Category Archives: Bible

Jesus Wept

But who were the tears for?

The Raising Of Lazarus By Vincent van Gogh

It is related to us in John 11: 1-44,  that after Jesus was told that Lazarus, brother of Mary & Martha, was ill, that he did not go immediately to them in Judea; He stayed another 2 days in Jerusalem. Upon His arrival, we learn that Lazarus was already dead had been interred four days earlier. It seems then , from the timeline we are presented with, it was almost a week after being told about Lazarus, before Jesus went to see the ones’ he loved.

When Jesus arrived in Judea, He wep(John 11: 35) at the news of Lazarus’ death; but why?

Jesus knew that the power of the Father, through the Holy Spirit could resurrect Lazarus. Knowing this, it seems unlikely His tears were for Lazarus, so who were they for? Might they be tears of shame, that he allowed not only the suffering of Lazarus until death but also the suffering of Mary and Martha, all of which He could have prevented.

Perhaps His tears were for Mary and Martha, for what they had endured, after all untill He called Lazarus from the Tomb, they probably thought He’d let them all down.

Maybe it was because He new the resurrection of Lazarus would be in vain. Maybe he knew that Lazarus woud be executed in the future by the Pharisees (John 12: 10). He might have been hoping his delay would save Mary and Martha from even more pain and suffering, but when He got there emotion took over and He felt compassion for Mary and Martha and compelled to do something.

We’ll never know. I just offer a possibility.

In Faith We Doubt

Would faith today be so widespread without Thomas?

Doubting Thomas, by Hendrick ter Brugghen, c. 1622

I wonder what you think might be one of the crucial momnets related to Christ’s resurrection? For me, it is the moment Jesus lets Thomas see, and touch for himself his wounds, the marks of his crucifixion (John 20:24-29). Would the events have been so plausible without Thomas’ insistence on seeing the evidence himself.

All the disciples except Thomas saw Jesus on the evening of the day of his resurrection. Thomas was not with them, we do not know where he was at that time. Maybe he was out procuring supplies. It was another week before Thomas also saw Jesus when he appeared to them again.

Thomas must have had a strong character. For a week he resisted the peer pressure of his friends and fellow disciples, before Jesus appeared to them again when all were present. Thomas doubted but there is no suggestion he didn’t believe. Thomas asked the question I probably would, you probably would and I suspect most believers might ask.

Unbelief is quiet different from doubt, it includes denial, which Thomas never did. I suspect that at some time of life everyone who has a faith doubts at some time, to some degree. I have. Sometimes we all need some kind of sign.

When Jesus appeared the second time, he let Thomas see and touch his wounds then said to him “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (UKNIV). These words could easily be perceived a rebuke to Thomas, for his doubt. Perhaps it was; I do not think so.

I think Jesus’ remark was encouragement, to the disciples and future generations. Encouragement for all the people of the time and to come, who could only rely on the testimony of people like Thomas and would rely on word of mouth and later, the gospels we rely on today.

With thanks to Joanne for inspiring part of this post.

Lost In Translation

Mind your language.

My native language is English. I can read sufficient Dutch to make sense of a lot of things, I write it a little, very poorly, and hardly speak it at all. Like many English people, I was, I suppose, quite arrogant for a long time about my language, with no knowledge of any other.

When we refer to language, we don’t always mean your language or mine where translation from one country’s language to another is necessary to understand one-another. Sometimes language can mean the form of words we use. For example when talking about someone’s manner of speaking I might say ‘he doesn’t beat about the bush’ . Someone else might say ‘he speaks his mind’ or ‘he has a direct manner’. Another person might simply say ‘he’s blunt’. It all means the same thing, expressed differently.

The same is equally true when we talk to someone about religion, for me Christianity but the language chosen is equally applicable to all religions. If you were not already A Christian, what would you think if I strolled up to you and said ‘can I talk to you about Jesus’ or Do you read the bible?’. Chances are, you would think me a bit odd and look for the first excuse to get away.

It’s not just what we say but also how we say something that can attract someone, or put them off entirely.I was put off The Bible early in my life by the, to me at that time, impenetrable, archaic language used in the King James Bible (given to me when I was 8 years old and which I still have). When we hope to introduce someone to Christianity, how we talk to them is important.

The same approach does not work for everyone, so be careful not just what you say, how you say it too. As usual I do not have answers, I just hope to get a bit of consideration started.

 

Interview With Mary Magdalene

Christ and Mary Magdalene by Rembrandt

Something a little different from me, so I hope you like the audio post that follows this introduction.

As with all my posts, the script is entirely by me. With thanks to my friend Jenny, who provided the voice of Mary Magdalene in the recording.

I present a fictional news interview with Mary Magdalene, set outside Jerusalem on what is now Easter Sunday.

