From the noisy streets of Jerusalem to the windswept slopes of Galilee, Finding the King brings first-century life into vibrant focus through the story of Joanna, a young woman who lives through the most important event in human history.
Finding the King is the third title in the Brave Beauty series, portraits of real women who show courage and grace in living out God's will for their lives. To learn more, go to www.BraveBeautyBooks.com.
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Read an Excerpt
Finding the King
The Story of Joanna
By Marion Dawson Gunderson, Susan Shorter
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2016 Marion Dawson Gunderson
All rights reserved.
Joanna was anxious for the lesson to end. As she carved the last Greek words into her wax tablet, she thought of her husband-to-be, Chuza ben-Eli. He was downstairs waiting to pick up his sister Rachel.
Miss Sophia leaned down and whispered, "Joanna, please thank your father for letting us meet here."
"I will, ma'am."
Miss Sophia addressed the class. "Ladies, our next session will be after the feast days. Until then, keep practicing. Class dismissed!"
The maidens erupted in chatter as they gathered their bags and clamored out of Micah ben-David's study. Joanna headed to her bedchamber. "I need to stop in my room for a minute, Rachel," she said. "Please tell Chuza I'll be right down."
"Joanna," chided Rachel, "you look perfect. If you were dressed in rags, Chuza would still think you're the most beautiful woman in Jerusalem. Come on! We're late."
"Oh alright." Joanna adjusted her shoulder scarf. I hope he likes my new hair-do, she thought. Her curly black tresses were criss-crossed by cords of gold, Roman style. Soft ringlets framed her lovely face.
Chuza was waiting at the bottom of the stairs. "There you are!" he said. "Miss Sophia kept you longer today. Can you say anything in Greek, yet?" he teased.
"Let's see," said Joanna, as she descended the stairs. "E se-o more-fee."
"You just told me I'm pretty!" said Chuza.
"I did?" Joanna felt heat rising in her cheeks. "I'm sorry, Chuza. Oh, I remember now; I meant to say E se-o more-fos."
"Thank you! I'm glad you think I'm handsome. And I think you're beautiful — in any language."
"Chuza," said Rachel, "are you still planning your surprise?"
"I haven't forgotten." Chuza reached into his tunic and pulled out a small silk pouch. Offering it to Joanna he said, "For my lovely bride-to-be."
"Another gift for me? You're too generous, Chuza."
"I couldn't wait to give it to you."
Joanna drew open the pouch and pulled out a gold bracelet set with an enormous pearl. "Oh Chuza, it's lovely!" she exclaimed.
"I'm glad you like it." Chuza's handsome face beamed. His greatest joy was pleasing Joanna.
"May I wear it now?"
Joanna slipped the bracelet onto her wrist. Rachel was glad she'd helped choose it.
"Time to go," said Chuza, ushering Rachel toward the door. "The palace is expecting a big delivery today." Chuza had grown rich by supplying Jerusalem's wealthy residents with food and furnishings.
"See you at the feast!" called Joanna. She lingered in the doorway watching Chuza help Rachel into the carriage. She was thrilled to be marrying such a good and generous man — and have Rachel as her sister-in-law.
Then Chuza strode back to Joanna. "I have another surprise for you," he said. "I want you to be the first to know. Herod Antipas has hired me to manage his palaces."
"Herod Antipas?" said Joanna. "Isn't he the governor up north somewhere?"
"Yes, he's governor of Galilee, but he uses the palace here too. I'm in charge of both places — servants, food, furnishings — everything."
"Why that's ... wonderful, Chuza." Joanna forced a smile.
"Is there anything wrong, my love?"
"Well, I'm just wondering, will we still live here?"
"Of course we'll live here — part of the time. We'll be here for the feasts, of course."
"I see," said Joanna.
"Don't worry," said Chuza. "It'll be fine. No, not just fine; it'll be wonderful! I promise."
"I'm sorry for being such a worrier Chuza. Of course it'll be wonderful — because we'll be together!"
"Yes, we'll be together. That's the most important thing. Now, I must go. Oh, by the way, I love your new hair-do. Very pretty."
"You always look wonderful!"
"Thank you, Chuza. And I love the bracelet." Joanna fingered the silky pearl as she watched Chuza climb into the carriage and disappear into the crowded Jerusalem street. She stepped into the coolness of the house.
Herod Antipas! she thought. His father murdered half his family! She felt hair rise on her skin. Perhaps this Herod isn't like his father. I must trust Chuza; everything will be fine.
