“What on earth happened to you?” Grandmother Parks gasped as Kim and the others entered her cabin that night. “Are you all right?”

Tony threw his coat over the hook by the door. “Some eighth grader decided Kim was too handsome, so he tried to rearrange his face a little.”

“Somebody hit him with a desk,” Tie Li added, warming her hands by the fire. “Not a very nice thing to do.”

“That’s for sure,” Grandmother agreed, running to the kitchen to turn up the fire under the teakettle. “I’ll fix a hot cloth to put on it. Should help the swelling go down. Desks can be very hard on faces.”

“You can say that again,” Kim groaned, easing into a chair by the kitchen table. “Lucky my head is hard. At least that’s what the doctor said.”

Grandmother sighed. “Some people can be very cruel, can’t they? It’s hard to love them when they’re like that.”

“Love them?” Kim looked up in surprise. “What do you mean love them?”

The woman gently placed a steaming, wet cloth over the swollen jaw. “Maybe love’s not the right word. How about . . . forgive? Yes, that’s much better. Not quite so emotional.

“I’m supposed to forgive that jerk? No way! If he wants a war, I’ll give it to him.”

Grandmother Parks frowned. “It seems he already has a war. You’d just be joining it. Are you sure you want to do that?”

Kim didn’t answer. The woman inspected the boy’s jaw as she spoke. “For most people who fight wars, their battles don’t begin on some beachhead or mountain pass. They begin in here.” She pressed her hand against her chest. “A lot of people have been hurt because someone has a battle raging inside his heart.”

Tony threw a piece of wood on the fire. “You mean we’re supposed to let idiots like that hurt people and not do anything about it?”

“No,” Grandmother countered. “We’re supposed to fight them, but not in the way you think. One of the greatest warriors who ever lived never hurt anybody, yet he defeated a terrible enemy.”

Tie Li sat down beside her older brother. “Who’s that?” she asked. “What great warrior fights and doesn’t hurt anybody?”

Grandmother returned to the sink to add more hot water to Kim’s cloth. “You’ve seen him with your own eyes.” When Kim looked surprised she added, “I know all about Voyager. Tony told me some time ago.

Tony nodded. “You mean the boy in Nazareth?”

Kim laughed quietly. “He’s just a kid. He’s no great warrior. I’ll bet he couldn’t win a fair fight if his life depended on it.”

“Oh, but it does.” Grandmother sat down next to him. “His life, your life. He’s about to face the most terrible battle in the history of the world.”

“This I’ve got to see,” Kim sneered. “That kid against the world’s worst? It’ll be a slaughter . . .” The word caught in Kim’s throat.

“You’re right,” Grandmother said slowly. “That’s exactly what it will be.”

Kim studied the design on the tablecloth. He thought of the boy standing on the crest of the hill with his mother. Was he really to fight a great battle?

Tony read the older boy’s thoughts. “We can go tomorrow. We’ll find out what happened.”

Kim looked over at his brother and nodded. “Yes. I want to know.”

* * *

The streets were jammed with donkeys, camels, carts, and people, all in a hurry. Colorful costumes fluttered in the warm wind as their wearers jostled for position along the smooth stone thoroughfare.

Voices called, animals protested, children laughed, vendors hawked their wares, and trumpets blared from somewhere beyond the surging flow of humanity.

“What did you call this place?” Kim maneuvered around stalls of brightly tinted cloth and rows of earthen pots. “It looks like a marketplace gone mad.”

Tony chuckled, dodging a couple donkeys and trying not to lose his grip on Tie Li’s hand. “Jerusalem,” he called back to his companion, “the capital of Palestine.”

The trio rounded a corner and stopped in their tracks. Before them was a wide-open area, crammed with people of all descriptions. Colorful booths lined the expanse. In each one they could see cages filled with birds and small animals. The bleating of sheep, mooing of cows, and incessant braying of donkeys vied for attention above the lively debate of sellers and buyers, searching for the best deal. Beyond the mix of activity and sound rose a huge stone wall, its summit stretching into the deep blue of the sky.

“Wow,” Kim said breathlessly. “What a beautiful . . . uh . . . what exactly is it?”

Tony moved out into the busy arena. “It’s a temple, built by a guy named Herod the Great. He used to be the Roman ruler for these parts. He wanted to impress the world with his political power, as well as keep his Jewish subjects happy, so he built it. Crowds of people come here once a year to worship during the Passover. That’s what’s going on now.”

“Why they here?” Tie Li eyed the helmeted soldiers stationed around the compound. “Aren’t these God’s people? The ones we saw at Jericho?”

“Well, their great-great-great-grandchildren.”

“But they are supposed to have their own country.”

