(I wrote this monologue from Mary’s perspective and include it here in the hope that it might encourage your Good Friday prayers and worship. Blessings – Shayne.)
I thought nothing could ever surprise me again. After what I’ve seen and heard – I’ve talked with an angel; outwitted kings; seen water turned to wine – I thought I was shock-proof.
I was wrong.
Two days ago, I received the shock of my life. I had come to Jerusalem for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, as I’ve done every year of my life – except the years we were in Egypt. I came with family and friends in one of the early caravans from Galilee. Passover has always been the highlight of my year, though it’s been bittersweet since Joseph has been gone.
I was already in Jerusalem when my son and his disciples came on the first day of Passover week. They came with an enormous caravan of Galileans. Jesus paused briefly in Bethphage, borrowed a donkey and her colt, then rode into the city like a king. The Galileans who knew him started singing messianic praises and paving the roads with their own cloaks and with palm branches—just like when Jehu became king of Israel. The Galileans shouted, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” It was so exciting. This … this is what I’d been expecting for years. It was finally happening.
The Jerusalemites were all asking, “Who is this?” And the Galileans answered proudly, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee!” I thought the uprising would begin right then and there, but Jesus had other plans. He soon left the city, but the next morning, he came back to the temple. It was packed with people, there for Passover, and he drove out all the men who were selling sacrificial lambs and doves and exchanging foreign currency.Again, I thought the uprising would start right then: he had only to call people to him, and it would have begun. But instead, he started teaching.
I did not see much of him over the next two days. He was staying in Bethany and, when he came into the city, he was surrounded by people – and controversy. The chief priests, the teachers of the law and the Herodians were all after him. They spoke gently, but as David said, “their tongues were as sharp as a serpent’s, and the poison of vipers was on their lips.” I despised them. I can’t believe I used to look up to those people.
I did not hear anything after that until yesterday morning. The first person to tell me was Mary of Magdala. (She’s a precious girl, but unstable – and a little rough around the edges.) She burst into my cousin’s home, talking so fast I couldn’t make out what she was saying. But I knew something was wrong. Before she could explain, there was a knock at the door. It was young John Mark. Peter had sent him.
Jesus had been arrested. There had been a trial (if that’s what you call it), and the Romans had him. It was bad.
I thought I was shock-proof. I was wrong. A half-an-hour later, I was standing with Zebedee’s boy John, outside the city in the place they call The Skull, and the Romans were already hoisting his cross. When they dropped it into the hole they had dug, it looked like someone had thrust a giant sword into the earth. That was the moment I had dreaded for years, without knowing I was dreading it: at that moment a sword pierced my own soul too.
People were laughing, swearing, making fun of him. They made noises like wild animals. Five days earlier, people were calling him king. Now they were calling him names. It was unreal.
Then he saw me. When I looked in his eyes everything else simply vanished: John bar Zebedee, the animal-like priests, the soldiers, the noise – everything. I didn’t even see the cross. I just saw him, and he saw me. Everything was perfectly still, as if we were alone in the cosmos. The look in his eyes told me something I had never understood before; something a book could not have made any clearer. He was expecting this. I knew in that moment that he had known for years. He knew this was coming, and he hadn’t tried to escape it. He was a sacrifice, like the Passover Lamb. He was the Passover Lamb.
That was two days ago – though it seems like a year. It’s as if time has stopped moving for me, or I have stopped moving in time. I feel nothing. I know nothing. I am alone in an unfathomable abyss. I seem to have come to the end – the end of me; the end of everything.
Of one thing I am now certain: After this, I am shock-proof. Nothing can surprise me ever again.
(Postscript: Of course, Mary was surprised again – and very soon. On Sunday morning her beloved Son (and glorious Lord) rose from the dead. But on that dark Friday and mournful Saturday, Mary was lost in grief, and confused by God’s apparent lack of concern. I have not experienced grief and confusion to anything like the same degree but I, like you, are not unfamiliar with it.)