Silas gave up everything to write the Word of God.
His wealth allowed him a position of power. His obedience led him to give up his worldly possessions. His humility helped him dedicate his life to recording the words of others. After the death and resurrection of Jesus, Peter and Paul preached to the nations, carrying Christ’s message to all who would listen. But when they were silenced, it was their scribe Silas who brought their words to future generations. Includes an in-depth Bible study, perfect for personal reflection or group discussion.
Silas sat at his writing table. His mind screamed why? as his dreams collapsed in grief and defeat. Clenching his hands, he tried to still the shaking. He dared not mix the ink or attempt to write now, for he would only ruin a section of new papyrus. He breathed in slowly, but could not calm his raging emotions.
“Lord, why does it always come to this?” Resting his elbows on the table, he covered his face with his hands. He could not blot out the horrific images.
Peter’s wife screaming.
Peter calling out to her in anguish from where he was bound. “Remember the Lord! Remember the Lord!”
The Roman throng mocking the big fisherman from Galilee.
Silas groaned. Oh, Lord. Even had I been blind, I would have heard the wrath of Satan against mankind in that arena, the lustful rejoicing at bloodshed. He murders men, and they help him do it!
Silas felt pierced anew by the memory of seeing Christ crucified. At the time, Silas had questioned whether Jesus was the Messiah, but nonetheless he had been appalled by the cruelty of the Jews celebrating the death of a fellow Jew, that they could hate one of their own so much they would stand and mock him as he hung on the cross, beaten past recognition. They had stood sneering, calling out in contempt, “He saved others, but He can’t save himself!”
Now, Silas tried to see past this world into the next, as Stephen had when members of the high council had stoned him outside the gates of Jerusalem. But all Silas saw was the darkness of men, the triumph of evil. I am tired, Lord. I am sick of this life. All Your apostles, save John, are martyred. Is anyone else left who saw Your face?
Lord, please take me home, I beg of You. Don’t leave me here among these wretched people. I want to come home to You.
His eyes grew hot as he put shaking hands over his ears. “Forgive me, Lord. Forgive me. I’m afraid. I admit it. I’m terrified. Not of death, but of dying.” Even now, Silas could hear the echoes on Vatican Hill, where Nero’s circus stood.
When his wife lay dead, Peter had bowed his head and wept.
The crowd had cheered when a cross was brought forth. “Yes! Crucify him! Crucify him!”
Peter’s voice boomed above the noise. “I am not worthy to die as my Lord did! I am not worthy!”
“Coward!” Romans screamed. “He pleads for his life!” Romans—so quick to worship courage—failed to recognize it in the man before them. They shrieked curses and cried out for further torture.
“Burn him alive!”
“Feed him to the lions!”
The big fisherman had left the shores of Galilee to throw the net of God’s love to save masses drowning in sin. But the people swam in Satan’s current. Peter had not asked for an easier death, only one different from the one his precious Lord had suffered.
Peter had never forgotten, had often recounted his failure to Silas. “The Lord said I would deny Him three times before the rooster crowed, and that’s exactly what I did.” When the Romans nailed Peter to the cross, Silas had bowed his head. He couldn’t watch.
Did I betray him the way he betrayed You, Lord? Did I fail him in his hour of need? When he looked again, he saw the centurion leaning down over Peter, listening. The Roman straightened, then stood for a moment before summoning two others. They levered up the cross and added ropes. Peter’s body writhed in agony, but he made no sound.
The crew of soldiers strained at the task of turning the cross upside down.
The mob went quiet, and in that single moment Peter called out, his deep voice carrying up through the rows of spectators. “Forgive them, Father; they don’t know what they are doing.”
The Master’s words.
Tears had welled in Silas’s eyes.
It had taken all his will to stand in the arch in the upper corridor and keep his eyes fixed upon Peter in his suffering. “Pray when I face my death, Silas,” Peter had requested weeks before his capture. “Pray that I will remain faithful to the end.”
And so Silas had prayed, fiercely, determined, in anguish, in fear. Lord, if it ever comes to this for me, let me in faith endure to the end as Peter did. Do not let me recant what I know! You are the way, the truth, and the life. Lord, give my friend comfort in his agony. Lord, give Your beloved servant Peter strength to cling tightly to his faith in You. Lord, let him see You as Stephen did! Fill him with the joy of homecoming. Speak to him now, Lord. Please say those words we all long to hear: “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
He was, Lord. Your servant Peter was faithful.
God, I beg of You, let this be the last execution I witness!
Last night Silas had awakened, certain he heard Paul’s voice dictating another letter. Relieved, joyous, he had jumped up. “Paul!” The dream was so vivid it took a moment for the truth to strike him. When it did, it felt like a physical blow. Paul’s dead.
Silas put his hands flat on the writing table. “You are the resurrection and the life.” He must remind himself. “The resurrection.” What were the words John had said when they last met in Ephesus? “Anyone who believes in Jesus will have . . .” No. That isn’t right. “Anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life.” Paul’s words echoed in his mind. “While we were utterly helpless, Christ died for us sinners.” John’s conviction cried out to him. “Love each other . . .”
A shout from outside made Silas stiffen. Were they coming for him now? Would he face another imprisonment, another flogging, more torture? If I try to escape suffering by telling them I’m a Roman citizen, will that make me a coward? It’s true, but I despise everything about this empire. I hate that even in the smallest way I’m part of it. Lord, I was strong once. I was. Not anymore . . .
