Toorak Uniting Church

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Tales of Passion - Secret Diary

Lenten Studies
Rev. Dr Ron Savage
28 March 2006

Forgiveness is an essential ingredient for healthy living. Jesus dispensed forgiveness all the way to the cross, on the cross and from it ever since. He understands human temptation and human weakness and sympathizes with the plight of sinners caught in the condemnation trap - looked down by others and even by themselves. He befriended sinners, great and small, and still does.

St Luke 7: 36 – 50     St John 12: 1 – 8, 36 – 50


Monday

Rose early to begin housework before the heat of the day.
Got most done.
I sensed a new quiet.
Went for water at noon - no-one else around. The women have become unpleasant. Tabatha has been spreading venom since she discovered Ebinezer had made overtures to me. She never was much of a wife to the poor man: beautiful but sexless. Some women don't know when they are well off.

I met Joash, Eliza and family on way back from well - they were going to hear a prophet, called Jesus.
In the afternoon the goat broke loose. It ate Martha's dishabilles.

No visitors in the evening. Bed early but lay awake thinking of Longinus. Life was a dream for 7 years while he was posted here. His legion has been in Britain now for 5. I'll probably never see him again. At least he provided the house for me.
Will he survive the war on Hadrian's wall?
Does he think of me ever?
Does he have some Pictish woman now?
Will he ever come back?
I'm full of nostalgic questions! I must get on with life.
He wasn't a mistake was he? But a lot of others since have been. There is no other way to keep up my life style. And I want Amos to get an education. He is getting more like his dad.


Tuesday

Eliza is over the moon about this Jesus. I can't make out whether she is infatuated with him or becoming a religious fanatic. You hear of those people who go off to communes and fervent sects. Like the people who followed John the Baptist or join the Essenes at Messala in the desert. But Eliza was always level headed. She says Joash was greatly impressed too. She is going to take the children tomorrow to have him bless them! That young Demas needs something to settle him down: but a sandal on the bottom might be better than a hand on the head!
I could do with a man about the place for my Amos at times but on the whole he's a good boy and so far he’s biddable.

I found myself wondering through the day what this Jesus was like. I had a prophet once. Moriah brought the cruse of oil. He took the usual payment and enjoyed himself. I don't mind him at all. Very polite. But makes me feel guilty. I must stop thinking that way or we won't survive.


Wednesday

A busy day and hot.


Thursday

Eliza asked me to go with her and the children to Jesus and bring Amos. Curiosity got the better of me. Big crowd. Strange ideas and teachings.

Take no anxious thought of tomorrow
look at the lilies of the field beautifully clothed
look at the birds well fed by our Heavenly Father.

I'm always anxious. One day I'll not be so - attractive - what then? Who will want to be paid in the flesh for oil and flour then or for house repairs? And will I have gotten Amos through school by then?

Where was God when I started to be friendly with Longinus? Hebrews were not on the side of girls who liked Romans - and it seems God wasn't either though the rabbis say he made us all of one human family. Racists! Those little creeps threatened to shave my hair off!

It wasn't prayers that saved me - it was my centurion.
Or was it? Maybe God protects us through others: even through centurions like Longinus. That's a strange thought for a Hebrew like me. Maybe it was Yahweh who made him such a good person. None of the rich Pharisees gave half as much as he did to repair the synagogue and he never was even allowed so much as to look in the door. If he had been he might have become a convert. He listened to the old men reciting the Torah. Knew bits himself.

Jesus' disciples are a tough looking bunch especially one the others call 'Peter'. Rugged as rock. People couldn't get their children near the great rabbi for him and another two with Galilean tongues: very angry looking: faces like thunder. He saved the day. Eliza was near to tears when the Jesus one saw what was happening and told his minders not to be so rough with the women and children.

