Ndaba Mazabane

So, imagine for a moment! Eye Witness News (EWN) sent me to Palestine to cover events the day after the crucifixion of Yeshua – popularly known as Jesus. In all likelihood some of his followers gathered at Mary’s house – it’s the Shabbat, the most important day of the Jewish week. The town is quiet, today is the day of rest.

The disciples, mainly women, were busying themselves with light chores around the house. Normal loudish laughter is no more. Mary, occasionally braved her usual infectious smile, yet behind her beautiful and radiant face lies sadness, grief and pain. I wondered what was going through her mind. I was told Joseph died few years earlier and now her son and her Saviour is gone too. One of the ladies, named Salome, reminded me that Mary’s strength was her memory. She recalls how she used to tell them about the deep things that Yeshua uttered and shared with her. But today she seems subdued and tired; yesterday was a tough day and today is not any different. Her son is dead and buried in a cold cave.

Salome introduced me to Mary, and she was gracious and pleasant; her voice was firm and sweet. She welcomed me and offered me a glass of goat milk and a piece of bread topped with slices of cheese.

Now, my face to face moment with the grieving mother of the Saviour of the world had come and frankly, I did not know what question to ask first. She looked at me and smiled as if to say, ‘relax young man, Jehovah’s shalom is here.’ She pointed me to the table across her modest and spacious living room, she sat next to me with her hands clasped together. She volunteered her feelings even before I could fire my first question.

Interestingly, I wanted to know how she felt when she saw her son take the last gasp of his life. Wisely, she did not start there but she took me back to the great and the happy days, and the scary and the painful moments they experienced as they raised and nurtured Jesus of Nazareth. Both of them counted it a privilege and honour to have been assigned guardians and earthly parents of the God of the universe.

But yesterday, standing at the foot of the cross, listening to the jeering and the insults of the crowds – seeing the agony and the suffering of Yeshua especial in the last third hour, she barely could take it. Credit to John, the beloved disciple, who anchored her through that dark period of her life. “I tried throughout my life to ponder and to reflect on the things our son Yeshua did and said.” She remarked. “There I was in my moment of weakness,” Mary continued, “feeling nauseated and disgusted, I remembered the penetrating words of the aging and dying prophet that Joseph and I met at the temple court in Jerusalem. We marveled how in the midst of the multitudes he found and recognised us, and how he took our baby in his arms, praised God and blessed him. He said some of the beautiful words about our child that would make any young mother swell with pride. And then…” Mary paused, “he said something that only made sense to me yesterday.” “What was it?,” I asked her out loud for the first time. “He said that our son would be a misunderstood and contradicted figure, a light for God’s revelation to the Gentiles and of the glory for Israel. And that he was destined to cause the falling and the rising of many in Israel…And that a sword will pierce my own soul too.” 

Amazingly her face lit and she looked me in the eye and related what she had learned when darkness covered the whole land. “It was in the midst of darkness when few of us were standing closeby the cross that I saw the light of salvation God had promised our people and the nations. Oh yes, it was scary! But for some reason all my fears were dismissed and I have never felt so close to my God as that moment. The place of the Skull shook and the earthquake ripped off the terrain and it was reported late last night that even the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The tombs broke open and Miriam over there, can’t stop praising God for bringing his son back to life. By the way, I was not only the one who saw the light in the midst of darkness. As the people were running for cover, I heard something amazing, the Centurion who towered most of his men in stature, shouted at the top of his voice, proclaiming that Yeshua was truly the Son of God. Talk about someone who saw what I saw. Sadly, another painful moment came, the soldiers approached the three men. They cruelly started breaking their bones as it was traditionally done. They came to Yeshua, but they did not break his bone. One of them took out his sword, I barely could take, and I may have passed out as he shoved it to his side. Dr Luke said that water and blood oozed from his side. Oh, how appropriate for our salvation.”

Tears started rolling her chicks. I could tell, these were tears of joy not sorrow. I was about to offer her my partially used tissue but refrained when she ably used her fingers to wipe out the tears. Then in a gentle and confident voice, she assured me, “It’s ok, I am fine.” I sensed she did not want to be singled out as some heroin. She saw herself simply as part of a larger story about God and His plan of salvation for mankind.

My time was up. I thanked her and the ladies for their time. Joanna saw me out and told me that they will be spending the rest of the afternoon preparing spices to anoint the decaying body of Jesus the following morning. This raised another question I wondered how Mary and the ladies would answer: Did they believe that he would rise from the dead the next day, as he predicted? I think not. I think they believed that they would find the body still wrapped in stripes of linen and beginning to decompose. Today, we know better and His story in a nutshell is: ‘…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…’ (1 Corinthians 15:3).