Paul’s voice echoed again. “When I am weak, then I am strong. . . .”
Silas gripped his head. “You, my friend, not I . . .”
He could not think clearly here in the confines of Rome with the cacophony of voices, trampling feet, vendors’ cries. The mob, the ever insatiable mob on his heels. I have to get out of here! I have to get away from this place!
He scrambled to gather his writing materials and few possessions. The scrolls! He must safeguard the scrolls!
Heart pounding, Silas left the small, stifling room.
The proprietor spotted him the moment he came out the door, as though the man had been watching for him. “You there!” He crossed the narrow street. “You’re leaving?”
“My business here is finished.”
“You don’t look well. Perhaps you should stay a few more days.”
Silas glanced at him. The man cared nothing about his health. Money was all the man wanted—more money.
The noise of humanity seemed to grow louder around Silas. Wolf faces everywhere. Romulus and Remus’s offspring filled the street. Silas looked at the people milling about, talking, shouting, laughing, arguing. The poor lived here—huddled, hungry masses that needed so much more than food. They reeked of discontent, cursing one another over the least provocation. These were the people Rome appeased with blood sport. It kept their minds from dwelling on the lack of grain.
Silas looked into the proprietor’s eyes. Paul would have spoken the words of life to him. Peter would have spoken of Jesus.
“What?” The proprietor frowned.
Let him die, Silas thought. Why should I cast pearls before this pig? “Perhaps I’ve got the fever,” he said. “It swept through the village where I stayed a few weeks ago.” True enough. Better than saying, “I went to the games three days ago, and watched two of my closest friends executed. All I want now is to get as far away from this wretched city as I can. And if the whole population of Rome is sucked down to hell, I will stand and shout praises to God for their destruction!”
As Silas expected, the proprietor drew back in alarm. “Fever? Yes, you must go.”
“Yes, I must.” Silas smiled tightly. “Plagues spread quickly in narrow streets, don’t they?” Especially the plague of sin. “I paid for a week, didn’t I?”
The man blanched. “I don’t remember.”
“I didn’t think you would.” Silas shouldered his pack and walked away.
After several days of walking, Silas reached Puteoli. He did not have the stamina he once had, nor the heart.
He made his way to the harbor and wandered in the marketplace. Where do I go from here, Lord? Semaphores flashed, signaling the arrival of grain ships, probably from Egypt. Workers hurried past him, hastening to unload sacks of grain, carry them to the mensores for weighing. Other vessels anchored farther out, lenuncularii operating tenders between ship and shore. Merchandise came from all over the empire to satisfy the Roman markets: corn, cattle, wine, and wool from Sicily; horses from Spain; slaves from Britannia and Germania; marble from Greece; multicolored rugs from Asshur. The port was a good place to lose himself and still find what he most needed.
The scents made Silas’s head swim: salt-sea air, animal dung, spices, wine, and human sweat. Seagulls screeched overhead as fish were piled on a cart. Criers shouted goods for sale. Sheep bleated from holding pens. Wild dogs from Britannia snarled from crates. Foreign slaves stood naked on platforms, sweating in the sun as they were auctioned. One fought against his bonds while a woman and child were pulled away. Though he shouted in a strange language, his anguish was well understood. The woman’s weeping turned to hysterical screams as her child was wrenched from her. She tried to reach him, but was dragged in another direction. The child wailed in terror, arms outstretched toward his mother.
Throat tight, Silas turned away. He couldn’t escape injustice and misery. It was all around him, threatening to suffocate him. The seed of sin planted centuries ago in the Garden of Eden had taken root and spread its shoots of wickedness everywhere. And all feasted on this poisonous fruit that would bring them nothing but death.
It was late afternoon when he saw a familiar symbol carved into a post of a booth filled with barrels of olives and baskets of pomegranates, dates, figs, and nuts. His stomach growled. His mouth watered. He hadn’t eaten anything since leaving The Three Taverns two days ago.
He listened to the proprietor bargain with a woman. “You know these are the best dates in all the empire.”
“And you know I cannot pay such a high price.”
Neither shouted nor grew vitriolic, a common occurrence in marketplaces. She made an offer; he countered. She shook her head and made another offer. He laughed and made yet another. When they reached agreement, the proprietor grabbed a handful of dried dates and put them on his scale. He wrapped them in a cloth the woman handed him and received payment. As she walked away, he turned his attention to Silas. “Olives? Dates?”
Silas shook his head. He had spent his last coin on bread. He looked at the symbol carved into the pole. Had this grinning pirate put it there? Before he could find a way to ask, the man cocked his head and frowned. “I know you. Don’t I?”
“We’ve never met.”
“You look familiar.”
Silas’s heart pounded. He thought of turning away, but where would he go? “I am a friend of Theophilus.”
The man’s eyes cleared. “Ah!” He grinned. “How is he these days?”
“Not well.” Silas took a step back, thinking he might have made a mistake in saying anything to this man.
The merchant glanced one way and then the other and beckoned Silas closer. “Silas. Is that not your name?”
“Do not look distressed, my friend,” the man said quickly. He dropped his voice. “I heard you preach once, in Corinth. Years ago—five, maybe six. You look tired. Are you hungry?”
Silas couldn’t answer.
The man grabbed some dates and figs and pressed them into Silas’s hand. “Go to the end of the street; turn left. Follow that street to the end. It will wind like a serpent before you reach your destination. Pass two fountains. Take the first street on the right just after. Knock on the door of the third house. Ask for Epanetus.”
