Straight Talk about Money

Straight Talk about Money for this Ministry

How we fund our ministry to missionaries through Barnabas International is no mysterious secret. But we won’t put it in flashing neon lights on Broadway, either.

Most of our living expenses are covered by retirement income. From Barnabas International we draw only $1200 per month in salary. That is only $600 per person per month. That money is given to Barnabas for our ministry by one church and by about 20 individuals or couples who believe that what we are doing is important.

Besides our salary, we submit legitimate ministry expenses that we incur to Barnabas for reimbursement. No, I don’t mean our camping and cycling expenses all over the upper midwest and northwest last summer. We covered those expenses ourselves and were able to do that only because we had no rent to pay for those months. We had given up our house in Thailand and tenants were still covering the mortgage on our 2-bedroom, 1-bath house in Littleton.

Ministry expenses include conferences and seminars that we attend for our own training or networking, travel to and from such events, office supplies, printing, expenses for hosting missionaries and supporters, etc. Expenses for travel to foreign countries for ministry, along with costs for visas, vaccinations, etc. are also legitimate ministry expenses.

Donations to Barnabas for us average about $1700 per month. Barnabas charges us 9% administrative fees on those donations. That is lower than many organizations. So, after deducting the 9% and taking out our salary, there is about $350 available per month to cover ministry expenses.

For the year 2015, we are running a negative balance with Barnabas because our ministry expenses have far exceeded $350 per month. In fact, it would take about $5000 to bring us out of the red right now. We will be focusing some attention in the year 2016 on finding more financial partners for this ministry. We anticipate that our ministry expenses will be greater in the new year.

Now you know! If the Lord lays it on your heart to partner with us, either in a one-time gift to reduce our red ink immediately, or to help us on a regular basis, you can do so by clicking on this link: http://barnabas.org. Thank you for your interest and for your prayers, which are precious to us.

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Eleventh Birthday

“Good morning, Grandmother. I hope I didn’t frighten you by coming in without knocking. Are you alright?”

“Good morning, Jesus. You didn’t frighten me; I was expecting you.”

“I’ve brought you some tea.”

“Bless you, child. I should be offering you a cup of tea.”

“Not until you are on your feet and quite well again,” said Jesus.

“Sometimes I wonder whether I will ever feel quite well again,” said his grandmother with a sigh.

“God heal you, Grandmother. You need not despair.”

He sat quietly while his grandmother sipped at the tea. “Mother would have come herself, but she is quite busy with Hannah and Simon.”

“I’m sure she is, bless her heart. How are they doing?”

“Hannah is almost herself again but Mother is keeping her inside. Simon is still quite feverish and cries all the time unless Mother is holding him.”

“Ah, the poor child,” murmured Grandmother. “I wish I could come and help.”

“No more than Mother wishes she could come and help you. This sickness seems to attack the very young and the very … uh…” Jesus stopped lest calling his grandmother very old should be offensive.

“Now don’t you feel bad about calling me old, Jesus. It is God’s own truth. Why I was already old when you came here from Egypt and that was what? Six years ago?”

“No, Grandmother,” said Jesus, “that was eight years ago. I was three when we moved here and now I am almost eleven.”

“How can that be?” exclaimed Grandmother. “Has my Jacob been gone eight years?”

Jesus nodded. “He passed just before we arrived and we have been here eight years now.”

“Then I am, indeed, a very old woman.”

“Grandmother, can I bring you something to eat?” asked Jesus.

“No, my dear, I am not the least bit interested in food this morning.”

“Is there anything I can bring you or do for you?”

“Would you check on my garden for me? I have not been out to tend it for over a week. I am sure it is as dry as dust and overrun with weeds.”

“I would be happy to do that. I can bring water for your cistern, too.”

“Bless your heart; you are a treasure!”

“Don’t you worry about a thing. I will see to your garden.” And with that, he dashed off and spent the next hour and a half pulling weeds, carrying water and tending to his grandmother’s garden.

When Jesus came back to his grandmother’s house midmorning, he again entered without knocking and crept do the door of her bedroom. When he found her sleeping, he crept out again and went to see if there was anything else he could do in her garden. He found a few more weeds to pull but soon he was back checking on his grandmother.

She roused out of her sleep when he opened her door. Jesus didn’t say anything at first, waiting to see if Grandmother was indeed waking up or only momentarily disturbed. Spying him peeking through the door, she spoke, “Come in, sweet Jesus. I’m awake.”

“I don’t want to bother you, Grandmother.”

“You are no bother. Why would I be bothered to see you?”

“How are you feeling? I peeked in a little while ago and you were sleeping.”

“Yes, I drifted off but I’m done with sleep now for a while. How did you find my garden? Was there anything left of it?”

“Yes, of course. Your garden is doing well. I pulled a lot of weeds and watered it thoroughly.”

“I suppose the cucumber vines were dead, though. Were they not?”

“Do you mean those vines at the far end with the dark green pointy leaves and yellow flowers?” asked Jesus.

“Yes, do they have blossoms, then?” she asked.

“They were wilted pretty much but I watered them well and the leaves look good again already,” he said.

“I don’t suppose there were any fruits on the vines, were there?”

“I didn’t notice any but I can go look again,” he offered.

“Would you? The fruits often hide under the leaves. I would love to have some cucumber yoghurt salad.”

“I’ll go check,” said Jesus and slipped out of the house.
He was back in just a few minutes. “No, Grandmother, I can’t find any fruit but lots of blossoms. I think several blossoms have opened just since I watered this morning.”

“Well, we can’t have fruits without having blossoms first,” she replied. “Are there any female blossoms or just male ones?”

“Are you trying to make me laugh, Grandmother?” asked Jesus. “None of the blossoms were wearing skirts or long hair.”

Grandmother chuckled in spite of her weakness and exclaimed, “Now that would be a sight to see! Female blossoms wearing skirts! I think it is you, trying to make me laugh. Were there any bees working the flowers?”

“Yes, I did see a couple of bees climbing down inside the flowers. Is that important?”

“Why yes, of course!” said Grandmother. “If the bees don’t transfer pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers, the vine will not produce fruit.”

“Then you were serious about male and female flowers, Grandmother? I thought you were teasing me.”

“And are you so unfamiliar with cucumber vines, dear boy?” asked Grandmother. “It was your father who brought seeds back with him from Egypt.”

“I guess I have been too busy in the wood shop and with my studies, Grandmother. I never heard of a plant having female and male flowers.”

“Well, cucumber vines do. And here’s how you can tell them apart. The first blossoms to appear on the vine are always the male flowers. And the stems that lead to the male flowers are slender right up to the back of the flower. As the vine gets larger, it begins to produce both male and female flowers. If you follow the stem of the female flower out toward the blossom, you come to a wider, fleshier part at the end of the stem just before the back of the flower. That fleshy part becomes the fruit, but only if the bees transfer pollen from a male flower of a different cucumber vine.“

Jesus looked dumbstruck for a moment and then said, “Well, I’ll go look a little closer.” And off he went to the garden once again. When he came back in he reported, “The smallest vine has six blossoms but they are all male. The other two vines have mostly male blossoms but there are two female blossoms on one and one on the other.”

“Well, praise the Almighty,” said Grandmother. “When I was last able to tend my garden the vines were just beginning to produce male flowers. I am so glad they didn’t die!”

“And I’m so glad that you sent me out there. They were really looking sad before I watered them.”

“Yes, they require a lot of water. I would be so grateful if you would check on them every couple of days until I get stronger. How about the melons? How are they doing?”

“They were wilted, too, but not as bad as the cucumbers. And they are perking up now that I gave them water.”

“Do they have any melons developing yet? I would love to have a bite of melon right now.”

“There are a few very small melons starting to swell up and one that is large enough to eat but not yet ripe. I will keep an eye on it and harvest it for you as soon as it is ready.”

“Oh, that would be lovely,” sighed his grandmother.

“Let me run home and get you some bread and yoghurt right now so you do get stronger. And I can run to the market and see if I can buy any cucumbers or melons.”

“No, no, don’t seek them in the market, Jesus. I doubt there would be any there and if there were, they would be too expensive.”

“I’ll be right back, Grandmother.”

When Jesus came back he had flat bread wrapped in a cloth and and a bowl of yoghurt for his grandmother. “Mother is coming in a few minutes with some tea,” he said.

“Bless you, Jesus. Thank you for caring for me.”

“Abba is busy adding a room to our house so you can move in with us,” said Jesus.

“Oh, he shouldn’t do that,” said his grandmother. “I will only be in your way. And I love this house. I have my garden here and I can’t move it.”

“You will not be in our way; we are more likely to be in your way, Grandmother.”

“But I am not strong enough to help with the little ones or do the cooking and washing.”

“But we would love to have you with us where we can watch over you better, at least until you get strong again,” countered Jesus.

“Tell your father not to build that room for my sake,” she said. “I prefer my peace and quiet here.”

“I can tell him, but he won’t stop building it. We need the extra space anyway and maybe you can stay with us just for a week or two until you get better.”

“But,” said his grandmother, “I’m afraid if I leave this house in my condition, I will never make it back here.”

“You are not that ill, surely!”

“I am feeling very old, dear boy. I long to go rest with my Jacob, and with my dear parents, God rest their souls.”

“Not too soon, Grandmother. We still have need of you here.”

“What do you need me for? I can’t do anything anymore,” she said.

“You can still tell us stories about the olden days. You know stories that I have never heard. You have answers to questions that I haven’t thought of yet. Don’t be in a hurry to leave us, Grandmother, please.”

