When Jesus Goes Indoors

A Story from winter solace

Last weekend I posted this silly bit of whimsy:

This got far more energy both on Substack and on the app formerly known as Twitter than I expected. Anyway, so now there are all kinds of new people here—hi! Welcome! I’m super glad you’re here! Also I feel like I need to find some more whimsy real quick…

Here’s what I’ve come up with on short notice that has nothing to do with typos (though there will probably be some). During Winter Solace I led a workshop twice in which we listened to a story from the gospels which centered on our retreat theme of home, imagined ourselves in the story, and then each of us wrote a story about it on the spot. You can read Stephanie Loomis story from this workshop at Defaulting to Grace

I’ve written a first person version of this gospel story in Favored One already, and I really wasn’t sure I could write another one, but apparently I could, although it went in a direction I absolutely did not expect and nothing like the way I wrote it in the novel. 

It’s always like this when Jesus goes indoors, which I guess he has to sometimes, in spite of having no house of his own. They know how to pack them in. But there are still always people spilling out the doorways and windows, even that day, even though we were having one of our rare rainstorms. 

Anyway, when it’s crowded like this—which, as I said, it always is with Jesus—it helps to have a person or two who knows how to slither

I mean me, of course. I’m small and I’m quick. I relay messages from one party to another. I can get through a crowd to whoever’s at the center of it with one message, and then get back out again, with hardly anybody even noticing except the one who sent the message or the one who received it. 

I’ve been doing this a long time, for a lot of people—rabbis and messiahs and whatnot—and part of why I’m so good at it, besides how I can slither, is: I don’t believe any of them. That way I can make sure I get the message exact, without any of my own feelings or ideas getting in there.

So that day Jesus was in the house and it was crowded and spilling people and also raining. I was standing just inside the doorway, on account of I needed to be on hand in case of any messages but also because the top crowd-slithering messenger shouldn’t have to get rained on unnecessarily. It would make slithering more difficult, for one thing.

Jesus was in there having some argument with the other rabbis as usual. I mean, it’s usual for rabbis to argue with each other, but also the way the others argue with Jesus is—well, it feels a little more personal or something. Probably because they can’t fill up a house, let alone a synagogue, like Jesus can.

In this case they were fighting about whether Jesus had a demon or not, which—like I say, I try to have no opinion. While this argument was going on, I noticed a group of stragglers approaching. It was an older woman and four younger men—a mother and sons, it looked like. And on second glance, though it was later in the day, the way they were walking was more purposeful than straggly. They marched right up to the door, which is of course where I was standing, and so my eye was the one the mother caught first. 

“I’m his mother,” she said, clearly assuming I would know who she meant with the “his.” Which of course I did. “Has he eaten? They keep telling me he’s not eating.”

“I don’t know,” I said, because I didn’t. I don’t generally pay attention to things like that. Other people eating, I mean. But I suppose you would if you were a mother.

The mother placed a gentle but firm hand on my arm while her sons—her other sons—stood looking at nothing. With her, but aloof. I hadn’t ever considered what it would be like to be the brother of one of these prophet types. Considering it now, I realized I would probably be aloof, too. But I wasn’t this rabbi or prophet or messiah or whatever-he-was’s brother, and I wasn’t going to be allowed to keep aloof. Not according to the mother’s hand on my arm at least, or according to what she said next, either, which was, “Please. Will you go in and tell him we are here? His mother and brothers? That we’d like to see him?

What could I do except what I do, and how could I know he would answer the way he did? I slithered between the people, sweaty and extra scented because of the rain, and then I was standing in the center, but to the side a bit. It doesn’t do for rabbis to think you are trying to take their place. 

“Rabbi,” I said, when I could get a word in. Getting through a crowd was always easier than trying to speak to a group of rabbis in full swing. 

The rabbi—that Rabbi—Jesus of Nazareth, looked at me. I mean, he saw me. His eyes were curious and kind. It surprised me and took me off guard because no one ever sees the messenger, and that is the point. But both this man and his mother had seen me.

“Your…Rabbi,” I said, going off-script in my fluster. “Your mother and brothers are here. They would like to see you…sir,” I added.

The Rabbi kept looking at me, his eyes and voice warm, but his words sending a jolt through me. “Who are my mother and brothers?” he asked.

It felt like all the breathing in the room—all the breathing in the world?—stopped.

What kind of message was this?

“It’s you,” he said, his kind eyes sweeping the room, following his hand which was doing the same thing. But both eyes and hand returned to me—eyes on my face, hand on my shoulder. “Anyone who does what my Father wants is my family—brother, sister, and mother.”

I couldn’t carry this message to them, surely. But I didn’t need to, it turned out. There was a fluttering commotion in the doorway and when I looked, mother and brothers had disappeared. 

I had no one to give the message to but me, and for the first time I couldn’t slither out of it. I had to face it for myself. Face Him for myself. And decide if I believed Him.