Could he remember all that, or would he find himself wandering Puteoli all night? “Whom shall I say sent me?”
“My apologies. In my excitement at meeting you, I forgot to introduce myself.” He laughed. “I’m Urbanus.” He leaned forward and said gruffly, “You are an answer to many prayers.”
Silas felt the weight of the man’s expectations. “Peter is dead.”
Urbanus gave a solemn nod. “We heard.”
So soon? “How?”
“Bad news travels fast. Our brother Patrobas arrived day before yesterday. He could not find you in the catacombs.”
Patrobas. Silas knew him well. “I feared someone might follow and others be taken.”
“We feared you had been arrested.” Urbanus grasped Silas’s arms. “God has answered our prayers. You are well. We did not expect the added blessing of your presence here.”
Blessing? This man remembered his face from one encounter. What if others, enemies, also recognized him as Peter’s scribe? His presence might endanger these brothers and sisters.
Lord, will all we’ve worked for be destroyed in a bloodbath?
Urbanus leaned closer. “Do not look so troubled, my friend. Puteoli is a busy city. Everyone has an eye to business and little else. People come; people go.” He repeated the directions, slowly this time. “I would show you the way myself, but I cannot entrust my booth to others. They’re all thieves . . . just as I once was.” He laughed again and slapped Silas on the shoulder. “Go. I will see you later.” He called to a group of women passing by. “Come! See what good olives I have! The best in the empire!”
Urbanus did not lie. Two dates and a fig took the sharp edge of hunger away, and they did taste better than anything Silas had eaten in Rome. He kept the rest in the pouch tied to his belt.
The day was hot, and Silas felt sweat trickle down his back as he walked. Merchants’ booths gave way to streets lined with tenements. Shoulders aching, he shifted his pack. Over the years, he had carried far heavier loads than this, but the weight of the scrolls seemed to increase with every step.
A servant opened the door when he knocked. The Ethiopian’s inscrutable gaze took Silas in from dusty head to sandaled feet.
“I am looking for the house of Epanetus.”
“This is the house of Epanetus. Who may I tell my master is come?”
“A friend of Theophilus.”
The servant opened the door wider. “I am Macombo. Come. Enter in.” He closed the door firmly behind Silas. “Wait here.” He strode away.
It was the house of a rich man. Pillared corridors and frescoed walls. An open court with a white marble statue of a woman pouring water from an urn. The sound of the water made Silas realize his thirst. He swallowed hard and longed to shrug the pack from his shoulders and sit.
Footsteps approached—the hurried slap of sandals. A tall, broad-shouldered man strode across the courtyard. His short-cropped hair was gray, his features strongly carved. “I am Epanetus.”
“Urbanus sent me.”
“Which Urbanus would that be?”
Caution was to be expected. “From the agora.” Silas opened his pouch and took out a handful of plump dates.
Epanetus laughed. “Ah, yes. ‘The best dates and figs in all the empire.’” He extended his hands. “You are welcome here.”
Silas received the greeting, knowing his own response was somewhat less enthusiastic.
“Come.” Epanetus gave a quiet order to Macombo and then led Silas across the court, through an archway, and into another area of the house. Several people sat in a large room. Silas recognized one of them.
Patrobas came swiftly to his feet. “Silas!” Grinning broadly, he came to embrace him. “We feared you were lost to us.” He drew back and kept one hand firmly on Silas’s arm as he addressed the others. “God has answered our prayers.”
They surrounded him. The heartfelt greetings broke down Silas’s last defenses. Shoulders sagging, he bowed his head and wept.
No one spoke for a moment, and then they all spoke at once.
“Pour him a little wine.”
“Sit. Have something to eat.”
“Macombo, set the tray here.”
Patrobas frowned and guided Silas. “Rest here.”
When someone took hold of his pack, Silas instinctively gripped it tighter. “No!”
“You are safe here,” Epanetus said. “Consider my home yours.”
Silas felt ashamed. “I must safeguard these scrolls.”
“Put the pack here beside you,” Patrobas said. “No one will touch it unless you give permission.”
Exhausted, Silas sat. He saw nothing but love and compassion in the faces surrounding him. A woman looked up at him, eyes welling with tears. Her concern pierced him. “Letters.” He managed to shrug the pack from his shoulders and set it down beside him. “Copies of those Paul sent to the Corinthians. And Peter’s.” His voice broke. Covering his face, he tried to regain control and couldn’t. His shoulders shook with his sobs.
Someone squeezed his shoulder. They wept with him, their love leaving no room for embarrassment.
“Our friend is with the Lord.” Patrobas’s voice was thick with grief.
“Yes. No one can harm him or his wife now.”
“They stand in the Lord’s presence as we speak.”
As I long to be, Silas wanted to cry out. Oh, to see Jesus’ face again! To have an end of trials, an end to fear, an end to the attack of doubt when he least expected it. I am losing the battle inside myself, Lord.
“We must hold firm to that which we know is true.”
Paul’s words, spoken so long ago. They had been sitting in a dungeon, darkness surrounding them, their bodies laced with pain from a brutal whipping. “Hold fast,” he had said.
“I’m trying,” Silas moaned.
“What is he saying?”
Silas mumbled into his hands. “Jesus died for our sins and was raised from the grave on the third day. . . .” But all he could see was the Lord on the cross, Paul beheaded, Peter crucified. He pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes.
