Chapter 13 - Shine in Our Hearts


Anna peered out the small side window of the house. The dawn was a moist, gray one. The sky felt strangely close, and a misty fog obscured the distant houses. Everything seemed exceptionally quiet and subdued. What a contrast to the beating of her heart as she thought of the Messiah having slept in their home! A low murmur of voices caught her attention. She turned and stepped through the doorway. Her house was surrounded by people!

It was not a large group, but certainly numerous enough to be out of the ordinary. A crowd didn’t gather around the house of Simon the fisherman for no reason. People milled around the courtyard walls, peering curiously at the open door behind Anna, walking about, and talking to each other in hushed, eager tones. She caught sight of a group of robed, austere men off to one side. She noticed that Zivah was there, too. Most of the rest were simple farmers, fishermen, carpenters, potters, and other local townspeople—but all were brimming with quiet expectation and excitement. Anna smiled and marveled at the sight. She knew why they had come. They were looking for Jesus.

He was not here. Something had awakened her earlier in the morning, and she had seen Him slip out of the courtyard, taking the road that led to the lake. Even in the few hours Jesus had stayed with them, Anna found herself constantly watching this man. She had become unconsciously sensitive to His every move. When He got up or laid down, came or left, ate, spoke, or laughed, she took notice. Anna chuckled at herself.

Even now, she could not stop thinking of the previous evening—one thing rolled over and over in her heart and mind. Jesus had broken the bread as they did every evening and thanked God for the food, but the way in which He had done it took her breath away. Jesus called the Almighty “Abba”—the affectionate term children gave their fathers! And He spoke, not in the sing-song monotone way of the synagogue elders, but as though He were talking to another person there in the same room. His face was filled with gladness, completely comfortable and at ease. The scene flashed through her mind again and again.

She shook herself back to the strange moment before her now. More people had joined the crowd, many faces that were unfamiliar to her. She shivered and bent to start a fire. The travel-weary men sleeping inside her house would need a good breakfast before long. A pile of wood stood stacked neatly near the door where last night there had been none. Hmmm, Anna wondered, Did Jesus do that before He left so early?

Jedida and the younger girls emerged from the house, staring. Kitra tugged at her grandmother. “Why are all thothse people here, Nana?”

Anna smiled and patted the girl’s hand. “They’re here to see Jesus. But for now let’s concentrate on our work. We must get busy! There is porridge to make!” She looked to Ariel. “Dear, run to the rooftop and get three measures of barley.” Wide-eyed at the crowd, Ariel was relieved to have been sent to the roof.

Ashira slipped out of the house, her face beaming, and brought a jug of water to pour into the pot over the fire. She hugged her mother in her joyful anticipation of what surely lay ahead when Jesus returned. Jedida quickly made batter and began pouring some onto the hot cooking stone. She would make plenty of flatbread this day.

The number outside the courtyard grew. Anna and Jedida found themselves cooking under the curious eyes of nearly a hundred people. Anna tried to focus her attention on the fire, coaxing the flames to get the water boiling, and yet to observe the crowd was almost amusing. Newcomers arrived every few minutes, standing around, talking and laughing, all eyeing the few women fixing food. She wondered if Lemuel would show up, though he couldn’t seem to get away fast enough last night.

And Ezra—she knew he would be intensely interested and expected him any minute. Ah! Ariel had arrived with the grain. Anna carefully added it to the pot of boiling water and turned to help Jedida with the bread.

A short time later, Jesus came down the path, whistling. Arms swinging at his side, he walked through the crowd, unintimidated. Whispers rippled through the people.

“It’s Jesus!”

“Surely not.”

“That man?!”

“Yes, it’s him alright!”

Skeptical and hopeful looks, cast toward Jesus and each other, told their inner thoughts. This man? The Messiah?

Jesus pushed the gate open. It screeched shut and the throng of people hovered just outside. “Good morning, Anna. Good morning, Jedida!” the Master said warmly.

Anna looked up and melted at his smile. She greeted him and offered him a bowl of porridge. Jedida, having pulled flatbread off of the stone in the fire, tore off a large chunk for him. He accepted, obviously quite hungry. Many of the disciples were already seated on the ground, their backs against the wall of the house or courtyard wall, eating enthusiastically and talking together. Those who hadn’t yet been awakened appeared at the sound of Jesus’ voice. Jesus sat down against the wall among them and stretched out his dusty legs. The swarm of onlookers surged to the spot, leaning over the wall, talking and watching. Jesus scooped into the bowl.

The men within the courtyard wall fell silent, observing the scene with interest, waiting and wondering if Jesus would do anything, say anything. The crowd evidently expected that he should.

Simon stomped out of the house, yawned loudly and stretched. “Oh!” He looked at Jesus, then at the people. “Good morning, everyone!” he bellowed, smiling broadly.

