Imagine what it would have been like to grow up with Jesus during the formative years of His life
Joseph had not looked well for some time. Jesus told me that Mary said one day, “I’m concerned for your father’s health. He has lost his appetite and is growing weaker by the day.” He had not been able to work for the past several months, and we all were very concerned about his condition.
Over the past few months, Joseph’s health had continued to worsen. Months turned into years, and he gradually became so weak that he could barely eat—just enough to stay alive.
One day at work, I noticed that Jesus was in deep concentration and looked troubled.
“What’s bothering you, my friend?” I asked. He was still working, but I noticed tears sliding down His cheeks.
“It’s Father. I want to help him, but I can’t. He’s so sick and there’s nothing I can do!” Jesus’ tone was uncharacteristically angry.
Not knowing the words to say, I threw my arms around Him and we wept together. As we pulled away from one another, He said, “Father is going to die and I feel helpless. If only the time was right, I could help him.”
After He said this, we didn’t talk for some time.
As we continued our work, I pondered what He had said: “If only the time was right.” I thought and thought about that statement for a while, but soon dismissed it as His frustration and helpless feeling.
A few days later, I suggested that Jesus and his mother take their father on a trip to the sea. “I’ll handle the work,” I said. “The fresh air and the sea would do him well.”
“You’re right,” Jesus said. “Mother and I have been talking about the same thing. He hates seeing us worry, especially Mother. Will you talk to him? He doesn’t want to leave all the work on your shoulders. If you tell him that you can take care of the shop for a few weeks, he might go.”
“Sure, I’ll speak with him right now.”
Joseph was in the back room of their home, lying on the bed—a once-strong man now unable to walk without help. As I approached, Joseph opened his weak and tired eyes. The eyes that once had been bright and alive were now hollow and sad.
I could see a man completely worn out, struggling to stay alive. I wondered if it was too late, but it was worth a try. I began to tell him what I had told Jesus. He listened and nodded slowly as I spoke. When I finished, he simply said, “Thank you, Bezalel.” It seemed to take all his strength to say those words.
As I left the room, I went outside where Jesus and Mary had been waiting. Both looked exhausted as well. As I told them what he had said, Mary bowed her head and began to sob gently. Putting His arm around her, Jesus said, “Mother, we will leave in the morning. It will do all of us good to get away for a few weeks. We can stay with your cousin Sabella by the sea.”
Mary didn’t say anything, but nodded in agreement.
As I departed, I hugged them both. “Get a good night’s sleep and I will see you in the morning.”
As I went to bed that night, I thought of all the good times our families had together. From the time when they had moved across the street, we had been like family. Joseph and Mary had been like a second set of parents to me. We laughed together, ate together, played together, cried together, worked together and prayed together.
Before dawn, I was awakened by the sound of a woman’s scream. I thought I was dreaming, but soon realized the sound was coming from Jesus’ home. Amir ran to see what had happened. He found Mary lying over the lifeless body of Joseph. I was right behind my father to see what was happening.
Jesus was trying to comfort Mary. “Mother, Father has been suffering for so long. He has not gotten better but worse. He died as he always wanted to, in his sleep in his own bed. He gently stepped out of this life into the life beyond.”
Mary looked up at my father. “Amir, Jesus is right, but it’s so hard to let him go. We have been through so much together. We knew this day was coming, but you’re never quite ready. He was such a good husband and father.”
Then she and Jesus embraced again, and both wept over their dear Joseph.
Joseph had been a well-respected man in our community, having worked hard at his trade to provide for his family, so many turned out for his burial to mourn and celebrate the life of this good man.
John came to Joseph’s funeral and stayed with Jesus and Mary. John’s father had died recently, and his mother was not doing well. Jesus and John spent a lot of time together after the funeral; I often saw them walking outside of our village. John left soon afterwards. That’s the last time I saw him until that day at the Jordan River when he baptized Jesus.
We were getting to the age of being prepared for our arranged marriages. Nazareth was buzzing with excitement and anticipation that spring. Jesus would have been a good husband to any of the young women in our village. All the parents thought the world of Him. He was considered a prize catch.
There was one girl everyone thought would make Jesus a great wife. Her name was Talia. She was so sweet, kind, helpful, thoughtful, and pretty—one of those girls who had never changed. Everyone called her “Sunshine” because when she was around she brought joy to all. Somewhat like Jesus.
