(Chapter 4 – Click here)
After their refreshing meal, Mary and Jesus made sure Darda had sufficient water to drink; then settled themselves for a welcome nap.
Jesus awakened with a start and reached over to touch Mary’s arm, “Mary! Wake up. We’ve overslept. Much of the day is gone. Where’s Darda?”
Mary sat up quickly to scan their surroundings. “Darda?” she called. “This isn’t like her to just leave us! Where can she be…? Darda!”
A distant braying came in response. “She’s over there!” Mary pointed in the direction of Darda’s call, stood up and said, “She’s gone over there. I’ll get her.”
Mary walked towards Darda’s vocals. She saw structures backed by a terraced hillside with a small stream at its base with an outline of cedar trees. The buildings, nestled at the foot of the terrace were surrounded by ancient oak and olive trees. It looked like a welcoming, small oasis tucked well off the road. Mary knew the stone wall fronting the residence was probably enclosing a large courtyard. Unfortunately, Darda’s persistent gutturals seemed to be coming from that courtyard.
As she walked towards the open gate, a familiar head peeked over the wall. “Oh Darda! What are you doing in there? Come here right now!” Mary commanded.
A figure appeared at the gate. “It’s okay, Mary. I brought her in here. She came calling”. Hannah grinned and walked over to rub Darda’s long snout.
“Hannah! This is your home?! It’s wonderful…what peace I feel here. Aside from a runaway donkey!”
“Thank you. Our home is our sanctuary. We wanted to live in Love and this was one of the best ways we could find to express it. We both wanted animals and a good garden.”
“You have animals?”
“Yes, out in the back. We keep goats. I think Darda heard them and came to see what was making those strange noises.”
“That would be typical of our mischievous donkey.” Mary laughed and gave Darda’s cheek a good pat.
“I took her back to your resting spot when she first came. I saw how you’d wisely chosen a hidden spot for your nap – and were still asleep. Since Darda was so visible, I didn’t want her to attract attention. Or be stolen. So I asked her if she wanted to come back home with me. When I began walking, Darda was right behind me. I think she knew you’d find her when you wanted her.”
“I’m amazed. Normally she won’t go anywhere with a stranger. She senses something very good about you, Hannah. We’ve never had to be concerned about her being stolen! With all the noise she’d make, the thief would probably pay us to take her back.” They laughed in unison.
Mary said, “Well, Hannah, it seems your stewardship is unending. Thank you. Come on, Darda. It’s time to go before the sun turns to dusk.”
“It’s awfully late in the day. How far did you want to go?”
“Being our first day back on the road, maybe we were being ambitious, but we we’re hoping to get to…”
“I have an idea. How about staying with us for the night? We have a comfortable spot above the stable where my family sleep when they visit. We keep the goats in another area where they can’t strip the foliage off trees we need. The stable is just for storage right now. My sister claims our stable accommodation is better than most Inns on the road.”
“What an offer, Hannah! Trouble is…I’m not sure what Jesus will want to do. We’ve been so keen to get to Egypt. Every step counts.”
“Not if your bodies need rest! And look at the time of day. I confess there is an Inn not far up the road, but I have a wonderful meal already cooking and, if you stay, we can provide bathing so Jesus’ foot can be properly cleaned before the ointment is applied. Besides, look how happy Darda is! She can even have her own stall in the stable …with you right above her.”
“How could I disagree, Hannah? I’ll go and talk to Jesus – hope he hasn’t become worried about me and wandered off to find me! I’d better take Darda in case he wants to continue.” Though she dreaded the idea of having to travel any further today, she went into the courtyard and took a handful of Darda’s mane. “Come, Darda.”
Nothing. Darda’s body stiffened in determination. “Darda! Don’t do this now!” Mary pleaded.
“Do you suppose she’s telling you something?” Hannah said with a broad, hopeful grin.
Mary shook her head, “I guess this will help Jesus make the decision. If he’s determined to travel further this day, he can come here and deal with Darda’s determination.” The women’s laughter harmonized a united front.
It didn’t take Mary long to return to Jesus who was repacking their bundles and about to go searching for Mary and Darda. She explained what happened and answered his questions as they walked back towards Hannah’s farm. When they neared the gate, Darda brayed with enthusiasm and Hannah came out to welcome them humbly and respectfully, “Please let us share our home and hospitality with you, Master.”
“Hannah, please see that I am a simple carpenter from Nazareth and let me be your equal. And thank you for your delicious bread and all else you added to our veritable feast. No wonder we slept so soundly!” Mary nodded in agreement.
He continued, “You’ve been such a blessing to us already and now your are offering even more safety and hospitality. Mary told me of your discretion.”
“It’s nothing. Think what my husband would say if I, alone, had the honour of sharing time with you. He’ll be home soon. Will you please stay with us this night and share our simple evening meal?”
“I understand Darda has already made the decision. She’s uncanny, ” Jesus grinned and stroked the muzzle Darda had been pushing against him in greeting.
Hannah led them to the stable and pointed towards the ladder to the loft. “Excuse me for my enthusiasm, but while Mary went to fetch you, Jesus, I went ahead and supplied the loft with bathing materials and there’s water being kept warm in the two urns by the window. I’m so happy you accepted my offer. There’s ample time before the meal so don’t rush.”
“As she turned to leave, Hannah paused, “Oh! Did you hear that?” A faint, twirling, lilting whistle came from some distance. “It’s my husband’s special whistle…our signal that he’s close to home.” Hannah’s eyes sparkled. “Oh, and Mary, do I have your permission to break the promise we made? I’d better tell Simon who belongs to the donkey.”
Mary laughed, “As you heard, I had to break our promise to assure Jesus we would be safe with you. Obviously you have my blessing, Hannah. Jesus and I both look forward to meeting Simon. And we know we’re safe.”
Hannah paused again at the stable’s door, “Jesus, don’t use your ointment on your feet. Keep your supply. I have a good amount prepared so we’ll apply some of mine – after we’ve supped.”
Revelling in thoughts of bathing, Mary carefully climbed the ladder. First in the loft, she crouched near the opening to receive the two bundles Jesus handed up to her. She said, “We’re ever taken care of, Jesus! Food, friendship, shelter, health and now a bath! Even Darda is delighted. Look how she follows Hannah like a pet dog!”
After Jesus drew himself fully into the loft, he reached over and quietly held Mary in his arms. Finally he said, “Imagine this…here I am in another stable full of gifts. And the ones given today with such love may even surpass the glory of those of my birth.”
Mary rested her head on Jesus’ shoulder. “What more could we be given? We are so blessed.”
“Indeed, what more?” Jesus said hoping Mary hadn’t caught the tiny note of irony leaking through his remark. His amazing news had to wait.
(Chapter 6 – Divinity Knocks- Coming Next)