Suspense, murder, romance and more from the tale of an unexpected
father, to say the least. Joseph, the Father’s Journey completes Bible actor Mac McConnell’s Cradle to Cross trilogy, joining Hadad and Bozra. Betrothed and yet betrayed. “Joseph, I’m pregnant and the child is not yours.” The words that ring in his ears all his waking hours. So what does he say? “Where I come from this stinks worse than pigs. In fact where I come from I have the right, every right to drag her before the council and recommend she be stoned - to death.” But, who am I fooling? I love her, I would never…, but soon everyone will know. She’s showing already. Rumors will be all over town. I will be the laughing stock. First she says yes, then she leaves for three months, and now I’m supposed to believe the wildest story of all.”
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Cradle to Cross Trilogy
We would be in Jerusalem midmorning and needed to find a priest for Yeshua’s dedication. We agreed this fell at a good time. Passover would begin this Shabbat and we were two full days before. Ahead of the crowds. Most at least. We followed the road to the west of the city and entered the Gennath gate which led us to the western wall. There were workers and construction everywhere we looked. King Herod had begun rebuilding the temple, as a monument to himself many believed. Building supply carts cramped the streets. Cursing and shouts of complaints and orders were coming from outside temple walls. We moved a quickly as we could. The road to the Sheep Gate was completely blocked and we turned south. There were carts and donkeys tied up to a temporary stable compound that faced south before the Central Valley. I gave a boy a coin to keep watch. He was overjoyed.
Mary had Yeshua and I went to retrieve the doves, but the little cage was empty. We both looked at Yeshua. He had pulled one of the rungs loose and that was that. The doves were long gone. Our sacrifice had flown the coop. We would need purchase replacements.
“There’s our answer Mary.” And she took Yeshua in both hands and held him high over her head to his delight.
“So, you weren’t satisfied with these turtledoves, my little man?”
We began up the temple steps that led through the main entrance to the Royal Porch. I took Yeshua and Mary took my arm. The climb was difficult for her. Everything was sparkling and polished in preparation for Passover week. But, we decided it had been done for Yeshua.
He didn’t disagree.
There were tall scaffolds along the south wall of the temple itself and massive blocks stacked high, but no workers today. We walked along Solomon’s Portico with the massive Corinthian marble columns and right through the Court of Gentiles. Merchants were already preparing their tables and stalls for the crowds that would need buy sacrifices or souvenirs. Yeshua seemed to be taking everything in. He was pulling my coat, leaning back over my arm with his head pressing on my shoulder. The entire South face of the temple was under construction but we could enter the Court of Women through the Gate Beautiful. The view was unobscured into the Court of Men to the dazzling, gold gilded temple doors. The marble gleamed. Polished and ready for a king. The cauldrons stood on each side of the huge sacrificial altars. They would be lit soon and burn for seven days and nights with the fat, flesh and skins of thousands of lambs. The drainage troughs waiting for gallons of blood that would drain out of the Horse gate into the Kidron.
“Joseph, our sacrifice.” We had forgotten.
Then it happened, and I forgot again.
“My name is Simeon. May I serve you?” A pleasant looking old man, but abrupt. An unusual request. His tallith worn and faded, but not a tassel out of place. He had a few followers. Apparently a temple priest. I expected to be ushered to the Court of the Men for dedication when Simeon reached and took Yeshua from me with great joy before I thought to stop him. He held him up and turned in a complete circle and in a loud voice,
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel."
Mary and I were amazed. How could he know? How could anyone know? What did he know? He said a revelation, a light for revelation to the Gentiles? We are Jewish. Yeshua is Jewish. We are in the temple. Nothing but Jews. Then Simeon placed Yeshua in Mary’s arms.
“Baruch atoi Adonai, Eloheinu melek ha olam.” He spoke the blessing. “Blessed are you oh Lord our God, King of the Universe, and blessed are your servants who serve you and this holy child.”
Then Simeon turned to Mary and in a low voice, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
That made Mary cry and Yeshua looked at her. Sad.
“It’s alright my child. It’s alright.” Mary said stroking Yeshua’s cheek. But we knew it wasn’t alright. We had been through many trials just to get to this moment, and I thought, this is a reminder, that more would come.
“Anna, what do you want?” Simeon said to a woman that tugged on his coat.
“Simeon, I want to see this child. Is he…?” Anna looked very old, stooped and slow, but harmless enought, but Mary was not going to give Yeshua to anyone else except a priest. A temple priest.
