It happened that just before PESACH of that year that king Herod Agrippa the Second had Simon Kefa imprisoned, intending to have him dispatched immediately after the holiday was over.
In prison, it chanced that one of the guards was a prisoner-trustee nick-named "The son of his father", Bar-Abba in the Aramaic tongue. This man had been a life long political agitator whom the Romans dispised, and he had been constantly in and out of jails. One time he even came close to being put to death by the Romans for his alleged part in an insurrection which took place in Jerusalem during the Passover season. Luckily for him, the Roman governor of that day decided to pardon any current prisoner whom the people would petition, and Bar-Abba managed to get his numerous followers to call out for his release. Thus he escaped Roman "justice" that day. Later on, he was less lucky. It was said that he derived his nick-name from the fact that he was an illegitimate son; so his cronies, in bad humor, called him "Daddy's Boy", but his actual name was Jesus.
Simon said to him, "The lord that I follow also is named Jesus; and he is also known as "The son of his Father, and he also was conceived when his parents were not yet wed. It is not for men to condemn you or mock you for for that."
So Bar-Abba befriended Simon because of his good words and his exemplary behavior and amity.
Bar-Abba asked Simon to relate to him the circumstances surrounding his arrest. Simon revealed to him that he was a member of the sect called Nazarenes whom the Sadducees and Romans harrassed because they believed that the MESHIACH had come to free Israel. They also believed that this MESHIACH had given himself up to the Romans to be killed, and had overcome death itself, rising two days after his crucifixion, thereby demonstrating to all, his invincibility. Based upon their strong belief in Jesus their master and his immanent return, and the beginning of G-d's Kingdom, they set out to bring all Israel into their assembly. The Romans and their collaborating stooges, the Sadducees, held the Nazarenes to be a highly provocative and dangerous group, engaged in messianic political activity, hostile to the status quo, and enemies of the Jewish commonwealth and of Rome. King Agrippa had therefore attempted to appease the Romans by a sweeping purge of all konwn messianic movements and arrest and execution of their leadership. Yakov the son of the priest Zavadiah had already met his death at the hands of the authorities, and now he, Simon, as one of the leaders of the Nazarene movement, was judged also guilty of sedition, and probably would be sentenced to death after the holidays were over.
Bar-Abba appeared to be genuinely interested in hearing about the Nazarenes, and not just a polite listener. "Why", he asked, "do they find you any more dangerous than others who also preach the coming of HASHEM's Kingdom, and who also claim that their leaders are divinely appointed?"
Simon smiled. "Because", he replied, "There is an important distinction between them and us." "Which is?", Bar-Abba prompted. "Which is", Simon continued, "that we also preach to and accept non Jews into our assembly." Bar-Abba's eye-brows raised slightly. "How is that?", he inquired. "Shall I tell you?", Simon asked. "Yes", nodded Bar-Abba. "I would really like to hear it." He sat. Simon sat beside him and began.
"It began with a Roman centurion, of all things. This man was a G-d Fearer, and had long wished to join our nation as a proselyte, but because of his social and military standing, he had found it a difficult thing to do. It was he who approached me, saying that he had had a divine revelation that, being informed from Above that for his reverence for HASHEM and His TORAH, and his desire to be one with the people of Israel, he might approach me and be received into the Assembly of the Faithfull as a Nazarene. Thus, seeing the man's sincerity, and his absolute devotion to our G-d, I took him and immersed him in the name of our master as a comrade and fellow of faith, after receiving a vision from Heaven.
And my brethren were astonished, as many as were with me, because G-d had poured out His Spirit on a gentile. My companions said to me, 'Can we permit him to be immersed as a joiner with us?' I said to them, 'To me has the master given the absolute SEMICHAH, that what I permit on earth must be also permitted by Heaven.' Thus I commanded that this Roman be immersed in the name of the master. Ah, Bar-Abba, if you only realized how ironic that is, I who have always detested the uncircumcized, that it should be upon ME to bring them to G-d and salvation along with Israel!
Now word got out to the brethren that were in Judea that a gentile had received the word of G-d and been immersed. So when I wnet up to Jerusalem, they were scandalized, and gave me MUSAR about it, and said, 'You went and ate with the uncircumcised?' Well, I needed to explain the situation and tell them the whole story from beginning to end. I related, 'I was in the city of Joppa. It was at the time of MINCHAH, and I fell into a trance in which I saw a vision. A certain vessel descended from heaven and appeared before me. In it, I saw wild beasts and creeping things. Then I heard a voice. It said, 'Arise, Simon; slay and eat.' But I said, CHAS V'SHALOM! These are not KASHER! Never have I eaten anything impure or unclean.' Then they answered from heaven and said, 'That which is to be cleaned and purified, do not any longer call unclean.' This was done three times by way of confirmation, then the vessel was drawn up again And, behold, immediately there were three men already inside the house where I was, sent to me from Caesarea. And the Spirit came upon me and bade me go with them without any hesitancy. Moreover six of the brethren accompanied me, and we entered the man's house. He explained to us how he had seen an angel in his house, which said to him, 'Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Kefa. He shall tell you how you and all your house shall be saved.' And as I spoke, I remembered a dream that I had had at Kfar-Nachum about our master, how in it I said to him that my zealousness was to destroy the uncircumcized occupiers of our Land who blaspheme the Holy Name, and how he asked me, 'Is it not better to bring the Romans to G-d's House so that they may know His greatness and understand that they are not the lords of creation?' Then, in the dream, I answered him, 'The Romans are unclean. They would pollute His House.' But he, in his quiet way, replied, 'But if the G-d of Israel should bring them close to His service and clean them, you could no more call them unclean.' So I compared their being cleansed to a man walking on water. I asked him, 'Can the Romans ever be cleaned from all their bloodshed? The MESHIACH will come before that happens.' To that, he did not answer. He merely smiled and kept silent. Then I awoke. It is strange, that dream. I had it before ever I met him, and I had forgotten all about it until that day in front of the other apsotles who questioned me about the centurion. Well, Bar-Abba, what would you say if I were to tell you that I once actually DID walk upon water?"
