(Ten years later)
“Mama. Mama! Let me in. I have news!” I had been sound asleep, dreaming of something soft and peaceful when the loud knocking woke me. My daughter, Hannah, who was usually so calm, was shouting at the top of her lungs in the middle of the night. I groaned as I got out of bed, noticing keenly that I was not as young as I often believed I was.
“What is it Hannah? Is it the baby?” I asked, worried now. My Hannah had just given birth to a baby boy several weeks ago, and I wondered if it had taken sick. “No, Mama. It is much worse than that,” she said dismally.
What could be worse than a sick child, I wondered. “Well, Hannah? What in the world could be troubling you at this hour?” I asked, slightly annoyed that she had not left me to my sleep if it was not my grandchildren.
“It’s Jesus. He’s been arrested and taken to Pontius Pilate, and they are going to crucify him tomorrow,” Hannah said, tears sliding down her cheeks. Inwardly, I groaned. Not this again. My Hannah had devoted herself to serving Jesus ever since the day that he ‘healed’ Isaac. I still did not believe it was his doing, but Hannah had come to believe that Jesus was the Messiah as Mary had claimed.
What nonsense. My Hannah was fooled too easily.
“Hannah, don’t start with me. He’s not the Son of God, and maybe he did something to deserve crucifixion,” I said bitterly. I felt a twinge of guilt, and knew that I was lying. I had always taught my children that no one could do anything worth a death as horrible as being crucified, and here I was not even consoling my frightened daughter.
“You’re wrong, Mama. You’ll see one day,” Hannah said, real pain showing in her eyes. She got up and left, and I looked out the window and watched her walk down the street. I sighed heavily, knowing that I would be arguing with my daughter like this for days to come. I climbed back into bed, and Michael rolled over to look me in the eyes.
“I believe Jesus, Cora. Why don’t you?” he said, tears shimmering in his eyes. I looked at him in wide-eyed disbelief. He had never expressed any belief in this man, and I was shocked to see the faith he had showing passionately in the tears that slid down his face. “Michael! You can’t be serious!” I cried. He looked at me in sadness, and then rolled over again and went back to sleep. I tossed and turned that night, trying to make any sense of the crazy belief both my husband and daughter held with. They must be crazy!
Sleep did not come until the early hours of the morning, and when I finally woke up, it was past breakfast time. I opened my eyes and saw Michael leaning over me, trying to wake me up. “Cora, get up quickly. I need you to come with me,” he said gently. I figured he needed help with the chores and felt like a terrible wife for not getting up and making him breakfast. Quickly, I pulled on a warm dress, and pulled my shawl over my head for modesty. When my husband began to put on his shoes, I looked at him curiously. Where were we going? I was too tired to ask, however, and I made myself put my shoes on and follow him out the door.
“Michael?” I asked curiously. “Trust me, Cora,” was all he said. I yawned tiredly, and followed him along the road. We walked toward the center of the town, and I saw crowds lining the streets. Many of the people looked strained and some were even crying. I did not take long to wonder at this, though, since I was still befuddled from sleeping so late.
When we got up to the hill at the edge of town, however, I saw what was about to take place.
Michael had taken me to see the crucifixion of Jesus.
“Michael, no. I can’t watch this,” I said anxiously. No matter how much I disliked Jesus, I couldn’t watch him die!
“Cora, I need you here. You are my rock, and I need you to lean on. This is a dark day, and I, too, am afraid,” Michael said, his voice breaking. I looked at him in bewilderment. Never had I seen my husband show such emotion! Already, tears were coursing down his cheeks, and I had never seen him cry before. I resigned myself to the difficult day ahead, and allowed him to lead me closer to the front.
I heard metal hit metal, and I looked up ahead in horror. Mary’s son, the man called Jesus, was being nailed to the cross.
My stomach lurched, and I was grateful that I had not eaten anything that day. The noise was horrible, and I could barely stand still I was so agitated.
The third nail went through the man’s feet, and I looked at Jesus’ face. Agony and sadness crumpled the man’s face, and yet I could see his determination to not cry out. How could the man be so brave? It must have been excruciatingly painful, and yet he did not yell like the other men did.
For the first time in a long time, I saw something special about the man. Something that was not present in any man I had ever known.
Had I been wrong?
The soldiers hoisted the cross up, and Jesus hung limply from it, tears finally streaming down his cheeks. I looked to my right and saw Mary, my long-ago friend staring in horror at her song dying in such pain. Images flashed through my head, and I thought about how that could have been MY son. The pain inside my former friend was evident, and her face was streaked with tears, her chest heaving with sobs. I turned around, not wanting to watch Jesus die, and looked all around me.
There were more people than I had first realized. In fact, there were more there than I had ever seen gathered before. What hit me next was the looks on the faces of the people. Tears were evident on nearly every face, many were crying out to Jehovah for help. These people were followers of this Jesus, and I had never seen such a devotion to anyone before. It reminded me much of how my sweet Mary had been towards Jehovah before I had utterly abandoned her.
I turned around, and Jesus’ eyes met mine. In all of his pain, he still conveyed a compassion that broke my heart.
In that instant, I knew I had been wrong. Very wrong.
My knees buckled, and I fell to the ground on my face. Michael leaned down beside me, but I would not let him help me up. I sobbed, crying out to God to rescue me from my bitterness, and take my life instead of the life of the man on the cross. I cried for the years I had wasted and the people I had hurt, but most of all for the main barely breathing before me, who was being sacrificed for something he didn’t do.
“My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?” Jesus cried, and the anguish in his voice made me sob all the harder. Was that not what I had felt when I had disbelieved Mary? That God had abandoned me? How wrong I had been!
“It is finished.” Those quiet words, made everyone in the crowd look up and see that Jesus was dead.
The man who had healed my heart, now left the world, and I had not apologized to him. My grief overwhelmed me, and once more I pressed my face to the earth.
A soft hand on my shoulder made me look up, and through my tears I saw Mary.
“I have waited for you to believe, Cora, and now you have!” Mary said with hope in her voice. I was overcome with the forgiveness she was able to show me though it was people like me who had caused her son to be hung on a cross...
“Oh, Mary! How horrible I have been to you. I don’t know how you will ever forgive me, and now your Jesus will not even have the chance to listen to my confession of guilt!” I cried mournfully.
“Cora. He has heard it, and you are forgiven,” Mary said. I looked in her face and saw the truth shining in her eyes. Jesus had seen my sins and that was why he had died. So that I, a poor, bitter, begrudging old woman could be forgiven.
The weight of sin lifted from me, and I cried for all that I wish I could have told Jesus, but then Mary’s soft hand cupped my chin.
“It’s not over, Cora. It’s not over,” she said softly.
I did not yet know what she meant, but I let her take my hand and together we walked home, grieving for our Lord but hopeful for what was yet to come.
(I hope you have enjoyed my Christmas series. I have enjoyed writing it, and have felt God take my faith somewhere that it is not always at during Christmas when I am often preoccupied. I hope my words have given you a new perspective for the season. Merry Christmas!)
1 year ago