Joanna hurried upstairs to her bedchamber, closed the door, and knelt by the window. The September sun warmed her skin. She prayed aloud. "Thank you for a wonderful morning. Thank you for Chuza and —" She felt a wet nose on her arm. It was Plato, the puppy Father had given her for her birthday. She pulled him into her lap and stroked his soft white fur. "Lord, help me to be thankful, no matter what. Amen."
Plato licked Joanna's cheek. "You rascal!" she said, "Can't I even pray without you wanting attention?"
"Miss?" came a voice from the hall.
"Come in, Cleo."
Joanna's personal maid stepped in. "I hope I'm not disturbing you."
"Not at all, Cleo. I was trying to pray, but Plato had other ideas."
"Lunch is ready."
"Good. I'm starved."
"I'll feed Plato in the kitchen, ma'am."
"Thank you, Cleo." The maid scooped up Plato and disappeared into the hallway.
Cleo was named after Cleopatra, a queen who had once ruled her homeland, Egypt. Cleo had been kidnapped by Romans and brought to Israel as a slave. Joanna's father, Micah ben-David, had paid for Cleo's freedom in exchange for three years of work for the family.
During those three years, Joanna was born. Cleo became her nanny. When Cleo was free to leave, she was so attached to the family — especially Joanna — that she chose to stay. Joanna felt closer to Cleo than to her own mother.
Joanna was too old for a nanny now, but Cleo was still there for her; organizing her clothes, styling her hair, feeding Plato, and just being a friend. It made them both happy.
Joanna picked up a small jar of pink powder and rubbed some on her cheeks. Stepping into the hallway she thought, I wonder how they'll feel about Chula's new job.CHAPTER 2
Joanna was last to arrive at lunch. Father, Mother, and twelve-year-old Benny were already seated. The table was laden with warm bread, fresh goat cheese, cucumber salad, grapes, sliced melon, dates, and honey cakes. A servant poured goblets of spiced wine. It was the main meal of the day.
"Hello, daughter," said Micah ben-David. "How was your lesson?"
"Good, Father." said Joanna. "Miss Sophia thanks you for the use of your study."
"I got the highest grade on the scripture exam," boasted Benny. He'd spent the morning at synagogue where Father taught the Jewish holy writings. Micah ben-David was a member of the Sanhedrin, a powerful Jewish council.
"Now Benjamin, don't sing your own praises," said Father. "Joanna knows the sacred scrolls too." Girls weren't allowed in synagogue school, but Micah had taught Joanna and her sister Leah at home. Schooling for girls was frowned upon by most Jews — including Joanna's mother.
Joanna remembered the day Benny was born. She'd been five-years-old at the time; Leah was nine. After waiting so long for a son, Father had held up the baby and exclaimed, "A boy at last! A son to take to synagogue!"
Mother's voice brought Joanna back to the table. "Micah," she said, "you've already given Joanna more schooling than girls need. Leah is doing just fine as a wife and mother. Don't you think Joanna should spend her time learning to run a home?"
"Martha dear," said Father. "We are under Roman rule. Doesn't it make sense for us to understand what they're saying? Besides, Joanna is smart enough to learn Greek and run a home. Now let's pray."
Micah stood and raised his hands toward heaven. "You are the one true God," he said. "Thank you for this food and this precious family. Be our guide today and always. Amen." He sat down and turned to Mother. "Well, my dear wife, how was your morning?"
"Busy," said Mother. "With the feast so close, the servants are setting up booths." For the Feast of Tabernacles, the family hosted relatives and friends in their courtyard. Each group "camped" in a hut-like structure called a booth for the week.
"Tabernacles is my favorite feast," said Benny. "I can't wait!" At twelve, Benny was old enough to host his own booth. "I'm having a big booth!"
"Now, Benjamin," said Mother. "We barely have room for our guests. Father will help you set up a nice little booth. Won't you Micah?"
"I'd love to. I remember my first booth. It was piled high with sweets. Now Benjamin, the important thing is what we're celebrating at Tabernacles."
"I know, Father," said Benny. "I learned it in synagogue."
"Then tell us."
Benny rose and stood by his chair as in synagogue. He recited, "The Feast of Tabernacles celebrates God providing for our people in the wilderness. That was after he helped them escape from Egypt by many miracles. My favorite miracle is the plague of haill" Benny grabbed his spoon and started whacking himself on the head. "It's hailing! Oo! Ow! —"
"That will be enough, Benjamin!" ordered Father. "Put down that spoon. Now tell us why we have booths."
