Fantasy Or Reality?

by Max Lucado

Two crowds. One entering the city and one leaving. They couldn't be more diverse. The group arriving buzzes with laughter and conversation. They follow Jesus. The group leaving the city is solemn - a herd of sadness hypnotized by the requiem of death. Above them rides the reason for their grief - a cold body on a wicker stretcher.

The woman at the back of the procession is the mother. She has walked this trail before. It seems like yesterday she buried the body of her husband. Her son walked with her then. Now she walks alone, quarantined in her sadness. She is the victim of this funeral.

She is the one with no arm around her shoulder. She is the one who will sleep in the empty house tonight. She is the one who will make dinner for one and conversation with none. She is the one most violated. The thief stole her most treasured diamond - companionship.

The followers of Jesus stop and step aside as the procession shadows by. The blanket of mourning muffles the laughter of the disciples. No one spoke. What could they say? They feel the same despair felt by the bystanders at the funeral. "Someday that will be me."

No one intervened. What could they do? Their only choice was to stand and stare as the mourners shuffled past.

Jesus, however, knew what to say and what to do. When he saw the mother, his heart began to break . . . and his lips began to tighten. He glared at the angel of death that hovered over the body of the boy. "Not this time, Satan. This boy is mine."

At that moment the mother walked in front of him. Jesus spoke to her. "Don't cry." She stopped and looked into this strangers face. If she wasn't shocked by his presumption, you can bet some of the witnesses were.

Don't cry? Don't cry? What kind of request is that?

A request only God can make.

Jesus stepped toward the bier and touched it. The pall-bearers stopped marching. The mourners ceased moaning. As Jesus stared at the boy, the crowd was silent.

The demon had been perched spider-like over the body. He was enjoying the parade. He was the warden. The people were the prisoners. He was marching the condemned to execution. They were watching from behind invisible bars, imprisoned by their impermanence. He had relished the fear in the faces. He had giggled at their despair.

Then he heard the voice. That voice . . . he knew the owner. His back arched and he hissed instinctively.

He turned. He didn't see what others saw. He didn't see the face of the Nazarene. He didn't hear the voice of a man. He saw the wrath of God. He heard the command of a King.

"Get out of here."

He didn't have to be told twice.

Jesus turned his attention to the dead boy. "Young man," his voice was calm, "come back to life again."

The living stood motionless as the dead came to life. Wooden fingers moved. Gray-pale cheeks blushed. The dead man sat up.

Luke's description of what happened next is captivating.

"Jesus gave him back to his mother."

How would you feel at a moment like this? What would you do? A stranger tells you not to weep as you look at your dead son. One who refuses to mourn in the midst of sorrow calls the devil's bluff, then shocks you with a call into the cavern of death. Suddenly what had been taken is returned. What had been stolen is returned. What you had given up, you are given back.

Jesus must have smiled as the two embraced. Stunned, the crowd broke into cheers and applause. They hugged each other and slapped Jesus on the back. Someone proclaimed the undeniable, "God has come to help his people."

Jesus gave the woman much more than her son. He gave her a secret - a whisper that was overheard by us. "That," he said pointing to the cot, "that is fantasy. This" he grinned, putting an arm around the boy, "this is reality."

From: Six Hours One Friday

Softly and Tenderly
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