We stand again at the turn of the year, at the top of the mountain after a long and weary climb. We are the faithful, the few, the remnant who has trudged every weary mile, who has walked until we spat dust and tasted only the ache of hungry bellies and sore feet. We have asked for truth and been given riddles, wrapped in parables that shift and flash from our grasp like little minnows in the stream.
The one we’ve followed has dodged our expectations at every turn, has turned our ideas upside down. There have been days we’ve burned with embarrassment at his behavior, that we’ve winced as he trampled on the safe rules that have kept us right with God. When he’s shouted and we’ve wished desperately he’d just be quiet. When he’s dragged us into run down little houses filled with women and their clients, into the shacks of beggars and widows.
And the next day, his following grown with those prostitutes, widows, beggars he’s walked into the grand halls of a hard working businessman’s home and brought the whole smelly lot along.
There are two camps now, the lines are being drawn, right down the middle of his followers. One side, huddled around Peter and the sons of thunder, sure that our time has come, that this is the man who will make it right, who will restore David’s throne, make the Roman’s respect us, throw off their yoke. He’s got the people, the little people more than enough of them to squash the few paltry handfuls of soldiers keeping the peace, to challenge the Israelite flunkies Rome has put in the Temple, the palace. They’re sharpening their swords when no one is looking, spitting when a Roman walks by, they’re a bunch of tinder ready to explode at the first spark.
The others are more jumpy, they huddle around the cooking fire murmuring to Judas, casting nervous glances at where Jesus sits talking quietly to the Marys. They grumble that it wasn’t enough, offending every right living Israelite. It wasn’t enough thumbing his nose at religion. Now he’s taken on the whole bloody empire, he’s made a mockery of Caesar with that donkey thing, of the Governor, even Herod is probably going to hear about this one. None of them will be laughing. He’s gone too far, he’s made this political.
Now, he’s going to get us all killed. It’s the power, the shouting, the crowd, they’ve gone to his head. He’s starting to think he could really be king, or maybe he’s started to think we could get along without a king. We could let the world be run by the grubby peasants he’s so fond of. It’s not reasonable, it’s not realistic.
The women, bartering for our bread, stooped over the cooking fires, carrying the evening meal to the men in their clusters hear it all with a shiver of dread. They’ve lost husbands, fathers, brothers, sons to the violent ways of power and politics. They know the smell of fear, of death coming. The perfume of nard still hovers around Jesus as he sits talking, Martha sees danger in her sister’s rapt face, in the sharp intelligent eyes of the Magdalene.
We stand again at the turn of the year, at the top of the mountain, storm clouds gathering on the horizon dark and ominous. The trail goes down from here, down, into the blackness of the storm, down where lightening flashes and thunder rolls like the marching steps of armies.
The path splits. Some are already drifting away from the gathering darkness, going back the way they came, back to the comfort of home to the well established routines. Some have vanished into the market place, rolling up their sleeves and bending to work as if it can save them from what’s coming. Some have begun to plot and scheme, to bend events to their own will; to do something the way men always have with sword, and fist, and stone. They all look, but none of them see him anymore.
Mary, sees. Mary, who carried him and scrubbed his face, and kissed his skinned knee can feel the spear coming. Her eyes sweep the daughters of her body and her heart, catching them up, gathering them around him like a garden. They have nothing to wield as weapon but love, nothing to shield but their presence. The women see him, and in his eyes is a promise: if you walk this path, every step of it, your heart will be pierced and your life will be forever changed.
If you are brave enough, wild enough, unashamed enough. The promise is in his eyes, that reaches through the years and miles to catch the gaze of us all as we hesitate, stumble. Walk every step of these coming days with heart open, and your life will be changed. In the eyes of the women there is the promise, and never has that promise failed.
All at once he stands, and calls to all: “It is time, chose your path and walk it.”