Tag Archives: Disciples

Is It A Ghost?

An unexpected appearance.

Christ Appears to the Apostles Behind Closed Doors, by Duccio di Buoninsegna ca. 1255 – 1319

For a week now they had been keeping a low profile. Whilst not exactly in hiding, they were taking care to do nothing that might draw attention to themselves. As a precaution none of them went out alone and when they did, it was only for necessities. Didymus and Mary were out at the market, buying food.

The rest of them were in the upper room locked in, talking quietly amongst themselves as they had been for most of the week. It was not locked to keep them in but to keep others out, because they were afraid. They only unlocked it to re-admit one of their own. From time-to-time a voice would be raised as discussion turned to argument. The speaker quickly told to hush by the others, fearful that too much noise might draw unwanted attention.

Outside, shadows were lengthening and light failing. The sun dipped towards the horizon; soon they would have to light the lamps. The last rays of sun shone through the windows and where it fell was lit by the warm, evening light. Away from the windows, where those last shafts of light did not reach, the shadows deepened until they seemed even darker than the night that would come. Yet as dark as those shadows were, in the darkest corner it seemed to darken even more, thickening into an impenetrable, obsidian blackness.

Bartholomew saw it first. The others, after noticing he had fallen silent, turned to follow his eyes to where he was staring. Most of then stayed stock still, frozen to the spot they occupied. Some were holding their breath. Philip and Thaddeus edged closer to the door, ready to make a run for it. Finally James, the Son of Alphaeus, reached for a lamp and after a couple of unsuccessful attempts at lighting, a small flame guttered into life. Picking up the lamp and holding it out toward the darkened corner he moved closer.

As he approached and the flickering light lifted the shadows, they began to make out a figure, the shape of a man. A moment later the man moved. With an unhurried but sure footstep he came forward, stepping past James into the last shaft of sunlight in the room. Those closest took an involuntary step back and James dropped the lamp. At the same time his jaw dropped at the sight of who stood before them. When the lamp hit the floor and shattered, everyone jumped, startled. Fortunately, when the lamp dropped it went out so did not ignite the spilled oil.

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were the first to speak, saying almost together ‘Teacher’. Everyone in that room had witnessed miracles but this was beyond their wildest imagination. Even those who had believed Mary Magdelene, when she had first returned from the open tomb a week earlier and said their teacher was alive, were taken aback. A second later there was a joyous uproar as the ten men there saw their Lord alive and well, bearing scars.

As the uproar began to subside Jesus said ‘Peace be with you.’ He had to repeat it to get their full attention. He continued ‘As the Father has sent me I am sending you.’ and as he breathed the Holy Spirit over them.  ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’.

Diddymus and Mary were not back from the market so did not see Jesus. When they were told about how he had appeared to them, Didymus did not believe them. He wanted to see it for himself.

A week went by and when the eleven remaining disciples were again gathered together in the upper room, Jesus appeared again. After greetings were exchanged he addressed himself directly to Didymus. He knew that, that disciple had doubts and needed reassurance. Jesus showed him the wounds where the nails had pierced his hands and feet, and the spear was stabbed into his side.

Didymus reached out tentatively, twice withdrawing his hand, wanting to touch the Master but fearing to do so. He did not know if he was more afraid that this was Jesus come back to them, or that it was not the man he had known. Eventually, needing proof one way or the other, he resolved to touch the wounds.

Meeting Jesus’ eyes fully for the first time, he pointed to the wound in Jesus’ hand and was given an almost imperceptible nod of permission. Closing the distance from pointing to touching Didymus gently felt the uneven swelling around the wound in his master’s hand and the deep depression where the nail had penetrated. As he touched his friend and teacher, he could not help a sharp in take of breath, just as Jesus had done when the nail was driven through into the rough cross.

Didymus eyes flicked back and forth between Jesus face and his side, while he reached to where Jesus had parted his robe, exposing the angry scar where the spear had gone. He ran his finger tips along the scar, carefully so as not to cause pain by his touch. A moment later Didymus, usually known as Thomas, fell to his knees grazing them on the rough wood floor and, clutching at Jesus robe. He cried out ‘My Lord, my God’.

Based on John 20: 19-31

Wet Feet

And that sinking feeling.

When Jesus walks out on the water to meet his disciples, as he approaches the boat in which his disciples are already, Peter steps out of the boat to go to meet Jesus. Within a few steps of leaving the boat, Peter begins to sink in the water and calls out “Lord, save me!”

Jesus reached a hand to Peter saying “You of little faith, why did you doubt.” Did peter really deserve what seems to be a rebuke? Was it lack of faith or simple fear that caused Peter to start to sink? Should fear be associated with lack of faith? There is a suggestion, though nothing explicit, that even Jesus was afraid on the night before his crucifixion, when he said “take this cup from me.”

