"Why should he talk to him any different than to anybody else?!"
Since he was the age of nine, Ezra was known as a quarrelsome, unpleasant individual. He didn't let anyone or anything cross him, even if it was an imagined offence. Ezra kept to himself, and no one felt especially inclined to spend time with him anyway!
He managed to eke out a life for himself, keeping a pawn shop on a dirty street adjacent to the Temple. There was enough money that he earned on other people's troubles to keep him well off, although nowadays everyone was too involved in the many upheavals that the Romans brought to Israel.
This one was another rabble-rouser. Ezra peered at a tall man in front of him. Standing there, like he was a king, or something, straight-backed, with arms raised , as if he was ready to embrace the whole of the crowd that was carrying him to the Temple's steps. "Phaw!" - Ezra thought - "Enjoy your popularity, while the Romans are still ignorant of you!"
Ezra heard the thunderous approach of that crowd a little while ago and came out of the shop chewing on an apple, to see, what was making all the ruckus. The tall man who was the focus of the riot insisted that he should be put down on the ground right in front of Ezra's place. He began speaking to his worshipers, who quieted down considerably, but the man's words were still hardly heard behind all the sounds around him.
Ezra, as usually, not interested in others, threw an apple at the man and demanded that he and his mob would move on and leave him and his business alone. That provoked a roar of anger from the crowd. "Don't you know, who you are yelling at?" - a dirty, wiry looking fellow from the man's side queried Ezra. "He is the one we've been waiting for, the Mashiach, Jesus!"
"I'm only interested in the customers that can come to my shop! Take you Mashiach and go away from here!" - was Ezra's reply.
People laughed at that, picked Jesus up again on their shoulders and moved on. Ezra shook his head at the stupidity of the rabble and closed the door behind him.
That evening, as Ezra was getting ready to go to sleep, someone knocked on the door and, not waiting to be invited in, entered the small room. "Barabbas!" His younger brother was the only person in the world that Ezra was happy to see. They hugged warmly, then Ezra motioned for his sibling to sit down and partake of some meal. Barabbas was thin as a rail, but he ate absentmindedly, telling Ezra of the purpose which brought him to Jerusalem. "The Romans are too comfortable in Judea! What is the High Sanhedrin thinking, dealing with them, accepting the rules imposed on us by the barbarians? We will show the invaders that Jews are not going to quietly lie down and be raped by the far away Roman Empire!"
Ezra grabbed his brother's tunic and anxiously demanded: "What are you planning to do? The Romans are not to be rifled with! Please, Barabbas, think about it! You don't need to die because of the stupid politics!"
Ezra held on to Barabbas, begging him to stay. When he refused, Ezra hurriedly stuck some coins in Barabbas' hand, telling him to rely on him in case of trouble.
It was the time before the Passover. Jerusalem was filled to the brim by all sorts of travelers: the visitors to the Temple, vendors, religious fanatics and the Romans, who made a special effort to be seen, as a deterrent to any problem. Ezra did some business, but his mind was on his brother.
When the news came of Barabbas being arrested for an apparent assassination attempt on a Roman officer, Ezra went out of his mind with worry. He went all around Jerusalem, combing through his debtors among the Jews and the Romans to find out more about his brother's situation. All was in vain.
At the Feast of the Passover, Ezra was hanging around the outskirts of the great multitude in front of the Praefectus Pilate's palace. There was just one more slim chance that Barabbas might be saved: a custom that allowed one of the prisoners, sentenced to death, to be pardoned.
To be Continued...