Tuesday, June 7, 2011

No Longer Afraid

We dared break ranks with them, and only at our peril, and only by night. They mocked us, calling us ‘sleep walkers,’ especially after someone told them of my night visit with the Rabbi, and then, as others of our number did the same, we became a muffled byword to them, who called themselves the tzaddiqim, ‘the saints.’ Later, after the Rabbi whom they thought dead was seen by many of us alive again, they called us ‘dreamers’ and even ‘night watchmen.’ Yes, ‘night watchmen,’ because they accused us of drugging the guards who had been sent to watch the blessed tomb, so we could take their place, and watch against witnesses who might see his disciples steal away his body. As for ‘dreamers,’ well, it is they who dream, while calling us what they, not we, are. They dream against the Truth, against him who delivers men from everlasting sleep.

As if the crime enacted at the place of the skull, where the bones of our first forefather Adam are planted, were not enough, the mockers and accusers follow us everywhere, as persistently as we followed the Rabbi, only with the opposite intent: They never cease their hateful reproaches, now calling us despisers of Torah, lovers of darkness instead of light, which is what they claim the Torah to be. Yet again they lie greatly in saying the opposite of the Truth, for in him who is Truth have we seen the true Light, we have found the true Faith, and according to his promise to us, we await with hope the heavenly Spirit, him to be sent by our Rabbi who has been proclaimed Lord by his resurrection from the dead. Yes, Torah is Light, but not what, but who, is Torah? We claim on the strength of his testimony, that Jesus of Nazareth is the Light that they vainly seek, but never see.

First they mocked and reviled our preaching of his resurrection, saying, ‘If that man is alive, show him to us!’ even while he was with us for a full forty days. Yes, he was with us, really, not in spirit only, not in metaphor as the wise among the Hebrews, who want to remain Jews of the old covenant, try to combine a mere idea, a false hope, a poetic lie, that can be fitted into their philosophical system, say. No, he really walked with us for a full forty days, reversing for those who believe in him the forty days of Moses’ absence on the mountain, by sojourning with us forty days here in this valley of the shadow of death which, while he walked with us bodily, was transfigured by the light of life. Not only one or two crazy women, as some of them say, saw him, but men too, and no, none of us, neither women nor men, are crazy.

Not just one or two either. When he was with us in Galilee where he told us to go to meet him, there were over five hundred of us who stood in his presence and heard his earth-watering words. Though here in the holy city, where he told us to return to await the Strengthener, the Spirit that he said he will send us from the heavenly Father, to stay with us forever, we are fewer, perhaps only about six score men and women, not counting the children, of whom there are again another hundred. Even here, no, especially here, his detracters continue to mock, ‘First you steal, then you hide, now you say he’s in the sky!’ because they have heard it told among the people that we see the Rabbi in his resurrected body no more. He was taken up.

‘Taken up where?’ they mock. ‘Did Elijah come and steal him away in his fiery chariot? Or does your Rabbi now have wings like the seraphim, and fly as he pleases, where he pleases?’ Terrible, terrible their ignorance and conceit, far from repenting of their rejection of the one whom the prophet king David called their savior! It stings the ears to have to hear such things. We know he rose from the dead. We did not personally see it happening. No one did because no one could. To see the resurrection as it occurred would be to see the creation of the world, which no man has seen or ever can see. The beginning of all things is always hid from our eyes, but not the ending. Whom they mock will meet them on the last day.

The Rabbi, whom we now call Lord, did rise from the dead, bodily, not in spirit or metaphor, but truly. It has been only a few days since he was taken up, away from us, in glory by the bodiless powers. We do not understand how it happened. We did not grasp what we saw. He was suddenly lifted up. He receded from our sight, yet there is a certainty of his presence now among us that we did not have before. Before our eyes had to look for him, and we saw him only when he was physically before us. Now, it seems we see him wherever we look, approaching us in every man or woman that comes. The joy that we feel is now multiplied because we meet him everywhere we go. Yet, he told us to stay put for the time being. Someone was being sent to us, the Spirit of Truth, the true Torah is soon to be revealed.

The feast of Shavuot is near. The day of the revelation of the Torah at Sinai, the giving of the Law, the commandments of the Eternal, by the prophet Moses. Strangely, it is also the fiftieth day since the resurrection of our Lord. In the Torah we read that when Moses descended the mountain to find the people worshiping a golden calf, he broke the tablets, destroyed the image, and then three thousand of those who followed their fears met death by the sword, lost to life for the sake of law. Kephas has sent me a message, yes, to me and to my cousin Joseph, that we should gather with him and the other disciples and the mother of Jesus for prayer, and to await the One whom our Rabbi promised. We will meet in that same upper room where he ate the Passover with his disciples. Something like twelve then, now ten times more.

No more a night journey, no more by night. As the Rabbi said, ‘Nothing is hidden, that will not be revealed; nor anything secret, that will not be known and come to light.’ I once went stealthily to meet him and exchanged my doubt for faith, my darkness for his light. More than would admit it among us wanted to believe in him, and I spoke for these when I told him, ‘We know you are a teacher sent from God.’ He was more than a rabbi, yes, he was the Anointed One, our Messiah, the Holy One of Israel, but he proved by his resurrection that he was even the Truth, even that the Father and he are One, was, were and will be, One. Deep within me I hear his words singing in my heart and my flesh, deep within I hear his cataracts roar, as his waves, his breakers wash over me. And I am no longer afraid.