“Shhhh . . .”
“Silas.” A firm hand this time, a Roman hand. A tray laden with food was set before him. Epanetus and Patrobas encouraged him to eat. Silas took bread in trembling hands and tore it. This is My body. . . . He held the two halves, shaking. “Do I dare eat of it?”
Whispers of concern.
Epanetus poured wine into a cup and held it out to him. “Drink.” Silas stared at the red fluid. This is My blood. . . . He remembered Jesus on the cross, blood and water pouring from the spear wound in His side. He remembered Peter hanging upside down.
Pain gripped his chest. His heart raced faster and faster. The room grew dark.
He heard the roaring of the Roman mob. Hands grabbed hold of him. So be it, Lord. If I die, there will be an end of suffering. And rest. Please, Lord. Let me rest.
“Silas . . .” A woman’s voice this time. Close. He felt her breath on his face. “Don’t leave us. . . .”
Voices above and around him, and then no sound at all.
Silas roused, confused. A clay lamp burned on a stand. Someone came close. A cool hand rested on his brow. Silas groaned and closed his eyes. His throat squeezed tight and hot.
A strong arm slid beneath him and raised him. “Drink.” Macombo held a cup to Silas’s lips.
Something warm and sweetened with honey.
“A little more. It will help you sleep.”
Silas remembered and struggled to rise. “Where are they? Where . . . ? The letters!”
“Here.” Macombo lifted the pack.
Silas took it and clutched it close, sighing as he lay back on the bed.
“No one will take anything from you, Silas.”
Voices came and went, along with dreams. Paul spoke to him across a campfire. Luke dressed his wounds. They sang as they followed the Roman road. He awakened to footsteps and fell asleep again. Paul paced, agitated, and Silas shook his head. “If you will but rest, my friend, and pray, the words will come.”
Voices again, familiar now. Macombo and Epanetus.
“To whom does he speak?”
“I don’t know.”
“Silas . . .”
He opened his eyes. A woman stood with the sunlight at her back. When she came close, he frowned. “I don’t know you.”
“I’m Diana. You’ve been sleeping a long time.”
“Diana . . .” He tried to remember. He had seen her face, but where?
She put her hand on his shoulder. “I’ll just sit with you awhile.”
“How is he?” Epanetus spoke from somewhere close.
“He has no fever.”
“His dreams trouble him.”
Time passed; how much, Silas didn’t know or care. He awakened again to voices in the corridor outside the room.
“It’s not just exhaustion that makes him sleep so long. It’s grief.”
“Give him time. He will find his strength in the Lord.”
Murmuring and then Macombo’s voice. “He seems little interested in food or drink.”
“I heard him speak in Corinth,” said Urbanus, the pirate merchant who sold the best dates in the empire. “He was magnificent. Think of the honor the Lord has bestowed on us by sending him here. Silas saw Jesus in the flesh.”
“And saw Him crucified.” Patrobas spoke with quiet firmness.
“And risen! We’ve only heard about the Lord. We never saw Him face-to-face. We never ate with Him or walked with Him. . . .”
Silas put his arm over his eyes.
“Let him rest a little longer before you try to wake him. It’s only been three days, and he’s endured more than any of us. . . .”
Three days! No matter how much Silas might long to escape the sorrow of this world, he could not will himself to heaven. He reached down. The pack of precious scrolls lay beside him. His body ached as he sat up. He rubbed his face. His joints and muscles screamed as he stood. He rolled his shoulders and stretched slowly. Raising his hands in habitual praise, he prayed. “This is a day that You have made, Lord, and I will rejoice in it.” He might not feel like it, but he would do so in obedience. Grudging obedience.
Dogged, determined, he picked up the pack and followed the sound of retreating voices. He stood in the archway of a large room. Men and women of all ages sat together, enjoying a meal. Silas stayed in the shadowed corridor, studying them. He saw meat on a fine pottery platter, and fruit being passed in a simple, woven basket. Everyone had brought something to share.
A love feast.
Silas remembered the gatherings in Jerusalem, the first year after Jesus ascended, the excitement, the joy, the openhanded charity between brothers and sisters.
Jerusalem! How he longed to go home to those halcyon days.
But even if he could go back to Judea, he knew nothing would be the same. Persecution had driven the followers of Jesus to other cities and provinces, leaving behind Jewish factions that constantly warred with one another. One day, Rome would make peace for them, with the army, the way Rome always made peace. If only they would listen!
Jesus had warned of Jerusalem’s destruction. John had told Luke what Jesus said, and Luke had written it all down in the history he was collecting. The good doctor had been hard at work on it during the years Silas had known him, when they both traveled with Paul. A kind man, educated, inquisitive. A gifted physician. Paul would have died several times if not for Luke’s ministrations. And I along with him.
Had Luke escaped from Rome? Had he gone back to Corinth or Ephesus?
Timothy’s most recent letter said John was living in Ephesus. Mary, Jesus’ mother, lived with him. Her sons, James and Jude, who became believers when they saw the risen Christ, had joined the apostles on the council in Jerusalem.
Startled from his reverie, Silas saw Epanetus cross the room. “Come. Join us.” Patrobas rose, as did several others.
Epanetus led Silas to a place of honor. Diana rose and prepared a plate of food for him. She smiled into his eyes when he thanked her. A young man sitting beside her whispered in her ear. “Not now, Curiatus,” she replied.
