WOOD CHIPS AND SAWDUST
The carpenter’s shop was fragrant with wood chips and sawdust. Against the wall lay a stack of rough planks, dribbling trails of resinous sap. It was a scorching day and the carpenter sighed, longing for a light breeze to cool the arid air that smothered Nazareth. Outside, the village was quiet as people sought shelter from the burning sun.
Phineas popped his head through the door. “Greetings, Jesus. I wasn’t sure if I’d find you here. This heat is enough to drain the strength of a dozen oxen.”
Jesus laughed. “You’ve come for your yokes?”
“Yes. If they’re ready.”
Jesus lifted two yokes from a spot in the corner and laid them on his work bench. Admiringly, Phineas ran his hand across the smooth wood, carefully measured and shaped to fit his oxen. “Your work gets better and better, Jesus.” He pulled out a couple of brass coins and laid them on the work surface. “Many blessings to you and your family.”
The sun had passed its zenith when Jesus took a break to eat a small loaf of bread and some dried figs. The warm flask of water felt cool on his parched lips and he drank deeply, allowing the liquid to refresh and strengthen him.
He was sweeping the earthen floor when a small girl danced into the workshop, her flawless brown skin offset by deep, chocolate eyes and wavy, black hair. “Did you make it, Jesus? Did you make it like you promised?” Jesus swept her off her feet and sat her on the workbench
“Of course my little one.” He reached onto a shelf and drew down a small circular bowl, satiny smooth, gleaming with the warm grain of olive wood.
“Oh!” she squealed. “It’s perfect. Thank you, Jesus.” She clambered to her feet and gave him a hug before hopping down and scampering into the street.
Jesus looked after her for a long while, smiling. Then carefully, methodically, he cleaned his tools and stored them neatly as was his custom. Finally, he removed his leather apron and hung it above the work bench. His work here was done. Two chairs, a table, a stool, some threshing implements and a couple of yokes were lined up, awaiting collection in the next few days.
Inside the house, Mary was sweeping but stopped at his voice. “Mary, come to me.” She laid aside the broom and walked across to take his outstretched hands. Admiring the strength in them, feeling the rough calluses and toughened skin. “It’s time.” he was saying. “It’s the time my Father has called me for.” Mary’s heart quickened. She had known this day would come. The angel had said this child was God’s son, sent to save his people. He gently touched her face. “Have no fear, Mary.” Tears bunched and gathered in her eyes before trickling down her cheeks.
“Where are you going?”
Jesus was silent for a while, his eyes brimming with compassion for his mother, the one who loved him so deeply.
“I must travel to the River Jordan. To meet with John.”
A fictitious account of the hours before Jesus was baptized by John.
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