Before the first rays of dawn crept through the window, Miriam picked up the earthen jug near the door and made her way to the town well. Already other women waited their turn, talking among themselves excitedly in hushed tones.
“Jesus is coming. Jesus is coming!” Her friend Ruth grabbed Miriam’s arm. “Are you going to hear Him?” she asked. “He heals, you know.”
Miriam’s heart leapt at the thought. If only she COULD go, but babies at home and a husband who needed her help in his leather shop held her back. “No, I won’t be going,” she replied. And then, in haste, she added, “But Caleb is going. I’m sure his father will let him go this once.”
She filled her jug with cool water, hoisted it to her shoulder and hurried to their tiny house. At the fire pit in the center of the room, she uncovered live coals and urged a flame to lick up twigs and small tinder, then added pieces of wood to heat the surrounding stones. Taking barley kernels, she ground them to a fine flour that worked up into cakes she baked on the hot granite.
Caleb stirred and dressed quickly. “Jesus is coming,” Miriam whispered, not wanting to waken the younger children. She handed him a small cloth bundle.
“I fixed you a lunch so you can go hear Him.” Caleb hesitated. “But the shop…?”
“I‘ll help your father in the shop today. Now hurry!” She pressed the package into his hand. “Just go!” she whispered with a smile.
He tucked the cloth inside his tunic above the sash. “Thank you, mother,” he said, kissing her cheek. “Thank you–very much!”
With a leap he was out the door, racing down the narrow street to join his friends. Miriam watched him run. What a fine young man he was! At 13 he already possessed a maturity and soberness that made him trustworthy, but he was still a boy lacking the experience of adulthood. And he was growing!! She hoped the packet she had given him would hold his appetite well enough to keep him in Jesus’ hearing all day.
The girls stirred and she turned to prepare their breakfast. Her husband, Seth, was already hard at work making harnesses for a camel train camped outside the village.
“Where is Caleb?” he asked, as he gulped down the hot bread and cool water she set in front of him. “He should have been in the shop by now.”
“Jesus is coming this way and I sent him along to hear Him. I hear such good things about Jesus, and Caleb needs good teaching in his life. I can work with you today!”
“You always come to the boy’s defense,” Seth muttered. “But you’re good help.” He smiled. “We must hurry to finish this job. The travelers are anxious to move on.”
All day Miriam worked beside him, taking time only to manage the children. She was almost as skilled as Seth was with the leather, though her hands weren’t as strong and couldn’t move quite as deftly. She and Seth had worked together until Caleb was old enough to assume more and more responsibility. He had learned quickly and gave Miriam time to mother the girls when they arrived.
Noon came and went, then the shadows lengthened. When she went to fill her jug again, not one person who had gone to hear Jesus had yet returned to town. Miriam thought that unusual. Surely somebody had felt the urge to come back, but even Caleb did not come home as she expected.
The evening meal was scant, but she made sure Seth and the girls had the greater portions. Her own she set aside for Caleb. He would be ravenous!
It was dusk. Seth had nodded off already and the girls were asleep before she heard Caleb’s footfall at the door.
As he crossed the threshold into the dimly-lit room, her eyes fastened on the large basket cradled in his arms.
“What do you have there?” She was puzzled.
Though barely visible in the last light of evening, a huge grin covered Caleb’s face. “Oh, Mother, it was glorious! Look what I brought home for you!” He thrust the basket into her arms. It was filled almost to overflowing with pieces of bread and fish.
Miriam nibbled a piece of the bread warily. It tasted familiar, just like her recipe.
“It’s from the lunch you fixed for me, Mother!” Caleb’s words tumbled from his lips. “Jesus prayed over it and then fed all the people who followed Him today. It was a huge crowd, too. We even had enough to eat until we were full!” His excitement stirred Seth, who stared in amazement at all the food.
“This is only some of what was left over.” Caleb took a deep breath. “It was amazing, it was amazing! I think you could call it a miracle!”
— Posted by Tom Salmon for Doris, a fellow member of the Prince William and Manassas Family Alliance