The Man We Never Knew

I knew him once, but then, maybe I didn’t. It all seems such a long time ago and things have become confusing. I’m not really sure about anything anymore. I don’t remember him being different from any other child. Never got into too much trouble, although, he did get lost once. To be honest, he was just one of the kids and I did not take much notice. As he got older I remember he used to like walking the hills in the early morning. Liked his own company, I guess – but you’d never know it when you were with him as he always seemed so glad to see you.

It was as a craftsman that I remember him most. For sure, he wasn’t quick, but everything was done with such care. The way he sharpened his tools. The way he worked the wood. The way he understood the grain. It was poetry. Everything with infinite care, everything just right. When he wasn’t busy, he’d practice with off-cuts. Always turning them into something useful, or maybe a toy for some child. He had this knack for knowing exactly what was needed and when. Odd that, now that I think of it, but I didn’t think anything of it then.

I remember going to see him one day when my own work was slack. He was such a pleasure to watch and to talk too. I had interrupted him in the middle of doing something difficult and almost apologised and left, but his welcome was such that I knew there was no need. He showed a piece he was practising on – not that I know why he was practising, it seemed pretty near perfect to me. But then, he had such an eye for detail and it clearly gave him pleasure.

It was while he was describing what he had been doing that old Miriam came in with a broken chair. Well, I am no expert, but if ever there was a chair beyond repair, that was it. He offered to make her another. Her face fell, she could barely make ends meet since her husband died. Yet, before she had a chance to say anything, he said he would be grateful if she’d let him, as it would give him a chance to practice a new joint he’d been working and if she were willing to make him one of her delicious cinnamon cakes, he’d consider it a good trade. It was amazing the way her face changed from despair, to puzzlement, to shear delight. We all burst out laughing at that point, the delight was so tangible. Makes me chuckle still. Of course, she knew that he was all-but giving her a new chair, but as she left, her head was held high. I have to admit though, that she does make really good cinnamon cakes, a real treat – so maybe had not made such a bad trade after all!

When he left, I assumed that he’d make something of himself. I think we all did. Then came all those rumours. We never knew what to make of them. It all seemed so strange, but now, looking back, well… Mind you, we didn’t see any miracles, not back then. He was just one of us, the man we had always known, but, I guess, we never really knew him after all.

Recapitulating Mark

There was an ancient prophesy that before the Lord returned, he would send a messenger. So, when John the Baptist started proclaiming a time of repentance the people of Judea came to listen and be baptised. Jesus also came to be baptised, and when he came out of the water a voice from heaven declared: “You are my beloved son.”

A short while later, Jesus began to proclaim the good news of the approaching Kingdom of God, demonstrating it with the power to heal the sick and cast out demons. Yet, the scribes and pharisees could not believe he was from God because he mixed with sinners and did things on the Sabbath. At one point, even his own family doubted him. Yet, he continued to spread the good news of the Kingdom, declaring that although starting small, the Kingdom would grow like a tree. Having preached his message on one side of Lake Galilee he crossed to the other. While they were crossing a great storm arose and they were in danger of sinking. Jesus was sleeping at the time, but when his disciples woke him, fearing for their lives, he simply told the storm to be quiet and the storm was still, filling his disciples with awe.

When they got to the other side he cast out a legion of demons from a man and into some pigs. The people were amazed at his power, but it also filled them with fear, so they asked him to leave. Travelling further north to Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples who people thought he was. They replied that some thought John the Baptist, or a prophet like Elijah. He then asked who they thought he was and when Peter said the Messiah he told them not to repeat it. Shortly after, Jesus went up a mountain and was transfigured before them and a voice said, “This is my beloved son”, but he told them not to tell anyone until after he had been raised from the dead, although they did not understand what he meant. He also told them how he would suffer and be rejected and that those who want to follow him would not be amongst the great, but must be a slave to all and as children, for even he had not come to be served but to serve by giving his life.

They travelled south towards Jerusalem at the time of Passover and as they approached the city the people began to cheer, but not the city leaders, they would have had him arrested if it were not for the crowd. The disciples were expecting him to be made king, but he warned them not to be misled by the signs. Times would be hard for them, but the good news of the Kingdom would be proclaimed and after that he would arrive in glory. At the Passover meal Jesus broke bread saying, “This is my body”. Then giving them wine saying, “This is my blood, which is poured out for many.” It was later that evening that he was betrayed and arrested. Meanwhile his disciples fled. The next day Jesus was mocked for being a king and crucified, but it unexpectedly became dark and the temple curtain torn in two, so the centurion declared, “Surely, he was God’s son”! They sealed his body in a tomb, but a few days later the women found the tomb had been opened and as they entered a man dressed in white said, “Jesus has risen. Go tell his disciples.” But they were terrified and ran off.

Some say

Some say he left an empty tomb, but that isn’t possible.

Some say he was one of us: baptised and eating.
Some say he was a man of mercy: healing and delivering.

Some say he was an enigma: even calming a storm.
Some say he was changed into blazing brightness: odd that.

Some say he was bad Jew: not respecting his betters.
Some say he was a sinner: mixing with harlots and traitors!

