I was walking down the street of a village in an arid Mediterranean country. The street was cobbled stone. On one side there was a long, continuous row of houses attached to one another. Most of them had beams and pillars of gray stone extending out toward the street. Some were covered with woven rugs or lattice of saplings for shade. I had the impression that this overhang would be a market in the morning.
But at the moment it was late afternoon. The street was filling up with the local residents, now returning from the fields. I saw a couple of people pushing or pulling carts that resembled large wooden wheelbarrows. One was leading a donkey that was loaded with heavy bundles. Women were hurriedly heading one way or another, carrying clay pots of water on their heads. A group of children were playing a game with a cloth ball they were kicking around.
As I walked down the street in the late afternoon sun, I tried to think where I might be. Somewhere ahead of me a baby was crying and wailing. I followed the sound to a doorway on my right, through one of those overhanging market areas. There were clay pots of various sizes standing around three stone steps upward. I stepped into the dimmer light of the interior.
At first I was surprised at the size of the room. It may have been 60 feet long and 35 feet wide. There were fireplaces down the middle of the room. Against the walls, in the shadow on either side were rolls and bundles of belongings. A few dozen people were already in the room and more coming in all the time, bringing bundles, lighting fires, and beginning to cook the evening meal. Light was coming in through high windows on the right side of the room.
I stood on a raised stone dais looking out over the busy people. There was a man at one end of the platform doing some sort of work. Right away I located the crying baby near the closest fire pit in the room.
He was in a basket woven of thick grass. It was flat on the bottom and had a foot high rim around it. The baby was about five months old and wrapped in two woven blankets. One was a natural off-white color and rougher weave; the other was bleach white and finer weave. The baby was sucking his fist and wailing with hunger.
I looked around for his parents. The closest person was the man working near me. He smiled and nodded encouragement, as if to say, “comfort the baby.”
Observing no other interested adults nearby, I picked the child up out of his basket and tried to comfort him. He quieted for a moment, then began wailing and sucking his fist again.
In the pocket of my jacket I had a small crust of bread saved up for my own dinner. It was only about a tablespoon worth. Now I soaked it in water from a nearby jar and turned it into mush in my palm. Then I sat down and began to feed the baby boy little bites from my finger tip. He instantly cheered and ate with enthusiasm, losing half of it back over his chin in drool.
He quickly finished the small amount of soggy bread and began to whimper and fuss again, obviously still hungry. I looked all around for his mother. People were busy working, and moving around, but no one was interested in the baby. His parents would surely arrive soon. He appeared healthy and cared for, but just so hungry!
After some hesitation I unbuttoned my blouse and began to nurse the baby. He nursed eagerly, until his belly was full and round, then he fell asleep in my arms. I burped him, wrapped him up snuggly, and laid him back in his basket.
Then I left the room and went to the doorway again to look out. The sun was sinking down and the light was at a lower angle than before. The streets were mostly empty now. I looked out and wondered to myself, “Where am I? Who is the baby I just nursed?”
At that moment I heard a voice in my mind reply, “That baby is Jesus.”
I was stunned and began to cry. Immediately, I felt myself “leaving” the time and place where I stood. But I begged the voice who had spoken to me to let me go back inside and look at him one more time. I felt it wasn’t fair that I hadn’t known the baby was Jesus. This request was granted to me, and I went back and looked down into the basket.
The baby was mostly asleep, but stirred enough to turn toward my form leaning over him. He half opened sleepy eyes and smiled, then fell asleep again.
I awoke with tears streaming down my face, still hearing that same voice in my heart and mind again. He was saying,
“If ye have done it unto the least of these, my brethren, you have done it unto me.” And also, “If you love me, feed my sheep.”