In the weeks leading up to the launch of my novel, We Called Him Yeshua, I’ve been posting the first several chapters. Today I give you chapter 8, and from there you can navigate to earlier chapters if you like. Chapter 8 will get you about a third of the way through the book, and it’s the final chapter I’ll be posting on my website, as the book will soon be released on Amazon.
– Neri –
“Down, down,” Ben said, tugging on my hair.
“Okay you little dust dervish, here you go.”
As I dropped Ben onto the sandy road, he scurried back to Ruth and Anna, a tiny dust cloud in his wake. He collided into Anna’s legs, wrapped his pudgy arms around them, and squeezed. Anna, nearly falling, grabbed Ruth’s arm and steadied herself. Ben let go and headed for Ruth. But she was too quick for him. She bent down, shot her hands under his arms, and began tickling. Ben fell squirming to the ground, giggling wildly and kicking up even more dust. Ruth dropped to her knees and kept tickling.
I lost my thoughts on the silver star necklace resting within the soft recess at the base of Ruth’s neck. Her neck looked soft as camel cheese and white as goats milk.
A light blue sky hung high above the valley. Trees, bushes, and flowers thrived along the river’s edge. As far downriver as I could see there were red poppies, little yellow flower I didn’t know, date palm trees, and tall grasses—all in radiant color. The lush banks gave way to low grass bordering the road that followed the river. And on the other side of the road, soft meadows gently sloped toward the hills to the west.
The road felt good—it felt like freedom and adventure. I’d missed the feel of the road under my bare feet. Since sandals were for impressing people, and my tough feet didn’t need protecting, I’d tucked my sandals in my tool sack. I took in a slow, deep breath as I scanned the valley around me, and smiled.
Farther down river, as it bent west, buildings slid into view. Clusters of houses huddled between the river and the hills, with a few on the eastern shore. This side of the wall-less village, vegetables and grains sprouted in the fields on both sides of the road. A vineyard nestled on the slopes of the hills, with buds freshly breaking.
I glanced again at Ruth and Anna. Behind them marched a growing band of followers. Some I recognized as those I’d helped in the meadow. I walked faster to catch up to Yeshua.
“You know, Yeshua,” I said as fell into pace beside him, “seeing you heal people is like eating a whole camel—milk, cheese, and all. It’s so filling, so overwhelming, so irresistible. But then I’m empty again, and hungry for more, like I can’t ever get enough.” I looked over my shoulder at the trailing newcomers, “I think they might feel the same way.” Yeshua just smiled, and gazed up into the sky. “How does it feel to have so many people following you?”
“Neri, I welcome everyone, no matter why they come to me. I will never turn them away. But I wish they would follow because of who I am, not because of what I can do for them.” He took in a slow breath. “You know. True friends are those that don’t expect anything from you, those that stay your friend no matter what. But for now, their love for me is conditional—they will love and they will follow as long as I have something to give them.”
Was that why I followed him? For the promise of something more? I felt shame seep into my gut. But I had always strived to be different. And I was determined not to be just another follower.
“Neri, for those following me—if they follow far enough—they will see with their eyes what true love really is.”
Yeshua put his hand on my shoulder and firmly squeezed. “No conditions.”
Looking up, the jackals were at the gate. Where the road entered the village, a pack of brightly colored Pharisees prowled, all staring our way, arms crossed as if trying to bar entry. Like jackals, I felt they were hungry for fresh meat. But there would be no meat for them, not while I was around.