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We get to imagine what Jesus was like as a toddler with tender scenes of his young mother, Mary, in the company of other moms and babies in Nazareth as they play with their children, including the siblings Lazarus, Mary, and Martha (described in Scripture as living in Bethany near Jerusalem as adults). Young Joseph comes in and joyfully lifts up his Son high. Mary greets him warmly.
Jesus, as an adult, walks into town cheerfully as dusk approaches. When He reaches His mother's door, He knocks rhythmically. Mary opens the door with delight and wishes Him L'shana tova, Happy New Year. He returns the greeting and they embrace. Jesus kisses the mezuzah by the door. He washes His feet first and then washes His hands while praying softly as Mary sets a fresh loaf of challah on the table. Before they eat, they pray out loud together, "Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has kept us alive and sustained us and brought us to this holiday season."
Jesus inquires gently about two of His brothers, saying, "So no James and Jude?" Mary responds hesitantly, "Well, they felt it was best to celebrate in Sepphoris while You were here just to avoid conflict." Jesus says sadly, "I understand." Mary adds, "I think it's hard on them, especially with so many people here excited to see You. Everyone's been hearing about what You've been doing, the signs and wonders, and You know how the boys feel about that." Before inquiring about His brothers, Jesus also inquired about a particular brown dog He always noticed at the city gate the past 10 years. He makes the blink-and-you-miss-it comment that nobody seemed to notice that dog, but the Lord Jesus obviously did, a touching reminder of what we know He instructed His apostles before He sent them out two by two: "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? An yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from Your Father" (Matthew 10:29).
Mary wants to know how Jesus's students are doing so she can pray for them better. She specifically inquires about Andrew since he was not doing well the last time she saw him, but Jesus is able to tell her the good news that visiting John the Baptizer helped Andrew immensely. He tells her, "They are all doing quite well right now. I've sent them out on missionary journeys to our people. The women are in Capernaum, helping James and John's father start a new olive-oil business to help support the ministry." Mary asks about Thomas and Ramah. Jesus wants to know, "How did you know there was interest in betrothal?" "I have eyes, haven't I?" says Mary with a laugh Jesus shares. "I could tell they were in love at the wedding." Jesus responds, "I would love to see them betrothed; they are both faithful followers. "
Mary asks if Jesus is ready for tomorrow with so many people eager to see Him, surprising Him with the welcome news that Lazarus and the sisters will be among them. "Ah, that's wonderful," says Jesus. "I haven't seen Laz in a while. Oh, that will be fun!" Before retiring to bed, Jesus places His hand on His mother's arm and says mysteriously, "Eema, I'm going to need the box while I'm here. Do you know where it is?" Looking stunned, she says, "Now? Are You sure this is Your last time here before—" Jesus states, "I believe My time is coming." "I don't know that I'm ready," says Mary. "I know how you feel," says Jesus, "but you also know that I must do the will of Him who sent Me." Mary agrees and says, "I miss Your father most during the celebrations." Then she tells Him the box is near His bed and assures Him she will be fine. He wishes her laylah tov, a good night.
Jesus sighs with familiar recognition as He parts the curtain into His room, which is shared with two sheep, and wearily climbs up to His sleeping quarters. He picks up the simple carved wooden box on His bed table and sets it on His lap, slowly opening it. He smiles as He stretches out and examines the object inside: a small animal's bit and bridle. Then, becoming almost tearful, He looks up and says softly, "Soon."
|Jesus Thinks of What Is Coming|
In the morning the celebration begins with the crowds gathered and swaying the tune of drums beating and shofar horns blaring. Young and old participate in various sports competitions. The first people to greet Jesus and Mary as they walk into the gathering with covered plates are Dinah and Rafi, parents of the bride at the wedding in Cana, where Jesus turned water into wine as a special wedding gift. A man covers Jesus's eyes and says, "Guess who?" Jesus says, "Oh, I was wondering when this was coming," and warmly greets Lazarus, Mary, and Martha.
|Greeting Dinah and Rafi from the Wedding at Cana (John 2).|
|Jesus's Dear Friend Lazarus|
|Mary and Martha, the Beloved Sisters of Lazarus|
Lazarus says in a lighthearted way, "You look good. Looks like this rabbi thing is starting to treat You well, but You still have no home!" Jesus tells him He has all that He needs. We learn that Lazarus is a businessman in Bethany. He says to Jesus seriously, "I'll give You credit, You never wavered, and being a rabbi like You are with the lack of schooling You got—amazing!" Mary asks eagerly, "So are You really doing miracles?" Martha interrupts her, insisting, "Mary, be delicate!" Lazarus adds, "Forgive Mary for being, well, Mary. But as is her custom, she puts into words what we are only thinking. Is what we're hearing true?" Jesus wants to know what they've been hearing. Lazarus tells Him, "That You turned water to wine, healed hundreds in places like Syria, that You recently preached to thousands some sermon people are still talking about, and that You made some friends in Samaria—which we need to talk about!—while making enemies in places that we actually like, and not unimportant enemies." Jesus laughs.