Everyone talked at once, until Epanetus laughed and raised his hands. “Quiet, everyone! Give Silas time to eat before we attack him with questions.”
They talked among themselves again, but Silas felt their glances. He gave silent thanks to God for what was placed before him. Pork, and judging by the quality, from a pig fattened in oak forests. A Roman delicacy, and unclean by Mosaic law. He took some fruit instead. Even now, after years of being freed from the Mosaic law, he had difficulty eating pork.
Others arrived—a family with several children, a young couple, two older men . . . The room filled. And each wanted to meet him, to clasp his hand.
Silas felt alone in the midst of them, trapped inside himself, captive to thoughts that buzzed like angry bees. He longed for solitude, and knew how ungrateful it would be to rise and leave them now. And where could he go other than that silent room with its rich surroundings that reminded him of things he had worked so hard to forget?
Everyone had finished eating, and he lost his appetite. He saw their expectation, felt their hunger to hear him speak.
The boy spoke first. “You knew the Lord Jesus, didn’t you?” He ignored his mother’s hand on his arm. “Would you tell us about Him?”
And then the others began. “Tell us everything, Silas.”
“What was He like?”
“How did He look?”
“What did you feel when you were in His presence?”
“And the apostles? You knew them all, didn’t you? What were they like?” The boy again, all eyes and pleading. “Will you teach us as you’ve taught others?”
Hadn’t he preached hundreds of times in dozens of towns from Jerusalem to Antioch to Thessalonica? Hadn’t he told the story of Jesus crucified and risen to small crowds and large, some praising God, others mocking and hostile? Hadn’t he worked with Timothy in teaching the Corinthians? He had traveled thousands of miles alongside Paul, establishing churches in city after city.
Yet, here among these friendly, hospitable brothers and sisters, he could think of nothing to say.
Silas looked from one face to another, trying to sort his thoughts, trying to think where to start, when all he could see in his mind’s eye was Peter hanging upside down, his blood forming a growing pool beneath him.
Everyone was looking at him, waiting, eager.
“I fear . . .” His voice broke. He felt as though someone had clamped strong hands around his throat. He swallowed convulsively and waited until the sensation passed. “I fear I endanger you.” He spoke the truth, but doubted it commended him. “Paul is beheaded; Peter crucified. The apostles are scattered, most martyred. No one can replace these great witnesses of God. No one can speak the message of Christ as effectively as they have.”
“You spoke effectively in Corinth,” Urbanus said. “Your every word pierced my heart.”
“The Holy Spirit pierces you, not I. And that was a long time ago, when I was younger and stronger than I am today.” Stronger in body; stronger in faith. His eyes blurred with tears. “A few days ago in Rome, I watched a dear friend die a horrible death because he carried the testimony of God. I don’t think I can go on. . . .”
“You were Peter’s secretary,” Patrobas said.
Leading words. They wanted to draw him out into the open.
“Yes, and my presence brings danger to all of you.”
“A danger we welcome, Silas.” The others murmured agreement with Epanetus’s firm declaration.
“Please. Teach us.” The boy spoke again.
He was not much younger than Timothy had been the first time Silas met him. Diana looked at him with her beautiful dark eyes, so full of compassion. His heart squeezed at the sight. What could he say to make them understand what he didn’t understand himself? Oh, Lord, I can’t talk about crucifixion. I can’t talk about the cross . . . not Yours or Peter’s.
He shook his head, eyes downcast. “I regret, I cannot think clearly enough to teach.” He fumbled with the pack beside him. “But I’ve brought letters.” Exact copies he had made from originals. He looked at Epanetus, desperate, appealing to him as host. “Perhaps someone here can read the letters.”
“Yes. Of course.” Smiling, Epanetus rose.
Silas took one out and, with shaking hand, presented it to the Roman.
Epanetus read one of Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. When he finished, he held the scroll for a moment before carefully rolling it and giving it back to Silas. “We have yearned for such meat as this.”
Silas carefully tucked the scroll away.
“Can we read another?” Curiatus had moved closer.
Patrobas read one of Peter’s letters. Silas had made many copies of it and sent them to many of the churches he had helped Paul start.
“Peter makes it clear you were a great help to him, Silas.”
Silas was touched by Diana’s praise, and wary because of his feelings. “The words are Peter’s.”
“Beautifully written in Greek,” Patrobas pointed out. “Hardly Peter’s native language.”
What could he say without sounding boastful? Yes, he had helped Peter refine his thoughts and put them into proper Greek. Peter had been a fisherman, working to put food on his family’s table. While Peter had toiled over his nets, Silas had sat in comfort, yoked to an exacting rabbi who demanded every word of the Torah be memorized. God had chosen Peter as one of His twelve companions. And Peter had chosen Silas to be his secretary. By God’s grace and mercy, Silas had accompanied Peter and his wife on their journey to Rome. He would be forever humbled and thankful for the years he spent with them.
Though Aramaic was the common language of Judea, Silas could speak and write Hebrew and Greek as well as Latin. He spoke Egyptian enough to get by in conversation.
Every day, he thanked God that he had been allowed to use what gifts he had to serve the Lord’s servants.
“What was it like to walk with Jesus?”
The boy again. Insatiable youth. So much like Timothy. “I did not travel with Him, nor was I among those He chose.”
“But you knew Him.”
