Part 7 in a Christmas series beginning with NW1
Waking up in Jericho, Mary and Joseph had the Mountains of Judea to the South and West and the Jordan River valley from which they just came to the East and North. They just traveled basically the same route from the river that Joshua and their ancestors did before them. From the city, they could look across the Jordan to see Mount Pisgah and Mount Nebo, which was the closest Moses ever came to the Promised Land, and they knew that somewhere over there was where the Hand of God buried him.
As M & J began to pack Mel for the last days of the trip, they noticed that several other couples and families were doing the same around town. While they enjoyed their solitude and time with one another, they also appreciated the idea of safety in numbers as they came into more populated, and “occupied” areas. There were more Roman Soldiers now than they had seen before, and some were cordial but some were not at all.
Before they left town, Joseph decided to treat Mary to new sandals, since they were coming back into rocky hill country, and she appreciated the gift. Mel was looking a little forlorn at this point, but the best they could do was to promise her a good day or two of rest in Bethlehem.
They started up the path, along with a mixed group of several other Israelites, ranging from young to old to ancient. Around late morning they were hearing rumors from ahead about a grizzly scene over the next hill, but they had no choice but to trudge on, and see whatever it was.
Finally, they topped the hill and saw several crosses along the roadside ahead and down the hillside, one of which bore the body of the taller man who had tried to rob them a few days ago, further North. He was barely alive and struggling for breath. The travelers generally took the opposite side of the street and averted their eyes to avoid any closeness, but as Joseph was leading Mel who was carrying Mary, Mary’s eyes caught the eyes of the bandit. He gasped: “Help me, ma’am, please – just a drink of your water.” Joseph urged her to look away, but her compassion was too strong. She dismounted the donkey and walked over to the foot of the cross.
“I can’t ignore his suffering, Joe. I just can’t.” As Joseph reminded her who this was, and that he had no compassion on them when they met previously, she found a stick, tied a bit of cloth around the end, wet it, and lifted it up to his mouth. “Someday, perhaps someone will have similar compassion on one of our family, if we ever need it,” she explained. “and who knows – he may have never actually hurt anyone – you know the Roman justice system is corrupt.”
Joseph hurried her along, as the others in the group now kept their distance from the crosses as well as Mary and Joseph. They traveled on.
Up and down, up and down, winding through passes and valleys, after over half the day traveling, they had talked with several of the other travelers (those willing to speak with them) and learned of distant relations with a few. This reminded Mary of family and home. “How long do you think we can visit mother in Jerusalem?”
“We can spend one night there, but we have to get going in the morning to make it to Bethlehem before Shabbat begins.” Joseph got along well with Mary’s family in Judea and though he wanted to stay on schedule, he looked forward to good food and friendly faces.
They finally crested the Mount of Olives, and looked out over the Kidron Valley at Jerusalem. They stopped to take it in as they rested on a low wall.
“The Temple. Home. Our spiritual home.” Joseph was not an overly emotional man, but this sight choked him up a little. “So much history. So many occupations and destructions and rebuilds. Look how magnificent Herod has made the Temple!”
“Yes . . . I’m not sure what to think of him. He rebuilt our Temple but I believe his loyalty is with the Romans,” Mary said, quietly so only Joseph could hear.
“Even God Himself has come so close to destroying this city, from that very spot. . ” said Joe.
“But He relented. His love outweighs His anger. His grace and mercy overwhelm His jealousy.” Mary’s eyes welled up as she considered His grace, and the fact that She was carrying It.
As they began to move on again, they stepped carefully along the rocky path down the Mount of Olives, stopping again in among the olive trees of Gethsemane to enjoy some shade before their final leg of the day’s trip. “Just over there are the . . .”
Mary finished Joe’s sentence, “tombs of Zechariah, Malachi and Haggai. I know.”
“Did you know? How did you know that?” Joe doesn’t hold back his surprise.
“While you have been working on your projects, I’ve been reading. Especially after the Angel Gabriel visited me,” explains Mary. “Just because I’m quieter than you doesn’t mean I know less.”
Joseph is pleasantly amazed at the woman to whom He is pledged to be married. “I should write a song: Mary Did You Know,” he joked.
“If you did, I would write one too: More Than You Think,” Mary quipped back.
“Let’s enter on the North side of the Temple. That’s closest to your parent’s house.”
As they enter the city gate, a world of busyness and bustle are all around them. Streets are lined with markets, butcher shops and all sorts of languages and peoples. M & J tighten up just to stay together. Here a Roman soldier is questioning someone about cheating someone else in an exchange of money, there an old Jebusite man is refusing to sell to an almost as old Jewish man, claiming the Jebusites own this land and the Israelites are just “occupying” it, to which the Israelite argues that God gave it to the Jews, to which the Jebusite retorts “Not MY God.” Then they both agree the Romans have no claim at all, and then M & J are engulfed in the crowd again, until they make it to a back street where Anne and Joachim’s house is.
“You’re huge!” “. . . Thanks Papa . . .”
Anne then says, “Mary guess who showed up last night? Elizabeth, Zechariah, come on out . . .”
Mary screams with delight to see Elizabeth, and then puts her arms out: “I must hold John . . come here . . . look at that hair! . . .”
As Zechariah, Joachim and Joseph go outside to unpack Mel, the ladies dote over baby John and insist on pampering Mary as they prepare the evening meal.
to be continued