“I won’t go a day before the Almighty calls me,” she replied. “But He may call me soon and when He calls, I won’t delay a minute.”

She began dipping the bread into the yoghurt and eating, but she did it so slowly Jesus worried that she would fall asleep between bites. Then she looked up and asked, “What scroll are you studying right now?”

“The scroll of Samuel the prophet,” said Jesus.

“Would your father let you bring the scroll here?” his grandmother asked. “I would love to hear you reading the scriptures.”

“I’m sure he would have no objections. I can do my lessons here as well as there, as long as I am careful with the scroll.”

“I won’t be able to correct you like he does,” she said. “But I would dearly love to hear God’s word.”

“I’ll go ask him,” offered Jesus and dashed out the door.

When he returned a few minutes later, he was carrying the box that he had made and carved, inside of which they stored one borrowed scroll of God’s word at a time, from which Jesus studied. His mother, Mary, was there, having brought the promised tea. On her lap was his youngest brother Simon, squirming every which way and trying to reach everything on the bedside table. His sister Hannah was standing behind mother apparently feeling a bit shy about being in the presence of her ailing grandmother.

“There you are,” said his mother. “I must have just missed you on the path.”

“Hello Mother. I went to the shop to ask Abba if I could bring the scroll here to read for Grandmother.”

“Are you up for that, Mother?” asked Mary. “I don’t want him tiring you out.”

“Of course I am up for it,” said grandmother. “I asked him if he would.”

“Well, I was hoping he would watch his sister for a little while,” said Mary. “I want to run to the market and it is so much harder with two little ones in tow.”

“Leave her here with us,” said grandmother. “It should be safer for Jesus to watch her here than at the wood shop with all those sharp tools.”

“But I don’t want her to bother you,” objected Mary.

“I will deal with that if it happens,” said grandmother. “It won’t hurt her to hear her brother read scriptures, will it?”

“He won’t get much reading done with Hannah pestering him,” said his mother.

“Well, whether much or little, it will be fine. You just run along and get your marketing done,” said grandmother. “We will get on very well here.”

“Okay,” said Mary. “Hannah, you be good for Jesus and for Grandmother. I will hurry back.”

So saying, she hurried off.

“Hannah, dear, you climb up here on the bed with me,” said grandmother. “Jesus will read to us from the scroll of Samuel.”

Hannah didn’t say a word and climbed onto the bed but kept a little distance between her and her grandmother.

“I don’t think Hannah has ever seen you with your hair let down, Grandmother,” said Jesus.

“Ah, is that it?” asked Grandmother. She made an effort to sit up straighter and pulled her hair back from her face, quickly tying it in a semblance of a bun. “I usually wear my hair more like this. Is that better?”

Hannah visibly relaxed and her usual smile spread across her face. Now she crawled the length of the bed and snuggled against her grandmother, ready for Jesus to read.

Jesus took the lid off the box and reverently drew out the scroll. “I’ve been reading this with Abba for some weeks now, but I can begin at the beginning if you like, Grandmother.”

“That would be fine,” she replied. “Wherever you would like to read, I will be pleased to listen.”

Jesus began to read, “There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah, son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other…”

“That’s my name,” said Hannah.

“Yes, that’s your name,” said Jesus.

“My name is in the scroll?” she asked.

“Yes, it is. Right here.” He held the scroll in front of her and pointed to the letters of her name. “Right here. These letters spell Hannah,” said Jesus.

Hannah smiled and settled back against her grandmother to listen as her brother read further. “He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children but Hannah had none. “

Jesus read on for some time. When he came to the story of Samuel  as a young boy serving the Lord under Eli, he looked up and saw that his sister had fallen asleep against Grandmother’s shoulder. Grandmother smiled and stayed quite still so as not to wake the sleeping child. Jesus stopped reading and just looked at the two of them for a moment.
Then he whispered, “Grandmother, can I ask you a question.”

“Of course,” said Grandmother in a soft voice. “I think she is sufficiently asleep. You need not worry about waking her.”

“Yesterday I was reading to Abba and I wanted to stop and ask him a question but James came dashing in and I never got to ask it.”

“What did you want to ask?”

“Do you know the story of King David and Uriah the Hittite?” asked Jesus.

“Yes,”

“Why did David send for Uriah the Hittite and bring him home from the war on the Ammonites?”

“Ah, my dear, it was to cover up his own sin,” said Grandmother.

Jesus looked shocked. “What sin? David was a man after God’s own heart!”

“He was that,” allowed Grandmother, “but he was also a sinner and he was trying to hide his sin just as all of us do.”

“But,” said Jesus, “what was his sin?”

“What he did with Bathsheba,” answered Grandmother.

“That’s the part I don’t get,” said Jesus. “He asked about her and when he found out who she was, he had her brought to him but then he fell asleep.”

“Ah, well, um… “ stammered his grandmother. “There was more to it than that. Did you not read about what Nathan the prophet said to David after this matter?”

“Not yet. I haven’t gotten that far.”

“Well, that should clear it up for you when you read that part.”

“But if you know, why don’t you explain it to me, Grandmother?” pleaded Jesus.

“No, … I think it might spoil the story if I explain it before you read what Nathan said.”

“Okay. Shall I read it now?” asked Jesus.

“No, not now,” she said. “I think your mother is back from the market.” And indeed, at that moment Jesus heard the sound of baby Simon’s voice crying and his mother’s voice trying to comfort him as she hurried.

Jesus carefully rolled up the scroll and placed it back in the carved container. He opened the door and took Simon into his arms as his mother swept into the room.

“How are you, Mother dear? Oh, how sweet!” she said as she saw Hannah sleeping against Grandmother’s shoulder. “When I left she was acting so timid!”

“She warmed up to me soon enough,” said the old woman.

“I hope she is not bothering you, Mother.”

“Nonsense,” said Grandmother. “She is very precious to me.”

“Jesus,” said Mary, “will you take my basket on home for me and see how your father is getting on with the twins? I’ll just nurse Simon and then be home to make lunch.”

“Shall I leave the scroll here, Grandmother? Perhaps I can come back this afternoon and read to you,” said Jesus.

“Of course. That would be fine.”

Jesus took the basket of vegetables home and then trotted toward the workshop. He found the door open and his father bent over his workbench showing James and Little Joseph how to sharpen a chisel. “You see,” he said, “just a little oil on the stone and then keeping the chisel at just this angle, I slide it forward to grind off the bluntness and restore a keen edge. I pick up the chisel on the backward stroke and then set it down again at the same angle for the next stroke. If you change angles, you round off the edge instead of making it sharper.”

“I get it,” said James. “Let me try.”

“I want to try, too,” said Little Joseph.

When the shadow of Jesus fell across the doorway, they all three looked up.

“Ah, there you are,” said his father. “I could use your help if you don’t mind.”

“Of course, Abba. How can I help you?”

“I need to go and make some measurements on the house and prepare for the adding of a room for Grandmother’s use.”
“If you tell me what you need, I can get the measurements, Abba,” said Jesus.

“I need to do that myself, Jesus,” he replied. “But you could help me by training your brothers in sharpening technique while I take the measurements.”

At that, Little Joseph let out a groan and James rolled his eyes. Joseph either did not notice or did not choose to respond. He gathered his thoughts and his measuring tools and strode out the door.

As soon as Joseph had left, Little Joseph spoke up, “You don’t need to show us anything. Abba already showed us how to sharpen tools.”

“Yes,” chimed in James, “we’ve got this covered so you can go study your scroll, Jesus.”

Sensing their displeasure but not wanting to disappoint his father, Jesus stayed put. “If Abba has already told you how, perhaps I can watch how you carry out your training,” he suggested.

“No, no,” protested James. “You should go do something more important, like baby-sitting your scroll.”

Ignoring the barb, Jesus said, “But since Abba told me what he wants me to do, I think I should obey him even if you don’t agree. Let me see your skill at sharpening that chisel.”

Little Joseph balked and said, “You just want to give a bad report to Abba about us so you will look superior.”

“Yeah,” said James, “there were reasons why Joseph son of Jacob got sold into Egypt.”

Little Joseph laughed. “That’s right,” he said. “It was his arrogance that was the problem. You should be careful how you treat us. We might know some traders headed for Egypt.”

Jesus stood quite still for a moment, trying to decide what to say or what to do. Finally he said, “Little Joe, you are holding the chisel. Here is the stone. Show me what you have learned.”

In frustration, his brother started sliding the chisel back and forth on the stone energetically but without the careful precision that Jesus had learned under his father’s oversight.

“Stop, stop,” cried Jesus. In response, Little Joe worked the chisel even faster and with even less precision. Jesus grabbed his brother’s forearms in an effort to save the chisel from any further damage and in the ensuing struggle they both tumbled to the floor. As they fell, James threw himself across Jesus’ legs and with their combined weight, the twins pinned Jesus to the floor. Jesus still held his brother’s wrists but the chisel was still firmly in Little Joe’s grip and the point of it was aimed at Jesus’ face.

There was a loud roar from the doorway and Joseph Senior dashed in upon the boys, grabbing the chisel out of Little Joe’s hand with his right hand and hauling him up against the wall by the front of his clothes with his left hand. “What in the name of righteousness is going on here?” he demanded. “Can’t I leave you boys alone for one minute without it turning into a malicious brawl?”
“He started it,” accused Little Joe. “He was bossing me around and tried to grab the chisel out of my hands.”

“It’s true,” chimed in James. “Jesus started it. He’s just trying to make you turn against us. He wouldn’t let us sharpen the chisel the way you showed us.”

Joseph turned to look at Jesus. Jesus was still picking himself up off the floor and dusting himself off. “Well?” said Joseph. “What’s your story?”