Bar-Abba had remained silent throughout this entire narrative of Simon's, merely nodding or shaking his head every now and then as he listened. When he heard Simon say that he had walked upon water, he still said nothing but he smiled. Simon was not sure if the smile was from good natured politeness or if it was a sign that the man considered him beside himself. So Simon merely smiled back at him and continued his story.
"Then, seeing that they were listening, I was emboldened to speak further. 'My brethren, we know we have hated and despised the uncircumcized pagans, but how was I able to withstand G-d whom this Roman already feared, but he was unable to become a proselyte? Nevertheless he wished to be part of the Assembly of the Faithfull.' When the apostles heard these things, they reflected on them, then they glorified Heaven, saying, So then, HASHEM also gives oppurtunity for repentance to the Gentiles as He once did to the Ninevites.'
Nevertheless there were Pharisees among us who said, 'Except they be circumcised according to the TORAH of Moses, they cannot be saved. It is needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the TORAH of Moses.' Now there were also present certain men who violently disagreed and caused dissension and disputed with them who demanded conversion. So the elders, Yakov, Yochanan, and I were forced to confront this issue head on.
And we came together to consider the matter. After much disputing, I arose, and spoke to them, saying, 'Men and brethren, you know that G-d made choice among us, that gentiles BY MY MOUTH should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And He made no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Therefore why should we put a yoke upon them which they obvisouly cannot bear? But I believe that through the grace and CHESED of HASHEM, they shall be saved.'
Then Yakov, Jesus' brother, spoke, saying, 'Men and brethren, listen to me. Kefa has related the MIDRASH of how G-d first approached the gentiles to offer them the TORAH, to take out of them a people for His name. Yet they were unable to accept it and rejected it, and it came to pass that because of their rejection, that He gave it to US, and made US His people. And do not the prophets say that HASHEM will build again the ruins of His House so that the residue of men might seek after the L--d, and all the gentiles, upon whom His Name is called? Known unto G-d are all His works from the beginning of the world. And does not our esteemed brother, Kefa, have the authority of SEMICHAH to loose that which he will loose, and Heaven must also say Amen to it? Therefore, after having listened and considered the matter, my judgment is that we do not trouble the gentiles that have turned to G-d through us, But that we command them that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from animals TREYF and NEVELLAH. And they can hear TORAH read and preached in the synagogues every SHABBAT.'
So the apostles heard Yakov, and because of his words, and of my authority, they agreed to send certain men to Antioch with letters from us, saying, 'The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting to you brethren that are G-d fearing gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these things; that you abstain from meats offered to idols, and from TREYF, and from NEVELLAH, and from fornication, from which if you keep yourselves, you will do well. SHALOM.'
So the epistle was delivered at Antioch. And among those whom we had sent, Yehudah and Sheilah encouraged the gentiles with many words, and confirmed them. And then the messengers returned to Jerusalem. But Sheilah wanted to stay in Antioch with another apostle, Bar-Nabba, and some others, teaching and preaching the word of the gospel. After a spell, however, Bar-Nabba wished to visit our community at Cyprus. So Bar-Nabba took my nephew, Yochanan Mark, and sailed to Cyprus with him, to see to the assembly of the Nazarenes there. Thus was the beginning of the ingathering of the gentiles with us accomplished."
When Bar-Abba saw that Simon had finished speaking, he said, "Do you really have the SEMICHAH to bind and loosen all under Heaven?" "I do", answered Simon. "Then such a man as you ought not be bound up in prision but he must be loosened to complete his holy work", Bar-Abba said quietly. Before Simon could respond, Bar-Abba placed his finger to his lips, motioning for him to be silent. Then he went out.
Then Bar-Abba came back in the middle of the night and hit Simon on the side, and woke him, saying, "Get up, quick!." He loosened the chains from his hands, and motioned Simon to be silent, and whispered to Simon, "Put your coat on and follow me." So Simon followed him. When they were past the first and the second wards, they came to the iron gate that leads to the city. Bar-Abba led him out to the street. "What will you tell the guards", asked Simon. "Don't worry", answered Daddy's Boy, "I'll just say that I thought you could be trusted but when I turned my back, you hit me, took the keys, and slipped out."
Simon made his way quickly away from the prison and disappeared into the night.
When he was safely away, Simon told all who heard him of the trustee named Jesus "Daddy's Boy" who had helped him escape.
It was not until long afterwards that Simon learned that Jesus Bar-Abba had been killed by the Romans years before he, Simon, had been arrested.
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