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He loved to sit on the roof of his mud brick house after dinner. He’d carve small wooden shapes and toys with his knife, whenever he had time. His father had let him hang out on the flat roof, ever since Yeshua helped repair it last year. They used sycamore branches and covered them with clay plaster. Their fix was holding up well, so far.
Almost every time he climbed the ladder, Yeshua had to promise his mother not to sit on the roof ledge. For safety, it was 18 inches high and ran along the perimeter of the home. Standing at his favorite perch, he had a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding hillsides. The highest point in his hometown, Nazareth, was 1,300 feet above sea level.
There was a nice breeze that skipped along the rooftops. The hot sun would set in an hour or so. Yeshua welcomed the relief. His skin was a deep, dark brown, even under his shirt, which he carefully took off, rolled up, and set on the ledge. He pulled back his dark, curly hair and cinched up his tunic around his hips to cool off. His rich tan made him look even more muscular. The more wood and stonework he did with his father, the more he looked like him, a seasoned carpenter and mason. But his face clearly resembled his mother’s.
Facing north, Yeshua sat down and leaned back against the ledge. He could see snow atop Mount Hermon on the horizon. The Sea of Galilee was about 15 miles to the east. Mount Carmel stood due west, stretching to the Mediterranean Sea. When he faced east, there was Mount Tabor to his right. And as Yeshua looked over his shoulder and gazed south, he imagined mighty Yerushlem. It was about five days away on foot, across a sprawling plain.
He often waved to travelers in the distance, as they walked along the caravan route to and from Egypt. Occasionally, someone would spot him on the roof and wave back. The path wound its way through the hillsides of Nazareth. Yeshua could sling a stone and almost hit the trail from his roof. That’s where he saw his first horses. Roman soldiers riding them. Rugged. Muscled. Yet, they were gentle and beautiful animals. Horses were his favorite toys to carve.
Yeshua chewed on an olive pit, while he craftily whittled and smoothed a chunk of sycamore wood with his new blade. He had saved the scrap piece from his father’s shop. He was getting really good at making toys. His father, Yosef, had sold a couple recently. But this one was special. It was a gift for his friend, Ezra. They were headed to Yerushlem together for the Passover. How amazing it would be to visit the Temple for the first time. Just thinking about it made him laugh and shout for joy from the rooftop, “Ye-ru-shlem!”
Thousands and thousands of people would be traveling to celebrate the festival in the Holy City. He and Ezra would both turn 13 later this year. Each would make his formal dedication to Judaism in front of Nazareth’s whole Synagogue community. But the rabbi had said their first trip to Yerushlem would be incomparable. They would join Hebrew pilgrims from across the world, see the Temple High Priest, and perhaps meet some of the greatest thinkers anywhere — brilliant Jewish minds. Awesome.
Yeshua’s mom and dad made the Passover pilgrimage every year, but until now, he had been too young to go. It was a little scary and intense at festival time. For every visitor, there was a highwayman, a pickpocket, a professional beggar, or a street hawker. Younger children were vulnerable in big cities. So, every year, Yeshua had stayed behind with his grandmother or one of his great-aunts. They would celebrate the Seder dinner, eat lamb with neighbors, and pray for the safe return of his parents and everyone from the village making the journey.
But this year would be profoundly different. Yeshua would travel to Yerushlem and experience it with his friend. The city would overflow with pilgrims from places like Egypt, Africa, Persia, and Greece. Every Jew dreamed of observing Passover in Yerushlem, and reveling in the festival. There were more than a million Hebrew believers spread across the Roman world, and hundreds of caravans would follow the four roads that led to Yerushlem. And, of course, armies of Roman sentries would stand on duty. Some soldiers would mount battle-tested chargers to better manage the enormous crowds.
Yeshua carved Ezra’s horse with flaring nostrils like the one in the book of Job. He knew the Scripture passage by heart, and recited it as he scraped at the wood with his knife.
“Do you give the horse his strength,
and clothe his neck with a mane?
Do you make him quiver like a locust,
while his thunderous snorting spreads terror?
He paws the valley, he rejoices in his strength,
and charges into battle.
He laughs at fear and cannot be terrified;
he does not retreat from the sword.
Around him rattles the quiver,
flashes the spear and the javelin.
Frenzied and trembling he devours the ground;
he does not hold back at the sound of the trumpet;
at the trumpet’s call he cries, “Aha!”
Even from afar he scents the battle,
the roar of the officers and the shouting.”
(Job 39: 19-25)
As he said the words, he sculpted the steed in his hands. He could easily picture the majestic animal in real life, almost dancing with excitement. He had seen a horse dance once. Hearing the music from a wedding celebration, the stallion pranced in time with the rhythm. The thought made Yeshua’s heart skip with excitement.
When he closed his eyes to imagine the scene again, he saw several horses pressing against a large crowd. There was a man riding a donkey, and people waved palm branches and cheered for him.