“I’m so sorry, Abba,” stammered Jesus. “They hate me without cause. They don’t respect me and won’t allow me to teach them how to handle a chisel. I can’t tell them anything. I was just asking Little Joe to show me his skill, he started madly scraping the chisel all over the stone, ruining the edge. When I told him to stop he did it all the more energetically and wildly. I tried to grab his wrists to keep him from ruining your chisel. But then they both jumped me.”

“Don’t you lie to our father, you son of a perverse woman…” James’ words were cut off by a sharp slap across his mouth.

“Who do you think you are to speak of your mother that way,” shouted Joseph. “I will not have such talk coming out of your mouth!’

“But it’s from the scroll, Abba!” cried James. “I heard Jesus read those very words.”

Joseph looked at Jesus with open doubt all over his face.

“Those are the words of Saul to his son Jonathan when Jonathan supported David,” said Jesus. “It was not intended as an example for the children of Israel to follow. It was one of those times when an evil spirit from the Lord was upon Saul.”

“So is an evil spirit from the Lord upon you, James, that you should curse your own mother and on you, Little Joseph, that you would threaten your brother with a chisel?” Joseph was staring from one boy to another, at a loss for how to settle this unwelcome skirmish.

James was holding his stinging face in both hands and weeping openly. Little Joseph was cowering near the door but again said, “Jesus started it. He is always trying to boss us around.”

“He is your elder brother and I gave him authority over you. If you ever become half as good at sharpening as he is, you will be useful to me in this shop. If you won’t learn from him, you will remain a fool.”

“See,” wailed James, “he is always turning our own father against us!”

At that moment Joseph glanced in Jesus’ direction and Jesus motioned with his chin toward the door. Joseph turned and found wide-eyed Hannah peeking around the doorpost at this violent scene.

“Oh… hello Sweetie,” he said in a voice he hadn’t used all morning. “We’re just having a … a… discussion here. Is lunch ready?”

Hannah nodded solemnly and ran for the house.

The pattern for the rest of that week was that Jesus would bring breakfast to his grandmother and read scripture to her from the borrowed scroll while she ate. Then he would do various chores for her and take care of her garden. Each day she would ask about the development of the cucumbers and the melons. After reporting to her about the state of the garden, he would go back home and report on the state of his grandmother. She continued to be mostly bed-ridden with a slight fever and a cough that she just couldn’t shake.

On Friday morning when Jesus reported back to his mother, Mary said, “I don’t think we can bring her here for the sabbath meal this evening; we will have our sabbath meal at her house.”

“Good idea,” said Jesus. “I can help you carry things.”

“You can help me in other ways, too,” she replied. “I want you to sweep out her house and clean the table. Make sure there is plenty of fresh water there and no yeast in the house. Then I want you to run out to Uncle Ezra’s and invite him to come share sabbath meal with us.”

“Yes!” exclaimed Jesus. He relished the idea of having the sabbath meal in his grandmother’s house and having her huge, mostly silent brother share the experience with them. And he felt honored to be trusted to go alone to Uncle Ezra’s place to deliver the invitation.

He hurried to carry out his mother’s instructions. His grandmother perked up a bit when he told her that they were going to celebrate the sabbath meal at her house. She perked up even more when Jesus told her he was going to go invite Uncle Ezra to join them. She asked, “Are there any cucumbers large enough to make some cucumber yoghurt salad? Ezra loves it with lots of salt and garlic in it.”

“I’m afraid not, Grandmother,” replied Jesus. “The vines are beginning to set fruit but they are still very small. I can check in town, if you like.”

“No, that’s alright,” she said. “Don’t go to extra expense. Is the first melon ripe?”

“Not yet,” he said. “I think it will be in a couple more days.”

When he finished his chores, he set out on his mission to visit Uncle Ezra and invite him to sabbath meal. He had been to Uncle Ezra’s place a few times with his father, but this was his first time to go there alone. On the way there, he practiced the gestures he thought might clearly convey that he was to come to his sister’s house to eat at sundown.

Uncle Ezra lived somewhat out of town where he kept a number of horses and mules of his own and where he doctored animals for neighbors and friends at need. He was deaf and mute which contributed to a great deal of social awkwardness. but he had a wonderful sense of understanding with animals.

When Jesus was getting near his goal, he saw that he was not the only one visiting Uncle Ezra that day. And there was a good deal of excitement on hand. There was a Roman centurion there with another soldier and a servant. All four men were standing at the fenced stables and the horses were in a good deal of turmoil. Samson, the great black, Arabian stallion that Uncle Ezra had brought back from his time as a legionnaire was rearing and neighing and pawing the ground in a perfect frenzy. He was tied securely in a small pen that restricted his movements, but his energy and excitement filled the air. In the pen next to Samson was a grey mare that Jesus had not seen before.

The centurion was speaking Greek and the servant was translating into Aramaic for him, but Uncle Ezra was as deaf to the one as to the other and kept his eyes and his hands on Samson. He was stroking Samson in between the rearing and plunging and making soft noises to try to calm him, but it was having little effect. Jesus hung back and watched the action for a few minutes. The mare was restless, as was every animal in the vicinity, disturbed by the frenzy of Samson. The men were excitable, too, with the exception of great Uncle Ezra.

When the servant glanced Jesus in the background, he motioned for him to come near. “Who are you?” he asked.

“I am called Jesus,” he replied. “Ezra is my father’s uncle.”

“Can you communicate with him at all,” asked the servant.

“Yes, somewhat,” said Jesus. “What is going on?”

“I am Jotham, a hired servant of this centurion. He brought this mare to be serviced by the great stallion but two days have passed and Ezra has not allowed them to come together. He is wondering why Ezra is keeping them separate and when he is going to fulfill his part of the contract. The mare is obviously in heat and the stallion is ready. What is the problem?”

“I know little about such things,” said Jesus, “what do you mean by serviced?”

“You know,” said Jotham, using a crude gesture, “serviced! He is supposed to get her pregnant. Make a baby.”

Jesus blushed and replied, “I don’t know much about horses, but Uncle Ezra is the expert around here. I’m sure he must have his reasons. Did your master agree on a price and pay it?”

“They agreed on a price and half of it has been paid. The other half is not due until the mare is clearly pregnant. But my master is getting impatient. He is under orders to travel to Cesarea in four days. He wants this business cleared up.”

At that point, Uncle Ezra noticed Jesus. He stepped back from the heavy fence and greeted Jesus, kissing him on both cheeks and engulfing him in his huge embrace.

Using gestures, but avoiding the crude one Jotham had used, Jesus asked his great uncle when the two horses would come together. Uncle Ezra signaled that waiting was better. The right time would come. He didn’t want Samson to hurt the to hurt each other in their excitement. The mare had to become less frightened of Samson.

Jesus told this to Jotham who then translated the message into Greek for the centurion and his companion. They again expressed their urgency, which needed no translation for Uncle Ezra. He could read their impatience without hearing their words. He signaled that they should return in four more days. Jesus told Jotham that but the centurion rejected that answer. He insisted he would come back in three days. If by that time the mare had not been serviced, then the deal was off and he would demand his money back.

Uncle Ezra agreed to those terms and the party left.  When they were gone, Ezra brought grain and water for Samson and the mare and then took Jesus aside for some tea. They sat in the shade where they could watch the two horses. Jesus conveyed the invitation to come for the sabbath meal to Grandmother’s house. Ezra showed real pleasure at the invitation and promised to come. Then he got up and led Jesus to a garden patch behind his simple dwelling. He searched among the leaves and brought out two long cucumbers and gave them to Jesus.
He also picked a double handful of beans to contribute to the meal. And a double handful for Uncle Ezra was a rather generous supply, his hands being so large.

When they went back to the animal pens, Uncle Ezra pointed out how much Samson had eaten and how much water he had drunk. The mare had eaten and drunk, as well. They watched a few minutes longer. When the mare came close to the fence that separated the two and touched muzzles with Samson over the fence, Uncle Ezra grunted with satisfaction and nodded.

Then he released the mare from her pen into a corral that adjoined the pens and continued to watch. When Jesus began to take his leave, Ezra motioned for him to stay. The mare circled the corral a couple of times and then approached the fence that separated Samson from the corral. Samson was straining against the rope that held his halter short at the other end of the small pen. Ezra released the rope and let Samson turn around. When his head came close to the mare’s, she did not flee. Samson was trembling from nose to tail. His eyes were bulging and he was sweating. He tried to rear up as if to climb over the gate separating them, but Ezra brought him back to earth and with one hand swung the gate open. He released the rope and let Samson fly. Both horses took off with great energy but the mare only trotted around the corral a few times and then settled down.

Samson, on the other hand, seemed determined to impress this mare with his virility. With his tail held high, he raced around the corral at top speed, kicking and bucking and leaping into the air. When he got near the mare, he slid to a stop and tore off in the other direction in the same energetic manner. For several minutes, Samson prolonged the show until he was quite lathered up. When he began to slow down, the mare trotted alongside him for another lap or two. Finally she stopped and turned. Ezra and Jesus held their breath as Samson mounted her.

Uncle Ezra clapped Jesus on the back and hugged him tight. Then he sent him on his way back home.

