In the portico of Solomon I watch for Jesus. Theologians and professors tell me what to look for, what to expect. They explain his words, his parables, the acts of a First Century Jew in an agrarian culture, who spoke a language quite different from my own. I listen, grateful, and try to understand.
Beyond the tall stone columns I catch a glimpse of him. It’s difficult to see past the architecture, but there is his living hand, isn’t it? Isn’t he making some sort of sweeping gesture?
But no, maybe not. Maybe it is just the crowd rising up in anger, disappointed, frustrated, scandalized. I understand that. It is so confusing; and all of us so want to do the right thing.
Impatiently they say, “If you are the Messiah, just tell us.”
And even from here I can make out his startled response, “I have. Haven’t you been watching what I have been saying and doing?” Then he begins to talk about sheep.
My friend Margie raised sheep for her 4H project – two of them, Alissa and Melinda. She used to sit in their stall of an evening and read her homework assignments out loud to them. They learned to recognize her voice. When they were out in the world in a larger flock, confused or scared or getting into trouble, she could call them and they would come to her.
In the portico there is some sort of angry altercation, and Jesus slips away, slips through the fingers of those who want to bind him. He isn’t there, now. Even at this distance I can tell.
People are murmuring or shouting, describing to one another what they have seen and heard. Each has a different notion of what happened, a different story. I, too, am insisting on my own view of things.
But the Master’s voice is not speaking here. I know because I suddenly hear it, very faint, very far away. I have to stop all talking, all moving, even all thinking, and turn around. It’s coming from somewhere out there, out beyond the Jordan, in the uncivilized, unnamed places. It’s coming from out where John used to baptize, I think, but I don’t remember how to get there. I will have to learn how to listen really deeply, so that my feet can take me where my mind cannot guide me. So that I can come to him.
Laurie Gudim is a writer and religious iconographer who lives in Fort Collins, CO. You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries.
Image: James Tissot [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons