Eliakim’s story built on the picture I already had of Jesus. Not only was he loving and compassionate but he was also wise with a wisdom beyond understanding. That would be the way of it if he was indeed God, wouldn’t it? Looking back at my own boyhood, I knew at the age of twelve or so I was still busy scraping my knees, falling in rivers, collecting frogs and breaking my arm falling out of a tree. Talking with a group of old men in a church was the furthest thing on my mind. And yet, I had a feeling that, whilst Jesus did spend time in the Temple with the religious leaders, he may also have enjoyed running in the hills and doing the things that boys do.
Perhaps I was privileged to have had such freedom. My life was carefree. I never had to worry about where the next meal was coming from nor where I was going to spend the night. Many children never have that assurance. But there were too many things to keep me busy to worry about having theological discussions.
As a child, it sounded as if Jesus and his family were also secure in their home. But he did have his mind on the things of God, his Father, which set him apart from his friends.
When I read Joseph’s words as he realised that Jesus was no longer in the tomb, some of the sadness I had been feeling for Benjamin lifted. Suddenly I knew that his commitment to his Lord meant that he too was not dead but lived on. This was not the end for him. Nor would it be for me or any of Christ’s followers. Our resurrection was different to that of Jesus, but Benjamin was eternally alive, and my grief eased. Benjamin, who had always been part of my life, and who had had such an enormous influence on me in the last months, was not gone, but had merely gone ahead. This was the gift of Jesus – life everlasting – and Benjamin had met Jesus in time to receive this gift – and had pointed the way for me to meet him too.
As I read Joseph’s words when he shouted them in triumph outside the empty tomb, I too laughed. I no longer fear my own death. Many people say they fear the dying process, but for me, much of the dying is done. Listen to me when I say to you that however it happens, as a Christ-follower, you are not alone. I have been intensely aware of Jesus’ presence with me as I have lived these last days since I gave myself to him. It has eased my pain; lightened my sadness at the prospect of leaving this world where, in my own way, I have been happy in spite of the dark times; and given me hope for my future.
So I can join Joseph as he shouts, ‘O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?’
Now there is Marcus, a Roman soldier, sharing his story and with him he brings a new perspective on life in the first century. His interaction with the Christ is different too. Here is a foolhardy, brash, daredevil of a young man who became a battle-hardened, somewhat cynical warrior.
It is obvious that he did not approve of all that occurred as he served the Roman Empire, risking life and limb. He built a wall around his heart so that the awful things he saw and was asked to do no longer touched him. But the wall was not so high or so thick that the power and the love of Christ could not breach it.
Marcus too was touched by Jesus. His final prayer for those who read his story has become my prayer. May all who read these stories meet with the risen Lord and come to know him as their Lord and Saviour.