“I knew of Him. Twice, I met Him and spoke with Him. I know Him now as Savior and Lord, just as you do. He abides in me, and I in Him through the Holy Spirit.” He put his hand against his chest. Lord, Lord, would I have the faith of Peter to endure if I were nailed to a cross?
“Are you all right, Silas? Are you in pain again?”
He shook his head. He was in no physical danger. Not here. Not now.
“How many of the twelve disciples did you know?” “What were they like?”
So many questions—the same ones he’d answered countless times before in casual gatherings from Antioch to Rome.
“He knew them all,” Patrobas said into the silence. “He sat on the Jerusalem council.”
Silas forced his mind to focus. “They were strangers to me during the years Jesus preached.” Jesus’ closest companions were not people with whom Silas would have wanted contact. Fishermen, a zealot, a tax collector. He would have avoided their company, for any commerce with them would have damaged his reputation. It was only later that they became his beloved brothers. “I heard Jesus speak once near the shores of Galilee and several times at the Temple.”
Curiatus leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and his chin in his hands. “What was it like to be in His presence?”
“The first time I met Him, I thought He was a young rabbi wise beyond His years. But when He spoke and I looked into His eyes, I was afraid.” He shook his head, thinking back. “Not afraid. Terrified.”
“But He was kind and merciful. So we’ve been told.”
“So He is.”
“What did He look like?”
“I heard He glowed like gold and fire poured from His lips.”
“On a mountain once, Peter, James, and John saw Him transfigured, but Jesus left His glory behind and came to us as a man. I saw Him several times. There was nothing in Jesus’ physical appearance to attract people to Him. But when He spoke, He did so with the full authority of God.” Silas’s thoughts drifted to those days before He knew the Lord personally, days filled with rumors, whispered questions, while the priests gathered in tight circles, grumbling in Temple corridors. It had been their behavior most of all that sent Silas to Galilee to see for himself who this Jesus was. He had sensed their fear and later witnessed their ferocious jealousy.
Epanetus put his hand on Silas’s shoulder. “Enough, my friends. Silas is tired. And it is late.”
As the others rose, the boy pressed between two men and came to him. “Can I talk with you? Just for a little while.”
Diana reached for him, cheeks flushed, eyes full of apology. “You heard Epanetus, my son. Come. The meeting is over for the evening. Give the man rest.” She drew her son away.
“Could we come back tomorrow?”
“Later. Perhaps. After work . . .”
Curiatus glanced back. “You won’t leave, will you? You have words of truth to speak.”
“He wrote all those scrolls, Mother. He could write all he’s seen and heard. . . .”
Diana put her arm around her son and spoke softly, but with more firmness this time, as she led him from the room.
Epanetus saw everyone safely away. When he returned, he smiled. “Curiatus is right. It would be a good thing if you would write a record.”
Silas had spent most of his life writing letters, putting down onto scrolls the encouragement and instructions of men inspired by God. The council in Jerusalem, James, Paul, Peter. “For the most part, I helped others sort and express their thoughts.”
“Would it not help you to sort your thoughts and feelings if you did? You suffer, Silas. We all can see that. You loved Peter and his wife. You loved Paul. It is never easy to lose a friend. And you’ve lost many.”
“My faith is weak.”
“Perhaps that is the best of all reasons for you to dwell on the past.” Epanetus spoke more seriously. “You have lived your life in service to others. Your ink-stained fingers are proof of it.”
The darkest part of night had come, a darkness that crushed Silas’s spirit. He looked down at his hands. They indicted him.
“Curiatus is named aptly.” Epanetus spoke gently. “But perhaps God brought you to us and put the idea in the boy’s head. Is that not possible?”
Silas closed his eyes. Can I dwell on the past without being undone by it? I regret, Lord; I regret the wasted years. Is that a sin, too?
Epanetus spread his hands. “Precious few are left who were in Judea when Jesus walked this earth.”
“That’s all too painfully true.” Silas heard his bitterness.
Epanetus sat, hands clasped, expression intense. “I will not share my story until I know you better, but know this: you are not alone in your struggle with faith. Whatever sorrow you carry other than the death of your friends is not hidden from the Lord. You know and I know Jesus died for all our sins and rose from the dead. Through faith in Him we have the promise of everlasting life. We will live forever in the presence of the Lord. But like the boy, I crave to know more about Jesus. So much of what we hear drifts away. Those scrolls, for example. Patrobas and I read two tonight. But if you leave tomorrow, how much will we all remember by next week or next month? And what of our children?”
“Another has already set about the task of writing the history: Luke, the physician.”
“I have heard of him. That’s wonderful news, Silas, but where is he now? He left Rome after Paul was beheaded, didn’t he? How long before we receive a copy of what he has written?”
“He was not the only one. Many have undertaken the task of compiling an account of things that happened and what’s been accomplished.”
“That may be so, Silas, but we have received nothing in the way of letters, other than the one written by Paul. You are here with us! We want to know what you learned from Peter and Paul. We want to see these men of faith as you did. They endured to the end. As you endure now. Share your life with us.”
“What you ask is a monumental task!” And I’m so weary, Lord. Let someone else do what he asks.
“The task is not beyond your abilities, Silas.” Epanetus gripped his arm. “Whatever you need, you have only to ask. Scrolls, ink, a safe place to write without interruption. God has blessed me with abundance so that I might bless others. Give me the blessing and honor to serve you.” The Roman stood. “May you be at peace with whatever God asks of you.”
“Epanetus!” Silas called out before he left him alone in the room. “It is not easy to look back.”
