Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan, Philippines
(Allow me to share a portion of my forthcoming book, “Yeshua, Son of Man” published by The Storytellers’ Society Inc. The presumed narrator is Jesus himself, recalling the scene we popularly refer to as “Finding in the Temple”. This is an experiment in what I call “Reading Between the Lines of the Scriptures”. Take note of the role Joseph plays in this episode, “reconstructed through imagination”.)
After I completed my Bar Mitzvah (Jewish coming of age ritual) in Nazareth, my Uncle Zechariah, who had become very fond of me, intervened to communicate to my parents my desire to join my cousin John in a Rabbinical school in Jerusalem, that gave advanced lessons in the Torah (Law), the Nebi’im (Prophets), and the Ketubim (Writings). He never forgot that time when I stayed behind to sit in my cousin John’s Bar Mitzvah lessons in a school by the entrance of the Beautiful Gate of the Jerusalem Temple.
Although he was angry that my cousin John had not informed him that I had stayed behind and was with him in the Bar Mitzvah school, he just ruffled my hair affectionately when, in the company of my parents, he found me in the Temple school discussing with the rabbis there. I did not know that they had been standing there by the door, listening to our discussions. Uncle Zechariah had interrupted the session and approached the Rabbi and sought to be excused for disturbing. He signalled me to follow him and brought me to my parents. He said, as we walked to the door, “You naughty boy; it looks like you enjoy the rabbinical school so much!”
Father was visibly angry; I had learned to interpret his body language from having assisted him very often in his carpentry shop. His face usually turned red only when he felt offended by a remark, such as when a client made some nasty remarks about my first attempt at fabricating a chair that did not turn out well. The man had said, “Well, I don’t blame your little boy for not inheriting your skills as a carpenter.” I myself did not feel offended because I was aware that my product was really a bit disjointed. But, unknown to him, I was aware of the rumors that people whispered behind my back. It was the bullies in the Bar Mitzvah school who tended to be less circumspect about the gossip that my Papa was not my real father. I had never even once in my life ever been made to feel by my Papa like I was somebody else’s son. I wanted to ask my Mama about it, but I thought she might get embarrassed, so I just kept it to myself.
He was standing behind Mama who, on seeing me coming with Uncle Zechariah to their direction, rushed quickly to me and locked me in a tight embrace as she exclaimed in tears, “Oh Adonai, thank you, thank you so much for keeping my boy safe.” Then she looked up at Uncle Zechariah and said, “Thank you, Zechariah for helping us find him. I really thought he had been kidnapped by Midianite traders and sold into slavery like my husband’s namesake, Joseph Son of Jacob in the book of Bereshit (Genesis).”
Zechariah was now with cousin John, whom he had also summoned from the Rabbinical class. Cousin John was impishly scratching his head as my uncle wagged his finger and reprimanded him for keeping quiet about the fact that I had stayed behind. All those three days, my uncle did not even know that I was still eating and sleeping in his house, passing through a little hole my cousin John had made in the roof so as not to be noticed by his parents. Suddenly, after embracing and kissing me and soaking my face with her tears, Mama changed her tone into that of a disciplinarian. She said, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”
My head was bowed down as I mumbled to Mama, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Mama looked at my Papa whose face had turned even redder in anger. But Uncle Zechariah approached him and whispered something to his ears. To this day, I wonder what he said. After that, Papa approached me quietly and embraced me. His face was no longer red. He had a faint smile on his lips as he said to me with firmness, “Don’t ever do this again to Mama and Papa, ok? For as long as you haven’t completed your Bar Mitzvah, you don’t decide on your own, is that clear? You have to ask for our permission before you go anywhere away from us. Do we understand each other, young man?”
I looked at Papa and said in remorse, “Yes, Papa. I am sorry.” Now it was I who embraced him more tightly. I had actually desired to tell him I really wanted to stay behind in Judea and join my cousin John in rabbinical school. But how could I tell him about my wish if he wanted me to train more seriously in carpentry? I did not want to break his heart.