Assassins in the court

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It was a thrilling spectacle unfolding before him as Julius squeezed between two pot-bellied bearded men shouting at each other to get to a better vantage point. The entire courtroom was packed and smelled as though everyone had come straight from the gymnasium after eating rich, spicy foods. He scrunched up his face and held his breath as he clambered up the stairs to the gallery above where he could see everything without getting trampled by the angry men below. 

“We find absolutely nothing wrong with this man! We consider him undeserving of punishment!” Shouts immediately erupted from segments of the crowd, some throwing their hands in the air in disbelief, while others shook their fists at the man who had spoken. A particularly lively debate ensued, with half of the men stubbornly arguing that it was not possible for people to rise from the dead, while the other half angrily rebutted all their statements. 

Up the front sat the Roman Commander for the region. He looked totally bewildered by the outrage of the men before him. He had convened the court with the Jewish priests and religious leaders to discover the charges against the accused man. But despite hours of discussion, he was still at a loss. Beside him sat the Jewish High Priest, dressed in crisp white linen, and adorned with gold jewellery and fine gemstones. He looked particularly disgruntled and irritated. It was clear that he had assumed the legal proceedings would have been quick and straightforward that day. 

The Roman Commander’s head sank into his hands as another man from the crowd shouted, “What if an angel has spoken to this man? Have you ever thought of that?”

Julius’s uncle, Paul, stood between two Roman guards, looking strangely calm and somewhat bemused by the scene before him. His uncle scanned the room, looking around at the chaos he had created, giving Julius a cheeky wink when he spotted him in the crowd.

“Just give him to us! These Sadducees are unschooled and unreligious troublemakers. This man must face proper punishment for his crimes under the Jewish court!” yelled one man.

“We are not unschooled! We are just as educated as you, though not half as arrogant!” shouted another.

“You’re going to regret you said that!” One of the burlier Pharisees shoved his sleeves up and threw a punch at the man who had just insulted him. In an instant, violence was unleashed among the men, with Sadducees and Pharisees both charging over the balustrades to take hold of Paul. 

“ENOUGHHHH!!!” The Roman Commander stood abruptly, glaring at the crowds. The shouting hushed to a murmur. “YOU WILL RELEASE THIS MAN IF YOU KNOW WHAT’S GOOD FOR YOU!” he declared. All the men relinquished their grip on Paul and stepped back a few paces.

“My goodness, men! Have you no decorum whatsoever? Where is your dignity?” The Roman Commander reprimanded. “It is clear to me that this case cannot be properly heard with everyone present, so I will hear the matter for myself. PRIVATELY!” The Commander announced: “Guards, please take Paul to the barracks so we may address this matter with proper decorum. Everyone else, get out!”

The guards ushered Paul through the back of the tribunal chambers as the men slowly dispersed. Julius made his way to the exit and ran home to tell his mother about his exciting afternoon!


The following morning, Julius stood waiting for his mother in a shaded alley at the corner of the marketplace as she picked out fruit and vegetables. As he waited, he overheard hushed voices drifting down the alley from around the corner. They were talking about the trial from yesterday! Julius crept slightly closer to listen to their conversation—careful not to be seen.

“We cannot allow Paul to continue preaching. He must be silenced!”

“He will never be silenced . . . He won’t listen to anyone or heed any warnings or threats.”

After a pause, one man in a hooded cloak, a zealot, spoke up: “What good is a threat if not followed up with consequence? If he must be silenced, he should be silenced for good.”

“You can’t mean . . .” His question was matched with a knowing silence. “But how?”

“Unlike some, I am willing to do whatever it takes to put an end to this conspiracy and stop this troublemaker from endangering our position! Don’t you also care about the protection of our traditions? Where is your zeal men?” he challenged. “He opposes the authority of the Sanhedrin! You heard him yourself yesterday: he claimed to be a Roman! Anyone who is a friend of Rome is an enemy of the Jews. And by preaching to the Gentiles regularly, this man is a heretic and a corrupter of tradition! You have my word; myself and 36 others have vowed that we shall not eat or drink until he is dead. With you three, we will be 40. Join me in this vow.”

Julius tried his best not to let a startled gasp escape him as he heard this.

The men looked from one to another and nodded, giving their pledges to the cloaked figure, who spoke again as they finished. “We will make a request to the Sanhedrin this afternoon to bring Paul before them on the pretext of gleaning more information. We can ambush him before he arrives.”

