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Hoosier Musings on the Road to Emmaus

Friday, April 09, 2004

Good Friday

Gospel: John [18:1-40], 19:1-37

Were you there? Did you see? I wish I hadn’t. I wish this day had never come.

It should have been me. There was nothing he ever did to deserve what they did to him. He’s always been... special, someone different, set apart. I know, every mother thinks so; but he really was-- even from before his beginning, when the angel visited, so I knew.

That’s not something that happens every day, you know.

And I clung to that through the days that followed, through the whispers, and the looks, and the accusations as my belly swelled up. I was grateful when Joseph said we were leaving. No one would know, where we were going... I was glad to leave home behind.

Until the night he was born. Then I was terrified. Childbirth is never easy, but I was so young, and so alone, in that strange place. Joseph and I had only been together a short time, you see, and to have him helping me... like that... felt so shameful. I could not control my own body, could not stop the pain, and the water, and the blood... How I wished for my mother that night, for any mother, to be there, to take this from me, to take control, to make it stop.

But then, finally, in a burst of effort, he was born; and Joseph laid him in my arms...

No, I didn’t forget all that had gone before; anyone who tells you that is lying. But suddenly, it was all worth it. And I knew that here was someone for whom I would do anything. And I swore then that I would never abandon him, as I had felt so abandoned. I would never stand by to see him hurt, as I had been hurt.

It should have been me.

Last night’s dinner had gone well. After he and his friends had gone, I stayed with the other women to clean up the room where we had celebrated the Passover meal, and then I went to bed. Then early this morning, I woke to frantic pounding at the door. It was Mary, that girl from Magdala, and John. I stood numb as they told me that he had been arrested. I couldn’t believe it. Arrested-- for what? I knew that there were people-- powerful people-- he had angered with his teaching, with his gifts; but never before had they touched him. Why now? What had happened? But they had no answers.

I dressed as fast as I could, and we went looking for him. By the time we were able to track him down, he was in Pilate’s hands. My heart froze to hear that.

The Romans are not kind to their prisoners.

We got to the praetorium, and there he was... oh, it hurts to remember. He had been beaten so... my own son, and I hardly knew him.

I tried to go to him, but John held me, kept me from going forward... I buried my head in his chest as the crowd, even our own people, screamed for his death. I couldn’t do anything as they tied the crossbeam to his shoulders, and forced him to walk the path up the hill.

I couldn’t look, but even in the noise and the clamor, I vow I could hear his footsteps. I would know them anywhere, those feet which had padded along behind me so often to market, which had walked beside me to his father’s shop, which had run ahead of me as boy and man...

Oh, it should have been me.

Then they took him to the hill... and crucified him there. I couldn’t see past the crowd, but I can still hear the hammers as they drove those spikes into him, and the screams that escaped him then. I thought that would go on forever.

And then, it was over. The cross was raised and set, and suddenly, horribly, there he was. My baby, that incredible gift brought by angels... my son, who had never harmed anyone... left there naked to die, while soldiers gambled at his feet with the clothing I had made for him.

Most of the people left, having seen the spectacle they had come for, so we were able to move closer then. And there we waited, listening for each breath.

Dreading it would be his last.

Hoping it would be his last.

Only once did he seem to be aware of us, as we stood there. He tried to smile, only a shadow of the grin I so treasured; and gave me into the care of the man that had held me through this grisly day. My son, as his last gift, gave me a son.

And then, soon after, he was gone.

They took him down, finally, and laid him in my arms, like Joseph had done so long ago. My beautiful, precious boy... an honorable, innocent man... now dead.

I held those bloody hands, and saw chubby fists, waving in the air.

I stroked his matted hair, and felt the silk the wind would catch on a spring day.

And I closed the eyes that had so sparkled with humor, and fire, and love.

It should have been me...

It should have been anyone else...

It couldn’t have been anyone else.


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