Mara bent over the table and raised the saw in her trembling hand as tears poured down her face. Night had fallen in Nazareth and, except for the animals, she was alone in her house. A warm heaviness blanketed her; still, her skin crawled with unwelcome goosebumps.
She was really going to do this.
She watched the shadows of moonlit branches strike chords over the brown and yellow streaks of olive wood. A dozen years ago, Jesus had built this table for her, right inside this room. He had carved the branch of a thousand-year-old olive tree, fit it right into the stone wall beside her bread oven. When Mara first glimpsed its breathtaking polish and engravings, she panicked. Surely she could not afford something so extravagant. But Jesus had assured her it was a gift.
And now she was going to chop it in half.
Memories flooded back from the day she and her husband, Simon, had clamored into the synagogue with the rest of the village to hear Jesus teach. How hometown pride had morphed into rage, and her people spat, screamed and shamed. She had grabbed Simon’s cloak so he could run fast after Jesus with a mind to murder.
Mara remembered another day when the herald had announced that Jesus of Nazareth had been crucified, but that three days later his tomb had been found empty. She had vomited on the spot.
Now, seized with foreign passion, she took the blade to her table. The oil lamp danced as she cut. “It’s what He’d want,” she prayed as a mantra with each pull of the saw. For Mara had since met her old neighbor boy for the first time. She knew what to do.
A dizzying, sweet aroma filled the stagnant air as the dense olive wood slowly split, shavings mixed with flour mixed with sweat and tears. Her head spun as she wrestled with the gift given by her Lord. She said goodbye to the altar where she pounded out her daily rhythm, the pressing in and pushing down, the kneading, waiting, grinding.
By sunrise, the table lay in four jagged pieces outside her narrow door. This new day, and every thereafter, she dragged them into the courtyard where she laid them over rolled up mats, picnic low. Sometimes banquet style, sometimes as floating islands to accommodate more. Mara offered her bread for free and spoke forgiveness to those who once tried to push her Savior off a cliff. She prayed for her brothers and sisters out loud while looking straight into their eyes, in Jesus’ Name.
People came hungry; Truth poured out. They sang and prayed with palms open, calling out miracles and receiving Grace. Here, at the table over rocky terrain, they served, listened, shared and sacrificed, rich and poor elbows bumping, young and old hands gripping. Here, together, they gathered ’round their new daily rhythm, the lifting up and breaking off, the needing, waiting, rising.
One hot night after the gathering, Mara assembled the table in its original form outside her house so she could sleep under the stars. She laid down on top, breathed in the sweet smells of olive wood, life spilled and eternity glimpsed. She breathed out, and Jesus of Nazareth welcomed her Home.
At sunrise, a merchant found her with her hand resting near her heart, over an engraving made by the table’s Builder that Mara, having no formal education, had never been able to read.
In royal lettering, it simply said, “Broken for You.”
Image Credit: ePublicist
*Experimenting with fiction and joining Amber C. Haines‘ series, Concrete Abstractions, at www.therunamuck.com as she explores writing out spirit through the concrete things of life. This week’s topic, TABLE. You may read the account of Jesus’ rejection at Nazareth in Luke 4:14-30, and mention of church growth throughout Galilee in Acts 9:31. Thank you for reading.