The village matchmaker paid a visit to Mary one evening to discuss an arrangement between Jesus and Talia. Mary listened intently but refused the offer. Everyone in the village thought Mary was being overbearing about the situation. Talia and Jesus would make the perfect couple, according to the village gossip.
After many attempts to forge an agreement, it was obvious that Mary was not going to concede. Jesus seemed to be fine with this, and He spent one afternoon talking to Talia and her father about their offer. He was grateful, but could not accept.
Others in the community went about their marriage arrangements. Engagements were announced and excitement was filling the village square about all the new proposals. To my surprise, my father and Talia’s father announced an engagement between Talia and me. I was ecstatic! And, not to my surprise, Jesus was happy for us. I knew I wasn’t the first choice of Talia’s family, but that didn’t matter. I was the luckiest boy in all of Nazareth!
Many of the old women in town constantly talked about Mary not letting Jesus get married. They said all sorts of hurtful things about her, but it never caused her to change her mind. She was determined to see her son remain unmarried, and it was just fine with Him.
The gossip was cruel; those spreading it would say things like, “He’s just a momma’s boy” and “Just because Joseph died, she thinks she can’t let Him go.”
Talia and I married and then went on to have six children. Yes, six! One every year. My plate was full, and I worked nonstop to provide for all those little mouths. Jesus came over often to see the children and visit Talia and me. The kids loved to see Him, and so did we. It was a good time in our lives and everything was going great.
But just around the corner, trouble was lurking. It wasn’t anything sudden, but gradually our world was changing, and not for the good. As they say, “The only thing certain is change.”
Politically, things began to decay in Israel. The Roman occupation was getting worse by the day. Jesus’ cousin, Simon Kananaios, who had married Leah, was the head of an opposition movement against Rome’s oppression.
Being occupied by a country with different moral and religious values was a recipe for disaster. Simon was of a political party called “the Zealots,” who held that paying taxes to the Roman Empire was treason against God.
Trying to make a living for my family was hard, and if you added the taxes the Romans dictated, I was in trouble. The hostility for the Romans grew by the day. Riots and resistance were stirring in every town.
I persuaded Jesus to go with me to see his cousin Simon. Jesus wasn’t involved in political matters, but agreed to go. By this time, Leah and Simon had three children and were living with his family in Cana. (I had heard that Leah was still as gorgeous as ever.)
Jesus wasn’t interested in joining the movement opposing the Roman tax. If I’d seen anything growing up with Jesus, it is that He was truly a peacemaker. Fights or quarrels would take place between this one and that one, and Jesus always tried to bring calm and peace to the situation.
As we arrived at Simon’s house, we were greeted with warmth and hospitality; we enjoyed a good meal prepared by Leah. It was so good to see her again. As usual, she was kind to us and gave us a comfortable place to spend the night.
Simon and Leah had 10-year-old twin boys (who were impossible to tell apart), and a 12-year-old girl. The little girl looked just like Leah when she was that age; and when I noticed that, it was all I could do to keep from laughing. Jesus looked at me and quickly turned His head to wipe the grin off His face, because he knew right away what I found funny.
After the children were tucked in bed, Leah and her mother-in-law went to clean up the dishes. About the same time, several members of Simon’s political party began to arrive, clearly for a meeting they had planned. The conversation quickly went to the situation of Rome’s occupation of Israel.
One of the men in attendance asked, “Should we talk to the rulers of the Temple and get the Temple guards to join us in the revolt?”
Simon shook his head in disgust. “You fool! How many times do I have to tell you: The leaders in Jerusalem are collaborators with the Romans. Can’t you understand? They’re not on our side. All they want is to maintain their position and power. We have no one in authority we can depend on or trust—no one!
“The Chief Priest and everyone around him are in bed with the Romans. The Temple guards can’t help us at all, and the Herodians support the house of Herod and are willing servants of Rome. They’re all a bunch of puppets! When are we going to wake up?”
Simon vented his frustration and presented his plan with much persuasion. He was a great communicator, and I agreed with him wholeheartedly. This talk went way into the night. Others of his party came over, and the conversation became more intense. At times, everyone talked at once. The conclusion at the end of the evening was that a rebellion was necessary at all costs—even if it meant violence.
Throughout the discussion, Jesus said nothing. Simon finally turned to Him and said, “Okay, cousin, what do you think?” Simon knew Jesus just as I did, as a peacemaker. But Simon thought that maybe, after all the talk, Jesus too would agree with the opposition.
