position of prayer. His
knees covered in dust from the dirt, Nicodemus crept slowly and quietly
to the door. He peered through the cracks between the boards
and spotted two imposing Roman soldiers along with another nonmilitary
Terrified, Nicodemus panted and leaned his back against the door.
Think, Nicodemus, think.
The knocking continued, and Nicodemus could feel the vibrations
of the door throughout his body.
“Nicodemus, can you hear me? I am a friend of Joseph of
Arimathea. Please open this door at once!”
The name Joseph of Arimathea was welcome news. Against all
instincts, Nicodemus turned and lifted the weighty beam away from
the door. He opened it a mere inch. He saw a physically fit, younger
man, in his early twenties with his fist poised to pound on the door
once more. The man’s blue eyes were filled with trepidation.
His voice hoarse, he whispered. “Nicodemus, you must come
with us right now. Joseph says it’s not safe for you here in Jerusalem.
The Romans have surrounded the city and are destroying everything
in their sight. The city will fall by tonight!”
Nicodemus’ eyes darted between the two Roman soldiers standing
on either side of the man. One a centurion, the other a regular
soldier. Muscular, they wore expressions of determination. Their
presence seemed ominous. Nicodemus’ knees felt weak. The young
man followed Nicodemus’ gaze and tried to reassure him.
“I am Leontis. Your friend, Joseph of Arimathea, says you must
come with these two soldiers and me. They will escort us from the
dangers occurring in the city. You must hurry, for there is very little
time left. Joseph awaits us in a cart by the Gate of the Essenes. Now,
While Nicodemus contemplated the man’s demands, several
Roman soldiers ran down the passageway between houses, chasing a
woman and small child. Everyone watched in horror as the soldiers
seized the fleeing individuals and butchered them instantly in the
street. Blood splattered the walls of nearby buildings as one soldier
with his sword sliced open both the woman and child in one swoop.
The two escort soldiers with Leontis burst their way into
Nicodemus’ house. They pulled Leontis inside as they entered and
slammed the door shut. One Roman kept watch, his foot bracing the
He shouted. “In a few moments, it will be too late!”
Screams of terror and the sound of swords terrorizing humanity
filled the outside air.
Leontis grabbed Nicodemus by the shoulders. “Do you wish to
bring anything important? We have to leave now, or you will die.”
Nicodemus hastily seized a large satchel, set it on his table. He
stuffed his scrolls and research papers into the bag. As he reached
out for ink jars and stylus pens, the Centurion knocked them out of
Nicodemus’ hand, causing them to spill on the floor.
Stunned by the abruptness, Nicodemus stared with an open
“Citizen, enough! You can replace them later. We must go now.”
He roughly grabbed Nicodemus and shoved him toward the door.
The heavy satchel slipped off Nicodemus’ shoulder, so he bent
over to retrieve it. The Roman centurion snapped the bag off the
floor and pushed the group outside.
Everywhere they looked, crazed Romans killed innocent people
in bloodlust. The Roman soldiers escorting Leontis and Nicodemus
grabbed an arm of each man and marched them between two
As the four worked their way through the city, complete pandemonium
erupted throughout the streets. Every time Nicodemus looked
around he saw nothing but blood and dead bodies. Recognizing a few
of the individuals as friends or neighbors, Nicodemus felt sick to his
The two Roman escorts urgently pulled Nicodemus and Leontis
along as they moved closer to the southern wall of the city. When
Nicodemus looked over his shoulder in the direction of the temple,
he saw thick black smoke rising. Nicodemus lost his footing and
stumbled, but Leontis took hold of his other arm. Running, the soldier
and Leontis nearly dragged Nicodemus the last hundred feet by
Nearing the Gate of the Essenes, Nicodemus recognized Joseph
hunched over, waiting. When Joseph heard the four men approaching,
he looked up and smiled. Leontis pulled back a heavy cloth covering
the rear of the cart. Multiple small crates, sacks of grain, and
hay littered the floor of the wagon.
One Roman soldier hefted Nicodemus into the back. He then rearranged
the cargo and pointed. “You, hide up there below the seat of
your friends. Make yourself tight, into a ball and don’t make a sound!”
Without hesitation, Nicodemus did as instructed and pulled his
satchel in tight to his body. These notes represented his life’s work.
The soldiers and Leontis arranged the cargo and moved the extra
hay around Nicodemus. They then pulled the tarp back over the rear
The Centurion leaned in close to where he suspected Nicodemus
lay concealed. “Not a sound or you will die. No matter what happens,
the other soldiers cannot know you’re back here. Do you understand
me?” he demanded.
