Posted by: Michelle Knoll | October 5, 2010

The Gentle One

There were more people in the village than we had ever seen before.  Even old Phineas, who never got excited about anything, exclaimed about the commotion in the streets.  Time after time, he would appear in our doorway, eyes wild with wonder.

“You must see this!”

My mother smiled each time, asking, “How many now, Phineas?” Tobias and I giggled softly so he would not hear.

When chores were complete, Mother let us go outside to see the crowds for ourselves.  Phineas’ last report was true: too many people to count!

“Come, Mother!  Bring Sarah and see for yourself!” I then darted back outside, as Mother called for me to wait.

But there wasn’t time to wait, for throngs of people filled the hillside.  As I looked at the scores of faces, I wondered: why does he attract so many people?  Who could he be?

Tobias was farther up the hillside, calling to me to hurry, but Mother was calling to me as well.

“May I go with Tobias, Mother?”

Shifting Sarah in her arms, she called back, “Go, but stay together!”  Thanking her, I turned to run up the hill.  But I wasn’t watching where I was going.  I ran headlong into my Uncle Simon.

“Hey, little one!  I’m not a gate that you should pass through me!”  The voice was deep but not impatient.

“Oh, Uncle!  Forgive me!  I’m sorry!”

“Elizabeth!  I didn’t realize it was you behind me.  So you’ve come to hear my friend?”

My mouth fell open.  “You know this man?”

He smiled as we walked. “Well, yes.  Didn’t your mother tell you?  He came by our boats and told your Uncle Andrew and me that we would be fishers of men.”

“Fishers… of… what???”

Uncle Simon laughed out loud.  “Well, he makes more sense of that than I can.  Andrew and I have been with him ever since that day.  So listen closely to what he has to say, and perhaps you’ll understand what he meant, alright?”

Just then, Tobias called impatiently,  “Come on!”  Leaving Uncle Simon, I scurried up the hillside to where Tobias was standing.

“Where can we sit?”  We scanned for an open space, but the area was filling quickly.

“Up there!”  Tobias pointed to a small patch of grass near the teacher.

“That close?”

“Oh, come on, ‘gentle one’!  Don’t be so timid!”

I sighed as Tobias walked on ahead of me.  Always picking on me for who I am, I thought.  I knew he didn’t mean hurtful things, but the tone of his voice…

The air was filled with excitement.  The sky was a clear sapphire blue, and the grass was warm from the afternoon sun.  Looking down the hillside, I noticed there were no boats on the great Sea of Galilee.  Where were the fishermen?  Then I remembered my uncle’s words, and I looked around for him.  He was there, under the trees, with Uncle Andrew and some other fishermen that we knew.

Suddenly, a hush came over the crowd, as all eyes turned toward the teacher.  The wind blew softly through the blue and white flowers farther up the hillside, as if it knew not to interrupt this meeting with rustling sounds.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,” he began, “for theirs in the kingdom of heaven.”

I gazed at him in wonder.  Who was this man? He was dressed simply, like Uncle Simon and Uncle Andrew.  Yet his voice had such power, like the voice of a king.  I held my breath, waiting to see what he would say next.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

He looked at many of our villagers when he said this, as if he knew the pain in their hearts.  Yet, how could he? I looked at Tobias, who returned my gaze, his eyes wide in amazement.

“Blessed,” he continued, “are the gentle…

I froze as our eyes met.  He… knows. And yet, in His eyes I saw no teasing look like Tobias gave, no irritation, no condemnation, no judgment.  Only… acceptance.

His gaze was suddenly diverted as little Elias toddled toward him.  There was a slight gasp in the crowd, as Elias’ mother tried to retrieve her son, who was already at the teacher’s feet.  But it was too late.  He scooped up Elias, placing the wiggly boy in his lap, and stroked the young one’s hair.  Elias smiled and reached up to touch his beard, giggling and cooing.

“Yes, blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit… the earth!”  He raised Elias into the air slightly, causing him to squeal with glee.  A chuckle rolled through the crowd, as he handed little Elias back to his mother, assuring her no apology was needed.

Then he turned back to the crowd, and continued.  Though I heard the rest of what he said, my mind was on the moment he looked straight at me…

… and called me gentle.

There was something about this man — his voice, his eyes, his words — that filled my heart with peace.  Never again would I regret being known as “the gentle one.”

The warmth of the sun’s rays could not match the radiance in my soul.  I suddenly felt as if I were basking in the presence of God.

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