There was a long silence before Jesus simply said, “I have nothing to say.”
The others seemed shocked when He said this, but Simon and I knew Jesus might answer this way.
After everyone was gone, Leah showed us to our sleeping quarters, but I couldn’t sleep for thinking about all that we had discussed. Jesus, however, slept like a baby. I often wished I had the same disposition as His. Never did I see Him fret about anything—nothing seemed to rob Him of His peace.
The next morning, we got up to enjoy a big breakfast prepared by Leah and her mother. As we ate, Jesus began laughing for no apparent reason. His laughter spread among the rest of us—but we didn’t know what we were laughing about; we were just laughing at Him. He finally regained His composure and said, “I was just thinking of the day Leah and her family moved back to Nazareth.”
Simon looked puzzled. “What’s so funny about that?”
“I was just thinking about how Bezalel looked when he saw Leah that day,” He said. “I’m sorry, but just thinking about the look on his face got me tickled. Bezalel remembered Leah as a little snaggletooth girl who got on his nerves growing up. He had no idea how beautiful she had become, and when she stepped out of the wagon, his mouth dropped wide open. That look will forever be engraved on my memory.”
Jesus had such a way of turning an embarrassing situation into humor. Simon agreed. “Yes, I remember how she looked, and I wasn’t excited about our marriage. Bezalel, I understand completely how you felt. I, too, hadn’t seen her in years—until one day when our family came to Nazareth for a visit. Boy, was I pleasantly surprised!”
Leah just shyly shook her head. “Surely I wasn’t that ugly?”
All three of us sat there looking at one another, speechless. “Y’a’ll are terrible!” she said, then all of us, including Leah, began to laugh.
We stayed a few more days to do business with some of the people in Cana who knew our reputation as carpenters; as usual, they wanted us to work for almost nothing, but we negotiated a compromise. We got instructions on the items they needed built and then went back to Simon and Leah’s home to say our goodbyes and thank them for their hospitality.
The trip back to Nazareth was long, but Jesus and I had a long conversation about several issues. He spoke often of subjects like forgiveness, love, Heaven, God’s presence, and compassion—and in such simple language. He wasn’t like the Pharisees, who spoke in a way that only the educated elite could understand. Jesus said, “It’s simple: Love God and love others. Treat others like you want to be treated. That’s it.”
As I have mentioned before, Jesus and Mary planned to move to Capernaum to be near their relatives after Joseph’s death. Their cousins had lived in Cana, but due to the availability of work on the Sea of Galilee, they also had moved to Capernaum.
I fully understood the reason for the move and wasn’t terribly disappointed, because of the close proximity of Nazareth to Capernaum. I often went there for good quality wood, and to pick up supplies I needed that weren’t available in Nazareth, so I knew I would see Jesus often.
As the time was approaching for their move, Talia said, “Elizabeth and I have been discussing giving Mary and Jesus a special gift before they depart.”
“That would be great; what would it be?”
“We would like the seamstress Calista to make them something to wear.”
Father, overhearing the conversation, said, “We don’t have that kind of money, Elizabeth!”
Calista was well known throughout Israel for making clothes for royalty and the rich of our country. No one in our little village could afford anything she made. She traveled often to Caesarea, Joppa, and Jerusalem to meet with her clients to discuss fabric and colors, and to make the measurements needed to make these expensive garments.
Her list of customers read like the “Who’s Who List of Israel.” Only the privileged and powerful wore her clothes. Herod’s wife, Herodias, and her daughter Salome were just a few of her clients.
Needless to say, my father was right. The entire village didn’t have the money to buy her clothing.
Mother chimed in. “Talia and I have talked with Calista, and she said she would be happy to make Jesus a cloak and Mary a robe,” she said. “Bezalel, you need to go with us tomorrow to get the size right. You and Jesus are about the same size, and I am the size of Mary. This needs to be a surprise.”
The next morning, Mother, Talia and I went to Calista’s home. She greeted us at the door. “Come right in! I’m so glad I can be a part of these gifts for Jesus and Mary. My, Bezalel, how you’ve grown! I haven’t seen you in a while, with all the traveling I do. And when I’m home, it seems like I’m always working. My customers are very demanding and very impatient. It’s so good to see all of you. Please sit down and let me get the cloth I want to use.”