“Yes,” came Nicodemus’ clipped reply.
The soldier slapped the donkey’s backside, and the cart jerked forward.
As the wagon plodded along with Joseph and Leontis driving,
the two soldiers walked on either side of the wagon as a protective
As they cleared the gate, a cluster of Roman soldiers nailed a man
to a crucifix. He screamed as they drove nails into his wrists. The
detail of soldiers stopped their work and watched their two fellow
soldiers with the cart. A sizeable menacing man approached the four
intruders as they departed the city.
“Halt, who goes there?”
The escort Centurion stepped forward. “Step aside, Decanus. We
are on official business per the legatus, Pontius Pilate.”
The lower ranking Decanus saluted by striking his fist to his
breastplate and then extending his arm forward. “Yes sir, Centurion,”
but he was suspicious. “What, if I may ask, is in the cart, sir?”
Irritated, the Centurion chastised the soldier, “Supplies for our
unit bringing up the rear of this campaign.”
The others associated with the cart, watched in shock as the
Centurion pulled the heavy cloth partially aside revealing the boxed
contents. Nicodemus froze, praying no one could see him. After a
long pause, the Centurion pulled the fabric back over the rear.
With an icy edge in his voice, he barked at the Decanus. “Satisfied?”
The Roman nodded, “Yes sir.”
The centurion slapped the donkey’s backside again, forcing
their journey forward. Leontis started to look back but was abruptly
“Eyes forward, Leontis. Please,” mumbled Joseph.
After about thirty minutes elapsed, the four individuals began to
relax when they rounded a small hill and encountered a full Roman
detachment blocking the road. Two Roman sentries halted their
Before the sentries could ask, the Centurion of the escort group
quickly explained to minimize curiosity. “We are conducting official
business per the legatus, Pontius Pilate.”
“What’s in the back?” demanded one the sentries.
“Supplies for our unit bringing up the rear of this campaign,” said
Joseph pulled out a roll of parchment with a red seal and held it
out. The Centurion escort took it and showed it to the sentry.
The sentry inspected the parchment roll and saw the official red
wax seal, but then refused to touch it.
An officer appeared and dismounted his horse. “Legionnaire,
what’s going on?” The officer handed the reins to the nearest soldier.
The soldier snapped to attention. “Travelers with supplies to a
rear detachment, sir.”
The Tribuni looked at the escort Centurion, “Tell me, to what
unit are you assigned?”
The Centurion saluted, “The Legio VI Ferrata, sir.” He held out
the roll of parchment, and the Tribuni never hesitated but opened
the wax seal.
After reading the contents, the Tribuni handed the document
back. “Check the back of their wagon, Legionnaire.”
The sentry took his sword and slashed through the cloth cover,
letting tip strike wood. Moving around, he stabbed several times. He
lifted the tarp and saw crates, small barrels, sacks of grain and scattered
hay. Satisfied, he nodded to the Tribuni.
Curled tight and barely breathing, Nicodemus watched with horror
as the sharp Roman blade pierced the cloth striking the area all
around his hidden position. On the last plunge of the sword, the tip
nicked Nicodemus’ calf, slicing a deep gash into the flesh. Nicodemus
squeezed his eyes shut and bit hard into his tongue. He stifled a
scream. The searing pain was excruciating.
Joseph kept his face down the entire time and instantly spotted
red droplets falling from beneath the cart. Worried, he saw the crimson
liquid forming into a small pool. Joseph held his breath.
The Tribuni used his riding crop handle and lifted the face of
“Joseph of Arimathea.” He smiled up at the Roman officer.
The Tribuni looked at the athletic young man seated alongside
Joseph. “What’s his story? He looks fit enough to fight for the Romans.”
Joseph snatched the left arm of Leontis and thrust it toward the
Tribuni. When he performed this maneuver, an iron bracelet affixed
to the man’s wrist revealed in Latin and Greek letters, the man was a
slave. “His name is Leontis and my servant.”
The Tribuni gazed into the eyes of the two men seated in the cart,
as if gauging whether they were telling the truth. After a brief pause,
he remounted his horse.
“Let them pass,” commanded the Tribuni.
The high-spirited horse, anxious and ready to run, acted like a
racehorse ready at the gate. The Tribuni pulled on the reins to maintain
eye contact with the Centurion of the escort. “Give my regards
to your Praefectus Castrorum. Perhaps we can be finished with these
savages soon enough and return home to our wives.”