That sabbath was a very memorable occasion for Jesus because of the mixture of the familiar routines with the disruption of having the sabbath meal at grandmother’s house. Instead of having her come to the meal, they were taking the meal to her. Instead of Grandmother helping his mother with the preparations, Jesus helped make the meal for Grandmother. And having Uncle Ezra come was out of the ordinary, as well. As Jesus cut up the cucumbers and stirred them into the yoghurt, he wondered if Uncle Ezra would come on Samson’s back. He wondered if Samson would still be trembling and sweating and over excitable. He imagined Samson tied outside his Grandmother’s house, rearing and neighing. Surely Samson would break free and run away to be with the mare. If that happened, Uncle Ezra would have to run after him. Jesus hoped Samson would not spoil the sabbath meal.

Half an hour before sunset, Jesus approached Grandmother’s house carrying the bowl of cucumber-yoghurt salad. He was anticipating the joy his grandmother would express when she saw that dish and even more joy when she tasted it. He prayed as he walked that God would use this meal to strengthen her so that she could join them on their pilgrimage to Jerusalem as she used to do.

He was disappointed not to find Samson tied in front of the house and began to wonder if Uncle Ezra would come. But when he entered the house, he found him already there. He was sitting beside his sister’s bed holding her hand and stroking her hair. Tears were rolling down Grandmother’s cheeks. She was not even trying to wipe them away.

Jesus put the bowl on the table and asked, “What’s wrong, Grandmother?”

She blew her nose on a handkerchief and said, “Nothing is wrong. I’m just overjoyed to celebrate the sabbath one more time with my family before I go.”

“Grandmother, where are you going?”

“I’m going to go up that hill where my Jacob, God rest his soul, is waiting for me. And I am going to lie down next to him and wait for the resurrection.”

“Not yet, Grandmother!” cried Jesus. “Surely not yet! Do you not want to get strong again and enjoy your garden?”

“I’m very tired, Jesus,” she said. “I am worn out and I don’t think I will see that garden produce anything again.”

“I’ve made you some cucumber-yoghurt salad,” said Jesus.

“Did my vines produce cucumbers, then?” she asked.

“Actually, they are about to produce fruit, but these cucumbers are from Uncle Ezra’s garden.”

“Oh, bless his heart,” she said, patting her brother’s large hand.

Soon Mary and the other children bustled into the house bringing the rest of the meal and a great deal of noise and confusion. James and Little Joseph unburdened themselves and immediately dashed out to chase each other around the house. Hannah clung to her mother’s skirts as she carried Simon on one hip and tried to arrange the preparations on the table.

“Good sabbath, Mother,” she said and soon came to check on her mother-in-law. She greeted Uncle Ezra and squeezed his hands. She kissed Grandmother on both cheeks and said, “You’ve been crying, Mother! Are you in pain?”

“No, no, I’m just being a sentimental old fool,” she said. “I’m sorry to create so much extra work for you. I should be bringing food to your house.”
“The Lord gives rest to those He loves, Mother. Just relax and enjoy your sabbath.”

Joseph came in a few minutes later, hands and face still damp from washing up. “Good sabbath, Mother!” he said. “And good sabbath to you, Ezra,” he said, hurrying to kiss both of them. “I’m sorry I have come so late. I’m working on expanding my house to bring you under our roof, Mother.”

“I would tell you to stop,” said his mother, “if I thought you would listen but you won’t. And you can use the extra space for your own growing family. I’m not going to need very much room at all. I’m getting ready to move up the hill next to your father, God rest his soul.”

“Mother, don’t be so pessimistic. God willing, you will soon be strong again.”

“If He gives me strength, I will be strengthened,” conceded the old woman. “But I suspect I’m almost through with my allotted days.”

“Joseph, please come light the candles,” called Mary. “The sun is setting and we are ready to begin. Jesus, go call your brothers.”

Joseph lit the candles and Ezra carried his frail sister to a couch prepared for her beside the table. The sabbath had begun.

Grandmother leaned against her brother and ate very little. Ezra tried to get her to eat, but she had very little appetite. She did eat some of the cucumber-yoghurt salad when Ezra spoon-fed her. And she seemed to appreciate the efforts everyone made to include her. But she seemed very tired.

“Grandmother,” said Jesus, “I do hope you will get strong enough to go with us to Jerusalem this month.”

“Oh, dear boy,” she sighed. “If I ever see Jerusalem again, it will be a miracle.”

“God still does miracles,” said Jesus.

“He does,” she agreed. “But I don’t think I am strong enough to receive a miracle right now. I think the next journey I take will be up that hill to lie down beside your grandfather.”

“Mother,” said Joseph, “please don’t talk like that. Don’t give up hope.”

“What hill?” asked James. “Where is our grandfather?”

“She means the graveyard on the hill beyond Uncle Seth’s place,” said Joseph. “My father, Jacob, was buried there just days before we returned from Egypt. That was before you were born.”

“Can we go up there tomorrow?” asked Little Joe. “You can see ever so far from up there.”

“I think that’s a good idea,” said Joseph. “The sabbath is a good time to visit the tombs of our fathers. You can each put a stone of remembrance on his tomb. His parents are buried there, too. That is, your great grandmother and great grandfather along with my little sister who died when she was three.”

At the mention of his sister, Grandmother began to weep. And the weeping made her begin to cough. Ezra gently picked her up and carried her back to her bed. Mary and Ezra tucked her in and tended to her until she stopped coughing and fell asleep.

The next day, Grandmother was so ill that Joseph and Mary were both too busy tending her to even think about visiting the graves. James and Little Joe, however, were so insistent on the outing that there father consented to let them go if Jesus would guide them and keep them out of mischief. Jesus agreed.

When they left the house, James was carrying a bag over his shoulder. Jesus asked, “What do you have there?”

“A treat,” replied his brother. “A little something special to eat when we get up there.”

“Did Mother give that to you?” asked Jesus.

“Yes, Mother gave it to me,” said James. Little Joseph agreed.

Jesus thought it was strange that his mother would give such a treat into James’ care. Usually such responsibility would be entrusted to the oldest brother. And he had not seen her give it to James. Perhaps his mother had been too preoccupied with Grandmother this morning. He let it pass without further comment, but he was puzzled.

They went through the middle of town on their journey. The market place was deserted and quiet on the sabbath. Even the usual stray dogs had abandoned the center of town in search of scraps in the rubbish heap. The boys continued up the lane between a vineyard and an olive grove toward the home of Uncle Seth and Auntie Hobal. At the top, they turned right and entered an area on the other side of the ridge where many graves were warmed by the morning sunshine.

“This is grandfather’s grave,” said Jesus, leading his brothers to a small stone marker near the lower corner of the area. “And those two markers are for our great grandparents.”

“Where’s the one for Abba’s little sister?” asked Little Joe.

“I’m not sure,” said Jesus. “I was never told. Maybe it doesn’t have a marker.”

“Have you ever been up there,” said Little Joe, pointing to the highest hill in the region. “Isn’t that  where ‘the leaping stone’ is?”

“Yes, it is,” said Jesus. “I’ve been up there just once.”

“Why do they call it the leaping stone,” asked James.

“I’ve heard it said,” said Jesus, “that when someone feels cheated in love, he goes up there and leaps to his death.”

“And I heard about an infidel that was thrown off of there when he wouldn’t give glory to God,” said Little Joe. “Let’s go up there and see it!”

“No,” said Jesus. “We don’t have permission to go up there.”

“But there’s nothing to do here,” said Little Joe.

“Yeah, this is boring,” agreed James. “What’s the fun of visiting graves?”

“Well, normally Abba tells us stories of the people who are buried here.”

“So are you going to tell us those stories?” asked James.

“I don’t really know those stories, myself,” said Jesus.

“So, let’s go to the leaping stone. That place is more interesting.”

“Maybe we should go back and ask Abba for permission to go up there,” suggested Jesus.

“Fine,” said James. “You go ask Abba for permission. And in the meantime, Joseph and I will start going that way.”

“Yeah,” said Joseph. And the two of them started off on the path toward the leaping stone.

“Wait,” said Jesus. “We don’t have permission yet!” But he couldn’t dissuade them.

He stood still, torn between two obligations. He felt he needed Abba’s permission to go but he was also under orders to keep his brothers out of mischief. He couldn’t just abandon them in order to go seek permission. Reluctantly, he followed his brothers, calling after them to give up this fool’s errand and come home. They ran ahead, trying to get out of the reach of his voice.

When they reached the leaping stone, the view was so grand that they were all silenced for a moment by the sense of being so small and so exposed. They went near the edge and looked down. Below them was a field of boulders that had fallen from these heights. “Wow,” whispered James, “it must be two hundred cubits straight down!”

“Look,” said Little Joe, pointing. “Isn’t that a skull beside that large boulder down there?”

“No, I don’t think so,” said Jesus. “That’s just a rock.”

“I think it is a skull,” said James. “We should climb down there and see.”

“Don’t be crazy,” said Jesus. “Nobody would allow a skull to remain there. They would get it and bury it.”

“Well,” conceded James, “that might be a stone but I bet we could find human bones down there.”

“I forbid you to go down there,” said Jesus. “If you start down there, I am going to run get Abba and you will be in big trouble.”

“You are such a girl,” said Little Joe. “If you were really our brother, you would show us how to get down there and you would help us look for bones.”

“Yeah,” said James.

Jesus refrained from retaliating, watching to see if they would relent and stop their mad adventure. “Hey,” he said, “what about the treat in that bag? Wouldn’t this be a good place to eat it? How about back here in the shade of these trees?”

“No,” said Little Joe. “Let’s sit right here with our feet dangling over the edge and eat it.”

“Yeah,” agreed James. Let’s enjoy the view.”

“Come back a little bit,” coaxed Jesus. “The view is just as good from here and we will be safer.”

“Girls need to sit where it’s safer,” said Little Joe. “We men aren’t afraid of a little ranger, are we, James?”

