The bells on the towering camel’s bridle were tingling as the excited boy saw the long caravan line behind him outside the gate causing him to stop and study the animal’s face more closely. “Have you travelled from some great distance?” the boy asked the camel looking him in his lone visible eye as if expecting an answer from the animal. The tired camel seemingly wanting to ponder the question knelt down on his knees and rocked side to side into a more relaxed position. His burden was still on his back after the long journey that had just come to an end outside the city walls.
Unafraid, the boy reached out to touch the camel’s nose that was now at just about the same level as his own smiling face. This had been such an exciting time for the happy youngster who had never even dreamed of such things as caravans or cities back at his quiet home village in the desert. This in fact was his first trip away from the security of his home.
The relaxing camel immediately enjoyed the gentle strokes as the boy touched the soft skin of his nose. “I’ll bet that you have seen the whole world.” The boy spoke again to the animal, who again seemed to be listening intently as he watched the boy.
“You are lucky that you did not get bitten.” An old man said as he approached the excited boy slightly startling him. “That one back there” he said, pointing to another camel, has a totally different disposition than Absalom here, he would sooner bite off your finger than let you pet him on the nose.
“But he looks the same as this camel.” The boy said, glancing at the one the old man had pointed to.
“Yes, he does.” The old man answered. “But even people who look no different than others could bring you harm.” The boy already knew that, but still thought of all the people he ever met as good. “Someday, even the ones who are the closest to you may turn against you.” The old man continued.
“Do you travel with the caravans?” the boy asked, thinking that a traveling life must be exciting compared to his simple life back in the village.
“When I was younger than you, the old man said, my merchant parents were killed in a raid and I pretty much travelled with the caravans since I was boy.” The old man who introduced himself as Melcanth said.
“I am pleased to meet you Melcanth, my name is Yeshua Ben Yosef.” The boy said using his proper name out of respect to the older man, “my mother thinks that I am to save the world some day.”
“Perhaps you will my boy. You can certainly do whatever you put your mind to.”
“But you just travelled with the caravans, Melcanth; you could have also done whatever you had wanted to do too.” The boy stated.
“Yes I could my friend. After I grew up I was a teacher at a school in Memphis Egypt for many years while I raised a family, but that was a long time ago,” the old man reminisced, “a very long time ago. In fact, the great King of Egypt himself hired me to tutor his own special son when he was about your age. “You remind me quite a bit of the King’s son, Yeshua.” But after my wife passed on and our children were grown, I missed the caravan and have been travelling with camels like Absalom and Nimrod back there for more years now than I could ever hope to count.”
“Have you ever been to the Orient?” the eager twelve year old asked, having heard tales of that wonderful place from his grandfather back home as he grew up.
“Ah, Yes,” the old man chuckled at the boy’s question, “I have been there many times.” “The people there are not much different than the people inside these gates.” He added pointing towards the open city gate in front of them. “They appreciate what they have been provided. They care about their children’s welfare and also about each other.” He added. In fact people in the Orient think of their ancestors as gods.
“But my father says that this is the most holy city in the whole world.” The boy responded. “We have come here this week to make our special offerings to God.”
“Do you think that God is not in the Orient and still back in your village while you are here?” Old Melcanth asked the boy. “God is everywhere at the same time,” he added, “even when we cannot see Him, or feel his presence among us.”
“I have thought about that.” Yeshua said but the Rabbis we listened to this week seemed to have taught us differently.
“Would you question what you have been taught by your elders, my boy?” Melcanth asked sensing a desirable inquisitive quality in the boy’s spirit.
“I do think that God loves us all the same.” The lad said. “All people are special to God, but no one person is more special to God than another.”
“And what if God was to have a Son of His very own?” Melcanth questioned. “Wouldn’t He love him more than all the rest of His ‘Children’?”
“I think you have seen the difference between God and men,” the boy spoke with an unusual authority to the old man as if his young mind already knew it to be true. “We are all the sons and daughters of God and I believe that God loves us all exactly the same.”
“So, you think that God loves cranky old Nimrod back there,” he said pointing to the meaner camel once again “just as much as He loves young Absalom over here?”
A feeling of Déjà vu overcame the boy, and he began to feel as if he had long ago had this very same conversation while walking in a garden with an old man who reminded him of Melcanth. After some careful thought, he answered. “In fact my friend, I think God may love old Nimrod here even more than the rest of the camels.”
With that, the boy walked over to old Nimrod who now had settled onto his knees as well. Unafraid, he reached out and stroked the camel’s nose while Nimrod peacefully accepted the boy’s attention. Melcanth resisted the temptation to protect the boy from the camel who could easily have bitten him.
At about that time, the boy remembered that he had been away from his parents since early that morning when they had told him to go and explore as they packed their belongings to head back to their village with the small caravan of villagers. “I must go Melcanth,” my father is probably wondering where I have gone.” He said saying a quick “goodbye.”
“Are you travelling with the caravan to Natzeret?” the old man asked as the boy turned to leave, being well aware of the caravan’s schedules and assuming the worst. “I am sorry, but that caravan left from here several hours ago.” “Do not fear my boy, they will return to find you as soon as they find you missing.”
“How could I have let my father down,” Yeshua said to Melcanth. “How could he have forgotten me?” He continued as the gravity of the situation began to set in.
“Your father did not forget you, Yeshua, and you did not let him down either.” Melcanth assured the frightened boy. “Perhaps God had important things for you to learn today and meeting Absalom and Nimrod here was a part of what He had planned for you.” “Perhaps God also wants you to teach others about what He has seen in you.”
“I’m sorry sir, but I must go now and find my parents and the caravan.” The boy said to his new friend. “Can you take me to them?”
“I am sure that they will come looking for you my boy.” Melcanth stated. “But I am also certain that they will not find you here outside the gates of this great city.” “Come with me and I will take you to the Temple Priest where you can wait until they come for you.”
The boy, now feeling more secure, said a quick goodbye to his new friends Absalom and Nimrod and walked off with Melcanth towards the temple. As they approached the temple, one of the old priests came outside to greet them. “Is this my old friend Melcanth?” The Rabbi asked recognizing the weary traveler. Then he joked, “How have you been my pagan friend, it has been years since you were last here.” In fact the two had been friends for many years last meeting face to face about six months ago.
“Ah, you remind me of my old age, Rabbi, and you insult my beliefs with the same breath.” Melcanth joked back to his good friend. Melcanth had in fact been born and raised in the same Orient that the boy had been asking him about earlier. After his parents had been killed in the raid, he had been taught the beliefs of the travelers who raised him to adulthood. When he had settled down with his Egyptian wife he learned about her religion as well. All of this made Melcanth’s belief system a combination of many of the day.
“Have you brought along some of that ginger that I so love?” The Rabbi asked Melcanth.
“Yes my friend, and I have brought some colorful silk that you can use to decorate your robes as well.” Melcanth added. “Oh, by the way Rabbi, this is my new friend Yeshua Ben Yosef. His mother says that he is to save the whole world someday.”
The Rabbi and Melcanth said their goodbyes and Melcanth headed back to his caravan agreeing to send the ginger and silk to the temple for no charge as he usually did. It was his own form of giving offerings to God.
So my boy let’s go and wait for your parents to come,” the Rabbi said putting his hand on the boys shoulder. “But while we wait, please come with me and tell us about how you intend to save the world. There was a Rabbi here a few years ago who told us that you might come someday.”