“They did for a while.” Tony looked down at his sister. “Then they stopped obeying God, so the Romans took over. It’s a long story.”

The three continued across the open area and climbed the broad marble stairs leading to one of the large framed openings in the mammoth wall. They paraded through the cool dark shade under the ramparts and emerged onto another open area. It too was jammed with people.

“Court of the Gentiles,” Tony said, sweeping the air with his hand. “And that,” he pointed in the direction of a structure resting in the center of the compound, “is the sanctuary itself.”

Tie Li caught her breath. “Oh, Tony, it’s beautiful!”

White marble walls covered with shimmering plates of gold rose from massive foundations. The building was accented with golden spires that soared above the roof, sweeping the sky with their gleaming fingers. Beyond the large porch encircling the majestic structure stood immense gilded doors, covered with blue, red, and gold tapestry.

The whole building seemed to sparkle, like a jewel held up to the light. When the sun emerged from behind a passing cloud, the structure shone with almost unbearable brilliance.

The children walked toward the sanctuary, their eyes drinking in its power and radiance. “Fantastic,” Kim whispered. “This has got to be the most beautiful building the world has ever seen.”

A sign above the porch proclaimed in big letters, “No foreigner allowed beyond this point. Whoever is caught will be put to death.

“Only Jews can go in there,” Tony warned. “They’re very strict about that, as you can see.”

The trio made their way along the outer boundary of the porch. Rounding a corner, they noticed a small group of white-robed men standing off to one side, engaged in a heated discussion. Moving closer, the children began to hear their excited conversation carrying above the noise and confusion of the crowded court.

“How can you say that?” one voice called out. “God demands obedience to His law. We are not to question. We must obey with humility and dignity.”

Another speaker joined in. “Are you saying God’s laws can be changed?” A startled cry rose from the gathered attendants. “I say no! We must follow the words of Scripture to the letter. It is our duty.”

Yet another voice sounded from the huddle of men. “Wait! Wait! Let the lad speak. I believe his words have substance.”

The men fell silent. The noise and activity surrounding the little group was ignored as all eyes studied a young boy standing in their midst.

Tie Li pointed toward the gathering. “There he is! That’s the boy from Nazareth.”

The three of them moved closer, straining to see and hear what was taking place.

“I am not saying obedience to God is unnecessary,” a clear, youthful voice rang out from amid the circle of men. “I am only saying we must remember the reasons God created His laws in the first place. Blind obedience serves no one. But obedience out of reverence and love for the Law-giver is valuable both to God and to man.”

Bearded heads nodded thoughtfully.

The boy continued, his words firm yet respectful. “We Jews worship God every week on His holy Sabbath. We bring sacrifices, pray, read from the scrolls. But are we getting so concerned about the rules governing the way we worship that we’re losing sight of the reason for our homage? Worship should be the result of a thankful heart. It should not simply fulfill some list of do’s and don’ts. God wants our praise as well as our obedience.”

Suddenly a couple ran up to the small group of elders. “There you are!” the woman cried out. “We’ve been looking everywhere for you.”

The children immediately recognized the boy’s parents. They seemed upset, excited.

“Son,” the man was saying, “we left three days ago, thinking you were with others in the caravan. Outside Jericho, we discovered you weren’t with us. We hurried back and have been searching for you all this time.

The boy’s mother wrapped her arms around him. “Why? Why didn’t you come to find us when you knew it was time to leave? We have worried so much. You should have let us know you wanted to stay longer. Why didn’t you let us know?”

The boy looked at his mother and father. In his eyes they saw a great longing, an almost visible pain. Then they saw him search the faces of the men surrounding him. His gaze fell on the multitudes mingling in the Court of the Gentiles. A sadness crept into his young countenance.

Turning back to his mother and father, he said, “Why did you search for me? Didn’t you want me to be about my Father’s business?”

The couple stared at their son. “What do you mean by that?” the man demanded. “My business is in Nazareth, not here.”

“Wait.” The woman knelt beside her young son. Placing her hands on his face, she looked deep into his eyes. “Son, are you sure?”

The boy nodded slowly, his hands pressing against hers. “I am sure.”

One of the elders approached the kneeling woman. “I must say, your son is quite amazing. He speaks with great wisdom of things spiritual. He has received good training. I am certain we will be hearing from him in the years to come. Tell me, what is his name? I want to be watching for him.”

The woman rose to her feet and turned to face the elder. She spoke softly, her voice almost lost in the tumult surrounding the sanctuary. “His name . . . is Jesus.”

Leave a Comment


Guide magazine only prints true stories. However, we do publish some imaginative stories on the Guide website. If you want to share your story with our online readers, click below.

Claim Your Thumbuddy

See if you can add another Thumbuddy to your collection.

Enter your claim code*