The men melted into the market in different directions. Julius was frozen in disbelief and his heart was beating out of his chest. Were they seriously planning to kill his uncle simply for talking about Jesus? 

Julius immediately ran to his mother to tell her what he had just heard.


Paul listened intently as Julius relayed everything he had overheard in the alleyway earlier that morning. After Julius had finished, he gulped for air—out of breath from speaking fast—and watched for Uncle Paul’s reaction. Paul’s brow was furrowed with concern, and he looked to Julius’s mother and back to Julius.

“You cannot tell anyone what you have just told me.”

“What?!” Julius exclaimed.

“You must promise me. You cannot tell anyone what you have heard, or else you and your mother will be in danger,” Paul reasoned.

“Paul, seriously. We will be fine! You must tell someone about this plot. Can’t you tell the Commander? Don’t you know him and his family? Surely, he will listen to you and prevent this from happening.” Julius’s mother protested.

“Commander Rufus?” Paul paused and looked at Julius, whose face betrayed his worry and fear. Softening, Paul agreed, “Well, I suppose we could tell him. He is a good man, a man of justice and a trustworthy sort. But no-one else! I don’t want either of you to be put in danger.”

“Thank you, Paul.” Julius’s mother sighed with relief.

“Now Julius,” Paul held Julius’s shoulders and faced him. “I need you to tell Commander Rufus everything you have just told me. Do not leave out a single detail, but do not tell anyone else what you have heard. Do you understand? Not a soul.” 

“But why?” Julius questioned.

“If there are people out there seeking my life, they will be very upset with whoever sabotages their plan and might seek to hurt them if they find out who it was. I do not want anyone to know it was you who told of their plan. Okay?” Paul’s voice wavered as he finished.

“Okay,” Julius replied.

“Hey Stefanus!” Paul motioned to one of the centurions nearby who looked vaguely familiar to Julius. “Could you do me a favour?”

The centurion Stefanus looked sideways at Paul before saying cautiously, “Well, Paul, that depends. Will this favour get me in trouble?”

“I assure you it won’t,” said Paul, “not this time at least.”

“Hrmmm alright, well what is it?”

“Could you take this young man—this is my nephew—to the Commander; he has something vitally important to tell him. It is a matter of urgency and relates to the case against me,” said Paul.

Stefanus considered the request. “Alright, I can do that. Since it relates to the case, Commander Rufus should allow it. Come this way young man.”

In a whirlwind of commotion, Julius found himself being marched between towering marble pillars into the justice chambers. Commander Rufus sat amidst piles of unravelled scrolls with a stressed expression on his face. He looked up as Julius entered the room.

“Commander Rufus,” Stefanus bowed and motioned for Julius to do the same. “This boy is Paul’s nephew and has important information to tell you pertaining to the case.”

Intrigued, Commander Rufus shifted in his chair and examined Julius. “Thank you, Stefanus. Please leave us alone.” Stefanus nodded and exited the room, leaving Julius and Commander Rufus alone. 

“Well, what is it you have to tell me?” asked Commander Rufus.

Taking a deep breath, Julius relayed everything he had heard in the marketplace to Commander Rufus, who gave Julius his undivided attention. After Julius had finished speaking, Commander Rufus rested his chin on his fist and frowned into the distance for a few moments, deep in thought. “Is everything you say true?” the Commander asked seriously, turning towards Julius.

“It is all true,” replied Julius.

Commander Rufus met Julius’s gaze and rose to his feet. “Then we’ve not a moment to lose!” Commander Rufus marched Julius back to the barracks where Paul and Julius’s mother waited nervously. Speaking to the two centurions guarding Paul, Commander Rufus said with great urgency, “Men! I need you to put together a detachment of 200 soldiers, 70 horsemen and 200 spearmen to go to Caesarea at nine o’clock tonight. Provide a mount for Paul so that he may ride safely to Governor Felix. This man needs the greatest protection you can provide; his life is in danger.”

Turning to Julius, Governor Rufus knelt and shook his hand, saying, “Thank you, young man, for bringing this to my attention. You just saved your uncle’s life; the life of a good and upright man.” Looking at Paul boldly, he continued, “May God be with you.” And with that, Commander Rufus turned and marched off to ready the soldiers for their mission.

Olivia Fairfax is an editorial assistant at Adventist Record.

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