He is Risen

19 Apr


When the men unlatched the heavy door Mary spilled into the room. Her face was taut with concern and beads of sweat darkened the curls that had fallen forward across her temples. She had been running and blurted “He’s gone. Someone has taken his body away!”

The men jumped up to surround her. “It’s still dark,” said Mark, who had holed himself up with the apostles in the upper room. “How could you see?”

“I could see,” she said, her voice firm. “The stone was rolled back.”

Peter signaled John toward the door with a jerk of his head. “Wait here,” he said to Mary who was still shaking from her headlong race to the Cenacle.

The door latched behind the two men and they broke into a run. The sun had slipped up over the horizon dimpling the shadowed path. Peter slowed to avoid stumbling, because his greying hair had tumbled across his eyes. John raced ahead through the streets toward the tomb at the city’s perimeter. In the early glow he could see the great stone had been rolled away from the dark maw of the entrance. To catch his breath he stopped himself short of the cave and leaned against the tree that grew from base of the rock.

When Peter arrived he went straight into the tomb past the younger apostle. As soon as his eyes adjusted he noticed that whoever had taken the body had left the burial cloths behind. He didn’t know what to think. His brow furrowed as he wracked his brain trying to remember Christ’s last words to him.

John, who had stepped in behind Peter, understood instantly. He nudged the elder leader and whispered, “He is risen.”


Night Court

12 Apr


I stood just outside the court waiting with other curious bystanders for some information on what was going on inside. I hope he doesn’t incriminate himself, I thought. I began pacing back and forth, waiting to be let in.

A young woman finally opened the door. “Are you a friend of his,” she asked?

“No, just wanted to see what court proceedings are really like.” I lied, glad my excuse was plausible since a buddy on the inside had arranged to get me this far. As I moved past the woman, I saw a guard slap my friend hard across the face. Police brutality, I thought, upset that I’d missed what had been said. I searched for a place where I wouldn’t be noticed.

A fellow beside me nudged with his elbow saying, “Aren’t you this guy’s buddy? I could swear I’ve seen you somewhere.”

“No!” I hissed and moved over a few feet for a better view. I hoped the fellow would leave me alone. Ignoring his stare, I tried to listen to the interchange in the courtroom. Straining my ears, I hear my friend ask the court to produce evidence.

Good, I said under my breath, they don’t have anything on you. They’ll have to let you go. The fellow was still staring at me as though trying to place my face. Then he moved closer again. “Now I remember,” he said. “You were with him in the garden.”

A few other people started to look at me, and my knees turned to rubber. I’d better get out of here, I thought, too many people have noticed I’m Galilean too. “Damn it,” I answered glaring at the man, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I swear I don’t know the man.”

I hurried to go, the curse still fresh on my lips . . . so fresh that my friend, in the middle of questioning, turned around and looked straight at me.

O God, he heard me, I knew, suddenly feeling sick inside. Confused and frightened, I slipped out quietly, the piercing call of a rooster shattering the darkness.



At the Tomb

6 Apr


“If you had only come sooner, Lazarus wouldn’t have died.” Martha said accusingly. She bit her lip to keep from crying, but tears rolled anyway.   He stood watching the pain in her heart. He loved her intensely, but he’d delayed coming because a greater purpose had kept him away. Now his heart ached. The struggle within him became wholly human. Why must she hurt so much? he thought, knowing that she, of all people could understand his intentions. They were of one mind and heart; true lovers. He knew she would not question his actions even now. But there was terrible suffering in the loss of her brother, and he felt her pain in the depth of his being. They were cousins, after all.

“Where did you bury him?” he asked deeply troubled.

“Come,” she said and led him on to the tomb. She squeezed his hand tightly trying to find security in him, but her pain left her numb. She found comfort in nothing, not even his firm touch. Together they walked on, and when they arrived at the tomb, she raised her eyes once more to search his face for a sign of strength.   But his eyes were turned aside, because they were full of tears.




Seeing is Believing

29 Mar


He wasn’t just upset; he was angry. “I’ve told you a dozen times! Why don’t you listen to me? Why do you keep asking me these questions? Maybe you want to become one of his disciples?” he sneered.
“We’re disciples of Moses. We know God spoke to him. This man, who know where he’s from?” they retorted.
“Look, I was blind and now I see. Are you going to tell me some unbalanced freak can do that? You know, yourselves, that God only listens to holy people,” he said, glaring at them in anger.
“How dare you lecture us!” they spat on the ground, grabbed him, and shoved him forcibly out the door.
Perplexed he walked off looking right and left grateful to see things he’d only guessed at before. He felt hurt, though. How could anyone not believe in God’s goodness after such a miracle? What awful blindness, he thought, realizing his years of darkness were nothing compared to the disbelief he’d just encountered. Even his parents had all but disowned him because they were afraid.
He sat down by a fountain, the sun warm on his face. Shutting his eyes, he tried to remember the darkness of his years without sight. Instead, he encountered the dark loneliness of having no one to share his joy.
“There you are!” a voice broke through his reverie.
His eyes popped open in a surge of fright that someone again wished to question him about the miracle. Instead, the man who’d cured him stood before him. “You were looking for me?” the once blind man asked dumbfounded.
“I heard they threw you out,” the Healer said.
“They don’t want to believe,” he shrugged grateful to have someone share his confusion.
“Do you believe in the Son of Man?” the Healer asked.
He looked into long into the eyes of the man who’d given him sight. Something inside him wanted to believe this very man to be the one ‘who is to come’, the prophet of all prophets. Hoping it might be him, yet unsure, he tested, “Who is he?”
“You have seen him,” Jesus replied. “He is speaking to you.”


