While Jesus was living in the Galilean hills, John, called “the Baptizer,” was preaching in the desert country of Judea. His message was simple and austere, like the desert surroundings: “Change your life. God’s kingdom is here.” (Matthew 3:1-3 The Message)
Y’shua sat at the bench in the shop,
his feet among the shavings;
the half-planed board balanced on his knees,
his eyes focused inward,
a small smile upon his lips.
His hands were still,
his whole body was still,
balanced like the board,
between the pleasure of the wood beneath his fingers,
the smell, the sight, of sun on sawdust and shavings,
and the sudden swell of love that caught him,
lifted him just slightly above common sight
and let loose the tongues of fire that lived
at the heart of every
(even most little)
thing he saw.
Seconds passed and his hand moved,
following a thought of its own,
to the plane where he had left it on the bench.
His focus shifted outward and with undiminished
reverence he began, once more, to work the wood.
There was a sudden bustle, a buzz and rattle,
in the shop-yard as James,
twenty-seven and still reluctant master of the shop,
returned, trailing younger sons and apprentices,
from delivering a ship’s mast to Capernaum by the sea.
Y’shua rose and stood in the open doorway
to the yard, leaning now on the board he planed.
In Joseph’s yard
(even after a year it was still Joseph’s yard,
might always be,
as alive with the spirit of the old carpenter
as it was cluttered with his tools)
James embraced his mother, attempting,
to brush off the inevitable questions:
How was Esther…
Had Naomi had her baby…
Did Jonathan get the field…
the minutiae of a housebound woman’s
far reaching familial concern
as he did the dust of the journey
with a flick of the wrist here,
a word and a nod there,
clipped by honest impatience to see
what the yard had been up to
while he was gone.
Y’shua smiled over his board
in the doorway to see them so,
so engaged in the ordinary,
so filled with the small wills
of God’s own creatures being themselves…
so busy with life and the living,
and he loved them.
James turned and saw him standing there.
As always, there were shadows of unquiet thought
in his brother’s eyes as he approached and embraced Y’shua.
“Well, first-born, how does it go?”
Y’shua tucked his chin and humphed
through his nose at the now familiar gibe.
“They are all asking, over there where every other thought
(and every smell) is of fish or net or wave,
where is Y’shua?
How is it that he has not taken the shop?
Is he well?
And what do I tell them, older brother…?
He is waiting for a sign from God…?
Joseph, you know, was not his father…?
There is no need for him to think of the business…?
His mother Mary and his brothers are no concern of his…?
That one, who at five planed a board so straight
his father used it as a marking edge, was,
apparently, not cut out to be a carpenter…?
That one, who sees the shape within the wood
while it is yet a tree, is waiting for another calling…?
What do I tell them Y’shua?”
Y’shua, silent, studied his hands where they rested on the board.
James walked to the far side of the door
where a new-made wagon bed rested
by a pile of wheels and well planed boards.
“At least you do not leave all the work to me,
run off to Judea seeking a messiah
like our worthless cousin John,
while his father and brothers break their backs
hauling the nets and breathe fish stink
all the days of their lives.”
Y’shua’s head snapped up,
“What is this of John?”
“Oh, the fool had just come back from the Jordan.
Some madman is shouting at everyone
and dipping them in river water to clean them
for the coming of the Kingdom,
or some such nonsense…
and John is so full of it he’s leading every
idle son on the shore of the sea
back with him to see this new messiah
and get their bath.
I told him the Jordan is too muddy to
do much cleansing, and if it did,
the pollution from just he and his friends
will kill all the fish from there to the sea.”
If James had looked he would
have seen the blaze in Y’shua’s eyes.
“Did he name this prophet?”
James sobered. “That’s the strange part…
it seems he is another of our cousins…
they are calling him the “Baptist,”
ritual washer, as though souls
could be washed like cups or pots.”
Mary, who had edged close
to see if any crumbs of family news
might be falling as her sons talked,
“Not Elizabeth’s son…?
Not the son of the prophecy…?”
Both James and Y’shua turned to her,
though her eyes were only for Y’shua.
James continued, snorting and huffing,
“Son of prophecy? If you ask me…”
and he too turned to Y’shua,
“there are all too many sons of prophecy in this clan.
No good will come of it.”
and he stomped off to take out
his frustrations bullying the apprentices.
Y’shua watched him go and then turned to face his mother.
He smiled and gently brushed
the tear from the corner of her eye.
“Yes,” he said, “It is time.