If anyone were to be the one to leave the boat to go to Jesus, it was almost bound to be Peter. He was impetuous, often acting or speaking without thinking first. That doesn’t make him lacking in faith.

In the first place, Peter was brave enough with sufficient faith to get out of the boat, apparently the only disciple to do so. It is evident that Peter did not start to sink immediately, he had taken some steps toward Jesus. Clearly Jesus was more than just an arm’s reach from the boat. It was when Peter noticed the growing ferocity of the storm that he started to sink, I think through fear not lack of faith.

It was Peter’s faith that impelled him to leave the boat to go to Jesus. It was fear that was the cause of starting to sink, then comes a second act of faith which seems to be generally unremarked upon.

As Peter began to sink he called out “Lord, save me.” He could have called out to the other disciples in the boat to throw him a rope, which I suspect is what many people would have done. Peter may have been afraid but he had enough faith in Jesus for him to be who he called on to save him.

Gethsemane

Maybe Mary’s view of Mark 14: 32-46.

Andrea Mantegna’s Agony in the Garden, circa 1460.

Where is he taking us at this time of night, she wondered as she picked up her shawl and followed the men out into the darkness. Moving slowly, partly because of the darkness and partly so as not to collide with each other, the small band of brothers and sisters made their way to the edge of town. It was hard enough to see in the streets, but at least there was the occasional glow from a window to help them.

Once outside the town, the road they were on was pitch black, with not a light. Yet even in this darkness, their leader seemed to know exactly where he was going and was sure footed, never missing a step or turning an ankle on the rough road they were following.

After walking for about half an hour, a break in the clouds let a few rays of moonlight through, and in a few more minutes, just as they approached a junction with a narrow barely seen path off the main road, they found their way lit by bright moonlight. Mary Magdalene breathed a sigh of relief recognising the road to Bethany as the moon lit their way. Just as her steps became surer, now that she could see better, she was surprised to see their leader turn off of the main highway down the side track. Trailing at the back of the group, she followed Jesus into a garden. ‘Where are we’ she asked James. ‘Gethsemane, I think’.

Jesus, after having a few words with his brothers, went deeper into the garden on his own. As the men settled down to wait for his return, Mary had a feeling that something wasn’t quite right. It was hard to see everyone, but she became convinced someone was missing.

A little later, Jesus came back and finding some of his disciples asleep he woke Simon-Peter and spoke to him in an annoyed tone of voice. Mary couldn’t hear what was said but guessed Jesus was chastising Simon for going to sleep, not keeping watch. A moment later, he was off again to pray, Mary assumed, on his own.

Mary moved closer to the group and noticing they seemed to be nodding off to sleep again, she dared to step softly among them at the same time drawing her shawl closer around herself as if it would hide her if they chanced to wake.

Hearing a small sound Mary looked up and, making out the again returning figure of Jesus in the night, she sunk down to sit by the nearest tree hoping not to be noticed. Again he confronted Simon-Peter, not just annoyed but now angry that he had let the disciples fall asleep a second time. His shouting at Simon-Peter had roused them all, and to a man they had all stood up to see what the commotion was. As they did so Mary realised that Judas Iscariot was missing from their company.

Jesus left them for the third time that night and when he came back again, to find them asleep yet again, he just said, in a resigned tone of voice, “Are you still sleeping and resting”. “It doesn’t matter now, it is time Here comes Judas”. Mary and the disciples looked around in confusion, seeing and hearing nothing for a few moments.

Seconds later Mary saw a glimmer of light, a burning torch seen flashing and fading as it was carried past the trees along the path toward them. As it approached other flaming torches appeared following it, seen before being heard the sound of footsteps became louder. Mary quickly realised that the approaching footsteps were not just a mob but some were stepping in time; a of a troop of soldiers marching.

The soldiers held their distance a little. It seemed they were only there to make sure there wasn’t too much trouble. Other than standing up to see what was happening, Mary stayed quite still in the shadows, watching.

She saw the mob carrying the swords and clubs surrounded Jesus, then from out of the darkness behind the mob stepped Judas. The mob parted for Judas as he walked up to Jesus. Mary wasn’t sure but Judas seemed to keep his head lowered, his eyes not meeting those of Jesus, and he said just one word, ‘Rabbi’. A moment later Mary watched him kiss Jesus then turn away, disappearing back into the mob. That kiss had evidently been a signal because the last thing Mary saw of Jesus that night, was him being arrested and dragged roughly away.

Don’t Answer Back, Just Do What I Tell You

after all I am your Mother.

Martin de Vos. 1597

When Jesus attends the wedding at Cana and is asked by his mother to provide more wine, his reaction is essentially, no I’m not ready to do that. Although he said it differently.