He took Amos on his knee.
"The kingdom of God belongs to boys like this", he said. I was in tears then. Amos wanted to know why. I couldn't tell. Outcasts in Bethany, despised by many of our own people, no help except from a few like Eliza and Joash or those who liked a bit on the side: and the prophet says "the kingdom of God belongs to them!"
Could it be that God still likes us?
Please let it be so.


Friday

I thought a lot about the kingdom of God.
Graffiti on the well says "Barrabas rules OK."
Maybe it's not Barrabas or Herod or Caesar.
It could be God -- or Jesus!
Lord what do you want me to do?


Sabbath

Sat at the back of the gallery. Synagogue crowded. No one sat beside me until it was unavoidable. Caught Isaac the tailor's eyes measuring me during the prayers. Smiled. That's the deposit to get Amos new clothes next week. Nice enough man.

The President warned of street preachers though he didn't mention Jesus by name.
The visiting rabbi read from Psalm 23.
I can't remember much of what he said. I do remember Jesus' words and especially the stories. As the rabbi was droning on I thought of the lost sheep story and the good shepherd prepared to give his life for the sheep. My grandfather was a shepherd. Once he was injured by a bear. I remember the scar on his arm. I told Amos about his great grandfather at lunch and the story of the good shepherd again.

Am I a lost sheep - the black sheep of the family and of this town? God help me. Can he find me? Can I find myself? Sometimes I don't know who I am. Kept woman of a Roman soldier, a centurion's cast-off, an abused woman, a mother, a slut, a child of Abraham, a black sheep of Israel, a daughter of Eve, a nymphomaniac, a child of God, a sinner.


Sunday

I took Amos to be measured by Isaac for a coat. He suggested a good blend of colours. I am to collect it after dark Tuesday.


Tuesday

Eliza wanted to go over to Chorozam to listen to Rabbi Jesus again but I couldn't face it after last night.
Cleaned the kitchen and living room thoroughly from top to bottom. I found the silver medallion I had not been able to find for ages - under the edge of the wood basket. I thought of the lost sheep again. Went to tell Eliza. But she had gone.
On impulse went I to Chorozam myself hoping to see her. Enormous crowd. Main street and square packed: the sign of Jesus' presence. I was pushed and shoved. The men have no manners.
I got within earshot and heard him tell of a lost son who spent all the father gave him on wine, women and song; he ended up like a pig but decided to go home hoping for a menial job like cleaning the byres or ditching. But the father ran out to meet him and restored him to his family position with new clothes and a big banquet. "God is like that father," he said.
And I'm worse than that son!


Wednesday

Amos was third in his class for memorising the Torah and fourth in story telling. The teacher told him to tell me he would go far. He got into a fight with some rough village boys on the way home who called him bad names. I told him not to worry that they call me bad names at times.
But I do worry - not like the lilies and the birds!
Joash's bullock seems ill. He says he will have it bled soon if it doesn't improve.
Old Martha has the ague again. Carried water from the well for her and baked extra bread for her.
Finished the quilt and it looks well.


Thursday

Eliza says Jesus is coming to our village. Simon the Pharisee has invited him. Joash is to be a guest too. They know the Lazarus family quite well - second cousins once removed - and they are great friends of this Jesus. Longinus used to talk quite often with Simon because he knew everyone and had contacts with prominent people all over the place. Longinus said Simon collected personalities and characters as some people made a hobby of collecting stones, books or old coins. So he is to add Jesus to his collection!
The whole village is excited and others are envious: as no doubt that old hypocrite intended.
I had the usual busy Thursday evening. Hot soak. Bed by second watch. Slept late.


Sabbath

Jesus. He was at the synagogue. No one expected him. The place went dead quiet when he walked in. You could have touched the silence. Then a real buzz when he sat where Isaac always sits. His 12 men found places all round him. Isaac came in, stopped at his seat and looked at Jesus then went and sat further up. I don't know whether he knew then who Jesus was. But what a look. Jesus smiled and nodded as if it had been a friendly greeting. I think he knew.

