“It doesn’t count if you’re already planning your defeat,” the short dark-haired, brown-eyed, young boy complained. “You don’t have to let me win just because I’m younger than you.”
The boy’s older brother smiled innocently, “Is that what you think I’m doing, Jimmy?”
“Yes, Josh,” the younger boy stated conclusively. “I heard our mother ask you to take it easy on me for once.”
Both brothers had bronze skin and wore common, white, knee-length, cotton robes. Between them was a worn board game consisting of a thin piece of wood with thirty squares arranged in three rows of ten. A few of these squares contained hieroglyphs while upon others stood wooden pawns of two different types: either dark stained square blocks or whitewashed pyramids. Also present were four flat sticks; each had one dark side and one light side; these were tossed into the air and based on how they landed determined how many squares a pawn could move. The object of the game was to get all five of your pawns off the board, and little Jimmy already had three, while his older brother only had one.
Josh flipped his head back and laughed to clear his longer brown bangs from his face. He looked squarely at his brother and tossed the four sticks into the air for the third straight time. The first two throws he’d gotten two lights and two darks, and this time he got three lights and one dark which was still a failure.
Jimmy shook his head, “That’s three wasted turns in a row! Your pawn is stuck on the House of Waters…it’s a pitfall! You know you have to get four lights to get it off the board from there…which is highly unlikely. The first turn after landing on the water square you should’ve taken your lumps and moved your pawn back to the House of Second Life.”
“You need not explain the rules of Senet to me, Jimmy, I know the rules of the game,” Josh said as he handed his brother the chance sticks. Their father had acquired the game when the family had lived briefly in Egypt, and the old man had given it to his oldest son before Jimmy was born.
Jimmy reluctantly tossed the sticks and took his turn. He was getting bored, because it was no fun playing a game with somebody who was trying to lose.
Josh could see his brother’s disappointment, so he picked up the sticks and held them without tossing them. “Would it make you feel any better if I told you that I know what I’m doing? I’m not trying to lose. Truly, I tell you, I’m going to win.”
“Not without taking a step back and moving your pawn to the House of Second Life,” Jimmy warned.
“Sometimes in the face of certain defeat you will find victory,” the older brother countered. He then tossed the sticks and they miraculously landed with the four light sides up.
Jimmy groaned, “Unbelievable…what luck!”
Jimmy’s brother just grinned and took his second pawn off the board. “I get another turn now, right?” he asked rhetorically.
Josh’s younger sibling just nodded, and Josh proceeded to take turn after turn. Each time he got one or four light sides he’d move another pawn. Pretty soon he had two more pawns rescued with only one remaining.
Finally it was Jimmy’s turn. “It’s about time!” was all he said and he took his turn. He managed to get another pawn off the board but his last pawn landed in the water ending his turn. Knowing his brother would admonish him if he cursed, Jimmy just said, “Bad luck.”
Josh got a four and then a two and landed on the House of Two Judges. Now it was down to either Josh getting two lights or Jimmy getting four lights. Instead, Jimmy chose to return his pawn to the middle of the board onto the House of Second Life. Josh then got a three and had to move backwards to the House of Beauty; now he needed four darks to win which was just as difficult as getting four lights. Although Jimmy tried to catch up, Josh once again “got lucky” and tossed four darks. The game was over and once again Jimmy had lost.
“Didn’t Mom ask you to give me a break?”
“Yes, Jimmy, and I will…eventually,” the older boy promised.
Two decades past and as Josh’s students assembled for an evening banquet, he thought back on the time his brother had accused him of trying to purposely lose at Senet. He silently wished his brother was here with him, it might have eased his apprehensions.
After the food and drink was properly blessed, some small conversations took place. During one of these discussions, one of his inner-circle made the exact same statement his little brother had once said, “It doesn’t count if you’re already planning your defeat.”
The middle-aged teacher saw his brother in his mind’s eye when he answered, “Is that what you think I’m doing?”
“Yes, Joshua. A true champion must be triumphant in all things…he cannot fail and still be champion!” the assertive pupil argued.
“Would it make you feel any better if I told you that I know what I’m doing? I’m not trying to lose. Truly, I tell you, I’m going to win,” the teacher repeated the exact words he’d told his younger brother so many decades before.
“I beg to differ, teacher, but if you just allow me to do what I suggested, we will both see if you truly are the promised champion.” The pupil paused and then added something Joshua himself had told his brother while playing that simple board game,“Sometimes in the face of certain defeat you will find victory.”
The teacher sighed, “That statement is truer than you can imagine.”
“Then I can go?” asked the student, popping a piece of bread in his mouth.
“Yes, Judas, what you are going to do…do quickly,” answered Joshua.
After Judas took his leave, Joshua, also known by today’s world as Jesus, added, “I’m about to give the whole world a break, Jimmy.”
None of the other students present at that supper knew why this was said, but there was no doubt that Jesus’ brother James would have surely understood.
Author’s note: Yeshua is a common Hebrew alternative form of Yehoshua or Joshua. The name’s Greek spelling is Iesous and the Latin spelling is Iesus from which comes the English spelling Jesus. Jesus had four brothers (or half-brothers), James (not to be confused with James son of Zebedee), Joseph (Joses), Judas (or Jude not to be confused with Judas Iscariot), and Simon (not to be confused with Simon Peter). When you have finished reading this story, go back and read it again with these facts in mind, and you might find it even more interesting.