“That’s right,” said James. “You stay safe and we will sit like men.”

The drop was intimidating enough that the twins, daring though they were, sat down and then scooted toward the edge until their feet stuck out in the air. Their feet were not exactly dangling. Jesus sat cross-legged a little farther back but near enough to grab an arm if one of his brothers began to slip.

Then Joseph opened the leather bag and brought out a smallish melon.

Jesus looked at it in surprise and asked, “Where did you get that melon?”

“Mother gave it to us,” said Joe.

“I don’t think so,” said Jesus. “Where did you get that?”

“We bought it in the market yesterday,” said James.

“I don’t believe you,” said Jesus. “You asked to borrow money from me yesterday to buy grapes.”

“Yeah,” said James. “And you wouldn’t give us any!”

“So where did you get the melon,” Jesus asked, with growing suspicion.

“We borrowed the money from someone who was more generous than you,” said Joseph.
“I think you are lying,” said Jesus. “That melon isn’t ripe enough to be sold in the market.”

“Okay, okay,” said James. “We picked it out of our garden. What’s the big deal? Who made you judge over us?”

“We don’t have a garden this year,” countered Jesus. “You stole that out of Grandmother’s garden, didn’t you? She has been waiting and waiting for the first melon to ripen and you stole it!”

“Grandmother’s garden is our garden,” shouted Little Joe. “And at least she really is our grandmother, not yours! She’s too sick to eat it anyway.”

“Don’t try to cover up your wickedness with foolish talk,” said Jesus. “I am going to tell Abba what you have done!”

“He won’t believe you if you do,” said Joseph. “He’s not your Abba, anyway. He’s ours.”

“Don’t speak like a madman, Joseph!” said Jesus. “You are in enough trouble already. Abba will listen to me. I am his firstborn son.”

“No, you’re not,” said Joseph. “James is, and I was born right after him. You were adopted!”

Jesus was stunned into silence by his brother’s audacity.

“That’s right,” agreed James. “Abba adopted you to save Mama. Everybody knows that. Everybody but you.”

Jesus gasped. “What do you mean everybody? If that was true, Abba would have told me.”

“They probably didn’t tell you because they knew you couldn’t handle it,” said Joseph.

“Abba told you this?” asked Jesus. He was incredulous at the thought.

“No, Malki told us,” said James.

Malki was the little brother of Uri the shepherd. Jesus was sure his brothers were as untruthful about this as they had been about the source of the melon. But he was shaken by their bold accusations and outraged at their callous theft of Grandmother’s first melon of the season.

“Do you have your kinfe,” James asked Jesus. “Let’s open this melon.”

Without answering, Jesus reached out and took the melon from him. Then in one swift motion he stood up and raised the melon over his head with both hands.

“What are you doing?” shouted Joseph, scrambling to his feet. But he was not quick enough to stop Jesus from throwing the melon off the cliff.

“No!” cried James as all three of them watched the melon burst into pieces like a human skull thrown upon the boulders.
“Why did you do that?” shouted the twins in unison.

“I will not taste of that stolen melon and neither will you,” said Jesus.

James began to weep openly and Joseph muttered, “I will get even with you for this.”

Something in the malice of his tone made Jesus retreat from the edge of the leaping stone.

By the time they got home that afternoon, Jesus had many questions he wanted to ask Abba but Abba and Mother were so anxious and busy taking care of Grandmother that there was no opportunity to talk about what had happened at the graveyard and at the leaping stone. Jesus didn’t even find time to tell them about his brothers’ outrageous behavior. He reasoned that the family had enough trouble right now. His report on this whole outing, horrible as it was, would have to wait.

As soon as the sun set, the sabbath was over, so Jesus brought water and tended his grandmother’s garden in the failing light. He lamented the missing melon and saw that the melon vine had been damaged when the first fruit had been ruthlessly wrenched off, rather than carefully harvested. He marveled at the wickedness of his brothers and their disregard for truth and righteousness.

Early in the morning on the first day of the week, Jesus ran to Grandmother’s house. He found his father already there sitting beside the bed.

“Abba, you are here early,” he whispered.

“On the contrary,” Abba whispered back. “You are here early; I am here late.”

“Do you mean you spent the night here?” asked Jesus.

Joseph nodded. “Actually your mother and I took turns. But I have been here since the third watch of the night.”

“How is she?” whispered Jesus.

Joseph shook his head. “She is not doing well. Right now she seems to be sleeping okay, but often her breathing is labored and she moans as if in pain.”

“I brought this tea for her, but maybe you should drink it.”

“No, keep it here for her. She might wake soon and want it. If you will watch her for a bit, I will go home and get more than just tea.”

“Of course, Abba. I will call you if I need you.”

After his father left, Jesus sat quietly watching his grandmother and praying for her recovery. It might have been half an hour later that she turned softly in the bed and began to cough. At first it seemed like she would just cough a few times and then go on sleeping, so Jesus held his peace. But the coughing grew persistent and more violent until she sat up in bed. Jesus greeted her softly and patted her shoulder. He found her a handkerchief and she held it to her mouth and coughed more. When she stopped coughing, she examined the handkerchief. Jesus saw that she had coughed up blood with her sputum.

“Oh, Grandmother,” he said. “That is not good. Shall I go get Abba?”

“No, don’t bother him,” said Grandmother. He knows. He was here with me most of the night. Let him get some rest.”

“But what can I do for you? How can I help?”

“There is nothing anyone can do for me, Jesus,” she said. “My days here are finished very soon now. I hardly have the strength to cough.”

“Will you drink some tea? It was hot when I brought it but the heat has gone out of it now.”

“I will drink a little,” she said.

“I can heat it over the fire,” he offered.

“No, I will drink it as it is. If I spill it on me, it won’t burn me,” said Grandmother.

Jesus helped her steady the cup and she sipped a bit and then leaned back with a sigh. “That’s fine,” she said. I still enjoy my tea.”

She sat quietly for a few minutes and then asked, “Did you go up to your grandfather’s grave yesterday?”

“Yes.” He wasn’t sure what else to say. There were scenes with his brothers that he didn’t want to describe to her.

“It is so peaceful there,” she said. “He and I used to walk up there every sabbath and visit his parents’ graves. We would sit and admire the view. And he would talk to his mother and father. Can you believe that? It seemed strange to me at first, but he would tell them all about his week and what had happened in Nazareth, just like they were sitting there carrying on a conversation. I found it a bit strange at first.”

“Did you ever talk to him up there? You know, after he was buried?”

“Only once, last year. I was sitting all alone up there on a Sabbath afternoon and I said, ‘Jacob, I know you are not coming back to me. But one day soon, I will come lie down beside you. Then we will be together again.’”

“Did you cry?” asked Jesus.

“A little bit,” she admitted. “But then I felt all peaceful inside. I’m not afraid to go, you know?” She said that as she patted Jesus’ hand.

“I know you’re not,” said Jesus. “Have you been back there since that time?”

“No, that was the last time I went. Next time I go up there, I will stay.”

She had another coughing spell. Jesus patted her shoulder until the spasm passed.

Then she asked, “Is that first melon ripe enough to harvest yet?”

Jesus swallowed a wave of emotion before telling her, “No, Grandmother, there is not yet a melon on that vine that is fit to eat.” He consoled himself with the thought that he hadn’t lied. He could not see any good coming from telling her what had happened to that first melon. In his mind’s eye, he saw it bursting on the boulders at the bottom of the leaping stone and a shudder passed through him from head to foot.

“Well never mind that melon,” said his grandmother. “If you feel up to it, you could read to me from the scroll.”

“With pleasure,” he exclaimed. He was always eager to read God’s word, but especially if it meant changing from the current topic, fraught as it was with perplexities.

Grandmother continued to decline that week. Each day Jesus would take the morning watch and read from the scroll of Samuel. Sometimes he would have to stop reading her and support her while she coughed violently. Other times he would read, not knowing whether she listened with her eyes closed or whether she slept while he read.

On the fourth day of the week, he came to the end of the scroll and looked up. Grandmother’s eyes were closed and she was very still. Something about her posture looked unnatural and he touched her shoulder to restrain her from slumping out of bed. She was as limp and lifeless. She had climbed that hill for the last time while he was reading.

“Oh Grandmother,” he gulped. “I wish I had seen you leaving! He secured her in the bed and then kissed her forehead. “Good bye, Grandmother,” he cried softly. “Good bye. Tell Grandfather hello for me.”

Then he ran to find Abba and Mother.

The next couple of days were filled with people, tears, stories and food. Grandmother had outlived many of her own generation, but the children of her friends remembered her warmly from their youth. They came by in family  groups, large and small to convey their sympathies, to shed some tears, swap some stories and many brought contributions of food to help the family with the social obligations of losing a family member.

The funeral was on Friday and held early enough in the day so that it would not interfere too much with preparations for the sabbath. Jesus was watching for Uri the shepherd or his brother, Malki. If Malki really had told James and Little Joseph that Jesus was adopted, Uri would probably know about it. Perhaps he would say that Malki is just a trouble-maker and not to worry about it. Or perhaps Uri hadn’t even heard it and it was a vicious rumor, though Jesus could not think of any reason why Malki would start such a rumor. At any rate, Abba and Mother were far too occupied to deal with such questions. And if it were a vicious rumor, no need to bother them. He wished he could have brought up the topic with Grandmother, but…

After Grandmother was buried and the last psalm sung, Jesus stood in a kind of reception line with his parents and siblings and Uncle Ezra receiving condolences from neighbors. When the last stragglers were lining up, Jesus saw Uri slipping away. He almost didn’t recognize him because he wasn’t in his customary shepherd garb. He was all cleaned up and looked so different without a flock of sheep and no shepherd’s staff.