While Lazarus starts to boast about how he knows everyone and everything, Mary interrupts, saying, "So it's true!" Lazarus says, "You're the greatest rabbi who ever lived?" Jesus responds, "Well, there's still a lot of work to be done." Now Lazarus laughs, saying, "Still with the humility—I love it! Mary says earnestly, "We also hear that some are saying, and You are not denying," when Martha cuts her off again.
|Lazarus Gets Serious|
|Mary Is Eager to Learn More|
|Bossy Martha Cuts Her Off|
Lazarus leads Jesus away from his sisters to ask a private question when he greets Rabbi Benjamin, Nazareth's senior official, and his wife, Leah, who are walking toward them. Leah responds warmly, but not Rabbi Benjamin. Lazarus comments, "Everyone is talking about Nazareth's big success story, and it's not me anymore!" He asks Leah what she has heard. Leah repeats some of what Lazarus said, but adds that much of what she heard has surely been mixed with gossip, including that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah. Leah assures them she shut that down, saying, "Not the humble Jesus I know! Have some apples and honey." Jesus takes an apple slice, dips it, and says, "Of course, for a sweet New Year."
|A Sweet New Year|
Lazarus ventures to ask, "Rabbi Benjamin, with all the excitement about Jesus being here, wouldn't He be the perfect man to read the Scripture and share the instruction in tonight's service?" Leah says she thinks that's a wonderful idea, but Benjamin sounds reluctant. Lazarus tells him, "I know He wasn't your favorite student and that He did not go to Bet Midrash—" Jesus interrupts in a friendly way, saying, "All right, Lazarus, he understands." Rabbi Benjamin says, "Today we celebrate the creation of the world, but tonight and Rosh Hashanah will be more serious." Persistent Lazarus says, "Don't you think it would be good for everyone to see how much Jesus has learned from your teaching. It might encourage the children to pursue a similar path, yes? Jesus, what do You think?" Jesus answers, "I would be happy to as long as Rabbi Benjamin is comfortable." Benjamin responds, "I suppose it could be profitable to learn what Adonai has been revealing in the Scriptures to You." Wily Lazarus blurts out, "Then it's settled! So wise and humble of you, Rabbi Benjamin! Everyone will appreciate it. Jesus, do You think You can come up with something impactful?" "We'll see," answers Jesus.
Before Rabbi Benjamin changes his mind, Lazarus quickly ushers away Jesus to a trigon ball-catching game. It's not something Jesus likes or is good at, but He plays it to humor Lazarus, who soon wins. Lazarus tells their companions that Jesus will be delivering the Scripture and interpretation that night, which is His strength. As Lazarus and Jesus part company, Lazarus tells Him He is looking forward to answers to many questions. Jesus says, "Well, be careful what you ask for!"
As twilight comes, the synagogue is packed, women on one side and men on the other. Jesus is adorned in a tallit, a prayer shawl. Rabbi Benjamin walks up to the reading podium with his arms stretched wide, praying, "Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has kept us alive and sustained us for another year, who bestows kindness, restores, and redeems. Praise to You, Adonai our Lord, Sovereign over creation, who has chosen us from all the peoples. May Your blessings be upon all who seek You earnestly. Bring joy to Your land and gladness to Your city. In Your mercy, bestow on us a prosperous year, a bountiful harvest, and the promised arrival of Mashiach, Your Anointed One, the Son of David." Jesus has His eyes toward heaven during that prayer. The congregation responds amen at its conclusion. A man sounds the shofar with several short notes and then a long one. Rabbi Benjamin says, "Thank you for that call to repentance and rest. And now for the reading and interpretation, we have with us Jesus bar Joseph. He was one of my students in Torah class and we've heard reports, some of them very positive, of His rabbinic journeys."
