Birds and Weather Signs
I live in a small village a good way from Jerusalem. We have 15 families in our village, and although the soil isn't very good around here, we grow food as best we can. We have a few olive trees, a few sheep and goats, and we're like a dozen other villages nearby
None of the villages around here are big enough to have their own synagogue, but our elders tell us stories they were told, of when there was a rabbi in our village. He was born here, and went away to Jerusalem to learn, but then came back to the village, and spent the rest of his life as our rabbi. It must have been wonderful, to have someone who could lead the services and read the scriptures and explain them.
After he died, a priest would come out from the temple in Jerusalem a couple of times a year, to take services in the villages. When he got too old to travel, he told everyone that no-one would come any more, because the small villages couldn't raise enough money to make it worthwhile anyone coming. That made everyone realise that we didn't matter to the priests in Jerusalem, so God probably didn't care much about us either. Now, although we occasionally have a service, it's only for very special occasions. Some of our elders know some prayers and remember some of the scripture stories they were told, but we don't have anyone now who can read the scriptures to us, and if God doesn't really care about us why bother ?
Sometime there is a travelling teacher near by, and then we may hear something new about the scriptures, but although some of them are good teachers, most aren't. Lately we've been hearing about a new travelling teacher, but people can't seem to agree on whether he's good or not. Some said this Jesus is the best teacher they have ever heard, and the best healer. But some say he teaches terrible things against the law and the temple, so we haven't known what to think about him. So yesterday, when we heard that he was nearby, we decided to go along and hear him for ourselves.
Almost everyone in the village came, some to listen, some to take someone sick with them, in the hope that he could heal them. I took my mother with us. She isn't the sort of sick, where you have to lie in bed, because you can't do anything. She's up and around doing things all the time, but she forgets things. A lot. She can remember what happened years ago, but not what happened yesterday, or sometimes even just a few moments ago. She doesn't seem to want to make decisions any more, and sometimes she gets scared because she can't remember things. Everyone helps as best they can, but I was hoping that this teacher/healer might be able to help her.
When we arrived, there was already a big crowd of people sitting in groups on the grass of the only flat piece of land for miles around here. We take the sheep and goats there to graze sometimes in the summer, when the pasture runs out near to the village. I couldn't see a teacher and I wondered if we were too late. Then I noticed someone moving quietly among the people, sitting down with those who were clearly ill, talking with them and listening to them. I couldn't see what he was doing, but each one he left looked happy, so he must have done something.
Then he was there with us, sitting and talking gently to my mother, although I don't know how he knew to come to us, because she doesn't look ill. As she talked to him, he listened as though there was no-one else there, and there was nowhere else he'd rather be. Then he put his hands on her head, and seemed to say a prayer. Tears started streaming down her face, and for a moment I was thought something bad had happened, but then I realised that she was smiling too, the biggest smile I've seen in years, and I knew that somehow he had made her better. We hardly knew what to say, but managed to thank him, and then he got up to go and help the next sick person.
Eventually, when there were no more sick people, he sat down and started talking to everyone. He was explaining things about the scriptures, things that I'd never heard before, when he was interrupted by the noise of ravens fighting in some nearby trees. Ravens are dirty, unclean birds, and everyone hates to have them anywhere near them, but he looked at them and smiled, and said "Consider the ravens: They don't sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable each of you are to God, than birds!"
There were gasps of horror from some people in the crowd, some even got up and left, and I could hear them muttering "Who does he think he is - comparing God's chosen people to dirty unclean birds, as if God would even care about ravens." Jesus ignored it all. He seemed engrossed watching some sparrows who were hopping around and eating the crumbs of food people had dropped. He looked up and said "Aren't two sparrows sold for a penny? But not even one of them falls to the ground apart from the will of your Father." Then looking at a man near him, who had very bushy hair, he smiled at him and said "Even the hairs of your head are all numbered ! So don't be afraid; each one of you is worth more than many sparrows". Well, that just started more muttering, and more people leaving.
Then I noticed a group of men in fancy clothes going over to Jesus. Dressed like that, they could only have come from Jerusalem, perhaps from the temple itself ! They started shouting at him, and telling him hr had to give them a sign to prove that he was sent by God, and that his words came from God, but it was obvious they didn't really think so. Jesus told them he wouldn't give them a sign, because whatever he did, they still wouldn't believe what he said. The men stormed off then, shouting back at Jesus, that he hadn't heard the last of them, and that he wouldn't be allowed to get away with the things he was saying.
Jesus looked sad as he watched them go, He was quiet for a while, then looking up into the sky at a small cloud in the distance, he pointed to it and said then he said to those of us who were still there "When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, 'It's going to rain,' and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, 'It's going to be hot,' and it is. You all know how to interpret the appearance of the weather and earth and sky. How is it that you don't know how to interpret this present time?"
I was fascinated by all this, because the priests in Jerusalem had made it clear that we didn't matter to them or to God. Now here was this Jesus, and it was as if he was talking directly to us, telling us that everything and everyone matters to God, even dirty, unclean, birds like ravens, and the tiny little sparrows. He was telling us that God loves us, even if everyone else tries to make us feel worthless. This was amazing - no matter what anyone else says or does, God always loves us and cares about us, even if no-one else does.
Yesterday, Jesus didn't just teach us, he also healed everyone. He was kind and gentle to everyone and treated each person, as though they were someone special, someone important. He didn't even ask for anything, not like the doctors who only treat you as long as you can pay them. Jesus healed everyone, for nothing.
Ever since I got home, I've been thinking about that, and the things Jesus said. When he talked to us, he told us things we had never heard before, and although the men from Jerusalem were angry, the things he said, made sense and they felt true to me. He was right too, that we know when it's going to rain or be hot, but I think perhaps he was saying more than that. I wonder if he was trying to tell us something about himself.
I think maybe more than just another teacher or another healer, I think there's something special about him, and that he's telling people what God is really like, and that isn't the way the priests think he is.
I don't suppose we will see Jesus around here again, which is a shame, because I would have liked to listen to him some more, but none of us will ever forget the things he said. I suspect we'll be having a lot more services now, and that they won't be anything like the ones we used to have !
I wonder what will happen to Jesus ? I wonder whether the things he says will cause trouble with the Jerusalem temple authorities ? Still, if he is really telling people about God, because God is with him, no-one will be able to hurt him.
Will they ?
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