What happened to Jesus during the “silent years”?

While we can never know for certain, Rehearsal follows the young Jesus through fictional, but very plausible, events as he builds a table—that will later be used for the last supper—and then transports it from Nazareth to Jerusalem, dealing with many obstacles. Travel with him and his friends as they fend off antagonists hired by a jealous local carpenter, fight a raging river, and struggle to get their precious cargo to its destination safely.

TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Rehearsal by J. Robert Parkinson, we have a fictional account of a slice of Jesus’s life during what is commonly referred to as “the silent years.” Ali, the owner of an inn in Jerusalem, has heard of Joseph, Jesus’s earthly father, and what a great carpenter he is. He has also heard that Jesus can work “miracles” with wood. So Ali asks a friend to approach Joseph in Nazareth and commission him and Jesus to build a table with no nails—a table that will later become the table Jesus and his disciples use to eat “the last supper.” But a carpenter in Jerusalem, Cane, is angry and jealous. He wants the commission to build this special table. It’s special, not because it will become the table used for the last supper, but because its construction is so unique. No one has ever attempted to build such a large table using only wooden pegs, rather than nails, so that the table can be taken apart and put together at will. So Cane decides to stop Jesus and his friends who are attempting to deliver the table to Ali in Jerusalem.

There are a number of events that could well be a prelude to things that the bible tells us happen later in Jesus’s life. I thought the story was cute, realistic, and entertaining. Rehearsal is short, so it’s easy to read in one sitting, and it would make a wonderful story to help children and adolescents develop a more personal and intimate understanding of Jesus as a man and not just an abstract religious figure.

REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Rehearsal by J. Robert Parkinson is an account (fictional, of course) of some events in Jesus’s life when he was young—the time in between his early life, as recounted in the Bible, and his later life, which is also recounted in the Bible—those years when Jesus would have been an adolescent and teenager, which are not addressed in the New Testament at all. Parkinson calls those years the “silent” years (although whether that’s his term or society’s in general, I couldn’t say) and he crafts a very believable story of things that might happened to the young Jesus—helping his father to a special table for an inn keeper in Jerusalem and then, with the aid of several friends, taking that table by cart from his home in Nazareth to the inn keeper in Jerusalem, all the while foiling the evil plots of a wicked rival carpenter.

The tale, though short, is plausible, interesting, clever, and heart-warming. Parkinson includes events in Rehearsal that foreshadow many of the things which actually happened in Jesus’s later life, and I thought it interesting that his friends were named Peter, Philip, Thomas, Matthew, James, and John. It’s a heart-warming and inspiring story that should appeal to young and old alike.

Chapter 1

The two men sat in a corner of the large room on the upstairs floor of the Inn. The smell of sawdust and fresh paint indicated that they were redecorating or reconstructing the room. The absence of furniture–except for the two chairs–reinforced that impression.

Benjamin, a short stocky man with a pleasant smile and rough hands, asked, “How can I be of service? What are you planning to do?”

Ali, the proprietor of the Inn, gestured broadly, taking in the entire room. “I want to make this into a room for special celebrations. All this space will help people remember special events in their lives. I want everyone who sees this room to remember it and what happens here.”

“That’s quite a dream.”

“Yes it is, and you can help. I need you to contact a carpenter to build a special piece of furniture for me.”

“There are many carpenters right here in Jerusalem. I’m sure you already know many of them. Why do you need me?”

“I know of a man with special talents. I have not met him yet, but I know I want him. He has a son who is able to work miracles with wood. I want to work with them on this project.”

“What are you looking for that is so special?”

“A table.”

“A table? Anyone can build a table,” roared Benjamin.

“Not like this one. It will be 20 feet long. It must be possible to divide it into five separate small tables. And it must be built without using any nails or any metal. All of the fasteners must be wood–wood that I’ll select. And the sections of the table will be made of three different kinds of wood, too. I’ll indicate the parts that will be made of cedar, pine, and cypress.”

Benjamin glanced around the room and stood up from the chair. With a frown, he shook his head and looked at his friend.

“That long? That flexible. No nails. I’m not a carpenter, but I’ve seen many finished complex pieces. I don’t think that’s possible!”

“It is, but that’s why I want you to find the carpenter in Nazareth and have him build the table for me.”

“Nazareth? That’s a long way from here. Why not get someone closer?”

“I know it is, but I want this man, Joseph,” Ali said with resolve. “He and his son are the only ones I have confidence in. I don’t care about the cost or the distance, or the difficulty. I want them. Please help me.”

“Of course,” replied Benjamin. He knew his friend was determined to have things his way–just as he always was. There was no point arguing or trying to change his mind. That would just be a waste of time for both of them and, in the end, Ali’s position would hold. It always did.

