“Johanan’s Faith,” Friend, June 1992, 13
Johanan carried his goatskin down to the well. After waiting for his turn, he very carefully filled the skin. Every drop was important in their dry country, especially now that the Roman soldiers blocked the gates of the city. He carried the heavy skin back to his home. As he passed the big olive tree that fed them, he poured a little of the water on the young seedling that was sheltered in its shade. Then he filled a small jug with water and walked to the city wall where his father was standing guard. He was proud that his father was chosen to be one of the watchmen. Johanan climbed the ladder and handed his father the jug.
It was hot on the wall, and Father smiled at him, then drank deeply. “Thank you. I was very thirsty.”
Johanan smiled back. He turned to look out over the wall. Before him camped the mighty armies of the Romans. He gazed with a horrible fascination at the men milling below. They were like ants swarming around the bottom of a gigantic anthill. And Jerusalem was the anthill! “Father,” he whispered, “what is going to happen to us?”
His father put his arm around him and pulled him away from the wall. “We will be fine. We have the Lord’s promise that if we watch and follow His warning, we will be saved.”
“But look, Father,” the boy argued, pointing to the men, “there are thousands of them. They have chariots and battering rams. What can we do?”
“Be prepared,” Father answered. “That’s what the Savior told us to do—be prepared.”
Johanan walked slowly back home. He always felt afraid after looking over the wall. It took all his faith to stop that fear. He stopped at the olive tree and sat beneath its shade. He looked at the seedling and wondered if he would see it bear fruit.
Sounds of shouting reached his ears. He saw a group of boys playing in the street. He longed to join them, but he knew that they didn’t want to play with him. He was a Christian, and they were not. Whenever he came close to where they played, they threw stones at him and taunted, “Where’s your Jesus now? Why doesn’t He save you from the Romans?”
Getting up, Johanan wandered into the house and looked for Grandmother. Her presence always soothed him. He sat beside her and watched her skillful fingers weave goat-hair yarn into cloth.
“Hello, Johanan.” She glanced down at his troubled face. “Did you take water to your father?”
“I see. What is it like to see all of Cestius Gallus’s men?”
“Terrible. Many soldiers are out there.”
“It will be all right,” she soothed. She continued her rhythmic weaving for a few moments, then stopped. “How long has it been since I told you about the time I saw the Savior?”
“Then listen again.” After a pause, she quietly began her story. “When I was a small child, word reached us that a great man was coming to preach in our city. Soon a crowd of people gathered right below the temple.
“My parents thought that I was too young to be in such crowds, so they left me home with my brother, Jesse.”
Johanan nodded in understanding. His parents left him home with his little sisters on market day.
“Jesse wanted to go,” Grandmother continued, “so he swore me to secrecy and we walked toward the crowds. We wriggled our way through the people until we could see Him. We stood still, just staring at Him.”
“What was He like?” Johanan asked earnestly.
“He was like other men—He had two eyes and one nose—yet He was very different. I knew when I saw Him that He loved me and everyone there. I felt something special, a kind of reverence.”
Johanan sighed, “I wish I could have seen Him.”
Grandmother nodded. “One by one He took the children from the multitude and blessed them. Jesse and I walked forward. Soon His arms were around me, and He talked to me. I don’t remember what He said. I remember that I knew that He was the Savior.”
They sat quietly thinking for several minutes before Grandmother looked down at her weaving and picked up the shuttle again. “Don’t worry, my son. He told us what to do.”
Johanan, too, knew the prophecies. When the signs were right, they would leave their home and flee Jerusalem. He looked at the bags and goatskins stacked in the corner. His family was ready to leave whenever the time came.
That afternoon he was herding the goats into the corral when his father walked swiftly up the path, calling to him. “Come, Johanan! Hurry!”
Johanan ran toward his father.
Father gathered the family together. “It is time. I don’t understand why, but Gallus has removed his men from the walls. If we go quietly, I think that he will let us leave. You all know what to do,” Father said. “Now hurry.”
Johanan ran to all their Christian neighbors to make sure that they knew that it was time to leave.
People laden with bags and baskets began streaming out of their houses.
“Where are you going?” one man called out. “You’re not leaving? You cannot. The soldiers will kill you. It’s safer to stay here behind the walls.”
His father stopped and called to him, “Come with us. It’s the only safe thing to do!”
The neighbor waved his hand in disgust. “You Christians—you’re all crazy!”
“Please come!” Father pleaded again, but the man just turned his back.
Johanan remembered how hard his father had worked the past few months to warn everyone that the time to flee was close at hand. Few had listened to him.
“We can do no more,” Father now said sadly. He gathered the family together and joined the rest of the Saints as they poured out through the gates of the city.
They walked as rapidly as they could. Grandmother was having trouble keeping up, so they slowed their pace. It was growing dark by the time they climbed a small rise above Jerusalem. Stopping to rest, they turned to look at their city one last time. Johanan had thought he’d feel sadness to leave his home. Instead, he felt a great joy because his family was safe and all together.
As they watched, the armies of Gallus closed ranks and Jerusalem was encircled once again.
Silently the family turned and began to walk. Johanan stayed close to his grandmother in case she needed him. His heart felt very full. He felt his testimony of Jesus Christ growing. His family had been saved because they had listened to and believed His message.
Grandmother had seen and touched Him. Johanan knew, without seeing, that Jesus was the Christ. He knew because the Holy Ghost whispered it to him.