Jesus and the others laughed, teasing the late-riser. Simon dropped down near Jesus, and Kitra squeezed into the tiny space between them.

The Master resumed eating, stopping to wipe a spot where the hot gruel had dripped from his bowl onto his robe. James restarted his story of a recent fishing disaster, and the others listened and joined in laughter. Anna watched from near the doorway, marveling again.

Jesus turned and spoke to Ezekiel, who had been sitting in the same spot nearby for some time, whittling intently on his long piece of cypress. “Hey, Zeke. What are you carving?”

Ezekiel looked up, a huge grin spreading across his face. Anna could see he was thrilled that Jesus had taken an interest in his work.

“I’ve been making a sword! It’ll help Israel defeat the Romans! It would be amazing to throw them out of Israel, wouldn’t it?”

Ezekiel suddenly remembered how Jesus had seemingly not said or done anything about the Romans. He looked up at Jesus, his brow furrowed in concern. “Jesus? What do you think about the Romans?”

Anna listened closely, wondering what he would answer. The crowd suddenly quieted as well.

Jesus licked his lips and set his bowl down. “What do you think of the Romans, Zeke?”

“Well, they’re our enemies, aren’t they? Father says they rule over our nation like they own it. They think we’re nothing, and they punish us when we don’t obey their pagan laws. And the rabbi at the synagogue says the Romans even control the temple, including the High Priest. So we should throw them off! Right? We should have a King like King David who is a true Israelite, and be our own people again!”

Anna could see that Ezekiel was excited. I wonder what Jesus will say to that! she thought, intrigued.

Anna turned as the gate squawked. It was Ezra, entering the courtyard, carrying his father. Elizabeth was close behind. Anna rushed over to welcome them in. She helped them find a place to set Jesse. Simon glanced up, and beckoned into his courtyard the rest of the people who stood hopefully at the gate. Some of the crowd flowed in, finding seats on the ground, the stairs, on the wall.

Jesus was quiet for a moment, then asked so that all could hear. “What does the law of Moses say?”

“Love your neighbors and hate your enemies!” someone boldly answered.

“But listen to the truth. I say love your enemies. To love only when love will be returned to you—that’s the way of mere men, not of your Father in Heaven. Think of the way He does things…” Jesus went on, leaning forward, his voice carrying to those gathered on the roof, and the ones huddled outside the wall. Anna saw, as he spoke more, how he searched the faces before him intently. “God’s thoughts are not like your thoughts, His ways are not like your ways. His kingdom is very near and unless you repent, you’ll miss it.”

Anna found herself captivated by Jesus’ words and, at the same time, aware of the crowd’s many different reactions to this man.

“The Kingdom,” he went on, “is like a tiny seed—like a mustard seed. It’s so small and seems so insignificant, but don’t overlook it—you’ve seen how great a tree grows from a mustard seed.”

Anna puzzled over his words.

As he continued, some left. Others stayed—some out of lingering hope, some out of curiosity, and some just because they had nothing better to do. Over the course of the day, Anna saw some people enraged, offended. She saw the uncomfortable shifting movements of the robed elders outside the gate. And she saw little children leaning in, listening, delighted and intrigued. Anna wondered what else was going on behind these many faces…


I feel so jumpy and restless this morning. Crowds of people are all around our house, with more arriving every minute. I can’t seem to find any place in the whole courtyard where I won’t be seen, where I won’t have to look at all those people. But I want so much to be with Jesus! The roof! I can watch and listen from the roof! I hurry up the stairs on the outside of the house and decide to look at Jesus one more time. I turn and see Him sitting there, not intimidated by the crowd, just as the Romans hadn’t intimidated Him. He is so full of peace, giving Himself so freely.

As I look at Him, I hear His words. “God’s thoughts are not like your thoughts. He sees things in a completely different way than you do.” I see how much I have been thinking of myself and my desire to be in my own comfortable place. Can I care about these people, just as Jesus does? I long to be like Him, so free and secure. I sit down right where I am, halfway up the stairs, next to a woman I’ve never seen before. I’m sitting by someone I don’t know. This is so hard!  With these thoughts still running through my head, I stare intently at Jesus and whisper, “How can you be so full of peace and freedom and security?”

Suddenly the woman next to me leans over to speak to me! I nearly fall off the stairs! “I heard your question,” she says. “He is like that because He is full of love for these people. He doesn’t worry about what they think about Him, only that they need Him.”

I am astonished that she heard AND answered my question, but I manage to stammer out, “How—how do you know that? Have you ever talked to Him before?”

The woman laughs softly. “Oh, we have talked many times. You see, He is my son. We came here from Cana with several of His new followers.”

This does nothing to ease my astonishment. I am so glad that I chose not to sit on the roof. “Do—do you think, I could ever be like Jesus?” I ask aloud.

