He could hear the roar of the crowd overhead and he was afraid. In the crowded underground cell, he could see the fear etched on everyone’s faces. The fear was overpowering, you could almost smell it. It mingled with the oppressive heat causing him to bow to his knees in the dark recesses of the cell. All around him he could see others doing the same. He watched as his parents embraced each other, raised their faces upward, and began to pray.

They had lived a simple life in a village not far from Jerusalem. His father had been a potter and his mother tended the house and his siblings. They were well liked and pillars of the village. They never caused any trouble, paid their taxes on time, helped their neighbors, and were prosperous. That all changed when the Messiah came.

One day they heard shouting from the other side of the village. Curious, they found the source. A man was standing beside the village well. They watched spellbound as he somehow healed a neighbor of theirs. They had known the neighbor for many years and when his eyesight returned they were amazed and curious. They listened as the man told them that God loved them. They began following Him and listened to what He had to say. They accepted Him into their hearts and became Christians.

It wasn’t long after that when the Roman authorities perceived Jesus as a threat and sent him to trial. There he was convicted and sentenced to death, He endured a horrible beating and was crucified. After this, the Roman authorities began persecuting the churches that the disciples had established. The Christians were arrested and given one option. Renounce Jesus or die.

He remembered his family, along with others, going before the tribunal. When told to renounce him they had refused. They were led away, put on a slave ship, and sent to Rome where they were locked up in a cell below the Coliseum.

Today was their execution day.

He could hear the roar of the beasts over the crowd’s cheering and hand clapping. Their cell was the last one in line. He could hear the footsteps and the laughter of the soldiers as they came for them. Opening the cell, they prodded the victims down a dusty hallway with their swords and spears. Stopping in front of a massive gate, they waited for a signal.

Trumpets blared, the crowd roared, the gates swung open and they were shoved into the arena. They entered a scene that was horrific. Blood and human body parts were strewn everywhere. In a far corner of the arena, they could see a pack of lions devouring something. The lions saw them, left what they were eating, and began stalking them.

Jabez watched as his father took his mother into his arms and said, “Today we will be with Jesus. This will be over soon. Be brave.”

He watched as a massive lion kill both of them with a single swipe of his paw. In horror, he watched the lion begin to eat their bodies. As he watched, another lion took him down, clamped its jaws on his throat, and disemboweled him with its hind claws.

As his spirit rose upward he saw Jesus motioning for him to come. He saw his parents at His side.

“Come to me, my son,” He said,” pain and death have been defeated, Heaven awaits. Let us go home.”

May 26, 2022