“I know.” The Roman stood in the doorway, mouth tipped. “But sometimes we must look back before we can move forward.”
The Scribe: Silas
SEEK GOD’S WORD FOR TRUTH
Read the following passage:
When they arrived in Jerusalem, Barnabas and Paul were welcomed by the whole church, including the apostles and elders. They reported everything God had done through them. But then some of the believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and insisted, “The Gentile converts must be circumcised and required to follow the law of Moses.”
So the apostles and elders met together to resolve this issue. Peter stood and addressed them as follows: “God knows people’s hearts, and he confirmed that he accepts Gentiles. He made no distinction between us and them, for he cleansed their hearts through faith. We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.”
James stood and said, “My judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead, we should write and tell them to abstain from eating food offered to idols, from sexual immorality, from eating the meat of strangled animals, and from consuming blood.”
Then the apostles and elders together with the whole church in Jerusalem chose delegates, and they sent them to Antioch of Syria with Paul and Barnabas to report on this decision. The men chosen were two of the church leaders—Judas (also called Barsabbas) and Silas.
The messengers went at once to Antioch, where they called a general meeting of the believers and delivered the letter. And there was great joy throughout the church that day as they read this encouraging message.
Then Judas and Silas, both being prophets, spoke at length to the believers, encouraging and strengthening their faith.
After some time Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s go back and visit each city where we previously preached the word of the Lord, to see how the new believers are doing.” Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark. But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in their work. Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus. Paul chose Silas, and as he left, the believers entrusted him to the Lord’s gracious care.
ACTS 15:4-11, 13, 19-20, 22, 30-33, 36-40
- What was the concern of the early church leaders that led to this general meeting?
- Which noteworthy leaders were present?
- Who was chosen to accompany Paul and Barnabas to deliver the letter? How were these two men specifically gifted?
- What was their mission? How were they received?
- What events took place to part Barnabas and Paul?
- Whom did Paul choose as a travel companion, and where did they go?
FIND GOD’S WAYS FOR YOU
- Have you ever tried to impose restrictions on others? What happened?
- Share a time when someone imposed restrictions on you. How did that work out?
- Whom do you need to encourage and lift up? What stops you from doing so?
STOP AND PONDER
Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. Encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
SEEK GOD’S WORD FOR TRUTH
In this story, the teachings of Christ disturbed Silas. Read the following words of Jesus, and see how they might be difficult for a prominent leader to hear and accept:
Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? You are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.
MATTHEW 5:44, 46-48
- What does Jesus expect? Why?
If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?
MATTHEW 16:24, 26
- How might Jesus’ expectations have bothered Silas?
If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.
MATTHEW 10:37, 39
- Why would Silas have struggled with these words of Jesus?
Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private.
When you pray, don’t babble on and on. Your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!
MATTHEW 6:1, 3-8
- What instructions does Jesus give here? What warnings?
- Who would Silas think Jesus was talking about? Why might he be bothered?
Don’t store up treasures here on earth. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
MATTHEW 6:19, 21, 24
- Again, what does Jesus expect and why?
- How might these words have disturbed Silas before he chose to follow Christ?
FIND GOD’S WAYS FOR YOU
- Which of these teachings seem difficult for today’s culture? Which seem unfair?
- What seems to be the recurring theme?
- Which teaching is difficult for you personally? Why?
STOP AND PONDER
Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.
SEEK GOD’S WORD FOR TRUTH
Read the following passage:
On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.
At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem. When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers.
They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee, and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages about the wonderful things God has done!” They stood there amazed and perplexed. “What can this mean?”
But others in the crowd ridiculed them, saying, “They’re just drunk, that’s all!”
Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles and shouted to the crowd, “Listen carefully, all of you, fellow Jews and residents of Jerusalem! Make no mistake about this. What you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel:
‘In the last days,’ God says,
‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
Your young men will see visions,
and your old men will dream dreams.
In those days I will pour out my Spirit
even on my servants—men and women alike—
and they will prophesy.
And I will cause wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below
before that great and glorious day of the Lord arrives.
But everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
“People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know. But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him. But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip. And we are all witnesses of this.”
Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”
Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is to you, and to your children, and even to the Gentiles—all who have been called by the Lord our God.”
Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.
All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.
ACTS 2:1-8, 11-14, 16-24, 32,37-39, 41-42
- Discuss the prayer meeting described in this passage. Who was meeting together and why? Describe what took place.
- How did the people respond?
- What did Peter do?
- What are some key points from Peter’s message that day?
- What were the results of Peter’s message? Why do you think this happened?
FIND GOD’S WAYS FOR YOU
- Where do you spend your time and with whom? Why?
- What influence do you have on other people? What influence do they have on you?
- What lasting effect will your life have? What lasting effect do you want it to have?
STOP AND PONDER
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
SEEK GOD’S WORD FOR TRUTH
Read the following passage:
Paul went first to Derbe and then to Lystra, where there was a young disciple named Timothy. His mother was a Jewish believer, but his father was a Greek. Timothy was well thought of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium, so Paul wanted him to join them on their journey.
Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time.
That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!”
We boarded a boat at Troas and sailed straight across to the island of Samothrace, and the next day we landed at Neapolis. From there we reached Philippi, a major city of that district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. And we stayed there several days.
On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we thought people would be meeting for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had gathered there. One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth, who worshiped God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying. She was baptized along with other members of her household, and she asked us to be her guests. “If you agree that I am a true believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my home.” And she urged us until we agreed.
