First published 4/22/2013; revised 4/26/2013
Leah and Marcus were very happily reunited - if quite briefly. Marcus then expressed his gratitude to Daniel - and also a bit of surprise at his change of heart. Daniel told Marcus about how Jesus had shown him his sin of hated, how it was far more constricting than Roman bondage, and the way that giving everything to Jesus gave him a new feeling of freedom he'd never felt before - or even imagined. Marcus didn't seem to quite understand - but he was clearly interested. As he left, Daniel somehow knew that he and Leah had affected Marcus' life in a significant way - and Jesus had, secondhand.
Since Jesus raised Leah from the dead, she was better than ever. It wasn't so much the fact that she was raised - rather, it was the change in Daniel's heart wrought by Jesus in Daniel's heart that made the difference. All fear in Leah's heart of him was gone now that he had been so clearly changed. More than that, Daniel's love for her, no longer abated by stifling cords of hatred around his heart, seemed to grow and blossom every day. As Daniel's warmth increased, so Leah's demons seemed to slowly fade into the background, until that wonderful day when she was willing to leave her home and be seen by many eyes as she attended Daniel and Thacia's wedding. After the wedding, Leah moved into her own house, very close to Daniel and Thacia's, and made money selling the fine cloth she wove.
That wedding was a beautiful day. All the boys from Daniel's band came. Obviously, they were happy for their friend, but Joel more than the others. His companion and his sister were like two halves of a broken piece of pottery, finally put together to form the whole. Now, their lives could be filled with many valuable treasures. Their new happiness was evident to all, but especially to Joel, who knew them better than anyone, and knew the unfulfillment that lurked deep in their hearts.
When Daniel told his band about how Jesus' miracle and his choice to give up hatred and follow Jesus, many failed to understand. It wasn't just that they themselves still hated the Romans; they were utterly baffled that Daniel had changed. When he urged them to come with him and hear Jesus, some refused. But some were very intrigued by the new and mysterious joy that clearly showed on Daniel's countenance.
At first, Joel too was confused about Daniel's change - especially his shifting of priorities. He no longer seemed to care as much about liberating Israel from the chains of Rome. He was more concerned about the chains of hatred that bound so many hearts. Joel wasn't sure about this at first, but as he saw the new hope, love and joy that were beginning, gradually yet undeniably, to manifest themselves in Daniel, as compared to his former anger and bitterness, his heart softened. Still, he was reluctant to commit himself to Jesus because of his father's opposition to the man. But as time went on, and his studies continued, he only began to see more and more that Jesus' teachings didn't contradict the Law. In fact, his interpretation often seemed superior, somehow, to the Pharisees'. His heart warmed to Jesus more everyday. Eventually, there came a day when he could no longer deny it. Jesus was the Messiah.
However, shortly after that realization came a day of darkness.
Jesus was dead, crucified by the Romans.
Daniel was stunned. For a minute, it came back. The hatred resurfaced in his soul. Yet it dissolved as quickly as it appeared, as he learned the truth - the Jewish teachers of the law were the ones who were ultimately responsible for this.
Though shocked and filled with incredible grief, somehow, Daniel's hope and conviction grew, seemingly to a miraculous extent, when he heard the words spoken by Jesus as he died.
"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
His eyes full of tears, Daniel felt a stabbing guilt that he could've, even for a minute, doubted Jesus' path of love. The tears were combined with hope that deeply penetrated his soul. Jesus never feared the men who put him to death - he only loved them. And he knew that love was stronger than hatred. He knew that Jesus was more than just a man. Somehow, though perhaps he couldn't have put it into words, he knew Jesus would not stay dead, for He truly was God's Son.