“At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I come down from heaven’?” (John 6: 41-2 NIV)
Y’shua at eleven shuffled dust in the shade
of the house walls, bare footed,
bringing home a loaf of gift bread
from a neighbor to his mother,
hiking up his hem, leaping bars of
brilliance that leaked from narrow alleys,
kindled the sand, laid fiery red sea crossings,
all down the street toward home.
His thirsty eyes drank the dry noon,
the shimmer of heated air,
the half hearted complaints of sheep
sheltering in sparse shade,
the lazy squabble of sparrows after scanty crumbs.
Under his breath he wove the
too bright day into a psalm,
praising God his Father in the
silence of the heat of noon…
words of wonder shimmering
up in him, rising, waves
drawn by the overawing sun.
As he neared the blazing patch
of empty space around the
village well that edged his way,
the silence was suddenly stained
with mocking laughter,
the sun waves colored by a whimper of despair.
Y’shua slid his head around the corner,
holding the bread tight to his body,
blinking in the fierce light,
flicking back the hair that swung
beyond his forelock braids to see.
Beside the well a ragged muffin of a child
scrambled for a leather water jar,
its contents fast fading under the
voracious tongue of the sun
in the dust where they had spilled.
Five boys, twelve to fifteen,
kicked the empty bladder
like a ball from foot to foot,
making a cruel game of keeping
it instants ahead of the child’s frantic hands.
A rage of righteous indignation
(all out of proportion to his age)
rose in Y’shua, hot as the searing noon,
and he stepped out and pushed
through the standing sun
until he stood just outside
the jeering circle of older boys.
The boys, all bluster,
sweat dripping down their braids,
turned to see what new sport
had come their way.
“My Father doesn’t like that!”
Why (their eyes said in sly sidelong glances)
it’s nothing but a barefoot, unclipped,
looking lightning at us with his scowl.
They laughed. They knew this Y’shua.
Daniel, son of a carter whose axles
Joseph the carpenter had often turned,
stepped forward and reached
for Y’shua’s forelock braid.
“Here you little bastard,
born in sin, what do you say?”
Y’shua stepped away
from the reaching hand.
“My Father doesn’t like what you do.”
His eyes still blazed
but he bit at his lower lip,
shifted the bread to the crook of his elbow,
felt behind with a bare foot in case he had to run.
“Ha!” mocked the carter’s son
as the rest crowed up around Y’shua,
“His father, he says…as though the bastard knew…”
Like crows at a fresh kill, they all cackled over that.
(The muffin child, seeing his chance,
had long since grabbed the bottle and run.
Y’shua hoped him safely home
and offered silent prayer that
his parents would forgive him the empty jug.)
“Does the Lord love to see
any captive on earth crushed under foot,
that defiance of the most high God
which cheats a man of his rights,
or anyone treated unjustly…?”
Y’shua spoke the words of scripture from memory.
They trembled, alive on his tongue.
He was inwardly amazed at his own calm.
“Let us search out and test our ways
and turn back to the Lord.
Let us raise our hearts
with our hands to God in Heaven.”
And he suited action to his words,
raising the hand that was free of the bread,
slowly above his head, open palmed and pleading.
Daniel’s own hand whipped forward
like a striking snake to seize the upraised
wrist and the others surged ahead to grab.
Y’shua spun and ran,
hearing the heavy footfalls behind him,
diving into the dark shadow
of his home street beyond the well.
The boys came up short at the shadow’s edge.
“Hey Y’shua, born in sin…” they yelled, “who is your father?”
Laughter, brittle and sharp as pot shards,
scared his fleeing feet.
He turned, his hand on the door frame of home,
the bread still tight clutched beneath his elbow,
breath ragged, and looked back up the street.
The boys stood shimmering, shrunk,
foreshortened in the vertical sun
on the far side of shadow.
“Hay Y’shua, who is your father, anyway?”
echoed in the heated air all down the noon.