When it was springtime in rocky Galilee, the young carpenter loved working outdoors in the warm sun.
He worked hard, alongside his father, building strong muscles in his back and arms and legs, the tools wearing calluses on his firm hands. His tanned skin glistened with sweat as he worked bareback at midday, but the breeze that swept up the hills from the little blue sea below cooled him. He could see the fishing boats down there, with their sails furled as the crews cast their nets.
He treasured the outdoors, noticing everything…the rocky soil, the fertile fields, the sparrows singing after the long winter.
And the blooming lilies.
When he and his father would take a break, he’d sit down, take a swig of water from a pottery jug, and enjoy the moment, the scenery, wiping his brow. Then he’d bend down and pick one of the lilies blooming near his feet, bringing it close, smelling its sweet odor under his long Jewish nose.
It was so good to be outdoors after being cooped up all winter. Spring was his favorite season. It lifted his spirits, made him glad to be alive…the season of rebirth, of life, of birdsong…of hope…of lilies blooming in the fields.
For 30 springtimes he soaked up the sun and countryside, and scenery and sounds and smells. The tastes of wine and weddings, the laughter and tears of hardworking people, poor people. You can’t live in such rugged country with rugged people and not love beauty, not forgive, not be compassionate, not be inspired. To be reminded every springtime about what is really important.
He relied on that practical experience to become an excellent teacher, a master of imagery and practical, yet inspirational, teaching. He once told his students:
“And why do you worry about clothing?
“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”
But one spring day, just three springtimes later, only 80 miles south of his beloved Galilean hills, the birds ceased singing and the warm sun turned dark with the smell, not of lilies, but of cruelty.
He must have thought about the Galilean rocks and the fields, and the boats and the sparrows. I know he missed the beauty of the blooming lilies as his blood trickled down his arms and back and feet. No wonder he felt forsaken.
But the sparrows sang again, and his friends fished again, and ate and drank wine, and found rebirth and hope all over again…
Because of him…one spring morning not far from Galilee.
Remember him, the man who loved lilies and life…
When the sun comes up behind the lilies this Easter morning.
(An adaptation of one of my earlier newspaper columns and radio programs)