"After they escaped from Egypt," continued Benny, "the people lived in tents called tabernacles. We call them booths."
"Very good," said Father. "You may be seated."
Joanna sat quietly, only half listening. She was thinking of how the feast was celebrated in Chuza's family. Besides relatives and friends, they invited the poor — street people they didn't even know. Joanna looked forward to marrying Chuza and helping him welcome the needy strangers.
"Well, daughter," said Micah, "let me guess. You're thinking about Chuza."
"You read my thoughts."
"I understand he'll be Herod's new manager."
"How did you know?"
"I heard it at the market."
"It's true, Father. Chuza told me this morning."
"Will someone let me in on this?" said Mother, feeling uneasy at the name Herod. The ruler was disliked by most Jews.
"Chuza will be managing Herod's palaces, Mother," said Joanna. "He'll be in charge of the food, the furniture — everything."
"But didn't Herod marry his brother's wife?" asked Mother accusingly.
"Yes he did Martha," said Micah, "but we mustn't forget that his father built our new temple."
"Yes, I know that," said Mother, "and I know the Herods are part Jewish. But I also know his father slaughtered babies when he heard a new king had been born!"
"What new king?" said Benny.
"There was no new king, son," said Micah. "It was just a tale started by some star-gazers from Persia."
"Well," said Mother, "it was enough to scare Herod into having those babies killed."
"Now Martha," said Micah, "that was thirty years ago. There's no use dredging up the past. Besides, Chuza can hardly refuse a Roman governor." Micah noticed Joanna's eyes filling with tears. "See Martha? You're upsetting her."
"Joanna," said Benny while absently plucking raisins from his honey cake, "do you think Chuza could show me around the palace?"
"That can wait, son," said Father. "Please let me talk to your sister." Benny scowled and stuffed his mouth full of cake.
Micah patted Joanna's hand. "It's alright, daughter," he said. "Chuza is a fine man. He'll always take good care of you."
Joanna could see Mother still had doubts. "I'm sorry, Mother," said Joanna. "I had no idea Chuza would be —"
"Don't be sorry, Joanna!" said Micah. "Chuza has done nothing wrong. We're proud of both of you. Aren't we Martha?"
"Of course we're proud of you," said Mother, softening at Joanna's tears. "Chuza will make a fine husband."
Joanna dabbed her eyes with a napkin. Mother noticed her new bracelet. "That is the largest pearl I have ever seen!" she exclaimed.
"It's from Chuza," said Joanna. "An early wedding gift."
"It's magnificent!" said Micah. "Now Joanna, be thankful God is giving you such a wonderful husband."
"Yes, Father. The important thing is Chuza and I will be together."
"And where will you be together?" asked Mother, her voice rising again. "Doesn't Herod live up in Galilee somewhere?"
"Yes," said Joanna. "His main palace is in Tiberias but he uses the one here too. We'll be here for the feasts."
"Like those Bedouins who move their tents from place to place, I suppose," sighed Mother.
"Martha please!" scolded Micah. "Joanna will have the best of everything, no matter where she lives. Chuza will make a fortune working for Herod."
Anxious to change the subject, Joanna said, "Father, may Cleo go with me when I marry — if she wants to?"
"I don't see why not," said Father. "She's been with you since you were born. You're free to ask her."
"Oh thank you Father! That will make things perfect."CHAPTER 3
"This is the grandest booth I've ever seen!" declared Micah ben-David. Joanna had adorned the family booth with shiny pomegranates, grape vines, and colorful banners celebrating Israel's forty-year survival in the wilderness.
The table was spread with roast quail, fresh bread, honey, dried apricots, olives, dates and almond cookies.
Benny's booth offered licorice, salted nuts, honeyed fruit, fresh grape juice, and homemade candies. Droves of children crowded in, scooping up handfuls. Benny grew tired of hosting and ran off to visit other booths, leaving a servant in charge.
Evening was Joanna's favorite time of Tabernacles. Oil lamps flickered in the booths. Stars twinkled through the palm branch roofs as families celebrated late into the night.
One evening Joanna was in Uncle Reuben's booth chatting with her twin cousins, Dodie and Danya. Plato slept contentedly on her lap, full of roasted quail. "You've been engaged to Chuza for more than a year now, Joanna," said Danya. "When do you think he'll come for you?"
"After the feast, I hope," said Joanna. In Jewish tradition, the maiden didn't know when her wedding would be. The groom had to prepare a new home first. Once it was ready, he would come and "steal" her away.
