Trouble-maker. That was my impression when I first heard of Rabbi Jesus. He swept into Capernaum as if he owned it. His presence drew the sick and downtrodden from as far as Tyre and Sidon into our once peaceful town. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the fervent Pharisees came too, their somber, superior presence sowing nothing but disquiet.
I’m an upright and reserved woman and I tell you honestly that I didn’t like the sound of this rabbi and the rabble following him. Had Simon brought him home on any other day, I would have given my son-in-law a good tongue-lashing and suggested the rabbi finds another town to disrupt.
On the day our sons chose a rabbi over him, my husband was furious.
I remember well how he stormed in, his expression darker than a sea squall, to tell me that some young rabbi had walked past the boat just as they were preparing the nets for the next day’s fishing. This rabbi stopped and looked at James and John, almost as if he knew them, even though Zebedee swore he had never laid eyes on the man before. Then the rabbi called out ‘come follow me’ as if he had every right to their time, hardly giving their father—who they owed their very lives to—a chance to object. What made Zebedee the angriest of all, was how quickly James and John dropped their nets and left him sitting there alone, without so much as a backward glance.
I watch the sun dropping down to the hills and the shadows lengthening. Clouds on the horizon catch the orange and red tones of the setting sun. A small breeze, cool against my cheeks, ripples over the water, gently bobbing the boat up and down. It’s a welcome relief from the cloying heat of the day, hotter than any I recall from my years fishing these waters. But then sitting in a tethered boat as Jesus speaks to the crowd, isn’t exactly the same as sailing. I gaze out at the enraptured faces, softened by the last light of the day, and realise that despite the heat, none of us would have chosen to be anywhere but here.
It was Shimri who told me about a Jewish rabbi rumoured to have healed a leper. Of course I wanted to believe it to be true. Any leper would. But, when he told me that this rabbi Jesus had healed the man by touching him, I knew the story had to be false. No-one touches a leper.
No-one has touched me for years.
Even now I have to swallow back tears as I recall the last time Anatu drew me into an embrace. I wanted to warn her not to, but instead I cried into her hair, breathing in the smell of oil and nettles. When we finally drew apart and she held out the baby for me to cradle one last time, I shook my head. The risk was too great. Continue reading
I lean against the pillar and stare gloomily out over the waters of Bethesda. Even in the shade of the portico, the midday heat accosts me. The press of people here—muttering or groaning or beseeching the angel to come—irks me more than usual. I have lain by these pools longer than all of them. Too many years to recall, in fact. I have patiently waited my turn to reach the stirred waters first, never doubting the power of the pool. Others have come and gone, some healed, some disillusioned. But I’ve always clung to the hope that my turn for healing would come.
It should have been today, but I was robbed! Fresh anger clenches inside me. Continue reading