Hours after walking a reasonable pace toward the Mediterranean, Darda’s gentle, guttural grunts signalled her need for refreshment. In spite of a thin cloud cover and coolish air, Darda’s fur under the packs was darkened with perspiration.
“Okay, Darda. We’ll rest. How are you feeling, Mary?”
“I’m ready to stop for a while. Even if Darda and I didn’t need a rest, it looks like your feet do. Oh, look! Some people are coming this way. We can ask them about a rest spot.”
After a cautious approach and a polite greeting, Jesus asked the travellers, “Is there a safe and comfortable place to rest back from where you came?”
“Yes! We just left one…there’s a well and some good grazing for your donkey. It’s just on the other side of that rise”, the man pointed. “How has your journey been?”
Jesus assured them the road had been easy and posed no dangers. “And now, it’s time for us to take our leave and find our refreshment. Thank you. May your journey go well.”
Mary sighed with relief and was met with a knowing nod from the woman riding their donkey.
They reached the top of the small hill and saw a gathering of people in the distance. “Ah good. That must be the well,” Jesus said. “Let’s head over towards that grove of trees off to the right.” Mary liked the looks of the lush location; just far enough off the road to offer some privacy, yet close to fresh water.
Once they reached their chosen location, Mary said, “Go ahead and look after Darda. I’ll fetch water.” She removed her largest earthenware jug from the pack that she removed from Darda and headed towards the small gathering.
Several women who were waiting their turn watched Mary approach. She smiled and lowered her ewer to the ground, waiting to be addressed first. One of the youngest women was chatting to others around her, “One of the merchants from Jerusalem said that Jesus was crucified and a man named Joseph put him in the tomb after he died. BUT they found the tomb empty the next day! What does that mean?”
“It had to be a mistake. They must have gone to the wrong tomb. No one would go into a tomb and steal a body,” another woman said.
“Well, he performed miracles. He was no ordinary man. You must have heard about that wedding in Cana….”
“I heard about him increasing the numbers of fishes and loaves so he could feed thousands!” another woman added.
The young woman persisted, “So where’s Jesus’ body? Why would someone dare to take his body?”
Mary cringed and turned back to make certain Jesus was tucked away from curious eyes. She saw he was already lying down under the tree as Darda grazed nearby. She remained silent and listened as the chatter turned to local matters. The group slowly thinned.
A few minutes later, a tall, graceful woman with smiling eyes approached and stood slightly behind Mary. She said softly, “I see you are traveling…I saw your husband and you as you relieved your donkey from its load. You picked a wonderful spot for some rest – some shade – now that the sun’s come out and there’s good grazing.”
“She’s an incredible beast. She deserves the best of anything we have to give her.”
The woman continued, “I saw you going for water so expected you would be taking refreshment. When I started to come here and passed near your husband, I saw him tending a pair of sore feet. So I went back home, fetched some bread I made this morning and some of the ointment I make that helps my husband’s feet on his journeys.
“I’d like you to have it, if it pleases you.” She held out a bulging bundle wrapped in a blue cloth.
“You are so kind! Are you sure? We do have some food in our packs.” The woman continued to hold out the bundle until Mary quietly accepted it. She brought it to her nose and inhaled the welcome aroma of fresh bread. “Mmmm…thank you. I gladly accept your generous gift.”
“I know how hard travelling can be.”
“Do you offer all strangers such generosity?” Mary asked.
The woman responded with a conspiratorial grin, “Only those whose feet are bleeding.” Mary hesitated.
Now cautious, Mary said, “My husband will be most grateful. What is your name?”
Mary stepped back with shock. She held her breath as she stared at Hannah.
Hannah continued quickly and quietly. “You mustn’t worry. I won’t say a thing!” She put her hand on Mary’s arm. “I admit…that was terribly forward of me, but my husband just arrived home from Jerusalem. We’ve savoured every aspect of Jesus’ teachings we’ve heard. It’s one of the best benefits of having a husband who travels. He told me about the tomb being empty and Jesus appearing to those close to him. BUT there’s another reason, Mary. I was in Cana at the time of your marriage to Jesus and I saw you two…it was from a distance, but I felt the Divine presence profoundly. Yes, it’s still with me today. It was as though your love couldn’t spread far enough or fast enough. Then today, I felt that same presence and when I saw those feet, I knew. I know who you are and I see you are with child!”
Mary automatically placed her hands on her stomach in a gesture of pride and protection. “I’m overwhelmed! You make my heart soar. We have kept to ourselves and I trust you know the importance of our anonymity. You are the first to recognize us on this road. Thank you for keeping your voice down.” She checked that none of the others were close enough to hear them. “Your ointment will be such a help.”
“You’re welcome to come to my home – now that you know I know.”
“Did you tell your husband?”
“No. He’s visiting his parents today.”
“Please forgive me for asking if you’ll keep our secret – woman to woman. Please don’t tell your husband for a few days and I won’t tell Jesus that we are recognized. I know you’ll respect and appreciate that Jesus is still regaining his strength. If we hadn’t become too much of a curiosity for people in Hebron, I would have insisted we stay a couple more days so he’d be thoroughly rested. He needs to heal now without any worry of becoming a spectacle.”
It would be an honour to be entrusted with such a secret, Mary.”
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart. May you receive all the blessings your heart can hold.”
They were the last two to approach the well. Hannah said. “Here, let me fill your jug. I have no road to walk this day and it would be a privilege to serve.”
Mary’s eyes teared, “Such love and service would cause Jesus to dance with joy in spite of sore feet. Hannah, you’ve been sent by the Divine. You have no idea how Jesus will rejoice when I describe your heart to him. I wish you could be there to see it. Your gift is so much more than bread and ointment.”
Hannah filled both their jugs and after they’d each lifted their urns to their heads, Mary carried the blue bundle carefully as they turned to walk toward the resting spot.
When they arrived, Mary looked over and saw that Jesus was asleep. Darda glanced their way, but took advantage of no bundles by rolling out her contentment.
Mary and Hannah hid their giggles, put down their loads and embraced. Mary whispered, “You are indeed a friend of the Beloved. Thank you for the encouragement you’ve given.”
Hannah pulled out of the hug, held out her hands and said quietly, “You have no idea how nervous I am about giving our almighty healer an ointment that has been made by these hands!”
“Aha! What’s to worry? It’s been made with Love!”
“Go with God, Mary.”
“And God bless you and all your beloveds, dear Hannah.”
As Hannah proceeded down the road, Mary moved the water and blue bundle into their recluse. She came along side of Jesus, deciding where to prepare their meal. Just as she was settled, Jesus opened his eyes, “Who was that?”
“Who?” Mary felt caught.
“The woman you were talking to.”
“Oh that woman. Her name’s Hannah. She saw that we were resting so brought us some fresh bread and ointment for your feet. She saw they were bloodied. Her husband travels and uses this ointment all the time. She couldn’t see us traveling without salve for those feet. Yes, those things sticking out in plain sight. The same ones that keep coming close to getting us into trouble.” She laughed as she opened the blue cloth.
“Jesus! Look at this!” Mary gasped in surprise. As she fully removed the cloth, they found a feast of bread, olives, boiled eggs, slices of goat, a sampling of fish, date syrup and a tiny container of ointment.
“Mary!” Jesus exclaimed. “Who IS this Hannah? Why this abundant gesture?”
“Ssssh, Jesus. Thank your feet. Your bloody feet!” They laughed as Mary broke the bread.