“Yes sir, and thank you,” replied the Centurion as he saluted.
The Roman encampment contained several thousand men, so
the four-person escort gradually navigated the horde as soldiers surrounding
their position watched them pass through. When the group
neared the edge of the camp, Joseph saw captured Israeli zealots in a
Without regard for their ghastly screams, the Romans began
hacking off the limbs of the Zealots. Once the prisoner was devoid of
his arms and legs, the soldiers then decapitated their wailing heads.
Other Roman soldiers tossed the severed body parts onto a colossal
burning pyre. The stench was retching and the sight even more
As the cart with the four individuals detoured around the ghoulish
spectacle, Leontis glared at the Roman soldiers.
Joseph raised his eyes just slightly toward his slave and muttered,
“Don’t watch, Leontis.”
“Why on earth are they doing this?” Leontis barely whispered.
Joseph tightly gripped Leontis’ wrist.
The two Roman soldiers and their escorts traveled several more
miles, and then the Centurion stopped their progress. They were now
out of sight and far away from the Roman detachment.
“As requested, we’ve completed our task, per orders of the legatus,
Pontius Pilate. Don’t think I’m not repulsed by our performance,
for I have just lied to a Tribuni and several brothers back there. And
for what—to save a wealthy citizen, his slave, and this Jew?” the
Centurion shook his fist at them.
Leontis doubled his hands and tightened his body. Joseph patted
Leontis’ leg, and then reached under his seat and pulled out a small
chest. After unlocking it, he retrieved two purple cloth bags with
gold drawstrings. Each bag was the size of two men’s fists. He handed
them to Leontis.
“Please pay the soldiers.”
Leontis vehemently hissed, “Master, one bag equals the wages of
a man’s lifetime.”
Joseph smiled, “Centurion, here is your payment for your services.
There are one hundred gold shekels for each of you. May YaHoWaH
bless you for what you have done for my friends and me.”
The mood instantly shifted as the Centurion and soldier hefted
the weight of the bags in their hands. Like gleeful school boys who
escaped punishment for their misdeeds, the two soldiers smiled with
pleasure. They grinned at one another. One soldier opened his bag
and pulled a gold piece out and laughed.
“Yes, this made our deception worth it. I suggest you never come
back this way again,” the Centurion threatened. “The outcome may
not be so favorable.”
Both soldiers turned and walked back in the direction of
Jerusalem. While they walked, they endlessly congratulated themselves
for their new fortunes. Leontis and Joseph watched them disappear
over a small rise in the road.
“Master, why so much money. They will just spend it on prostitutes
and beer!” objected Leontis.
Joseph half smiled. “And I was prepared to spend even more to
save my friend’s life.”
Joseph reached down and patted their stowaway under the cloth.
“Nicodemus, it is safe, you may come out. We are now far from the
city and any danger.”
Nicodemus didn’t move.
Leontis jumped from the cart and pulled back the heavy cloth.
He sucked air between his teeth when he saw the vast pool of dried
blood. Nicodemus was curled into a tight ball, his eyes jammed closed.
Leontis shook the man.
“We’re out of danger, Nicodemus, can you get up? Are you hurt?”
Slowly at first, Nicodemus opened one eye then the other. He
paused and surveyed their surroundings. He was soaked with sweat.
“Quickly, Leontis, give him some water,” commanded Joseph as
he handed the clay watering jar to his slave.
The servant helped Nicodemus sit up and let him sip some water.
“Let me look at your wound.”
Ripping several long narrow strips of cloth from his outer robe,
Leontis bandaged Nicodemus’ leg. He smiled up at Joseph. “It is a surface
cut; not too deep.”
Nicodemus winced, “Surface cut? It’s not your leg!”
Both Joseph and his servant chuckled.
“You’re alive Nicodemus, and you’ll probably have a nasty reminder
once it heals, but you’re alive and away from the city,” said
Nicodemus felt relief. “Thank you, Joseph.” He looked at Leontis.
“Thank you both for saving my life. You are the answer to my prayers.”
When the three men looked back in the direction of Jerusalem,
they could see nothing but dark billowing smoke rising to the clouds.
Joseph shuddered and mourned over the destruction. “My friends,
we are observing the end of an era for Israel. Our history is forever
changed by what we have witnessed here, and I doubt we will recover
for several thousand years.”