I was profoundly moved by Mary’s story. During my years of study I had followed the crowd and plunged into university life filled with as much enthusiasm as any other healthy young man. But deep inside me the moral and ethical standards by which I lived began to make me feel uncomfortable. I realised these feelings of unease had become stronger as I had been reading these stories. I experienced a deep sense of remorse at some of the things I had done. What was going on here?
Jesus’ words to Mary had struck a chord and made me feel uneasy. Jesus may have addressed them originally to a woman about specific behaviour, but, as I read them, it seemed as if I could hear him speaking to me. They were words I did not want to hear, and for a day or two I turned my back on the stories again. I did not want to read any more as they seemed to burrow their way into my life on all levels.
The strange thing about it all though was that as I writhed in regret at the memory of things that could not be unsaid or undone, I began to feel not so much condemned as liberated and encouraged to change my ways. Could it possibly be that Jesus’ words of warning and pardon spoken to Mary applied to my life too?
I was still not too sure that I wanted to make the changes that I would need to make. I had enjoyed my life-style, the friends I had, the whole university experience.
I had tried before to put the papers away, but once again I found I could not forget them and so one evening the following week I gave up my game of resistance and sat down with them again.
What did Benjamin have to say? His letters had been helpful but there must have been much more going on in his mind and heart. Again I wished I could have talked things over with him.
Mary’s story rang chords of recognition deep inside me. I have done things in my life of which I am not proud, and it was as if Jesus spoke to me. I too was forgiven, cleansed if you like, by his grace. But I was saddened too at the thought that there was nothing I could do to say thank you to him as Mary had done.
Then one evening, as I was dozing by the fire, half awake, half asleep, I heard a voice saying to me:
‘You are translating the scrolls for my people at this time. This is your purpose. This is your love-work for me, and it is enough.’
I don’t need to tell you that I jerked awake immediately. The voice was so real that I thought someone was in the room. There was no-one; and yet I heard the words. It was no dream. Dreams are easily forgotten, but these words ring as clearly in my mind as when I first heard them.
My life’s work, Ben! My life’s work for this Jesus, whom I am beginning to love! I can say that to you. I, Benjamin son of Joseph, am beginning to love Yeshua, my Saviour. It is as if, through these stories, Yeshua has reached out and touched my heart and helped me to understand and to love in a new way.
It is almost as if he has removed my blinkers and I can now see more clearly who he is, just as he did for Asher. Although Asher was a blind man, there is an element of spiritual blindness too. His illness and his anger at God made him blind to God’s love. I suppose each of us in our own way is blind to God until God reveals himself to us and then we can see. I believe this is what God is doing for me and my belief is reinforced by Asher’s story.
Benjamin had had struggles of his own, and God had reached out to him so that he arrived at a place of acceptance and belief.
Was this the way Jesus touched men and women and brought them into his kingdom?
Was I wearing blinkers myself? Was my spiritual blindness self-imposed, through fear or apathy? Perhaps I had not really wanted to see the truth before.
Was Jesus reaching out and touching me as I reflected on what I was reading? Was he, at last removing the blinkers I was wearing as I tried to understand?
The questions tumbled around in my mind as I began to suspect that this was, in fact, what was happening.
I knew I had no option but to read the rest of the stories. They meant too much to me.