The woman in another place [Luke 4:38-39; Acts 12:12-17)

The woman in another place [Luke 4:38-39; Acts 12:12-17)

Babette Francis

There is a mystery about the woman and there are few clues. I suspect she resented the man because of whom her husband had left her, but I'm guessing because it was how I would have felt. She must have had a foreboding on that first occasion when Simon came home without his gear and seemed not to care it might be lost, swamped by waves or stolen. They had worked hard to save for it, and now he said vaguely he had left it on the shore.

"And what about the boat?" she asked. "I think Andrew anchored it, but I'm not sure. Jesus was so wonderful - you should have heard him."

Impatient, she said "Well we can't all wander on the beach. Some of us have to work. Please go and see to the boat. When will I meet him anyway?" "Soon," he replied soothingly.

Impressive friend

Of course the visit came at a most inconvenient time. Her mother, who lived with them, had been sick for days. She was feverish, despite all the medication. And this was the inopportune time Simon brought his new friend home.

Nor was it just the two of them - there always seemed to be a group of hangers-on whenever she saw them in town, and they had followed him to her door. Trying to subdue her inhospitable feelings and anxiety about her mother, she let them in.

She had to admit Jesus was impressive in appearance - and his eyes seemed to look through her as if he knew just what she was thinking. Why had Simon brought him today of all days? And what a nerve he had, asking to see her mother. She hoped the room was not untidy - she had not had time to straighten things.

He looked at her mother and observed she had a fever and that it should be gone. Well, of course she had a fever and of course it should be gone, but before she had time to voice her irritation at this statement of the obvious, her mother sat up with a smile and asked if anyone would like something to eat or drink. "Mother," she cried, "you're feverish, you have been very ill for days. Please lie down."

Still smiling, her mother got out of bed saying, "Well I'm not feverish now. I feel fine. You must all be hungry and thirsty," and proceeded to bustle about the kitchen.

The foreboding was even stronger now - she had a feeling of dreadful sadness, as if something was happening that would change her life forever. But what could she do? To whom could she appeal? And about what? Before they all left, the man turned and looked at her as if to reassure her. But she was not reassured.

So it had come to this - shivering in a cave as the wind blew across the sand. She wasn't even sure she would see Simon, but friends said he would come to say goodbye before he left. She had seen so little of him in the last few years, especially after his friend was executed. Now they were all under suspicion.

The doctor later wrote that after escaping from prison and visiting John Mark's house Simon went to another place. He went to their own house. It was ironic this was the last place the soldiers would look for him as it was his home, but he had spent little time there in the last few years.

Would he ignore the danger and come? It was cold and she huddled into her shawl. Would he ask her to go with him? How could she go? She had to care for her mother - and there was their son.

A shadow fell across the cave and Simon was beside her. She tried not to weep because she knew he disliked tears, but when she saw how tired he looked, she could not help crying: "Why do you have to go?" "Because he asked me," he replied. "But why you? There are so many others ...". "It has to be me."

"But what is to become of me and the boy?", she asked. Even in the darkness she could sense his smile. "The boy is a fine young man," he said. "We have done well. He will take good care of you and your mother." "He is not yet a man," she cried. "He is only seventeen." "I had a boat when I was seventeen."

The beginning

"Where are you going? Will I see you again?" "West," he replied vaguely. And then definitely, "Yes, you will see me again, always." "Simon, Simon, does it have to end like this?" She was crying uncontrollably now.

"This isn't the end. Only the beginning." He touched her wet cheek and traced a cross on her forehead. Then he was gone. The wind blew from the shore and she could feel the sand stinging her face. Years later she would hear that Simon had been executed, like his friend long ago.

This is what it might have been like for her, mentioned briefly as "the woman in another place". Or what it might have been like for me if I had lived in that time.

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