 

Anna’s Story

A different view of Candlemas (Luke 2: 12-40)

Simeon’s Prophecy to Mary, Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn 1606 – 1669

As they often did when things were not busy in the temple, Anna, the old prophetess a daughter of the tribe of Asher, and Simeon, a priest were sitting on a blanket talking quietly in a discreet corner of the temple . Both of them were old. Anna was 84. No one knew how old Simeon was, he was not even sure himself.

Anna never left the temple precincts. She had stayed there, fasting, praying and worshipping, as she had done since the death of her husband, after just seven years of marriage.

Suddenly Simeon was silent for a few moments. When he spoke again, it was not to continue the same conversation with Anna. ‘Someone comes’ he said more to himself than Anna. She looked at him, a slightly worried expression passing across her gentle, old face. People came and went every day at the temple, and at all hours. In all the years she had kown him, she had never seen Simeon act like that before.

As Simeon turned from Anna, standing up and moving toward the door to the temple court, a couple came into view. It was a young woman carrying a baby and a man carrying a closed basket. Anna guessed the basket held a temple offering. The man was full grown, and the woman carrying carrying the child was younger, perhaps just a teenager. Anna got up slowly and painfully, to follow her friend. Simeon walked out into the temple court and hailed the visitors with a warm greeting, disappearing momentarily from Anna’s view.

As Anna made her slow progress following Simeon, she remembered something her friend had told her long ago, that God promised him he would not die before he saw The Messiah. The arrival of these visitors, and his reaction, even before they had seen them, made her wonder if this might be who he had waited patiently for, for all these years.

By the time Anna reached the arched doorway, from where she could see her friend and the couple with the baby again, Simeon was cradling the child in his arms. As she drew close enough for her failing sight to see the baby properly, she knew it was probably not more than days old, a couple of weeks at most.

Anna was not close enough to hear everything that Simeon said to the couple but from the look on their faces,  it must have ben something quite startling. As she got closer still to her old friend, Anna heard a part of what Simeon was saying, ‘This child will cause many to fall and rise in Israel, and he will be will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.’ Joining her old friend, she too blessed the child before Mary, Joseph and Jesus left the temple.

As Anna and Simeon made their way back into the cool shade, inside the temple, she thought she detected a lighter step and aura of contentment about the old man. They settled down again in companionable silence to rest, each lost in their own prayer of thanks.

Joseph’s Monologue

Hello, are you going into town?

St Joseph by William Dyce (1806–1864)

St Joseph by William Dyce (1806–1864)

Ok, I’ll see you at the inn later, after I’ve taken care of a bit of business.

Later …

Hello again. I’m done now so I can have a goblet of wine before I go home, I reckon I’ve earned it. Grab a seat. (raises voice) Innkeeper, two goblets of wine here please.

I suppose you’ve heard about the census by now, It’s not so bad for you, you were born here in Nazareth but I’ve got to go up to Bethlehem. I’m not looking forward to the journey with that stubborn old donkey of mine and it won’t be easy for Mary in her state. Maybe I should get a younger one for her to ride, especially since she must be due to have the baby soon.

You wouldn’t believe the trouble we’ve had since she fell for the babe; word got round so fast that I’m not the Dad. It’s right of course but come on; in these modern times why does everyone need to make such a big fuss about it. It’s not like she’s a single mum living off charity.

Mind you, the story she told me about how she got pregnant does take some believing. Apparently, this weird stranger in white robe showed up. Just (snaps fingers) and there he is standing right in front of her, next to her cooking fire. She said he was so close to the fire, she didn’t know how his robe didn’t catch alight. Said he didn’t seem to notice the fire, or the heat at all, even though he was right next to it. Anyway this was one evening back in spring, just as it was beginning to get dark.

Actually, just between you and me, I’ve a sneaking suspicion she might have fancied the guy a bit.

I met him too you know, months later though, at least I think I did, although he never actually did tell me his name. Mary told me later he’s called Gabriel but he’d said for her to just call him Gabe. He’s some kind of Holy courier it seems, travelling all over the place delivering messages for his governor. He’s got some quite novel delivery techniques, so you tend not to forget what he tells you.

At supper, on the night Mary met him, not that I knew about it then, she did seem a bit distracted and her eyes were a bit red and puffy. I didn’t say anything because I think she was hoping I wouldn’t notice.

Anyway, soon after Mary met this Gabe character, she goes gallivanting off to visit her relative Elisabeth, up Judea way, and her husband Zechariah. They’ve been childless for years but Mary says she got news that Lizzy and Zec. are going to beget a little addition soon. Says she can go and help, so they don’t need to stump up for a midwife.

Well now, of course, I’m back to cooking for myself again. Still, it wasn’t all bad, no one to nag me when I’m a bit late coming home from making a delivery, and, maybe, dropping into the inn on the way home. And I managed to finish off all sorts of jobs that had been hanging around for a while. Got them all delivered and tucked away and made a nice tidy sum.

She was gone for months you know, visiting with Lizzy & Zec. She didn’t tell me how far Lizzy was along but I’d assumed she must be close, for Mary to traipse up there like that. I only found out when Mary came home that Lizzy was only six months when Mary went to see her.