Some say he was unreasonable: telling the rich to give all to the poor.
Some say he was a disappointment: a Messiah who could not deliver.

Causing too much trouble. At least now he is dead now.
Maybe when God returns, he will explain the enigma.

Judas

There was a dark cloud on the distant horizon. He could clearly see it. It threatened disaster for the people. It was so obvious to him, that he could not explain why Jesus could not see it – or was refusing too.

“I don’t get it,” his voice raised and excited, “you ride into Jerusalem on a donkey, encouraging all sorts of wild excitement from the crowd. You then make a huge commotion in the Temple and leave the whole city in uproar. Don’t you see that the people are now expecting a revolution? All done under the noses of the cursed Romans when they are here in force! And then we sneak off back to Bethany. There will be a riot! What on earth do you think you are playing at?”

Jesus was not threatened by Judas’ outburst. “I thought you wanted a revolution? Surely you are not scared now that it approaches?”

“No! And you know it. It’s not a revolution I’m scared of, it’s this half revolution that you seem to be planning. Where the people get stirred up, but without anyone to lead them. If you wanted a revolution, I don’t know anyone who would not lay their lives down for it. The people are ready to follow. But you don’t want to lead them, do you? This won’t be a revolution, it will be a slaughter!” And then more calmly, “Don’t you see that?”

“So what would you have me do?”

Judas was exasperated by the man, a man who inspired such love and loyalty, but whom he could never figure out. “You need to choose to either lead this thing properly or, if you will forgive my bluntness, stick to being a wonder worker and prophet.” Judas paused. Getting this off his chest was helping him calm down and he knew he said more than he intended – or meant. “I’m sorry. It’s just that we’ve alerted the Romans to a revolt, and if we are not careful, the next thing will be the Romans decimating Jerusalem – just to teach us a lesson. Don’t you realise that Pilate is looking for an excuse to prove to us who is boss? And you seem to want to give it to him! We must either rise up properly, or lay the business down – at least for the time being.”

Their was a sadness in Jesus eyes, and his words were heavy as he spoke. “I am sorry Judas. I am sorry to have caused you this fear, it is indeed a hard road. Yet I must do what the Father bids me. I know that you cannot see that now, but you will. I too can see much suffering on this road. Yet, the fact remains, I must do what I need to do, just as you too must go and do what you need to do. It is a hard road for both of us.”

Judas got up and left. The conversation had come to an end. He knew that there was no moving the man once his mind was set. Jesus instinct had proved so good in the past, but not in this. Judas had tears in his eyes. He did not fully know why. Something in the sadness of Jesus’ last remark, but also in a sense of loss they he could not explain. A separation, that he neither looked for nor desired. It was this sadness, perhaps, that stopped him asking Jesus to explain his last remark. Was there something that he needed to do? He wasn’t sure, but he thought it might be worth talking to Caiaphas, a close friend of his fathers, and a man who might, just might, have enough influence to help prevent this impending disaster.

The Woman of Magdala

Grief tore my soul as I stood watching him die. Finally I understood the suffering I saw when we first met, nearly two years ago. Has time really passed so quickly?

They say that just before you die, your life passes before you. I may not be dying, but my life felt at an end. It’s the smell of fish that I remember and of a childhood watching the boats come into port, a brief time of innocence, before my marriage and the hard times that followed. Then the fateful day my husband became a tax collector, a choice between starvation and rejection. Even our families disowned us – to this day.

Death. His breathing grows faint. I have known too much death. My husband took a long time to die. I felt then I was dying with him, followed by the years of loneliness. Nobody would marry a tax collector’s widow, but I did find comfort with a few. Now they call me whore. Maybe they are right, it was an exchange of sorts, just a different coin.

Death. I can see it in his face, it won’t be long now. Poor soul. How did he deserve this? Things were so different when we met. He was the talk of the town. I was helping serve food at that banquet. So many people, all at short notice. All because this prophet from Nazareth said he would come.

I smile as I remember. I doubted if he would want to come, when in he came, as large as life, with a troop of disciples in tow. Some of them looked like scared rabbits! They were clearly not used to our sort of company. Funny, but I don’t remember much, other than how hectic it all was. Such a milestone in my life, yet the details are almost gone. All I recall was turning around and seeing him standing there looking at me. I felt so ashamed that I looked away, but then he called my name. I never did ask him how he knew, it never seemed to matter. It was the way he called it that mattered: no condemnation, just acceptance. I remember looking up and how his eyes held me. A few seconds, maybe, but an eternity in time. I opened my soul to him. No fear, no doubt, but an absolute trust in the love I saw. I did not care who saw the tears, for I knew what he saw, but I also knew it did not matter. I was cleansed.

That was when I saw the suffering in his eyes. The same suffering I see today, my suffering, but not just mine, all those at the banquet, indeed, everyone he probably ever met. I was in a daze as he moved on, but was quickly drawn back into the demands of what I was doing. So many people, so much to do. But, towards the end, just before he left, he looked over to me and said, “Come, follow me.” There was no need for a decision. I just put down my tray and followed. I have never looked back. But that was then.

All is dark now. I feel cold. Even the earth seems to tremble. What have we done?