"Chuza is setting up two homes for us," said Joanna. "One here and one in Tiberias. That's why it's taking so long."
"Tiberias!" exclaimed Danya. "That's three day's journey from here. We'll miss you."
"I know," said Joanna. "I'll miss you too, but we'll be here for the feasts. Are you ready for our wedding?"
"My bridesmaid gown is ready," said Dodie.
"Mine too," said Danya.
"My baskets are packed," said Joanna. "Keep your oil lamps full. It shouldn't be long now!"
* * *
On a warm October evening, Joanna was in her room studying her Greek lesson. Plato dozed in his little bed, content after eating a supper of boiled eggs and goats' milk.
Suddenly a ram's horn sounded. Plato erupted in high-pitched yips. Joanna hurried to the window. A chorus of men's voices shouted, "The bridegroom is coming! Chuza comes for his bride!"
"It's the wedding!" exclaimed Joanna. She grabbed her brush and began taming her curly tresses. Her heart thumped wildly. Cleo and two other maids rushed in with jugs of water. They helped Joanna bathe and slip into her white silk gown and jeweled slippers.
Cleo couldn't have been more excited had Joanna been her own daughter. She fussed over Joanna's hair and dabbed her with perfume. Joanna hugged her and exclaimed, "Oh thank you so much for coming with us, Cleo. I'd be lost without you."
Meanwhile, the rest of the household sprang to action. Mother, Father, and Benny changed into their finery. Servants placed Joanna's baskets near the front door where the groomsmen would collect them.
Joanna's sister Leah arrived with her husband Abraham and three-year-old Tali, who was carrying a basket of flower petals. "I'm Aunt Joanna's flower girl!" announced Tali. She began tossing petals.
"Not yet Tali," said Leah. "Wait until Aunt Joanna comes down."
Dodie, Danya, and two other bridesmaids arrived and hurried to Joanna. "You look stunning!" exclaimed Danya.
"Oh, thank you," said Joanna. "I'm so excited I could jump out of my skin!"
"We saw Chuza rounding up his groomsmen today," said Dodie, "so we knew it would be tonight. He chose a beautiful evening." Cleo anchored Joanna's veil with a dainty golden crown.
Mother appeared in the doorway wearing a flowing blue gown. She was carrying a basketful of jewelry. "You look lovely, Joanna," she said.
"Thank you, Mother, but must I wear all that jewelry?"
"Of course! It's tradition to wear all the jewelry. We should be proud of our wealth. Now hurry!" The bridesmaids draped Joanna's neck and wrists with strand after strand of glittering jewelry.
"At least I can only wear one pair of earrings!" said Joanna.
"Here, wear these," said Mother, holding forth chandelier earrings set with red and blue gems. "They always make a wonderful impression."
"Thank you, Mother, but I'm wearing pearls to match my bracelet."
"Oh those are fine I suppose," said Mother sounding a bit hurt, "but please keep these as a wedding gift."
"Thank you, Mother."
This was Joanna's last day with her family. She would now live with Chuza's family. She hugged her mother and whispered, "I love you, Mother. I'll miss you."
"We'll miss you too, daughter. Please keep in touch." Mother turned and hurried downstairs to await Joanna's grand entrance.
"Time to light the lamps!" chimed Dodie. Soon the room took on a soft glow. Pipes and tambourines announced Chuza's arrival.
"The bridegroom awaits!" called Father.
Family and servants watched as Joanna floated down the staircase followed by her bridesmaids. She stopped in front of the door, knowing Chuza was waiting for her on the other side. At Father's nod, a servant opened the door.
Excerpted from Finding the King by Marion Dawson Gunderson, Susan Shorter. Copyright © 2016 Marion Dawson Gunderson. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Contents1 The Maiden, 1,
2 Family, 8,
3 Celebrations, 16,
4 The Prophet and the Thief, 26,
5 River Camp, 37,
6 Tiberias, 43,
7 Evil Spirits, 50,
8 Doctors and Demons, 61,
9 New Friends, 69,
10 The Road to Capernaum, 77,
11 Meeting God, 83,
12 Scoffers, 90,
13 Home Again, 100,
14 Left Standing, 108,
15 Waiting Well, 118,
16 Deliveries, 125,
17 The King's Footprints, 132,
18 Babes Rule!, 141,
19 Earth Signs, 147,
20 Finished, 155,
21 The Messenger, 160,
22 Back from Beyond, 166,