Jesus—the Conqueror: Part 1
Note: This is a made-up story about a Jewish boy who lived in Israel when Jesus lived there. In the story, Ethan is pronounced “AY-thawn,” Tobi is “TOE-bee,” and Mesha is “MAY-shaw.” A Rabbi is a Hebrew name for “Teacher,” and a Levite is one of the people God chose to specially serve Him in the temple. I do not think that Samaritans would live in Galilee, because the Jews disliked them so much, but I put one there for the story.
Ten-year-old Ethan leaned against a soft hummock of grass and looked around at the rolling Galilean countryside. Off to the left stretched the Sea of Galilee, and far away in the plain of Jordan, he could make out the busy fishing town of Bethsaida. Closing his eyes against the glaring sun of late summer, he could hear the contented grazing of the sheep nearby and the harsh cry of a raven farther up the hillside.
Had it already been five months since the Rabbi Jesus was teaching the great crowds on these same hills? Ethan remembered again the thrilling excitement he had felt as he watched him touch the sick and make them well. But most amazing of all had been that wonderful meal served to the whole crowd with only a few small loaves and fish. Surely this Rabbi was their Messiah, the one Father had said would come. Many had wanted to make him king then, but, to Ethan’s great disappointment, Jesus had silently disappeared.
All summer, Ethan had dreamed about this strange new Rabbi while watching the sheep. It must not be long until he would come back and gather an army together, like the men of the village had said. Then they would overthrow their enemies and become a great nation once again: free from the pestering Roman soldiers and those dirty Samar—
“Ethan! Ethan, that brown-eared sheep has gone wandering down the ravine again.” Ethan blinked open his eyes to glare at Tobi, the little Samaritan boy that came running up the slope. How annoying to be interrupted from his great plans by such a little dog as he! But Ethan scrambled to his feet and hurried down the pasture with staff in hand, Tobi following at his heels.
Sometimes he enjoyed the company of the smaller, quiet boy, who often was more diligent in watching the sheep than himself. But Ethan wouldn’t admit that to anyone—not even to cousin Mesha, who always listened to his plans. Samaritans were all dogs, claiming rights that didn’t belong to them, and no Jew would be a friend to one.
“This way—see it down there, next to that rock?” said Tobi, pointing off to the left.
“Of course I do,” Ethan replied sharply, scrambling down the bank. He could remember the time they had sold sheep in the village, and Tobi had come along. All the village boys had made fun of him and called him names because he had a Samaritan boy for help.
But as they made their way around the sheep and began herding it back up toward the rest of the flock, his anger cooled. Once more his thoughts turned to Rabbi Jesus and the kingdom, which He had said would come. The others had said that it meant great things for the Jews: freedom and power once again. Besides, Ethan was tired of watching sheep all the time. He wanted excitement, and it seemed that this was his chance at last.
“Ethan, where are you?” The gentle voice of a young girl floated through the evening breeze, and the shepherd boy jumped up from under a scrub tree to welcome his cousin.
“Over here, Mesha!” Ethan called, as he spotted the brown-robed form trudging up the slope between the grazing sheep. “Did you come all the way by yourself?”
“Papa brought me; I have some news to tell you!” Ethan could see the excitement on his nine-year-old cousin’s face as she climbed over the last few rocks between them. “You see, Aunt Elizabeth came to tell us that Uncle Andrew came home yesterday—and you know what that means.”
“The Rabbi has come back then?” Ethan asked eagerly.
“Yes,” Mesha said, “but he’s planning to go down to Jerusalem for the feast.”
“I think so. Papa and Mama have been talking about going along—”
“With Rabbi Jesus?”
“And Papa is asking your folks if they want to go then, too,” Mesha went on.
“Oh, I hope they say yes!” Ethan exclaimed. “We must hurry to gather the sheep in. Come Tobi!” The three children scattered to circle around the sheep and to start them down toward the lowlands, where Ethan’s house stood near the sheepfolds. Tobi was not too bad, Ethan thought. That is, when he stayed in his place.
When they breathlessly entered the courtyard a half-hour later, Father was talking to Uncle Ruben. “He’s nearly eleven,” he said, “and has been excited as the rest of us over this man’s teachings. We’ll take him.”
“It’s settled then,” said Uncle Ruben. “We’ll hope to be seeing you all week after next, permitting you can find a shepherd boy….”
Ethan turned to Mesha in excitement, “That means I’m going, too!”
The morning was cool, and the ground was wet with dew as they set out from the city of Capernaum, three weeks later. There were at least a half-dozen other families who were going to the feast, along with Rabbi Jesus and his twelve followers. Ethan spotted the small figure of Mesha next to Aunt Elizabeth and ran over to join them.
“This is my first time down,” Mesha said, skipping along excitedly. “Before, I was always too small to go, Papa said. And oh, Ethan! I can’t wait to see Jerusalem and the temple, and….”
But Ethan wasn’t listening to Mesha, or the discussion of his older brothers ahead of them, or the bleating cries of the sheep behind. He was impatient with all this talk. What was the latest news about Jesus? What had he said about the kingdom? They were going to Jerusalem—would not this be the time for the Messiah to conquer?
“Aunt Elizabeth, could you tell us more about the Rabbi? About what he’s been saying and doing lately, I mean.” Ethan knew Aunt Elizabeth would tell them. She always had time to talk to them and tell them things.
“So you’re as eager as the rest of us,” Aunt Elizabeth’s eyes twinkled. “Have you heard of the healing of the devil-possessed boy?” Ethan and Mesha listened eagerly as she told of the healings and travels of the Rabbi—and his strange words and teachings. His ideas were different, for he told them to forgive those that did you wrong, to be humble, and to be kind.
At noon they stopped to rest and eat along the shore of the Lake Galilee, which they had followed south all morning. As he sat eating, Ethan listened to the excited conversation of the men around him.
“This is going a little too far!” one man growled, standing up and scowling at the others. “Do you think we should put up with such a disgraceful idea—going through Samaria indeed!” Ethan looked up in surprise. No Jew ever went through Samaria if he could help it.
“I’d rather be a dead mule than take hospitality from a Samaritan,” another man agreed.
“But, the Rabbi must know what he is doing,” Ethan’s father said. Ethan looked up into his father’s calm face and saw his mouth set determinedly. “For myself, I’ll not make such a fuss.”
Uncle Ruben spoke up. “Go by way of Jordan if you want, but I don’t want to miss anything if Rabbi Jesus has decided to go through.” There were nods as the others agreed, and Ethan saw the scowling man slowly sit down again. But he wondered—what was the Rabbi up to?