‘Not Yet!’ God said sharply, catching the angel’s robe. Zadkiel was cross at the restraint. ‘But look at him. He heeds help. Let me go to him now.’ ‘Not yet.’
God sheltered in the fissure of a rock, and the angels hid in the heat haze. Zadkiel drew breath, slowly, then stepped back into place.
The wilderness was proving hard for all of them. They watched as Jesus picked up a stone and tested the weight of it. He lifted it up, touched it to his tongue, and then shuddered in revolt. He flung the stone into the scrub, and reached for another.
The first few days had been easier. Jesus walked from the Jordon into the desert giddy on the wind’s rush and full of the praise of God. It was five days before he stopped laughing at each new found flower, and nine days before a beetle went unblessed. The birds held wonder longer. On the twenty-ninth day, a kestrel soared, and Jesus’ breath caught in delight.
God held his breath then too — willing the bird to linger, seeking the Word’s rest.
They were the trouble really.
Necessary but inconvenient: often forgotten or misunderstood.
‘You are my beloved Son.’ — meant, what, exactly?
Jesus fret at it for a week.
‘Well pleased’ — why? Jesus wondered. ‘I have done nothing but talk with the rabbis, learn to make tables, and sense my mother’s pain.’ It made no sense, ‘beloved… well pleased’. But even that was easier to bear than the sense that God was growing in his very bones, moving every breath, emptying himself into Jesus’ speech and action.
‘That bloody bird!’ Jesus cried, and flung another stone across the desert.
The angels flinched at the sound of it, but God gently smiled.
‘That’s it.’ God said. ‘He knows now.’
‘Knows what?’ Zadkiel asked, still smarting from his reprimand.
‘Who he is… I am… we are… He is beginning to understand what he needs to do.’
‘So I can go to him?’ Zadkiel said eagerly.
‘Not yet. We need to be sure.’
Jesus reached for another stone, then pulled his hand back sharply. The snake rose up to greet him, sinuous and sleek. Jesus eyed him warily and they both seemed to bow.
‘That’s it.’ said God as the desert began to hiss.
‘I can go to him?’ Zadkiel said, tentatively.
‘Not quite yet.’