Sunday, April 21, 2013

Rumors of the Messiah

           “When the Messiah comes, he will look like one of us,” said Martha as she plunged the shirt back down into the wash basin. She thought about the coming Messiah all the time, hoping he would come soon, hoping he would free the Jews from the tyranny of Rome.

            “Yes,” said Mordechi, “he will look like one of us, but he will be different.” He waved his finger in the air as though correcting Martha. “He will come in power, with an army. He will come like Judah Maccabees. We will know he is the true Messiah because the rebellion will be so great and so fierce that Caesar himself will beg for mercy.” Mordechi raised his fist in triumph.

            “Every time you talk about Caesar begging for mercy I know you have lost your mind,” shouted their brother, Lazarus, from the back room of the house. He entered the room where Martha and Mordechi were talking. “There will be no begging for mercy. There will be no rebellion. There will be no army. When are you ever going to learn? Every day there is new Messiah. And every day we get up our hopes. And every day we are disappointed. Are you really waiting for someone to come save us?” Lazarus said with both arms raised and hands spread wide in his rehearsed exasperation.

            “Yes, there are false Messiahs, sure, that is to be expected,” said Mordechi, “but when the true Messiah comes, he will not limp into Jerusalem like a beggar as some have said. No, he will ride in a chariot of iron and he will lead an army like a swarm of locusts.”

            Martha rolled her eyes and shook her head, her now expected response to Mordechi when he started talking about the military takeover by the Messiah. “Do you really think the Messiah will bring peace through war? Do you really believe he will bring comfort through fear?”

            “Yes,” said Mordechi, “He will bring peace to the Jews by waging war on Rome. He will bring comfort for the Jews by bringing fear to Rome. The Messiah, we all know, will be a Jew for all Jews and for Jews only. Do you deny the prophet Daniel?”

             Lazarus poured some wine and sighed. “The war you long to see fought in the streets of Jerusalem and even Rome will never happen. The war the prophets speak of is not a war out in the streets, but rather it is a war in your own heart. We must not wait for a Messiah that never comes, but we must be the Messiah we always hoped for. We are our only hope.” He took a drink of wine too quickly - it betrayed his own words.

            “Save ourselves?” Martha questioned as her tone focused, “not even the Greeks with all of their strange gods believe we can do such a thing. Are you a god that you could save yourself?”

            The room got quiet except for the sound of the water as Martha plunged another garment into the wash basin. Lazarus took another drink.

            “He could be one of us, you know,” said Martha. “He could be so common that we wouldn’t even know it until it was already happening?”

            “Until what was already happening?” asked Mordechi.

            “I don’t know,” said Martha, “whatever it is true Messiahs do, I suppose.”

            “They don’t do anything but get our hopes up and crush them,” said Lazarus, “that’s what they do. That is why we are weak. That is why we are occupied. That is why no one takes us seriously.” He poured a second glass of wine.

            “Looks like your messiah pours from a jar,” said Martha looking down into the wash basin.

            “Better to eat bread and drink wine than to wait for nothing,” said Lazarus, “I need something I can taste, something I can touch. Bread, I can break. Wine, I can drink. Messiahs that never come? What can I do with them?”

            Martha plunged the next garment into the basin with emphasis, splashing water onto the floor, “Well maybe a Messiah will come that you can touch and taste. I just hope that when He comes you be sober enough to notice. And you, Mordechi, I hope that you are not so bent on war that when the true Messiah of peace comes you do not miss him, devoured by your own lust for Roman blood. You never know, maybe he is just as much the Messiah of Rome as he is Jerusalem.”

            “Messiah of Rome?” Mordechi was perplexed. “Have you gone mad? Rome is the oppressor. From whom would a Messiah save Rome? Will Persia rise again?”

            “Some people need to be saved from themselves,” said Martha, “even Rome. No, especially Rome. What invisible, yet fatal wounds of the soul are waylayed on an oppressor.”

            “What are you talking about?” Now Lazarus was perplexed. “Oppressors are the wounders not wounded.”

            “Are they really?” Martha responded. “Are their soulwounds any different than our shame wounds? We all need a Messiah, not just the Jews. We will not be saved by fighting. What then, we become victors and then oppressors? We will not be saved by numbing ourselves in wine and philosophy. We must see God in flesh in order to know how to live in flesh.”

            Mordechi and Lazarus just stood and stared at Martha.

            Lazarus broke a uneasy silence. “When are you going to be done washing my clothes?”  

            "Here you go," said Martha, "washed in the water and white as snow. All you have to do is put it on.




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