One day as we were going down to the place of prayer, we met a demon-possessed slave girl. She was a fortune-teller who earned a lot of money for her masters. She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, and they have come to tell you how to be saved.”
This went on day after day until Paul got so exasperated that he turned and said to the demon within her, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And instantly it left her.
Her masters’ hopes of wealth were now shattered, so they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them before the authorities at the marketplace. “The whole city is in an uproar because of these Jews!” they shouted to the city officials. “They are teaching customs that are illegal for us Romans to practice.”
A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods. They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks.
Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!”
The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household. Even at that hour of the night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds. Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized. He brought them into his house and set a meal before them, and he and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God.
ACTS 16:1-2, 6, 9, 11-34
- While in Lystra, Paul and Silas met Timothy. Discuss that encounter and the results.
- Why did they travel to Phrygia and Galatia? Why did they avoid Asia?
- Describe the encounters in Philippi.
- What led to Paul and Silas’s imprisonment? How did they demonstrate their peace?
- Discuss the earthquake and how the two missionaries responded.
- What were the results of their disciplined response in the midst of mayhem?
FIND GOD’S WAYS FOR YOU
- How do you handle the unexpected?
- Describe a time God kept you safe.
- What “chains” are keeping you imprisoned?
STOP AND PONDER
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
SEEK GOD’S WORD FOR TRUTH
Silas traveled with both Paul and Peter. In this story, he wrestled with the issue of celibacy versus marriage in relation to serving God. The following passages may shed some light on why this may have been a struggle for Silas.
The apostle Paul wrote:
Now regarding the questions you asked in your letter. Yes, it is good to live a celibate life. But because there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband.
I say to those who aren’t married and to widows—it’s better to stay unmarried, just as I am. But if they can’t control themselves, they should go ahead and marry. It’s better to marry than to burn with lust.
Each of you should continue to live in whatever situation the Lord has placed you, and remain as you were when God first called you.
But let me say this, dear brothers and sisters: The time that remains is very short. So from now on, those with wives should not focus only on their marriage. Those who weep or who rejoice or who buy things should not be absorbed by their weeping or their joy or their possessions.
An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. His interests are divided. In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be devoted to the Lord and holy in body and in spirit. But a married woman has to think about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband. I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.
1 CORINTHIANS 7:1-2, 8-9, 17, 29-30, 32-35
- What did Paul have to say about marriage? about celibacy?
- What reasons did Paul give for not being concerned with marriage at that time?
- How might these instructions have perplexed Silas? What “stamp of approval,” if any, did Paul offer?
The apostle Peter wrote:
In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives.
Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.
In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.
I have written and sent this short letter to you with the help of Silas, whom I commend to you as a faithful brother. My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s grace for you. Stand firm in this grace.
1 PETER 3:1-7; 5:12
- Discuss Peter’s view of a godly wife.
- How did Peter view a wife’s role? How does a husband’s treatment of his wife affect him?
- What did Peter think of Silas? What encouragement did he offer?
FIND GOD’S WAYS FOR YOU
- How do you view your place in life? What roles do you have in various relationships or organizations?
- How is God speaking to you about your personal relationships? Be specific.
- Do you use your position/role to promote or hinder others? to restrict or to encourage those around you?
STOP AND PONDER
Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.
1 PETER 3:8
SEEK GOD’S WORD FOR TRUTH
Read the following passage:
Once a religious leader asked Jesus this question: “Good Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked him. “Only God is truly good. But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. Honor your father and mother.’”
The man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.”
When Jesus heard his answer, he said, “There is still one thing you haven’t done. Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
But when the man heard this he became very sad, for he was very rich.
When Jesus saw this, he said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God! In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”
Those who heard this said, “Then who in the world can be saved?”
He replied, “What is impossible for people is possible with God.”
Peter said, “We’ve left our homes to follow you.”
“Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the Kingdom of God, will be repaid many times over in this life, and will have eternal life in the world to come.”
- What was the first issue that Jesus pointed out to the young man? Why?
- What was the second issue that Jesus wanted the young man to see? How did he respond?
- What lesson was Jesus teaching His disciples? How did they respond?
- What do you think Jesus meant when He said, “What is impossible for people is possible with God”?
- How did Jesus answer Peter? What was in it for Peter and the other disciples?
- What is the relative importance of things and people in God’s economy?
FIND GOD’S WAYS FOR YOU
- What “trappings” in your life need to go?
- How will you respond to Jesus? When?
STOP AND PONDER
Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful.
1 THESSALONIANS 5:23-24
While many of the details in this story have been fictionalized, we know that the historical Silas was a wealthy, educated, and gifted individual. He was a respected church leader and prophet. He deliberately chose to be committed to Christ—to leave behind his material possessions to become a colaborer and correspondent with Peter and Paul. Silas embraced the role of scribe, writing the words of others to promote the Kingdom of God. He chose to serve rather than to be served. He accepted God’s call on his life and furthered the claims of Jesus. And in so doing, he gained an incorruptible inheritance.
Jesus was God’s only Son. He left His heavenly throne, His royal priesthood and kingly comforts, to come to earth. He too chose to be committed—committed to God’s eternal plan for mankind’s salvation. Jesus is also a type of scribe. He writes His words on our hearts; He is the Living Word.
In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.
Beloved, may you deliberately choose to commit yourself to Jesus and walk in His light.