Saturday, March 28, 2015

An Easter Reflection (based on the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke)

Easter is just around the corner as Sunday, March 29 2015 begins what Christians refer to as Holy week. It begins with Palm Sunday and Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem. For those believers who engage in a more traditional observance of Holy week, Palm Sunday is followed by Holy Thursday, also known as Maundy Thursday. This is the last day that Jesus spent with His disciples away from the crowds. It was the day He brought new meaning to the Passover meal by informing His disciples that this meal would forever symbolize His sacrifice as the ultimate Passover Lamb whose blood would be shed for the forgiveness of sins. The following day is Good Friday, the day of Jesus crucifixion. Finally, the glorious day of celebration which is Easter Sunday also known as Resurrection Day. Those who read the Bible are familiar with the gospel accounts of Holy Week. We tend to focus rightly so on Jesus who is the central figure of the Passion narratives. We also look at the twelve who followed Him to the very end until He was arrested at which time they all fled except for John who stood at the foot of the cross with Jesus' mother, Mary. As I was reading the Gospel accounts of the resurrection I was drawn to some of the other participants in this narrative, in particular the women. Perhaps you have heard pastors or others say how the women followers of Jesus were the last at the cross and the first witnesses to the resurrection. However, I don't think we really stop and realize the impact of how Jesus changed the cultural standard of women's roles during His ministry. I began to think, how did these women feel about their relationship with Jesus? If they had the opportunity to write about their experience of Jesus in a journal what would they say? The following reflection is an attempt to capture what a journal entry might look like for one of these women. Her name is Mary. However she is not Mary, the mother of Jesus but rather Mary, the mother of James the younger and of Joses. (Mark 15:40) Unlike, our familiarity with Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, Mark gives us very little information about this Mary. However, she is obviously a follower of Jesus as Mark tells us that she stood with Mary Magdalene and Salome at a distance watching Jesus' crucifixion. Mark also tells us that she along with the other women listed cared for Jesus' needs. (Mark 15:41) Additionally, Mark states that she along with Mary Magdalene saw where Jesus was laid after His burial. (Mark 15:47)
Journal Entry:The Day After Passover
"I don't understand what is happening. Moreover, I don't know how it got to this point. As a woman I was not supposed to be following Him. The traditions of my people dictate that as a married woman I am not supposed to be traveling with this group of male disciples. In fact my public appearances were to be limited, my head to be covered, and I was to be home fulfilling my domestic duties. But here I am standing on a hillside with other women just like me watching this terrible moment unfold. I remember all of the sweet moments I had with Jesus. He greatly appreciated my caring for His needs during the time He spent teaching us and many others. I felt uncomfortable being among the many who sat down to learn from Him, fearing that I would get into trouble. But He never indicated that I was doing anything wrong. I remember hanging on to His every word and experiencing an overwhelming sense of peace but above all love! Yes, I felt loved in a way that I have never felt before. Now, here I am listening to His cries, asking why YHWH does not intervene on His behalf? I have heard rumors that the curtain in the temple has been torn in two from the top to the bottom. Someone else said that a centurion remarked that Jesus was truly the "Son of YHWH." My heart has been broken into a million pieces. My sorrow is more than I can bear. My tears are flowing like a river whose banks can no longer hold back the flood."

Journal Entry: Preparation Day
"It is the day before the Sabbath. The day after the horrible events of yesterday. People are still in a state of shock and disbelief. I heard that Jesus died quickly and there was no need to hasten His death as the Romans commonly did by breaking the legs of those crucified. I am thankful for that fact and it gives me some peace. But the Sabbath is coming and Jesus must be buried quickly. I wondered what is going to happen to His body? His mother and family members are common folk and can't really afford a fancy tomb. I was told that a wealthy gentleman, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, or what we call the Sanhedrin took the risk and asked Pilate for Jesus' body. Pilate was a bit shocked that someone would come to claim the body so soon. Even more shocking was that Joseph was not even related to Jesus. It was the custom to release the body of one condemned for high treason to an immediate relative . But when Pilate learned from his centurion guard that Jesus had already died, he gave the body to Joseph. What a wonderful gesture on Joseph's part. I learned from some others that Joseph was going to lay Jesus in His own personal tomb! A tomb in which no body had ever been laid. I couldn't believe this was true so I asked Mary Magdalene to go with me to check out the location. Together we took note of where Jesus body was laid. Mary and I agreed that we would take responsibility after the Sabbath to bring the spices and anoint Jesus' body. I could not think of any greater privilege or gesture of love than to do this for Him."

Journal Entry:The Surprise
"Early the next morning after the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene and I went to fulfill our promise to anoint Jesus' body. Our friend, Salome who also stood with us on the hillside and witnessed His death asked to join us. It was just after sunrise and the sky was beautifully colored with hues of pink and orange. I could not understand how the sky could be so beautiful on such a sad morning. Nonetheless as we were on our way to the tomb we began to realize that it was so early that no one else was up yet. A massive stone had been rolled in front of Jesus' tomb and a Roman seal set upon it. I thought to myself, maybe we ought to turn around and find someone to help us. But as we approached the tomb, something looked very unusual. I couldn't believe my eyes! Mary Magdalene and Salome were speechless. The stone had been rolled away! Who could have done this? I saw the group of men it took to roll that stone in place after His burial. Then my heart sank as I thought maybe a group of robbers came back during the night while we slept and took His body. I could not bear the thought that someone would dishonor Jesus that way. I had to face my worst fears and I asked Mary and Salome to come with me as we entered the tomb. Yes, my fears were confirmed His body was missing but a different fear arose as we saw a man dressed in white near the tomb. He was not someone I recognized from the community. In fact he looked strangely different in a way I could not easily describe. All I know was that we were terrified when we saw him. Then, he spoke to us words that were soothing and peaceful. He told us not to be afraid. He knew we were looking for Jesus. Then he said something incredibly unbelievable. He said Jesus was not there because He had risen! I felt frozen in place as I tried to comprehend what this man had just told me. Could it really be true? I remember Salome having conversations with her sons James and John who were part of Jesus inner circle. She shared with us that Jesus had told James and John that He was going to be crucified and rise on the third day. This man in white was not finished with his message. He told us to go and tell Jesus' disciples that He was alive and would meet them in Galilee. What? He wants us to go and tell Jesus' disciples this amazing news? We are women. The disciples will never believe us. However, despite our anxiety, somehow I knew this was Jesus special gift to us. His way of acknowledging that no matter what had happened He cherished us and loved us enough to entrust us with this sacred task. So we went and that day changed everything! I will be forever grateful to Him and I know my life will never be the same."

May you once again be refreshed and renewed by the message of love and grace from our Lord, Jesus Christ. HE IS RISEN!
Have a blessed Easter!
Pastor Sheree

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