“Tell me where I can find him, and I’ll make the journey.”

“All I know is he lives in Nazareth. I don’t know exactly where, but you should be able to locate him. It’s a big place, but I’m sure people will know his work and where you can find him. Let me show you the drawing of the table I want.”

With that, Ali unrolled a large drawing on which he showed the details of his project. He had written the measurements he thought would indicate the size and scale of the project. “Take this with you to show Joseph. It isn’t an exact drawing, I wouldn’t be able to be that precise, but it will give him a good idea of what I want. Joseph will be able to use this as a start. He’ll do the careful and exact measurements.”

Benjamin picked up all the papers. “This will be quite an undertaking.”

“But well worth the effort,” Ali answered. “Well worth the effort. And I’m sure it will be remembered for a very long time. Thank you, my friend, for helping me with this.”

Benjamin left the inn with all the papers and planned what he would do before starting to Nazareth. He didn’t intend to make any trouble. In fact, he wanted to avoid it. That’s why he was going to visit a friend who was a builder.

He was going to tell him about the project. He knew his friend would be angry because he likely would be able to build the table himself. Just as well as this Joseph person could, Benjamin thought, and his friend’s business was right here in Jerusalem–not in far off Nazareth.

Ali would be able to oversee the project from start to finish. He couldn’t do that with all the work being done in Nazareth. But, again, Benjamin realized this was not his decision to make. Ali had made up his mind, and that was the way it would be done.

As expected, his friend, Cane, became furious when he learned about the table plans and vowed to put a stop to it. “Why this Joseph? Nazareth is more than sixty miles from here! Why go so far away for this work? I can do it right here–and probably for less money! I’m going to see about this. It just isn’t right. If you think this is so important, Benjamin, it should be done here, not in some little dusty town far away.”

Cane was as short on temper as he was in stature. Many of the craftsmen in the area joked about him, saying that because he was so small, he liked to build pieces that were large and impressive.

When he saw the possibility of constructing a large piece of furniture, he became almost obsessive.

While he was still angry, Cane stormed out, leaving Benjamin alone in the room.

Cane’s son, Malachi, came by, and found Cane stomping dirt and throwing stones at his workshop wall.

“Come with me–now,” Cane said to his son. “We’re going to see Ali.”

When Malachi heard his father talk like that, he knew he had no option except to obey. He wouldn’t even ask way. He knew he would find out soon enough.

On the way to Ali’s shop, Cane continued to rant, telling Malachi, “We have to convince Ali to give us the job of building that table.”

“Why?” asked Malachi. “Why is this table so important to you? It’s only a table. You’ve built many of them before. What’s so special about this one?”

“No one has ever built a table like this one before! That’s why! I just have a feeling this table will be remembered and admired for a long time to come, and I want to be part of that. The table will have a permanent place here in Jerusalem, so it should be built here. And I should build it!” Cane ended his rant by saying,” There might be trouble getting it here from Nazareth. That’s a long trip, and many bad things could happen along the way. “It’s mine, and I’ll see to it this Nazarene doesn’t deliver this price of furniture! “One way or another, I’ll stop him from delivering this table, and then I’ll build it.”

All Malachi could do was agree, so he went with his father.

Benjamin had seen and heard all of this from in front of Cane’s workshop and he became a bit worried about the strength of Cane’s reaction.

He hoped Cane wouldn’t do anything to prevent Joseph from building the table, or even worse, that he wouldn’t do anything to harm Joseph. But Benjamin had never seen Cane so angry.

Since Benjamin could not persuade his friend to accept Ali’s decision, he left and began the trip to Nazareth to find Joseph and arrange for the building of the table.

It would be a long trip, and he wanted to begin immediately. He gathered the supplies he would need for the trip and then carefully wrapped the plans to keep them clean and dry.

The weather could change quickly while he was traveling.

He said Good-bye to his wife and daughter and headed toward Nazareth. Almost sixty miles to the North. A long trip!

He wondered again about the importance of this table. Why was Ali so determined Joseph should build the table? Why not use nails to build it? Why use three different kinds of wood? Why such a big table?

Benjamin remembered Ali had said the table would be remembered for a very long time–that the table would be important in future years. He wondered what that could be. It was going to be just a table in an upper room in an inn in Jerusalem. How could that be special?

He hoped he would learn answers to his questions when he met Joseph, for now, he had much to think about on his trip. Searching for answers to his questions would help the time pass.

© 2014 by J. Robert Parkinson

Roger DeRose:

Despite the many writings and stories about the life of Jesus, there is little about his early years. In telling the making of a commissioned table, Bob Parkinson brings to life the stories that lead to Jesus’ adult years. You will find yourself turning the pages in one sitting and being inspired. ~ Rodger L. DeRose, President & CEO, Kessler Foundation