He lifted the water jar onto his shoulders and set off through the streets. He knew people were looking at him, could feel their eyes on him as he walked. He didn’t fit, he was an anomaly. Men didn’t carry water jars – that was women’s work.
He passed the city gate as two men entered through it. He saw their eyes widen when they saw him, saw them nudge each other. As he continued his journey, he saw them out of the corner of his eye as they followed in his wake.
He tensed his shoulders, quickened his pace, lifted the jar a little higher. As he rounded a corner, he glimpsed them still weaving through the crowds, their eyes set on him.
He made the last few strides to his door, opened it and went in. Putting the water jar down, he went to check on his wife and was glad to see that she was sleeping. He turned back towards the door and found himself looking at the same two men who had followed him through the streets.
He regarded them, warily. Then they spoke.
“The Teacher asks where the guest room is for him to eat the Passover meal with his followers?”
The Teacher. He remembered the man outside the temple gates. He had stopped to listen. He looked at them again.
“I have a room upstairs,” he said. “You can eat your meal there.”
Later that evening, the Teacher arrived with a group of his friends. The man heard the clink of cups, the glug of wine being poured, as he tended to his wife. When she was settled, he seated himself at the bottom of the stairs. He wanted to hear more of what this man had to say.
The talk of the group drifted down, increasing in volume and then breaking into laughter. He was lulled by the rhythms of their speech, the rise and fall of their conversation. Gradually, the sound stilled until he heard the Teacher’s voice. He sat up straighter.
“Friends, I am glad we are here – I wanted very much to share this meal with you before the time comes when I must suffer. This is the last Passover meal I will eat until it receives its true meaning in the kingdom of God.”
The man turned his head as the Teacher continued talking.
“I tell you the truth, one of you will turn against me – even now, one of you, my friends, who sit and eat with me. I am going to die – and one of the people who sits and dips his bread into the bowl with me will betray me and hand me over to my enemies.”
The man began to stand and creep up the stairs as a murmur of indignant voices drifted down them. When he had climbed halfway up, he stopped. He could see the Teacher’s hands and half of his face in the shadows where he reclined at the table.
The hands reached out, picked up a piece of bread and broke it, sharing the pieces with those around the table. The Teacher continued speaking.
“Take this; it is my body.”
Then the hands lifted a cup of wine and passed it round. The man watched the cup as it was raised and lowered, dancing from one mouth to the next. He pressed his lips together. The room was quiet.
“This is my blood. It makes a new agreement between God and his people and is poured out for many. I tell you the truth – I will not drink of the vine again until I drink in the new kingdom of God.”
Silence fell. The man’s gaze was fixed on the hands of the Teacher. A voice started singing, then another joined it, and another, until the room was filled with music.
The man crept back down the stairs, went to his wife’s side and tucked the blanket tighter around her. He sat down beside her bed, raised his eyes to the ceiling and closed them. He could still see those hands.