It was a cold night in Jerusalem. Eliana wrapped her shawl a little tighter across her chest. It was less than a month after Sukkot. If this was a sign of things to come it would be a cold winter. Eliana shuddered to think whether she would survive. Her stomach grumbled, as if to agree with her mind’s conclusion. She had nothing to eat tonight. She had no money to pay for food.
But the joy of the afternoon kept Eliana full to overflowing. She was so thankful to the Lord for His blessings. His leading to the temple allowed her to glimpse of her child and grandchild. Though Daniel may deny her existence, the Lord faithfully brought her in proximity of her grandchild.
Eliana walked briskly toward her home outside Jerusalem’s walls. There was no wood or kindling for a fire tonight. Perhaps clouds would blanket the city and the temperature would not dip so low.
She hummed a song of praise, still jubilant as she recalled the beauty of her granddaughter. She was growing into a stunning young woman. And most importantly, a woman with a heart for God. For all her father’s faults and selfishness, Miriam was pure and untainted. Her piercing eyes portrayed grace and sincerity.
Shortness of breath set in as Eliana made her way up the steep slope toward her home. As she spied her dwelling she could not help but think of the abode she was more acquainted to. She recalled the lavish home she shared with her husband. The home where her son lived with his family. The son who stole her inheritance. And while he frequented the Temple robed in finery, she stumbled through Solomon’s courts in poverty.
The wind ripped through her clothing and chilled Eliana to the bone. She hoped tomorrow she would find work in the household of Saul. He often felt pity for Eliana and found chores she could handle. He would often send her home with fire wood and a hearty meal in her stomach. Yes, it was his home she would look to when daylight broke.
Eliana made her way to the door. She pushed it open and saw movement in the shadows. It was then she noticed a figure sitting nearby.
“Can I help you?” Eliana uttered. Though with limited means, she was always quick to help.
“Eliana wife of Joseph?” The hooded man asked.
Eliana had not been called the wife of Joseph for many years. When he ceased to exist, it was though she did as well.
“Yes,” she remarked. “That is my name.”
“You were at the Temple earlier today, were you not?”
Eliana wondered where this line of questioning was going? Was he a messenger from Daniel, sent to threaten her for being so close to his daughter?
“Yes, I was. I went to praise my God for His goodness.”
“And this is your house?”
Eliana took a moment to reply.
“I would like to know your name and who has sent you before I answer further questions.” Eliana had been hurt by freely giving too much information before. She now knew never to trust anyone, even your own son.
“Forgive me, Eliana. I mean no harm,” the man announced as he removed the hood from his head allowing his face to be seen. Eliana did not let her guard down too fast.
“I have been sent by a man. Some call him Rabbi. He is my,” the man paused and stroked his beard searching for the right word, “friend. He is my friend and teacher. My name is Judas. I have come with a gift. May I come in?”
Eliana hesitated. She still knew nothing of this man or his friend. And her home rarely welcomed visitors. It was not fitted for the occasion. Nor could she offer warmth. It was then she noticed Judas’ makeshift seat was a pile of firewood. Enough to see her through several evenings.
“I’ll build a fire and explain everything,” he promised.
So at her beckoning, Judas followed Eliana inside a hole in the side of a hill she called home. The cave was once a tomb for the family who owned the land – a family who once served her husband. They felt pity on her situation and allowed her the grace of living in the space. They knew she would pass on to another life before they had need of it.
Judas made a fire and while still small, its warmth was felt in her small living space.
Judas unwrapped a loaf and bread and offered it to Eliana. She broke off a small piece and chewed with caution. It melted with her first bite. She had not eaten bread as fresh for a long time.
Judas cleared his throat and began. “I am sent here tonight with a gift. My friend noticed you in the Temple today and asked me to bring the gift to you in the cover of darkness. He does not wish for acknowledgement or thanks for His gift. His agenda is to bring a faithful servant of the Most High justice and happiness.”
Eliana wondered at Judas’ words. Whatever could they mean?
“Your gift comes in three parts. First there is this,” and Judas handed her a deed for land.
“The land is not far from here. It has a home and small garden. I will take you there tomorrow.”
Judas paused, aware Eliana needed space to comprehend what was happening.
“It is not as grand as the home you used to occupy, I am told, but it is adequate.”
Staring in disbelief, Eliana nodded.
“The next gift is a servant who will work for you until she is no longer needed. Her wages and accommodation are taken care of. And finally, there is this.” Judas unwrapped a flask of perfume. She knew the bottle. Knew where the fragrance originated. She was well aware of its worth. A half year’s wages.
But more than that. Livelihood.
Eliana could sell the perfume and turn it into a business that would enable her to live comfortably for the rest of her life. As the wife of a merchant she knew how to generate an income. All she needed was a start.
Tears spilled from her eyes. Who would do this? How could a stranger be so generous when her friends and family turned their backs? Who was this man?
Wiping the tears from her face she responded, “I am overwhelmed. This is too much. Who would do this for me?”
“My friend has a rare quality. He sees the heart of a person like no other. He has seen your heart. He knows your injustice. He saw you at the Temple today. He saw you give all you had. We all did. And it touched His heart. He is making it right.”
Eliana thought back to her afternoon in the Temple. All she could remember was the angelic face of her granddaughter.
“Where can I find your friend and Rabbi? I would like to thank Him.”
“He asks that you keep this gesture quiet. I will not speak of it to a soul as long as I live. This is how my Rabbi does things. Let me assure you, Rabbi knows your heart. He has received your thanks. I will return in the morning to show you to your new residence and to assist you with whatever you require. I leave you to rest. We have much to do in the morning.”
Judas ducked his head and retreated into the cool night.
But for the first time in a long time, Eliana was warm. Inside and out.
Based on Mark 12:38-44 and John 13:29.