Jesus steps forward and thanks him, saying, "You know, it is not easy to share in front of Nazareth's pre-eminent Rabbi, but I will do My best." Benjamin nods and an assistant lays a heavy scroll on the reading podium. Jesus kisses the fingers that He lays on the scroll, announcing, "A reading from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah." He looks at where the scroll is opened to and then looks up to heaven, pausing a moment in prayer. Jesus gently shakes His head affirmatively, takes up the metal stylus or yad to guide His reading, and begins, "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind; to the opening of the prison for those who are bound, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
|Jesus Reads from the Scroll of Isaiah (Chapter 61)|
Jesus puts down the stylus, rolls up and hands back the scroll to the attendant, and sits down in the chair provided to give the interpretation: "The fulfillment of this Scripture, as you have heard it, is today. This is the year of the Lord's favor. This is a year of Jubilee, a year the poor, the brokenhearted, the captive, and the blind are offered redemption. Here, now." Rabbi Benjamin, looking disturbed, asks, "Jesus, please explain why You stopped the reading before Isaiah spoke of the Day of Vengeance of our God, especially during a time of such oppression." Jesus answers, "The Day of Vengeance is in the future. I'm not here for vengeance; I'm here for salvation." Murmurs begin in the synagogue. Benjamin says what the murmurers are obviously thinking: "You're here for salvation! What are You saying?" Mary of Bethany smiles. So does Jesus, answering, "You know what I am saying." Dinah, sitting next to Mother Mary, looks disgusted, as does Rafi sitting across from her, even though Jesus's turning water into wine at their daughter's wedding was a great favor to them. Jesus continues, "This year of the Lord's favor is not about release from financial debts; I'm here to provide release from spiritual debt."
Rabbi Benjamin says in a disapproving tone, "We're the chosen seed of Abraham: we don't have spiritual debt!" A member of the congregation says, "We have been hearing about the wonders and miracles. Are You claiming to be more than a rabbi, more than even the Baptizer?" Jesus sighs and says, "No doubt one of you will quote Me the proverb, 'Physician, heal yourself!' The things we've heard You did in Capernaum and Syria do here in Your hometown, yes? I get it: it's always easier to accept hard truth, and even greatness, from strangers than from those you know well, especially those you knew as awkward teenagers or even as adults, as some of you saw earlier today. But this brings up an important truth: no prophet is acceptable in his hometown."
|Trying to Explain God's Love for All Kinds of People|
Rabbi Benjamin warns, "Be careful what You call Yourself." Another man, saying this should be easy to prove, calls on Dinah and Rafi to speak about what they saw at their daughter's wedding. Rafi says, "Yes, we saw it but He did not claim this!" Rabbi Benjamin, his voice rising, says, "A true prophet from Adonai would not deny His own people signs and wonders!" Jesus, sounding stern, replies, "Listen carefully: When a great famine hit Israel during the days of Elijah, three years and six months, there were many widows, yes? And we know how the Father cares for His chosen people, especially widows, but Elijah was sent to none of them. Instead, he was sent to a widow in Sidon, in Zarepeth, a Gentile woman. Martha, what happened?" Martha answers, "She gave up her las flour and oil for one more cake and gave it to Elijah." "Why would she do that?" Jesus asks. "Elijah told her the Lord said to do so." "Yes!" says Jesus, "the Lord said He would make it so that her flour and oil would never run out until the famine ended, and she believed—a pagan Gentile in a pagan land! And she was hungry enough to know she needed God and to obey Him. So God sent Elijah to multiply her food."
"What about Elisha and Naaman?" continues Jesus. "There were many lepers in Israel during this time, but none of them were cleansed except Naaman, a Gentile soldier, a Syrian, an enemy of the Lord's people. But he was so desperate, he trusted Elisha and his leprosy was cleansed. You may be the chosen seed of Abraham, you may be the people of the covenants, but that will not bring you My salvation. If you cannot accept that you are spiritually poor and captive in the same way that a Gentile woman and a Syrian leper recognized their need—if you do not realize that you need the year of the Lord's favor, then I cannot save you!"
|Brokenhearted over His People's Hardheartedness|
"Who do you think you are?!" asks a congregant. Rabbi Benjamin's wife, Leah, says, "This is what Hannah talked about: that He even called Himself the Messiah!" Rabbi Benjamin himself asks, "Are You claiming to be the Messiah or are You merely claiming to speak for the Lord as a Prophet?" Jesus accurately answers, "Yes." Mother Mary gasps as Rabbi Benjamin states, "You are a false prophet!" Lazarus, trying to act as a peacemaker, stands up and says, "That is quite a thing to say! Jesus, maybe we should leave." The crowd is not interested in peace. Rabbi Benjamin quotes from the Book of Deuteronomy, "But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name that I have not commanded him to speak, that same prophet shall die." Lazarus tries to stop what is going forward, but Jesus places His hands on Lazarus's shoulders and says, "It's fine." Then He whispers something into Lazarus's ear and says, "Yes?" Lazarus nods his head affirmatively. Rabbi Benjamin steps directly in front of Jesus and says, "If You do not renounce Your words, we will have no choice but to follow the Law of Moses." Jesus steps closer to him and says, "I am the Law of Moses."