“It’s alright, I tell you. Anna is a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She is a widow, and worships here night and day, fasting and praying.” Simeon rushed to tell us.
“Thanksgiving to you oh Lord my God for this great thing.” Was all she said. She was very respectful and Mary was not offended. But when Anna began scampering around the grounds telling any who would listen, “Here is the redemption of Israel” many were staring and frowning then turning away and shooing Anna away.
With that, Simeon turned us both and ushered us to the entrance of the court of men. Mary stopped short of course. She handed Yeshua to me and Simeon dragged me to the entrance of the Temple grounds. There were nine other men with their baby boys to be dedicated. Simeon pulled me up the steps to the entrance and then he stopped a priest.
“Yes, Simeon, so what is it?” It was a young priest in a hurry.
“Nicodemus, here is the child to be dedicated. The one I have been waiting for. This is he.” Simeon was tugging on the priest shawl.
“Alright, alright. Bring me the boy. So, what is his name?” The other fathers were looking. They were not pleased that we were ushered to the front. There was clicking of tongues and grunts and grumbling. Simeon shushed them.
“His name is Yeshua.” I told the priest.
“The Lord is salvation. Amein, a name of promise. So, where is your sacrifice?” I could only think how embarrassing this is and wondered if I explained that…”
“You there, bring me the turtledoves.” Simeon shouted to one of his disciples, who dashed up the steps and handed the cage to the priest.
“So, this is your first born?” The priest asked.
“The mother is purified.” The priest asked.
“Forty days today, Rabbi.”
“He’s a handsome boy your Yeshua.”
“You are kind. And you are right.” I said, as if he needed my agreement.
“So, your tribe? What is your lineage?” The priest was in no hurry and the men behind were having a difficult time with their sons who were complaining in the noon day sun.
“I am the son of Jacob from the house of David, the lineage of Abraham, our patriarch.”
“I am familiar with the lineage of David, Joseph. Do you know each generation?”
“Yes of course. I am the son of Jacob, the son of Matthan, son Eleazar, the son of Eliud, the son of…”
“I believe you, Joseph. With your permission, may I release the doves?”
Simeon sighed, his eyes wide and I saw him smile. The doves would not be killed or harmed in anyway. I had never heard of such a thing.
The priest pulled two rungs from the cage.
“I set you free and you will be free indeed.” The priest said.
Then, listen, one of the turtledoves flew straight up and perched on the ledge over the grand doors to the temple. The other just stayed. I wondered if the dove was ill, an unacceptable sacrifice. But, at just that time, the dove flew up and perched by the other.
“Ahh, first Elijah and then the Savior.” The priest said. And I wanted to leave immediately and tell Mary. Simeon squeezed my arm.
“Apprentice.” The priest called without looking. “So, where is my scroll?” A boy, appeared with a tiny scroll and handed it to the priest. He was trembling, but stood his ground.
“Blessed are you our God Jehovah, King of the universe.” The Rabbi said as he unfurled the little parchment rolled on two small spindles. He raised his head and his voice. “From the second book of Torah; ‘And it came to pass, when Pharaoh was stubborn about letting us go, that the Lord killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of beast. Therefore I sacrifice to the Lord all males that open the womb; but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.’
“Bring me Isaiah.” The boy rushed away, and another came. I began to wonder how long we would be here. Yeshua was completely calm. He was not startled by any of this. The priest began again. The scroll was large and he did not open it. He simple placed his hand on the scroll and began,
“Do not be afraid, O worm Jacob,
O little Israel,
for I myself will help you, declares the LORD,
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.
See, I will make you into a threshing sledge,
new and sharp, with many teeth.
You will thresh the mountains and crush them,
and reduce the hills to chaff.
You will winnow them, the wind will pick them up,
and a gale will blow them away.
But you will rejoice in the LORD
and glory in the Holy One of Israel.”
He placed his hand on Yeshua’s head. “You are dedicated to the Lord, Yeshua.” Then he looked at me. “You are dedicated to Yeshua, Joseph.” Even Simeon winched at the Rabbi’s words. But it was the truth, one that was long before the rabbi could imagine. Or, did he?
Mary, was anxious to have Yeshua in her arms. I was in a fog. Simeon disappeared. Mary’s eyes filled with tears when I told her about the doves as we started back to Bethlehem.
“Joseph, should we begin are journey home to Nazareth?” Mary said holding the now sleeping Yeshua. He was completely at rest.
“Soon, but should we not raise the son of David in the city of David?”