(The Jesus Diary Continues)
"You will not slay the king!" Herod's guard shouted as he drew his sword.
I woke up. It was deathly quiet, the only sound my pounding heart. I was happy to be awake because even in my dream I knew I was no match for a well-trained soldier. But I'm sure I was not the only one wishing Herod ill will and a painful death.
He had done much to deserve such animosity. He had attained his high position only after conniving with Marc Antony following the assassination of Julius Caesar. His cozy relationship with Rome did not endear him with his fellow Jews. He had a life history filled with murders, poisonings, and mysterious intrigue.
His Praegustator must have been very busy, as he had been the perpetrator of many poisonings himself. He had murdered at least one of his ten wives and several of his dozens of children, not to mention other political foes who challenged him. I was happy to see my dream of Herod come to an end.
But my dream had also included Joseph, and I found that comforting. Although I had no reason to believe what I had dreamt, I had a certain level of confidence that Jesus and his mom and dad were safe somewhere, even if not in Egypt.
But why not in Egypt? My dream was so real! That monstrous desert cat still chilled my soul with its penetrating stare.
I also thought of another Joseph, the one who had been sold into slavery by his brothers and had become a trusted advisor to the Pharaoh due to his ability to decipher the meaning of dreams. Both Josephs had vast experience with dreams and my consistent nightly visions of the holy family with the Sphinx in the background led me to believe that Mary and Joseph had also gone to the home of the Pharaohs and taken their tiny child with them.
But such idle thinking did me no good. It did not bring Jesus and his parents back into my life. The thought that, despite all my dreams, I had lost them, and maybe even lost them forever, still ate at my mind. Frustrated, angry, adrift and alone, I felt it was time for me to go home and back to my life and my business.
"What makes you think they're in Egypt?" Amnon asked as he watched me packing for my trip home.
"I dreamt it," I said.
"And that was why you were disturbing all my other guests last night!" There had been complaints. But we parted as friends. I paid my bill and headed for home.
But I did not stop dreaming. Even my own bed held surprises for me. Most evenings included a nice dinner and several mugs of wine with my friends and then a good night's sleep. But some evenings were different. Those were the nights when I dreamed. Not surprisingly, Mary and Joseph and their mysterious child were often the subject matter.
Dreams allow you to do miraculous things. Like bravely threaten Herod. Or fly immense distances in mere seconds. Or peer into other people's lives and invisibly observe their comings and goings.
One night I found myself in a small workshop. Even in my dream I could smell the sawdust, redolent of spicy oak, sweet maple, and acrid pine. I instantly knew where I was when I recognized Joseph. He was gliding a plane across an oak plank, deftly producing a uniform smoothness in the wood. The shavings floated like feathers to the floor, gathering themselves into a convoluted collection of curls.
A little boy entered the shop. It had to be Jesus. He greeted his dad with a hug and asked if he could help with anything. Joseph gave him a small task to do and Jesus eagerly set to work.
It was just a few moments later when I heard a cheery "Time for lunch!" It was Mary. The aroma of fresh baked bread and rich, savory stew aroused my dreamy appetite. I followed them as they went off to the kitchen.
Although the setting was basic and unadorned, the warm bonds of love that enwrapped these three at their table were comforting and welcoming. I felt one with them.
"I had another dream last night," Joseph announced. Mary and Jesus lifted their heads and looked at him.
"I hope it was a pleasant one," Mary said. "What was it about?"
"It was an angel, again. The same one. He told me that Herod was dead and that it would be safe for us to return to Judea."
"Who is Herod?" Jesus asked.
"A very dangerous man," Mary replied, gently patting the head of her young son. "But it seems we don't have to worry about him anymore. I think it will be nice to go home. We've been here four years. I miss my family, my aunt Elizabeth and her little boy."
"I think John is about the same age as Jesus," Joseph said.
Jesus looked up in excitement. "Maybe he could be my friend. Maybe we can play together."
Mary and Joseph laughed at his childlike enthusiasm. Then, realizing they were just as excited as he was, they laughed at each other. Jesus giggled at the sight.
I woke up laughing too. Could this be true? I couldn't be sure, but my interpretation of my dream about Joseph's dream at least gave me hope that I might see my holy family again. I wondered if the angel's message was accurate. I found out the following night.
My local tavern was even more buzzing than usual when I entered for my nightly libation. I joined a group of friends at our usual table and ordered a carafe of the house wine. Before I could even ask about the extreme levity in the air I overheard the cause.
"I heard he was eaten by worms!" One said. This elicited uproarious laughter.
"No, that would be too good for him!" another shouted.
I left the tavern with the sound of laughter resounding in my ears. I slept soundly that night, smiling at the thought of Joseph and his dreams and his angels and my Jesus. And hopeful that they could once again be part of my life and I a part of theirs.