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The Lesson

The second day out - on the return from Jerusalem, Mary knew that she was worried. It was true that Jesus had loved talking with his friends along the long line of pilgrims on the way to the Temple, but he was a reliable child and had come each evening to walk, to talk, to eat and then to sleep - close to his family.

Now the sun was setting on this second day and they had not seen him, nor had any of the others with whom they walked. There was some worry in her face, remembering that she and Joseph had not checked to see if Jesus had been with that cluster of boys when the homeward walk began, but they knew he could be counted on to be where he needed to be and so, she and Joseph had assumed he was with his friends leading the slow line of travelers.

Joseph, seeing her worry, asked more questions, for today, they had assumed he was at the rear, with Aaron and some other slower ones. Over supper, they determined to find their son.

Ephram, still in front, said no, not since some time in the Temple. Aaron, eating silently with his hard-faced mother, said, no, not once in two days had Jesus come back to say hello.

Joseph walked back to Jerusalem that night. At dawn he felt deep anxiety as he searched the caravans for a man-child; he did not find Jesus there. Outside the Temple wall, Jesus was not with the beggars begging. Joseph strode into the Temple and a youth nodded when Joseph asked, for by now many had heard of the twelve year old asking questions in the Temple.

Joseph found Jesus, sitting with the Pharisees and Joseph stood within the shadow of an arch and watched before he went in to claim his son. Joseph watched his first born, not yet 13 - and so not yet one to be counted as one of ten, Joseph watched as this male child sat with some older others. Joseph listened to the questions Jesus asked of the Pharisees.

A few of the elders smiled, knowing the future of such a questioner; they looked forward to the time when he would return to them to study the Law.

Joseph watched and Joseph listened and Joseph remembered another day of watchful listening. He felt some anger that this child of his had not cared enough to tell them that he planned to stay in the Temple. He felt some disappointment that his son had not walked along his side at dusk - preferring instead, the company of rabbis.

That anger and sadness held him in the shadows for some seconds. As he stood within this sacred place, Joseph remembered that other day - almost 13 years ago, when Mary had told him she was with child. The anger that day had disappeared that night, when Joseph remembered her saying, "Nothing is impossible with God." Now his anger left again, leaving only some aching sadness.

He, Joseph, had carried Jesus on his shoulders on the first journeys to Jerusalem. He had brought home frogs and lizards to delight his son and once, a frightened, abandoned baby bird - to show Jesus how small creatures grow. He had taught Jesus how to find rabbit holes, birds' nests and when to gather grapes. At dawn, at noon, at dusk, he had taught a little boy to listen to the sounds of birds, or rain, or wind to listen and to say his prayers. At night, he had taught Jesus about the stars.

Now, after this journey, the lessons for the Bar Mitzvah waited and Joseph knew what pride grew inside, imagining Jesus reading the lessons for the day. Joseph knew what pride grew inside, imagining Jesus walking slowly with him, bearing the Law on his young shoulders.

For Joseph's teaching was not yet done. Jesus was learning how to cut wood for tables as well as doors; but, in this moment in this Temple, this close to this Ark, Joseph knew another Father had begun some other teachings.

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