Calista left the room to go to the back of her home. As we sat there, I looked around at the surroundings; I had never been inside her house. It looked nothing like the other homes in Nazareth. It was as if we were in a different town or country. At the look on Mother and Talia’s faces, it was obvious that they were thinking the same thing.
We sat there speechless, looking at one another and at our surroundings in this grand room lined with Greek columns. There were exotic Persian rugs, silk pillows from Egypt, and gold vases of every shape and size. The floor and the walls were covered with Greek mosaics. The patterns were so elegant, they must have taken months to make.
The floor looked from a distance like it was overspread with a Persian rug, but when I looked at it close up, I saw that it was made of small pieces of river rock and amber glass. The mosaic on the wall was much more colorful and appeared to be the image of a Greek goddess lying on the bank of a pool of water surrounded by various colorful animals and birds. The colors were so vivid that the depictions appeared real.
In just a few minutes, Calista came back into the room with two stacks of cloth covered with a light coating of dust. One was fine linen and the other was a bit coarser, but of the same color. As the seamstress spread the fabric out on the large table, our faces lit up. These were the most exquisite pieces of material we had ever seen.
“Are you sure you can do this?” Mother asked.
“Don’t be silly,” Calista said. “I would be honored to make this for Mary and Jesus.” Although she was Greek and not Jewish, she gave generously to the needs of our synagogue and the poor of our community.
“Okay, Bezalel, stand up and let me measure you.”
As I held out my arms, she quickly got her measurements, then asked my mother to do the same. After she had finished, she said, “I will have them ready in about a week. I’m caught up for once on my work, and this is a good time for this project. I think I have enough material to make them without a seam.” Mother, Talia, and I again thanked her for her generosity as we left.
Walking home, we were still stunned at what we had witnessed. Mother and Talia said, “I’ve never in my life seen such a house!” I laughed, because I had been about to say the same thing.
We couldn’t wait to see the look on Mary and Jesus’ faces when we presented them with their new garments.
Presenting the Gifts
Twice a year, fresh fruit and vegetables came from the Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem. The women of Nazareth crowded the market on that day. I tried to go, but the women and girls made it almost impossible to see anything.
When I did go, I was astounded by the fusion of colors and scents of the flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Nevertheless, Father and I always looked forward to Mother and Talia coming home with their colorful baskets of goodies.
That day, my mother and Talia were unusually late coming home. Father stood at the doorway of our home anxiously waiting for their return. Finally he saw them turning the corner toward our house. “Here comes mother and Sunshine!” He said with excitement. “I was worried about you two!” Father said. “Bezalel and I have been waiting over two hours. What happened?”
As my mother put her purchases on the table, she began to shake her head. “You two weren’t worried about us. You’re worried about your own bellies.” Talia and I began to chuckle, looking at Father. He lowered his head, knowing she had just told the truth.
“This was the best market we’ve had in a while,” Mother said.
Father and I rushed to the table to see.
“Hold your horses, you two,” she said. “Give us some breathing room! Amir, you will have your chance to see and, yes, eat all you want.”
As the women continued separating the fruit from the vegetables, Talia said, “We were late because we saw Calista at the market. She was looking at some flowers across the square and motioned for us to come over. We had to stop what we were doing and make our way through the crowd. I never have seen so many at the market square—shoulder to shoulder, you could barely walk through the people.”
“What in the world did she want that would stop your shopping?” Father said. “She told us she had Jesus’ cloak and Mary’s robe ready, and they turned out beautiful.”
“We can pick them up tonight, after we fix you hard-working men a wonderful dinner,” Talia said. You could see by the grin on Father’s face that he was pleased about that comment.
In just a short time, we were enjoying a wonderful dinner of fresh zucchini, cucumbers, and tomatoes. Mother also had some lamb that she had prepared earlier in the afternoon with fresh dates, guavas, and mangos; this was a feast for a royal family.
After cleaning up the leftovers and dishes, Mother and Talia left for Calista’s house. Father and I worked on a fence for our chicken coop. It appeared that a fox or something had been trying to dig under the fence to get to the baby chicks.
About the time we were finishing the fence, Mother and Talia walked up wearing big grins of delight.
“Come inside, BB, and try on this cloak,” Talia said. “We already tried on Mary’s robe and it fits Elizabeth perfectly.”
As Talia unpackaged Jesus’ garment, Mother was trying on the sky-blue robe for my father. Talia placed the cloak over my head as I put my arms through the sleeves. After it was on, I looked at the ladies and asked, “How do I look?”
In unison, they said, “Perfect, absolutely perfect. It couldn’t fit better.”
The ladies agreed to ask Jesus and Mary to dinner the next evening to give them a going-away meal and their gifts.
“With the things we bought at the market today, Talia and I can make an excellent meal for them,” Mother said. “We will have all day to prepare.”
“Two great meals in two days; halleluiah!” Father said, grinning from ear to ear and rubbing his hands together briskly.
One thing about Father everyone knew: He loved to eat! Or, let me say it this way: He lived to eat. I have seen him eat so much that he had to lie on the ground to get his breath and get comfortable. Because Mother and Talia were such good cooks, Father had put on several pounds in the last few years.
The next day in the shop, I told Jesus and Mary about the meal. They were delighted and welcomed the time we would have together.
“Don’t eat too much today,” I told them. “Mother and Talia are working all day on a big feast!”
“Bezalel, your two ladies are the best cooks in Nazareth,” Mary said. “Everyone knows that, especially Amir.”
After work, Jesus, Mary, and I walked over to our house. Father was sitting there happily anticipating what he was about to devour.
“It’s about time the guests of honor showed up,” he said. “I’ve been waiting all day for this.”
I looked at him and shook my head, saying, “You’re pitiful.”
He said, “No I’m not, I’m starving! Let’s eat.”
After our wonderful meal and fellowship, Mother said, “We have some special gifts for the two of you.” Getting up, she proceeded to her bedroom to fetch the garments. As she came out holding the wrapped presents, Mary said, “We didn’t expect gifts! The meal and your friendship are enough. You shouldn’t have.”
“Mary, you and Jesus are family to us,” Father said. “We have shared joy and heartache together. We will always cherish the time we have had together. Even though Capernaum is not far away, it won’t be the same as you living across the street for over twenty years.”
Jesus and Mary opened their presents as we waited in anticipation for their response. As they began to open them simultaneously, you could see the shock and surprise in their faces and eyes as our joy bubbled up within us.
Jesus took Mary’s robe and placed it gently on her shoulders. “You look like a queen, Mother.” Speechless, Mary couldn’t hold back tears of joy and gratitude.
Jesus took the seamless cloak and put it over His head as He stood there next to Mary. Mother and Talia began to cry, and it looked like Father would also, but as usual, he broke the ice with one of his lighthearted comments. “Look Bezalel, we have the queen and king dining with us tonight.” Picking up a glass of wine, he said, “Hear, hear, I make a toast to the king and queen of Capernaum.” We all laughed and had a farewell toast to our lifelong friends and neighbors.
Talking to Mary
Soon after our final get-together, things changed abruptly after I went to the Jordan and saw John baptize Jesus. When I returned home from the Jordan River, I told Talia briefly what I had witnessed there and explained to her that I needed to be alone for a while. I went to a secluded place where Jesus and I had often gone to talk.
Afterwards, I went back home and told Talia in detail what I had witnessed. “Bezalel, what does all this mean?” she asked. “Our whole lives, we were told the Messiah would be a powerful king and set up His kingdom in Jerusalem. Jesus doesn’t fit that description.”
I agreed with her. “I’m as confused as you are, Sweetheart. None of this makes any sense. I’m going to see Mary in the morning.” Talia and I then embraced. “Yes, you’ve had a long journey and it’s getting late. Get some sleep.”
I lay there all night unable to sleep. After tossing and turning for hours, I finally got up. My restlessness hadn’t awakened Talia; she could sleep through anything. Going outside, I looked up at the sky; the moon was not out, so the stars had center stage and were more brilliant than ever before. I could see clearly the constellations of the Bear, Orion, and the Pleiades. Recalling how Jesus would describe them in such detail would send chills up my spine.
After some time had passed, I began to pray for understanding. “God of heaven and earth, I’m like a grasshopper in your sight, so weak and helpless. Please, I pray, help me understand. I need some answers, but I’m so confused I don’t even know the questions to ask. Please help me!”
In a few minutes, I heard Talia’s voice behind me. “Bezalel, are you alright?” We stood there embracing for a moment, then went back in the house. Neither of us said another word, so I lay down to get some rest, soon to be awakened by our rooster outside our window welcoming the new day. I got up and dressed, and told Talia I was going to see Mary.
As I went across the street, Azriel was already standing outside.
“Where is Jesus?” he asked. “Mary said He was with you.”