The President invited him to read a lesson.
It was from the prophet Isaiah.

Who could have believed what we have heard
and to whom has the power of the Lord been revealed
He was despised and rejected
tormented
and humbled by suffering.
We despised him and held him of no account.
Yet it was our suffering he took on himself
The torment he endured was ours.

And that bit was in the reading. He looked up as he came to it. I know he looked at me!

We have all strayed like sheep
Each of us have gone our own way
but it is on him
the Lord laid the guilt of us all.

I heard every word he said after that.
He doesn’t heed the criticisms made of him, the contempt of Pharisees and Priests, the suspicion of the self righteous, the innuendos of the gossips. Because he is taking on himself all the insults and pain of poor ordinary people caught in the misfortunes of their fate
trapped in their sins
lost in the desert places of life.

That's me I thought. He is talking about me. Him and me. He knows how I feel.
I can't stop thinking about it

about him
about God giving him my pain.

And he is a good man - a preacher - a healer - ready to help. But they despise him as they despise me.
They despise him because he says God accepts even the likes of me.
The kingdom of God belongs to such as me.
I will go into the kingdom ahead of scribes and Pharisees.
How could they accept that?
How could I believe it? Yet somehow, because of him, the way he spoke and looked I think I do.
If only it could be true.


Monday

I made a real exhibition of myself today. But I don't regret it one little bit. In fact now I can say I never felt better in my whole life. Better even than when I was with Longinus. It's absolutely.…different. Eliza understands it and so does Mary, Lazarus' sister, who was so kind to me afterwards.

I thought I could slip into Simon's house and listen in on Jesus at the banquet. Hundreds wanted to do the same and I only got in because of Eliza whose second cousin Martha was helping with the kitchen. She let us in the back door.
Even the colonnades were crowded with people listening in on the table talk. I knew this always happened but I was amazed how many came. Jesus is like a magnet. Well, he has drawn me too!

I don't know what he did or said - or if it was his comments on Isaiah yesterday but suddenly I was weeping - all over his feet as he reclined at the table. They were still dusty. That Simon man had been so rude to him he hadn't sent a servant to wash his feet. I noticed too he hadn't had a single drop of rose oil on his head.
I tried to wipe off the tears. But more came.
I don't know what came over me. I used my hair. And then my perfume on his feet.
He just looked at me and smiled.
It was different from all other men's smiles, it was different from all other men's looks - and I have attracted looks in my time. It wasn't lust or pity or even tolerance. And it was more than sympathy.
It was like the smile God must have had when he made everything fresh and new at the beginning of creation. And that is just how I felt - feel now - fresh and new as I sat at his feet weeping away all my sins and shame and cares and anxieties.
Then Mary came and led me away.
She understood. We talked about Jesus and his teaching that God loves sinners and lost sheep. It all made God so different from the Rabbis' God of rules and regulations and judgment - and so near and real. As near and real as Jesus. God who created beauty and is making me beautiful - inside now - not just outside.
I'm going on a bit. But this is the best day of my life. Because of Jesus.

We have all strayed like sheep.
Each of us have gone our own way
but it is on him
the Lord laid the guilt of us all.

The strangest happiest thing is
I don't feel any more guilt.
And I am not anxious about the future either.
God will surely take care of me and Amos.


Wednesday

Simon the Pharisee has sent for me.
His butler says he will interview me for a job supervising his maids.
Eliza is so excited. She says Jesus told Simon a story of a man who had a small debt and a man who had a big debt. Both were let off. Simon said the man with the big debt must have been very grateful and Jesus told him that was why a woman with no reputation did for him with her tears and personal perfume what he hadn't done.

Apparently Simon apologised before everyone.
Simon apologising - in public!

Now he is offering me a job.

Maybe he has been born again too.

Jesus changes people, all kinds of people, that's for sure!


© Rev. Dr Ron Savage, 2006


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