Part 6 in a Christmas Series beginning with NW1:
The sun was barely out when Mary was awakened by the baby’s kicking. She said her morning prayers down at the river in the solitude, and then roused Joseph from a hard sleep.
“I had a dream,” he said, “there were Roman soldiers and an elderly woman with her dog. The woman was being questioned about where a certain man was, and the soldiers were threatening to hurt the dog if she didn’t give them information. She refused and they took the dog, but then I woke up.”
Mary expresses her hopes that they keep their distance from any Roman soldiers as Joseph unties Mel to go down to the river for water. She packs the bags and he recites the morning prayer at the river while Mel drinks. She takes his phylacteries and tallit and packs them away, he loads the packs onto Mel and leaves the lean to for the next travelers, and they hit the trail.
“I think we can be at Gilgal by noon. I’m hoping to rest there and then make it to Jericho for the night,” Joseph explains.
As the sun warms their muscles and the walking loosens their stiffness, they notice that others are coming from behind. But these are not suspicious like before, so much as a couple of families traveling together on the way to Jerusalem. Two couples, a set of grandparents, and several loud children, with a sheep for each couple.
“Come back here! Don’t hit your brother! Stay away from the river! Put that stick down!”
“She looked at me! How much further? Watch this, Dad! Look, a donkey!”
Mel was not a particularly social animal, and was not accustomed to children, so when the boys came running toward her, she stopped in her tracks and brayed loudly, refusing to move. The other parents gave an ambivalent call to the children to come back to them, but did nothing else to help. The other group finally caught up and passed M & J, and the unruly boys left with them, as M & J stayed behind to let Mel calm down and give the others some space.
“Is Jesus going to act like that?” Joe inquires as he looks at Mary in disbelief, that the parents did not keep a closer eye on the kids. “Surely Jesus will be more obedient, not just because He is God’s son, but also because we will never let Him out of our sight…”
Mary responds: “Jesus will certainly be obedient, but I think we need to remember who He is as he grows and gains His own understanding of who He is. His obedience will surely shift from us to our Father as He gains understanding.”
They both continue walking, pondering again the difficult and fragile relationships to come, but placing faith in God to direct them – all three.
After a couple of hours in the now hot overhead sun, they reached a spot in the Jordan with the same families from before, plus others, playing and resting in the edge of the water. The water was higher than in the other seasons, as it often is in the month of Tishri – being harvest time, and the rocks standing in the center were barely visible.
Mary and Joseph stopped here and read a passage together:
12 Now therefore take twelve men from the tribes of Israel, from each tribe a man. 13 And when the soles of the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off from flowing, and the waters coming down from above shall stand in one heap.”
14 So when the people set out from their tents to pass over the Jordan with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, 15 and as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest),16 the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. And the people passed over opposite Jericho. 17 Now the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firmly on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, and all Israel was passing over on dry ground until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan.
8 And the people of Israel did just as Joshua commanded and took up twelve stones out of the midst of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, just as the Lord told Joshua. And they carried them over with them to the place where they lodged and laid them down[a] there. 9 And Joshua set up[b] twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the covenant had stood; and they are there to this day. 10 For the priests bearing the ark stood in the midst of the Jordan until everything was finished that the Lord commanded Joshua to tell the people, according to all that Moses had commanded Joshua.
“Those are the rocks. Right there. Why do they let their children play here, casually, like this? This is a holy place.” Joseph was mildly indignant, but not enough to object to anyone but Mary. They turned west at this point and began walking away from the river towards Jericho, determined to teach Jesus reverence.
Once they came out of the reach of the sound of the river, and the coolness of the air near the water. they reached the place where the Israelites camped, as marked by more stones. There were other families already here, and children (better behaved ones) were asking questions just as the scripture said they would:
19 The people came up out of the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they encamped at Gilgal on the east border of Jericho.20 And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. 21 And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, 24 so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”
Mary and Joseph stood back from the other families, prayed over the spot, considered God’s deliverance of His people, and the new role that they were playing, and their son would play, in the future deliverance. It was overwhelming, and so they moved on. None of the other people had any idea what was happening in their midst, what was about to happen, or the fact that the long awaited Messiah had just passed through.
M & J reached Jericho as the sun was setting, so they just had time to hitch Mel and settle in before it was too dark to see the historic town very well.
continued at NW7