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Unless I had believed

A piercing scream rent the uneasy calm that had fallen on Jerusalem. This was no ordinary Sabbath.

Mary sank to her knees, her agony too deep for coherence.


“Adonai,” she beseeched. “Blessed be your name forever... please. Please, no.”

Hands tugged at her, voices offering comfort. Advice. Some were angry. Snatches of what was being said drifted into her consciousness.


“Mary, you must be strong...get up Mary”
“The Sanhedrin ... merciless!”
“I warned him against this foolishness, but he didn’t listen...”
“I wish Abba was here...”
“...believe they chose Barabas!”

Mary heard but she didn’t take any of it in. Every breath was torturous, and her lips moved in prayer to H’ashem, speaking words that made no sense to anyone but Him. Her son had been taken... three years of fearlessly challenging the religious leaders and now they had come for him. They had killed her boy.


Memories flooded her mind. Of Jesus gently helping her sweep her house, searching for a lost coin, not long after Joseph’s death. Murmuring words of comfort. Don’t worry mama, we will find it. Laughing with her as she ground flour for bread, or lighting a lamp and setting it atop a stand... Mary thought of the little boy who had been at her side as she carried out her daily tasks.


She thought of the many afternoons when she watched Joseph teaching their eldest son how to make and shape things out of wood that their customers could use and love with care. Of their many discussions on finer points of the Torah, and how Joseph’s eyes lit with pride and fire each time he contemplated the son they had the privilege to raise.


“Adonai... I do not question you, but how can he be the messiah you promised and be dead? Who will look after us now?”

Her mumblings ceased for a moment as she was hit by a sudden recollection. How long had it been since she thought of Simeon? At the temple in Jerusalem, an aged man named Simeon found them after they had presented their baby and blessed the child. He foretold great things, before adding the words that would fill Mary’s heart with a cold dread.

“...a long sword will be run through you, in order that the reasonings of many hearts may be revealed.”

She finally understood. She could still hear his last cry as he died after hours of torment. His last hours were burned into her soul. Her eyes. Her ears.

“My son...”

The helpless hands of those who had come to sit shiva with her fetched at her garment. Someone was saying the Kaddish.


She hadn’t left his side. Not for one moment. Not when they tore his back with the glass covered whip, not when they forced him to carry his stake up the hill... and not when he hung there, slowly bleeding out and suffocating to death.

Her heart broke a million ways and she tore at her hair and screamed until her throat was raw, but it never occurred to her to leave. Yaweh had seen it fit to bring him into the world through her, and it was only right that she be there as he left. She thought she had known pain when her Joseph was taken from her, leaving her with six children to raise by herself, but the agony she felt now was ten times worse.


“H’ashem... did your heart break like mine? You said when you gave him to me, that He was yours. What hope is there for us now? What will happen to James and Joseph and my other children? What will happen to his disciples? What about the miracles he performed? What about his teachings that burned in the hearts of many?”

Oblivious to all around her, Mary recalled the Joseph’s insistence that she not worry so much about their eldest boy. He reminded her again and again that, “...Adonai, blessed be His name forever, said you would give birth to a son, and we were to call him Jesus, ‘because he will save his people from their sins.’ And how can he do that without ruffling a few feathers, eh, my beautiful one?” His hearty laugh was never far from the surface, but that last time, his eyes burned into hers with such intensity.

“Remember the words of Simeon, Mary, he said that a long sword will be run through you... on account of Jesus,” he stoked her face, hands shaking. “I wish I could spare you that pain, but Adonai knows best, blessed be His name. He will protect and keep you, the same way He kept us in the beginning.”

He had fallen silent then. Exhausted from his talking. And she had tucked those words away, focused only on what was in front of her. Losing Joseph, raising children, watching her son become ‘Messiah’.

‭‭

Mary remained on the floor, lips moving silently, face wet with tears. After several hours, those around her would report that her countenance did change and a strange calm appeared to descend on her. They knew nothing of the peace and presence she felt settle on her, like a heavy blanket. A presence that she hadn’t felt in thirty four years... if they had listened closely, they would have heard her repeat from the Psalms of David,

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!”

So Mary took comfort from the word of the Lord, and from the fellowship of their family as they told stories of Jesus and what he had promised. He had spoken several times of his death, and it had happened as he said. Hope filled her heart, finding space beside the grief that enshrouded her. The third day would come, and they would see if he would indeed Jesus risen from the dead.

Matthew 28: 1-7

“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: “He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him. Now I have told you.’”

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