Because He Lives, I Am Changed

Dreidel was my favorite game when I was a little girl. It’s a wonder I loved the game, since I could almost never make it spin. The best thing about knowing Jesus then was when he carved me a dreidel with those strong hands that worked carpenter tools like magic. Even the tune he hummed put magic in the air. It was the only dreidel I could ever spin!

Jesus never uttered an unkind word. At least, not in my hearing. The charity I received, he gave to each person he met. He even treated the animals in our village with the same respect he gave people. His deep-set, dark eyes revealed an inner calm that I have never seen in anyone else. And when we were around him, that peace enveloped us all.

He was like a big, protective brother to me while we grew up in Nazareth. I felt special when his muscular arms helped me carry heavy loads. He stood up for me in every argument with my older brothers. It made me feel like I had won, even though he did the work. And if we needed water late in the day, his tall frame, with hand shielding his eyes from the setting sun, stood in the distance, to make sure no robbers or lion lurked to attack me. I felt safe when Jesus was near.

He was brilliant, too. But instead of impressing people with big words and long quotes from Scripture, he laughed as he told stories to explain God’s ways. We sat and talked for hours, Jesus and me. He paid attention to every word I spoke, with his eyes locked on mine. In fact, each person he spoke to felt like he was alone in the world with him.

When Aaron and I married, he celebrated with us. When my first child was born, he shared our joy. He was like a brother to us. The day he left Nazareth for his ultimate call, a little ache began in my heart. I didn’t understand the feeling. I felt different about my husband whom I love very much. Still, I would have followed Jesus, if circumstances had allowed.

To keep up with his busy new life I asked every traveler to our town if they had news of him. The stories of healings, and teachings, and the times he stood up to the Pharisees amazed me. But not totally. Because I knew Jesus was destined for greatness.

In Jerusalem with my husband for Passover that year, I was glad we stayed in the city, not merely within the prescribed boundaries. I thought we’d have a better chance to see him; it had been such a long time since our last meeting.

Of course, the horrid turn of events blew into my mind and heart like an unexpected sandstorm. Preparation Day was a blur of pain, agony, disbelief and anger. And many tears. I nearly fainted as the crowd chanted to crucify the man who was a brother to me. “He’s not a criminal! I yelled to the world. “No! No! No!” I screamed, when I watched the scourging in the praetorium tear and bloody his flesh. I wrung my hands and wailed, when they forced him, battered, bloodied, and beaten, with a crown of thorns pressed into his head, to carry his cross. Just the thought of the Place of the Skull, Golgotha, where he would be executed, made my stomach churn. On the narrow streets I kept pace with the growing crowd, many of whom jeered unfounded accusations and tossed rocks at him. I never left his side, all the way up the hill. Death hung in the air.

My head began to spin with the echo of iron pounding on iron as I watched soldiers bang, bang, bang the huge nails through his hands and feet onto the cross. Then they grabbed hold of the cross and thrust him up with no more care than if he were a butchered lamb. Blood coursed down his face from the long thorns. His gaping flesh was a violation of all that was good. Though I was afraid of potential consequences if I showed my allegiance, I couldn’t help but sob. I screamed out my own pain, “Why? Why are you doing this? He never hurt anyone. He is innocent!” No one could hear me over the deafening din of the mass of onlookers that closed in on him.

You can imagine what the next hours were like as they continued to mock and torture such a kind man. Through it all, I could see love and forgiveness in his eyes. And much pain.

Rumors had floated all over Galilee for years about who he was. My heart confirmed the fact long ago. Why do they want to kill The Messiah?

I heard his anguish, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” No words can describe the agony on his mother’s face as she stood by his blood-soaked body.

A Roman soldier stood near me through the entire spectacle. He didn’t actively participate in the wickedness, until he was ordered to hurry the death of my friend by piercing him with a sword. When both water and blood flowed from Jesus’ right side, my head jolted around to look at him as he whispered, “Surely this man was the Son of God.” Even Romans believe.

And then Jesus gasped the words that crushed all hope, “It is done. All is fulfilled. The price is paid. It is finished.”

They murdered the Messiah. My heart wrenched. I gasped for air as my body collapsed.

Before another tear could fall after his last words, the sun vanished behind black clouds and the ground broke apart all around us. Fear consumed my sorrow as I tried to stand on the shifting earth, “Help me! Someone help me! Jesus!” What had they done? What had I done? Could I have been a better friend? What should I have done to prevent this? Oh, my God, forgive me. Rivers of tears rushed endlessly down my face, while I groped along the ground toward Mary in the midst of chaotic running and crying all around.

Later, when I learned how the veil over the Holy of Holies in the Temple tore in two at the exact moment of his death, wonder began to edge out fear in my heart.

As the earth grumbled and the sky wept ferociously, they removed him from the cross and placed his bloodied body into the arms of his weeping mother. Mary is such a gentle woman. Oh, how she and Joseph loved their only son. As she gently rocked him, letting her tears wash his blood encrusted face, I buried my face in my hands. I can’t watch her pain.

That night and the next day, I, as many, moved about with glazed eyes, not really seeing. The motions of the Feast were disconnected from my reality. Parched like an old wineskin discarded in the desert, my heart shriveled within.

On the third day, I awoke just before dawn. What do I hear? The birds are singing! Only then did I realize that even the birds were mute during the stony silence of the last days. On my mat I listened to a great symphony of delight as every bird and small animal in the land awakened together.

Without disturbing my cousins whom we stayed with, I snuck out and scurried to the house where Mary stayed. I asked if I could join her and the other women to bury my friend properly. We could only hope that wicked Pilate’s guards would move the stone for us.

Close to the tomb, the ground shook again. Not like before, but enough to be noticed by everyone. We shared a frightened glance. Would another earthquake prevent us from giving him the respect and honor he deserved? The stones and grass were pink with the dawn. Instinctively, as we approached the tomb, my hands shot up to shield my eyes from a bright light. On the ground were the guards. I think they’re dead! I squinted as we hastened on. Why is the great stone in front of the tomb moved away? My heart skipped a beat. Oh, no. Now what have they done to him?

All of this happened too fast to track. I no sooner panicked when I saw the guards and the rock, when I realized the blinding light blazed from the stone itself. A figure with a golden face that radiated like lightning, and a shimmery white body, sat on the rock. His brilliance spilled onto the grass and trees and us. I gasped.

“Don’t be afraid,” he spoke with gentle power that arrested our rising fears. “He isn’t here. He has risen, just like he said. Go see for yourselves. And then go quickly to tell his disciples that He will meet them in Galilee.”

Our wide eyes blinked at each other. Tears sprang as we rushed to the tomb’s entrance and peered inside. And then we fell into each other’s arms when we saw the place where they had laid him, empty. Every part of me tingled with awe. Even so, a bit of darkness still threatened my renewed joy.

We turned to run but stopped hard. Before us stood my best friend, my Lord. Jesus,” I whispered as my heart leapt. I dropped to my knees and kissed his feet.

He knew that though we believed, we still were apprehensive. “Don’t be afraid,” he comforted. “Now, go and tell my brothers that they will see me in Galilee.” And in that same instant, He was gone.

“Oh, rejoice in the Lord,” we sang with unbridled joy. “Let’s hurry to tell his disciples.” Our feet fled on wings of angels to tell the Good News that restored all hope; the news that changed our lives and the whole world – forever.

Based on the story in Matthew 28:1-10

This story can be found with 35 other short stories in the book Who is Jesus?

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