Not knowing what to say, I replied, rather rudely, “I don’t know where He is; I saw Him at the Jordan, but haven’t seen Him since.”
“Did you see the prophet?” Azriel demanded. “Do you think he could be the Messiah?” Impatiently, I said, “I’ve got to go to work. Leave me alone!”
Shocked by my response, Azriel went running down the street where he saw a group of people who appeared to be coming back from the Jordan.
Nearing the house, I saw Mary in the courtyard watering her flowers before the hot sun came up. Hearing my steps, she dropped her pot and came running to me, “Bezalel, where is He? Is He alright?”
“He was heading toward the desert the last time I saw Him,” I said. “I didn’t follow Him. Mary, I need to talk to you.”
Putting my arm around her, I led her into the house. After we were seated, I relayed what I had seen and heard at the Jordan.
Mary listened intently to every word. When I was finished speaking, she said, “Bezalel, I have something to tell you that I have hidden in my heart for all these years. Only a few people know what I’m about to tell you: Joseph knew, my cousin Elizabeth and her husband Zacharias know, and so do John and Jesus. You can tell Talia, but no one else.”
“You’re like my second mother. I promise I will tell no one.”
Mary began to tell me of when the angel Gabriel had come to her before Jesus was born and how the angel had appeared to Joseph in a dream. Then she told about how Zacharias had been visited by the angel before John’s birth, and she described the time when she had been carrying Jesus on her visit to see Zacharias and Elizabeth at their home in Judah.
Mary said to me so gently, “BB, that’s why Jesus and John would always retell this story to you when we went to see them. Remember?”
“Yes, I remember.” We looked at one another and smiled.
As Mary told me these events, in the depths of my being, everything in me began to quiver. After she finished, I began to cry uncontrollably. My tears were not out of sadness or sorrow, but they sprang from the realization of who I had been living with for more than twenty years. Not only had I been living in the same town with Him, but I had been His best friend and next-door neighbor. We had grown up together through different stages of our lives.
After that day, I went about my work in the shop. Weeks went by with no word from Jesus. Mary would frequently walk to the doorway from her house and watch as I worked. One day, she said to me, “I’m so worried about Him. It’s been over a month and no word from Him. I’ve always trusted God for His safety throughout His life, but now I find myself afraid. I keep telling myself He’s in God’s hands, but I continue to fear something might have happened to Him.”
“Mary, Jesus will be fine.” I tried to comfort her. “He’s more than able to take care of himself. He’s probably in Capernaum making some arrangements for your new home.” I wanted to stay positive, but I, too, feared something might be wrong. It wasn’t like Jesus to be gone so long without being in touch with His mother.
Later that afternoon, as I was about to finish up my work for the day, two men came to the doorway of our shop. “Is this the home of Jesus, son of Mary?” I nodded yes. “My name is Simon and this is my brother Andrew; we are from Capernaum. Where is Mary?” The two men hadn’t noticed that Mary was sitting on the step watching me as I worked. She stood up. “I am His mother; is He all right?”
Turning toward her, Simon began to speak. “Yes He’s fine, but we have come to take you to your new home in Capernaum. Jesus is very busy at this time, and has sent us to help with your move. He is anxious to see you, and we have prepared a nice home for the two of you.”
I was suspicious. “How do we know you are telling the truth?” I asked. “I will not let you take Mary without more details about who you are and how you know Jesus.”
“Yes, what do you know about my son, and when did you last see Him?” Mary said.
“We met Him on the shore of the Lake of Galilee,” answered the one called Simon. “He was teaching a large crowd of people. We, too, began to listen to Him; and as we stood there, He asked us if He could use our boat to teach the people from, because the crowd was pressing in on Him.
“He taught the people with authority and clarity, in a way we have never heard—even from the rabbis. We believe with all our hearts that He is the Messiah our people have been waiting for. We do hope you will believe us, for Jesus so wants to see His mother.”
Mary turned to me. “Bezalel, I am going with them.”
At that moment I believed, but didn’t understand everything they said.
While Mary began packing her belongings, I began to question the two visitors. “What did you say your names were?” The one who appeared to be the oldest said, “I’m Simon, and this is my brother Andrew. We were fisherman, but now we travel with Jesus throughout the villages as He teaches.”
I was curious to know what Jesus was actually doing to draw such a following, so I asked, “What is He doing?”
Simon, looking at me with a puzzled expression, said, “You mean you’ve lived with Him all this time and have not seen all the miracles He can do?”
