08 April 2012

Diary of a Disciple: Day 1007

by Dr Mark Keown

Unbelievable! Sensational! Glorious! Hallelujah! “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love endures forever.” What can I say? If Friday and Saturday were the worst days of my life, this is the best day of my life. It is the greatest day in history! Yeshua is risen! He is alive! He is Messiah! Our hopes have not been in vain! Praise be to the God of Israel!

It all started as was planned. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Joanna, Salome and one or two others went to the tomb to anoint the body. Yeshua’s mother was spent so John and James’ mother remained with her.

The women were wondering how they would get the stone aside. We should have gone with them I now realize – we are such wimps! As if the Romans will help!

They needn’t have worried for when they got there, they were stunned to find that the Roman soldiers were gone and the stone had been rolled aside! For a minute they thought they had the wrong tomb, but they had taken a careful note where the tomb was when they had been with Joseph as he had buried Yeshua.

As they stood outside in total confusion – as if they needed any more – they saw a man in gleaming white clothes. Actually, Salome swears she saw two men, but that is by the by – they can be forgiven for not getting everything right when in such shock. The man told the women something like, “don’t be afraid, you are looking for Yeshua the Nazarene who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. Go and tell his disciples that he is going ahead of you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”

After this, if I am honest, the details are sketchy – hardly surprising with something so astonishing! It seems that the women made to return. Mary Magdalene told us that as they headed back she became separated in the garden and had an encounter with a man she thought was the gardener. She then claims that the man revealed himself as Yeshua. She fell at his feet, but he told her not to touch him. I didn’t know what to think when the women told us all this I must admit. Women are notoriously unreliable when it comes to such things. But Mary has been so trustworthy?

I wasn’t alone in being skeptical. We all were. There were some heated interchanges as Mary and the others insisted on what they had seen. Then abruptly Peter spoke, “I am going to have a look. Come on John.” John jumped up. Others wanted to join, but Peter said it should be a small group – our lives may still be in danger. They were gone in a flash.

My head was abuzz with thoughts. Can we trust the women? Are they deluded? A hallucination? Was the angel a ghost? My dad had always told to me never trust a woman – too emotional. These women have never made me doubt them though. They are actually amazing! I don’t know? Or, has someone stolen his body? If so, who? Only the Romans themselves could have pulled it off with the kustodia posted outside, the guard. They were hardly likely to do it too. Did someone bribe them? It wasn’t one of us; we were here all last night. Judas – I have no idea where he is? Joseph? Nicodemus? Hardly likely, they would have told us and they renounce such things. And if they did, why? What is there to gain, except more bloodshed? Did Yeshua get out of the tomb? Was he really dead, or was he unconscious? No, he was dead. His blood had separated. What’s more, how on earth would he move the stone with his hands torn with nails, and slip past or overcome the kustodia with his wounds? Or is this what he meant when he made those bizarre predictions of his suffering, death and resurrection? Mmmmm.

While Peter and John were gone, Cleopas stood up. He spoke openly of his doubts and that there must be another explanation. Mary and the women responded resolutely and angrily, telling him that he had no respect for women and that they knew what they had seen. Cleopas snapped at this point and said that he had had enough and that he was returning home to Emmaus. I said I would join him for the eleven km walk, I needed to get away. He needed a companion as well; it may not be safe on the road. We slipped out into the city and on our way.

It was a lovely warm early spring day, not that I really noticed. I was glad to get away from the intensity of the room. We talked about what had happened. We tried to make sense of it, discussing the options. It was an intense discussion as we batted ideas back and forth. As we slowly drifted along a traveler came up from behind. He was dressed in a long robe with long sleeves that covered his feet and hands, while his face bore many scars. I pondered what this traveler had been through – some severe accident. He asked us what we were speaking of and why we were so sad. Cleopas responded rather bitterly as I remember, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” The traveler asked him to clarify, “what things?”

Cleopas told him of Yeshua, his amazing prophetic ministry of preaching and his miracles throughout the nation. He told him how we had thought he was the long awaited Messiah, and how our hopes were dashed. He retold the story of the last two days from his arrest to his death. He spoke of our shattered dreams that he would raise up the people of Israel, overthrow the Romans, and bring to pass the last days where Israel would be restored and God’s rule would extend to the ends of the earth. He told him of his burial, and how this very morning some of the women had gone to the tomb and found the stone rolled away, the guards gone, the body gone and the women’s experiences of the angel. We told him of Mary’s supposed experience of seeing Yeshua.

The stranger listened intently, his eyes having a certain almost familiar warm penetrating power. Then he spoke. What he said blew our minds. He started by insulting us as fools and that we should believe the prophets – we didn’t really notice surprisingly. He went through the sacred scriptures, speaking of Moses, the first Joshua, the words of Isaiah especially the Servant and Isaiah 53, the Psalms especially Psalm 22, of Daniel 7 and the Son of Man – he spoke of a Messiah very different to the one I had always dreamed of – one who came not with sword to establish Israel above the nations and to reign with armies, but one who would come with mercy and compassion to restore through love. He spoke of the need for Messiah to suffer and to die as a sacrifice for sins, to save all peoples of the world – I had never noticed that in the Scriptures. He spoke of his resurrection, reaching back to Ps 16 and Isaiah 53. He spoke of a plan to restore a world with love and with preaching the good news. My heart blazed as he spoke. It was if a sword was piercing my very soul.

