Month: April 2016

Simon The Pharisee

Luke 7:37-48

Life is all about credibility.
And this Jesus of Nazareth is certainly building his!
He is becoming the rising star of the region.
Teaching in the synagogues, preaching about the kingdom of heaven being here!
How would he know? I’ve been around longer than he has, and I’ve never seen it!
What’s worse, he’s healing people, not just of their diseases, but claiming also their sins!
How does a carpenter get to do that!
By all accounts he’s a dangerous man,
Upsetting the order of things,
Challenging what we do, what we’ve always done.
I suppose I’ll have to invite him to my home,
Check him out.
I feel a mixture of arrogance and intrigue.
He’s on my patch, I need to know what he’s up to,
But I’m also interested…
What’s he got that’s making people follow him rather than us?
Is he just some new fad, or is there something more real.
The healings seem genuine.
What if they are?

I complete my ritual of afternoon prayer, making sure I am seen of others.
I have a responsibility to maintain appearances.
It’s a comfortable routine, and I feel the better for it.
There’s time now to go out into the street and see this man for myself.
I watch from a distance, catching the odd word.
He’s in preaching mode.
I begin to make my way towards him through the crowd.
How they are listening!
I need to gently push my way through,
Minor irritation gives way to acquiescence when they see who I am.
Slowly and surely I reach to the front.

He is younger than I expected, and obviously less experienced than me.
Yet he has an authority about him that is somehow ageless,
A meekness and knowledge that speak of a higher power,
An effortlessness in every word and movement as he unveils the scriptures.
I can see why he is attracting crowds…
My earlier thought returns. Is it just novelty, the age-old hope of the new Messiah attaching to any thing original and different? I feel within myself it is something far deeper and suddenly resent his preaching and teaching and healing. That’s our job, our duty. Even though we can’t heal. We’ve all rather left that to the older prophets, – that was their special role. So what’s this Jesus doing? I will find out for myself, invite him to my home, be seen with him.
It makes me feel uncomfortable, but I shan’t show or admit it!
Jesus has seen me approaching. I feel in that one glance he has dissected my very thoughts, yet he continues untroubled and confident.
No wonder my fellow Pharisees hate him! He’s more dangerous than I imagined!
He finishes his parable, leaving the crowd thoughtful, and turns to me, expecting and granting my request.

And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.

This wasn’t the plan! How did she get in! All the kudos of his presence ruined by this harlot! He must know what manner of woman it is who is touching him! He read my thoughts readily enough!

“Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee.”

He’s reading my thoughts again! His meekness against pharisaical pride! Love against my surprising hatred of his superiority. Everyone is listening. I must be careful. I bid him continue.

“There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?”

The question is too easy, but I phrase the answer with due caution. “I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most.” Where’s he going with all this. I am nervous… He looks at me and responds with calm assurance.

“Thou hast rightly judged”

He looks at the harlot, – how does he get away with that! And I feel a sinking premonition of his wisdom putting me to shame…
.
“Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little”.

His rebuke is harsh and uncompromising. I cannot fault him. My disdain in sharp contrast to the genuine repentance of the harlot woman. Yet who is the real prostitute? Aren’t I selling my pharisaical robes for my own purpose, getting money for worn out creeds and empty blessings?
Aren’t I putting myself before God!!! All the time!! Jesus doesn’t care what I think about him. He knows what God knows, and that’s all that matters to him. What does God know about me? He turns again to the woman:

“Thy sins are forgiven.”

She looks at peace while I am in turmoil. I have heard of Jesus’ demand that we should repent. Dare I change the habits of a lifetime? I ask myself the desperate question, do I really want to! I am too comfortable, too well set. I am a Pharisee! Yet she is forgiven, she has repented, she has loved much.. Who do I love more, – myself or God? The first commandment rings through my consciousness, – how many times have I said it out loud in the synagogue and in the streets? If Jesus hadn’t come, I wouldn’t be having this battle. Do I hate him or love him?

Jesus looks at me again. Despite his damning words there is love in his eyes, the promise of redemption. His love is constant.

Am I prepared to put God first? Before me?
The choice is mine.

