Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday - Last Thoughts

This is the conclusion of Jim Bishop's book The Day Christ Died, which I cannot recommend highly enough.

Nicodemus took the empty spice boxes and the linen strips which were left. He gazed long upon the face of the Mother of Jesus. Then, with no farewell, he turned and went away. Joseph bowed to the women, and followed him. Young John looked helplessly at the big millstone, then told Mary, the Mother of Jesus, that it was time they started for "home." Mary nodded slightly and managed a small smile for her new son. He took her arm, and they left, walking through the garden of wild flowers and up onto the rock shelf where the three uprights stood, and across the roads and through the gate into the Holy City.

Mary of Alpheus said that she did not want to leave. She sat before the golet -- the great rolling stone -- and leaned her back against its beige roughness. Mary Magdalen sat down beside her. Both leaned against the stone.

It had been a long day. A very long day. There was much to remember, and some would remember it this way and some would remember it that way. Much of it had been done in secret, despite the public execution, and it would be weeks before the news reached the small towns of Galilee and the settlements east of Jericho.

The grief among the followers of Jesus would be poignant, a volatile fuel which, in its own fierce flame, burns itself out quickly. They did not understand (For a moment in time at least they could not understand.) To their way of thinking, this was a tragic defeat. It was not.

It was victory beyond their most exalted imaginings. He had come here to die. And he had died. He had come to preach a new covenant with his Father, and he had preached it. He had come to tell man that the way to everlasting life was love -- each for the other, each for him, and his love for all -- and he had proved this by laying down his life in a torrent of torment -- for them.

He did not die particularly for the Jews, or for the Gentiles. He died for man. All mankind. He came to Palestine to lay the foundations of his new covenant because he and his Father were dissatisfied with the old. The Father had never made a covenant with the Romans, or the Greeks or the Egyptians. He had made it, through Moses, with the Jews. And the leaders of Judea had, over the centuries, perverted that covenant until worship became a matter of externals in which all inner love was missing. If a new covenant was to replace the old, it would be negotiated with the same people.

That is why he had to die in Palestine; that is why, of all the cities in Palestine, he had to die in the Holy City -- the city of his Father. The high priests rejected him and plotted against him and killed him. The people didn't. The people were looking for the Messiah, waiting eagerly. And, although Jesus did not fit their conception of a resplendent Messiah clothed in clouds of glory, they were willing to listen. They did listen. And many of them gave up their worldly possessions to follow him. The people were of good heart.

Inside the sepulcher now, Jesus was not dead. If he was, then all men are dead; they creep irrevocably toward darkness. But this is not so. There were too many signs to the contrary. For two and a quarter years, Jesus pointed the way and, had he followed the dictates of his heart, he would have done nothing but cure and cure and cure. In a way, the miracles interfered with his mission, which was to preach the good news and to die. His body was to be rended and its functions were to cease. In this immolation, his soul would be glorified and in this too he was pointing the way to man.

The two Marys sat with their backs to the stone. They loved him and, in their love, they missed the enormous triumph; the new promise; the good news.

They did not even notice that the sun was shining.

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