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Jerusalem, the Holy City: The last days told by Mary, mother of Jesus

We repeat her story over and over again: When, out of fear, the other women left the grave site of Jesus, only Mary Magdalene stood vigil. Jesus came to her in voice and vision. “I am here with you. Do not be afraid. Go and tell the others,” she heard him say. From that moment on, Jesus has been with us speaking words of forgiveness and grace; and declaring the unending abundance of God’s love for you and for me—even those we don’t know, don’t like, and don’t want to know.

by The Rev. Gini King on March 24, 2021

Jerusalem, the Holy City: The last days told by Mary, mother of Jesus
A Lenten Devotion by The Rev. Gini King

Here we are in the middle of a big street parade as we march through the city gate into the great city of Jerusalem. Everyone is waving palm branches, as is the custom when important dignitaries enter the city. Jesus rides a donkey, the transportation mode of the common folk, rather than a great white stallion ridden by generals. There’s singing and dancing as we pass the temple, market booths, and government buildings. We’re the talk of the town.

The next day Jesus goes to the Temple. I sit by myself knowing this is the most dangerous thing he can do. The temple priests want Jesus to stop preaching, healing, and offering God’s forgiveness because this threatens their authority. The Roman officials are afraid the people will turn against them and cause a riot.

Inside the temple there is the profitable business of selling sacrificial animals of pigeons, doves, sheep, and oxen. In addition, the temple is a busy place with the collection of taxes and the exchange of Roman coins for Jewish coins. Jesus wants to know why the temple is consumed with money business and not prayer.

“The Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations; but you have turned it into a hideout for thieves.” Jesus shouts out in the halls of the temple.

This time Jesus is yelling, screaming, and destroying the money tables in the Temple. With one mighty outburst the profit-making business of selling sheep, lambs, and doves for sacrifice comes to an abrupt end. Everyone is angry —the businesswomen, money changers, high priests, and Roman authorities. There is no going back.

I have never seen my son so angry, and yet, in control of every action he takes. After it is over, he whispers to me, “For the love of God, for the love of the people, I do these things.” He dreams of a day when all people have open access to the glory and mercy of God.

It is the first day of Passover and the city streets overflow with pilgrims and soldiers. We feel unsafe and call everyone together for a community dinner. At the end of the meal we gather around the dinner table.

Jesus holds up the bread, blesses it, breaks it, saying, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in memory of me.”

And then, he takes the cup, blesses it, saying, “This cup is God’s new covenant, sealed with my blood. Whenever you drink it, do so in memory of me.”

There is silence, the silence of fear. This will be the Last Supper we have with our beloved Jesus, the person we know as the Special One overflowing with Spiritual Wisdom. We try to sing a hymn to lift our spirits, but no one is feeling the comfort of the Lord this night. I leave with a heavy heart knowing dark days are coming.

Here it is—the kiss of betrayal. It really wasn’t necessary, but you know the Romans: To them all Jews look alike. All Jerusalem saw Jesus riding into the city, and now the soldiers list him as a wanted troublemaker. Late at night they come to take Jesus away. My heart aches as they carry a part of me with them.

The trial begins.
The charges are made.
“He stirs up the people.”
“Are you the King of the Jews?” “What is truth?”
The verdict is given.
The cross is prepared.

I stand below the cross, watching in silence with Mary Magdalene and Mary, my daughter, along with women friends, faithful followers, and a crowd of spectators. At first I don’t hear him speak, and then I recognize his faraway voice. “Why? Why did you abandon me?” he cries out to God in heaven.

It isn’t suppose to end like this. My body is consumed by sorrow as I say my last goodbye.

Death comes.

I can’t breathe—pain and grief take over. I am too weak to stand. John, our neighbor’s son, is there by my side to hold me. I want to touch Jesus, hold him, breathe life back into his body. I want it all to go away: his trial, his suffering, his death.

Will my son be accepted by the Creator? Will forgiveness overcome anger? Will love overcome death?

Mary Magdalene comes to us, telling us that Jesus lives. “I have seen the Lord,” she proclaims. “He is here with us.” We listen. We wonder. We question.

We repeat her story over and over again: When, out of fear, the other women left the grave site of Jesus, only Mary Magdalene stood vigil. Jesus came to her in voice and vision. “I am here with you. Do not be afraid. Go and tell the others,” she heard him say. From that moment on, Jesus has been with us speaking words of forgiveness and grace; and declaring the unending abundance of God’s love for you and for me—even those we don’t know, don’t like, and don’t want to know.

“I am here with you.” This is what we want to believe, but do we?

From the book, Mary’s Journal: A Brief Telling of the Jesus Story and First Believers with journal entries and Christian paintings, by Gini King

Illuminations and Art Resources:
Entering Jerusalem, Esperanza Guevara. The Gospels in Art by the Peasants of Solentiname, Philip and Sally Scharper, eds., Orbis Books, 1984. Nicaragua.
Purification of the Temple, El Greco, 1600. Frick Collection, New York. Photo by author.
The Supper of the Lord, Maximino Cerezo Barredo, Mural, En la Cena ecológical del Reino. Latin American “painter of liberation.” Permission granted.
Kiss of Betrayal (detail), 12th century, Uffizi Museum, Florence, France.
Christ Before Pilate, Pietro Lorenzetti, 1335. Musèe des Beaux-Arts, Città del Valicano, France.
The Three Women (detail), Gospel Lectionary of Henry II, 1007-1012. Bavarian State Museum, Munich, Germany.
Mary Magdalene at the Cross, Salvador Dali (1904-1989), Dali Museum, Paris. Photo by author.
Mary Reaching Toward the Body of Jesus: Short Office of the Cross, The Rohan Hours, 1430–1435. Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris.
Mary Instructs the Disciples, Albani Psalter, Hildesheim, 12th century. Herzog August Library, Wolfenbüttel, Germany.
From the book, Mary’s Journal: A Brief Telling of the Jesus Story and First Believers with journal entries and Christian paintings, by Gini King

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