In the first century the Zealots were those who fought outwardly against Rome. They tried to start revolutions to overthrow their oppressors, and the usual result was that they were crushed and the survivors crucified. About the time Jesus was a boy the Zealots staged an uprising, and the history resources I’ve used say the roads entering Jerusalem were lined with hundreds of crosses bearing the rebellious contenders as a warning for the people to go home and submit to Roman rule.
And it wasn’t just that the Romans ruled over them. Rome taxed them and even demanded that Roman subjects bow down to the image of the Emperor. Among the Jews, bowing down to anyone but Yahweh, the One True God, was forbidden by the Mosaic Law, and in bowing to a mere man a Jew could be put to death. However, if they did not bow down to Caesar then the Roman governor of Palestine could have them crucified. This was undoubtedly the origin of the dilemma, “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”
The High Priest tried to reason with the Roman officials but with little success. The Zealots incited riots, killed Roman soldiers caught alone in the streets of Jerusalem, or attacked small cohorts of soldiers marching across the countryside. Palestine was considered the most rebellious province in the Empire by many officials in Rome and the worst place to be stationed by most legionnaires. Why? Because of the Zealots and their One God for whom they would so readily die.
This is the turmoil that is the backdrop of my stories, and it provides a constant, visceral tension on top of everything else that happens to my characters. It is into this world that Jesus was born.
I’d like you to consider another side of zeal for a moment. This is the side that Jesus had and that his disciples shared. It’s constructive, not destructive. It’s what Rebekah, Johanna, Miriam and Mary all found after their encounters with Jesus. The dictionary defines zeal as great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective. It is a passion, a devotion, often for only an idea.
In those private moments after each woman meets with Jesus she is changed forever in the way she thinks and in the way she acts. She finds a new sense of purpose for her life and a new zest for living it. She is filled with both joy and passion.
My own path in this life has been an answer to the “Jesus question”: What greater cause is there than love for and service to your fellow man?
Thank you for joining me on my journey. I hope I have helped you answer this question for yourself, and I hope you live the rest of your life with zeal.