He opened his eyes, as if startled from a nap. It was his mother, Miriam, calling him to come down from the rooftop before it got too dark. The sun was setting now, as he put on his shirt and tucked the knife and carving into his belt for the climb down the ladder. He was still too young to sleep on the roof by himself. In the scorching summer months, he would follow his father up the ladder and spend the night under the starry sky. One time, Ezra had been allowed to join them. But it wasn’t quite warm enough to convince his parents to let them sleep outside tonight.
Besides, maybe he could do a little more carving before bed. He had to finish the horse soon if he hoped to give it to Ezra on their trip to Yerushlem. Putting wheels on the toy horse would be the hard part. But he had an idea about how to make them. He had watched his father craft wagon wheels many times. Yeshua would create the horse as if it had reared up on its hind legs. He’d attach its hooves to a wooden, wheeled platform that could be pulled on a string or pushed along by hand. Ezra and Yeshua were very competitive at board games and jacks. They both played to win. The horse would give them something to enjoy together just for fun. No winners and no losers.
Yeshua pulled down the ladder and stowed it inside his father’s shop. Yosef was about to latch the door for the night. His tools were valuable. He had axes and hatchets; an adze for shaping wood; an awl and drill to bore holes; nails; hammers for stone and wood; knives; chisels; wedges; saws; planers; a spoke shave; a rule; plumb-line; and compass. Each one took hours, even days to craft by hand. To make them, Yosef had ordered some of his metal components from a blacksmith in Ptolemais on the coast. The tools had to be carefully secured. The noisy bell on the wood door clanged as he shut it. Yeshua had helped his father fix the leather-strapped hinges. The door hung better now and would frustrate prowlers. Yosef couldn’t afford locks for the shop, but he tied and knotted a strap around the latch. For the most part, Nazareth was a very safe little village.
The family’s donkeys, sheep, and goats were already resting for the night in the outer room of the house, as Yeshua and Yosef ducked their heads to enter through the narrow door. Yosef bolted it. They hurried to step up into the inner room, leaving their sandals at the threshold. Yosef dipped his cup into the water bucket and took a long, slow drink. He sat away from the fire, near his wife to watch her work. Miriam was in the corner near the window, quietly singing while she wound flax on a spool. When the cooling breeze blew through her long, black hair, she leaned back and closed her eyes to savor its comfort. Her oil lamp flickered in the wind. She put down her work to brush her tresses. Miriam had brought the brush back from Egypt years ago. The wooden handle, once decorated with shells, was worn, but the flint bristles still did their job. Yosef put his hand on his wife’s shoulder and offered her some of his water.
Yeshua had settled down in the kitchen area, near the faint glow of another oil lamp. He worked a little more on the wooden horse, his knife reflecting the light.
When Yosef had finished his water, he crossed the room to Yeshua, leaned down and took the carving from his hands. He picked up the lamp and then carefully turned the toy over in the flickering light, inspecting the craftsmanship, smiling and nodding with approval.
“Like father, like son,” said Yosef. He beamed as he handed the toy back. Yeshua blushed at the compliment and smiled.
Yosef wasted no time walking over to his bed with the lamp, and took off his tunic. His body was ruggedly muscled, his hair long and greying. He knelt down at his mat to say his bedtime prayer. Yeshua closed the door to the outer room, and then he and Miriam joined Yosef.
“Praised are You,
Adonai, our God,
Ruler of the universe,
Who closes my eyes in sleep,
my eyelids in slumber.
May it be Your will,
My God and the God of my ancestors,
To lie me down in peace
And then to raise me up in peace.
Let no disturbing thoughts upset me,
No evil dreams nor troubling fantasies
May my bed be complete and whole
in Your sight.
Grant me light
So that I do not sleep the sleep of death,
for it is You who illumines and enlightens.
Praised are You,
Whose majesty gives light to the universe.”
As Miriam put out the lamp, Yeshua said, “Amen.” The room was now totally dark, but for the dim orange glow of the coals in the kitchen. Yeshua could sense the light and warmth of His heavenly Father. He was in the breeze that blew in through the window, caressing Yeshua’s face as he drifted off to sleep.
by Chris Stepien
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In the Bible we are told Jesus was lost in the temple for three days when he traveled to Jerusalem for Passover with Mary and Joseph.
Why did he stay behind? What did he do? Who did he meet? Where did he sleep? Was he ever in danger?
This Biblical novel is a compelling tale about 12-year-old Jesus, based on the second chapter of Luke’s Gospel. This book will grip your imagination—as you explore the Temple and experience the drama of ancient Hebrew traditions with the boy Messiah.
Back to Three Days (Paperback)
Author description goes here...
Alternative Headline The Search for the Boy Messiah
Product Type Media Books
Author Chris Stepien
Publisher Beacon Publishing
Number of Pages 304
Book Format Paperback
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