I could not help but weep. Who could have predicted things would turn out like this? It seemed just a short time ago that I had first visited Jesus in the dead of night at the side of my good friend, Nicodemus.
Nicodemus had so many questions for this young rabbi and I had listened with rapt attention as Jesus taught my wealthy and influential companion. From that night forward, I was a disciple of Jesus myself and had seen many miracles with my own eyes. Sick had been healed; blind given sight; and lame made to walk. There had been no doubt in my mind that this man was the Messiah.
That is, until the day I turned my back on him and walked away.
The day had started like many other days in the ministry of Jesus - with me part of a crowd seeking him out to hear his teaching. Just the day before he had fed a crowd of five thousand, me included, and then walked across the water to join the twelve - who were on their way to Capernaum. Myself and many others had followed the next morning and we immediately sought him out.
The teaching that day, however, had been hard to hear. Jesus began to speak of himself as the bread of life that came down from heaven. Even as this was causing many of us in the group to become alarmed at his outrageousness, Jesus went even further by saying that we had to eat of his flesh and drink his blood to have eternal life.
I know that he was trying to tell us something important. I see it now. At that moment though, it was too much for us. Here was a man that we all knew - a man whose parents we knew - claiming to have come down from heaven. That he was the bread from heaven. Modern day manna! Not only that, but if we ate of this manna we would live forever!
Things were starting to sound very strange, and most of us simply could not accept what Jesus was saying. He, however, was not backing down. He called us unbelievers and told us that the Father had not enabled us to come to him. Angrily, most of us turned away from his teachings and no longer followed him.
From the day I dropped out of Jesusí ministry, I felt the emptiness in my soul. For months I had been fed to overflowing by his teachings, but now the bread from heaven no longer fell into my life each day. I finally began to understand what he meant by eating of his flesh, the drinking of his blood. It seemed each day without him I died a little more.
Many of the others grew angrier, though. Some of them even joined in the plot to have Jesus killed. It was they who pointed out Judas as the weak link in his inner circle. Several of his former disciples were in the crowd that shouted for his crucifixion when Pilate tried to release him.
I stood and watched in dumbfounded horror as I witnessed my friends and close companions of many months, set in motion the death of this man we had all loved and idolized just weeks before. As I said before I could not help but weep at the sadness of it all.
Now I stand here with tears of a different sort in my eyes, looking at an empty tomb. I know it is the right one, Joseph has been a friend to me for many years. I had heard the stories almost at once after the women had run out from here early this morning, shouting the news, but I could not believe until I saw with my own eyes.
As I stand here, tears streaming down my face, I finally understand what Jesus was trying to tell us those many weeks ago when I turned my back on him. Not tears of anger, as they had been on that day. Not the tears of sadness I shed as I watched him crucified. These tears are borne of panic and a sudden fear that has my stomach in an iron grip. My hair is standing on end, and a chill has worked its way up my spine.
Will he take me back?
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