If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes. ~Luke 19:42
What if I had been there? What if I had decided to follow you then, in the dust and dirt of Jerusalem? What if I had become wrapped up in the excitement of your presence, that I had fought to get close to you? What if I had been there?
For weeks, I had heard rumors that the man who raised Lazarus from the dead would be arriving back in Jerusalem. Business had never been better–all my customers were discussing the drama that was sure to arrive with him, feeding on the gossip like vultures. There was a buzz about town, as both skeptics and believers anxiously awaited his return.
I was neither a skeptic nor a believer. I, personally, could not possibly understand how an ordinary man could raise a man from death. Rumor has it, Lazarus had been dead for four days. That is quite a miracle. However, I have heard many report that this “ordinary” man calls himself the Son of God. That really must infuriate the Pharisees, as well as scare them. I suppose the Son of God could defeat death, but how could I know for sure?
All week I had been trying to quell the inexplicable inkling that was battling its way to the surface of my thoughts, the feeling that perhaps this was another chance for me, to see this man who claims he will be dead soon. If he is right, I might not get another chance. Perhaps the disordered panic and irrational anxiety that has plagued me all my life could be eliminated once and for all; if I could just catch one glimpse of him, maybe I could be one of the lucky ones that he heals, and he could raise me from the slow death of fear, panic, and anxiety.
While I was consumed by these thoughts, fighting my craving for hope, a fellow shop owner burst through the door, “Tara! Tara! Come outside, quick! Jesus of Nazareth is riding a colt right down the street!”
This was my chance! I exploded through the doors of my small shop and into the street; the chanting became immediately deafening.
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest! Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
It was so loud I could barely think. Hating crowds, I considered closing my shop and heading home for the afternoon, but this crowd would surely generate good business once Jesus had passed through. Absorbed in my thoughts and my attempt to keep my panic silenced, my breath caught, halfway exhaled, when he finally came into view. I couldn’t see what he sat upon, so his body appeared to float above the street, untouched by those who were hurling insults at him. I wouldn’t describe his facial expression as a smile, nor a frown–he actually seemed to feel nothing at all, which struck me as odd, since he was involved in such an emotional moment.
There were angry shouts woven together with praises for him, but when he looked upon those who were enraged, his eyes quickly glanced upward as his lips moved slightly. It was not easily discernible to the crowd, but he drew his steadfastness and conviction from something above him–he fed on it like it was life–my skepticism faded as he and his followers inched closer.
I had never seen a robe so white: Jerusalem is a dusty, dirty city, even the rich struggle to keep clean, but he looked as though dirt could not touch him, like it hated him as much as the Pharisees did. Butterflies awoke in my stomach as he got closer to me. I didn’t know whether I should join in the crowd by praising him, or whether I should look at him in condemnation–neither response seemed appropriate.
He was looking both left and right, equally, being sure to survey every face, all the while his lips were moving, speaking to no one specifically, as if he knew something the rest of us didn’t. A few hundred yards from me, a woman with sores sprouting from her body fell at the feet of the animal below him, halting the steady ebb of the crowd; her hands were pressed so tightly together that they had turned white, and she appeared to be begging him for something. She seemed relieved to be on the ground, her only home, and her shoulders naturally slumped downward, as if gravity was even her enemy. I always hate looking at lepers, their eyes tell such a tragic story of despair and isolation. Sometimes I lay awake at night, praying I never become one–it is one of my darkest fears, and it lies dormant inside me until night falls, then it awakens, like a nocturnal animal, and torments me.
Jesus reached down and touched the top of her head, this despised and rejected woman who was absent anything of value, without even hesitating for a moment. I was too far away to hear what he said to her, but when she looked back up at him, she opened her arms, the blood quickly rushing back into her fingertips–it was as though I could see the desperation falling away from her, landing with a thud onto the street. The woman turned toward me as she watched Jesus ride further down the street, her posture dramatically less feeble, and her eyes full of something, not sure what, but it certainly was not isolation or despair.
As Jesus approached me, I thought of running back into my shop. What if he decides I am deserving of some sort of punishment? What if he sees right through me? Just as I was about to turn my back on him, his eyes swaddled me in something unrecognizable, but for a moment I felt like a small babe, resting snuggly after her father wraps her in linens. For just a moment, no one else, nothing else was, except the Messiah and me. Like a key into a lock, I found shelter in his eyes. I was unable to move, to speak, to blink. A single tear rolled down my cheek and, for once, I did not fight it. I am usually incapable of expressing such emotion in public: I become so self-conscious when I show vulnerability, but this time, I felt solace as the tear fell, as if it righted everything that was askew before Jesus looked at me.
I did not fall at his feet as the leprous woman did, nor did I sing praises to him as the crowd who followed after him. I did nothing to deserve what happened next: Jesus reached out toward my soiled clothing, my tear-streaked face, my shattered heart, my tormented mind and wiped away the tear. As he did so, the corners of his mouth turned upward and his cheeks swelled into a smile, however slight. I blinked rapidly, drinking in his presence, desperate to remain in his warmth forever; then, he was gone, veiled in a crowd of followers.
From that touch, from that smile, redemption reached out to me. I stared after the crowd for a moment, hoping to catch one more glimpse of him, just one. Then, I turned and rushed back into my shop. I felt resplendent, like I was illuminating the street in a brightness more powerful than even the sun, and I didn’t want anyone to see me. It wasn’t until a few hours later that I realized what it was I was feeling in that moment. It was peace. I had not felt real peace since I was a little girl, unaware of the brutality of the world, so it was difficult to recognize. Jesus, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, gave it back to me. He gave me everything, including his life.
“Surely this man was the Son of God!” ~Mark 15:39