It was all that Daniel could talk about—this man, who was at the pass today. Last night, when he climbed into my lap, when he stretched out his five-year old legs, when he smiled and said “Jesus is camping by the mountain,” I could feel joy sucking the breath from his ribs. This man talked to children, Daniel told me. “Sometimes,” he said, “Jesus will stop, right there in the market, find one of us, and whisper ‘go’ and we’ll race to the end of the road.” He laughed and told me, “Jesus never wins.”
So, when I stared at all hope sitting in my lap, I returned his toothy grin and said, “want to go?” Daniel squealed, jumped, and ran circles around the room. As a man of little means, time is the only present I can afford.
And now I stand shoulder to shoulder with this crowd of people. I did not expect such support for a rebel teacher whose followers are children, moneyless men, and lepers. I heard that the teachers in the synagogue want to kill him. But then again, the teachers always hold tight to rules and stones. They are fond of cursing and throwing, and it is a wonder that they have never cast the first stone at me. I do not love their rules. After all, if the law prevents me from filling Daniel’s belly with stolen bread, it is the law that threatens my son’s life. I understand this. Wealthy lawyers do not.
Daniel is hopping up and down, trying to steal a glimpse. I would let him keep hopping because it’s a joyful, one-legged kind, but the man standing next to me is out of place and I do not trust him. I reach down and hook Daniel under the shoulders, hoisting him onto my own. He tussles my hair and whispers excitement, saying, “I see him, I see him, Daddy.” And so do I. In that moment, Jesus’ eyes are locked on John’s—not the one who follows him, but the one wearing the leper’s robes. The one who used to be devout. We all know his story.
Slowly he turns to face us, smiling first at the lame and crippled, then at the beggars jingling their copper coins. He follows the sea of weak and wounded, until he finds me, a thief. He locks me inside of himself, and with the glinting eyes of a father offering his son a cup of cold water, he holds out his hand and says,
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”