Rachel felt like everything– the crowd, the noise, the sound of Imma’s voice, the wind in the rocks of the hillside, the warm bright sunshine– suddenly receded. For a moment, the face of the Teacher was all there was, all that mattered. He held her gaze for that moment, and unbidden the words of Hagar from the book of Moses came to her mind– I have now seen the One Who Sees Me.
The Teacher smiled at her, nodded, and then turned his attention to one of the men standing near him. In a rush, everything came back to her, and she became aware of Imma’s pressure on her arm, trying to get her to move forward so they could find a place to stand.
“Rachel, we need to move! We’re standing in the way!”
Imma took Rachel’s arm, guided her off to the right of the crowd, where a group of women and children had gathered. Rachel recognized several women from their village, and noticed her friend Miriam standing slightly apart, one hand at the small of her back, the other resting on her swollen belly. Miriam had been married less than a year, and already God had blessed her with a child.
“Miriam!” Rachel called, “You shouldn’t have made that climb! Are you sure you should be out here in this hot sun?”
Miriam barely heard Rachel’s voice. Her eyes were fixed on the Teacher, on Jesus of Nazareth. Rachel glanced up to where he stood and saw him smile at Miriam before turning again to the people directly before him. It was a father and his son, Rachel saw– a boy Rachel knew by sight, who had a crippled leg. Suddenly there was a stir of excitement, and Rachel saw the boy scramble out of his father’s arms, land solidly on the ground, and jump in celebration. In awe she realized what had happened. The boy impetuously threw his arms around the waist of the Teacher, who laughed in delight and hugged him back. Then, with a boyish whoop, the newly sound boy ran off, brandishing his walking stick as a sword at a group of boys who hung on the edge of the crowd, watching in amazement.
“Did you see that?” Rachel asked Miriam, turning again to her pregnant friend. Miriam’s eyes were filled with wonder and a peace Rachel had never seen there before.
“I have seen the One Who Sees Me,” Miriam said, more to herself than to Rachel.
“What did you say?”
“I have seen the One Who Sees Me,” the young woman repeated. “The words of Hagar in the desert . . . they came to my mind just then, when the Teacher looked at me. Rachel– that is no ordinary carpenter, whatever people might say about him.”
With a sense of awe that she could not have begun to describe, Rachel opened her mouth to respond, when she was interrupted by one of her young siblings.
“Rachel! I’m hungry! Did you bring food?”
Rachel glanced at the sky. “It’s not time for eating yet. The Teacher is going to talk soon. In awhile I have some bread and fish for you.”
“Rachel! Did you see what happened to James the Cripple?”
“I did see. You’ll have to start calling him by a new name now.”
“James the Really Fast Runner, maybe.”
Rachel laughed. “That sounds perfect. Why don’t you go see if you can catch him?”
“I will.” The boy turned away, then turned back again. “Rachel?”
“I like the Teacher. He has good eyes.”
“I like him too.”
“I have to go play with my friends!” And with that, the boy was gone, flashing across the high field without a backward glance.
Rachel turned her attention back to the spot where the Teacher stood. A line had formed– the sick and the broken, all lined up and beseeching the carpenter for a miracle. She saw a girl her own age who was possessed by a demon and had spent her whole young life in chains for her own protection suddenly stop fighting and screaming, become quiet and docile, fall down and worship her healer.
She saw a young man who had been horribly disfigured in a fire have his face restored, saw the joyful tears of his parents and the joy rising in his own eyes.
She saw a pair of twin brothers who could not speak or hear suddenly open their mouths and praise God.
She saw a couple, a few years older than her, who had been unable to have children, approach the Teacher, whisper quietly with him, and walk away with new hope on their faces.
She saw a little boy, heedless and wild, run headlong into the Teacher’s knees and nearly knock him off balance. And she saw his disciples step forward quickly, angrily. Saw his mother race up, shame painting her face a deep red. Saw Jesus of Nazareth stoop down, grasp the little one under his arms, and toss him high up in the air. Heard the laughter and squeals of the airborne child.
All morning, people came to the Teacher and had needs met. All morning Rachel watched, occasionally commenting on what she saw to Imma or one of the other young ladies around her. As the sun reached the top of the sky, her siblings came one by one to her side and she gave them the little bags of food she had prepared. They sprawled in the grass, munching yesterday’s bread, laughing with their friends, watching the Teacher.
Finally Jesus moved to a rock situated high up on the hillside and sat down on it, as the Rabbis sat in the synagogue when they taught. A hush fell over the grassy field where thousands were now gathered.
The Teacher was about to teach.