It seemed that Uri would just leave without going through the reception line, but when Jesus caught his eye, he turned and followed the last two women past the family.

Uri muttered his condolences so low that Jesus had to assume that he was speaking the customary words. Jesus thanked him in turn and then before he could slip away he asked, “Who is watching the sheep?”

“Malki is with them but I need to get back,” said Uri.

“Could I come see you tomorrow? I need to talk to you,” said Jesus.

Uri looked a bit surprised but he nodded. “I’ll be out on the hill below the spring. The flock will bed down about the fourth hour. If you come then, I will not be too busy.”

“Okay,” said Jesus. “I’ll try to come.”

Uri nodded with one eyebrow raised in curiosity and then quietly took his leave.

The sabbath meal that evening was a somber affair and everyone was a bit teary-eyed over Grandmother’s sudden absence from the family group. Jesus slipped off to bed rather earlier than usual, as soon as evening chores were done.

The next morning he crept out of bed as quietly as possible while there was only a hint of light on the eastern horizon. He stealthily found a bit of bread and some raisins and left the house without anyone being the wiser.

He went first to the graveyard and sat down beside the freshly filled mound beside Grandfather’s stone. He munched on the bread as the dawn approached and then he spoke aloud. “Good morning, Grandmother. I came to talk to you. I was so sad that you made your final journey up this hill. I hope you are comfortable lying beside Grandfather like you said you would.  We all miss you terribly. Sabbath meal last night was mostly silent and tearful. Your place was empty.”

He paused. After the first few utterances, it didn’t feel strange to be talking to her. It was sad that she didn’t speak back, but there was something encouraging about expressing himself in words that he couldn’t yet say in front of live people.

“Grandmother, I wish I had asked you more questions. I wish you had told me every story you ever heard or knew. And… there is a painful matter that came up between the twins and me last sabbath. I wish I could talk to you about it and hear your response. They were very naughty and sassy with me and… and… they had stolen your melon. I’m so sorry you didn’t get to eat your melon. I was really looking forward to bringing it to you. We were up on the leaping stone and they said they had a treat. And they brought out your poor melon. When I asked where they had got it from, they just lied. I got so angry I took the melon from them and threw it off the cliff. I’m sorry… it wasn’t ripe enough to eat, you know. But it is so sad.”

He wiped the tears from his eyes and then continued, “They said that I’m adopted and that you aren’t really my grandmother and… and… that Abba is not my father. If you could talk, I’m sure you would say, ‘Nonsense!’ and dismiss their words as rubbish. I wish I could hear you say that.”

He sat silently for another half hour and watched birds go about their lives in the trees and bushes nearby. He heard roosters crowing and donkeys braying as the town of Nazareth woke up to another sabbath, just as if nothing had changed, as if no one had died. When a stray dog wandered into the graveyard, Jesus shooed it out and threw a stone after it. He didn’t want any dog disturbing the freshly turned soil on his grandmother’s grave.

From there he turned and walked up the path toward the leaping stone. Halfway there, he hesitated. It occurred to him that he hadn’t said goodbye to Grandmother when he left. But then he reasoned that she had not said goodbye before leaving her bed to make her final journey up that hill. Perhaps goodbyes were no longer necessary. He continued.

The sun came over the horizon just as he reached the top. He sat down cross-legged on the edge of the precipice and allowed the sun to warm him in silence for several minutes. Then he began to address his Heavenly Father, “Hear oh Israel, the Lord our God is one. Thank you my Heavenly Father, that you hear me. Thank you that you know me. Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely. You were watching down on me and my brothers last week as we disturbed this tranquil place with childish conflict. Have mercy on us, oh God. You saw the wickedness of James and Little Joseph in stealing Grandmother’s melon and then lying about it. Forgive them for their childish misbehavior and help me to lead them in paths of righteousness for your name’s sake. Forgive me for throwing the melon off this cliff.”

He peeked over the edge but could not detect any trace of the melon on the rocks below. Perhaps the melon had fed some of God’s creatures in the end. And Grandmother had been too ill to wait for the melon to ripen.

“Father, you heard the malicious words of my brothers and their accusations that I am not their brother. Why do they hate me without cause? What have I done that they want to distance themselves from me and eject me from the family? Surely I am innocent of any harmful wish in their direction, let alone any vile behavior! Vindicate me, oh God, and help me to be an elder brother of the very best kind to them, even if they do not thank me for doing so. Guide ME in paths of righteousness for your name’s sake.”

The sunlight had not yet reached the bottom of the cliff. In the half-light below him, Jesus thought he detected stealthy motion. He shielded his eyes from the glare of the sun and sat very still. After a few minutes, a jackal crept from behind a boulder and, sniffing the breeze, sat down and looked over her shoulder. Two young ones came to her and began tumbling over each other and playfully biting her tail. She continued to watch for any sign of danger but did not detect his presence at the top of the cliff. He thought that this might be similar to how the Lord looks down on his people without their being aware that He is watching. He took the remaining scrap of bread out of his bag and threw it in the direction of the jackals. He watched as it turned over in the air and then ricocheted off a boulder and disappeared into the talus. At the sound of the bread hitting the rock, the female jackal gave a sharp ‘yip’ and she and her young ones disappeared in a flash. Jesus mused that human reactions are probably often similar when God Almighty looks down on them with pity and supplies what they are lacking.

He watched for several more minutes but the jackals did not reappear. He tired of sitting on the stone and got up to go look for Uri. As he walked, he thought about his brothers’ accusation and wondered if it just came out of their general misbehavior. He would have thought so except for their mention of Malki. Why would they throw in a random reference to an innocent party? Malki must have said something that his brothers misinterpreted in their eagerness to oppose him and reject his authority over them. That must be it. Uri would probably clear everything up in a moment.

He found Uri resting in the shade of a rock where he said he would be. Most of the flock was gathered near him, lying down and peacefully chewing their cuds. The exception was a pair of rams who were a bit apart and focused on each other, with occasional head-butting going on between them.

“Shalom, Uri,” said Jesus as he came within voice range.

“Shalom to you, little friend. How are you doing?” said Uri.

“I’m doing well,” Jesus replied.

“It’s too bad about your grandmother.”

“Yes, it is,” said Jesus. “I was really hoping that she would go up with us to Jerusalem next month. Now I don’t even want to go.”

“That’s understandable,” replied the shepherd.

“Uri, I need to ask you a question,” said Jesus.

“Go ahead, ask,” said Uri.

“It’s probably all a misunderstanding, but my brothers said that your brother, Malki, said that I was adopted. They misunderstood him, don’t you think?”

“What do you think they misunderstood?” asked Uri.

“Well, James and Joseph were being particularly annoying, as little brothers can be, and they said I was adopted, that I’m not their brother. When I told them not to talk foolishness, they protested that they had heard it from Malki.”

“And?” said Uri.

“And I came to you as Malki’s older brother to clear this up. I’m sure you will tell me that Malki was just being particularly annoying and made up this rubbish to hurt my brothers’ feelings as revenge for some mischief they had done to him.” Jesus waited a moment with growing concern and confusion as Uri did not respond.

Finally Uri spoke, “If Malki was being mean, I will thrash him. But I can’t tell from what you report that he was being mean about it.”

“What do you mean?” asked Jesus. “If people say that someone was adopted when they know he wasn’t adopted, that seems unkind, if not downright mean.”

“But in this case,” countered Uri, “why would it be automatically mean for him to say that about you?”

“Excuse me?” said Jesus in total confusion.

“Why would it be mean to say that you were adopted? In your case it’s true. I’m sure no insult was intended.”

“B-b-but I’m not!” exclaimed Jesus.

“Do you really not know?” asked Uri. “I’m so sorry. I thought … Well, … your mother and Joseph should have told you by now. It shouldn’t have come out this way,” said Uri.

“You are making a joke, aren’t you, Uri?” said Jesus. “Very funny. You had me going for a minute.” He tried to laugh but it was forced.

Uri just looked at him. The obvious discomfort in his face made it clear that this was no joke. Or if it was a joke, Uri was a master at keeping a straight face. And if that was true, he was carrying it too far.

“Come on, Uri. Let’s laugh about this now and get down to truth.”

Uri was quiet another moment and then softly said, “You really didn’t know, then?”

“Enough, Uri! It’s not funny any more. You are taking it too far!” Jesus had a smile frozen on his face but there was no humor in his eyes.

Finally Uri said, “Well it’s a shame that it has to come to you this late and I’m sorry to be the one to break the news, but everyone in Nazareth knows that you are Mary’s son but not Joseph’s.”

Jesus felt as if he had been slapped in the face. He couldn’t find any words with which to reply so he sat gaping as if he had just watched Satan swallow up the moon. Then tears filled his eyes and overflowed down his cheeks. His head was slowly swinging from left to right and back again but still no words would come.

“Hey,” said Uri, patting Jesus on the knee, “it’s not your fault. You had no say in the matter.”

Sitting crosslegged, as he was, Jesus bowed clear over, his face in his hands and his hands on the ground. There he wept, sobbing audibly for several minutes. Uri patted his back and waited for the spasm of sorrow to pass. He kept murmuring, “It’s alright. It doesn’t make any difference. I’m still your friend.”

Finally Jesus sat up and wiped his eyes. He said, “If this were true, Abba would have told me.”

“Maybe he was just waiting for the right moment. He didn’t want to hurt you,” suggested Uri.

“If it is true, it would hurt no matter how long he waited. I can’t believe it’s true,” said Jesus.

