This Week's Story

Could the prisoner be attached to the people who meet in Philemon's home?

This Week’s Story relives American history and the Bible through brief inspiring stories presented on mp3 audio recordings and text for reading.

Onesimus: who is he? part three

Onesimus returned to the shabby apartments in Rome where he had found a cheap place to sleep the night before. He felt stressed.

Something about the conversation he had overheard at the public bath bothered him. Who was the prisoner waiting to be judged by Emperor Nero? Why was an Imperial Guard interested in what the prisoner said about a man named Jesus Christ?

Onesimus was struggling. Nobody here in Rome knows I am a slave. That should be good. My slave owner Philemon is hundreds of miles away in Turkey. I can live as a free man. I will do what I choose to do.

Why am I thinking about the people who meet at Philemon’s home? They call themselves Christians. I have heard them talk about the man Jesus, the same man the prisoner here in Rome is talking about. That is a strange coincidence! Do I want to know more about Jesus? What if that puts me at risk to be caught?

The next afternoon he returned to the bath house. The same two young men he had overheard the day before were in the exercise

ground. He began to do exercises and then plunged into the nearby pool of cool water. He scraped off his sweat and dirt with a scraper and sat on the edge of the pool, while watching the two men.

Then he walked casually to them. “Excuse me. Yesterday I heard you mention a prisoner staying in his own rented home near the Emperor’s palace. You said that he welcomes visitors and talks about a man named Jesus Christ. Would you please tell me where the home is?”

They did and the next day Onesimus was again wrestling with himself. What a fool I am if I visit the prisoner! He does not know me, and I do not know him. Could he be attached to the people who met at Philemon’s home?

He shook his head. This is nonsense. I choose to go. I have no papers of manumission freeing me, but I consider myself to be free.

That afternoon he found the right home, knocked at the door, and was greeted. He asked, “May I hear the prisoner speak about Jesus Christ.”

“Yes, please join us. We have all come to learn about him.”

Onesimus noticed that when the people listening called the prisoner Paul, they said his name with great respect. Even the guard was obviously listening. The guard’s left arm was chained to Paul’s right wrist.

When Paul stopped speaking to the group, he looked at Onesimus. “You are welcome here. Would you like to introduce yourself?”

“Thank you for allowing me to be your guest. My name is Onesimus and I live in Rome.”

“Have you heard about Jesus Christ?”

“Yes, I have heard people, who call themselves Christians talking about Him. I want to find out who he is.”

“Who do you think He is?”

“I do not know.”

“Onesimus, once I hated Jesus. I was a Jewish religious leader. After His death, I had the authority to search for His followers. They claimed He had been resurrected, spoken to many of them, and then ascended into Heaven. I had many of these people dragged to prison.”

“Why did you do that?”

“Visit me again and we will talk.”

This is Barbara Steiner. Join me when we next hear Paul and Onesimus talk.


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