I can’t help but follow him this last day before we leave Jerusalem to return to Nazareth. He usually stays with his brothers and friends, but today’s different. I watch him walk away from them and not even one notices that he left.
But I do.
And I follow him.
My palms are damp and my belly is full of butterflies. I should stay with the young women, but I won’t.
“Rachel, you’re as stubborn and curious as old Sol!” my father often tells me, ruffling my hair and giving our donkey a swat on his ornery behind.
My friend knows where he is going. I want to see where.
My mother died when I was born, twelve years ago, the same month Jesus was born. My father and I travel with Jesus and his family every year to celebrate the Passover Feast in Jerusalem.
We live close to each other in Nazareth. My father repairs rooftops here and in nearby cities. I stay with Jesus’ family while my father works.
And today, in Jerusalem, I follow Jesus.
To the temple.
I go where I’m not supposed to go, and my heart thumps hard in my chest, but no one seems to notice me.
I watch my friend walk up to the circle of men—teachers, rabbis—men who stand and sit on worn stone steps in a shaded alcove. Deep in conversation, several have scrolls spread across their laps.
What are you doing, Jesus . . .
I draw in a breath. The scent of burnt offerings rolls past me in puffs of heated dust that makes me rub my eyes. I press the folds of my light robe around me, and lean against a pillar in the shadows.
One of the teachers reads aloud.
Jesus sits on a step, right in the midst of the rabbis.
I listen too.
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
The rich voice hesitates, then ceases. A collective intake of breath rustles through the men, as if a freshening wind has sighed through trees, then silence.
The teacher’s eyes narrow and his fingers tighten around the handles of the Isaiah Scroll. He glares at my friend.
Jesus stands, his dark eyes touch on the teacher then move to rest gently on each of the rabbis, one-by-one. His voice, firm and strong, he repeats the scripture, every word.
Adonai Hashem, protect Jesus from punishment.
My hands fly to my face. I want to fall on my knees, but I must not be discovered. The solid pillar seems to hold me.
Jesus gives them no time to reprimand him. He nods toward the white-bearded rabbi who sits, unmoving, against the rough beige stone of the temple wall.
And as if answering the old teacher’s unspoken question, Jesus speaks of the Coming One, repeating words of the prophets. Words I’ve heard my father speak.
What are you saying, Jesus . . .
I watch stern expressions change from anger to awe as my friend, answers questions no man could know.
And my ears burn with what I hear my friend saying to the teachers.
I stay, listen, and watch until the sun grazes the rooftops with heated bronze rays . . .
Until I give up and will my feet to run.
I’m to leave early with my father. He has promised a side trip to see cousins. I’m suddenly anxious to return in time to pack my things.
Only when I return to Nazareth do I learn what happened. His mother and father had traveled a day before they knew he was not with the company returning to Nazareth. It took them three days before they finally found him in the temple sitting with the teachers.
No one but his mother understood when Jesus explained. But she listened with a knowing smile as I confessed to her what I’d done, what I’d heard.
And I was to hear it once again.
This time, in Nazareth.
We’re much older now. Jesus’ father died four years ago. Like Jesus’ mother, I am widowed, but with no children. Jesus is no longer the sun-browned, rough-robed, boy I knew.
Yesterday, along with His family, I’ve welcomed Him home. Like quicksilver Jesus has slipped in and out of our lives since the signs began in Cana. He’s been away for over a month this time.
Today, with His mother, I stand near the door of the synagogue and listen. Together, we hear Jesus read from the Isaiah Scroll, hear Him say the words of the prophet, His voice even and authoritative.Mary grasps my hand.
I close my eyes. I’m twelve again, listening to a rabbi’s reading of the same prophecy my Friend speaks into the tense air of the synagogue in this moment.
But it’s not the same. Three times, Jesus emphasizes a single word, Me.
“. . . upon Me . . . anointed Me . . . sent Me”
With all the humility I remember, He hands the scroll to the attendant, sits down, and continues to speak
“Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Mary’s hand trembles. There is more as He speaks to them in a proverb . . .
It begins with a ripple, and rushes like a flood through the crowd.
Sudden anger from the men inside, an instant change from their approval of His earlier gracious words. Jesus is silent now as they rise to their feet. He allows them to lay hands on Him, permits them to take Him outside and to the cliff edge.
Will they throw Him over the edge? Kill Him? My heart clenches with dread.
Maybe tears cause the blur, the smear of color and movement as if time melts the scene with the heat of its passage.
I don’t know how . . .
But in the midst of the blur, the figure of Jesus, the clarity of His body encased in golden light, moves through the crowd untouched.
His mother knows His Truth. As she ministered to me when my firstborn died in my arms, Mary began to share her many stories. They came from her heart along with the balm of her comfort in the years since. She knows it will not be for long, but she will follow Him, her firstborn Son.
I will too.
Maybe it will be at a distance, perhaps unseen. But Adonai has graced me with the means to follow. I will stay near her, and follow Him.
Jesus was my friend when He needed to be “about His Father’s business”. Now, He is still my friend and more. He is my Lord.
♥ ♥ ♥
No one knows what Jesus listened to the teachers say or what words he spoke to them. We are only told that those who heard and spoke with Him in the temple were astonished at His understanding and His answers to their questions. And like the three days before His resurrection, no one knows what happened during those three days before Jesus was found by his parents, with the teachers.
God knows. And I’m curious enough to let my imagination have free rein with a story based on the scriptures from Luke 2:39-52, Isaiah 61:1-2a, and Luke 4:22a
The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.
God gifted each of us with a lively imagination. How does using yours enrich your walk with Him?
I’d love for you to share with me in a comment!