Things were different from last year's visit to my sister's home in Jericho, fifteen miles below the highlands of Jerusalem. But things were also different ninety miles north of Jerusalem at home in Capernaum. Apprehension seized Israel that spring after Passover, as news of the crucifixion spread throughout. We knew somehow, nothing would ever be the same.
Rumors always flourish in the fertile chatter of the marketplace, but nothing prepared me for the pandemonium of Butcher's Street as I turned the corner with Raisa and our attendants. A mixed group jockeyed through the crowded square: craftsmen and shopkeepers; women there to gossip and buy, and children creating a nuisance for their elders. Their combined attention focused on an elderly woman arguing from the dubious safety of her rooftop. Her clear voice carried above the crowd: "YES, they crucified him and he died on the cross, but I tell you I saw him in Jerusalem, ALIVE again!"
My heart skipped: her glowing face looked like one who had been with Jesus. Raisa's eyes narrowed as she sensed danger. "Let's go, Judith," my sister urged; but I ignored her.
The stench of spilled blood permeated this quarter. Animal carcasses swinging from the rafters of the open shops lining the street bore witness to the hopeless reality of death. "What's dead is dead: Jesus was not The One we are seeking," someone shouted.
"He made fools of us!" another added.
"They crucified Jesus! He died and they buried him; that's the end of it," a woman wailed.
Men, bitter with disappointment, raised clenched fists across the square. Roman rule persisted, but Israel's hope for freedom died on that cross. People shouted in derision: "The woman's drunk!"
"She has a demon!" yelled another.
I noticed a Pharisee standing on the outskirts, the long fringes of his prayer shawl proclaiming his importance: he studied the restless crowd.
Raisa tugged my tunic. I shook her off -- I had to hear: could it be true?
"I've been to his tomb," the woman cried: "He is not there!"
"It's a trick! They've stolen his body!" reasoned another.
"Jesus, IS our Messiah! His tomb is empty. . ." the old woman cried.
"Not for long, you blasphemer!" threatened a burly man. I watched the Pharisee: he signaled assent.
How could I keep silent? I had to defend her! I should have known: Jesus. . . ALIVE! "Help me!" I ordered my servant, Eli. "Grab that table and boost me up."
"But Mistress Judith. . ."
"Do what I tell you," I commanded. Eli lifted me onto the nearby table. What next? I prayed.
"People of Jericho!" I shouted, clanging a cup against a bronze jug to shift their attention. "Consider the man and his miracles!" Amazingly, the crowd quieted. "You've heard how Jesus raised Lazarus, and before him the son of the widow of Nain. You also know last year he restored Jairus' daughter to life. I am that girl's mother, and if my husband Jairus were here now, he would remind you! All Capernaum trusts Jairus' word: he rules our synagogue. Our daughter died, yet is alive again at Jesus' command! Ask Baruch ben Amos, my kinsman of your city; he is betrothed to her. If Jesus has power to raise our dead daughter, what prevents his own resurrection?"
Murmurs swept in waves across the crowd, and I could see people nodding agreement. "If you believe my daughter is alive without seeing her in the flesh, why can't you believe Jesus is alive when this woman tells you she has seen him?" The Pharisee turned his back and walked away.
"Judith! Judith, get down! This is not seemly -- it is not your place!" my sister scolded.
I knew she was right, but I was not ashamed. Normally, Raisa was the brave one while all my life I'd been timid. But now, I was not afraid. Jesus is alive, and I am not afraid! I could confront a crowd boldly, proclaiming what Jesus had done for me. I took Eli's hand and stepped down.
"It's okay," I said, comforting my sister. "Jesus is alive again, and everything is fine." We needed time to absorb the shock of what I knew in my spirit to be true; that, and witnesses to corroborate the old woman's testimony. But for me, this was the turning point. In some way I was different: because of Jesus' resurrection, nothing anywhere would ever be the same.
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