Rachel could still taste the flavor of her mother’s bread– her bread– The Teacher’s bread– as she took her two youngest siblings’ hands and began the trek back down the mountain to the village. “Stay close now, everyone,” she instructed. “It’s getting dark.” Behind her, Imma and Miriam carefully picked their way down the steep path. John, somehow walking taller than he had that morning, led their little group, holding back the branches that threatened to grasp at their clothes and hair.
The crowd’s noisy rumble filled Rachel’s ears, the chattering voices about what they had seen, what they had heard. But Rachel was silent, lost in her own thoughts. Every part of her longed to turn back around, to flee up the mountain, back to the Teacher. She had so many questions. But mostly she was filled with the desire to find Him and to fling herself on the ground at His feet in worship. She wanted to give Him everything she treasured, not just yesterday’s leftovers. She wanted to thank Him for healing Miriam, for accepting John’s little gift, for feeding her sisters and brothers, for all His wise words.
Rachel felt, in that moment, like she would gladly have given up everything she owned if she could just join the Teacher’s band of followers. Of course she couldn’t. Too many people depended on her. Who would take care of the little ones, of Father? Rachel sighed. The beautiful joy and wonder and peace of the day were marred by a sliver of discontent that she couldn’t shake. It always seemed to come down to this– her whole life was ruled by caring for children she hadn’t borne, keeping a home that wasn’t hers, meeting needs that should have been met by Mother. And now these things weren’t just keeping her from marriage and a family and home of her own; they were keeping her from following Jesus.
Guilt overtook Rachel’s emotions at these thoughts. Her life was so much better than so many people’s lives were. She thought of the young woman who lived in the house next to hers, married to a man four times her age who yelled and beat her. She thought of the beggar woman she passed whenever she went to the market– widowed, forsaken, begging bread for herself and her daughter. I have everything I need. How can I be so ungrateful?
The steps of her little brother and sister were slowing, and Rachel realized they were nearing the village. The crowd had thinned as people had turned off to other villages and to the farms outside the town.
“Rachel!” an old, creaky voice greeted the young woman just as her house came into view.
It was Joanna, the ancient woman who lived across the way from Rachel’s family. “Yes, Joanna?” Rachel replied.
“You’ve been to see that Teacher, haven’t you? That Jesus of Nazareth? I saw you leaving this morning. Watched all day and knew you weren’t back yet. I’m glad you went, dearie. You are always so busy and responsible. I saw your father get back, and so I just went over there and invited him to break bread with us. I hope you’ve eaten. I noticed your shelves looked pretty bare. Your father didn’t know where you were, but he sounded a bit envious when I explained that you had gone up the mountain to hear the Teacher teach. What was he like? The Teacher, I mean. I heard he is a carpenter, and I must say I never heard of a carpenter who was a good teacher.”
“Oh, Joanna, He was truly remarkable. I need to get home, but why don’t you stop over tomorrow and I will tell you all about it?”
“Well, now, that’d be nice. I will do that. I watched all those people going by this morning and wished I were younger and could join them. Being old is no joke, young lady. Have you had anything to eat? I bet all those little ones are hungry. I could get you some of that stew . . .”
“Thank you, but we ate on the mountain. Jesus took John’s lunch and feed the whole crowd with it, Joanna! It was the most amazing thing! Thank you so much for making sure Father had something to eat. You are a wonderful neighbor.” Rachel gave Joanna a quick, gentle hug and turned to follow her siblings into her house. The warm yellow light spilling out felt welcoming and comforting. “Have a good night!”
“You too, dearie!”
With one more quick goodbye, Rachel gratefully crossed the threshold of her home.