Third Sunday of Lent

22 Mar




John 19:31-45

When the young rabbi sitting on the lip of Jacob’s well said “I am he,” the woman didn’t quite understand.Men who looked more like fishermen than shepherds coming for water ambled up and distracted her from reflecting on its meaning. She’d asked if he was a prophet, but uncomfortable at the men’s sudden presence she slipped away leaving her jug of water behind.

She needed to talk to her boyfriend. She mulled over the rabbi’s words as she returned to Sychar. She found her live-in partner napping, as usual, on the mat in her garden under the fig tree. He woke with a start, looked her over, and patted the mat saying, “Come lie down.”

“A man at the well asked for a drink,” she said as she sat down next to him.

Her boyfriend could see she looked bewildered. “It’s an ordinary question,” he said reaching up to curl his arm around her.

“The rabbi knew we aren’t married,” she answered. “He knew everything about us.”

“The whole town does,” he said.

“When he told me about us, I asked if he’s a prophet.” She shook her head as if to shake off her confusion. As her mind cleared her face lit up. She said “He’s the Messiah.” She jumped up and pulled at his arm, “He wants you to come see him.”

Half asleep he stumbled after her mumbling, “Who, me?”

“The whole town,” she said. “We’ve got to call the neighbors.” She started running to the adjacent houses knocking wildly on the doors.

Her boyfriend chased her trying to stop her from annoying the neighbors, but it was useless. In less than five minutes half the town was in the square asking questions because she’d shouted The Messiah is here! I’ve found the Messiah.

“How’d you know,” one neighbor asked?

She told her story, and the town pessimist mouthed, “I gotta see to believe.”

An eager girl asked, “Where is he?

The tension on the woman’s face vanished, as if proclaiming the good news had released years of anguish. She broke into a smile, took her partner’s hand and said to the crowd, “Come with me.”

Don’t Tell Anyone

15 Mar


All the way back down the mountain Peter shook his head as if trying to clear it. James looked confused too, but there was a light in his eyes. I didn’t know then that he would be the first of the apostles to give his life for the Master. Not then, anyway. We were so overwhelmed by the vision that night. When I, John, say this I must make it clear that vision is not meditation, as one would reflect on the words of scripture. It is not an imagining of spiritual things nor it the product of one man’s mental weakness; there were three of us

No, vision is wholly beyond nature, though it uses natural capacity to engage the person. When we saw, we saw with the eyes of our bodies as well as the eyes of our souls. And the seeing was divine. Yes, a light surrounded us—rather, it enveloped and suffused us. To say it was bright falls short of the reality, because when one uses that word, one thinks of tear filled eyes. The immutable light we were touched by was entirely sweet, gentle, and above the world’s darkness.

What we saw was the past meeting the present, Jesus, Moses and Elijah. What we heard was the voice of the Father. We three were baffled that we recognized Moses and Elijah. They were saints of former days and we could hardly have guessed what they look like, yet we knew with certainty who these two men were. And the voice?  It penetrated our souls like a knife and we fell down in terror. It’s no wonder that Jesus, when it was all over, said “Don’t tell anyone of the vision until the Son of Man rises from the dead.”

We didn’t.


(The death of James)



The Fast

9 Mar


Forty days is too long for any man to fast, but he calls himself Son of God. Of course Moses was one of those—figuratively speaking—and he managed the fast, but I got him. Stopped him from crossing into the holy land. So what if I didn’t haul him off to hell. I’ll win on this Son of God, though.

I watch this Jesus from a distance. I don’t show my face. I rarely do. People have these notions of me; you know, horns, a tail. No, no. Angel of light’s the better description, straight from the Good Book. That’s it; I gotta get him with Scripture! He’s a Rabbi, after all. He lives and breathes Scripture.

I start to brainstorm. This Son of God’ll be a tough customer. He’s one of those new prophets that have a handle on prayer. Not so long ago a voice from up there called him “Beloved Son.”  Who knows if it was a miracle? I do miracles too, so who knows where the voice came from.

I’ve gotta stop rambling. Jesus is pulling himself together to go to town. I can’t let him get away. I follow close to give him ideas, careful to keep things psychological so he won’t catch on. He’s real hungry. I can tell, because he’s stumbling, so I manipulate his thoughts . . .”You can turn these rocks to bread, you know.”

I’m just testing his Son of God title. Like a good Rabbi he comes back with “Not by bread alone . . . “ then he sinks to his knees. He’s so weak from his fast I can see his mind churning. It’s a good time to move him. I get him to the temple. In his condition he thinks he’s really there on top of the pinnacle. The mind plays tricks on you when you’re delirious. When you get so mentally down, suicide is an option. I make him an offer, “Go ahead, throw yourself down. The angels will protect you.”

In one of those rare moments of light that some holy men pressured toward suicide experience, Jesus answers, “You shall not put God to the test.”  Ok, so I leaned a little too hard. I loose round two.

Maybe it’s fame. Every man wants glory, why else would he accept the title Son of God. I know he’s taking on religious leadership. Why else would he fast so long. I try another angle. I use a direct tactic, because I notice his head’s clearing a little. I present myself as a wayfarer asking for the best path up the mountain. We walk together talking of his plans for the future. I trap him with thoughts of gaining followers, like his cousin John. I tell him to follow his destiny, because the people need him, since John’s in prison. We reach the top of the hill and he takes a deep breath. I wave my hand over the expanse below. “You know,” I say, “All this can be yours . . . “

He turns to look straight at me, like he’s been shocked awake by the fresh air. He’s found me out. He knows who I am.

 “Get away, Satan,” he says. 




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