“Well,” said Uri, “I suppose the whole town could be wrong and you could be right. But you weren’t old enough to give eligible testimony on the subject at the time, you know. But the whole town has talked about it ever since before you were born.”

“And what did they say?” challenged Jesus.

“Well, there has always been a lot of speculation as to who was your real father. Not that I was aware of the story back then. I was only three years old myself.”

“So who do they say was really my father?” asked Jesus.

“Some say one, some say another. Nobody really knows for sure. Or if they do know, they aren’t saying.”

“No, tell me!” insisted Jesus. “Who do they say is my father?”

“Look at those rams over there,” said Uri. By now a third ram had got to his feet and all three of them were challenging each other and occasionally two of them would butt heads with terrific force.

“Don’t change the subject,” said Jesus.

“I’m not changing the subject. The talk about town is that when Joseph was engaged to marry your mother, he had a couple of rivals.”

“What do you mean, rivals?” asked Jesus.

“Just like those rams,” said Uri. “They are rivals wanting mating rights with the flock. Each one wants to plant his own seed in the ewes and to prevent his rivals from doing so. Each one wants his own line to be dominant in the flock. That’s why they are competing.”

“So you are saying that other men were competing with my father for the right to marry my mother,” said Jesus. “Who were they?”

As the story goes, there was a Hittite named Gershom who left Nazareth about that time and who had bargained with Mary’s father for her hand. His disappearance was sudden and a bit mysterious. And there was an Arab trader that offered her father four camels for her but he was unsuccessful. Either one of them might be your father.”

“You can’t be serious,” said Jesus. “Do I look like a Hittite or an Arab?”

“Well,” said Uri, “you don’t look like Joseph!”

Jesus had heard that often enough in his eleven years. He didn’t challenge Uri on that point. “Is that the best story they can come up with?” he asked. “And if I am the son of one of his rivals, why would my father marry my mother? Does the whole town think he is a fool?”

“On the contrary,” said Uri. “All the speculation has been about what happened to your mother and what her responsibility in the whole matter was. Joseph has been above reproach, for the most part. Most people respect him for having saved your mother from being thrown off the leaping stone. Of course some take that generous act as proof that Joseph really was your father, but that doesn’t seem likely. Apparently he was quite disturbed when she came back home clearly pregnant.”

“What do you mean?” asked Jesus. “Came back home from where?”

“Your mother was apparently gone from Nazareth for a few months and when she came back, she was pregnant. So some speculated that she got that way while she was away.”

“She went to the hill country of Ephraim, to visit Elizabeth, a relative of ours,” said Jesus. “I know that part of the story. She was taken there by my father’s uncle, Ezra. I’m surprised the village gossips haven’t accused Uncle Ezra of being my father.”

“To tell the truth,” said Uri, “that version of the story has made the rounds, too. But it doesn’t attract many followers. You don’t look any more like him than you do like Joseph. And you have your hearing. And besides, Ezra has never shown any interest in women. Most people believe you are the son of Gershom the Hittite.”

“I will ask Abba,” said Jesus. “He will tell me the truth.”

“Yes, ask,” agreed Uri. “But I am a little surprised that he hasn’t said anything before now. And let me know what you learn. All of Nazareth is waiting for the solution to this mystery.”

More confused and troubled than he had been when he arrived, Jesus bade Uri goodbye and departed with the intention of going back to the leaping stone. He had bravely said he was going to ask his father, but his heart was so shaken that he could not face anyone at that moment. As he walked, the vision of Uncle Ezra kept popping up. He pondered what it would mean if Uncle Ezra really was his father. Joseph might marry Mary and raise her child on behalf of his uncle. Without realizing where he had changed course, Jesus found himself walking toward Uncle Ezra’s place.

When he was still half a league from where Uncle Ezra lived and cared for animals, Jesus slipped off the road and began to pick his way more stealthily through fields and untended brush. He found a vantage point from which he could see Ezra’s place without being seen. He sat down to wait and watch.

Several horses and four or five donkeys were grazing in the fields. Samson was not among them. Either Samson was inside his enclosed stall or Uncle Ezra was away from home on Samson’s back. From the vantage point Jesus had chosen, it was not possible to tell. He ate the remains of his stash of raisins and laid back on the ground in the shade to wait.

His mind was spinning with questions such as, “If Ezra is my father, then Joseph is my cousin. And since Ezra is Joseph’s maternal uncle, he might not be from David’s lineage. So I could not be the Messiah, despite what Abba and Mother have been saying. And why do I refer to him as Abba if he is really my cousin? And if I am the son of a Hittite or an Arab, all talk of my being the Messiah is ridiculous beyond words. Did they just make that up to make me feel better?”

He fell asleep with his head spinning and didn’t wake up until the afternoon was well spent. When he awoke, it took him a couple of minutes to realize where he was and to remember why he was there. He sat up and looked out again at Uncle Ezra’s animals. There was a young man tending to the animals but Uncle Ezra was not visible. Perhaps he had hired this young man to tend his animals while he himself went on a journey.

Jesus quietly slipped away through the brush and thought about going home, but he was not ready to face James and Little Joseph with their smug insolence. And if they were right that he was adopted, then he had no standing on which to reprove them for their audacious behavior. And how do you go to your father, or to the one you have always thought was your father and ask him, “Who are you and who is really my father?” Or can you go to your mother and ask her, “Who planted the seed in you that I grew from?” You can’t ask such questions. It’s like telling your parents, “Stop lying to me and reveal your sin!”

Half blinded by the fresh onset of tears, Jesus stumbled onto the path that led to the leaping stone. When he got there, he walked quietly to the edge and looked down. He looked for fragments of melon. He looked for the jackal and her little ones. The sun was at his back now and the boulders at the bottom of the cliff were in shadow. It was getting hard to see anything down there.

He heard a voice behind him sayng, “Have you considered how lovely it would be to leap and end it all?”

He spun around and saw no one. “The voice must be inside my head,” he said aloud.

“Whether inside or outside, what does it matter?” asked the voice. “If you are hearing truth, you should act on it.”

“Who are you and what do you have to do with me?” asked Jesus.

“What if I am your father?” asked the voice. “Should you not listen well to what I say?”

“Who is my father?” asked Jesus. “If you know, then tell me!”
“It would seem that your father did not care about you if he left you in such ignorance. Unloved. Uncared for. Abandoned.”

Jesus wiped tears from his eyes and said nothing.

The voice spoke again, “It must be a terribly heavy burden, not knowing who your father is. One quick jump and you would escape this intolerable situation.”

Jesus felt the sweat dripping down his sides, though the heat of the day was long past and the cool of the night was coming on. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other and looked over the edge. It was quite dark in the shadow of the cliff. If the jackals came out, he would not know it.

“You wouldn’t even need to jump,” said the coaxing voice. “Just a simple step forward and it would be resolved. You body would be a week’s worth of food for those poor hungry jackals. It would be a worthy sacrifice, would it not?”

A tremor passed through Jesus’ legs. He was afraid his knees would buckle or that the owner of the voice would push him. He took a step back from the edge. With that step, he found the strength to whimper, “Away from me, you devil!”

He collapsed on the spot and lay trembling and sobbing until it became too dark for him to find his way home. He wasn’t sure he would ever have the courage to go home again, but at least in this darkness he didn’t have even his wits about him. He crawled farther from the edge until his outstretched hand found the rough bark of a small wild tree. He grasped it with both hands and clung to it as if to a lifeline and cried himself to sleep.

He had troubling dreams about riding a camel across the wilderness trying to find his father. Occasionally he would glimpse some wild Arab fleeing into the distance but he couldn’t catch up to him. In another dream, he walked into his father’s workshop and said, “Good morning, Abba.” But when “Abba” turned around, it wasn’t Joseph.

In the middle of the night he woke up, aware of a terrific thirst. His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. He felt about him but couldn’t find the flask of water he had had with him. He wondered whether he had left it beside Uri and his flock. Or perhaps he had left it near Uncle Ezra’s place. He couldn’t remember when and where he had last had a drink.

“There is a spring at the bottom of the cliff,” said the oily voice in the darkness. “You will find it very refreshing down there.”

Jesus trembled in the darkness and reached out once again for the trunk of the tree under which he had taken refuge. After clinging to it for a moment, he considered whether there really were a spring at the bottom of the cliff. His head cleared and he knew there was no such spring.

“Get away from me!” he cried out. “You are the father of lies! You are not my father!”

The voice did not speak again that night. Jesus lay awake for the rest of the night alternately praying and weeping. He didn’t leave the refuge of the little tree trunk until he heard roosters crowing and saw a hint of light in the east. Then he sat up and began thinking of the concern he must have caused Abba and Mother. Or… Joseph and Mother. He didn’t know what to call him any more. But he had been away for a whole day and a night. They must be very worried. Or perhaps they are just relieved, he thought. I must be a source of great trouble for them. Maybe their lives would be better if I just disappeared. Perhaps I should steal a camel and just disappear into the desert, he mused. But which way would I go?

As the light grew, he was drawn back toward the edge of the leaping stone. Perhaps he had been afraid to jump because of the darkness at the bottom. Perhaps if he could see the stones at the bottom, they would seem like a welcome refuge. He was pretty sure that a fall from that height would kill anyone. There would not be much suffering. And who cares if a fatherless boy suffers, anyway. No one would miss him. James and Little Joe would probably celebrate. No would ever chide them for stealing melons again. And no one would tell their father what they had done. At least they had a father and knew who he was.

