Isaac – the water carrier
I am Isaac and I am a water carrier. It’s not a great job. I mean, I know I will not make a fortune out of it. But people always want water. I learned the work from my father, who learned it from his father. I am already teaching my son, Daniel, although I suspect the professional line will end with me; for my son has other ideas – ideas that take my breath away. Things I never even dreamed of – but I am running ahead of myself…
Yes, people always want water. And if they are to continue to use my services rather than anyone else’s I need to know where the water runs clear, which cisterns may have been contaminated, how to get to my customers’ homes from the nearest source. I need to be able to tell by taste, sight and smell whether there is a problem; and by hearing the clear water running fresh from its source. Sometimes I can even feel when it is not good – the texture changes if there is too much silt in it. I need to know what will settle out in time and what will not. All this, my father taught me – and all this I pass on to my son – for it is good for him to have knowledge and work he can fall back on in hard times.
I have worked the streets of Jerusalem for many years. I know my customers well, and they know me. I wonder if they realize just how well I do know them. Carrying water to a home that has no servants, or where the servants are busy because there is so much going on, I have learnt to be discreet as I enter; to fill the storage jars with water and to slip away with as little noise as possible – often unnoticed by those who live and work there. And so I hear snippets of conversation – this one’s business dealings, and that one’s dreams; the chatter of children; the plans and struggles of women. Never enough to know the full story, but intriguing glimpses of the lives lived behind closed doors.
Although there was one time when the things I heard had a huge impact on me and changed my life and the lives of my family.
Let me tell you what happened.
John Mark was well known to the young men of Jerusalem – even Daniel knew of him. His mother Mary was one of my customers. She sent a servant to me on this particular evening to ask for extra water. It was just before the Passover celebrations and I was busy, trying to fulfil as many of my customers’ needs as possible. Daniel was working with me. But even so, it was late when we reached Mary’s home.
The servant was harassed – they had a crowd of guests in the upstairs room and they needed more water. The poor girl was run off her feet. We reassured her of our help as Daniel and I took the first buckets of water up the stairs. Inside the closed door there were a group of men sitting around a table. The air was tingling as I entered. I am sensitive to such things – but I had never felt such intensity before.
One man was speaking and everyone’s attention was riveted on him. I only heard a couple of words.
‘… Betray me,’ he said.
There was a shocked silence, broken only by the sound of water pouring into the storage jars. But no-one else seemed to notice. Daniel and I slipped out of the room and went down for more water.
As we filled our buckets the door upstairs was flung open. Someone ran down the stairs and away, into the night. For a fleeting moment, I wondered what had happened, but I am used to not knowing the whole story so the thought did not stay with me.
We climbed up the stairs and entered the room again. The man was handing bread around.
‘… do this in remembrance…,’ he said.
Again we poured water and left the room. This time, though, I felt somewhat reluctant to go. I would have liked to stay and be part of what was happening in that room. Later Daniel said he felt the same. But we are water carriers and it is not our habit to intrude, so, once again, we went down the stairs to refill our buckets. I could not wait to go back into the room and so we hurried. As we entered the room, the man was handing out a cup to those around him. I caught the words ‘new covenant’ but someone leant forward and pushed a dish across the table. I did not hear what else was said.
As I finished pouring my water for the last time, the man glanced up at me and smiled his thanks. At least, that’s what I thought he did. Now, a while after the event, I am not so sure if he did not smile his love – but that did not occur to me at the time. It was a warm smile, that’s for sure, with enough emotion in it to stop me in my tracks. I stared into the man’s face, until Daniel, awkward at my intrusion into other people’s lives, tugged my sleeve and pulled me away. I hurried after him – but my heart yearned to stay – who knows what would have happened if I had?
Jerusalem erupted that night and the next day. A man, who called himself the Son of Man was arrested, put on trial and crucified all before Shabbat. Daniel and I were busy and we avoided the crowds as much as possible. But I was saddened to learn after Shabbat that the man who had been crucified was the man I had seen in the upstairs room in Mary’s house. How could a man like that, a man to whom I was drawn in a way I could not comprehend, have done anything so evil as to warrant crucifixion? I did not understand it. It did not feel right to me, and my heart ached with sadness. Nor did I understand the stories that swept through the city on that day about the man being seen by people, alive and walking around, talking and eating – even though he had been taken, dead, from his cross and sealed in a tomb.
I went to that tomb – out of curiosity.
It was open – and empty.
As I stooped down to peer inside I felt the same tingling in the air that I had felt in the room that night. I drew back in alarm. Here were things I could not understand – things beyond me – and I was afraid.
For a few weeks, I went about my business. Wells ran clear and life settled back to normal. And yet it did not really. Daniel was restless, changed, and we heard stories of this man around the city. Talk of angels, and clouds and disappearance. But there was fear too. It was a feeling that was strong in several homes; especially in Mary’s.
The man’s friends continued to meet there – many of them now – and I had learned to knock in a certain way when I delivered water to the upstairs room. Only then would they open the door to me. In the next few weeks, I became a familiar visitor. The memory of the man made me want to linger. And so it was that Daniel and I were there early one hot, still morning during the Feast of Weeks when we celebrated the harvest that had just been gathered. We were not working on that day, but both of us felt drawn to the place and we returned again just to be there.
We knocked on the door and were invited in. I took care to shut the door behind me. Conversation was hushed, people talking in groups – or not talking at all.
As I sat and listened to one quiet discussion, I became aware of a prickling sensation in the air, and then felt a slight breeze. I lifted my face to enjoy it. The breeze grew stronger and I had a shock as the door blew open with a bang. Startled I looked outside and had an even greater shock. There was not an eddy of dust! The air out there was still, but in here, in this room, there was now a wind – where it came from and where it went I have no idea, but it was there.
Now no-one was talking. Everyone had their faces raised in the wind – I looked across at Daniel. He was standing with his eyes wide open – shining, shining, and as I watched he began to raise his arms in praise.
I looked at the others – shining, shining – and I saw what appeared to be flames above each one. Although I could not see it, I knew there was fire above me too. Then I understood. The man I had seen in this very room was indeed the Son of God! I still do not understand how I knew – but I did – with absolute certainty. I joined everyone else as we worshipped God. Worshipped Jesus – His Son! The Son of the Living God!
We burst out of the doors, down the steps and into the streets. There was no hiding now! No, there was a story to share of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world! I had much to learn – I did not know the full story – but I knew about the Love – oh, yes – and the tingling Presence. I had experienced the Wind and the Fire, and nothing, nothing could stop me from talking about it.
So yes, we are water carriers, Daniel and I, for although Daniel has gone to travel far and wide with his companions he still carries water. But now the water we all carry comes from wells deep within us. Streams of living water that never run dry. Pure and clear, they bring life to the people. I don’t know how it happens but I do know that the source is Jesus Christ Himself and I will carry and share His living water for the rest of my life.
Oh yes, we are water carriers.