Jesus and his disciples were invited guests to the celebration but we are only told that Mary was there, not that she was invited. Can we infer anything from this? If Mary were just another guest, why would she be concerned about the wine running out?

Suppose that Mary was not simply a guest; suppose she had a hand in the organisation of the wedding feast. Why else should she be asking her son for more wine? Since this was Jesus’ first recorded miracle, how would she even know to ask him at that time?

Of course she might not know about his potential for miracles and so was just asking a family member for help in a sticky situation, that would reflect badly on the wedding’s host. Might it even be that Mary was the hostess and it was a brother or sister, literally in this case, of Jesus who had been married? Then no wonder she would be worried about a dearth of wine.

Could it also be that Jesus misinterpreted his mother’s question when asked to help. Mary might not, indeed probably was not asking for a miracle but that could be how jesus perceived the question when his initial reply was do not involve me.

When Jesus does comply with his mother’s wishes, he provides wine by the gallon. Something in the region of 120 gallons or more. Did it really need that much? Perhaps so,  it was not unusual for a wedding feast then to last for a week or more in that era.

Of course if I were being really cynical, I might suggest that Jesus mum just wanted him to replace all the wine his disciples had consumed, because she thought they had more than the rest of the wedding guests.

The wedding at Cana, according to the gospels,
is Jesus’ first miracle. (John 2: 1-12)

 

 

Wash Your Hands

and fold the towel when you’re done.

WashHandsIn Jesus’ time, when a carpenter completed a piece of work, it was fairly common practice for him to wash his hands and then dry them on a linen cloth, which he would leave neatly folded on top of the finished item. It was a way of letting anyone who inspected the object know that it was complete. Jesus was a carpenter, so would almost certainly have been shown this little ritual by his (earthly) father, Joseph.

On the day of resurrection, after Mary had called Peter and John to Jesus’ open tomb, they saw in it that although most of the grave clothes were left where they dropped, the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head in death had been left in its place where his head would have rested.

I wonder if this might have been a sign that Jesus himself was now complete, the finished article? Now he was ready to go to his Father? Maybe his crucifixion wasn’t only to take away the world’s sins, perhaps it was also the last aspect of humanity that Jesus had to experience for God to comprehend the full complexity of his creations and what death means to mankind.

If the folded head cloth was meant as a message, would any of the remaining 11 disciples discern it’s meaning. Five of the disciples’ occupations, before becoming followers, were unknown so one might have been a carpenter. Peter, who saw the folded head covering, had been a fisherman so probably wouldn’t have guessed its significance.

There were also up to five women who visited the tomb, including Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James. Even if one of these women had guessed the significance, if any, of the head cloth remaining in its place, would the men give credence to such insight, given women’s place in that society?

I think the act of leaving the head cloth in place, neatly folded might be a metaphor with Jesus’ former carpentry profession; a sign of His completeness and readiness to go home to His, and our, Father.

Vagabonds: Another Look.

Mark 6: 7 – 11 as it probably didn’t happen. 

I can’t believe he’s done it, really done it, sending us out without any coin to our names. We’re not even allowed to take spare clothes, so he says, we’ve got to go in what we’re standing up in. He’s had some pretty hair brained schemes before but this one takes the biscuit. Who knows what he’s gonna come up with next. At least he said we can take staffs.

Well I suppose we should think ourselves lucky he said to travel in pairs. He might have sent us on our own, knowing him. Mind you, even in pairs there could be a bit of trouble or argument, about whose to go with whom. I guess we were pretty lucky getting sent together. We could have been stuck with one of the thunder boys each.

Oh well, c’mon Andy, let’s get going, before he notices us loitering. Where to do you reckon? I wish I knew Phil. I’m not even sure where we are, we’ve visited so many villages these last few days. Erm, has anyone even thought to ask him where we’re supposed to meet up again, after our odyssey?

Which way did the Thunder Boys go, did you see? North, I think. Ok, then I say we should go South. We don’t want to follow them around anyway and we stand better chance of keeping away from trouble further away from those impetuous idiots.

Hey look, isn’t that Andy and Tommo going the same way we said too? I think so, it’s hard to tell, squinting toward the sun. Let’s step it out a bit, see if we can catch up to see for sure. If it is them, we can have a bit of extra company for a while. At least until we have to choose which way to go at a fork in the road. C’mon mate.

Oh, now where did they go? I saw them turn this corner and there’s not so many ways they could choose. Oh well, I guess it’s just you and me then. Lets go. We’ll try and make the next village before sunset.

What was it the guv. said about dust on our shoes? Summat about kicking it off as we leave, wasn’t it? I presume he didn’t mean it literally as we leave a house. People wont be happy about having to sweep their doorsteps’ when we leave.

It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless
our walking is our preaching. – Francis of Assisi

My original post Vagabonds.