“No, He never did any miracles while He lived in Nazareth.” I pressed them again. “What are you talking about?”
With great enthusiasm, Simon began to tell of all they had seen Jesus do. “It has been amazing to see the miracles being done by Him and to hear the words that He speaks. He truly has the words of Life! He truly is the long-awaited Messiah we have been expecting!”
“Tell me more!” I said.
“We have seen the blind from birth receive their sight,” Simon continued. “The deaf and dumb hear and speak for the very first time in their lives. The lame beggars we have known and seen for years lying in our streets now are walking! I could go on and on describing one miracle after another. We have seen Him walk on water…stop a storm in its tracks. You must come with us and see all the great things God is doing!”
I could see and hear the joy and excitement in their faces and in their speech. The realization was so overwhelming that I could stand no longer. I sat down on the shop floor with my head between my knees as the men loaded Mary’s belongings on their cart.
I stayed in this position for some time, trying to take in all that I had heard. I began to think about the times Jesus and I had spent together in our small village. Those twenty years flashed through my mind as I sat there on the shop floor.
Then Mary came to the doorway of their home carrying some of her personal things in her arms. “Bezalel, are you okay?” Lifting my head toward her, I said, “Yes, Mary,” then stood up and wiped the dust from the seat of my pants. “Let me help you.” I took her belongings from her and carried them to the cart where Simon and his brother Andrew were.
Finally, when they were prepared to depart, Simon turned toward me, looking sternly into my eyes and said. “You need to come to Capernaum and see all that is going on.”
“I wish I could leave today,” I said, “but I have a few jobs to finish. It will take me a week or so, but I will be there as soon as I can.”
After I said farewell to the brothers, I looked up at Mary. Over the many years I had looked into her eyes often, but that day I saw her for who she really was: The mother of God! I couldn’t help but think of the secret she had treasured in her heart for so many years.
Mary broke the silence. “Bezalel, please come as soon as you can. Jesus will want to see you.” With that, I kissed her on the cheek and the three began the trip down the dusty road to Mary’s new home. As they went down the road, she turned around one last time to wave goodbye to me and her life in Nazareth.
I stood watching as they headed off, thinking about what the future might hold for Mary and Jesus.
Within two weeks I was able to go to Capernaum. As I arrived I was told by a group of people standing in the market square of Jesus’ location. They were filled with excitement as they again told me of all that was taking place at His hands.
Following their directions, I arrived at the base of a mountain not too far from the city. Never in my life had I seen such a large number of people assembled in one place. The number of sick, blind, and lame was overwhelming.
I tried to make my way toward Jesus, but could only see Him from a distance. I thought for a moment about the many hours, days and years we had spent together, and now I couldn’t get near Him.
The more I tried to get closer to Him, the more I could see that it was impossible. As I stood there, I realized that my days of being near Jesus were in the past. I slowly turned and walked back home to Nazareth, wondering what the future would hold.
Now that I’m an old man, the many years of my past march by like ghosts of another time. I often think back to that day at the Jordan River. So many things happened after that day.
His reputation didn’t take long to spread, and thousands followed Him. He performed signs and wonders wherever He went. The authorities, both Roman and Jewish, were becoming focused on exterminating Him and His followers.
No words, written or spoken, can describe what was going on at that time. The ones who experienced it understood. One word that somewhat describes it: “expectation”—expectation that something that had never been was about to happen. Right around the next corner, something was coming that was about to change everything!
Many books have been written since then about the events of Jesus Christ’s life. For three years, we witnessed the world changing forever. No other generation or location on earth can make such a statement. The world would never be the same after those three years.
For more than twenty years, God hid His Son in this Secret Place: Nazareth. Hidden from the rest of the world until His time of coming out was fulfilled. To think how fortunate and blessed our little village was to be that Secret Place God chose to hide His Son.
Some would ask whether I’m sad that I don’t now have the experience of living In God’s Shadow daily. Sure, those times were special, and I will cherish them in my heart for all eternity; but Jesus came for the whole world, not just for me and my little town.
Having the physical presence of Jesus for over twenty years was wonderful to say the least, but to know that for all eternity I will be with Him is marvelous! It has been my privilege to have known Him in His physical presence and for the rest of my earthly life to now know Him in His spiritual presence within the Secret Place of my heart.
Psalm 91:1 “He who dwells in the Secret Place of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.”