|Not All Are Hardhearted, But Instead Have Ears to Hear What God Is Saying|
The crowd erupts into a frenzy, tearing off Jesus's prayer shawl and ushering Him out of the synagogue. Mother Mary screams no, but Lazarus grips her and leads her to safety. Rafi and the other men firmly lead Jesus through the city to a high hill on the outskirts, intending to throw Him down to His death. Rabbi Ben Joseph pronounces, "Jesus bar Joseph, because You have repeatedly prophesied falsely and have offered no denial of Your blasphemous claims, there is no need to escalate this to the authorities. Do You stand by all that You said?" Jesus answers, "I think I was pretty clear." Rabbi Benjamin says, "Your father, may he rest in peace, was a righteous man. Your mother is a good woman. We take no pleasure in this shame You are bringing to their name, nor the grief this will bring upon Mary. But as from the Law of Moses, whose life and words You have spat upon today, your sentence is death." As Rafi and a man named Aaron move forward to throw Jesus down, Jesus steps right up to them and says to them and Rabbi Benjamin, "This isn't going to happen. Not today." Then He walks straight through the crowd with them watching Him pass by and doing nothing to stop Him.
Jesus walks through what is now night and stops in front of a cave tomb with a large rock covering the entrance. He puts His hand on the rock and remembers His foster father, Joseph, laboring in his workshop when Jesus was a boy learning to read the Scriptures out loud. In fact, young Jesus is reading the same passage from Isaiah 61 that got Him in so much trouble a few minutes ago as an adult. Joseph listens intently as he works, offering correction, explanation, and encouragement. He also lets Jesus help him in his carpentry.
|Joseph Explains What Brokenhearted Means|
Joseph says, "Jesus, I have something very special to show you. Go grab that box over there in the corner." It is the same mysterious box the adult Jesus asked Mary for. Joseph touches the box with reverence, saying, "Listen carefully, huh? This is a mule's bit and bridle. You have seen such a thing before, but this one is very special." Young Mary happens to walk into the work area as Joseph is explaining. She stops, smiles, and listens quietly in the background.
Joseph continues, "Over a thousand years ago, when our people were finally set free from slavery, as they were leaving, one of our ancestors of the great tribe of Judah used this very bit and bridle to lead his mule laden with supplies out of Egypt. Of course, the mule eventually died, and everything was lost to the wilderness, but this was in his hand when he escaped, so he kept it. The men in our family have handed this down for 40 generations as a remembrance of our bondage, but more importantly, Jesus, in remembrance of being led to freedom into the Promised Land. It's old and it's not beautiful, but my father handed it to me to own, as I am handing it to You. We always joked, 'Who knows? Maybe one of us will need it one day!' I do not suppose You will bear a son, so maybe it will end its journey with You. But I cannot leave this earth without passing it on."
Young Jesus takes it solemnly and says, "Thank you, Abba." Joseph continues, "Jesus, I know that I am not Your father in the same way that Your friends' fathers are. We've talked about this, you understand?" Jesus nods yes. "But the privilege and the blessing," Joseph says, "of stewarding Your life here on earth for the short time that I was granted is the greatest honor and gift I could ever ask for." He hugs his Son and says, "I pray that I have done right by You, Jesus, hmm?"
|Thankful for the Privilege of Shepherding a Precious Life|
Adult Jesus, at the tomb, weeps softly as He remembers this wonderful man. Lazarus and Mother Mary approach. Mary embraces Jesus, relieved to see Him. "It's not that time yet," He tells her. Tears immediately spring to her eyes, but she nods affirmatively. Jesus thanks Lazarus, who hands Him His leather backpack, saying, "It's got everything, plus some food." Jesus takes out the mule's bit and bridle that Joseph gave Him years ago, examining it for a moment, before He turns to Lazarus, who says, "That was interesting! Are we going to get a chance to talk about it more anytime soon?" Seeing that Jesus doesn't seem inclined to answer now, he says, "Well, You just let me know then."
Jesus puts His hands on His mother's shoulders, telling her, "I had to say what I did today. I know it was frightening, but even they must hear it." "I know," says Mary, but why here?" looking at her beloved husband's tomb. "I wanted to see it one last time," explains Jesus. "I'm not coming back here, obviously." Lazarus says, "Next Rosh Hashanah, come to Bethany." Jesus says, "Eema, maybe you should leave for a little while until things calm down. Tell the boys you will go to Bethany." Lazarus smiles warmly and says, "Mary and Martha will be so excited!"
|Looking Forward to Extending Hospitality|
Jesus looks up to heaven momentarily and holds back a sob. He gently takes hold of the bridle in His hands and says, "I was remembering when he gave this to Me." Mary smiles, suddenly remembering as well. "There is no turning back now, not after today," adds Jesus. "I know," says Mary. "What's the bridle for?" asks Lazarus. "You'll know soon enough," says Jesus. Mary reaches out for His hand and says with resolve, "Soon," a word that Jesus echoes.
|Jesus and Mary Remember Joseph and His Legacy|
|Jesus and Mary Know His Time Is Coming Soon|