Jesus crept to the very edge and looked down. No sign of the jackals. He noticed his own feet. He was wearing sandals that were almost brand new. His father had bought them for him to wear to Grandmother’s funeral. That is, Joseph had bought them… He thought it would be a shame to ruin them in leaping off the cliff. He decided to take them off and leave them at the edge of the leaping stone. That would serve two purposes. It would give Joseph a clue as to what had become of him… assuming he would wonder and come looking. And it would show gratitude for the gift of the sandals. Someday James or Little Joe would grow into them. Maybe they would wear them and feel sorry for how badly they had treated their half-brother.

He placed the sandals side by side about a cubit from the edge and stepped forward to the edge once again. As he did so, he saw one of the jackals flash from an exposed perch back under a boulder. He remembered how a crust of bread had frightened the jackals the day before. He wondered how long it would take them to get over the shock of a boy’s body being shattered on the rocks that comprised their home. He felt the grit of a pebble under one of his bare feet. He shuffled to kick the pebble off the edge and watched as it fell and ricocheted among the boulders below.

He watched as a small bird swooped in to examine the spot where the pebble had come to rest. “No, little sparrow,” he whispered. “That is not food for you. But do not worry,” he added. “Your heavenly father knows that you have need of food. He will not leave you in need.”

The latter sentence, he had uttered aloud and it seemed that the echo of those words resounded in his own heart. “Your heavenly father knows that you have needs. He will not leave you in need.” His eyes welled with tears at that surprise and he took half a step backward to ponder the meaning.

As he did so, he heard another voice. This voice was a very familiar one, though colored with a sense of urgency he had never heard in it before, “Jesus! Jesus! Don’t jump! Wait!”

He turned toward the voice and saw Joseph running toward him with stark panic in his face. Jesus became weak in the knees and began to stagger dizzily. Joseph reached him in another bound and swept him off his feet in his powerful arms and stumbled back from the brink where they both collapsed in tears.

It was several minutes before Joseph could find a voice for anything other than weeping. Then he said, “Son, what are you doing here?”

Jesus said nothing.

Joseph said, “I have been so worried about you. I went looking for you yesterday afternoon but could not find you. I went to your grandmother’s grave, God rest her soul. And I found your water flask there but not you.” He held up the flask to demonstrate his discovery and Jesus reached out toward the flask with both hands.

Joseph handed it to him and he drank and drank. He didn’t stop until he had emptied the flask. When he put the flask down, he asked, “There is no spring of water at the bottom of this cliff, is there?”

Joseph looked at him quizzically and shook his head, “No.”

Jesus nodded and held his peace. He could not bring himself to look Joseph in the face.

“Why do you ask?” asked Joseph.

Jesus dismissed the question with a shake of the head and said nothing more about it.

“Look, Jesus,” said Joseph, I know you are grieving over Grandmother’s death. We all are! But you have caused us great concern by staying away so long. It is time to come home and get ready for the pilgrimage to Jerusalem.”

“I don’t want to go this year,” said Jesus.

Joseph waited in silence a moment before answering. “I’m sure you don’t feel like it, but we should go to honor Grandmother.
Jesus said nothing.

“She wanted to go one more time with all of us but the Lord didn’t grant her the length of days to make the journey,” said Joseph.

Jesus sat quietly watching the sun rise.

“Look, Son,” said Joseph, “You have no idea how your mother and I have worried over you. I searched all over town until long after dark without finding another trace of you. I went to talk to Uri and his family in the middle of the night. He told me that you had spoken with him in the middle of the day but he didn’t know where you went from there. We have not slept a wink wondering where you were and praying for your protection.”

When Jesus could no longer look at the sunrise for the power of the sun, he slowly turned and looked at Joseph. “Who are you?” asked Jesus.

Joseph recoiled at this question and said, “What kind of question is that? Have you lost your mind?”
“Who are you?” asked Jesus again.

Joseph laid a palm on Jesus forehead to see if he were feverish. Then he said, “I am your Abba! Do you not know me? I am Joseph!”

“I know that you are Joseph,” said Jesus softly. “But I think you are not my Abba.”

“What?” asked Joseph.

“I am adopted. Tell me the truth. I am not your son, am I?”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” protested Joseph. “Who have you been talking to? Of course I am your Abba and you are my son. Who told you any different?”

“James and Little Joe, and Uri… and the whole town knows except for me!”

“Wait a minute. Does this have anything to do with that melon of your grandmother’s?” asked Joseph.

“That’s when they became so nasty and told me I was adopted. But it has nothing to do with the melon. Either I am your son or I am not. Everyone talks about how much Little Joseph and even James look like you and how I don’t. And it explains why they don’t respect me and just try to exclude me from everything. It explains why they don’t want me in the family because I’m not supposed to be a part of the family and…”

“Enough, enough, stop!” said Joseph laying a hand across Jesus’ mouth. “So this is what you have been chewing on. Why didn’t you ask me sooner?”

“I’m asking you now. Whose son am I? Gershon the Hittite’s? Is that Arab camel trader my real father? Or is it Uncle Ezra?”

“Slow down, son.”

“Don’t call me son if I am not your son,” protested Jesus.

“I have called you my son for almost eleven years and I will not stop now. There are some things you need to know that you did not need to know when you were two and three years old. Some knowledge a man has to grow into.”

“I would think a boy needs to know who his father is,” said Jesus.

“Clearly the time has come for you to know more than you have been told,” said Joseph. “Let me remind you that you have both a Heavenly Father and an earthly father. And I am your earthly father.”

“Then why does nobody believe that but you?” asked Jesus.

“Son, there is more to being a father than you realize. God told the children of Israel that if a man dies childless, his brother is to marry the widow and produce children for his brother. In such a case, which man is the father?”

“So you are telling me my father died?” asked Jesus.

“No, but I’m using that to illustrate the fact that fatherhood can be more complex than you think. Another example is when Joseph was being raised and he thought he was part of Pharaoh’s family.”

“So I am adopted,” said Jesus.

“No, no. That’s not what I meant. That’s a bad example.”

They sat a few moments in silence, Jesus waiting for an explanation and Joseph searching for words. Before he spoke again, he lay back on the stone with his head pillowed on his hands. He took a deep breath and then asked, “How much do you know about the angelic announcement to your mother?”

Jesus rolled onto his side and looked at Joseph. “Gabriel came to her and told her that she was going to have a son and that she should name me Jesus.”

“What else?”

“That I would save the people from their sins.”

“Anything else?”

“That’s about it, I think,” said Jesus.

“Well then,” said Joseph, there is an important piece that you didn’t hear about.”

“What’s that?” asked Jesus.

“Your mother asked, ‘How can this happen? I don’t have a husband.’ And Gabriel said, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you. Therefore the holy one to be born of you will be called the Son of God.’”

“You mean… you mean… like the Greek ‘gods’ who were tempted by the beauty of human women?” said Jesus.

“No, not at all like that,” said Joseph.

“But a baby animal can’t be born unless a father plants the seed in the mother,” said Jesus.

“Correct. But in that sense, you don’t have a human father.”

Jesus was quiet for a few moments and then found the courage to say, “So you are not my abba.”
“Jesus, I am your abba. I am the only abba you have ever had or ever will have.”

“But you did not plant the seed in my mother?”

“No, I did not. We were not married yet when you began to grow in her body. She went off to see Elizabeth and Zechariah right after the angel’s visit. And when she came back she was pregnant. I did not plant the seed that you grew from.”

“And you’re sure that no other man did?” asked Jesus.

“I was very worried about that very question,” said Joseph.

“So how did you settle it?” asked Jesus.

“I was very upset. I thought what any other man would think. I didn’t know your mother all that well, you know. My parents had arranged our betrothal. I wasn’t absolutely confident of her character. But I didn’t want to have the whole town come down on her with cruel accusations and hypocrisy. They would probably have thrown her off this very cliff. I actually spent a night and a day right in this very spot trying to think of a solution. I thought that if she went back to her kinswoman, Elizabeth, people would assume she married the father of the baby and things would quiet down.”

“You spent a night and a day up here?” asked Jesus.

“Yes. I even considered throwing myself off the leaping stone as a way to escape my dilemma. But then it got dark and I couldn’t bring myself to take that coward’s way out because it wouldn’t solve your mother’s problems. So I crept back up this way,” he said, pointing behind them away from the cliff, “and I fell asleep. While I was sleeping the Lord sent an angel into my dream and the angel told me not to be afraid to marry your mother. He specifically told me that you were a child planted by the Holy Spirit. So when I woke up, I went back into town and married your mother. But I planted no seed until after you were born.”

“So, how did the seed get there?” asked Jesus.

“I don’t know,” said Joseph. “God is God. He could just speak the word and the seed would be there.”

They were both quiet for a long time. Joseph looked to see if Jesus had fallen asleep. But he was still quite alert.

Finally Jesus said, “If I am not your son, then I am not of the Davidic line. So I can’t be the Messiah.”

Joseph replied, “Ah, but you are of the Davidic line.”

“How so?” asked Jesus.

“I am descended from David’s son, Solomon,” he replied. “But your mother is descended from David’s son Nathan. Solomon’s descendants turned away from God and some of them were very wicked kings of Judah. But you are descended from Nathan and are not contaminated by the wicked kings such as Manasseh, son of Hezekiah.”

“Abba?” said Jesus.

“Yes, my son?”

“You are the best Abba ever, even if you are descended from wicked kings.”

Joseph chuckled and hugged Jesus close.

“And now,” said Jesus. “We need to go home and prepare for our pilgrimage to Jerusalem.”

“Let’s do it,” said Joseph. And they did.

Terry L Todd
Christmas 2014

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