“What if Jesus did not instantly know who he was? Or what his gifts were? What if it dawned on him only gradually, as it dawns on each of us? Maybe his mother recited stories of the unusual events surrounding his birth. Maybe she set the beautiful boxes the three wise men brought him on a shelf in his room, and at night the young boy would take them down and hold them and wonder.” – Jesus, CEO, by Laurie Beth Jones.
This about-to-end-Easter, let me share a story I wrote, in which I imagined Jesus Christ as a little boy and a teenager.
Well, sometimes, God gives us a little imagination for us to draw nearer to Him. And, before a story moves in the heart of its readers, it must first move the heart of the writer.
The reason why I wrote this comes from two Christmases ago, as we watched a lights show that told the story of the birth of Jesus, at a busy Greenhills bazaar in Manila, Philippines. Suddenly, I felt moved by this story of Jesus I’d heard a thousand times over. Recalled to my memory also was the quote mentioned above, and I began to wonder.
Next, I imagined what the boy Jesus, who was just starting to live His life, had felt when He realised what He was really living for on Earth. And, in the midst of that evening crowd, the revelation brought me to tears.
As I put my fingers to the keyboard to write the revelation down, the Holy Spirit then led me to a new realisation of the Gospel and the identity of Jesus, and embraced my heart with a new kind of love.
In sharing this story, I hope you’ll enjoy the same kind of treasure I had in the joy of loving Jesus.
The Boy Jesus and the Bottle of Myrrh
by Issa Adalia
On one sunny afternoon during the sixth year of Jesus’ life, his mother, Mary, showed him the gifts of the Magi given on his second year.
Those gifts were inside three chests, and they sat atop a shelf in the room Jesus called his own. They were all carved and coloured with foreign-looking and elaborate patterns, with an air of majesty to them. A layer of dust also covered them, because, for a long time, no one had held and opened them. Mary pointed to them now.
Then, she smiled to her son, who was waiting for an explanation, and began:
“My child, these chests were given to you as gifts when you were once but a babe. It was during the night when a star, unfathomably brighter than any other, was shining high in the sky. I was watching over you inside our shelter, when many sounds arrived from the outside. And I knew a host had come to visit.
“Next, I opened the door to wise foreign men, who appeared to have travelled from far away in the East, judging by their faces, clothing, and escort. You were in my arms as I answered them, and the moment they set eyes on you, they suddenly bowed down in worship!
“‘The King of the Jews! The shepherd of the people of Israel! Praise and glory be to your name!’
“I stood there, marvelling. Then they rose with eyes shining to bring you three gifts.”
At last, Mary rose and carried each of them to the window seat to show Jesus.
The biggest chest was an indigo box shaped like pointing petals of a flower. Its cover was inlaid with stained pieces of marble forming a geometric mosaic, and polished wood lined its opening.
The medium chest was made of a light shade of mahogany, the colours of a sunset behind vines – which sprouted many a bird and leaf – encircled its sides, and an array of gems were clustered on the top.
And finally, the smallest vessel, with dark onyx for its body, was decorated only with shards of mirror that reflected sunlight or cold, bright stars.
The boy Jesus’s eyes grew wide in amazement.
“They… they are beautiful! And they gave them to me?!”
“My son, you are the only one fully deserving of them,” Mary answered with sincerity, making Jesus ponder those words. Then he turned his eyes to the gifts again.
“What is inside, Mother?”
Mary took the biggest chest first, and let Jesus lift the top. A glow came from within. It was a slab of the purest gold, smooth and pristine. Jesus skimmed his little fingers over it, and imagined it being mined, refined, and welded – which all led to his wonder of the gift in his hands. A gift fit for a king.
He pulled open the second gift, and peered inside. The chest was half full with tiny pieces of resin. Mary told him it was called frankincense – a special incense offered as a sweet aroma to the LORD. Half of it had already offered by his parents in the temple in Jesus’ behalf, and, in turn, they received promises of blessing from the priest.
And Jesus started to wonder why these certain gifts were given to him.
Finally, he undid the clasp of the last one. Lying on top of red cloths was a clay bottle. He brought it near to his eyes.
“That… is myrrh,” Mary said, with a hint of confusion in her voice.
“Why’d they give this to me?” Jesus asked.
“I… don’t know, my son. Myrrh is an anointing oil, and a sweet perfume used when burying the dead,” Mary answered, while quietly replacing all the gifts to where they came.
A few years later, a call of “Mother!” was heard as Jesus went downstairs to show Mary the final page of the scroll of Psalms, the last scroll they had of the Scriptures.
“I have no more left to read,” he laughed.
“Ah,” she smiled, and thought of a solution. “Your father and I have only just enough to get you ten more scrolls, and I should think our collection can be made complete in the next few years.”
“Well – why not get the other ten scrolls left with the gift of the Magi?” Jesus suggested.
“Why, that’s escaped my mind! Of course, let’s,” laughed Mary. She ruffled his hair, well-pleased with his idea.
“Hello, James!” He greeted his little brother, who was four years his junior and sitting by the window in their room. Then, he turned and began carrying the gifts down from the shelf, as James observed curiously.
Jesus saw his eager eyes, so he explained the story behind them. James’ olive-green eyes lit up the whole time.
“Show them to me, please!” he then requested.
Jesus opened the chest of gold. “I’ll buy more scrolls of the Scriptures with this,” he said.
“Awww,” James regretfully cooed. “But I suppose the LORD’s words are more precious than gold.”
“Right!” Jesus smiled, impressed by his four year-old brother’s quip.
Next, he took the frankincense. James held pieces of it like sand, and chuckled at its texture.