 

The Magdalene’s Ressurection

John 20:1-18

“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” John 17:3

Jeering crowds were baying in unison,
Caught up in the hatred of the Council towards Jesus.
I was near enough to hear the hammer blows
Four horrific sequences of heart-shuddering thuds,
This was no place for fearful disciples,
They had fled in fear and shame and disbelief.
Only the beloved and ever-faithful John remained.
Our loyalty made us a lonely sight,
Womanly devotion deep-rooted and self-less,
Hands held in wincing agony and tightened grip as the cross was embedded.
No cry of pain from my Lord and Saviour,
He who had delivered me from seven devils now himself undelivered,
Now lifted up on the deadly cross,
Exposed to ridicule and organised malice.
To die a helpless death.
We moved nearer, fighting back tears, being brave for Jesus.
Showing him we cared, but just not understanding anything anymore.

In the midst of all this brutality, his love still shone through.
He looked up and saw his mother. Her face cried out in maternal yearning
Seeing also John he called out from his cross:
“Woman, behold thy son!
Behold thy mother”
His words were with no care for himself, no hint of physical pain,
But that outpouring of affection that first drew me to him,
A selflessness so pure, so re-assuring.
My eyes filled with tears, and when I blinked them away his head had bowed.
I looked, yearned, for any signs of life, willing some movement, anything.
He had raised Lazarus from death, but then he, Jesus, was alive to bring him back.
Who was now here to restore him?
His lifeless body hung limp.
I fought the evidence.
Looked again for any telltale movement of continued being.
He’s said in the optimism of life, he would raise himself after three days.
But how can what is dead do anything?
A soldier thrust his spear into the corpse.
Mary cried out. We hugged and held tight, knowing the final truth.
Her son, the man to whom I owed my life, so innocent, so maligned.
Dead.

When faced with reality, how can reason give hope?
When or how does faith take over and become somehow more real?
Just a week ago, the four-day dead Lazarus emerged whole from his tombed grave.
Jesus had commanded him to come forth, and he did.
So why wasn’t he at the cross?
Did he feel guilty he couldn’t do anything?
What more could I have done? Where is my faith? I felt guilty and helpless.
I felt sudden remorse, and momentary anger at his disciples.
Did Jesus have to die? Where was his God? Why has this happened? How can he raise himself?
An angel thought tried to creep in: it all meant nothing unless he does come back from death. He’s been right in everything else he has said and done. Why not this? That is what he promised. But that’s the point. I watched as Joseph took the body down; the noble Nicodemus helped him A second witness confirming the inevitable. You don’t lay the living in a sepulchre and roll a stone across ….

*****

I arrived early to the sepulchre, while it was still dark.
The stone had been rolled away!
The body had been taken!
I ran as fast as I could to tell Peter and John.
Breathless tell them. Urge them to do something. At least check what I say.
I felt empty. Without the body I could not grieve. There was no finality.
I told them again! The body’s missing! We did not know how or when or who had taken it.
They too ran; John arrived first, but it was Peter who went in, confirmed without doubt the grave was empty. Then John also looked in, saw the same.
They left, seeming to believe something, but lost in their wondering thoughts.

Where else could I go? What to do?
Who-ever took the body might come back. I had no other option but to wait and weep.
The last few days had been as much as I could bear.
I went back towards the tomb. I hadn’t yet looked inside, to see for myself.
I peered inside. The body was not there.
Angel thoughts again reached out to me.
“Why weepest thou?”
Once more I replied with the expected and obvious concern. They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have taken him. Self pity made me withdraw, and tears streamed down my weary face.

“Why weepest thou?”

The insistent question, this time asked by some person standing near, I supposed the gardener, and again I reply Sir, if thou hast taken him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him and I will take him away.

“Mary”

I turned round.
Saw Jesus!.
Saw my risen saviour!
Rabboni! Master!

His words came as if in a dream, but this was the reality!
I wanted to hug him! To hold him dear! The shock realisation! Of course he was not in the tomb! Why weepest thou? Why indeed! I had been looking for the wrong thing!
Searching for death when there was only life! And what life! Glorious! Eternal! He had won! Love had won!

“Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.”

And I understood the dominion over the seven devils that had bound me, the raising of Lazarus, the love of Jesus Christ, that the God of Life was his Father and my Father, the only God and my God..
Oh what resurrection! What joy!

Go to my brethren? I ran!!