Monday, March 29, 2010

The Day That Changed My World

The sun is high the sky as I head out to meet Mara at the market. I had finished my chores in record speed so we could have all afternoon to enjoy.

There is an awful lot of noise in the square this afternoon; not the usual noise of merchants hawking their wares. This is yelling and angry voices. I wonder what is going on. As I round the corner I see a huge crowd and there is Pilate standing on the stairs. Making my way to the front of the people I keep looking for Mara. There is a lot of murmuring, but I don’t know what it is all about.

“They say he performs miracles.”

“He is possessed of a demon; that’s why he can cast them out.”

“But did you hear he raises people from the dead?”

“I heard he was going to tear down the temple and build it back up in three days. Such nonsense.”

“Sara, Sara, over here.” Hearing my name I turn to the left and see my friend.

“Mara, what is going on?” I yell out to her as I push past others to make my way to her side.

Mara’s eyes are wide with fear. “They have arrested that man they call Jesus and Pilate is investigating.”

I had heard of this Jesus before. He had been traveling in the area and drawing a lot of attention. People either loved him or hated him. I didn’t know what the fuss was all about.

The noise quiets down as Pilate begins to speak, “I find this man guilty of no capital crime. I will order a flogging and release him.”

The uproar around Mara and me is horrendous. When it quiets down Pilate speaks, “Very well then as is the custom, I will release one prisoner. Should I release Jesus or Barabas?”

“Barabas, Barabas, Barabas.” The crowd roars back to Pilate.

“Mara, I can’t believe it. Barabas is a murderer and they want to let him go free. That is crazy. They haven’t proven Jesus guilty of anything as bad.” Something wasn’t right here and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

“I know Sara, it is so sad.”

“What should I do with Jesus?” Pilate questioned the crowd.

“Crucify him!”

We watch in disbelief as they put a crown of thorns around Jesus’ head and lead him out of town. I know where they are taking him and I’m not supposed to go there. My parents don’t allow me to hang out at the Skull like some of the kids do. They said I don’t need to know what happens there, but I know that is where they take prisoners to die. I know I will get in trouble but I can’t stop myself. I have to see what will happen to the man with the crown of thorns.

Mara and I run to follow them as they make Jesus carry his heavy wooden cross. As we go we hear people talking about him. It seems there were as many who were upset at this turn of events as those who want him to die.

People talk of his compassion and how he heals the sick. They talk of love and beauty. Surely it wasn’t the same man they spoke of.

I see Jesus fall and go to help him up. They take his cross and find someone to help him carry it. I use my robe to wipe away the sweat and blood from his face. “Jesus, why is this happening? I hear great things about you, but they are going to kill you for no reason.” The tears flowed and I couldn’t stop them.

“Oh, little one, don’t be sad. This is my father’s work. I must do this.” The big brown eyes are full of light and something else. They look the way my daddy’s look when he looks at me. It seems Jesus loves me. Could it be?

“But Jesus, you have done no wrong. I don’t want you to go. I want to get to know you.” I sob and sob as he holds me in a tight hug.

Just then he is ripped from my arms by one of the soldiers. “Move along brat. You don’t need to be here.”

Jesus is pulled way as he says, “Child, do not worry. I will see you again in heaven. I do this for you.”

When we all arrive at the Skull there are two prisoners already hung on wooden crosses. The soldiers begin to nail Jesus to his cross. My heart aches each time the hammer comes crashing down.

“Oh Mara, this hurts so much.” I turn to my friend. She looks at me with tears in her eyes.

We sit there for hours on that dusty hill as the crowd taunts Jesus and tells him to save himself. “If you are the King of the Jews take yourself down from the cross.”

I cover my ears to drown out the horror but it seeps in.

It seems like an eternity when suddenly Jesus cried out. “It is finished.” And then he died. The sun was blotted out and suddenly it is dark. Mara and I sit and hold each other. As I cry I remember what Jesus said. He had done this for me. He died a painful, awful death for me. Just so I could be with him in heaven.

Later they take Jesus’ body down and put it in a tomb. The place of the Skull is silent again. Mara and I head home.

Over the next few days I go about my chores, but can’t stop thinking about Jesus dying for me. He said he was doing it for me. I wasn’t sure I understood, but somehow that made my heart happier.

Three days after his death I am at the well to get water in the early morning hours when a man approaches me. He looks familiar. “Sara, it is good to see you.”

“How do you know my name? Do I know you?” I search his face which is wreathed in bright light. When I get to his eyes I see the love and compassion and I know. “Jesus, is that you? How is it possible? I saw you die.” I run to him and hug him.

“Sara, you did see me die. But, today I have conquered death. I am as alive as you are and I will soon go to heaven with my father to wait for you.”

Oh my goodness. This is too good to be true. Jesus is alive! “Come with me to tell Mara. She will be so excited.”

“I must go to my friends, but we will stop at Mara’s on the way.” Jesus takes my hand and we head down the road to town to spread the news.

Jesus is alive! Death could not hold him in the grave!!!

This story is based on a true story. You can read of Jesus in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the new testament of the Bible. I wrote this story based on a very personal experience I had on March 29, 1997.

I grew up in a Christian home and I had lots of head knowledge about Jesus. Intellectually I knew what the Bible taught about Jesus and that he died to save us all from sin. But, that’s all it was, head knowledge. On that night in 1997 I sat in an auditorium in a little church in the middle of a farmer’s field outside of Lebanon, OR. The months leading up to this day were so hard and I had reached a point where something had to change. I couldn’t keep going the way I was.

The program that night was a re-enactment of Jesus’ life and death. As I watched the actor portraying Jesus whipped, beaten, and crucified the story came alive for me. For the first time in my life I realized Jesus was a human just like me. He was fully God, but fully man. As a child I always believed that meant he died on the cross, but he was God so it didn’t hurt. That night I knew that as a man he felt every blow. He died a slow agonizing death as the weight of his body crushed the breath out of his lungs. He suffered and he did so that I might have eternal life. I could imagine myself at the foot of the cross hearing Jesus say, “I did this for you that you may live with me in heaven.”

He did it for me while I was still a sinner. He didn’t require that I clean up my act or stop swearing at other drivers while driving. He knew all of my sin and bad habits. Still, he loved me, he knew me that day on the cross and he chose to die for me. When he asked me to come along with him how could I not?

Don’t get me wrong; he loves me as I am, but he expects that love to change me. So, my sins, my bad habits, my swearing at other drivers were not to be left alone. He has continued to love me as he has encouraged me to change. I am not perfect. Those who work with me know that I still swear way more than I should, but knowing Jesus has changed me and continues to change me.

Today I am 13 in Christ and as any teenager I have gone through some tough spots. I have rebelled and I have suffered consequences. But, I am here to tell you that today Jesus still loves me. He hasn’t stopped even through my adolescent angst.

But there’s more to this story. He didn’t just die for me. He died for you too! He loves you just as you are right now. All he asks is that you believe in and trust him.

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