“Now, this is myrrh.” Jesus took the bottle from the red cloths.
“What is it?”
“It’s a sweet perfume; an anointing oil… used when somebody’s being buried.”
James nodded, and slid his fingers over the cap.
“Could you open it?”
“I’m not sure, James… I don’t really see why.”
“Well, it is yours, isn’t it? And I bet it would smell really nice.”
Jesus wrinkled his nose at his childish reasoning, but, because of his search for wonder out of everything, he agreed. The cover broke open, and a lovely scent filled the room.
Then Jesus suddenly wept.
The tears surged like waterfalls on the Jordan, sobs shaking him like storms upon ships on the Sea of Galilee.
James was taken aback, but he chose to hug him, and with his best efforts tried to console him.
“Jesus, it’s okay, I’m here with you, it’s going to be okay, you don’t have to cry… Why are you crying, anyways?!”
Jesus was still crying, and a minute passed until James could get a word out of him.
“Why?” he asked. With eyes blurred from tears, Jesus found the cap and closed the myrrh bottle.
“James,” he gasped with difficulty, as if starting to explain why. Yet a bout of sobbing came again, and he struggled to say, “No, you wouldn’t understand yet.”
“Why?” James asked again, but he’d given up already. Jesus stood up, wiped his tears and carried the two boxes up again.
“James, I promise I will tell you when you are old enough to understand. Right now, just know that I cried because, when the bottle opened, I felt something very sad. Please bear with me,” he requested his brother sincerely, holding him by the shoulders.
James took pity from Jesus’ hurt face and nodded, trusting his promise.
Later, James accompanied him in bringing the gold to his parents. He found he was right when he said that the Word of the LORD was far more important than gold – as Jesus delved into and lived them. After, James could see how his life became beautiful because of those words.
“Jesus, can we look at those boxes again?”
James, now eight years old, was playing with him that afternoon.
“Why not?” So, Jesus reached up for them with a spark in his eyes.
“Aren’t these boxes beautiful?” he remarked while examining them. James grinned, and carried the smallest, shiny one. Suddenly he recalled what had happened before, and grew serious.
“Brother. Do you remember your promise?”
Jesus paused from shaking the chest of frankincense. Wordlessly, they opened the bottle of myrrh again.
The fragrance flowed out. And the tears returned. But Jesus held himself this time.
“You know, James? A vision had come over me four years ago, and it came again a while ago. But it’s so terrible, so terrible… I think that if you’ll hear it, you’d be very, very sad. I wouldn’t want to wish that on you! Are you sure you want me to tell you?”
James was surprised again.
“If only you’re willing. I want to, but the LORD Almighty revealed it to you, so let Him be the one to decide.”
Jesus was also surprised by the words he said. Yet the spirit of the LORD pressed him to tell James.
“All right…” he replied, and silently prayed for his brother not to receive his burden of sorrow.
“My brother, I was on top of a rocky hill, and there were many people around me. There were some who stood with arms pointing to someone, and had faces full of scorn, ‘cause they were mocking that person. And some were falling to their knees, with painful anguish in their wailing, ‘cause it seemed that they were mourning the same person.
Next, I turned my head towards what everyone was looking at, and shivered at the scene.
Three men were hung upon three crosses. The ones on the left and right wore faces of resign to their fate, but it seemed that they weren’t the ones who received the crowd’s attention. So I looked at the man in the middle.”
Jesus paused to see James biting his lip and frowning. But he was still eager to know the end of the story, however distressing. He still trusted Jesus. So, he continued.
“And my hands went up to my face, for what had happened to him was horrific. Red wounds were scratched all over him, blood dripped from everywhere, a crown of thorns was on his head, and nails were driven through his skin so he was suspended on the cross. Ohhhh – James!
“B-b-but, I walked nearer to see his face, and my hands fell and went limp.
Looking down on me were… the same wide and bright eyes.”
“No! No! No!” James gasped, and found he was crying painfully too. Unable to keep it in, Jesus joined him.
“You are chosen by God, my brother. But why did He choose you to die?”
James fell down on the floor weeping, bringing Jesus with him. They embraced each other, comforting themselves, but surrendered themselves to the will of the LORD, the comfort greater than their embrace.
From the mill Mary heard the noise of a thump from the floor above.
Her feet tread fast on the steps, and hands swiftly swept the curtain to the room of her sons.
Jesus and James were both fast asleep on the floor, with a different kind of peace lying over them. Mary gently tousled their fine curly hair, delighted that they were both alright.
Though, she could smell something pleasant in the room, and found that the source was a bottle by Jesus’ side. It was broken open, and the liquid was slowly dripping to the floor. She lifted it up, placed it on the shelf, and decided to wait for Joseph to figure out how to close it again.
Later, the mystery of the myrrh returned to her. Why was this given to Jesus? And another question was presented to her mind. Who is Jesus?
She recalled the words of the Magi, the angel who heralded his birth to her, and even the prophets they had met concerning Jesus.
“The King of the Jews!”
“He will be called Son of the Most High.”
“Sovereign Lord… my eyes have seen your salvation.”
The answers to her questions were revealed to her in a new way, and she looked at the boy sleeping in the corner in a different light. She became afraid to touch him as she began to lay blankets over each of her children, because this boy was her King, the Son of the Most High, her salvation, and he lay not five inches away from her.
Do I even dare? she asked herself. But the Spirit of the LORD reminded her that she had found favour in His eyes, and at once she felt immeasurably blessed to be able serve Him.
So, with a smile, and joy brimming out from her eyes, she bade them goodnight, and drew the curtain over Jesus and James.