Ocealus climbed over the rocks. The path, what there was of it, was better for goats than men.
“How did I get myself into this?” he muttered.
The sun was high, and while the breeze off the sea tempered the heat, he was sweating. Swiping at his brow, he reasoned, “But it’s better than being in the mines, right?” His literacy saved him from that particular fate, and was the driving purpose for his assignment.
Ocealus sat down to rest and drink water from the skin he’d packed. Heaving a deep breath, he adjusted his pack and trod down the path toward the cave.
Ocealus had heard the rumors surrounding the man living there. At the entrance, he removed a small torch and flint from his pack, and struck the flint. The torch’s meager flame did little to penetrate the gloom.
Even in broad daylight, Oceanus shivered at the cave’s foreboding air. Torch in one hand, he unsheathed his dagger and stepped inside. He had no idea what to expect from this man he was commissioned to see.
“Helloooo,” he called into the darkness.
He couldn’t tell what he heard moving. Rats? Something more deadly? Ocealus crouched, both from the diminished height of the cave’s ceiling and in preparation to fight.
“Come in, come in,” a hoarse voice invited from the darkness.
Holding the torch high before him, he adjusted his grip on his dagger. With cautious steps, Ocealus continued further into the cave.
“Thank you for coming. I’m trying to adjust to life here,” John explained, gesturing at his early attempts to establish living quarters.
Ocealus gazed at John in frank curiosity, “You don’t look like a criminal.”
“Thank you for that,” John chuckled.
“What gods did you anger to be shipped here?”
“No gods, just a man who fancies himself one. Domitian.” John’s eyes grew distant, seeing fellow Christ-followers who’d been tortured to death. “I know many who weren’t as lucky.”
“So, when they couldn’t kill you, they banished you? They must have thought you were dangerous enough they wanted to try to break you. We’ve heard the rumors. You look unscathed. Not like some of the men and women here.”
“Perhaps, but the scars run deep.” John glanced at the craggy walls around him. “That’s one reason I chose to settle here. I don’t want to be a constant reminder to others of how many have been lost. I also sense I need the quiet, the privacy. God is not finished with me.”
“I will bring you more food tomorrow. And a blanket, two if I can. It gets cold here at night.” Settling into the conversation, Ocealus continued, “There are others here from Ephesus. Domitian cleaned out the place, apparently.”
“More, you say? Might you be able to find out if a man named Prochorus is among them?”
“I can try. Is he a friend?”
“Yes– he is. Was? I don’t know what happened to him. He’s been with me through much. I’m in need of someone who can write.”
“Yes, that’s why I am here.”
“Are you able to stay then? Will you come tomorrow? There are things I need to get down.”
“Even if you find Prochorus, I trust God is not finished with you, either. There is something here for you, Ocealus.”
Historians believe the Greek island of Patmos, located in the Aegean Sea, was established in the first century as a military garrison or a penal colony. Whatever its initial purpose, criminals made easy labor for the mines in the hills, and Patmos became a site of exile for anyone Rome deemed dangerous.
How did the Apostle John find himself in exile on Patmos? After building deep relationship with, and ministering alongside, Jesus, John dedicated his life to sharing the Good News of the Gospel. (John 13:23) However, Roman political leaders — first Nero, then lesser-known Domitian — were determined to brutally and cruelly destroy Christianity in its infancy. Many believers from “The Way” (Christians, Acts 9:2) faced intense persecution, and some, like John, were deported from Ephesus and deposited on the shores of Patmos’ harbor.
Yet, even exile couldn’t stop John’s ministry; ironically, his exile brought him freedom to roam the island and speak of Jesus Christ, continuing the preaching and healing for which he’d been convicted in Ephesus. Furthermore, he was given a Revelation of Jesus Christ, which has been preserved for us in the Biblical book of Revelation. John was on Patmos for 18 months, until Domitian’s death. The next emperor revoked all of Domitian’s orders; John was free to return to Ephesus.
This isn’t the first instance of exile in the Bible, or even the Gospels.
While the enemy of our souls, Satan, views exile as a punishment, it can serve as protection because God is sovereign, using all things for His glory and our good. Jesus Himself was in exile, along with his parents, when they fled to Egypt. (Matthew 2:13-23)
Throughout the Bible, those experiencing exile have their hearts, and even situations turned around, though not always with the ending of the story we might choose. (Genesis 45:4-8) Regardless of the outcome, Jesus brings ultimate redemption in Heaven to every story surrendered to Him.
Finally, 21st century believers are in a type of exile, as we live in a fallen world and await our eternal home in Heaven.
When hard times come, may we remember Jesus is our only answer, and the Holy Spirit is our comfort. Just as John clung to Christ in his suffering and exile, may we hold tight to our calling and the faithfulness of our God.
Our God, who promises, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” will not abandon. (Matthew 28:20)
Even in exile,
He is with us.
Terrain Day 14
It’s a helpful perspective to remember that, in view of God’s supreme holiness, we are all sinful and rebellious. (Romans 3:23)
My prayer is that seeking justice and loving mercy becomes easier as we humble ourselves before God and allow Him to be the Righteous Judge over every situation in our lives.
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