Then the tears came. Silent and leaden, they slipped unbidden from his eyes. Paulus stood tall, eyes riveted on the altar, and watched the long tongues of flame consume his brother Antipas. A shudder passed through his body, and sweat beaded on his forehead, but he made no effort to wipe it away. He focused on his brotherâ€™s body.
I canâ€™t believe how brave he was when he faced the flames. He was confident that this was Godâ€™s will for his life. And I agree. It hurts, but I agree.
He focused on the altar until movement from the side caught his attention. Marcus moved in beside the governor, Justus Anthony.
Marcus: I ache for you, my older brother; ache for the hate and evil that seem to consume you; ache for the divide in our family.
The contrast struck him: Antipas, filled with the light of God; Marcus, filled with the darkness of evil.
He noticed that the governor seemed frozen in place, head bowed in a stance of utter defeat until Marcus leaned in and whispered in his ear. His head came up, and at that moment a piercing scream split the air. Paulus knew without looking that the sound had come from Father, filled with evil like his firstborn son, responsible for the sacrifice of Antipas, his second son. Yet his heart went out to him, saddened that evil consumed him, saddened for the loss of a fatherâ€™s love.
Two priests grabbed his father, Julian, and dragged his limp form into the temple.
Paulus turned his attention back to Justus Anthony, who seemed to become aware of the people waiting at the foot of the steps.
â€śGuards, remove the body to the burial chamber in the prison. And get these people out of here,â€ť Justus Anthony said, flailing his arms in front of him. He turned on his heel, marched up the steps, swept past the startled priests, and disappeared into the temple.
Turning his head, Paulus watched the silent Christ-followers begin to stir and move slowly away from the altar. Eunice clung to his arm on one side, wiping her eyes with her other hand. Her soft weeping touched his heart, and he pulled her closer.
What must she be feeling after watching her husband committed to the flames?
His mother was beyond her, surrounded by friends who supported her while they walked toward the street. He gave Eunice a hug before she joined the others, leaving him standing alone at the foot of the stairs.
What does the future hold for me? Will I ever be the man Antipas was? Lord, Your Spirit is moving through me. Your strength and love fill me.
He raised his hand in salute to his brother. He whispered the words to the gathering wind. â€śYour sacrifice will not be in vain.â€ť