Josiah’s been my best friend since birth, or so our mothers say. I don’t remember us crawling in the dust together or toddling among the olive grove as our mothers gathered olives. What I do remember is how he loved trees, climbing them, even when we were so very tiny. 

Just when we were big enough finally to explore without our mothers right there at our side, ready to climb trees, leap from rock to rock, or splash at the shore, Josiah caught a raging fever. For days, it ravaged his six-year-old body, rattled our mothers’ laughter with tinny sounds of tears.

Josiah blinded by that fever didn’t keep us from being still the best of friends. He couldn’t see yet he never forgot what he’d once seen. I became his eyes. He became my alertness to details, describing as he asked endless questions. 

Who’s at the well? What are they carrying? Wearing? What’s that smell from the fire? Who’s cooking?  I smell fish…how many in the net? Who are the fishermen?

In our village, many tried to cure Josiah. Some struck with accusative prayers. Some offered flim-flam potions. Others dismissed him as being less than he is. Still others fear him. 

I’m just one who hopes. I ache for him to see again. 

Rumors claim there’s a new healer around, a man named Jesus. The hope for Josiah’s healing hovers—a lifetime long. We just passed the twenty-five year mark since that fever shut his sight away. 

It’s still worth hoping, I always say, even if I don’t actually know how that could possibly happen.  

Today, I’ve wondered if the newest hope resides with Jesus coming to town. At least, the rumor has me ruminating. So I grab Josiah’s hand, shouting to Micah to join me. 

“Let’s go see Jesus.”

Josiah laughed. “If only…” 

My face turns as red as the sun at dawn over the Galilean sea. “Sorry,” I sigh. 

Josiah holds no grudge. 

We push and pull nimble Josiah through the crowded streets of Bethsaida. Our usual shortcuts are full of others with longings. There in the market space, surrounded by half the village, sits an ordinary man. He doesn’t look all that unique. He doesn’t look like a healer. My hope fades. I’m glad Josiah can’t see my eyes.

Then Jesus gazes at me. Oh those eyes. Deep wells. Bright sunrises. Moon’s glow in the stilled night sky. An ordinary man with extraordinary eyes. Eyes that peer past my surface to my depths. They pierce me. 

Then He gazes even longer at Josiah. Micah keeps his arms protectively on Josiah’s shoulders. Hope rises again in me. 

But Jesus’ attention is suddenly captured elsewhere. I watch Him touch, ask, invite. The thick crowd surges towards Him, needing more.

“Please, please, our friend here…,” Micah and I say in unison.

Crowds noisy as gulls at the shore all squawk for attention. Our voices are lost in the din. We are a few among the many. 

“Hey, hey, now…our friend here…”

Jesus glances our way again, then stands, turns with His back, walking away with His disciples. He heads away from us. Wait. That’s not what I want.

Then He stops, stretches, and the air ripples. He looks upward toward feathered clouds then glances back over His shoulder. 

I shout one last time, “Jesus, my friend here…”

His eyes catch mine. They are like the sun that bursts night wide open, the bird whose only note sings out above the cawing chorus. We’ve been seen, heard. I know something new is on the horizon, deep down in my gut.

Jesus pivots, heads towards Josiah, grabs his hands ,and races fast past the village gates. He’s leading us out of the fray, away from the cacophony of the many.

After ten minutes, He stops. Breathless, Micah and I catch up with Josiah and Jesus. 

Suddenly, Jesus spews spittle onto Josiah’s eyes. My anger boils. How dare He spit on this friend of mine?

Then He touches those long-vacant eyes of Josiah and slathers thick saliva everywhere.

“Do you see anything?”

Josiah gasps and chuckles. “Trees, walking?”

Jesus roars with laughter then mashes Josiah’s face again. “Trees, walking. That’s a good one.”

How odd this Jesus. He spits. He touches. He asks. He laughs. He mashes my friend’s face. 

What is He up to? I can’t see how any of this is doing Josiah any good.

“Benjamin,” Josiah calls to me. “Benjamin, your scars. Are they from that day at the shore?”

Long ago, we three skipped stones while our fathers fished. Watching out for Josiah and watching out for our fathers’ nets instead of the rocky shoreline, I’d tripped and gashed my brow. Josiah with blinded eyes couldn’t see the blood dripping down, but he’d heard my cries that day so long ago. 

Now I’m the one crying, tears of amazement. 

Josiah sees me.

Josiah rushes at me, slaps me on the back, lifts me off the ground. We dance wildly, tears streaming. 

Micah and Jesus join our swirl. Dizzy with goodness, dust twirling redness all around us, Jesus pounds us on the back, kisses our cheeks, then turns, waves as He leaves. 

We dance on.

Over His shoulder, Jesus warns, “Stay awake. Watch. Be alert. Oh, and don’t go into the village.”

 A wink. A grin. He’s headed elsewhere.

“Wait, wait,” I call. “Where are You headed now?”

“Wherever the Wind blows Me. I can’t see the way until it comes upon Me.”

“Can we come with You?” I’ve seen my best friend see again. I’ve seen Hope visible. I want more of whatever this is. 

He beckons us to Him. 

“There’s more to it than meets the eye,” He winks.

Featured images of the Sea of Galilee are courtesy of Robert Bye and James Ballard, respectively, on Unsplash.

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