We came to Emmaus and the traveller made to go on. We pleaded with him to come to Cleopas’ home, to enjoy the hospitality of his family. We wanted to hear more! He smiled; I will never forget the deep warmth of his scarred countenance. We still had no idea of his name or who he was. I believed he must be an angel, or more likely a prophet who had tasted great sorrow.

As we arrived, Cleopas’ family welcomed us in. It was time for the evening meal, and as always, the women had extra food in case of travellers or the return of Cleopas. We sat in silence. The traveller reached for the bread. He looked skyward. He gave thanks – the very words of blessing Yeshua had used at the final meal.

“What is going on,” I thought?

He broke it. He handed it toward Cleopas. Cleopas took it, I saw his eyes widen and mouth open with shock. The traveller turned to me. He handed me the bread, gazing deeply into my eyes. I reached for the bread, and suddenly it dawned on me – it is Yeshua! I slowly stood in utter disbelief and amazement – then he was gone!

All Hades broke loose! Cleopas and I cried, “it is Yeshua.” The women began to weep, we began to laugh, shock, uncertainty and joy intermingled in the room. Cleopas looked at me asking me what I had felt as he had gone through the sacred Scriptures as we walked. I said it was as if my heart was on fire – he said he had felt the same. We resolved that we must return to Jerusalem at once to tell the others. The women were right! Cleopas’ wife remained with the children to come later. His older sons joined us; they were as excited as we were, for they had known Yeshua too. We prepared with haste, and slipped into the early evening. We travelled the eleven kilometres in less than an hour.

We arrived at the home. We found the eleven and others gathered in the room. The mood was no longer one of doubt, confusion and contention. The room was abuzz with excitement. Before we could share our news we were stunned to hear that Yeshua had appeared to Simon Peter as he had walked in the Mount of Olives. We then shared our story of the traveler, his explanation of the Scriptures, the meal, and his disappearance. Joy filled the room. Yet some still doubted. Who can blame them? I apologised to Mary for my earlier doubts. There was joyous reconciliation.

As we rejoiced, suddenly, without warning, Yeshua appeared among us, materialising from nowhere. He spoke in rich Aramaic: “peace be with you.” Some were terrified, believing him to be a ghost – they shrunk back. Peter, Cleopas, Mary, me and some others had no such doubts. Yeshua spoke, joy and love in his eyes. “What are you troubled? Why do doubts rise up in your minds?” He pulled up his robe revealing his bare feet; he rolled up his sleeves to reveal his hands. He spoke, “Look at my hands and my feet. It is I! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” Mary his mother was first. Then Mary Magdalene, overjoyed at now being able to hold him. We all came and touched his scars and felt his embrace! I felt his power. Some even experienced healing at his touch! It was glorious. Amazement flooded the room.

Then again he spoke. “Do you have anything here to eat?” Salome went to the table and took some broiled fish from the evening meal. She brought it to him. He took it and ate it. He sat down, and beckoned us to do the same. We complied for we knew when he sat it was time for him to teach us. The women all sat at his feet, gazing at his eyes, touching his scars – their anticipation like us all palpable. He looked at us, and he loved us!

He told us the same account we had heard on the Emmaus Road, this time with even more detail and depth. He spoke of the need for the Scriptures to be fulfilled. It was as if a veil was removed from our hearts and minds. We saw clearly for the first time that the path to redemption was not a warrior Messiah, but a Messiah who would come in compassion, suffer, and die for the forgiveness of all people. He told us that our job now was to go and tell the story to the world beginning in Jerusalem so that all the world will know that Yeshua is saviour and Lord. He told us to wait in Jerusalem until we had received the gift of the Spirit which he and the Father would pour out upon us so that we would be clothed in power, just as he is. He warned us that we would suffer and die too as many will reject the message, even our own people. He helped us to understand all those “parables” of suffering and death – and that we should take up our crosses. We talked late into the night. We asked when he would restore Israel; he said only the Father knows. Who cares I thought, Yeshua is Messiah and Lord! It was the greatest night of my life – I will never forget it! It will sustain me to the end.

Later he took us out of the city toward Bethany. He raised his arms. He blessed us. We watched as he ascended into the air. Soon he was lost to our view. We began to sing, Ps 118 of course! It was glorious. Two men appeared alongside us. They told us that one day he would return in the same way. We returned to Jerusalem, joy in our hearts.

What a week! What a story! It began with glorious hope as Yeshua entered Jerusalem on a donkey, the victorious king. Then our hopes were vanquished as he defied our expectations, was arrested, was killed and buried. Yet now he is risen! He has called us to take his story to the world, even to the Romans! We are to love them too for Yeshua died for them as well! Wow! He will empower us! I have no idea what tomorrow will bring for he warned us of great suffering ourselves and that many of us would die for him and his Kingdom. But I am now ready to die for him – bring it on.

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