“The best way to answer that, I think, is to ask Him yourself,” the kind woman says.

“I will,” I say directly to Jesus’ mother, as I determine to look right into her eyes. “I will do that as soon as I can.”


I plodded up the slope to our house this morning, brooding. I was angry. I had been so relieved when father returned yesterday. I guess I assumed he was back to stay—at least for a while. But then I learned that they’re going to Jerusalem for Passover in just a day or two, and he needs me to stay back and do the fishing. Fishing! And Ezra just told me he’s going, too! Why am I left with this job? If I’m going to be the one providing for this family, I ought to be able to choose how I do it.

I was surprised by the crowd as I made my way to the gate. But then Jesus’ words grab my attention. “Unless you repent, you cannot enter the Kingdom.”

Repent? What do I have to repent about? I have always lived for God. Or have I? I guess I’ve never really considered God’s specific direction for my life. I’ve always known what I’ve wanted and had all the answers. I can tell that these people around me don’t feel that way. Look at them! They’re pitiful. They almost look—starved. Do they think Jesus can give them what they need?

I see Jesus teaching. He seems clear-minded, focused—like He knows what life’s about. He’s a strong man. His eyes are sharp, searching. When He looks my way, I find myself glancing down. I don’t want Jesus to see me—who I am, how small my goals have been. I thought I loved God, but this man really does. It shows in everything He says, in every action.

The realization almost chokes me—I don’t have a clue about what it means to seek God. I’ve been such a fool! Do I want to know the God of Heaven like Jesus does? Do I want to live my life God’s way? Or, do I want life my way? Is success all I want? Jesus’ words hit me again. Unless you repent, you’ll miss it.


Hmmmph! Nonsense! His words are such nonsense. Who can understand anything this man says? And all these people crowded into Simon’s courtyard seeming to hang on his every word. So ridiculous. What a laughable sight!

But, there is something…something intriguing, compelling about this person. He seems to actually—like everyone—even love them! But how could he love people he’s never even seen before this morning?

Ha! Maybe that is why. If he really knew them, he’d know that they are a bunch of fools. These people need to be straightened out. And I don’t think love will do the trick. How will they change if we don’t tell them outright what they’re doing wrong?

Then I realize Jesus is looking at me. How kind his eyes are!

“Repent!” he is saying.

Repent? Now there is straight talk. But why is he still looking at me? His eyes lock on to mine. Oh… I can’t face that. Oh, Jesus, who are you? Do you see who I am? My anger. My bitterness. And yet, why don’t you disdain me? I am not like you, Jesus. I can’t love—fools. I shudder, seeing for the first time who I really am.


I’m confused. I thought Jesus was going to answer my question, but now He’s talking about other things. I pick up my half-finished wooden sword and start carving it more into the shape I want. Suddenly I notice movement in the crowd. The people are making room for some newcomers. Hey! Those are soldiers! I gasp out loud when I recognize the centurion leading them. Close to his side is a boy about my age. Must be his servant. Why have the soldiers come? To arrest someone? To make Jesus stop talking? But they just stand there. They are listening to Jesus!

I shake my head and bend again to work more on my sword. Then I realize something. Wait. I haven’t even been listening to Yesu! He IS answering my question and I’m not even paying attention! I think of all the times recently Nana has told me I need to be more serious about things. “It’s time to grow up,” she told me. Mother and Shira have said it, too. “Life’s not about your little games, Ezekiel.” I look down at my sword again. Is this just one more of my little games? I had wanted to fight with a real sword in a real battle and destroy the Romans. But—I look up at the centurion. His face seems peaceful. He is even smiling. If Jesus loves him—and maybe even all the Romans—then I can, too. I look at my sword and then drop it over the courtyard wall. It lands with a plunk on the ground as I turn to face Jesus. Now, I am really ready to listen!


What is this kingdom He speaks of? I mean, I know what I thought the kingdom was. When John the baptizer spoke of God’s kingdom and of repenting, it somehow fit in with all we thought of ourselves as God’s chosen people and all the promises God would fulfill through us, if we changed our ways.

Jesus’ message of the kingdom doesn’t contradict John’s message. And yet, it seems so very different. Jesus speaks of a kingdom that is not here at all, and yet, it is near. And it cannot be seen apart from repentance. Can you imagine that? A kingdom that you can’t be a part of, or even see, without repenting. What kind of kingdom is this? A kingdom that loves its enemies? I just can’t grasp it.

God’s thoughts are not like my thoughts. Now that is something I do understand. Yahweh, help me to See in a larger way. The things You are revealing cover all we’ve hoped for for our little nation and ourselves, but it also goes so far beyond. What Jesus says seems to encompass ALL hearts, and all nations—the whole world. And yet it comes right home to ME—to me personally and something Jehovah God intends for MY life as well!
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