Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Everlasting Love

By Akin Ojumu

April 12, 2009

I’m sitting here, on my lazy-boy recliner, watching this epic movie – an umpteenth time, perhaps, but not in a while. And again, the levee of my heart breaks, and tears, like a torrent, wash over my soul.

As I watch, in my mind, I begin to flip through the pages of the chronicle of His legacy – the Holy Scriptures. From Genesis through Lamentations to Revelation, His lamp guides my feet, and illuminates the path, to His mercy and goodness and loving kindness, through all generations.

As I turn the pages, suddenly I find myself standing on the street of Jerusalem. The Temple of the Most High is but a few yards in the distance. Oh my God!!!! I can see Jesus standing together with his disciples a few feet away. He beckons to me to come and I can’t believe my eyes.

It is a smoldering afternoon in Jerusalem on this fateful day. It is about the 9th hour and the sun pelters the sand with its scorching heat, and the dusts, they rise and fall, as if dancing to the tune of the hot blowing wind. And there I am with the Lord and His disciples – as we sit lounging in the cover of the shadow provided by God’s Temple. Suddenly a multitude approaches from around the street corner. Pushing and shoving and yelling, they drag along a woman clad in torn clothes. Oh my, I know her!!! I know that woman. It is Mary from the district of Magdala!!! She looks shaken and petrified – her eyes darting around and filled with fear, as she pleads with the stone carrying mob for mercy. But they drag her forward, to the feet of the Master, spitting the vapors of hate and anger upon her as they come.

“This woman was caught in the act of adultery.” They shouted at the Lord. “The Law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

Mary cringes at Jesus’ feet – shrinking in fear. She begins to cry – a deep, rattling shudder that racks her entire body. As she bawls, she seems to crawl deeper into her world of shame and self condemnation.

Every eye is now intently trained on the Lord – all waiting to see if He’ll fall into the trap they’ve cunningly laid. But the Lord is not even bulged at all – He looks so calm and appears not to notice the commotion all around. For a long and agonizing minute He continues not to say a single word, only scribbling in the sand before Him.

Then without even raising His head Jesus says,

“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”

And again He goes back to writing in the sand. As He scribbles, the crowd seems to be drawn, by an invisible force, to what the Lord writes in the boiling crucible. Each word He writes seems to come alive, leaping up from the sand into the soul of every man holding a stone. And like a sharp two-edged sword, it begins to cut between the soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. The word seems to expose the innermost thoughts and desires of the accusers of Mary of Magdala. The word pierces the souls of men all around, leaving every wicked heart naked, and every sin exposed. No one is able to hide from the word Jesus scribbles in the sand.

So, one after another, starting with the oldest, they drop the stones in their hands. They turn and walk away – fleeing the scene with as little as a whimper.

As the stones drop, all around Mary, each thud causes her to flinch and recoil back in fear – believing the end is near she brazes for the pain to begin to sear her wearied body. But the only thing she feels is the loving arms of Jesus, lifting her to her feet from the place of blame and shame. He wipes away her tears and says to her, “It is okay. It is over now.” “Look around you”, Jesus continues, “Your accusers are all gone and no man condemns you.”

But all she is able to do is peep through her latticed fingers, and nodding her head in agreement, with tears running down her cheeks, she answers nervously, “They are all gone, Lord! Yes they are all gone!!”

“I know you Mary,” Jesus continues to say. “Your past deeds are not hidden from me. You have sold your body for a morsel of bread, and have defiled my holy temple with the life that you live. My child you have carried a lot of burden and have been unequally yoked with all sorts of men. But come now, let us settle this once and for all. Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.”

And Jesus, as it were, now turns to me directly, with His piercing eyes boring deep into my soul, and says, “If you come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

“Mary of Magdala, since your accusers have not condemned you, neither do I. Go on your way and from now on sin no more.”

With her clothing hanging about her like scullery rags, Mary clings to the feet of Jesus. She continues to sob uncontrollably. “Thank you Lord. Thank you Lord,” you can hear her say repeatedly. After a long while though, she lets go of Jesus feet. Like a fresh green shoot poking its head out of a hard soil, Mary gathers herself, rising to her feet ever so gingerly, to return to her life – her new life – a changed woman.

Suddenly, I’m back on my lazy-boy and the movie is over.

Why me? Why us? Why does He love us so? We are but mere puny men.

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hide as it were our faces from Him; He is despised, and we esteem Him not.

Two thousand-some years later, all around me, things remain unchanged. The world – the very same one He came and died for – continues to live in perpetual defiance of His command and authority. And yet His love for us remains the same.


emeka said...

You are right my brother, two thousand years plus and the vast majority of the world around us carries on life as usual. We continue to "esteem him not".

During my reflections on the crucifixion and resurection this Easter season, I came across a really interesting 17th century painting by Rembrandt titled "the raising of the cross". At first glance it looks like any other painting depicting the events on that first Good Friday - Jesus nailed to the cross being raised by a few men, observers and mourners standing nearby, in the background the other theives about to be crucified.

But on closer inpection you realize there appears to be light from above shining on two people, one is the crucified saviour, Jesus and the other is a man whose atire is rather odd. Odd because unlike every other person in the painting dressed in 1st century attire for that part of the world, he is dressed in 17th century European attire.

Rembrandt in expressing what that fateful day must have been like, painted himself into the picture and not just as a bystander but as one of the main people crucifying the Lord Jusus Christ. Rembrandt, I think understood Isaiah 53:6 quite well "We all like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all"

It was my sin and inquity and that on my fellow men that was laid on Jesus that first Good Friday. But thank God for Easter Sunday and the resurection, because as a result of that, I am saved simply by accepting the free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

I pray the true meaning of Easter and the hope it brings comes alive afresh in our hearts.

Akin said...

It is hard to imagine the pain and the anguish the Almighty God must have felt watching His only begotten Son suffer and tortured...hanging, like a mere criminal, on a wooden cross. I only wish we think about that more often.

Anonymous said...

The notes from African Treasures have been of immense blessing to me. Am back in a learning process in my I try to listen more these days.

PH, Nigeria

Akin said...

PH Nigeria, we all could do with more learning, because the day we stop learning we die. And that is exactly the problem with Christians and Christianity today......we are not learning. And that explains the crap going on out there.