I said earlier I thought I’d met this Gabe character, well it was a very weird experience. It was in a dream one night; just a few nights after Mary came home. It was only when she came home from Lizzy’s I found out she had a bun in the oven, I was mad enough at her without her giving me some story that she was faithful and having the child of God, through the Holy Spirit. I stormed out and came here to the inn. After I’d calmed down a bit I went home again but I still hardly talked to her for days. Maybe it would have been easier if she’d told me about it sooner, instead of just coming home pregnant.

Anyway, this dream was so real. I can remember the whole thing, as clearly as I see you now. What an ear bashing he gave me, telling me to look after Mary, don’t chuck her out, everything’s going to be ok. Didn’t he go on at me, with that and a whole lot of other stuff too.

I usually give as good as I get when someone takes that attitude, but this time all I could do was stand there gaping. My jaw hit the floor at the first thing he says, because he knows Mary’s going to have a child that not mine and that he told her about it months ago.

Well that might have been a dream but I woke up as soon as he’d gone and hardly slept for the rest of the night. By next morning I had a headache like you wouldn’t believe, without having a hangover either. I went down to the workshop like usual but I couldn’t concentrate on carpentry, so in the end I just went out for a walk. I must’ve gone for miles that day, most of the time without really paying much attention to where I was going.

When it got too hot, with the sun overhead, I managed to find a shady spot to rest in for a while and then I fell asleep. By the time I woke the sun was going down and my headache had gone. Although I wasn’t really in any hurry to get home, I still wanted to see where I was going before it got dark.

By the time I got back it was night and although I couldn’t see much in the gloom, there was no lamplight at home, I knew the house wasn’t empty, Mary was there. I lit a lamp but she was asleep when I went in so I didn’t wake her.

I sat there for ages in the dim, flickering lamplight and as I watcher her sleep my head finally began to sort things out. As I looked at Mary I knew I couldn’t just abandon her, or throw her out like just about everyone would probably say I should; she needed me. And when I realised that, I realised something else too; something the guy in the white robe had been trying to tell me; something I hadn’t seen myself until that moment. I needed Mary too. As much as she needed me, so did I need her.

After that little episode things have got easier, although she still has a hard time when she comes into town. Maybe this census is really a good thing for us, giving us an excuse to get away for a while.…..Oh, look at the time, I’d better get back or she’ll kill me, are you coming this way?

Annunciation: An Unexpected Visitor

Regular readers might remember an earlier post in which I gave a commentary on John Collier’s artwork Annunciation. That same picture is the inspiration for this fictional extract from Mary’s diary.

An Unexpected Visitor.

Annunciation by John Collier

Annunciation by John Collier

It’s been a strange day. I had a feeling of expectation almost since I left for school this morning. I didn’t listen to my lessons as I should have, a couple of the teachers shouted at me for not paying attention and at break times some of my friends asked if I was ok. I usually like school but today I just couldn’t concentrate and was glad when it was over and time to go home.

I walked home with Kirsty as usual, until we reached the end of her road, then I was on my own until I got home a few minutes later. From the time Kirsty left me, the odd feeling I’d had all day seemed to magnify. I had a feeling of unease that seemed to become more intense with every step I took toward my front door.

As I turned into my road I could see my home. Everything looked normal as I got closer but the odd feeling persisted. When I turned onto the path to our door, I noticed something unusual. The potted lily, that usually stood to the side of the door, had been moved. I wondered who had done it; it wouldn’t have been Mum or Dad.

I picked up the plant to put back and as I stood up I nearly dropped it again. A guy was standing there. There was no one before I bent down. I just stared for a few moments. I hope I didn’t have my mouth hanging open.

He looked young, only a little older than me but he had an air of authority and experience about him, like someone much older. He was neat and tidy, clean shaven but dressed in unusual clothes like robes. As the thought of clothes struck me, I realised I was chilly. An evening breeze had sprung up and I had no cardigan.

He gave me a few moments to collect myself, before introducing himself as Gabriel. I was surprised, but I didn’t sense anything amiss, so invited him in. He said no and that he was here just to give a message, which wouldn’t take long. He asked if I was ready and said the message might come as a bit of a shock.

He spoke slowly and calmly, at the same time taking my hand in his to steady me. ‘You’re going to have a baby’. He was quiet for a few moments then said, ‘It’s a special baby’. I didn’t know what to say, couldn’t think. When the shock wore off and thought came back, I worried what mum and dad would say, and my boyfriend too.

I started to ask how but Gabriel held up a hand to stop me. ‘Look within yourself’ he said and when I did I felt what he said was true. I knew it would be hard but his calm words made me feel it would be allright.

He released my hand and I turned to unlock our door. Just before going in I heard, or maybe sensed without hearing, his last few words. When I looked back, he’d gone as suddenly as he’d appeared. There was just the echo of his final words in my head, ‘Call the boy Jesus’.