Sunday, 8 April 2012
“He’s alive! He’s alive! I have seen him! I have seen the Lord! He is alive I tell you! Really, He’s alive! Bear with me, I’m out of breath, sorry I just have to tell everyone… He’s alive! I have seen the Lord! You don’t believe me do you? These three days have been so strange. I’m Mary by the way, hi.
I live in Magdala the little village down the road by the sea. I say I live there but actually I’ve been following Jesus and the disciples around for months now. I so loved, that man. I still love him. He was so good to me. I have had a bit of a hard life really. Not the normal life you know. I had these ‘things’ inside of me. Seven of them and they kept tormenting me day and night. They wouldn’t shut up or leave me alone. I wasn’t nice to be around. I tried to get better and sort myself out but I only seemed to get worse. Then, I met Jesus. I knew there was something different about him straight away. It was in his eyes. I couldn’t look at him properly at first he was too, too well, hmmm. He looked at me as if he knew everything about me. Where I had been. What I had been up to. How I had got into that state. He knew. I didn’t have to say. I was so ashamed I really didn’t want to look at him. Then he prayed for me. It was as if all the shutters had been lifted from the windows of my soul and I felt whole again. The torment of the demons was no more. He healed me. I was just well, normal again. I owe my life to him. I love him so much. I couldn’t believe he died.
Friday was such an awful day, even the sky turned black. I can’t believe they executed him, hung him on a cross for all to see his pain and agony. They let that Barabbas off and yet they killed my Jesus. I was there you know, with his mum. She was so distraught. We cried and cried and cried until we had no tears left and we were exhausted. He was alone on the cross; there was nothing we could do. He shouted out, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ People were taunting him to come off the cross and save himself. But he didn’t, he died. I know he died. I saw the soldier stick the spear in his side and watched the blood and water come out.
I was up early this morning. I couldn’t sleep with all that had gone on so I went to find Jesus’ body. I took the best perfume I could find to go and anoint him. I know Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea had already anointed his body and wrapped it in strips of linen but, well, you know what men are like at such things. I wanted to go and do a proper job as a sign of my love. He was my Lord after all. I took my two friends with me, Mary and Salome so they could help me roll the stone from the entrance to the tomb. It was dark when we got there. It’s an eerie place at the best of times. When we reached the tomb, it was so strange, the stone had already been rolled back. I went straight in and, no Jesus, he wasn’t there. I thought someone must have taken him. Where was his body? We needed to anoint him properly? I ran off to find help. I don’t know what the other two were doing. I didn’t stop to ask. I had to get help. I ran into Simon Peter and another of the disciples who were on their way to the tomb. I said, ‘They have taken the Lord, and we don’t know where they have taken him!’ We all ran back to the tomb Simon Peter went off like a rocket. I couldn’t keep up.
When they had seen with their own eyes that Jesus was missing the disciples went back to tell the rest. I didn’t know what to do. I was so upset. I just stood there outside the tomb and cried my eyes out again. Who would do this? As I was pouring my soul out to God searching for an answer these two men appeared, shinning before me. They were angels. I know they were messengers from God; they had to be. He had heard my cry. They asked me, ‘Why are you crying?’ So I told them straight, they have taken my Lord away and that I didn’t know what they had done with his body. Something made me turn around at this point and there was another man there. The gardener, I think, well I thought he was. He said, 'Women, why are you crying and who are you looking for?’ ‘Sir’, I said, I feel such a fool now, but I didn’t know. ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.’ He looked at me as if he new everything about me and said, ‘Mary.’ It was my ‘Rabboni’, my teacher; it was Jesus who was looking into my very soul. I knew those eyes after all, but I recognized his voice first. I wanted to hug him forever, but he told me to let go and not to cling to him. He told me I had to let him go as he had not gone to his Father yet. So I did. I didn’t want to but I did. I felt so honoured that he had come to see me before he had even gone up to heaven to see his Father. Parting was so hard but, I had to tell the others, I had to tell everyone. I had to tell you. He’s alive! Jesus he is alive!”
Friday, 6 April 2012
Picture yourself if you will in ancient Israel. It is early autumn and the sun is warm on your back. The birds are singing above your head. You drink in the beauty of the landscape. The fruits of the field, pomegranates, figs, olives, and grapes are all ripe for the picking. Sheep and goats are grazing on the hillsides. The stream meanders its way through the valley. All that lies before you was created by God, and it still belongs to God. The God who created the chaos of the ever moving seas also created the stillness and order of the land. The God who created all of those things created you, and knew you before you were born. He knows the number of hairs on your head and your name is written on the palm of his hand. You are loved by the creator who deals with the business of the day, and yet still makes time for you. He has all the time in the world for you, you are his child.
Today is a day of merriment and excitement, the trumpeters are out and the crowd is singing songs. You stand in amongst the crowd that pushes and pulls you through the valley. The dust from the road covers your feet and gets into your clothes, and hair, and eyes. But you don’t care about that you follow the crowd as they sing. You need a drink of water, but there will be time for that later, you sing at the top of your voice. You love to praise your God. You follow the crowd as it winds happily through the olive trees that smell so wonderful and up into the hills. The journey is tiring, you feel out of breath, but you keep going. The music and the crowd’s jubilance keep up your morale. The trumpeting and clashing of cymbals and the rhythm of the drum help you to keep pace with the march. Many are dancing, many are laughing, and all are joining in the song. You will get there soon enough but you really can’t wait. The eagerness bubbles up inside of you; like a waterfall it wants to spill over. There is no holding it back. There is no holding you back. You are going to meet with God today. You are going to meet with God today. You are going to meet with God today! What will he tell you? What will he want of you? What is the next stage in your journey of life?
You reach the foot of mount Zion, you are there! In the distance your eyes can see the enormous barred gates, the entrance to the temple. Will you be allowed in? We shout up ‘Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place?’ The gate keeper responds ‘He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God his Saviour.’ We affirm these conditions by shouting back ‘such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob.’ We climb the hill. Out of breath we enter its ancient gates. We enter the temple. Here is our God, here is our maker. Here is our Lord and Saviour. But we feel small and insignificant in the vastness of his Temple. Are we really worthy to enter God’s presence?