For Holy Week 2019, the Chapel presented a series of first-person narratives, called “Were You There,” from the perspective of different characters. This one, based on one of the women who kept watch at the cross, was written and presented by Deaconess Kristin Lewis for Candlelight Evening Prayer April 14, 2019.
I’m not quite sure how we got here. I still remember when I first encountered him. And now this……
I was in the synagogue like any other sabbath. Yet it wasn’t like any other time in the synagogue at least not like any other time up until that point. There was this man teaching, but different than any other scribe had taught before. He had a different authority. I found myself hanging on his every word and wondering who he was. And then it happened. This man came in and was clearly suffering from a demon. He seemed so disturbed the rest of us tensed up but this teacher just looked at him deeply. The man cried out or maybe it was the demon I’m not sure but it chilled me to the bone. I heard his name for the first time — Jesus. This teacher, Jesus, then spoke with such power and authority commanding the demon to come out of him.
I found myself wanting to see more, know more, I was so curious, so many questions, and maybe even deep down some kind of hope. I followed and watched as he went to Simon’s house. I then began to think of those in the community I knew that were hurting. The people I tried so desperately to deacon to. Those that were sick, those needing food, those needing something. We all kind of lived in our shadow places. I’m still not sure what possessed me but I had to go tell others about what I saw and tell them that there was someone at Simon’s house that might be able to help. By nightfall there was a crowd surrounding this house. As I told other women who might know others that need help and as I told those that I cared for I was so nervous. Nervous with hope and nervous with what if I was offering false hope. Could this man, Jesus, really help? Did I really see what I thought I had seen?
Memories of that evening overwhelms me still. That night where this man looked with such compassion. Looked in the eyes of many that others tried to avoid eye contact with. Touched those that were supposed to make him unclean yet he brought healing. Truly seeing people, and seeming to know them, know their needs, their hurts, their pain. I remember when he saw me. His eyes seemed to see me like no other. They were kind and compassionate. It wasn’t pity or disdain for the poverty I lived in. For the fact that I was not married.
That night I ran home and let my family know I was leaving. They were confused but I had to do it. I had to see more. I had to see what this man was going to do. I had to know who this Jesus was. Who else might he help?
It was almost 3 years of my life yet seems like a lifetime and yet like a blink. Time is strange like that. Sometimes I can barely believe all that I witnessed. But how did we end up here?
I mean, if I’m honest in the early days I was a bit nervous. He seemed to be fearless about eating with and associating with people I was always told would bring me down (not that I had that much further to fall). He would eat with tax collectors and sinners. He even TOUCHED a leper!!! I knew people would talk. Yet the talk seemed to spread of the different way this man lived. The hope he gave. The love he shared. He saw people in a way no one else did…..He saw me like no one else.
Over time I realized my own healing that was needed. The shame and pain I carried around. Yet he seemed to see my gifts. He saw my story but not one of shame but of one that showed the gifts I had to help bring his message love, hope, and healing to those around. He didn’t look down on me for being a woman. He didn’t look down on me for being unmarried. He saw me as a child of Yahweh. His message of welcome. His message of love. His message that seemed to give a place to those that have never had value in the society was so inspiring. Could the world really look different? Could all people really have a place?
Each day seemed to bring a new surprise. Each day new people. Each day new questions. There were so many nights where the women that traveled with Jesus like myself would gather in our tent and stay up late discussing all that we had witnessed. Asking questions about some of the things he said that we couldn’t really understand. Talking about the hope we had. With his gifts, his healing, with his power what if he took over the world? Each day was filled with going to a new place. We often found the women in the community that deaconed to those in need and told them about what we had seen with Jesus so they might bring those that needed to meet him. Some places we went the crowds pressed in. There was even those times that there were thousands that had gathered on the hill. We weren’t even in a city and yet they all came to hear what he had to teach us about Yahweh. It was a message of love, of hope, of community. No one wanted to leave but people were hungry. Somehow, I’m not sure how he did it, we had more than enough food going around. We sat on that hill eating fish and bread with thousands upon thousands. Many that maybe would have never sat at table together. Yet he invited us into community in a way we could have never seen. But after experiencing it I don’t want to ever go back.
But now what? I can’t imagine not doing this work being a part of this movement. But after what we just saw? Now what? How did I not see this coming? Couldn’t we have stopped it?
I knew that there were whispers. I had seen the questions and tests from authority but they never seemed to touch him. He never seemed concerned, always calm. So why should I have been nervous or scared? After all, there was so much work to be done for those that felt lonely, excluded, in pain, to experience this love this community that I had found. That WE had found.
I don’t want to go back to the shadows. I know what life can feel like. But now what?
He was suppose to come into the city and finally take over so those that had abused us and kept many of us out could be put in their place. I still remember that day he came to Jerusalem and every one was singing and shouting and dancing. He looked like a king, even if he was on a donkey. I remember thinking I know him. He loves me. I’m with this man Jesus that is going to be King. If only my father could see me now. See why I had to leave. See that I had value. I was going to be part of the king’s community. How did it change so fast.
I still don’t understand. Maybe those in authority were really afraid when they saw him being welcomed like a king. I don’t get it. He just wants everyone to have a place at the table. To be loved.
I don’t understand how Jesus let this happen. I have seen him and the power he has. He didn’t even seem to fight back. He just took it. Being ridiculed. Yelled at. Beaten. Crucified. I can’t seem to forget that image of his bloody head and broken body.
Chills run down my spine as I remember seeing him hanging there and crying out “My God My God Why have you forsaken me!” I remember thinking WHY! WHY aren’t you trying to fight? WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN US, JESUS? Why aren’t you trying to heal yourself? I have seen you help so many. Don’t do this. We need you. Fight back! How can we continue this work without you? This isn’t how it was suppose to go.
We stood there, all the women, not able to go back to the tent. Just watching. I think all hoping that somehow this wasn’t real. That somehow he would heal himself and come down from that cross.
Seeing the Marys, Salome,and Joseph carry him away to Joseph’s tomb didn’t make it any better. Now he really was gone. I close my eyes and see his beaten body. I don’t know how I can sleep tonight. Jesus was with me when I was in the shadows… when many of us were in pain and needed healing. Yet we couldn’t help him? How could we have stopped this? So many left him as if they didn’t know him. Will they forget the work we were doing of bringing healing and love? Will they forget all we have seen and experienced? Will we forget what kind of life Yahweh offers?
What am I going to do tomorrow? How can I go home and see my father and tell him that the man I was following was crucified by the authorities? He will be ashamed. How can I help them or anyone understand that there is a different way that Yahweh wants us to live. Maybe the other women will have an idea of what we do. How we continue on. I can’t believe I’m really not going to see him or hear him teach tomorrow? I just don’t understand how this happened….